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Ina Minjarez

On special election runoff turnout and HD125

I figured a story like this was inevitable after Round One of the HD125 special election, in which Republican Fred Rangel got 38% of the vote and four Democrats combined to take the rest, with three of them being close to each other and thus farther behind Rangel. Ray Lopez will face Rangel in the runoff, for which a date has not yet been set.

Justin Rodriguez

Democratic Party officials and Lopez’s campaign remain adamant that they are in position to win the runoff and keep the seat. The four Democrats, combined, received more than 60 percent of the vote, they point out. And District 125 hasn’t elected a Republican since it was redrawn in 1992 to include more West Side voters.

But to others, the result immediately recalled San Antonio Democrats’ not-so-sterling track record in recent special elections. Electoral history and district demographics have not protected Democrats in those runoffs over the last few years: They have lost the last three off-cycle races in San Antonio, each of which occurred in traditional party strongholds.

In early 2016, Republican John Lujan scored an upset in a South Side legislative seat over Democrats Tomás Uresti and Gabe Farias. Uresti would defeat him nine months later in the general election.

Later that year, Independent Laura Thompson won election to an East Side legislative seat after Bexar County Dean Ruth McClendon’s death, also overcoming multiple Democrats. Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins put the seat back in Democratic hands in the next general election.

And in perhaps the most painful loss for Democrats, Republican Pete Flores won a state Senate seat last year that includes much of San Antonio. Flores flipped a seat that hadn’t gone to the GOP since Reconstruction, and his victory sealed a two-thirds Republican supermajority in the Texas Senate.

That race has some conspicuous similarities to Tuesday’s election in District 125. For one, the man who engineered Flores’ upset, Matt Mackowiak, is now running Rangel’s campaign. For another, multiple Democrats split the party’s vote, allowing the Republican to plunge ahead.

[…]

“It’s a very simple game of math in a special election,” [Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer] said. “When you’re running a race in a Democratic district you’re going to have multiple Democrats running for that position, and it’s always going to be that one Republican that has a universe of voters to himself.”

The Democrats believe that will change in a mano-a-mano, Democrat vs. Republican, runoff, and Democratic members of the Legislature are now rallying around Lopez. But they had a similar conviction — ultimately to no avail — that Flores wouldn’t prevail in what had been a Democratic district for more than a century.

Their logic isn’t reflective of the political reality of special elections, according to Mackowiak. The voters who chose Democrats Rayo-Garza or Art Reyna won’t necessarily show up again for Lopez in the runoff election.

“It’s just not transferable,” Mackowiak said. “Special elections are about motivation and enthusiasm.”

That sentiment was echoed by Larry Hufford, a professor of political science at St. Mary’s University.

“These small groups are so committed to their candidates,” Hufford said. “They say, ‘Well, my candidate didn’t win, forget it.’”

Those factors give Rangel an edge, Hufford said, especially if turnout drops in the runoff. If Rangel brings out the same number of voters, it puts him in a good position to win the majority while Lopez tries to inspire voters who backed Democrats no longer in the race, the professor added.

See here for the background. There are two claims being made here, that Bexar County Dems have had a spotty recent record in legislative special elections, and that the key to winning special election runoffs is to hold onto more of your own voters from round one than the other guy (if you’re the leader, that is) because getting new voters is too hard. Let’s take these one at a time.

First, the two special elections from 2016 are basically meaningless for these purposes. The reason why is because they were basically meaningless as special elections. They were for the purpose of serving the remainder of the 2015-2016 term, at a time when the Lege was not in session and not going to be in session. Neither John Lujan nor Laura Thompson ever filed a bill or cast a vote as State Rep, because there were no opportunities for them to do so. Tomas Uresti, who lost in that January 2016 special election runoff to John Lujan, went on to win the Democratic primary in March and the November general election, ousting Lujan before he ever did anything of note. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, the November nominee in HD120, didn’t bother running in the summer special election for it. Those special elections didn’t matter.

As for the turnout question, I would remind everyone that there were three legislative special elections plus runoffs from 2015. Here’s what they looked like:

2015 Special Election, House District 123


Melissa Aguillon  DEM   1,257   17.69%
Diego Bernal      DEM   3,372   47.46%
Roger V. Gary     LIB     103    1.45%
Paul Ingmundson   GRN      81    1.14%
Walter Martinez   DEM     780   10.98%
Nunzio Previtera  REP   1,512   21.28%

Total = 7,105

Special Runoff Election State Representative, District 123


Diego Bernal      DEM   5,170   63.67%
Nunzio Previtera  REP   2,950   36.33%

Total = 8,120

Diego Bernal got 1,798 more votes in the runoff – there had been 2,037 votes that went to other Dems in the initial election. Nunzio Previtera got 1,438 more votes in the runoff even though he’d been the only Republican initially.

2015 Special Election, Senate District 26


Trey Martinez Fischer  DEM   8,232   43.28%
Alma Perez Jackson     REP   3,892   20.46%
Jose Menendez          DEM   4,824   25.36%
Joan Pedrotti          REP   1,427    7.50%
Al Suarez              DEM     644    3.39%

Total = 19,019

Special Runoff Election State Senator, District 26


Trey Martinez Fischer  DEM   9,635   40.95%
Jose Menendez          DEM  13,891   59.05%

Total = 23,526

Remember how some idiot bloggers called for Sen. Menendez to concede rather than bother going through with the runoff, so the next special election could take place more quickly? Good times. After smoking TMF in said runoff, some other people claimed he won on the strength of Republican turnout in round two. For what it’s worth, there were 5,319 Republican votes in round one, and Menendez gained 9,067 votes overall. Make of that what you will. Also, for what it’s worth, TMF boosted his total by 1,403.

2015 Special Election, House District 124


Nathan Alonzo    DEM    467   23.81%
Delicia Herrera  DEM    555   28.30%
Ina Minjarez     DEM    828   42.22%
David L. Rosa    DEM    111    5.66%

Total = 1,961

Special Runoff Election, House District 124


Delicia Herrera  DEM  1,090   45.02%
Ina Minjarez     DEM  1,331   54.98%

Total = 2,421

The two runoff candidates combined for 1,383 votes in round one, while the two also rans got 578. Assuming all 578 voted again in the runoff, there were still another 460 people participating.

