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interviews

Interview with Gina Calanni

Gina Calanni

We wrap up the week in HD132, in the westernmost part of Harris County, including the Katy area. Democrats have not usually challenged in this district – going back to the 2001 redistricting, there has been a Democratic candidate in HD132 in only two elections, in 2010 and 2014. That’s as many candidates as we had file for this year, though only one of them appears to be actively campaigning. Carlos Pena did not reply to my email asking for an interview; he does now have a website, on which he says he “could have just as easily run as a Republican”, though he thinks they have gotten too extreme lately. Gina Calanni, on the other hand, has been out there campaigning and is clear about which party she represents. A published author and single mother of three, we had a good discussion about her candidacy, which you can listen to here. I’ll be back to round out the State House interviews next week.

You can see all of my legislative interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Legislative Election page.

Interview with Marty Schexnayder

Marty Schexnayder

We come for a return engagement in HD133. For all the legitimate issues in our state and around the country with gerrymandering, HD133 is fairly close to a plain old rectangle, bordered by I-10 to the north, Westheimer to the south, Beltway 8 Highway 6 to the west and Loop 610 to the east. It’s kind of like a more Republican version of HD134, including the large number of Trump refuseniks in 2016. Hoping to persuade those voters to keep standing firm is native Houstonian Marty Schexnayder. An attorney and UT graduate, Schexnayder volunteers at his church and serves on the board of directors for Faith in Practice, a non-profit agency dedicated to providing medical services to the citizens of Guatemala. Here’s our conversation:

You can see all of my legislative interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Legislative Election page.

Interview with Sandra Moore

Sandra Moore

From HD138 we move to its southern neighbor, HD133. Covering territory from the Galleria area to the Westchase District, it’s solid Republican area but with a significant crossover swing to Hillary Clinton in 2016; she lost HD133 by a 54-40 margin while other Dems were trailing by 30. Rep. Jim Murphy was first elected here in 2006, then after being swept out in 2008 came back in 2010 and hasn’t faced much competition since (a healthy dose of 2011 redistricting didn’t hurt in that regard). Murphy is a past President of the Westchase District, and his relationship with it still works to his benefit. Three candidates filed to take him on, two actual Democrats and a third person who isn’t worth mentioning. Sandra Moore is one of those actual Democrats, and I don’t have any biographical information for you here but I did ask her about her background and other things in the interview:

You can see all of my legislative interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Legislative Election page.

Interview with Jenifer Pool

Jenifer Pool

We return to HD138 today. This is a district that has been held by Rep. Dwayne Bohac since 2002 but was carried by a tiny margin by Hillary Clinton on 2016, thus putting it high on the target list for this year. It’s a diverse district with a Latino plurality and a significant Asian population that had been on the fringes of contention before being thrust into the spotlight for 2018. Jenifer Pool made her entry into the race during the filing period. If you’ve been here before, you know Jenifer, who owns a construction and permitting consulting firm and has a long history of activism in the community. She’s run for Council a couple of times and became the first trans person to win a primary for county office when she was nominated for County Commissioner in Precinct 3 in 2016. You can search the archives for past interviews I’ve done with her, and you can listen to the one I did here for this race:

You can see all of my legislative interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Legislative Election page.

Interview with Adam Milasincic

Adam Milasincic

We are officially in the home stretch of primary season. Early voting starts eight days – eight days! – from today. Between now and then I will be bringing you interviews from the contested State Rep primaries in Harris County. I limited myself to the races in Republican-held districts, because there’s only one of me and there were only so many weeks before the election. These are some of the districts in which any gains that are available to be made this year are likely to be made. We start in HD138, where two Democrats vie to face Rep. Dwayne Bohac in November. Adam Milasincic is one of those candidates, and was one of the first to file for a legislative office this cycle in Harris County. Milasincic is an attorney and litigator who touts his pro bono advocacy on behalf of inmates and immigrants, among others. He was also one of two primary candidates to be singled out by labor for his firm’s role in a recent lawsuit against the SEIU. I asked him about that, and about other things, in the interview:

You can see all of my legislative interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Legislative Election page.

