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Jolanda Jones

January campaign finance reports for Houston officeholders

One more set of finance reports to document, from city of Houston officeholders and candidates. I’m not going to link to the individual reports this time, since the city’s system automatically downloads the PDFs and I don’t feel like uploading these all to my Google drive. Here are the basic summaries, with my comments afterwards

Officeholder Office Raised Spent Loan Cash ========================================================== Parker Mayor 121,165 574,185 0 461,089 Green Controller 6,575 39,253 0 14,585 Costello AL1 81,200 62,410 15,000 144,753 Robinson AL2 26,246 33,265 0 32,918 Kubosh AL3 83,691 84,157 15,000 11,452 Bradford AL4 8,050 30,257 0 33,485 Christie AL5 15,275 11,606 0 10,548 Stardig A 5,250 30,393 0 24,238 Davis B 19,300 28,798 0 84,551 Cohen C 47,982 76,405 0 93,364 Boykins D 16,375 49,004 0 6,727 Martin E 45,650 27,968 0 43,423 Nguyen F 21,269 5,795 0 8,750 Pennington G 13,550 30,046 0 192,142 Gonzales H 40,375 33,623 0 90,782 Gallegos I 38,882 18,279 0 22,940 Laster J 3,500 8,081 0 77,408 Green K 10,150 15,455 0 77,366 Hale SD15 0 472 0 0 Noriega HCDE 0 8,690 1,000 9,335 Chavez AL3 3,150 6,652 160 15,716 Calvert AL3 1,600 65,031 10,000 2,654 Brown A 21,969 22,121 0 25,729 Peck A 0 2,811 0 0 Knox A 1,220 17,271 0 931 Richards D 2,000 16,043 0 2,727 Jones, J D 0 0 0 3,203 Provost D 7,960 9,033 0 15 Edwards D 3,745 4,415 0 0 Rodriguez I 0 3,581 0 6,731 Garces I 32,950 49,802 0 0 Ablaza I 380 10,288 0 673 Mendez I 2,050 19,120 0 0

Mayor Parker has a decent amount on hand, not as much as she had after some other elections, but then she won’t be on any ballot until 2018, so there’s no rush. I know she has at least one fundraiser happening, and I’m sure she’ll have a solid start on fundraising for whatever office she might have her eye on in four years’ time.

And speaking of being prepared for the next election, CM Costello is in pretty good shape, too. It’ll take a lot more money than that to mount a successful campaign for Mayor in 2015, and there are likely to be several strong candidates competing for the usual pots of cash, but every little bit helps.

The other At Large incumbents are in reasonable shape. Both Kubosh and Christie have done some degree of self-funding, so their totals aren’t worrisome. While I believe there will be some competitive At Large races in 2015, and not just in the two open seats, I don’t think anyone will be caught short in this department the way Andrew Burks was.

I continue to marvel at the totals in the district seats. Many of those incumbents have been helped by not having well-financed opponents. CMs Gonzales and Pennington are well placed if they have their eyes on another race. Personally, I think CM Gonzales ought to consider running for City Controller. If nothing else, that will likely be less crowded than the Mayor’s race in 2015.

CM Richard Nguyen, who was nicely profiled by Mustafa Tameez recently, received nearly half of his total – $9,500, to be exact – from various PACs after the election; this is called “late train” money. As far as the money he received from individuals, every one of them had a Vietnamese name. That’s some good networking there.

Of the others listed, two of them – Ron Hale and Melissa Noriega – are running for something in 2014. The rest, with one exception, was either an unsuccessful candidate in 2013 or a term-limited Council member. The exception is former CM Jolanda Jones, whose eligibility to run for something else remains disputed. The one notable thing in this bunch is the $25K that now-former CM Helena Brown had on hand. Given that CM Brenda Stardig left a lot of money unspent in 2011 when Brown knocked her off, there’s a certain irony to that. Beyond that, no one left themselves very much for a subsequent campaign if they have one in mind. I won’t be surprised if one or more people on this list runs for something again, perhaps in 2015, but if so they’ll be starting out as they did in 2013.

Why not three?

Greg suggests a couple of tweaks to term limits.

Jolanda Jones

Jolanda Jones

» Fix the JoJo exclusion. The statute, as written, is amazingly short and simple:

Section 6a. – Limitation of terms.
No person, who has already served two full terms, shall be eligible to file for that same office.

The statute is also amazingly unequal in how it applies a qualification for office. So much so, that I’m curious if this inequality provides an opening for a legal challenge. Basically, the law says that some folks get to serve three full terms and some only get to serve two full terms. If a candidate loses re-election to their second term (ala Brenda Stardig and Helena Brown), you have an entirely different qualification for office than someone who lost re-election to their third term (ala Jolanda Jones and Al Hoang).

There haven’t been many parties aggrieved by this statute, so it seems to me that there might be improved odds of that happening now that we have two such individuals. I would think that there might be ground to make this application more equal by substituting equally simple language that limits any officeholder to no more than three full terms … period.

That may not address any deeper concerns about the Clymer Wright-era limitations. But it does offer an incremental cleanup. And if it were to go through a charter amendment vote, it might be an easy enough one that it opens the door for public perception to see that elected officials aren’t trying to change the rules they have to abide by in the middle of the game. If you’re not sure about the public appetite for altering term limits, this modification would be a good test run.

» Why not three? – Many Texas towns have three year terms. Why is there such an immediate impetus for four-year terms when there is already a more common model already being utilized throughout Texas? You could leave the term-limit language as-is or make the tweak above. Doing so would create a nine-year window of service for people.

More importantly, it would also open Houston City Council to the whims of bigger electorates. If you really wanted to see a different City Council, the easiest place to start has always been to hold the election on even-numbered years. District A would be quite a bit more Dem-friendly, as would District F. My own District J, as it turns out, is as close to 50-50 in terms of partisanship among city year voters. That tilt would be eviscerated with an even-year electorate and the district would be reliably Dem-leaning. The rotating cycle of seats would lead to a seat being up for a vote in two odd-numbered election years for each six-year cycle. So there is some moderation to those swings that might be appealing.

It would seem practical, under this scenario, to stagger the elections so that each individual year would see one-third of city seats up for a votes. I’m not sure who that may appeal to or be unappealing to, frankly. One positive that I can see from this is that it might lead to an increase in competition for seats. If an elected thought to run for Mayor one year after being elected to a council seat, they could. In short, there would no longer be an incentive to sit out six years when terms are the same – as they currently are for the office of Mayor and Controller.

I completely agree with the first point, and also think it would have a decent shot of being passed. I think everyone already thinks of the term limits law as being “three terms max” and not “three terms unless you leave after your second term, in which case only two terms”. I’d add that there’s a third former Council member affected by the current interpretation – Peter Brown, who resigned a few days early in 2009 in an attempt to circumvent this; City Attorney David Feldman opined against it. In any event, I think this minor change is very doable. It’s straightforward enough that the plain wording of the amended ordinance would be easy enough for voters to understand and hard to argue against. Heck, I don’t even know what the case against it would be. If we want to go small, as a first step or as an end unto itself, this is a good way to do it.

The second suggestion would be much more contentious. I’m not sure if it’s meant as a switch from three two-year terms to two three-year terms, or if it’s also intended to increase the overall allowable length of service while also addressing the concern about two year election cycles being too short, as the two four-year terms proposal was intended. If we were to go this route, I’d prefer the latter, but that may be a bridge too far. Here are the pros and cons of three-year terms as I see them.

Pro:

  • Higher turnout in at least half of city elections. Presidential years would exceed 50%, gubernatorial years would likely exceed 35%. Both are much higher than even high-turnout city elections have been.
  • As Greg notes, this would almost surely make city government more representative of the city’s demographics. In particular, I’d expect this to be a boon for Latino candidates, at least in the even-numbered years.
  • If you believe that two-year terms force Council members back into campaign mode too quickly, then having three-year terms should help alleviate that.
  • You may consider this a pro or a con, but having three-year terms would likely force some ambitious Council members to rethink their strategy for seeking other office, since the Texas constitution would require them to resign if they run for office with more than one year remaining on their current term. That’s just not an issue now with two-year terms, but it would be an issue at least some of the time with three-year terms.

Con:

  • That higher turnout will come entirely from people who otherwise would never vote in city elections. To put it gently, that could have an unpredictable effect on lower-profile and multi-candidate races.
  • Having city elections in partisan election years will necessarily make city elections more partisan. Sure, there are partisan elements to city elections now, with some races being more overt than others, but the non-partisan nature of our races now basically ensures that the vast majority of candidates run as inclusive/consensus types. I expect you’d see much harder D and R lines being taken in even years. Again, one may consider that to be more pro than con, but it would be a change.
  • Perhaps of greater concern is the likelihood that city races could get drowned out in a high-profile even year election. Imagine what city elections might look like this year, where we’re sure to get wall-to-wall ads in the Governor’s race for at least the entire month of October.
  • Large disparities in turnout between even and odd years could make for more turnover on Council, as a candidate that got elected under one scenario might well get swept out under the other, in each case with candidate quality not being a major factor.

I’m doing a lot of speculating here, and I could easily be wrong about some of these points, but I think they’re worth considering. Three-year terms would be a big change, some likely good and some maybe not so good. I still think a better answer is to get rid of term limits (which Greg also suggests) and to at least consider some form of public financing for campaigns. At the very least, I’d like to see a real conversation about what we think we’re getting out of imposing these particular limits on this one type of office. It’s been long enough now that I’m confident that “we’ve always done it this way” is the prevailing sentiment. Surely we can come up with something better than that.

Is CM-elect Stardig term limited or not?

Brenda Stardig

Brenda Stardig

I brought this up yesterday in my wrapup of the city and HCC runoffs, and I’m asking it again here in the hope that someone who can provide a definitive answer will offer one. The question I have is whether or not CM Brenda Stardig is eligible to run for re-election in 2015. As I noted in that post, CM Stardig’s position is similar to that of former CM Jolanda Jones, who flirted with the idea of running in District D this year, thus igniting a stir over whether or not the term limits law allowed for her to run. The law says “No person, who has already served two full terms, shall be eligible to file for that same office.” City Attorney David Feldman interpreted that to mean that Jones could not run again, since she has served two full terms. My initial reaction was that Stardig was in the same kind of boat, but thinking about it again now, she’s not. If Stardig were to run for a third term, she would file for that election prior to serving out her second term, thus meeting the requirements of the term limits ordinance. A Houston Politics post from 2012 that includes a copy of Feldman’s position supports that view. In practical terms, that means that if you’re an incumbent Council member and you must lose an election, better it to be after your first term than after your second. You can win one, lose one, then win two more, but if you win two and then lose one, you’re out of luck. In other words, Helena Brown and Andrew Burks could come back and wind up serving three terms on Council just as Stardig could, but Jolanda Jones and Al Hoang are finished as Council members, though they could still run for Controller or Mayor.

All that assumes you accept Feldman’s interpretation, which Jones at least said she didn’t. I have to say, while this may be technically correct, it feels wrong to me. The clear intent of the term limits law was to restrict Council members, Controllers, and Mayors to three terms. It’s possible there was some discussion at the time of whether or not those terms had to be consecutive or not – it’s been a long time, I sure don’t remember – but even if there were I’m willing to bet that the prevailing opinion among city voters would overwhelmingly favor the simple “three terms and you’re done” perspective”. I presume that sooner or later this is going to need to be settled by a judge, or by a fix to the ordinance being passed by the voters. Be that as it may, I feel confident that the subject will come up again, any time the subject turns to Stardig and her possible re-election effort in two years.

One reason why this may matter, beyond the simple effect on folks like Stardig and Jones, was vocalized by Texpatriate, who wondered “if Brenda 2.0 becomes super conservative just to placate some of her angry, right-wing constituents”. Maybe the odds of that are greater if she has the option to run for re-election – she might emulate some of CM Brown’s positions in order to protect herself against a third matchup with Brown, for example. No guarantee she’s behave this way – Stardig might well conclude that there are limits to the crazy in District A, and her successful comeback is proof of that. Regardless, it’s not unreasonable to think that a term-limited Stardig could be a different Council member than a Stardig who has one more campaign to go.

So that’s my question. Writing this has led me to what I think is the technically correct answer, but I’m not convinced that the matter is settled. What do you think?

Runoff results: Rough day for incumbents

I have no complaint about the results.