My point, in case I haven’t beaten you over the head with it enough, is that in all of these elections, there were more votes in the runoff than in the first round. That means – stay with me here, I know this is tricky – it’s possible for a candidate to win the runoff with extra votes from people who didn’t vote initially. It’s even possible for the second place finisher to win, in part by bringing in new voters. See, when not that many people vote the first time, there are actually quite a few habitual voters out there to round up. Who even knew this was a thing?

Yes, the SD19 still stands out like a turd on the sidewalk. SD19 encompasses more than just Bexar County, and there was some genuine resentment from third place candidate Roland Gutierrez, which likely hindered Pete Gallego in the runoff. (There were also many questions raised about the effectiveness of Gallego’s campaign.) Here, as it happens, third place finisher Coda Rayo-Garza has conceded after the remaining mail ballots arrived and endorsed Ray Lopez, so at least that bit of history won’t repeat itself. HD125 is more Democratic than SD19, so there’s a larger pool of dependable voters that Lopez can call on. He’s got work to do and ground to make up, and he certainly could lose if he doesn’t do a good job of it. But if we look at the history of Bexar County special legislative elections going all the way back to 2015 instead of just to 2016, we can see that the picture is a bit more nuanced than Matt Mackowiak and Larry Hufford make it out to be.

The women challenging Democratic men

One more point of interest from The Cut:

And Democratic women aren’t leaving the men of their own party undisturbed. In Minnesota, former FBI analyst Leah Phifer is challenging incumbent Democratic representative Rick Nolan; Sameena Mustafa, a tenant advocate and founder of the comedy troupe Simmer Brown, is primarying Democrat Mike Quigley in Illinois’s Fifth District. And Chelsea Manning, former Army intelligence analyst and whistle-blower, announced recently that she’s going after Ben Cardin, the 74-year-old who has held one of Maryland’s Senate seats for 11 years and served in the House for 20 years before that.

While the vision of women storming the ramparts of government is radical from one vantage point, from others it’s as American as the idea of representative democracy laid out by our forefathers (like Great-great-great-great-grandpa Frelinghuysen!). “Representative citizens coming from all parts of the nation, cobblers and farmers — that was what was intended by the founders,” says Marie Newman, a former small-business owner and anti-bullying advocate who is challenging Illinois Democrat Dan Lipinski in a primary. “You come to the House for a while and bring your ideas and then you probably go back to your life.” Not only has her opponent been in office for 13 years, Newman notes, but his father held the same seat for 20 years before that. “It’s a family that has reigned supreme, like a monarchy, for over 30 years,” she says.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton, Newman and the rest of this girl gang are eyeing the aging cast of men (and a few women) who’ve hogged the political stage forever and trying to replace them. Replacement. It’s an alluring concept, striking fear in the hearts of the guys who’ve been running the place — recall that the white supremacists in Charlottesville this summer chanted “You will not replace us” — and stirring hope in the rest of us that a redistribution of power might be possible.

So naturally that made me wonder about what the situation was in Texas. For Congress, there are eleven Democrats from Texas, nine men and two women. Two men are not running for re-election, and in each case the most likely successor is a woman. Of the seven men running for re-election, only one (Marc Veasey) has a primary opponent, another man. Both female members of Congress have primary opponents – Sheila Jackson Lee has a male challenger, Eddie Bernice Johnson has a man and a woman running against her. That woman is Barbara Mallory Caroway, who is on something like her third campaign against EBJ. Basically, nothing much of interest here.

Where it is interesting is at the legislative level. Here are all the Democratic incumbents who face primary challengers, sorted into appropriate groups.

Women challenging men:

HD31 (Rep. Ryan Guillen) – Ana Lisa Garza
HD100 (Rep. Eric Johnson) – Sandra Crenshaw
HD104 (Rep. Robert Alonzo) – Jessica Gonzalez
HD117 (Rep. Phillip Cortez) – Terisha DeDeaux

Guillen’s opponent Garza is a district court judge. He was one of the Dems who voted for the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment back in 2005. I’d like to know both of their positions on LGBT equality. Speaking of which, Jessica Gonzalez is among the many LGBT candidates on the ballot this year. Note that Alonzo was on the right side of that vote in 2005, FWIW. Crenshaw appears to be a former member of Dallas City Council who ran for HD110 in 2014. There’s an interesting story to go along with that, which I’ll let you discover on your own. Cortez was first elected in 2012, winning the nomination over a candidate who had been backed by Annie’s List, and he drew some ire from female activists for some of his activity during that campaign. I have no idea how things stand with him today, but I figured I’d mention that bit of backstory.

And elsewhere…

Women challenging women:

HD75 (Rep. Mary Gonzalez) – MarySue Fernath

Men challenging men:

HD27 (Rep. Ron Reynolds) – Wilvin Carter
HD37 (Rep. Rene Oliveira) – Alex Dominguez and Arturo Alonzo
HD41 (Rep. Bobby Guerra) – Michael L. Pinkard, Jr
HD118 (Rep. Tomas Uresti) – Leo Pacheco
HD139 (Rep. Jarvis Johnson) – Randy Bates
HD142 (Rep. Harold Dutton) – Richard Bonton
HD147 (Rep. Garnet Coleman) – Daniel Espinoza

Men challenging women:

HD116 (Rep. Diana Arevalo) – Trey Martinez Fischer
HD124 (Rep. Ina Minjarez) – Robert Escobedo
HD146 (Rep. Shawn Thierry) – Roy Owens

Special case:

HD46 (Rep. Dawnna Dukes) – Five opponents

We know about Reps. Reynolds and Dukes. Bates and Owens represent rematches – Bates was in the 2016 primary, while Owens competed unsuccessfully in the precinct chair process for HD146, then ran as a write-in that November, getting a bit less than 3% of the vote. Alonzo and Bonton look like interesting candidates, but by far the hottest race here is in HD116, where TMF is seeking a return engagement to the Lege, and a lot of his former colleagues are there for him. I imagine things could be a bit awkward if Rep. Arevalo hangs on. Anyway, I don’t know that there are any lessons to be learned from this, I just wanted to document it.