Interview with John Miller

John Miller

Today we come to the end of HCDE week. As I said, there are three candidates running in Position 6, Precinct 1 – there is no Republican candidate, so the winner of the primary has his ticket stamped – but I only have two interviews, as candidate Prince EW Bryant did not respond to my email. I hope that between these interviews and my efforts to highlight the many programs and services that HCDE offers, you have a better understanding of this important but often overlooked institution. John Miller also has a degree in Chemical Engineering, from the University of Cincinnati, and he has applied that degree at a number of manufacturing jobs. (His campaign Facebook page doesn’t have any biographical information on it, but I got these facts from his LinkedIn profile.) He was a candidate for HCDP Chair last year, and he is one of several dozen LGBT candidates seeking office this year. Please note when you listen to the interview that while I have been asking candidates about their position on sexual harassment policies, I failed to do so with Mr. Miller, for the simple reason that I forgot. Such are the dangers of working without written notes. I apologize for the oversight. Now here’s our conversation:

You can see all of my interviews for candidates running for County office as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Harris County Election page.

Interview with Danyahel Norris

Danyahel Norris

The Board of Trustees of the Harris County Department of Education is comprised of seven members, three At Large and one for each County Commissioner precinct. Republicans have generally held a majority of the positions on the Board, with the exception of the period between the 2012 and 2014 elections, as Democrats had won the At Large seats in 2008 and 2012, but then lost two of them back in 2014. The one position that is basically a lock to be Democratic – as long as Democrats run a candidate, which for bizarre reasons didn’t happen in 2006 – is Position 6, Precinct 1, where incumbent Trustee Erica Lee Carter is stepping down after one term. Three candidates are vying to succeed her. Danyahel Norris came to Houston to attend UH, where he got a degree in chemical engineering. After teaching math for a few years, he got a law degree from the Thurgood Marshall school at TSU and practiced in the US Patent and Trademark Office before becoming the Associate Director of the Law Library at TSU. Here’s my interview with him:

You can see all of my interviews for candidates running for County office as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Harris County Election page.

Interview with Elvonte Patton

Elvonte Patton

Did you know that the Harris County Department of Education serves as the central operations site of the Texas Virtual School NetworkElvonte Patton is a full-time student working on his Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor; he has a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Texas Southern University. He started his education at a Head Start program, much like the one the HCDE provides, as a child in Oklahoma. Here’s our conversation:

You can see all of my interviews for candidates running for County office as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Harris County Election page.

Interview with Richard Cantu

Richard Cantu

It’s Day Two of HCDE Week here. Did you know that the Harris County Department of Education provides Head Start and Early Head Start services to 1,200 children in Harris County? There’s a big need for programs like that, especially in a county like Harris. Richard Cantu is a public service veteran, having served such roles as the Director of the Mayor’s Citizens’ Assistance Office and as the Deputy Executive Director of the East Aldine Management District. A native Houstonian and graduate of HCC and UH, Richard was a candidate for the HISD Board of Trustees in 2005, and serves on numerous boards. Here’s the interview:

You can see all of my interviews for candidates running for County office as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Harris County Election page.

Interview with Josh Wallenstein

Josh Wallenstein

This week’s interviews are all about the Harris County Department of Education, a body that serves as a co-operative and clearinghouse for the thirty-plus school districts in Harris County, providing programs and purchasing power to make their budgets go farther. Among the services the HCDE provides is adult education, including workforce training, GED classes, and English as a second language. The HCDE Board of Trustees consists of seven members, three At Large and one each for the four Commissioners’ precincts. There are two open seats this year, in At Large #3 and Position 6, Precinct 1, as trustees Diane Trautman and Erica Lee Carter are stepping down. There are three Democratic candidates seeking to succeed each of them. Josh Wallenstein was the first candidate to emerge as a contender for the Trautman seat. An attorney who recently opened his own firm, he has also served as a Chief Compliance Officer at a major corporation. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my interviews for candidates running for County office as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Harris County Election page.