Brenda Stardig

Brenda Stardig

With all precincts reporting, controversial first-term council incumbents Helena Brown, in northwest Houston’s District A, and Andrew C. Burks Jr., in At-Large Position 2, fell to their challengers, as did HCC trustees Yolanda Navarro Flores and Herlinda Garcia.

Brown lost her rematch with Brenda Stardig, the incumbent she defeated to gain the seat two years ago.

“We’re very proud of the work we’ve done on our campaign and we wanted to get back out there and support our community,” Stardig said. “We’ve had the support of police and fire and so many in our community.”

[…]

Burks fell to challenger David W. Robinson, a civic leader and former city planning commissioner. Robinson raised far more campaign cash than did Burks, who had run unsuccessfully numerous times before winning his seat two years ago. Both men were among the 10 candidates who sought the post when it was an open seat two years ago.

[…]

In the At-Large 3 runoff, bail bondsman and civic activist Michael Kubosh, best known for leading the charge against Houston’s red-light cameras, topped former Harris County Department of Education trustee and former mayoral candidate Roy Morales.

“I appreciate all the people who have supported me and all of my staff that’s worked so hard through the last few months,” Kubosh said. “I’m looking very forward to working on City Council and getting things done.”

[…]

In south Houston’s District D, lobbyist Dwight Boykins bested businesswoman Georgia D. Provost. Boykins had thumped the 11 other candidates in fundraising heading into November. Term-limited District D Councilwoman Wanda Adams was elected to the Houston ISD board.

In a very low-turnout race in the East End’s District I, Harris County jailer and civic activist Robert Gallegos beat Graci Garcés, who is chief of staff for the term-limited James Rodriguez.

So I was three for four in my prognostications. I can’t say I’m unhappy to have been wrong about District A. I am curious about one thing, however, and that’s whether or not Brenda Stardig is eligible under the term limits amendment to run for election again in 2015. If you consider her situation to be analogous to that of former CM Jolanda Jones, and you go by the interpretation given by City Attorney David Feldman, the answer would seem to be No. I made an inquiry about this with the City Attorney’s office several weeks ago, but they have never gotten back to me. Guess I need to try again. Anyway, congratulations to CMs-elect Stardig, Boykins, Gallegos, Robinson, and Kubosh.

The results I’m really happy about are these:

In the Houston Community College contests, District 1 incumbent Flores lost to challenger Zeph Capo, a vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. In District 3, Adriana Tamez, an education consultant, beat incumbent Garcia, who was appointed to the post after the resignation of the prior trustee. In the runoff for the open District 5 seat, businessman Robert Glaser topped commercial real estate agent Phil Kunetka.

Capo over Flores is a huge step up, and Tamez is an upgrade as well. Both Flores and Herlinda Garcia were palling around with Dave Wilson, so having them both lose makes the HCC Board of Trustees a better place. Major congrats to Zeph Capo, Adriana Tamez, and Robert Glaser.

Here are the unofficial Harris County results. There were an additional 308 votes cast in Fort Bend, so the final turnout is right at 37,000. Here’s an update to that table I published Friday:

Year Absent Early E-Day Total Absent% Early% E-Day% ============================================================ 2005 5,350 8,722 24,215 38,287 13.97% 22.78% 62.25% 2007s 5,464 7,420 11,981 24,865 21.97% 29.84% 48.18% 2007 4,456 6,921 13,313 24,690 18.05% 28.03% 53.92% 2011 8,700 15,698 31,688 56,086 15.51% 27.99% 56.50% 2013 9,883 10,143 13,517 36,123 27.36% 28.08% 37.42%

See, that’s the kind of pattern I was expecting for the November election. I guess the turnout was too high for it. Gotta tip your hat to whichever candidate’s mail program generated all those votes. It’s good to be surprised sometimes.

Precinct analysis: At Large 2 and 3

Lots of action, and lots of candidates in the At Large races this year. Let’s look at the two races that are going to the runoffs, At Large #2 and 3. First is AL2, in which first term CM Andrew Burks trailed challenger David Robinson after Election Day.

Dist Robinson Rivera Burks Gordon =================================== A 3,644 1,475 3,533 883 B 3,419 840 6,239 332 C 12,038 2,808 5,024 1,127 D 4,294 1,228 9,250 729 E 4,647 3,339 3,761 932 F 2,263 981 1,649 438 G 8,313 1,826 6,072 1,592 H 2,484 2,593 1,836 333 I 2,111 2,655 1,963 396 J 1,813 725 1,269 283 K 4,520 1,285 4,818 575 Dist Robinson Rivera Burks Gordon ===================================== A 38.22% 15.47% 37.05% 9.26% B 31.57% 7.76% 57.61% 3.07% C 57.33% 13.37% 23.93% 5.37% D 27.70% 7.92% 59.67% 4.70% E 36.65% 26.33% 29.66% 7.35% F 42.45% 18.40% 30.93% 8.22% G 46.69% 10.26% 34.11% 8.94% H 34.28% 35.79% 25.34% 4.60% I 29.63% 37.26% 27.55% 5.56% J 44.33% 17.73% 31.03% 6.92% K 40.36% 11.48% 43.03% 5.13%

Though Robinson only led by a few points, he sure looks like he’s in good shape going into December. Robinson led in the Republican districts, dominated District C, and held his own in the African-American districts. In short, as Greg noted, he’s basically replicating Annise Parker’s coalition from 2009. His path to victory in the runoff is clear: more of the same, with maximal effort in C and a push for the Moe Rivera voters in H and I.

Andrew Burks also has a clear path to victory in the runoff: Maximize turnout in B and D, and hold his own in the Republican districts, which was his formula for victory in the 2011 runoff. Burks’ problem is that he’s never been good at maximizing turnout. The undervote in Burks’ At Large races is always higher than the undervote in the other At Large races. For example, this year the undervote in AL2 was 29.75%; in At Large #4, it was only 24.85%, and the next highest undervote after AL2 was in At Large #5, at 28.02%. In the 2011 runoff, the undervote rate was 8.63% in Burks’ race, 1.02% in the Jolanda Jones/Jack Christie race. In the 2009 runoff, the numbers were 19.47% and 12.63%. If Burks had approached Jolanda Jones’ numbers in B and D he would have won; in reality, he lost Harris County by nine points. If Burks can perform like Ronald Green or Brad Bradford in the runoff, he wins. If not, he loses. It’s as simple as that.

On to At Large #3:

Dist Batteau Chavez Calvert Kubosh Pool Morales ================================================= A 529 1,284 1,141 3,591 1,689 1,898 B 1,687 1,331 1,842 3,162 1,562 1,172 C 943 2,748 4,941 5,223 5,594 2,997 D 3,233 1,542 2,279 5,120 2,017 1,492 E 669 1,232 1,571 4,305 2,062 3,614 F 432 586 806 1,337 1,154 1,217 G 795 1,068 3,786 6,254 2,724 4,179 H 422 2,467 790 1,453 1,136 1,705 I 531 2,049 599 1,337 955 2,085 J 333 450 736 1,155 821 892 K 1,361 1,073 2,181 3,214 2,045 1,621 Dist Batteau Chavez Calvert Kubosh Pool Morales ==================================================== A 5.22% 12.67% 11.26% 35.44% 16.67% 18.73% B 15.68% 12.37% 17.13% 29.40% 14.52% 10.90% C 4.20% 12.24% 22.01% 23.27% 24.92% 13.35% D 20.61% 9.83% 14.53% 32.65% 12.86% 9.51% E 4.97% 9.16% 11.68% 32.00% 15.33% 26.86% F 7.81% 10.59% 14.57% 24.17% 20.86% 22.00% G 4.23% 5.68% 20.13% 33.26% 14.48% 22.22% H 5.29% 30.94% 9.91% 18.22% 14.25% 21.38% I 7.03% 27.12% 7.93% 17.69% 12.64% 27.59% J 7.59% 10.26% 16.78% 26.33% 18.71% 20.33% K 11.84% 9.33% 18.97% 27.96% 17.79% 14.10%

I’ve heard some grumbling from fellow Dems about how this race wound up as a runoff between two Republicans. I get the frustration, but I’m not sure what one would recommend doing about it. There were three good Democrats in this race, and they split the vote just evenly enough to keep themselves out of the top two slots. Short of going back in time and convincing one or more of them to not file or drop out, I don’t know what else there is to be done. Shrug it off as a fluke and put this one on the priority list for 2015.

I covered some of this ground yesterday, so let me just say again that I think Michael Kubosh has the advantage going into the runoff, and his path to victory is clear. Roy Morales needs help from the Annise Parker voters, which may or may not be there for him. It’s entirely possible we could see a sizable undervote in this race. It’ll be interesting to see whether more people skip this race or the one in At Large #2. I should add that while I’ve talked about Morales trying to convince the Parker voters to support him, there’s nothing stopping Kubosh from doing the same. He’s been cast as an adversary for the Mayor, but he can make a case that he was only opposing her on issues where he thought she was wrong and that on other things they’re reasonably in agreement. The field is open, and there’s plenty of room for either candidate to move to fill the space without having to move too far.

Anyway. This one can go a variety of directions. All I know for sure is that I have no idea yet how I will vote in that race. Houston Politics has more.

July finance reports for non-candidates

Not everyone who files a finance report with the city is running for something this November. Term-limited incumbents, and former candidates who still have money in their campaign treasuries are required to file reports as well. Here’s a look a those who did this July:

Dist Candidate Raised Spent On Hand Loan ------------------------------------------------------- AL3 Noriega 25,245 5,224 23,602 11,000 D Adams I Rodriguez 0 3,274 10,293 0 2011 Jones 0 0 3,203 0 2005 Lee 0 0 1,287 0 2009 Locke 0 427 4,065 0 2003 Berry 0 5,000 0 71,622

Here are all the reports. I did not find one for CM Wanda Adams. Doesn’t mean she didn’t file one – as noted CM Cohen filed one but it’s not visible on the city’s finance reports page – but one was not to be found.

Noriega report
Rodriguez report

Jones report
Lee report
Locke report
Berry report

CM Melissa Noriega has some debt, which is why she raised funds this year. I have no idea if she plans to run for something else in the future, but if she does I’ll be in the front row, cheering her on. I’m pretty sure she lives in Commissioners Court Precinct 2, not that I’m hinting or anything. CM James Rodriguez has been reportedly interested in taking on Commissioner Morman in 2014, but if so he hasn’t started fundraising for it.

As for the former candidates, I listed the year of their last election instead of an office, since only two of them held one. I presume at this point that Jolanda Jones is not going to push boundaries and run for District D. It wouldn’t surprise me if she does run for something else someday, but it doesn’t look like this will be the year for that. Mark Lee ran for Controller in 2003 and District C in 2005, narrowly missing the runoff in the latter race. Neither he nor Gene Locke nor Michael Berry seem likely to run for anything again, but one never knows. Unlike Congress and the Legislature, there’s just not that much leftover city campaign money lying around.

Mayor Parker kicks off her campaign

It’s the time of the season for Mayor Parker, who has a serious challenger this time, but also a stronger hand to play.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

In her tenure, Parker has given teeth to the city’s historic preservation rules, broken a deadlock with Harris County to help build the Dynamo stadium, gave scandal-ridden Metro new leaders and revised key city codes governing parking and development, the latter of which had languished for six years.

She gave priority in city contracting to local firms, moved to make the troubled city crime lab independent from Houston Police Department, opened a facility to divert drunks from city jails and saw passage of a plan to erase a decades-long backlog of untested rape kits.

Parker oversaw a successful $410 million bond election last fall, and in 2010 welcomed voters’ approval of Rebuild Houston, an ambitious infrastructure renewal program.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said all signs favor Parker, whose only fear should be a low turnout that could see a small group swing the results. Jones said Parker lately has been able to focus on her own plans instead of inherited ills, such as replacing the Metro regime, scrambling to defer pension costs and dealing with legal wrangling over an inflexible red-light camera contract after voters banned the cameras in 2010.

“Bill White left her with a lot of messes to clean up. That, combined with a very tight budget as a result of the recession, led to a difficult first two years,” Jones said. “The second term has been much smoother sailing. The voter mood is going to be much more positive as people go to the polls this fall, and there’s going to be less of a tendency to want to cast a protest vote against the mayor than there was in 2011.”

Perhaps easing the incumbent’s road is the mood of the 16-member City Council, which lately has been more amenable than in recent years. A new convention center hotel, in which the city will invest $138 million, a rewrite of the city’s affirmative action policy and a law allowing motorists to be cited for failing to give cyclists and joggers a wide enough berth all passed without even a “tag,” the one-week delay typical on complex, controversial or high-profile topics.