House passes its budget

Mostly shenanigan-free, with a nice little side order of shade for a few people who deserve it.

After 15 and a half hours of debate on hundreds of amendments to the Texas House budget, lawmakers in the lower chamber passed the two-year, $218 billion document, with 131 votes in favor and 16 votes against.

The House vote included using $2.5 billion from the state’s savings account, colloquially known as the Rainy Day Fund. State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, thanked lawmakers for exhibiting “true leadership” with their willingness to tap the fund, “instead of electing to use an unconstitutional transfer from the transportation funding.”

That was a jab at the Senate, which last week approved its version of the two-year budget using a $2.5 billion accounting trick to free up funds dedicated to highway spending. The House must now work with the Senate, which is under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who vehemently opposes using the Rainy Day Fund, to reconcile their budget differences.

House lawmakers, debating the budget late into Thursday night, took several jabs at Patrick and other statewide elected officials throughout the evening.

Included in the fray were Gov. Greg Abbott, who saw one of his prized economic development programs defunded; Patrick, who heard a resounding “no” when his favored proposal to subsidize private school tuition with public funds was put to a vote; and Attorney General Ken Paxton, who lost more than $20 million from his agency’s budget for lawsuits.

On the winning side of the House budget debate were child welfare advocates, who saw funding for foster care and Child Protective Services tentatively boosted; social conservatives, who scored $20 million for the Alternatives to Abortion program; and the lieutenants of House Speaker Joe Straus’ leadership team who, in a display of unity, easily brushed aside most challenges from far-right Republicans.

Statewide GOP leaders took some of the heftiest blows in the House chamber. Lawmakers there voted to strip $43 million from the governor’s Texas Enterprise Fund, the “deal-closing” fund the state uses to lure businesses from elsewhere, and divide it into two equal pots: one for Child Protective Services and foster care funding, the other for a program that pays for disabled children’s physical, occupational and speech therapy services. Both are hot-button issues that have dominated the House’s budget negotiations during this legislative session.

[…]

Private school subsidies, a pet issue of Patrick and his Senate, also suffered a perhaps fatal wound on Thursday. House lawmakers voted 103-44 to prevent state money from being spent to subsidize private school tuition in the form of vouchers, education savings accounts or tuition scholarships. The proposal’s author, state Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, said it was “in support of our public schools and our neighborhood schools.”

[…]

Paxton’s attorney general’s office also saw funding gutted by House lawmakers who opted to instead fund programs that serve vulnerable children. Foster care funding would receive $21.5 million that was previously intended to pay for Paxton’s legal services budget under a proposal by state Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio, that passed 82 to 61.

See here for more on the Enterprise Fund de-funding, which made me smile. Despite promises of shenanigans and roughly a gazillion amendments filed, there was more good done to the budget than bad. Which is not to say it’s a good budget, but it’s far from the worst we’ve ever seen. Take your positives where you can.

Especially when they involve Dan Patrick getting pwned.

In late March, lobbying group Texans for Education Opportunity used an online campaign to generate thousands of letters to 29 state representatives lobbying them to back education savings accounts, one of the subsidy programs in SB 3. Though the group claimed the letters were credible, the letters stirred up suspicion after no representative could find a constituent who remembered adding their name to that correspondence.

Of the 29 representatives targeted in the campaign, 26 voted Thursday to block money from funding “private school choice” programs.

RG Ratcliffe called it a “mugging”. As former Houston Rockets radio announcer Gene Peterson used to say, how sweet it is. Also, too, going back to the first story, there’s this:

Stickland had filed an amendment defund a state program for the abatement of feral hogs, which he’s become known for championing at the Legislature each session. Stickland railed predictably against the program, calling it “ridiculous” and a waste of money.

“It has not worked, and it never will work,” Stickland said, his voice rising.

That apparently offended rural lawmakers, notably state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster. In response, Springer attached an amendment to Stickland’s proposal that would cut the same amount of funding for the Texas Department of Transportation, but only for roads and highways in Stickland’s hometown of Bedford.

Stickland took to the back microphone to cry foul.

“Someone else has chosen to make a mockery of this system and play gotcha politics,” he said before being interrupted. Laughter had erupted in the gallery.

“It’s funny until it happens to you,” he continued.

Springer and Stickland then confronted each other on the middle of the House floor and had to be separated by colleagues. Springer’s amendment ultimately passed, 99 to 26, forcing Stickland to withdraw his own proposal to which it had been attached.

What is best in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of Jonathan Stickland. And Briscoe Cain, too, the Chester to Stickland’s Spike, except without the victorious denouement for Chester. Look, just because the House passed a budget doesn’t mean this is the budget we’ll get. The Senate passed a budget, too, and there are lots of differences to be worked out between the two. The final version will be different, and some of the things we are cheering now may be undone in that. But that’s no reason not to cheer for the things that deserve it now. The Observer and the Press have more.

Overview of two Bexar County legislative primaries

The turnover of Bexar County’s Democratic legislative caucus continues apace. With the departures in 2015 of Mike Villarreal and Jose Menendez (succeeded by Diego Bernal and Ina Minjarez, respectively) and the departures this year by Joe Farias, Trey Martinez-Fischer, and Ruth Jones McClendon, there will be a whole lot of Bexar County legislators being sworn in on January 2, 2017 that weren’t there two years before. The Rivard Report takes a look at the three candidates who hope to succeed TMF in HD116.

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer

Diana Arévalo, Martin Golando and Ruby Resendez are not exactly household names in San Antonio, but all three candidates are hoping past political training or staff experience propel them into elected office. The primary winner – or May 24 runoff winner if a second round of voting is necessary – will run unopposed on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot and be sworn into office in January.

[…]

A Jefferson High School graduate, Arévalo served on the San Antonio Youth Commission and became involved with student government while attending college. She majored in business, earning a bachelor’s degree at UTSA and a master’s degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. As an undergraduate, Arévalo was a fellow at the United Leaders Institute for Political Service at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and she attended the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University.