Interview with Penny Shaw

Penny Shaw

I have one more interview for County Commissioner in Precinct 4, where Jack Cagle has been the incumbent since being appointed to replace the scandal-riddled Jerry Eversole. This is the most Republican of the four Commissioner precincts, but as noted this is a cycle about competing everywhere, for if nothing else making gains in the county overall means making gains in each quadrant. Penny Shaw is a longtime attorney and activist who has worked alongside anti-human trafficking organizations to help implement strategies to fight that problem. A mother of four, she has also been a Congressional legislative advocate. Here’s the interview:

You can see all of my interviews for candidates running for County office as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Harris County Election page.

Interview with Jeff Stauber

Jeff Stauber

From the not-so-powerful office of County Treasurer we move on to County Commissioner, easily the most powerful county office anywhere in Texas. Commissioners get a lot of control over their budgets, and at least in Harris County tend to operate without too much pesky oversight from the public. All counties have four Commissioners, and despite Harris County’s Democratic trend, it has been a three-Republican, one-Democrat mix since 2010. There’s a lot of hope to change that this year, and while it is in Precinct 2 that the best odds of a flip lie, the post-2016 cycle has been all about competing everywhere and picking up wins in unexpected places. Jeff Stauber is one of two candidates who are aiming for that in Precinct 4. A resident of Kingwood and 32-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, Stauber serves as a commander in the HCSO, and ran for the Democratic nomination for Sheriff in 2016. You can listen to that interview here, and you can listen to this interview now:

You can see all of my interviews for candidates running for County office as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Harris County Election page.

Interview with Nile Copeland

Nile Copeland

I have one more interview for County Treasurer. There are three candidates, but Cosme Garcia did not return my email asking to schedule something, so two is all I have. As before, if Garcia gets back to me now I will do my best to accommodate him. In the meantime, here is my interview with Nile Copeland, who currently serves as a municipal judge in Houston and who has been a candidate for district court judge in Harris County in past years. Publishing this today reminds me of one of the perils of doing interviews in advance as I do. It’s a rare days when incumbent Treasurer Orlando Sanchez does something newsworthy – honestly, I think it’s a rare day when he does something other than surf Facebook – but there he was getting quoted in that story about Harris County’s recent cybercrime near-miss. Had that story run a few weeks ago, or if I had done these interviews more recently, I’d have brought this up, but alas, it was not to be. So you’ll have to do with what we did talk about:

You can see all of my interviews for candidates running for County office as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Harris County Election page.

Interview with Dylan Osborne

Dylan Osborne

We move on now to Harris County races. There are races for county courts and Justice of the Peace, which I am covering via the judicial Q&As. Lina Hidalgo is unopposed in the primary for Harris County Judge. In the races for County Clerk, District Clerk, and County Commissioner in Precinct 2, I have chosen to endorse candidates instead of interviewing the slate. That leaves County Treasurer, HCDE Trustee in Position 3 At Large and Position 6, Precinct 1 (Andrea Duhon is unopposed in the primary for Position 4, Precinct 3), and County Commissioner in Precinct 4. The next two weeks will be devoted to these races, beginning today with County Treasurer.

Treasurer is an odd office, a constitutional holdover that was eliminated at the statewide level in 1995. Three Democrats have filed to try to defeat incumbent Orlando Sanchez, who was first elected to this office in 2006. Dylan Osborne was the first of the three to jump in. Osborne works in the Planning & Development Department for the City of Houston, and he has been on staff for two City Council members, most recently Richard Nguyen in District F. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my interviews for candidates running for County office as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Harris County Election page.

Interview with HP Parvizian

HP Parvizian

I start scheduling interviews well in advance of when I start publishing them, for a variety of reasons. These things take time, people have schedules that need to be accommodated, myself included, and stuff happens that you can’t foresee. Sometimes that means people asking for a postponement for unexpected obstacles, and sometimes that means candidates show up at unexpected times. HP Parvizian, the Democratic candidate in CD02 for whom I did not publish an interview last week, contacted me this week to get that done. The son of immigrants, Parvizian grew up working in his father’s rug business, before going into his own businesses with dog training and therapy dogs. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview with Dayna Steele