The difference between the Mayor’s first term and the second is night and day. The first term was all about defense, which is to say all about things she had to deal with rather than things she wanted to deal with. That’s what her second term has been all about, and while she got a lot done in each term it’s much easier to build a campaign around offense. I’ve thought all along that she’d be in better shape this time around, and I still think that. A stronger opponent in 2011 and she’d have been in a runoff. She could still have a tough race this year, but at least the wind isn’t in her face.

The bit about Council is worth noting as well. Part of this is good luck on her part. Two of her biggest antagonists, Jolanda Jones and Mike Sullivan, are no longer on Council. The third, CO Bradford, was appointed Vice Mayor Pro Tem and has largely been a team player ever since. Her main thorn in the side is Helena Brown, and it’s hard to say that’s been a bad development for her since it’s a lot easier to look reasonable and accomplished opposite the likes of CM Brown. Basically, not only has the Mayor had the money to restore or enhance city services, the ability to move her own agenda forward, and a Council that has worked with her a lot more than it has worked against her. If she doesn’t feel better about this campaign than the last one, she ought to.

She entered the 2011 election with an approval rating of 47 percent, the lowest of any mayor in decades, narrowly avoiding a runoff despite spending $2.3 million and facing five poorly-funded unknowns. Political observers had said Parker needed a decisive win to prevent a challenge this year, and 50.8 percent of the vote was not it.

Enter Ben Hall, a wealthy lawyer capable of financing his own campaign who served as City Attorney from 1992 to 1994. Hall says city taxes and fees are driving residents to the suburbs. He says Parker lacks vision and wastes time tinkering with smartphone apps and food trucks while Houston misses opportunities for international business growth.

“A mayor must do more than simply balance a budget,” Hall has said. “We need more than just a manager, we need a leader.”

University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said there may be some truth in Hall’s statements, but he said these are not significant enough to ignite anti-incumbent passions, adding that Hall’s message has lacked the specificity voters need to choose him over Parker.

“Motivations for mayoral elections are more about tremendous things that have gone wrong as opposed to more or less a tweak to what’s going right,” Rottinghaus said. “He’s got to make a really compelling case as to why things need to be changed, and as of yet, I’m not sure we’ve seen that.”

Hall has made criticism of Parker’s vision, or lack of it, a main point of his campaign. That’s certainly a valid line of attack, but as I’ve said before, Hall’s own vision isn’t apparent. Rottinghaus makes a good point as well, in that generally speaking when trying to knock off an incumbent, you have to give people a reason to fire that incumbent before you can convince them that you’re a viable alternative. The case to fire the Mayor is harder to make when times are good and things are getting done. Plus, I think people generally like the Mayor. She has her share of opponents to be sure, but it’s not like we’re inundated with anti-Parker chatter. Her biggest challenge is going to be making sure that the people who do like her get out to vote. If I were her, I’d want turnout to exceed 2011’s anemic levels. Complacency is her enemy. Work that ground game and don’t settle for a small voter universe. In the meantime, I’ll be very interested to see what the June campaign finance reports look like, not just for how much each candidate raises but also for who is giving to whom. Parker has always had a broad fundraising base, and she starts out with a fair amount of cash. Hall can write his own check, but having his own broad base and getting support from sources that have given to Parker before would be a strong statement on his part. We’ll see how that goes.

January finance reports for Houston offices

Previously, I gave the July campaign finance numbers for Houston elected officials who are eligible for the ballot this fall. Here now are the cash on hand figures from the January reports, with all incumbents and a few assorted extras thrown in:

Dist Name Cash on hand ================================= Myr Parker 1,043,827 Ctrl R Green 35,753 AL 1 Costello 51,135 AL 2 Burks 2,378 AL3 Noriega 4,317 AL 4 Bradford AL 5 Christie A Brown 2,010 B Davis 57,983 C Cohen 29,881 D Adams E Martin 1,486 F Hoang 4,749 G Pennington 112,275 H Gonzalez 18,769 I Rodriguez 13,642 J Laster 27,254 K L Green 6,504 A Knox 0 A Stardig 23,605 D Jolanda Jones 3,203 D Boykins 0

CMs Adams, Bradford, and Christie did not have reports available as of Monday afternoon. There’s no fundraising allowed for city officials during this time, so everyone will have a smaller cash on hand total since all they could do was spend. Mayor Parker easily spent the most, a bit over $200K, with much of it going to her campaign operations but also sizable contributions to the Metro referendum campaign ($25K), the Harris County Democratic Party ($10K), and to help retire the debt of former Judge Steve Kirkland ($4,900). Ben Hall had not filed a report as of this deadline; I don’t think he had filed his designation of treasurer until after the 15th, so he wasn’t required to do so.

As I suspected before, the cash on hand figure Ronald Green reported in July was erroneous. This one makes much more sense.

Helena Brown spent down nearly all of her stash, with $5,753 going to Premier IMS for direct mail, $4,165 to Terry Yates and $850 to Kevin Colbert for legal services, $4,000 to Institute of Hispanic Culture for “community outreach” (event), $2,990 to the city as reimbursement for the magnets, and $1,050 to Media Masters for “media consulting”. So much for parity with Brenda Stardig. Like the magnets, she had tried to bill the attorney fees to the city but was denied the reimbursement by City Attorney David Feldman. William “Mike” Knox, who spent $500 on consultant Jessica Colon, is a declared candidate against her.

Dwight Boykins in District D spent $749 on flyers and magnets. I list Jolanda Jones as District D, but her finance report left the “office sought” field blank, so take that with a large grain of salt. No other non-officeholders who might be running for something filed a report.

Most other incumbents spent only modest amounts, since there wasn’t necessarily anything to spend it on. Besides Mayor Parker and CM Brown, Ed Gonzalez was an exception, dropping $40K from July. He made a lot of donations and contributions, including $5K to CrimeStoppers for a benefit dinner, $3,500 to the HCDP, $1,500 to Resurrection Catholic School, and $1,020 to Planned Parenthood.

There are no reports posted as yet for HISD and HCC candidates. I will check back later for them.

Not much else to see at this time. Fundraising season begins in a couple of weeks, and the trickle of candidate news should pick up then as well. As always, if you have any intel please leave a comment and clue us all in.

A first look at the 2013 elections

It is 2013, right? So while we have the SD06 special election and the new legislative session to worry about, it’s not too early to start talking about the 2013 elections. Let’s start with a peek at the campaign finance reports from last July of the Houston officeholders who will be on the ballot this November:

Dist Name Cash on hand ================================= Myr Parker 1,281,657 Ctrl R Green 9,983 AL 1 Costello 57,345 AL 2 Burks 3,160 AL 4 Bradford 20,590 AL 5 Christie 14,535 A Brown 22,641 B Davis 64,211 C Cohen 45,597 F Hoang 6,429 G Pennington 119,951 H Gonzalez 57,899 J Laster 31,816 K L Green 9,107

I omitted the three Council members who are term-limited out (Melissa Noriega, Wanda Adams, and James Rodriguez), as well as newly-elected Dave Martin, since his July report would not be relevant. Normally there would have been five open seats this year, but with Mike Sullivan stepping down due to his successful candidacy for Tax Assessor and Jolanda Jones losing in 2011, there are only three vacancies, and as such there will likely be a stampede for those seats. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s take a closer look at where the non-term limited incumbents are.

Mayor

As we know, Mayor Parker will probably by challenged by former City Attorney Ben Hall, will possibly be challenged by her former Housing Director James Noteware, may possibly be challenged by some yet unknown candidate or candidates, and will certainly have a few fringe challengers as well. It could be quite the crowded race at the top of the ticket. While Hall would certainly be a more serious opponent in terms of money, resume, and presumed base of support than the 2011 hopefuls were, with Noteware and the others also possibly having more juice, I have believed for some time now that Parker starts out in a stronger position this year than she was in two years ago. The much-improved economy and real estate market mean that the city’s budget is far healthier than it was, which means the Mayor can do positive things rather than negative things like layoffs and service reductions. Distractions like red light cameras and Renew Houston are in the past, while the overwhelming passage of the city’s bond referenda gives the Mayor some wind at her back and a nice accomplishment with which to begin the year. Anything can happen, and we’ll see who if anyone else emerges to run against her, but I believe we will look back and say that 2011 was the better chance to beat her.

How would one go about defeating Mayor Parker if one were inclined to do so? The conventional wisdom is to aim to replicate the 1991 campaign, in which State Rep. Sylvester Turner and eventual winner Bob Lanier squeezed then-Mayor Kathy Whitmire into a third place finish. This is the vaunted “pincer strategy”, combining African-Americans and Republicans to shrink the remaining voter pool for the white Democratic lady Mayor. I’m skeptical of this. For one thing, Whitmire – who garnered an incredibly low 20% of the vote in that election – was running for her sixth term in those pre-term limits days, at a time when the term limits movement was gaining steam. There was a strong case for change, or at least there was a more restless electorate that was going through an economic downturn that year. Whitmire was also coming off a bruising defeat, as her $1.2 billion monorail proposal was killed by Metro’s board chairman, who was none other than Bob Lanier. Lanier promised to spend that money on roads, which was much more popular. There isn’t an issue right now that could be used as a cudgel against Parker, which makes the argument to fire her that much more challenging.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t issues to be used against Parker, but they’re not issues that I think are likely to be used effectively by an establishment insider like Hall, or any Republican who may file. Given that Hall is who he is, I think a more potent strategy would be to pair him with an outspoken liberal, who can compete with Parker’s base voters in District C by attacking her for things like the homeless feeding ordinance, the lack of any effort to advance equality in Houston, and the Metro referendum if one believes the University Line is mortally wounded. Quantifying the irony of Whitmire losing for promoting a rail plan, and Parker losing for being perceived as insufficiently supportive of rail, is left as an exercise for the reader.

And as long as I’m giving out advice, my suggestion to Team Annise is to work on building its ground game and seeking to increase turnout. There were 160K ballots cast in the 2009 runoff, but only 123K in 2011. Neither of these are particularly high totals for a city election – indeed, the 2011 total failed to reach the puny 125K ballots cast in the sleepy 2007 election. There are plenty of people who have voted in city elections, certainly as recently as 2003, but haven’t done so in the past few cycles. I rather doubt that Parker versus Hall et al is likely on its own to draw any more voters than Parker/Locke/Brown/Morales did in 2009 (181K, in case you’re curious), but there’s no reason Parker shouldn’t be working to identify and bring out voters who have a less consistent history of voting in city elections. I think that offers a better path to 50% plus one than another dreary exercise in talking to only the same old hardcore voters. You know, like me. She has plenty of money, she’ll have plenty more after the curtain comes up on fundraising season. Target a bigger universe, I say.

Controller

I’m wondering if Ronald Green has a typo in his finance report. He reported $46K on hand last January, then his July report showed that he raised $26K and spent $13K, so I have no idea he could have had only $9,983 on hand. I guess we’ll see what this January’s report says. Beyond that, not much to see here. He’s still not a big fundraiser, and he still has no credible announced opposition despite his recent negative press.

Council At Large

Is it just me, or are those some anemic cash on hand totals? Six out of eight district Council members have larger campaign treasuries than three of the four At Large members. Bradford often reports a lot of in kind contributions – he has listed some things we might normally think of as expenditures as in kind contributions – which tends to reduce his COH figure. Burks, who raised $35K but had $34K in expenses, paid off a number of debts, including the $10K loan from his wife and two items dating from the 2009 campaign that totaled $4650. Christie also spent nearly as much as he raised – $66K raised, $63K in expenditures. This included $45K for “printing”, which I presume was a deferred expense from his runoff campaign.

As was the case in 2011, there’s only one open At Large seat, At Large #3, so once again I expect a cattle call in that race. I know Jenifer Pool, who ran in At Large #2 in 2011, is in for AL3 this year, and other names will surely emerge in the next few weeks. I have to think that it would be worthwhile for a Council wannabe who might be concerned about getting lost in that shuffle to consider taking on one of the incumbents instead, specifically Burks or Christie. Burks’ winning campaign in 2011 after however many previous tries was, to put it gently, atypical. The only policy item I can recall that he originated last year was a proposal to revamp Houston’s term limits ordinance, which never made it out of committee. He also drew scorn for suggesting that the propane tanks used by food trucks might potentially be used as weapons by terrorists. He doesn’t have much money, doesn’t have a history of fundraising, has generally run do-it-yourself campaigns, and his main asset is the name recognition that a dozen or more previous campaigns has earned him. You can make a similar case for Christie, who made an interesting proposal relating to shelters for homeless people that as far as I know went nowhere and who also said silly things during the food truck debate. Unlike Burks, Christie has been and should continue to be a good fundraiser, but also unlike Burks he has no natural constituency – he’s a moderate Republican who isn’t beloved by county GOP insiders. His win in 2011 could also reasonably be described as out of the ordinary. I’m not saying either would be easy to beat this year, I’m not even saying someone should run against them. I’m just suggesting that a multi-candidate open seat race where getting to the runoff is more crapshoot than anything else doesn’t necessarily offer the best odds of being sworn in next January.