She worked as an intern in U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office, and at the Obama White House in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. She parlayed these and other experiences into a chance to work with the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee, and on President Obama’s 2013 inaugural committee.

Back home, Arévalo has served as secretary of the Bexar County Democratic Party, and currently chairs the 2016 Texas Democratic Convention Host Committee. Her party work led to an opportunity to manage the 2013 City Council campaign of Leticia Ozuna, who finished second in a three way-race won by Rebecca Viagran. Arévalo said she learned a lot from the experience that she now is applying in her own campaign.

[…]

Golando, 38, is a native Midwesterner who has called San Antonio home for 17 years. He earned his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and is a partner in the downtown law firm Garza Golando Moran, specializing in election and civil rights laws. Golando has the most direct connection to Martinez Fischer. He has worked for him for 10 years, including time as his chief of staff. Galindo said he focused on water policy, taxation and legislative procedure.

Golando has served for two years as general counsel for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the nation’s oldest and largest Latino legislative caucus, and he has served as a co-counsel during the hotly contested Texas redistricting case and all challenges to the Texas Voter ID law. In 2013, Golando was briefly in the national spotlight. In the wake of the legislative redistricting fight that began in 2011, Golando requested repayment from the state of more than $282,000 in legal fees he said he incurred while helping the caucus in its legal battle.

The state’s Attorney General’s office, then under Greg Abbott’s leadership, said Golando was ineligible for repayment because of his dual employment. Golando has kept up the legal battle, and the case is still active.

[…]

Resendez is the first graduate of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s program to prepare young Latinas for public service who is seeking elected office, which led to this recent story on the Rivard Report.

“People want to have good, high-quality, high-paying jobs. People also want to make sure senior citizens’ needs are met,” Resendez said she has learned in her district campaigning. “There are good ideas in the community. We’re getting out onto the streets to help find solutions to conflicts in our neighborhoods.”

Meanwhile, the Express News provides a glimpse of the six candidates running to succeed McClendon in HD120.

On the Democrats’ March 1 ballot — listed in the following order — are Lou Miller, Latronda Darnell, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, Art Hall, Mario Salas and Byron Miller.

[…]

Lou Miller, an insurance agent and district governor for Rotary International who served on the city zoning commission and the VIA Transit board, said he knows “how to get things done even as a non-elected official,” having helped lure a planned health clinic to the East Side.

He said he’d continue McClendon’s push to build a state office complex near downtown, a $135 million proposal that was approved by lawmakers in 2015 but vetoed by Abbott as too costly.

Darnell, a former legislative staffer to McClendon, said social justice issues are an overriding concern, along with improving education. Having served in the Legislature, she said she already has working relationships with key lawmakers and state officials, and her experience there taught her that “what happens in Austin happens to you.”

Working for McClendon, who had served District 120 since 1996, Darnell said she learned that “to serve 120 means to be engaged with this community.” And while candidates may have great ideas, change won’t happen if a lawmaker doesn’t have good rapport with other leaders.

Gervin-Hawkins, an educator who serves as executive director and superintendent of the George Gervin Youth Center, cited education as her focus, including faith-based, non-profit and public schools.

Calling these “pivotal times,” she said “what’s needed in Austin right now is someone with diplomacy, strategic planning and the ability to make things happen.” Lamenting a disinterested electorate, she said “we’ve got to give people hope again.” And citing rivalries exposed by the campaign, Gervin-Hawkins said “it’s about how we work together. Let’s unify. ”

Hall, a Harvard grad who earned a law degree from Texas Tech, likewise said education would be his top concern. The attorney who served on City Council and works as a district director for Alamo Colleges, said he’s wants to apply the financial and international business acumen he gained in the private sector.

“We deserve good, strong leadership to carry on the legacy that Ruth Jones McClendon and many others have left behind,” Hall said. Citing his role as a minister, Hall departed from the rest by saying he doesn’t condone same-sex marriage.

Salas, an educator who served on City Council and the Judson ISD board, wants teachers to be treated better by the state, along with minorities and women.

“We need a fighter in that position and I intend to wind it up,” Salas said. He called attention to his long involvement in racial equality and social justice causes and touted his backing by teacher groups. In Austin, Salas said he’s ready to fight “this jaugernaut of right-wing extremism” that impacts immigration policy and other issues.

Byron Miller, an attorney and Edwards Aquifer Authority board member who served as a justice of the peace and on numerous community boards, said he’s determined to bring better treatment of veterans and the elderly, and he’s also an advocate for early childhood education.

Although the district continues to have problems with infrastructure and social justice, Byron Miller said “it’s getting better” and will continue doing so “if we work together.” He added: “I want to represent everyone, equally.”

Golando in HD116 and Miller in HD120 were endorsed by the Express-News in their primaries. I don’t know much about any of these people, so it’s good to get at least a few tidbits.

It’s worth noting that in 2012, there were eight Democrats elected to the Lege from Bexar County, out of ten total districts. Here’s what the delegation looked like then, and what happened to them since:

HD116 – Trey Martinez-Fischer. He ran in the special election for SD26 after Leticia Van de Putte stepped down to run for Mayor but lost in a runoff to Jose Menendez. This year, he chose to go for a rematch in SD26, thus leaving his seat open.

HD117 – Philip Cortez reclaimed a seat that had been held by David Leibowitz from 2004 through 2010 before losing it in the 2010 wipeout. Cortez then lost it in 2014, and is trying to win it back this year.

HS118 – Joe Farias. Elected in 2006 to succeed Carlos Uresti after his successful primary race against then-Sen. Frank Madla, Farias announced his retirement at the end of the last session. He vacated his seat shortly thereafter, and the remainder of his term was won in a special election runoff by a Republican. Two Democrats, both of whom vied for his seat in the special election, are fighting each other in the primary for the chance to win it back in November: Gabe (son of Joe) Farias, and Tomas (brother of Carlos) Uresti; the latter was the loser in the special election runoff.

HD119 – Roland Gutierrez is now the senior member of the delegation. He was elected in 2008 in an unopposed primary to succeed Robert Puente, who was one of the last Craddick Dems still in the Lege.

HD120 – As noted above, Ruth Jones McClendon has retired, and resigned her seat. A special election to fill the remainder of her term will be held in May.