Dayna Steele

Though I often find the task I set for myself of interviewing candidates every year daunting, I do enjoy it. I’ve met a lot of good and interesting people this way, and I always find it energizing to hear their desire to serve the public and make the world a better place. And once in awhile I get to talk to someone like Dayna Steele, and who wouldn’t want to do that? You may know her as the midday DJ on the old rock station KLOL, you may know her as an executive with a NASA aerospace contractor, you may know her as an author and speaker and video producer. Now you know her as a candidate for CD36, one of legions of women seeking to restore sanity and normality in our country. Here’s our conversation:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview with Allison Lami Sawyer

Allison Sawyer

I’ve done probably a couple hundred interviews since I first got the idea to talk to candidates as a way of doing this blog. Many of them have been for primaries and odd year races, where I may or may not have a preferred candidate, or I may be trying to decide for myself whom to support. Every once in awhile, though, there’s a race where there is no choice, because one candidate is completely unacceptable. You know what and who I’m talking about here, in the primary for HD134. There’s the idiot Lloyd Oliver, and then there’s Allison Lami Sawyer, the one candidate worth your vote in HD134. A physicist with an MBA from Rice, she is the CEO of an oil and gas safety firm, and in case I haven’t mentioned it, she’s also the only candidate worth your vote this March. Here’s the interview:

You can see all of my legislative interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Legislative Election page.

Interview with Rita Lucido

Rita Lucido

Rita Lucido

One reason why I’m combining multiple races into individual weeks – aside from the too-many-contested-races, not-enough-weeks issue – is that unlike the Congressional free-for-alls, most of the other contested races have a more normal-sized field of two or three. There are three candidates running for SD17 on the Democratic side, though I only interviewed two of them. I did do an interview with that third candidate back in 2010 if you want to check that out. I’ve also done a prior interview with today’s candidate, Rita Lucido, as she had been the Democratic nominee for SD17 in 2014; you can find that interview here. She’s a family law attorney and longtime community activist, whom I first met years ago when volunteering for Planned Parenthood. She’s also a fellow alum of Trinity University, and you know how I love it when that happens. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my legislative interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Legislative Election page.

Interview with Fran Watson

Fran Watson

As I might have mentioned once or twice before, there are a lot of contested primaries this year. In a less active year, I’d publish interviews from the same race in a given week. This year, between the large number of such races and the small number of available weeks, I’m going to have to have several weeks where there are multiple races features. That start this week, and frankly will continue till the end. Our first featured race this week is SD17, and our first candidate for SD17 is Fran Watson. Watson is an attorney and mediator, past President of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and co-director of the New Leaders Council, Houston Chapter, and a whole lot more. And as noted before, she has a chance to be the first out LGBT member of the Senate if she wins. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my legislative interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Legislative Election page.

Interview with Silky Malik

Silky Malik

And so we come to the end of our journey through CD02. There are as noted five candidates in the Democratic primary, but candidate HP Parvizian did not reply to my email asking to schedule an interview. If that happens later and there’s still time, I’ll talk to him then. For today, we have a conversation with Silky Malik. The daughter of immigrants and a native Houstonian, Malik graduated from UH with degrees in psychology and sociology and also has an MBA from Texas A&M. She has worked at MD Anderson in cancer research and as a primary school substitute teacher while spending time abroad in Southeast Asia. She’s also the first and so far only candidate to have been given a Q&A in the Free Press Houston. Here’s the interview I did with her:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview with Todd Litton

Todd Litton

CD02 hasn’t drawn quite as much attention as CD07 has – it has fewer Democratic candidates, and the district is more Republican-leaning – but one thing it had in common with CD07 was a Democratic challenger that had outraised the incumbent. There’s no more incumbent in this district, but there is Todd Litton, the candidate who held that distinction. A native of Houston with a law degree from UT and an MBA from Rice, Litton has mostly worked in the education and nonprofit world, with stints at the Children’s Defense Fund, the Texas Lyceum, and Center for Houston’s Future, among others. He was a delegate for John Kerry in 2004 and for Barack Obama in 2008. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview with Ali Khorasani