District Council

Just so you know, former Council Member Brenda Stardig reported $26,574 on hand in July. If she aims for a rematch with Helena Brown, she starts out at parity in the money department. I’m not sure what’s up with CMs Hoang and Green, but I don’t expect either of them to have much difficulty this year. Everyone will be watching District A, probably even more than the two open seats, but I’d keep an eye on Jerry Davis in District B as well. Davis has worked hard, but doesn’t appear to have won over the insiders in the district, being a new resident of B himself. It would not shock me if he gets a serious opponent. Beyond that, Dwight Boykins appears to be in for the open seat in District D, and while other names will soon emerge we may have to get a judge’s opinion about whether Jolanda Jones can be among them. There are already two candidates for District I; if history holds, there likely won’t be too many more.

HISD and HCC

It’s a bit confusing because the County Clerk webpage doesn’t track uncontested Trustee races, but I’m pretty sure that the following people are up for election:

For HISD Trustee: Mike Lunceford, Anna Eastman, Greg Meyers, Lawrence Marshall, and Harvin Moore. Lunceford and Eastman are finishing their first terms; Moore and Meyers were unopposed in 2009; Marshall won in a runoff. I have not heard anything so far to indicate that any of them are not running for re-election. If Anna Eastman runs for and wins re-election she will be the first Trustee in District I to do so since at least 1997 – I can’t check any farther back than that. Gabe Vasquez was elected that year, followed by Karla Cisneros in 2001, Natasha Kamrani in 2005, and Eastman in 2009.

For HCC Trustee: Mary Ann Perez’s election to the Lege in HD144 means there will be a vacancy in HCC Trustee District III. The Board has appointed former Trustee Herlinda Garcia to replace her. Garcia, about whom you can learn more here, will need to run in a special election to be able to serve the remainder of Perez’s term, which expires in 2015. The three Trustees whose terms are up this year are Bruce Austin, Neeta Sane, whose district includes a piece of Fort Bend County, and Yolanda Navarro Flores. It’s fair to say that Trustee Navarro Flores’ current term in office has been rather eventful. She won a close race last time, and if she runs again I would expect her to get a strong challenger. Sane is completing her first term, while Austin, the longest-serving Trustee, was first elected in 1989. I am pleased to note that this year the Trustee candidates’ campaign finance statements are now available online. Sometimes, a little bitching and moaning goes a long way.

That’s all I’ve got for now. January finance reports are due next week, and a few will probably trickle in early. I’ll keep an eye out and will post a report when they’re all up, or at least at some point after they’re all supposed to be when I’ve run out of patience waiting for them. I’ll throw in the reports for County officeholders who are up in 2014 as well, just because. Please add your own speculation and rumormongering about who is or isn’t running for what in the comments.

A third act for Jolanda?

Maybe.

CM Jolanda Jones

Jolanda Jones, who lost her at-large position 5 seat in last December’s runoff election, may run in next year’s elections to win a third term on Council — but this time it would be representing District D.

The seat will be open next year because Councilwoman Wanda Adams is termed out.

“I’m keeping my options open,” Jones said Friday when asked if she is running for District D, which extends south of downtown. She lives in the district and her family goes way back in the district, she said.

Jones would have one more obstacle than any other candidate who files for District D: The city attorney says she can’t do it.

Term limits call for a maximum of three two-year terms on Council. However, city law also states: “No person, who has already served two full terms, shall be eligible to file for that same office.”

City Attorney David Feldman opined last year that this precludes people from a non-consecutive third term. Peter Brown resigned in 2009 just days before the end of his second term in attempt to circumvent the prohibition and remain eligible for a third term. It didn’t pass muster with Feldman.

Nor would Jones moving from At-Large 5 to District D, Feldman said in an email Friday, “since a council member is a council member is a council member.”

Jones said simply, “Feldman’s been wrong before.”

I am, of course, Not A Lawyer. So, I’d like for someone who is a lawyer to explain to me the difference between Jolanda Jones and former Council Member Mark Ellis. Ellis was elected as Council Member in District F in 1999, re-elected in 2001, then after serving two full terms ran for and was elected to At Large #1 in 2003. The ordinance in question doesn’t have anything more to it than what was quoted, so I don’t know what else to say. Why Ellis and not Jones or Brown? I welcome your feedback on this.

State Bar clears Feldman

I believe this brings to a close the last unresolved issue involving former CM Jolanda Jones.

David Feldman

The State Bar of Texas has cleared City Attorney David Feldman of a grievance lodged by former Councilwoman Jolanda Jones that he mishandled an investigation of her.

Jones alleged last summer that Feldman violated the legal profession’s ethical standards by providing legal advice to her before an investigation into whether she used city resources to support her private law practice and later advised Mayor Annise Parker on the matter.

Feldman said he received formal notice from the State Bar on Friday that the grievance has been dismissed with no right of appeal.

See here and here for some background. Jones had been previously cleared by the District Attorney and the ethics panel, so as far as I know this puts a bow on the whole saga.

Runoff precinct analysis, At Large #5

Here are the numbers for the At Large #5 runoff between CM-elect Jack Christie and CM Jolanda Jones. As this was a rematch from 2009, I’m putting the 2011 numbers alongside the 2009 numbers, again with the caveat that they’re not really directly comparable. We work with what we’ve got, though, so here it is:

Dist Chris11 Jones11 Chris% Jones% Chris09 Jones09 Chris% Jones% ================================================================== A 4,080 1,309 75.7 24.3 10,541 5,300 66.5 33.5 B 523 5,733 8.4 91.6 1,658 10,673 13.4 86.6 C 6,501 2,820 69.7 30.3 10,675 9,215 53.7 46.3 D 1,190 6,384 15.7 84.3 3,681 17,653 17.2 82.8 E 3,998 1,269 75.9 24.1 10,894 4,771 69.5 30.5 F 1,101 487 69.3 30.7 4,404 2,964 59.8 40.2 G 7,554 1,347 84.9 15.1 18,001 6,039 74.9 25.1 H 1,117 1,644 40.5 59.5 5,011 6,531 43.4 56.6 I 1,006 880 53.3 46.7 3,025 4,119 42.3 57.7 J 1,166 491 70.4 29.6 K 1,989 2,741 42.1 57.9

At first glance, it’s more of the same from 2009, only more so. With the exception of District I, Jones did better in all the places she had done well before, and Christie did better in all the places he had done well before. The problem with this, at least from Jones’ perspective, is that she had a lot less room to grow than Christie did. In addition, and this is something we’ve discussed before, in this lower turnout environment, the bigger percentages in B and D meant a smaller total number of votes, meaning that Christie had less to make up everywhere else. With him building on his margins as well, and with the difference between the two so small, that was enough.

What really stands out to me is the change in District C. If you didn’t know better, you’d think it was another Republican stronghold. I can think of two possible explanations for Christie’s strong performance in this district. The Bill White endorsement of Christie probably moved a few Anglo Dem voters to support the challenger. District C was also Mayor Parker’s cradle of support, and it’s not unreasonable to think that Parker supporters there expressed that support by voting against her most vocal and visible critic on Council. I’m sure there’s plenty of overlap among those groups, but if so then that’s double the motivation. Jones’ deficit overall was bigger than the gap in District C, so it’s not the case that this was the whole election for her, but presumably the same forces that affected this district were at work elsewhere as well.

As noted before, the undervote in this race was tiny, as it was the marquee matchup. In fact, the 1.02% undervote in At Large #5 was less than that of the 2009 Mayoral runoff undervote of 1.45%. This was the race that drew people out to vote, and that ultimately did not work in Jones’ favor. While it’s possible to imagine different outcomes under higher turnout scenarios in At Large #2, I don’t think that would have made any difference here. As CM Jones said the day after the election, the voters have spoken.

I hope you found this useful. I will have one more thing to say about the 2011 elections tomorrow. Greg has more.

Adjusting to the new Council

This is kind of a fluff story about the new Council – apparently, having two more seats at the table could cause some problems – but I couldn’t pass this up:

“This infusion, effectively of new blood – of a whole bunch of people at one time – is going to change the dynamics,” said Paul Bettencourt, the former county tax assessor who, along with other conservatives, had endorsed newly elected council members Helena Brown, Andrew Burks Jr, and Jack Christie. “Because it won’t just be Jolanda Jones saying ‘no’ anymore by herself.”

Before SCOTUS threw the 2012 election calendar in the air, there had been some talk that Bettencourt might run for the new CD34, which snakes up into northwest Harris County and thus ought to be amenable to someone like him. I wasn’t so sure about that, however. How could he possibly fit a Congressional campaign into his busy schedule of pontificating on city politics and not running for Mayor? There’s only so many hours in the day, people.

As for the “not just Jolanda Jones saying no” comment, I have this mental image of Mike Sullivan off in a corner by himself, pouting and muttering “What am I, chopped liver?” under his breath. Snark aside, it remains to be seen how much “no” saying there will be. Let’s not forget that the November election added a couple of people who are likely to be reasonably close to the Mayor. I don’t think she’s going to need to whip votes as a matter of routine just yet. Let’s figure out where everyone’s going to sit first, and we’ll go from there.

Don’t draw broad conclusions from muddled evidence

I have a number of issues with the analysis presented in this Chron story about what happened in the runoffs and What It All Means.

The results illustrate a continuation of a national trend of anger and frustration toward government during the worst economic stretch since the Great Depression, political observers said.

In short: Voters want change.

“A lot of people are angry at virtually all institutions and the government is high on their list,” said Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “And these are the people in a low-turnout election that are most likely to show up because they are angry. They’re agitated.”

[…]

The results show clear opposition to the status quo, particularly following a general election in which Mayor Annise Parker and several council members narrowly avoided runoff elections, said Bob Stein, a political science professor at Rice University.

“It’s a strong repudiation of this administration – not just the mayor, but the council,” Stein said.

First of all, I believe that voters who are angry and agitated vote. I don’t see how that’s consistent with an election with six percent turnout. I refer you to the 2010 election, and the historically high Republican turnout, for a canonical example. Maybe it’s just me, but the words I use to describe an electorate that fails to show up like this are “disengaged” and “apathetic”. Your mileage may vary.

But maybe turnout was disproportionately high in District A, which is the one election out of the four where I will agree there were angry voters sending a message to someone. To see if that was the case, I checked the ratio of turnout in districts to the Harris County portion of the citywide turnout for runoffs in the past five elections. This is what I found:

Year Dist Turnout Overall Ratio =================================== 2011 A 8.28 6.08 1.36 2011 B 6.76 6.08 1.11 2009 A 18.82 16.48 1.14 2009 F 13.41 16.48 0.81 2007 D 6.29 2.70 2.33 2007 E 5.05 2.70 1.87 2005 B 4.92 4.02 1.22 2005 C 9.38 4.02 2.33 2003 F 18.98 22.71 0.84 2003 G 29.53 22.71 1.30 2003 H 20.57 22.71 0.91

I only went back as far as 2003 because that’s as far back as the County Clerk has runoff data. The ratio of District A turnout to overall is higher than average, but by no means historic. To be fair, the higher level of turnout overall compared to the 2007 and 2005 runoffs may be masking the effect. There’s just not enough data points for me to say, and we’re still talking about eight percent turnout in A. I have a hard time assigning any special meaning to that.

Further, I strongly disagree with taking the result in District A and extrapolating it to the rest of the city. With all due respect to Professor Stein, if the voters intended to repudiate the Mayor a month after re-electing her, Jolanda Jones is the last Council member they should be kicking to the curb. CM Jones was arguably the Mayor’s most vocal and visible critic on Council. I feel pretty confident that they’re not losing any sleep in the Mayor’s office over this result. We may not know exactly what we’ll get with CM-Elect Jack Christie, but we do know that he’s a supporter of Rebuild Houston and that he voted to keep the red light cameras.