HD123 – Mike Villarreal. He stepped down after winning re-election in 2014 so he could run for Mayor of San Antonio. Diego Bernal won that seat in a January special election.

HD124 – Jose Menendez was the winner for SD26 last year, which then created a vacancy for his seat. Ina Minjarez won that in an April runoff.

HD125 – Justin Rodriguez is now the second longest-serving Democrat in Bexar County. He won the primary for that seat after Joaquin Castro moved up to Congress.

Whew. Lots of changes, with more to come. Good luck sorting it all out, Bexar County.

Endorsement watch: Succeeding Sylvester

The Chron makes its choice for HD139.

Kimberly Willis

Kimberly Willis

We encourage Democratic Party voters to look for a candidate who will emulate Turner’s successful model of connecting constituents’ interests with the levers of state power in Austin. We believe that Kimberly Willis will be that candidate.

Willis’ experience as a former staffer in the Legislature and as a social worker in Houston gives her a comprehensive view of the ways in which government programs can impact neighborhoods.

“I understand what good public policy does for a community,” she told the Houston Chronicle editorial board.

[…]

Also running for the position are Randy Bates, 66, a former Lone Star College trustee; Jerry Ford Jr., 23, a student activist; and Jarvis Johnson, 44, a former member of Houston City Council.

Ford has an impressive passion and said he is running to spark a movement of youth involvement in politics, but he could use a little more experience. Bates and Johnson both have that experience as elected officials. However, Bates relied too much on vagaries when he talked with the editorial board. Johnson faced allegations of unethical and illegal behavior while on City Council, including allegations of trying to direct city contracts and being charged with evading arrest. He was never indicted or convicted, but too many questions still remain about Johnson’s political ethics.

Here are my interviews with Willia, Ford, and Bates. I’ll just note that Jarvis Johnson had no online campaign presence as my last check, and did not file a January finance report. He does almost certainly have the most name recognition among the foursome, and came dangerously close to winning a seat on the HCDE in 2012, so don’t count him out.

Meanwhile, since I happened to come across it, here are some primary legislative recommendations from San Antonio:

In Texas House District 116, three Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination to replace state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, who is vacating the post to run for the Texas Senate.

The three contenders are Diana Arévalo, Martin Golando and Ruby Resendez. All three have the potential to be solid public servants, but Golando has far more relevant experience than the others. And for that reason, we recommend that voters cast their ballots for Golando.

Serving as Martinez Fischer’s chief of staff for almost 10 years, Golando has a vast amount of experience in the legislative process that will enable him to hit the ground running. A lawyer, Golando has served as the general counsel of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, which was led by Martinez Fischer.

[…]

We strongly urge Democrats to nominate [Gabe] Farias [in HD118], who has served as president and CEO of the West Side Chamber of Commerce since 2012. Farias has an understanding of business issues that will be helpful in the Legislature. He also has served on the staff of two City Council members and worked in the office of state Rep. Roland Gutierrez.

Additionally, Farias demonstrates a superior knowledge of key legislative matters, advocates expanding Medicaid and is a strong supporter of public education.

[…]

We recommend that voters cast their ballots for Byron Miller, an Edwards Aquifer Authority board member who has been elected to the EAA District 2 post three times. Miller’s EAA experience gives him a strong foundation to be a voice for Bexar County on water policy, which is a crucial issue in the state.

Miller is a lifelong resident of District 120 and has a long record of civic involvement, ranging from being a Boy Scoutmaster to serving on the Carver Cultural Center and Witte Museum boards. Miller also served on the Bexar County Coliseum Advisory board.

[…]

In District 124, we strongly recommend Ina Minjarez, who last spring was elected to the post formerly held by Sen. José Menéndez with only weeks remaining in the legislative session.

Starting at the bottom, Minjarez was the E-N’s preferred candidate in that special election last year, and all the things I’ve heard about her so far have been positive. I don’t know Martin Golando, but people in San Antonio and with connections to the Lege that I respect are all high on him, and that’s good enough for me. The stakes may have been low in that HD118 special election, but Tomas Uresti lost it, and that sure seems like a good reason to support Gabe Farias (also the E-N choice in round one of that special election). Finally, I don’t know the candidates in HD120 (Art Hall ran for Railroad Commissioner in 2008 but finished out of the money in a three-way primary), so I welcome any input from the locals in that race.

Rep. McClendon to step down

She’ll be missed.

Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon

State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, a San Antonio Democrat and 19-year veteran of the Texas House who tenaciously championed social justice reform, said Wednesday that she is not running for re-election.

McClendon was elected in 1996 to represent East Side voters in House District 120 and has emerged as a fixture in the Legislature as the dean of the Bexar County delegation.

However, McClendon’s health has been an ongoing concern. She was diagnosed in 2009 with stage 4 lung cancer and underwent surgery to remove water from her brain last year.

Her fragile physical state was emphasized during the latest legislative session when she relied on an electric scooter to navigate the Capitol and had noticeable trouble speaking.

In a statement, McClendon said she plans to stay in office until her term expires in December 2016 but that “it is time for someone else to take up the mantle.”

“Although I will not return to the Legislature in 2017,” she said, “I will still be engaged to ensure that the issues I have fought for will have a voice.”

[…]

McClendon has possibly become best known for her quest to have the state study wrongful prison convictions. She achieved the long-time goal during the last legislative session to create a commission to study exonerations, a triumph that helped earn her recognition from Texas Monthly as one of 2015’s best lawmakers.

Lawmakers said McClendon’s presence will be missed.

“Ruth is not only the dean of our delegation, she’s also our Capitol mother. Knowing that she’s not coming back is something that’s going to be hard to overcome,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a San Antonio Democrat. “She’s always been the leader of our delegation, but now its time for her to make sure she’s taking care of her health and her family.”