Ali Khorasani

It’s day two of CD02, the soon-to-be-former district of Rep. Ted Poe. Today’s candidate, Ali Khorasani represents a couple of themes we have seen in this year’s crop of contenders: He’s under 40, and he’s a scientist. A graduate of St. Edwards University, he has a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and a Master’s degree in Chemistry, and currently works as a Field Service Engineer for chemical analysis instruments. He’s also an Eagle Scout and was a part of President Obama’s Interfaith Challenge while in college. Here’s the interview:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview with J. Darnell Jones

Darnell Jones

Today we move into CD02, which has been since 2004 the home of Rep. Ted Poe. Like Harris County overall it moved in a Democratic direction in 2016, though it was still Republican overall. It’s on the radar this year as Rep. Poe has announced his retirement, with five Democrats and a gaggle of Republicans seeking to take Poe’s place. I’ve got interviews with four of those Democrats to bring you this week (one candidate did not reply to my email inquiry; if he gets to me later, I’ll interview him then). First up is J. Darnell Jones, a native of Memphis who served for 25 years in the Army and Navy, retiring in 2016 as a Lieutenant Commander. Jones also hold a law degree, and was a candidate for Pearland City Council in May of 2017. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview with Lizzie Pannill Fletcher

Lizzie Fletcher

And so we come to the end of our week-long odyssey through the Democratic field in CD07. Next week, we shift focus to CD02, which will not require publishing interviews on weekend days. Lucky number seven in the Democratic lineup for CD07 is Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, another challenger who helped push the national narrative in this district by out-fundraising the incumbent. Fletcher is a Houston native who worked for the Alley Theater for four years before heading off to law school. A co-founder of Planned Parenthood Young Leaders, Fletcher has done volunteer legal work for Texas Appleseed and been a board member of Writers in the Schools. Here’s the interview:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview with Ivan Sanchez

Ivan Sanchez

The field in CD07 was stable for quite some time, with six of the seven filers posting finance reports from both Q2 and Q3 last year. Then in the waning days of the filing period, a new challenger emerged. That was Ivan Sanchez, who left his position as Senior Congressional Liaison and Field Representative for Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to join the fray. A childhood arrival from Colombia with his mother, Sanchez has a degree in Political Science from UH-Downtown. He has served on the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board and was the founder of the Houston Millennials nonprofit. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview with Joshua Butler

Joshua Butler

We’re more than halfway through the Democratic field in CD07, and we’ll be keeping it going through the weekend. I’m not sure what I’d have done if there were more than the seven candidates there are. Good thing I don’t need to think about it. One of the first candidates in this race to reach out to me for a conversation last year was Joshua Butler, a first-time candidate like so many others this year. Butler is a native of Birmingham, Alabama and received a bachelor’s in communications from the University of Alabama. He worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield and the American Heart Association before moving to Houston to work at UH as Director of Advancement and then at a medical research firm as a Development Officer. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview with James Cargas

James Cargas

One of the themes of this year’s election is the large number of people who are new to electoral politics getting involved. That has led to a huge number of first-time candidates throwing their hats into every ring imaginable. That’s not true for everyone you’ll see on your ballot – some have done this before, often more than once, in cycles where they had far less company. James Cargas falls into the latter group, having been the Democratic candidate in CD07 in each of the last three elections. An attorney with a background in energy law and policy, Cargas has worked on Capitol Hill and on various committees with the last three Mayors. Here’s our conversation:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview with Alex Triantaphyllis

Alex Triantaphyllis

There are a lot of reasons why CD07 has drawn so much national attention. It’s a district Hillary Clinton won in 2016 despite being held by Republicans forever – this was Poppy Bush’s seat back in the day, for goodness’ sake. It’s the home of the kind of well-educated non-Trump Republicans that are, or could be, swinging Democratic. And it features two Democratic challengers who have been outraising the incumbent. Atop that list is Alex Triantaphyllis, who is the Director of Immigration and Economic Opportunity at BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers). Triantaphyllis is a Rice graduate who has also worked in finance and consulting, and you can hear me pronounce his name correctly (the accent is on the second syllable; there was a pronunciation guide on a whiteboard at his campaign office where we spoke) in the interview:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview with Laura Moser