Perhaps there was an anti-incumbent message in these results. For sure, CMs Jones and Stardig are the first sitting Council members to be unelected since Jean Kelly in 1999, and only the third and fourth incumbents of any kind to lose since term limits were established. I would argue that there are unique circumstances to each of their losses. To put it mildly, CM Jones had some baggage, and was very nearly ousted in 2009. I’ve been saying all along that a runoff would be a crapshoot for her, and indeed she rolled snake eyes. With the help of Gene Locke’s mayoral campaign she was able to win the turnout fight two years ago, but not this time. I suspect as well that her performance deteriorated in Anglo and Hispanic Democratic areas – I’m sure the Bill White endorsement of Christie had some effect on that – though that’s a question that will have to wait for the precinct data.

As for District A itself, those voters did mostly vote against incumbents last time around, so it’s probably not much of a surprise that they did it to their incumbent District member in the runoff. That said, CM Stardig clearly had her own set of baggage. If anyone can think of another situation offhand in which the three prior incumbents of a given Council district were supporting the opponent of the current incumbent, let me know about it, because I doubt it’s happened any time recently. Far as I can tell, she didn’t have much of a campaign going into the November election – her eight day report showed expenditures on signs, some ads in neighborhood newspapers, and a $6K ad in the Texas Conservative Review that I’m guessing wasn’t well-received; her 30 day report had practically nothing. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, but let this be Exhibit A for future incumbents: Unless you’re unopposed, run hard. You never know. Hell, run hard even if you are unopposed. Never hurts to get people into the habit of voting for you – your name ID probably isn’t as good as you think it is.

Putting this another way, Stardig was primaried, and she was not prepared for it. Redistricting did her no favors on that score, either. It will be interesting to see how CM-Elect Helena Brown reconciles her professed political beliefs with the sort of things that constituents tend to expect to get done. Maybe there is such a thing as a Republican pothole.

There’s still two other races to consider. The result in District B could be considered an anti-incumbent vote, but when you consider that the outgoing incumbent is CM Jarvis Johnson, is it really that surprising? As for Prof. Stein’s thesis, here’s what CM-Elect Jerry Davis had to say for himself:

Davis, 38, said he hoped to begin working with the administration as quickly as possible to cut down his learning curve as he gets set to start his first job as a public representative. He said his main goal as a council member would be to represent the priorities of District B constituents.

“My job is to represent the people and do what the people want me to do and that’s going to be the number one step,” Davis said.

I mentioned before that of the five candidates I interviewed, only Davis said he supported Renew Houston prior to the referendum passing. If you listen to the interview I did with him, you will also note that Davis supported the red light cameras, again being the only candidate in the district to do so. Way to repudiate the Parker Administration, District B voters!

As for Burks v Thibaut, good luck making sense out of that one. Again, I’ll wait till I see precinct data, but it seems to me that the vaunted “pincer strategy” of African-Americans plus Republicans finally worked. Why Republican voters fell into line behind an Obama delegate at the 2008 DNC convention who once ran for HCDP Chair is a bit puzzling to me, but I suppose stranger things have happened. It’s not like Burks is well-known for policy positions, so he’s a pretty blank slate onto which one can project whatever one wants, and then there is that Hotze embrace to whet the appetite. I don’t think this result would have happened in an election where the votes were distributed more proportionally. Perhaps someone will test that hypothesis in two years’ time. Like I said, we’ll see what the precinct data tells us. Oh, and for what it’s worth, the one elected official who endorsed CM-Elect Andrew Burks was CM Brad Bradford. If you want a guide for how Burks is likely to vote, I’d say to start there. Greg and Stace have more.

Christie, Burks, Davis, Brown

Those are your runoff winners.

Jack Christie’s victory was the most dramatic, coming in his fifth attempt to defeat Jolanda Jones, an opponent he had forced into multiple runoff elections.

Helena Brown was the other candidate who beat an incumbent, defeating Brenda Stardig by a 10 percent margin for the District A seat, according to unofficial county totals.

Both Christie, a 63-year-old chiropractor, and Brown, a 34-year-old political activist, are conservatives.

Brown, whose political history is colored by Tea Party activism, campaigned as an anti-tax, anti-fee candidate. She attacked Stardig for her support of policies backed by Mayor Annise Parker, including an increasingly unpopular drainage fee for $8 billion flood prevention projects.

In the race for At-Large Position 2, Andrew Burks Jr. beat Kristi Thibaut by less than 1 percent.

Jerry Davis, a 38-year-old restaurateur, defeated Alvin Byrd, a 58-year-old constituent services director for current Councilman Jarvis Johnson, by 98 votes to claim the District B seat.

First, congratulations to all the winners. I wish them good luck in office. The city needs everyone’s best, and I hope they all exceed everyone’s expectations.

I’ve made my feelings clear about Andrew Burks, and I’m not going to pretend I’m not disappointed in that result. He led in early voting, but a strong showing on Election Day put Thibaut ahead of him in Harris County. He had enough of a lead in Fort Bend to hang on for the win. For what it’s worth, the result in Fort Bend illustrates what I had said before about Burks’ strength as a candidate compared to Jolanda Jones’:

Candidate Votes Pct ========================= Thibaut 325 32.5 Burks 676 67.5 Christie 75 7.1 Jones 981 92.9

I’ll be very interested to see what the precinct data looks like in each of the At Large races. I hope, though I don’t expect, that I have underestimated Andrew Burks and that he will be a good Council member. But if I haven’t, I hope that candidates who are looking at the 2013 elections will consider that with Christie’s victory there will be only one open At Large seat in two years, that being At Large 3, just as there was only one open At Large seat this year. What do you think will offer better odds of victory, a cattle call open seat race or a challenge to a freshman incumbent like Burks?

The bit in the story about Helena Brown and Renew Houston needs some context. It’s true that Brown rode her opposition to that to victory in District A. However, she was not typical. Jack Christie, who supported Renew Houston, defeated Jolanda Jones, who opposed it. In District B, of the five candidates whom I interviewed, only Jerry Davis supported Renew Houston prior to its passage. Even Andrew Burks says he now supports Renew/Rebuild Houston. In addition to that, all three new Council members who were elected in November supported Renew Houston – Ellen Cohen in C, Mike Laster in J, and Larry Green in K. Point being, District A isn’t the whole city.

Oh, and just for the record, turnout has been unofficially pegged at 56,998 – 55,934 in Harris, 1,063 in Fort Bend, and 1 – yes, one – in Montgomery. That person voted early for Thibaut and Jones. Turnout for the city was a hair over six percent.

That’s all I have for now. On to the March primaries, once SCOTUS cleans up the mess they’ve made of that.

November was like 2007, December is more like 2005

Here’s the daily report for the first six days of Early Voting in the runoff. There have been 17,568 votes cast so far, with today still to go. That means there have been more early votes cast in Harris County than there were in the entire 2007 runoff, when 11,374 ballots were cast before Runoff Day. Indeed, we had already exceeded that total by the end of Friday’s early voting. So, even though turnout for the November, 2011 election in the City of Houston was nearly identical to turnout from 2007, the December election is looking more like the runoff from 2005. In 2007, there was a grand total of 25,382 votes cast. At the rate we’re going, Early Voting in this runoff may approach that number. A better model may be 2005, with 38,620 votes cast, though I daresay that may be a bit low. There were only 14,233 early votes cast in the 2005 runoff, but early voting was less popular back then.

Given what we’ve seen so far, I’d put the over/under now at about 50,000 votes. The main difference is that in 2007 the one At Large runoff, between now-CM Jolanda Jones and Joe Trevino, was a much more low-profile and low-dollar affair than what we’ve got this time. Jolanda wasn’t Jolanda yet in 2007, if you get what I mean, so that race was almost beneath the radar – the two district runoffs generated more attention. This year we have two At Large runoffs with three of the four candidates raising money and the fourth having a hundred elections’ worth of name recognition, with the two district runoffs generating some heat as well. The 2005 runoff had only one At Large race, between now-CM Sue Lovell and Jay Aiyer, but it had a fair amount of money as well as some controversy. This year we have some familiar names and enough money to raise the bar a bit. It’s still an extreme low turnout race – we’re talking five percent turnout instead of three or four – but clearly there are some gradations in there.

Eight day runoff finance reports

Seven of the eight campaign finance reports for the runoff have been posted; all but Jack Christie’s were available online as of last night. Let’s have a look at them. First up, District A:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash on Hand ==================================================== Stardig 74,103 42,308 0 81,023 Brown 13,840 13,340 0 4,409

Helena Brown may have finished ahead of CM Brenda Stardig in November, but the establishment is still backing the incumbent. Brown got $1000 each from Paul Bettencourt’s campaign fund (what’s the deadline on using leftover campaign funds like his?) and the Texas Latino GOP PAC, $750 from Don Sumners, $500 from Norman Adams, and $100 from Bruce Tatro. Stardig got $2500 in kind from Mayor Parker’s campaign, $500 from CM Stephen Costello, and a boatload of PAC money, including $10K from the Council of Engineering Companies and $9500 from the Texas Association of Realtors PAC; they contributed in at least two of the other races as well. I still don’t know why Stardig had spent so little before now; if she manages to survive she’ll at least have a nice nest egg for 2013.

District B:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash on Hand ==================================================== Byrd 23,700 17,672 0 6,027 Davis 37,350 16,480 0 29,435

As noted before, Alvin Byrd received a fair amount of support from elected officials for the runoff. Jerry Davis didn’t get any donations from electeds that I saw, but he did collect $200 from former Congressional candidate Michael Skelley. Roland Garcia, who was Mayor Parker’s finance chair in 2009, and Kent Friedman of the Sports Authority were both in for $500, Rusty Hardin gave $2000, and Jeff Caynon of the Firefighter’s union went for $5000. Both received PAC money, but just eyeballing it I’d say Davis had more.

At Large #2:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash on Hand ==================================================== Burks 13,750 15,698 0 10,455 Thibaut 68,818 53,115 10,000 29,083

Andrew Burks‘ report is just a mess. Each contribution is listed twice. The $9500 he got from the Realtors was credited to Constable May Walker, which would be illegal if it were true; in reality, either Walker was listed erroneously or the total he cited does match the individual dollar amounts listed. I don’t recall seeing that the $10K loan he made himself in the regular cycle was paid off; no balance for that loan is given here. As with Griff, you’d think a guy who runs for Council as a matter of habit every two years would have some idea what he’s doing by now, but you’d be wrong. As for Kristi Thibaut, there’s no question she’s the establishment candidate. She got a ton of PAC money. Her former colleagues State Reps. Borris Miles and Garnet Coleman gave her $1000 and $2500, respectively. Port Commissioner Janiece Longoria gave $1000, Kent Friedman another $500. Former Council Member Peter Brown chipped in $1000 (his Smart PAC kicked in another $1500) and Council Member-Elect Larry Green gave $200. Usually the big money bets correctly, but between this race and the Stardig-Brown runoff, there’s a better than usual chance that it will be wrong.

As for At Large #5, the only action to report is on CM Jolanda Jones, who had another stellar report. She took in $70,217, spent $68,576, and had $24,400 left on hand. She got $2500 from Rep. Garnet Coleman, $1000 each from Rep. Borris Miles, Sen. John Whitmire, Ben Hall, $500 from Roland Garcia and District Court Judge Kyle Carter, $250 from Sylvia Garcia and Chris Bell, $200 from the Rev. William Lawson, $150 from CM-Elect Larry Green, and $100 each from Constable Ruben Davis and JP Zinetta Burney. She had less PAC money than you might expect. No report yet from Jack Christie – I know he’s sent out at least three mail pieces, so I’d guess he’s spent upward of $50K. Whether he’s financing that himself as he did last time or he’s got it covered I couldn’t say. When I see the report, I’ll update this post and let you know.

UPDATE: There was indeed a Jack Christie finance report uploaded. It was from a day earlier than the others, and was amid some amended reports from candidates not in the runoff, so I just missed seeing it. The Christie campaign pointed this out to me, and I apologize to them for the error. Here’s the Jones/Christie comparison:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash on Hand ==================================================== Jones 70,217 68,576 0 24,400 Christie 71,580 43,147 500 33,094

Nearly identical amount raised – inded, roughly $70K is more or less the standard for the At Large runoffs, with three of the four candidates in that vicinity. Christie received $10K from Anne Clutterbuck’s campaign, and $1000 each from Beverley Woolley’s campaign and Peter Brown, whose SmartPAC also chipped in $1500. As with CM Jones, not a whole lot of PAC money on his report.