All respect to Rep. McClendon, who has battled health issues for several years but went out on a high note this session with the passage of that exoneration commission bill. Go read the story at the end of that post linked above; if it doesn’t make you at least a little misty, you might want to adjust your meds. Her departure means that the ten-member Bexar County House delegation will have at least four members who were not there this past January – Rep. Diego Bernal, the successor to Mike Villarreal, who resigned to run for Mayor; Rep. Ina Minjarez, who won a special election for the seat vacated by now-Sen. Jose Rodriguez; and whoever follows the retiring Reps. McClendon and Joe Farias. If the Dems win back HD117 in this Presidential-turnout year, that will be half of the delegation turned over. Getting some new blood is always good, but losing such distinguished veterans is hard. I wish Rep. McClendon all the best as she enters the next phase of her life. The Trib has more.

Minjarez wins in HD124

At long last, that’s a wrap.

Ina Minjarez

Former Bexar County prosecutor Ina Minjarez cruised to victory late Tuesday in the runoff for José Menéndez’s old seat in Texas House District 124 the last vacancy this session in the Legislature.

With all precincts reporting, Minjarez led Delicia Herrera, a former member of the San Antonio City Council, by just under 10 percentage points, according to unofficial returns. Minjarez beat Herrera by another double-digit margin in the first round of the race last month, a four-way contest.

Turnout for the runoff was 2.77 percent, slightly higher than the rate for the March 31 vote. That was the lowest turnout the state had on record for a competitive special election for a legislative seat.

See here, here, and here for the background, and here for the numbers. Congratulations to Rep.-elect Ina Minjarez, the winner of the last special election of this legislative session. There could still be more later, if someone resigns after the session or something like that, but for now and for the first time since November, the Lege is at full strength. And hey, guess what? Early voting for the May elections, which in San Antonio includes the heavily contested Mayor’s race, begins on Monday. Enjoy the break while you can.

Early voting totals for HD124 runoff

Ina Minjarez

Early voting for the HD124 runoff was last week, with Tuesday the 21st being Runoff Day. According to the Bexar County Elections website, 1165 early votes cast so far in the runoff for HD124. That’s a slight improvement over the March 31 election, in which 1002 early votes were cast, with 1981 votes total. That means at least 817 votes need to be cast on Tuesday for runoff turnout to top the “regular” election, which isn’t saying much but would still be better than the alternative.

It’s not too surprising that turnout for the runoff will at least be on par with the first round. The first election was called very quickly, and because it wasn’t known that this election and not one in a different district would be needed until the SD26 runoff had concluded, the candidates had to start from scratch with no pre-SD26 election head start. The turnaround time for this runoff was miniscule as well, but at least the candidates were already fully engaged and could hit the ground running. That had to make it a little easier to get people back to the polls for the third and now fourth time this year.

None of this is optimal from a participation perspective, but with the legislative session going on it was the best that could be done to get someone seated in this district. As neither chamber has exactly had its hair on fire to get stuff done, the good news is that whether Ina Minjarez or Delicia Herrera gets sworn in next week, she will have a chance to vote on a bunch of relevant issues. That will give her a chance to have some semblance of a record the voters can evaluate in 2016, when more of them will know it’s time to vote again.

HD124 runoff date set

Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

Ina Minjarez

The runoff in the special election in Texas House District 124 will be April 21 under a proclamation issued Thursday by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Pitted in the race to fill the unexpired term of now-state Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, are attorney Ina Minjarez and former Councilwoman Delicia Herrera, both Democrats.

Minjarez was the top vote-getter in the four-person special election on March 31, capturing 42 percent of the vote, followed by Herrera with 28.

Early voting starts Monday, as in this Monday – see here for times and locations. The short turnaround time won’t do anything to help improve turnout, but again, the longer the time between Election Days, the less time the next Representative would have to represent that district. The tradeoff seems worthwhile to me. Best of luck to both candidates.

Yes, turnout stunk in HD124

What did you expect?

Ina Minjarez

How low can you go? Apparently 2.25 percent.

That’s the share of registered voters who cast ballots Tuesday in the special election for Texas House District 124. According to unofficial results, less than 2,000 of the district’s 88,006 registered voters weighed in.

If that number stands when the votes are certified, it will mark an unflattering milestone for a state with an already bad rap when it comes to voter participation — the lowest turnout rate on record in a competitive special election for a legislative seat.

Tuesday’s contest, which sent two Democrats to a yet-to-be-scheduled runoff, was the sixth special election held in Texas, and the third in Bexar County, since last November. The past four months have seen special elections with four of the 10 lowest turnout rates in modern Texas history, according to data provided by the Texas Legislative Council that did not include runoffs.

Analysts say it’s no surprise voters are skipping the polls, especially in the election-weary San Antonio area. Bexar County elections administrator Jacque Callanen said Tuesday’s election was the area’s 13th in the same number of months.

“I think it’s voter fatigue, but also I think it’s for many of our voters, they don’t know what they’re about,” Callanen said of the quick-turn elections. “They don’t know who’s running. I think it’s just a big combination of that.”

[…]

Ina Minjarez, the former Bexar County prosecutor who was the top vote-getter Tuesday, said her campaign knew that — between the recent slew of special elections and ongoing San Antonio city races — it would be up against voter exhaustion. After six campaign mailings, she still ran into confused voters. The election was called after former state Rep. José Menéndez won a promotion to the upper chamber in his own special election.

“They would say, ‘Well, we voted for José already,’ and they didn’t know there was already another election to fill his seat,” Minjarez said.

The people in HD124 have been asked to vote three times already this year – January 6 for the SD26 special election, February 17 for that race’s runoff, and now March 28 just for HD124. That last race took place 39 days after an intense and bitter runoff, and it happened without there being any advance work done by the eventual candidates, who ultimately had less than 30 days to run a campaign, because no one knew that the next special election would be in HD124 and not HD116. Oh, and in the meantime there’s a multi-candidate Mayoral race going on, which is sucking a lot of the oxygen out of the room. Who can blame the voters for being confused and a little worn out? It’s nobody’s fault, and Greg Abbott has actually done everyone a favor by scheduling the HD124 race as quickly as he did after the SD26 runoff, because it will give either Ina Minjarez or Delicia Herrera a chance to actually represent the district during this session. So without minimizing the generally sorry state of voter participation in Texas, let’s cut these folks some slack. Between this runoff and two rounds of city races, they’ll have voted in every month through June by the time all is said and done. You’d be cranky about it, too.