Laura Moser

Today is Day Two of my weeklong tour of CD07, which is not only one of the better pickup opportunities in Texas but also a regular feature in national stories about the 2018 environment and the map that Democrats are aiming for to win back control of Congress. And in those stories that feature CD07, Laura Moser has been a staple as a highlighted candidate. An author and journalist whose husband was a videographer for President Obama, Moser was part of the tidal wave of mostly female new activists after the 2016 election, founding the Daily Action text messaging service that enabled thousands of people to engage with their representatives in Washington. Oh, and whether or not you’d heard of Laura Moser before now, you’ve probably seen a picture of her daughter. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview with Jason Westin

Jason Westin

Today we kick off interview season for the 2018 Democratic primaries. There are a lot of races and a lot of candidates, and I will bring you as many as I can. This week is all about CD07, with seven candidates in seven days, beginning with Jason Westin. Westin is an oncologist and cancer researcher, and has received a fair amount of national press in the year of trying-to-repeal-Obamacare as one of a group of Democratic doctors trying to take back Congress. Westin, whose wife is also an oncologist, interned in the Senate in 1998 and worked on health care policy while there. Here’s the interview:

You can see all of my Congressional interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Congressional Election page.

Interview season begins tomorrow

We’re a month into primary season, and we’re also six weeks out from the start of early voting. You know what I did over Christmas vacation? I interviewed a bunch of candidates, that’s what. You will begin to see the results of that labor tomorrow, with more to come. Doing a bunch of interviews is always a challenge, but this year I had the additional task of trying to decide which interviews to do, as there just wasn’t the time to get to every race.

I have done interviews for a long time. I do them mostly to give candidates in races where there usually isn’t much media coverage the chance to be heard, and thus to give the voters who may not otherwise be able to know anything about them beyond what they can find on the Internet a chance to hear them speak for themselves. I usually stay neutral in the races where I do interviews (the 2009 Mayor’s race, where I was open about supporting Annise Parker, is an exception) because I want all the candidates to feel like I’m being fair to them, but also because I see my mission in doing these interviews as informative. I have always wanted to be broad and inclusive.

This year, the huge slate paired with the compressed primary timeline makes that goal unattainable. I thought about ways I might try to work around that, but in the end I decided that was neither practical nor desirable. And as I thought about that and considered my options, I realized I could approach things a little differently, and in doing so help me decide which races to prioritize.

What that means is this. For this year, I have decided there are some races where the better use of my platform is to make an endorsement rather than schedule and try to execute multiple interviews. If people come here to learn about candidates, then for this year I think it would be best for me to just say who I’m voting for in certain races. I’ve not done this before, and I may never do it again, but this year this is what feels right.

So with that long-winded preamble out of the way:

I endorse Beto O’Rourke for US Senate. Do I really need to say anything about this one?

I endorse Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in CD18. She works hard, she votes the way I want her to vote, I have supported her in previous elections, and I see no reason to do otherwise this year.

I endorse Sen. Sylvia Garcia in CD29. I was redistricted out of SD06 before she was elected there, but she has been an excellent successor to my former Senator, the late Mario Gallegos. She’s the clear choice in CD29.

I endorse Sen. John Whitmire for re-election in SD15. In the hostile environment that is the State Senate under Dan Patrick, Whitmire’s experience and institutional knowledge are vital. Four years ago, I asked his primary opponent Damien LaCroix why we should forsake Whitmire’s seniority and clout for a freshman. He didn’t have a good answer then, and I doubt he has one now. We hope to get a lot of new Democratic blood in every branch of government this year, but we still very much need John Whitmire.

I endorse Allison Lami Sawyer in HD134. I do plan to interview Sawyer – I’m in discussion with her to set a time and place at the time of publication – but I can’t say enough that her primary opponent, Lloyd Oliver, is a clown and an idiot, and we would be doing ourselves a grave disservice if we let him slip through the primary. Not that there’s ever a good year to screw around and nominate a deeply problematic schmuck like Oliver, but this is an especially bad year for that. Vote for Allison Sawyer in HD134.