Runoff overview: At Large #5

The fifth time is for all the marbles. Again.

For the fifth time since 2007, counting general elections and runoffs, Jolanda Jones and Jack Christie are running against each other for the At-Large Position 5 seat on Houston City Council.

Christie is a Republican, a resident of the Memorial City area and white. He makes the pitch that he plays better in the sandbox than Jones does, that he’s comfortable in the halls of power and friendly with those who rule there. Senators take his calls, he said.

“This isn’t about fighting,” Christie said, “This is about getting along with the mayor, getting along with the City Council” to get the city’s business done.

Jones, who won the previous four face-offs, is a Democrat, a resident of the Third Ward neighborhood where she grew up, black, and boasts that she’s fearless in those same halls and defiant of those who rule there when they get it wrong.

“I have the ball,” said Jones, a former high school All-American athlete fond of sports metaphors. “I expect they will try to tackle me.”

I doubt anyone reading this needs to make up their minds for this one. It’s all about who gets more of their supporters to the polls. Based on the first day early vote totals, this race may be a bigger draw on its own than I originally expected. Both candidates have been busy with mail – Christie sent out one piece a few days ago that attacked Jones up one side and down the other, and this week he has one out that touts the endorsement of famed criminal defense attorney Rusty Hardin; Jones has one out this week that highlights her accomplishments and the Chron endorsement of her. I can’t wait to see their eight day reports. Like I said, I doubt anyone has to decide whom to support in this one, it’s only a matter of whether they take that support to the polls or not.

Early voting for city runoffs begins today

You remember that we have runoff elections for four Houston City Council positions, right? Well, early voting starts today and runs through next Tuesday, December 6. Here are the early voting locations that will be open for the runoff. Early voting will run from 7 AM to 7 PM each day except Sunday the 4th, when it will be 1 to 6 PM. You can go any time you want, as I expect you will be the only person voting whenever it is you show up. The over/under for turnout in this runoff is 25,000, which is to say about what it was for the 2007 runoff. Districts A and B, and At Large #2 and #5 are up.

Eight day finance reports are due Friday, so I’ll be checking for those and posting them along with anything interesting I find in them. The one remaining question is who the Chron will endorse in the District B runoff. They had endorsed Kathy Daniels for the November election, but she finished third. In the other races, they went with CM Brenda Stardig in A, CM Jolanda Jones in At Large #5, and Kristi Thibaut in At Large #2. You can debate how much endorsements mean, but whatever it is it’s surely more so in a low-profile, low-turnout race.

And low turnout it will be. Look at it this way: your vote never counts more than it does when there aren’t that many votes cast. This is your last chance to vote in 2011, so go make it count.

Back and forth in At Large #5

Did you think this would be a slow holiday week? Not when there’s a runoff looming. So far this week, the Jack Christie campaign has released a letter from the former public policy director for CM Jolanda Jones that ripped her up one side and down the other. The next day, the city’s Office of the Inspector General cleared CM Jones of charges that she had cut that same letter writer’s salary in retaliation for his cooperation in the previous OIG investigation of her, thus refuting or at least dampening some of the allegations made in the campaign letter. Jones then released a letter of her own, from Kubosh brother #3, Randy, in support of her candidacy. (If Kuboshes were Baldwins, that would make Randy Billy, I suppose.) I presume this was done in part to counter the Bill White endorsement of Christie, but honestly in a toss-up race like this every little edge could be the difference. Having said that, I’m not sure how much any endorsement really matters in a low-turnout race that’s all about getting as many of your core supporters to realize that there is an election for them to vote in. But no stone unturned and all that.

Looking ahead to the runoffs

The runoff election for the city of Houston will be Saturday, December 10. It’s going to be an extremely low turnout affair – as was the case with the general election, I expect the runoff to have about the same level of turnout as the 2007 runoff, in which 25,382 ballots were cast. Look at it this way: If you bother to vote in the runoff, your vote really counts for a lot.

Some thoughts and questions about the runoff now that we’re two weeks out from the November election and all of the precinct analyses have been done:

– On paper, CM Brenda Stardig has all of the advantages in District A. She had $67K on hand as of the 8 Day reports, while Helena Brown had less than $1500. She swept all of the endorsements of which I’m aware except one, from the odious Steven Hotze. She’s the incumbent, and incumbents generally don’t lose. But the fact remains that she trailed Brown by six points and nearly 500 votes. How does she make that up? Does she try to woo Democratic voters by reminding them that she’s not nearly as bad as Brown, or does she try to out-wingnut her? How much help does she get from groups like the realtors, the police, the firefighters, and so on? Conversely, is Brown able to raise funds now that she’s demonstrated that she can win? Does she get any endorsements from elected officials? This one should be Stardig’s to lose, but then it should have been Stardig’s to win in regulation time. As I said before, I have a bad feeling about this one for her.

– As I said before, a lot of people waited on the sidelines to see who would make the runoff in B before committing to it. Now is the time to get off the fence. Jerry Davis previously announced the support of several former opponents, and Monday it was Alvin Byrd’s turn to make his new supporters known. He now lists former District B candidates Kathy Ballard Blueford-Daniels, Kenneth Perkins, and James Joseph; former Council members Jarvis Johnson, Carol Galloway, Michael Yarborough, and Jewell McGowen (on behalf of Ernest McGowen); and elected officials State Reps. Senfronia Thompson, Sylvester Turner, and Ron Reynolds, plus HISD Trustee-elect Rhonda Skillern-Jones. There are still numerous groups that have not made a choice in this race, including the realtors, the police, the firefighters, HOPE-SEIU, and Planned Parenthood (both Davis and Byrd scored 100% on the PP questionnaire). HBAD and the Chron went with Daniels in the first round, so they’re up for grabs as well. Neither candidate raised much money up till now – Davis has $9,274 on hand, while Byrd has $3,882. There will be another finance report due on December 2, and I’ll be looking to see if some big checks have been coming in. As of this writing, this one looks like a tossup.

– Not much to add to the At Large #2 runoff that I didn’t say before. Kristi Thibaut has the early momentum, and I expect she will collect most of the remaining endorsements in addition to the ones she has already received. I’ll be very curious to see if Andrew Burks reports any major endorsements – off the top of my head, I can’t remember any coming his way in 2009. That was when he was going against an incumbent, however, so this time may be different. Thibaut has $19K on hand, Burks has $12K, most of which is left over from his $20K loan, originally reported as a loan from his wife but later corrected to indicate it was a self-loan. Does anyone write Burks a check? Burks has the advantage of CM Jolanda Jones running, who will turn out voters that will be more inclined to support him than Thibaut, if they bother to vote in his race. What will Burks do to actually try to win? I see this one as being lean Thibaut, with the only thing holding me back from making a stronger statement the low turnout.

– As for At Large #5, what else is there to say? I’ll be curious to see if there’s another big show of support for Jack Christie from some of CM Jones’ colleagues. In retrospect, it’s not clear to me how much that actually helped Christie or hurt Jones, but it sure felt like a big deal at the time. Laurie Robinson picked up a few endorsements, including the police and the firefighters, who I think it’s safe to say will back Christie. If there’s going to be any real money thrown around in the runoff, it’s likely to be in this race. Jones starts out with $40K on hand, while Christie has $23K, but as we saw last time he’s willing and able to write his own check as needed. I feel like there’s another shoe or two to drop in this one, but I have no idea where they may come from or when they may fall. This one is a tossup. Nothing and everything will surprise me.

Early voting for city runoffs begins today

You remember that we have runoff elections for four Houston City Council positions, right? Well, early voting starts today and runs through next Tuesday, December 6. Here are the early voting locations that will be open for the runoff. Early voting will run from 7 AM to 7 PM each day except Sunday the 4th, when it will be 1 to 6 PM. You can go any time you want, as I expect you will be the only person voting whenever it is you show up. The over/under for turnout in this runoff is 25,000, which is to say about what it was for the 2007 runoff. Districts A and B, and At Large #2 and #5 are up.

Eight day finance reports are due Friday, so I’ll be checking for those and posting them along with anything interesting I find in them. One question that remains unanswered is who the Chron will endorse for the District B runoff. For the November election, the Chron endorsed CM Brenda Stardig in A, CM Jolanda Jones in At Large #5, and Kristi Thibaut in At Large #2, but their choice in B was Kathy Daniels, who finished third. As of this morning, they have not updated that recommendation.

Regardless, today begins your last chance to vote in 2011. Your vote never counts more than it does in an extreme low-turnout election, so go take advantage of that.

Precinct analysis: 2011 At Large #5

Last but certainly not least, the race everyone is wondering about, At Large #5:

Dist Robinson Jones Christie Ryan ======================================= A 17.10% 23.61% 48.91% 10.38% B 18.80% 73.00% 5.09% 3.11% C 25.07% 30.02% 35.57% 9.35% D 14.96% 73.56% 7.86% 3.62% E 19.97% 13.73% 54.51% 11.79% F 19.44% 30.45% 37.41% 12.70% G 14.99% 14.70% 61.81% 8.49% H 23.23% 45.26% 21.10% 10.41% I 26.13% 41.33% 21.39% 11.14% J 20.19% 31.78% 35.56% 12.47% K 20.85% 51.01% 21.54% 6.60%

For comparison purposes, here are my analyses of the 2009 runoff and regular election for At Large #5. I’m going to keep this simple, because I think Greg captures most of the important points. Superficially, the race this year resembles the one from 2009, in that you had CM Jolanda Jones versus Jack Christie, an African-American woman, and another Republican. Clearly, though, Laurie Robinson > Davetta Daniels, and Carlos Obando at least had second place finishes in the old Districts H and I to show for his effort. Jones remained strong in B and D – she scored 76% and 70% in the old versions, respectively. While Robinson did better than Daniels in those districts – Daniels had 8% and 14% – she didn’t take a noticeable amount of that vote away from Jones. But Jones starts out with a lower percentage than last time, suggesting there may be more people than before that are willing to vote her out.

Which is a problem, of course, because she won by a very slender margin last time. The main difference this time is that the 2009 runoff was a relatively high profile affair, with Gene Locke and Ronald Green also on the ballot, wooing African-American voters. Over 160,000 people voted in the ’09 runoff. Here, Jones’ race is the top of the ticket, and Andrew Burks will hope to ride her coattails because he has no momentum of his own. If the 2011 election was like the 2007 election, perhaps the 2011 runoff will be like the 2007 runoff, in which case we can expect maybe 25,000 to 30,000 voters. It all comes down to who comes out. Jones has no room for error. The scary thing for her is that when you shrink the voter pool that much, even if the basic shape of the electorate is the same as it was two years ago, a little random fluctuation here or there could be the difference. I’ll say it again, I would not bet against her, but I would hate to be in this position. It’s anyone’s ball game.

Precinct analysis: 2011 At Large races, part 1

Here’s a look at the election returns in each Council district for the three “normal” At Large races, in At Large #1, #3, and #4. First up is #1, where first term incumbent CM Stephen Costello won a narrow majority for a second term.

Dist Costello Galvan Boates Cook ====================================== A 46.25% 7.44% 28.98% 17.34% B 42.41% 9.19% 18.17% 30.24% C 63.58% 5.07% 19.66% 11.68% D 46.48% 8.23% 20.82% 24.47% E 42.68% 6.21% 33.25% 17.86% F 45.46% 9.03% 22.44% 23.07% G 53.55% 3.44% 30.58% 12.43% H 53.68% 18.22% 12.30% 15.80% I 48.36% 22.10% 12.91% 16.62% J 50.64% 9.05% 21.56% 18.74% K 52.14% 7.15% 19.85% 20.87%

Costello’s numbers roughly match those of Mayor Parker – he did a little better in some districts, a little worse in others, and finished about a percentage point higher than the Mayor. A couple of things stand out to me. One, for all of the anti-Renew Houston backlash in District A, Costello didn’t do too badly there; he received as many votes as Brenda Stardig but had a higher percentage of the vote, as there was a greater undervote in his race. The total among his three opponents was about the same as Helena Brown’s total, so who knows, maybe all of the Bob Schoellkopf voters skipped this race. Two, the fact that James Partsch-Galvan was able to score in double digits in Districts H and I is a clear indicator to me that little to no voter outreach was done in those districts, at least for this race. No rational voter, given even minimal information about the candidates, would ever choose Partsch-Galvan. Greg suggests that CM Costello needs to work on increasing his name recognition, and I’m inclined to agree. When people don’t know anything about the candidates they’re voting for beyond the names they see in front of them, strange things happen.