HD124 special election goes to runoff

There won’t be much time left in the session before this race is finally decided.

Ina Minjarez

Two Democrats are advancing to a second round in the race to replace former state Rep. Jose Menendez in House District 124, likely adding a few weeks to the last in a series of special elections.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting late Tuesday, former Bexar County prosecutor Ina Minjarez led Delicia Herrera, a former member of the San Antonio City Council, 42 percent to 28 percent, in unofficial returns. Neither captured the majority needed to win outright in the four-way race.

The runoff will sharpen the contrast between Herrera and Minjarez, both of whom have talked up education and transportation throughout the abbreviated contest. Herrera benefits from relatively high name recognition — her city council district included part of HD-124 — while Minjarez has stood out for her fundraising ability.

Minjarez also received the endorsement of the Express News and Annie’s List. Turnout in this race was craptastic, but I expect that will improve for the runoff. I just hope it happens soon enough for the winner to be able to make a meaningful contribution in this session. The Express News has more.

Endorsement watch: Minjarez in HD124

On the eve of early voting in HD124, the Express News makes their choice for a candidate in the HD124 special election.

Ina Minjarez

Former Bexar County prosecutor Ina Minjarez, who now practices civil law in San Antonio, is the best choice in the race, and we recommend that voters cast their ballots for her.

[…]

Minjarez, who will be 40 on Friday, spent a decade in the Bexar County district attorney’s office working on cases ranging from domestic violence to murders.

A graduate of St. Mary’s University School of Law, Minjarez is well prepared to represent the heavily Democratic House district. She voices strong support for public education, wants to ensure that the state’s schools are adequately funded and plans to seek pay raises for Texas teachers.

Minjarez opposes school vouchers and supports Medicaid expansion to enable Texas to secure billions of federal dollars to provide medical care for low-income Texans. She is the right candidate to represent District 124.

See here for some background. I don’t have a favorite in this race. About the only thing I know about these candidates is in that profile and that Delicia Herrera screwed up an address change in 2012 when she wanted to run for HD125. I suspect that any of the three candidates profiled by the Rivard Report will be fine. It’s a matter of who makes it to the runoff, and what dirt emerges at that time as the two remaining candidates focus on each other.

HD124 special election overview

Early voting for the special election to fill Sen. Jose Menendez’s now-vacant HD124 seat begins Monday. The Rivard Report provides a brief profile of three of the candidates in that race.

Delicia Herrera

Delicia Herrera, 41, who served on council from 2007 through 2012, said her experience representing the district, which overlaps the House district by 90 percent, clearly makes her the most qualified candidate for the job.

“I know the issues. At the state level, you don’t address the details of particular issues. But being on city council, a lot of the issues you cannot address without partnerships with the State,” Herrera said.

The first in her family to go to college, Herrera’s public school experiences informed her education policy positions. She credits full-day pre-kindergarten with creating the “foundation of a strong educational path for me,” and was in 5th grade in the Edgewood school district when the Supreme Court of Texas decided the landmark Edgewood Independent School District v. Kirby, altering the formula used to fund Texas schools, a decision that reverberates in Texas law and politics to this day.

Today, Herrera owns two homes, one in the Edgewood district and one in the Northside district. She noted, and a review of the Bexar County Appraisal District records confirm, that she pays four times more to Northside than to Edgewood, a differential greater than the difference of appraised value of the respective homes. This inequality rankles Herrera.

“Property taxes are how schools are funded. My unique perspective of Edgewood and Northside shows me that Edgewood’s big problem is that we don’t have the property taxes to sustain what we need to do there. We don’t have the business tax base.”

But while education is a priority for the constituents of HD124, she said transportation is the district’s top concern. She expressed frustration with congestion in the district, but said she’s opposed to the diversion of funds from the vehicle sales tax.

Following the passage of last year’s constitutional amendment, which is expected to add $1.74 billion of new transportation spending for fiscal year 2015, multiple bills have been introduced in this session seeking even more funds for transportation. Often these bills earmark funds from certain revenue streams such as the vehicle sales tax. Herrera would prefer to fund transportation out of general revenue.

Ina Minjarez

This is the first run for a legislative office for Ina Minjarez, 39, but in 2006 she narrowly lost a judge’s race in County Court at Law No. 5 and lost in her second attempt for that bench in the Republican wave of 2010. She said her desire to serve remained; she decided to run after exploring the possibility with members of the community.

“I received very positive feedback,” she said.

Born in El Paso, her mother was an elementary school cashier and her father a veteran who started his own concrete business. Their dedication to her education led Minjarez to Notre Dame, and then St. Mary’s University School of Law. A six-year stint in the District Attorney’s office followed. Today she works in private practice.

“As a small business owner, I know the concerns that I’ve had with my small business,” Minjarez said. “I want to be a champion on behalf of small business owners.”

She’s sending out mailers introducing herself to the voters of HD124, and after several days of blockwalking, she too identified transportation as a top voter priority – and it’s no wonder: congestion at the intersections of Highways 90, 151 and 1604 provide constant headaches to residents, two-thirds of whom spend between 15 and 44 minutes getting to work, according to the District Profile Report.

Minjarez said she “liked what she saw” after reviewing two filed bills that earmarked proceeds from the vehicle sales tax to be used for transportation funds, but said she’d have to do more research if elected.

She said was generally in favor of providing prekindergarten statewide, but worried about the greater cost.

For almost all the issues we discussed, Minjarez said she preferred to seek out bill sponsors and their staffs to get more information before committing to specific positions.

Nathan Alonzo

Nathan Alonzo, Alonzo, while he has no elected experience, has spent the last five legislative sessions in Austin working on behalf of the firefighter’s union, so is very familiar with how things get done in the legislature.

“You’ve got to understand this process,” Alonzo, 53, said. “I’ve seen the process. I’ve been up there. I know what it’s like and that’s why I think I’m better qualified.”

A firefighter like his father, Alonzo spent his first four years in the district, later graduating from Jefferson High School. He took some courses at Alamo College and Tarrant Junior College before joining the San Antonio Fire Department.

Ten years ago, he took on the role of legislative director after stints as district steward, second vice president and serving on the public relations committee for the union. He’s also acted as United Way Coordinator for the City of San Antonio.