I dual-endorse Marty Schexnayder and Sandra Moore in HD133. They both look like fine people (I haven’t reached out to them for interviews yet but probably will), but with all due respect to them this isn’t really about them. It’s about the third candidate in the race, who is even more of a problem than Lloyd Oliver. This other candidate, whom I will not name, has a long history of harassing me over a silly thing I said about him back in 2002. You can vote for Marty Schexnayder in HD133, or you can vote for Sandra Moore in HD133, but please do not even think about voting for the other candidate in HD133.

I endorse Diane Trautman for Harris County Clerk. I’ve known Diane for a long time. She’s a hard worker, a great Democrat, and she has served ably as HCDE Trustee. She was also the first Democrat to announce for anything for this cycle, and has been on the ground campaigning for months. Gayle Mitchell is a nice person who ran against Ann Harris Bennett for this nomination on 2014. You can listen to the interview I did with her then here. Ann Harris Bennett was the better candidate that year, and Diane Trautman is the better candidate this year. Nat West is the SDEC Chair for SD13, and is by all accounts I’ve heard a fine person. As far as I can tell, he has no web presence for his candidacy. With all due respect, Diane Trautman is the clear choice.

I endorse Marilyn Burgess for District Clerk. I only met her during this cycle, but like Diane Trautman she’s been out there campaigning for months, and she has great credentials for this office. All three of her opponents entered the race in the last days of the filing period. Two have no web presence – one was a candidate for SBOE in 2016, and had no web presence then, either – and one has a mostly unreadable website. District Clerk is – or at least should be – one of the least political elected offices out there. It’s about doing a straightforward information management job. I have faith Marilyn Burgess can do that job, and I’m voting for her.

I endorse Adrian Garcia for County Commissioner in Precinct 2. I’d been pining for him to run for this office for months, so I may as well be consistent.

So there you have it. Interviews begin tomorrow. Let me know what you think.

Interview with Robert Glaser

Robert Glaser

One more time with HCC – it’s possible I may have more of these, but this is what I have at this time. Robert Glaser, like Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, is running for his first full term in office, after having won a special election in 2013 to complete the term of then-Trustee Richard Schechter. Laila Feldman was appointed to replace Schechter but was unable to stay after moving out of the district; Dianne Johnson was then appointed to replace Feldman, with the understanding that she would not run for the seat. Glaser is a businessman and neighborhood activist, and has been outspoken about HCC’s procurement and board ethics issues. Here’s the interview:

You can see all the interviews I’ve done as well as information about candidates and races at my Election 2017 page.

Interview with Jasmine Jenkins of Houstonians for Great Public Schools

For obvious reasons, there’s going to be a lot of focus on HISD, both in the next year as the district recovers from Harvey and tries to fend off a takeover by the Texas Education Agency, and going forward, as these issues and others may fade but will never go away. The Board of Trustees will be very different than the one that was inaugurated after the 2015 election, and could be very different than the one we have right now. There’s been a lot of scrutiny on the HISD Board lately, due in part to concerns (expressed by multiple candidates in the interviews I’ve done) that the Board has not been very effective or collaborative lately. One group keeping an eye on this is Houstonians for Great Public Schools, whose mission is “to increase public understanding of the roles and responsibilities of school board members and to hold members accountable for high performance”. I had the chance to speak with their Executive Director, Jasmine Jenkins, about what that means and what they hope to accomplish. (If the name Jasmine Jenkins sounds familiar, I interviewed her last year when she was running for the Democratic nomination in SBOE 6.) Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all the interviews I’ve done as well as information about candidates and races at my Election 2017 page.

Interview with Carolyn Evans-Shabazz

Carolyn Evans-Shabazz

HCC Trustee races never get the attention they deserve. That’s on me too, as I could spend more time with them, but it’s a systemic problem as much as anything. What I can do about it right now is bring you this interview with Trustee Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, running for a full term in District 4 after being appointed to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Carroll Robinson. Evans-Shabazz has been a teacher and Lead Evaluation Specialist with HISD, an educational diagnostician with both Aldine and Fort Bend ISDs, and an adjunct professor at Texas Southern University. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the NAACP-Houston branch where she serves as Chair of the Education Committee. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all the interviews I’ve done as well as information about candidates and races at my Election 2017 page.