Moving on to At Large #3:

Dist Noriega Carmona Batteau ============================== A 48.35% 34.81% 16.84% B 53.76% 15.36% 30.88% C 66.58% 23.62% 9.80% D 51.89% 14.82% 33.28% E 43.06% 41.43% 15.51% F 49.26% 32.34% 18.39% G 46.92% 40.23% 12.85% H 68.16% 19.62% 12.23% I 70.08% 18.12% 11.80% J 55.64% 26.48% 17.88% K 56.49% 20.80% 22.71%

CM Noriega had over 55% of the vote, which is right in line with her performance in the 2007 special election runoff. She won majorities outside of the Republican districts, though her totals in B, D, and K were likely diminished by the presence of Brad Batteau, even if some people thought he was in another race. Carmona did decently in E and G but was mostly background noise in the rest of the districts. He had less money than Scott Boates did, but as Carmona did not try to have it both ways with his party ID, it probably worked better for him. One more thing to note is how well Noriega did in Districts H and I. Having a Latino name surely didn’t hurt, but let’s not forget that Noriega lives in District I and is pretty well known in and around there. She did better in I than its district Council Member, James Rodriguez: Noriega received 4,282 votes to Rodriguez’s 4,045. Point being, once again, that being known to the voters is a necessary condition for performing to expectations.

Finally, At Large #4:

Dist Bradford Molnar Price ============================== A 59.66% 14.08% 26.26% B 84.79% 4.63% 10.58% C 65.64% 10.81% 23.55% D 83.70% 4.51% 11.79% E 60.52% 12.40% 27.08% F 55.85% 15.19% 28.96% G 67.61% 10.75% 21.64% H 57.52% 17.58% 24.90% I 52.43% 21.77% 25.81% J 57.19% 14.69% 28.12% K 73.82% 7.76% 18.42%

CM Bradford had easily the best showing among contested citywide candidates, and one of the best showings overall. He also did not have something that Costello, Noriega, and Jolanda Jones had: A Republican opponent. My guess is that if you’d thrown a token R into his race – imagine Jack O’Connor moving into At Large #4 instead of the Mayor’s race after leaving At Large #5 – you’d likely move Bradford’s numbers down into the Costello-Noriega range. It’s impossible to say with any certainty, of course. There are so many factors to consider. Unlike Costello and Noriega, Bradford did get the CCLUB endorsement, which surely helped him in the Republican areas, but who knows if he’d have gotten it over a real Republican. I don’t want to understate Bradford’s strength as a candidate – he’s now won two multi-candidate races in a row with large majorities, which is no small feat – but I don’t want to overstate it, either. He was in a different race than his colleagues, and that makes it hard to compare them.

I’m working on analyses of the At Large #2 cattle call, and of course the At Large #5 race as well. Look for them shortly. Let me know what you think of this.

More thoughts on the Council elections

One district at a time…

– I confess that I did not see the District A result coming. Helena Brown did raise a decent amount of money since entering the race at the filing deadline, about $22K through the end of October, which makes me wonder how she might have fared if she had gotten in the race sooner. For what it’s worth, she’s at a big financial disadvantage in the runoff, as CM Brenda Stardig reported over $67K on hand in her 8 Day report, while Brown listed only $1378 on hers. Maybe Stardig needed to spend more during regulation time. Brown has received donations from the two previous District A members, Bruce Tatro and Toni Lawrence, the latter of whom apparently had a falling out with Stardig a few months back. If Brown wins she will be a big success story for the anti-Renew Houston forces. She would probably like for the runoff to be a low turnout affair in which she can campaign like it’s a Republican primary. Stardig will likely need to persuade some Democrats that she’s worth voting for; I would also expect the Houston Association of Realtors to try to come to her rescue. I have a bad feeling about this one for the incumbent.

– A lot of endorsing organizations avoided choosing a candidate in District B for November. I presume that part of the reason for that was that it was a crowded race with no obvious frontrunner and multiple contenders who might have a shot at making it to the runoff. Now that it’s narrowed down to Alvin Byrd and Jerry Davis, who received the bulk of the endorsements that were made, it’ll be interesting to see who lines up behind whom. Davis had an email out yesterday touting the fact that former competitors Kenneth Perkins, Phillip Paul Bryant, Bryan Smart, and Charles Ingram were all now supporting him. Also up for grabs now are the HBAD and Chronicle endorsements, both of which had gone to third place finisher (and currently unaligned, as far as I know) Kathy Daniels.

– Moving to the non-runoff districts, I’m still not sure if I’m surprised or not that Ellen Cohen won in C without a runoff. I had no doubt that it was possible, but I had no good feel for what the likelihood of it was. I do have a feeling that Cohen’s next two elections will be much easier to prognosticate.

– Given how a few other first-termers did, CM Al Hoang’s 56% win in District F has to be seen as a pretty strong performance, but much like Helena Brown in A, I wonder how Peter Lyn René might have fared if he had entered the race earlier. He missed out on the opportunity to screen for an awful lot of Democrat-friendly endorsements. I’m not saying he would have won, but a swing of less than 300 votes away from Hoang would have put him into a runoff. Surely that was achievable with a few months’ extra time to organize and fundraise.

– I’m just going to point you to what Greg says about District J, because there really isn’t anything I can add to it. I hope CM-elect Mike Laster makes an offer to Criselda Romero to be on his staff so that she can be in a good position to succeed him in 2017.

– Regarding the At Large runoffs, it’s easy to see the AL2 and AL5 races in racial terms, with the fates of the candidates entwined. Here’s Greg again:

As an aside in looking at the At Large runoffs together, I have a hard time seeing the needle threading such that both JoJo and Kristi win, though that’s obviously the outcome I’d most love to see. The more JoJo voters there are, then theoretically, the better the odds are for Andrew Burks. And the better things look for Kristi, the harder they look for JoJo. I really hope I’m wrong on this.

I think it’s a little more complex than that, for the simple reason that Burks isn’t a particularly good candidate. To put it another way, while I would agree that there will be a correlation between the vote totals of Burks and CM Jones, there will also be a lag between their totals. I believe a fair number of people who show up to vote for Jones will not bother to vote for Burks. As evidence, I cite the district returns from the 2009 runoffs, which featured both Burks and Jones as well as Ronald Green and Gene Locke. Take a look at these numbers, which I compiled from these earlier posts:

Candidate B votes D votes ============================ Locke 11,395 15,223 Green 10,017 16,935 Burks 7,773 11,974 Jones 10,673 17,653

Burks received less that 75% of Jones’ vote total in the African-American districts in the 2009 runoff, and he was running against someone who is not nearly as well-liked as Kristi Thibaut. He isn’t anywhere near Jones’ league. Maybe this time it will be different, but I see a lot of room for Jones to win and Burks to lose. And like District B, there are now a bunch of endorsements up for grabs. Thibaut, who had more endorsements by my count than other candidates going into the November election, counted HBAD among her supporters. She has since picked up the support of former candidates Bo Fraga, Jenifer Pool, and David Robinson; a whole host of Democratic elected officials, including numerous African-Americans (Rodney Ellis, Alma Allen, Garnet Coleman, Harold Dutton, Ron Reynolds, and Senfronia Thompson); and the Oak Forest Dems and Democracy for Houston endorsements; both of those groups reaffirmed their support of CM Jones as well. I think that says something, and about Burks’ ability to keep up with Jones.

As far as CM Jones goes, the playbook is the same for her as was two years ago: Run up the score in the friendly precincts, and hope it’s enough. Without a Gene Locke at the top of the ticket to drive turnout, that could be harder to achieve. She does have the benefit of the runoff in B to help her, but that may be canceled out by the action in A. It’s a crapshoot. I wouldn’t bet against her, but boy this is a tough way to go about it.

2011 Houston results

Let’s go through the races…

– Mayor Parker won with a shade under 51%, with none of her opponents cracking 15% on their own. Obviously, this is not a position a Mayor with no serious opposition wants to be in, and it won’t surprise anyone if one or more potential opponents for 2013 are on the phone already calling potential financial backers. It’s certainly possible, perhaps likely, that she will face a much tougher challenge in two years. It’s also possible, given a better economy, a less dire budget, and fewer externally-driven issues like a red light camera referendum, that she could be in a stronger position for re-election in two years and that the time to have beaten her was now. Many people thought Rick Perry looked vulnerable after winning with 39% of the vote in 2006, but things don’t always go as you think they will. Often uncertain the future is, that’s all I’m saying.

– Brenda Stardig trailed Helena Brown in District A by 479 votes. She and Jolanda Jones, who led Jack Christie by about 6700 votes, will be headed to a runoff. All other incumbents won majorities, with CM Stephen Costello having the closest race but winning with 51.2%. So much for the anti-Renew Houston slate.

– Only two of the five open seats will feature runoffs. Ellen Cohen in C (53.62%), Mike Laster in J (67.27%), and Larry Green in District K (67.23%) all won. Alvin Byrd (25.11%) and Jerry Davis (24.38%) head to overtime in District B, while the perennially perennial Andrew Burks led the field in At Large #2, garnering 17.33%. Kristi Thibaut came in second, with 15.65%, followed by Elizabeth Perez and David Robinson. This is at least the third time Burks has made it to a city election runoff – he lost to Sue Lovell in overtime in 2009 – and I wonder if he will get any official support. Being in a runoff with Jolanda Jones and a District B race also on the ballot will help him, but beyond that it’s hard to see him doing much of anything. You have to wonder what Michael P. Williams is thinking this morning. Oh, and Eric Dick finished seventh out of ten. Apparently, it takes more than spreading campaign signs like grass seed and putting out puerile press releases to win public office. Good to know.

– Paula Harris and Juliet Stipeche easily won re-election in HISD, as did Chris Oliver in HCC. Carroll Robinson defeated Jew Don Boney by a 55-45 margin to succeed Williams as the District IV Trustee. The closest race of the election, one that will have people gnashing their teeth all winter, was in HISD III, where Manuel Rodriguez barely held on. I’m a staunch advocate of early voting, but you have to wonder how many early-goers to the ballot box may have regretted pushing the button for Rodriguez before his shameful gay-baiting mailer came out.

– There were 123,047 city of Houston votes cast in Harris and Fort Bend Counties, making this election a near exact duplicate of 2007 turnout-wise. There were 164,283 votes cast in Harris County, of which 120,931 were Houston votes, for a Houston share of 73.6%. The final early vote total for Harris County was 60,122, almost exactly what I hypothesized it would be, and the early vote total was 36.6% of the overall tally in Harris. There were 920,172 registered voters in Houston, about 15,000 fewer than in 2009 but 7000 more than in 2007. City turnout was 13.14% in Harris County.

I have my second tour of jury duty today, this time in the municipal courts, so that’s all from me for now. I may have some deeper thoughts later. What do you think of how the election went? PDiddie has more.

UPDATE: Robert Miller offers his perspective.

UPDATE: Nancy Sims weighs in.

Your annual reminder that every vote matters

HISD Trustee, District III results, with 38 of 38 precincts reporting:

Manuel Rodriguez 2,401 50.25% Ramiro Fonseca 2,377 49.75%

There were 653 undervotes in this race, and turnout in the district was 11.61%. Fonseca carried Election Day by 78 votes, but had trailed by 102. At one point during the count, the Clerk had Fonseca up by one vote. What more do you need to know?

I will have recaps of the elections tomorrow morning. As of publication, about 95% of Harris County precincts are in. Mayor Parker appears to be headed to a just-over-50% victory, which beats the alternatives but is sure to get the chattering classes all fired up. The big surprise of the night to me is District A incumbent Brenda Stardig trailing her teabagger opponent, with the two of them headed for a runoff. We’ll see how that plays out. Other incumbents are all above 50% with the exception of Jolanda Jones, who will go into overtime again against Jack Christie. More tomorrow, see you then.