He too cited traffic problems as a number one concern from his perspective as a firefighter, Alonzo noted that traffic “impacts ordinary residents, costing productivity, tying up resources of small businesses and limiting the ability of emergency services to reach people in need.”

He expressed support for using roughly $4 billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund – better known as the “Rainy Day Fund” – to meet some of the unmet transportation and education needs. The fund is currently projected to reach $11.1 billion by 2017.

Fourth candidate and Republican-running-as-a-Democrat David Rosa did not respond to the author’s request for an interview, so three out of four is what you get. Not a whole lot of substantive difference between them, which isn’t too surprising. I personally think dedicating a portion of sales taxes specifically to transportation is a silly idea – if the Legislature wants to spend more money on transportation, it can appropriate more money to transportation; specific-purpose dedications like that are why they engage in so many budgetary hijinx every two years, which the rest of us then sniff at indignantly – but that seems to be the flavor of the session, so there you go. Any fireworks in this race will likely occur during a runoff, which is the odds-on outcome given the number of candidates and the lack of a clear frontrunner. Anyone from San Antonio want to weigh in on the choice in this race?

Four file for HD124

Really, truly, hopefully the last special legislative election this year. This session, anyway.

Sen. Jose Menendez

Four Democrats officially are in the running for Texas House District 124, the Bexar County seat that opened up with José Menéndez’s promotion last month to the upper chamber.

Candidates for the March 31 special election to replace the San Antonio Democrat include firefighter Nathan Alonzo, former San Antonio City Councilmember Delicia Herrera and attorney Ina Minjarez. Rounding out the ballot is David Rosa, an independent insurance agent who unsuccessfully ran in 2012 as a Republican against U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio.

[…]

Early voting in HD 124 runs from March 23 through March 27.

In other words, the same four candidates that had emerged last week, when Sen. Menendez was sworn in, though with David Rosa apparently switching teams. This Gilbert Garcia column has the most information about the candidates so far. A little Googling around gives me the following:

– Delicia Herrera’s personal Facebook page shows that VoteDelicia.com will be her campaign website, but it doesn’t appear to be up right now. She has a campaign Facebook page and Twitter feed from her aborted 2012 run for HD125. I presume either that they will be updated or a new ones will be created.

Nathan Alonzo has his webpage up. His campaign Facebook page is here

– Ina Minjaerz does not have a campaign webpage yet, but she does have a campaign Facebook page and a Twitter feed.

– David Rosa also has a campaign Facebook page from 2012, when he ran for Congress against Rep. Joaquin Castro. Here’s a story from that in case you’re interested.

We’re already less than two weeks away from the start of early voting, so to say the least this campaign will be a mad sprint, likely followed by an intense runoff. Don’t be surprised if the turnout in the runoff is higher, either. In the meantime, if anyone has any insights on these four, please leave a comment. Thanks.

UPDATE: Gilbert Garcia’s column on David Rosa and his cynical part-switching gambit is worth a read.

Menendez sworn in

We’re back at full strength in the Senate.

Sen. Jose Menendez

José Menéndez became San Antonio’s newest state senator in a ceremony Monday that featured the Alamo City Democrat taking the oath of office and urging his new colleagues in the upper chamber to chart a bipartisan course regardless of what “political price may come.”

In a 10-minute address to a packed Senate chamber, Menéndez waxed personal at times, reflecting on his experience growing up as a child born to two immigrants and who started kindergarten without knowing how to speak English.

But the thrust of his messaging revolved around the idea of lawmakers from both parties coming together to improve the state.

“I’m here to say that I’m ready to work with each and every one of you,” said Menéndez, who was sworn in by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia. “I rarely care or worry about what’s your party politics what I worry about and care about is what’s in your heart.”

He later added: “It is our duty as elected officials not only to defend the Constitution … we have to be there to make the tough decisions for the right reason. Sometimes it’s easier for us to make votes that are politically correct, to say things that are politically correct. And that’s why sometimes I think people loose faith in what we do.”

PDiddie notes that the kerfuffle over how Menendez won is still active, with Menendez’s opponent, Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer penning a piece in the Quorum Report laying out the argument about Republican voters affecting the outcome. I’ve said my piece on that. and don’t plan to say any more. We will literally never see an election like that again, and I see no reason to dwell on it.

Of greater interest to me is that we now have a date for what should really, truly be the last special election of this cycle, in HD124, which has now been vacated by Sen. Menendez. It’s been set for March 31, with early voting from the 23rd to the 27th. As expected with such a short turnaround time, candidates have begun to emerge.

Delicia Herrera won’t have to crash at a friend’s pad during this election cycle.

Herrera, a former two-term councilwoman, is one of four declared candidates for the District 124 Texas House seat that opened up two weeks ago when the district’s long-time representative, José Menéndez, won a special-election runoff for the Texas Senate. Herrera was one of the jubilant supporters who stood by Menéndez’s side at his victory party on February 17.

Three years ago, Herrera had her eye on a legislative seat, but encountered a slight inconvenience.

Her home at SW 39th Street was located in District 124, but that legislative seat was occupied by Menéndez, an incumbent who already had nearly a decade under his belt and showed no signs of political vulnerability. But Herrera’s home was just outside the boundary line for District 125, and that West Side seat had opened up, because Joaquin Castro was stepping down to run for Congress.

So Herrera claimed the Northwest Side home of her former campaign treasurer — about nine miles north of her own house — as her residence, even as she admitted to the San Antonio Express-News that she continued to receive her mail and keep her dogs and “stuff” at the 39th Street house.

[…]

Ina Minjarez, 39, a local attorney who spent the first six years of her legal career working as a prosecutor, has made two bids for the County Court at Law No. 5 bench.

Nathan Alonzo, 52, is the lone declared candidate who has yet to appear on an election ballot, but he’s a familiar name to local politicos.

The legislative director for the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association, Alonzo can make the case that his years of lobbying have given him the deepest understanding of the state legislative process of any candidate in the race.

I’ll be very interested to hear more about these candidates. If any locals want to chime in on them, please do so. The Rivard Report has more.