The 8 day non-filers

Eight day campaign finance reports were posted on the city website on Monday and Tuesday. As of today, the following candidates do not have an 8 Day report available:

Amanda Ullman, Mayor

James Partsch-Galvan (*), At Large #1

Elizabeth Perez, At Large #2

Rozzy Shorter, At Large #2

Gordon Goss, At Large #2

Brad Batteau, At Large #3

Louis Molnar, At Large #4

Laurie Robinson, At Large #5

Bob Ryan, At Large #5

Phillip Bryant (*), District B

Bryan Smart (*), District B

Charles Ingram, District B

James Joseph (*), District B

Kenneth Perkins (*), District B

Larry McKinzie (*), District D

Nguyen Thai Hoc (*), District F

Peter Lyn René, District F

Patricia Rodriguez, District H

Alex Gonik (*), District K

The asterisks indicate candidates who did not file a 30 Day report, either. There are a number of usual suspects here, but also more than a few candidates who should know better. I’m especially raising my eyebrows at Laurie Robinson. CM Jolanda Jones and Jack Christie have spent nearly $125K between them in October on various forms of outreach. It would be nice to know what Laurie Robinson is doing, and how much she’s spending on doing it. If I see any late reports between now and Tuesday, I will post an update.

Eight day finance reports, part II

Finishing what I started…

Fernando Herrera‘s report appeared on Tuesday. He raised $15,835, spent $27,185, and has $242.87 on hand. There were several expenditures on signs and a couple for “Advertising” that didn’t give me much of a clue about what kind of advertising they may be – there were two items totaling $4060 to Concepts In Advertising, $500 to St. Julien Communications, and $2500 to Van TV 55.2, whatever the heck that is. He also spent $500 on the Baptist Ministers Association of Houston and Vicinity for printing and poll workers.

– In addition to the airplane ad, Jack O’Connor spent $4K on yard signs. I’ve seen numerous Herrera yard signs around my neighborhood, but offhand I’m not sure I’ve seen any O’Connor signs, at least not in any actual yards. Maybe one, I’m not sure. But it’s a big city, and I only see a little piece of it in a normal day. Is there some hotbed of O’Connor support out there somewhere?

– Hatemeister/vanity candidate Dave Wilson spent $33K after loaning himself $35K in the 30 Day report. He dropped $4200 on signs, $14,400 on printing expenses, which I presume means direct mail, and $10,605 on advertising – $5965 at Clear Channel, $4640 at KSEV. This would be a good time to plug your iPod in while driving.

Kevin Simms spent $2000 on online ads, and $350 on phone banking. Good luck with that.

– As for the Mayor herself, her buys are a bit bigger. $686K on TV ads, $26K on radio ads, and $132K on direct mail. And she remains with $1.5 million in the bank, which any story that gets written after the election about potential challengers will have to mention as a barrier.

– District K candidate Larry Green used quite a bit of the green he’d been accumulating, spending $52K. That included three direct mail pieces, for a total of $15K, and three listings for radio ads, totaling $5850. His opponent Pat Frazier didn’t raise much, but between her 30 Day and her 8 Day she listed $25K in loans, borrowing $5K each from four individuals as well as giving herself another $5K. She bought $2K worth of radio ads, and most of the rest of her expenditures were for signs, door hangers, and card pushers.

– I don’t know if it’ll help me get a handle on who if anyone may have an edge in the At Large #2 scramble, but here’s a look at how those candidates are spending money on voter contact, according to their 8 day reports:

Bo Fraga – $9,039 on field, $5,350 on door hangers, $1,277 on signs.

Jenifer Pool – $6,775 on field, $1,455 on signs, and $150 on a print ad.

Kristi Thibaut – $34,599 on direct mail.

David Robinson – $6500 on print ads, $6000 of which went to the Texas Conservative Review, and $31K on “media”, which I know includes TV advertising. Far as I know, it’s him, CM Costello, and Mayor Parker on the tube. He also spent about five grand on postage, but I did not see any expenditures for direct mail, including in his 30 day report. I have no idea what all those stamps are being used for.

Griff Griffin – $1200 for signs, and a bunch of ad buys in neighborhood newspapers, including $633 for the Northwest Leader, $150 for Guidry’s, and $669 for the Bay Area Citizen. Oh, and $720 to the Sacred Heart Society for wine, which is my nominee for best expense report item so far. He’s still too dumb or lazy to list totals, however.

Andrew Burks – Five paid poll workers at $480 apiece plus another $850 for canvassers, and $800 for radio ads on KCOH. Burks had reported a $20K loan from his wife in July, which turns out to be a no-no, but an easily fixed one. He also has over $12K left unspent, which appears to be par for the course for him.

Eric Dick – Another $1700 to Ron the Sign Man, plus $187 on Facebook ads. Spend enough early on making the city your bulletin board, and you don’t have to spend much late. He also paid back a $15K loan to himself, and failed to give any totals on his form.

As of this publication, I do not see 8 day reports for Rozzy Shorter, Elizabeth Perez, or Gordon Goss.

– In At Large #1, Scott Boates spent $8500 on direct mail, $750 on phone banking, and $12K on radio ads, running on KSEV, all from personal funds.

– Finally, in At Large #5, Jolanda Jones spent $61K in all, including $23K on two direct mail pieces, $8K on radio ads, and $7K on polling. I’d kill to see that polling memo. Jack Christie spent almost $63K, $24,500 of which (for a direct mail piece) came from personal funds. He spent another $27,700 on mailers, and $6K on a Texas Conservative Review ad. I have not seen a finance report for Laurie Robinson or Bob Ryan as yet.

I think that does it for me with finance reports. I will post the list of non-filers tomorrow, to give everyone one last day.

Chron overview of At Large #5

In addition to their belated endorsement in the At Large #5 race, the Chron now has its overview story of the race up as well.

At-Large Position 5 Councilwoman Jolanda Jones arguably finds herself running as the upstart in her own re-election campaign.

Opponent Laurie Robinson has raised nearly four times as much money in the last quarter. Robinson also has racked up many of endorsements from groups that can offer that campaign cash, as well as from two of Houston’s major city employee labor unions.

Jones and Robinson are both black Democrats running for a seat traditionally held by an African-American, but the similarities end there. Jones defends the accused for a living as a criminal defense lawyer. Robinson has climbed a corporate ladder by doing audits at an accounting and consulting firm. Jones sees serving the homeless as a core city service. Robinson sticks to a more business-friendly platform. Jones has solicited clients by passing out a card with the message: “If you want a fighter then you want me!!!!!” Robinson describes herself as a “regulatory compliance expert.”

Two white Republicans are on the ballot as well. Chiropractor Jack Christie came close to beating Jones in a runoff election two years ago. He’s running against her for the third time this fall, this time with the endorsement of former Mayor Bill White.

Businessman Bob Ryan’s service to the city goes back nearly half a century, and he talks wistfully of an era when things got done more collegially. He said he raised money for the mayor two years ago, but “the administration has another horse in the race. I’m basically running against the administration.”

It’s the longest and most in depth of these stories so far, and much like the District F overview is as much about the incumbent and her baggage as it is about the challengers. I can’t imagine there are too many people who are likely to vote in this election and who don’t already have an opinion on CM Jones. There are probably some people who are waffling on whether or not to vote for her; my guess, and it’s only a guess, is that more of them had voted for her before and are reconsidering. I could be wrong about that, and even if I’m not it could be an insignificant number of people. The one factor that will matter in this election is turnout. Either enough Jones supporters show up to keep her out of a runoff, or they don’t. And if they don’t, I believe the runoff, in the absence of a Mayor’s race, will be decided by a tiny group of voters, which to me says a coin toss on what happens. I know what my strategy would be if I were on CM Jones’ campaign team.

Endorsement watch: Bell for Jones

Former Council Member and Mayoral candidate Chris Bell has endorsed Jolanda Jones for re-election, writing his own letter of support for her, which you can see here. Normally, I’m not that interested in this sort of personal endorsement, but since I noted the unexpected endorsement of Jones’ opponent Jack Christie by former Mayor Bill White, I figured equal time was called for. Unlike White’s letter of support, it’s not clear if this is going to be sent to any voters’ homes – I asked Jones’ spokesperson Kelly Cripe about that, and she said she wasn’t sure if it was slated for a mailer or not. If I hear anything further, I’ll let you know.

Endorsement watch: The Chron proves me wrong

I had thought that the Chron was going to endorse challenger Laurie Robinson in the At Large #5 race. I was wrong.

Of the current 15 members of Houston City Council, including Mayor Annise Parker, none arouses the intense passions that Jolanda Jones has stirred in her two terms.

The defense attorney and former track star campaigned for office on the promise to serve as “the voice of the voiceless” at City Hall. Over the past four years she has more than fulfilled that commitment, winning a devoted following in the low-income communities of Houston while irritating and sometimes enraging critics and colleagues. She has rough edges, and certainly does not represent business as usual.

The Chronicle believes that on balance, Jones has served a valuable function on a City Council that has historically played a subservient role in Houston’s strong-mayor form of government. She speaks out frequently, questioning administration proposals and demanding more information. That lengthens council meeting times and often delays action, but it also provides additional scrutiny and the impetus to improve legislation.

[…]

In the current campaign, many of Jones’ critics are backing Laurie Robinson, an accomplished financial consultant specializing in health care and the public sector who has done audits for the city. She is a promising prospective council member; we hope she runs again for public office, whether for this position or another.

After carefully examining the facts, the Chronicle endorses Jones for re-election and urges voters to return her to City Hall for a final term.

Well, they didn’t endorse Robinson but they had nice things to say about her, so I wasn’t too far off the mark. I completely agree with their assessment of the role CM Jones plays on Council, and I admire her for it. The question is whether there are more people now than before who think that her baggage outweighs that. I’ll be very interested to compare 2011 results with those from 2009. In any event, my interview with CM Jones is here, my interview with Robinson is here, and my interview with Jack Christie is here.

Endorsement watch: White for Christie

This came as a surprise to me.

Former Mayor Bill White has endorsed Jack Christie for the At-Large 5 City Council seat. It is the only endorsement the ex-mayor has made in this year’s city elections.

White sent out a letter explaining his endorsement, which you can read here. I have been told by the Christie campaign that 18,000 copies were sent to voters; my guess is that if you’re a regular voter in odd-numbered years, there’s a good chance you’ll receive one. Not too surprisingly, there was some griping about this on Carl Whitmarsh’s Democratic email list, as White could have endorsed Democrat Laurie Robinson as his preferred opponent to CM Jolanda Jones. As with any endorsement, it’s hard to say how much it matters. CM Jones held onto endorsements from all of the traditional Democratic groups, so she still has a good base. Given that this is likely to be a very low turnout year – I hear people predicting under 100,000 votes total – it’s mostly a matter of who bothers to show up. If it goes to a runoff for CM Jones, where turnout could be microscopic, it’s basically a crapshoot. I would not want to take my chances in overtime if I were her.

Endorsement watch: Noriega and Bradford

Another twofer, and another easy and obvious choice in At Large #3.

For the past four years Houston has been well served in At-Large City Council Position 3 by Melissa Noriega. We recommend Noriega for a third and final term at City Hall. In her service on council, Noriega has demonstrated a welcome ability to be a team player and consensus builder in city government. The Scarborough High School graduate, hailing from a family with deep roots in education, is herself a career educator, having served 27 years in several key administrative and staff positions at the Houston Independent School District.

[…]

Noriega and the other four at-large council members have a unique role in working with district representatives and, in particular, identifying those areas where quality of life is suffering because of inequities in the placement of capital improvement projects. She is committed to pressing for fairness in this process to help close gaps in the quality of life for residents in different parts of the city.

Melissa Noriega will give all Houstonians informed, energetic representation in a third term as an at-large councilmember. We urge city voters to cast a ballot for Noriega.

You can listen to my interview with CM Noriega here. I think she does excellent work, and I agree with the Chron’s assessment.

The Chron stayed with the incumbent in At Large #4 as well.

In the race for Houston City Council At-Large Position 4, voters have a choice among two attractive political newcomers and a well-regarded incumbent, former Chief of Police C.O. “Brad” Bradford.

With a nod of encouragement to the newcomers to continue with their political efforts in the future, we heartily recommend Bradford for a new term. He brings to council judgment, maturity and wide experience in handling budgets, personnel and management issues.

[…]

C.O. “Brad” Bradford is a significant leadership resource on Houston City Council. We commend him to voters for another term.

My interview with CM Bradford is here, with Louis Molnar is here, and with Amy Price is here. As I’ve noted, the Chron doesn’t usually mention anyone but the endorsed candidate – this is only the third time out of fifteen, and one of those was to castigate the incumbent as they recommended his opponent – so good for them for that.

The Chron seems to have set itself up for an eventful weekend, with At Large #5 presumably coming tomorrow, and Mayor on Sunday. My prediction is that the Chron will decline to endorse CM Jolanda Jones for a third term. They did endorse her in 2009 and in 2007, so I could very well be wrong about this. What do you think?