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Karen Derr

Chron overview of District C

The Ashby Highrise is casting its shadow over the race for the open seat in District C.

Even with substantially redrawn boundaries, which in January will extend from north of Loop 610 down through the Heights and south to the Braeswood area, District C still is ground zero for the battle over height regulations. After a two-year dormancy, plans for the 23-story Ashby high-rise have been revived as apartments instead of condos.

[Ellen] Cohen called the Ashby high-rise a “poor idea,” but said the city must be fair to developers who follow city rules and not “move the goalposts” by changing rules midstream. She also produced a 2007 “Dear Neighbor” letter she wrote as a legislator in which she urged then-Mayor Bill White and the council “to do everything within their power to stop this development.”

Most of the other candidates followed Cohen’s two-pronged answer of personally opposing the project, but warning against being arbitrary with development regulations.

The Ashby sure is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it? If by “gift” you mean “political pain in the ass for which there is no solution”, anyway. Barring anything unusual, this thing is going to get built one way or another. The only thing for a candidate to talk about is what if anything they’d do to affect or prevent the next such unwanted-by-its-neighbors project.

Anyway. I did interviews with four of the five candidates in District C:

Ellen Cohen
Brian Cweren
Karen Derr
Joshua Verde

The conventional wisdom on this race is that it’s Cohen’s to lose. She’s got a lot going for her – strong fundraising, name ID, etc – but her opponents are pretty good too, and they’re certainly not conceding anything. I see a lot of yard signs in the district – most of them in actual yards, thank you very much – and I’d say Cohen is winning that competition, at least in the parts of the district I tend to travel through, followed by Derr and then Cweren. The 30 Day reports are up for the four that I interviewed: Cohen, Derr, Verde, and Cweren; as noted before, Cohen once again lapped the field. What are your thoughts on this race?

Interview with Karen Derr

Karen Derr

Karen Derr wound up in District C after redistricting by living in the western portion of the Heights. She ran for At Large #1 in 2009, losing in the runoff to CM Stephen Costello. She is the founder of Karen Derr and Associates Realty and serves on the board of numerous associations in Houston. Here’s what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Runoff precinct analysis, At Large Council races

Continuing on with the precinct analyses from the runoff, here’s a look at the City Council At Large races. First up, At Large #1:

Dist Derr Costello Derr% Cost% ==================================== A 7,200 8,160 46.9 53.1 B 5,737 4,859 54.1 45.9 C 9,001 9,870 47.7 52.3 D 11,804 7,487 61.2 38.8 E 5,754 9,154 38.6 61.4 F 3,345 3,753 47.1 52.9 G 8,373 14,662 36.4 63.6 H 6,960 4,891 58.7 41.3 I 3,144 3,598 46.6 53.4

Derr did very well in her backyard of District H, and had a fairly strong showing in A and D, while Costello ran strongly just about everywhere else. I have to believe that his financial advantage, which included being on TV quite a bit in the closing days, helped push him over the top. Derr did have a slight lead after early voting – counting absentee and in-person ballots, she took a 28,373 to 27,898 lead in Harris County into Runoff Day – but her surprisingly weak showing in African American areas like District B and Fort Bend County, which Costello carried by over 500 votes, helped do her in. There was a push in the runoff to identify Derr as the Democratic candidate and Costello as not, and I can only presume that it either wasn’t received in sufficient number, or wasn’t perceived to be important enough, perhaps due to Costello’s ad blitz. You have to wonder what might have happened if Derr had spent more money on voter outreach.

At Large #2:

Dist Lovell Burks Lovell% Burks% ==================================== A 8,953 5,571 61.6 38.4 B 3,128 7,773 28.7 72.3 C 12,427 5,962 67.6 32.4 D 8,015 11,974 40.1 59.9 E 7,659 6,834 52.9 47.1 F 3,967 2,966 57.2 42.8 G 12,963 8,770 59.7 40.3 H 7,235 3,721 66.0 34.0 I 3,625 3,036 54.4 45.6

As before, not much to see here. The only places Burks did well were the African American districts, and even there he didn’t really do all that much. If he hoped to get a boost from the Hotze endorsement, I’d say Lovell’s showing in Districts A, E, and G stuck a pin in those hopes. There’s a reason why perennial candidates keep losing.

Last but certainly not least, At Large #5:

Dist Christie Jones Chris% Jones% =================================== A 10,541 5,300 66.5 33.5 B 1,658 10,673 13.4 86.6 C 10,675 9,215 53.7 46.3 D 3,681 17,653 17.2 82.8 E 10,894 4,771 69.5 30.5 F 4,404 2,964 59.8 40.2 G 18,001 6,039 74.9 25.1 H 5,011 6,531 43.4 56.6 I 3,025 4,119 42.3 57.7

You want sharp contrasts, look no further. I’m still boggling over the numbers Jones put up in B and D, which along with Fort Bend were what she needed to hang on. Christie, meanwhile, clearly got a huge bang for all those bucks he and others put into mailers that attacked Jones. All of that activity had an effect on turnout – while the other two At Large races had about the same number of votes as they did in Round One, this race had about 3000 more, with a relatively miniscule 12.64% undervote rate. This race was also a good illustration of the partisan vote patterns – Jones had by far the biggest lead in Harris County in early voting, racking up nearly an 8000 vote advantage from in-person votes, for a net lead of about 5000 overall once absentee ballots are factored in. She then lost that lead in Harris on Election Day. Again, the 2009 pattern seems to be more of what we saw in 2008, with Democrats voting heavily early, and Republicans showing up on Election Day. That may have been the nature of those particular races – the Democratic message in 2008 was long, strong, and consistent about voting early, while the lack of any Republican interest for the most part until late in the game shaped this year’s contests – but it bears keeping in mind as we head into 2010.

I will have some commentary on the two district Council runoffs and the HISD I runoff before closing the books on 2009. As always, let me know what you think.

Initial thoughts on the runoffs

I’ll go through them one race at a time, with the unofficial vote totals minus Montgomery County for each. Once I have precinct results, I’ll go through those and do a more detailed analysis.

Mayor

Annise Parker – 81,971, 52.78%
Gene Locke – 73,331, 47.22%

This was perhaps a bit closer than one might have thought given the most recent poll. At a guess, given the Fort Bend County results, I’d say that African American voters broke more strongly to Locke than had been previously indicated, but that there just weren’t that many of them in the end. Certainly, all the predictions that turnout for the runoff would exceed that of the general were way off. There were about 87,000 votes cast Saturday in Harris County, far less than the 112,000 predicted by County Clerk Beverly Kaufman. In the end, 67,653 early votes were cast in the Mayoral race, or 43.8% of the final Harris County tally of 154,618. In other words, this runoff was just like the last three runoffs in terms of early vote share compared to that of the general. I called it right, and I’m going to gloat a little about that.

Parker’s election has made the national news, and she’s a trending topic on Twitter. Lots of people are going to be talking about this for a long time. I don’t think we fully realize yet the impact her election will have. I think this will make an awful lot of people take a second and third look at Houston, and may finally make some of my progressive colleagues outside of Texas realize that there’s more to the state than just Austin.

Oh, and Parker made history in more ways than one, too. Go Rice Owls!

Controller

Ronald Green – 74,262, 51.48%
MJ Khan – 69,991, 48.52%

Green won early in-person voting by a fairly wide margin, but trailed in absentee ballots and also in Harris on Election Day. This suggests to me that as was the case in November, the early electorate was much more Democratic than the Election Day electorate. That was the case in Harris County last November as well. I sure hope the local Democratic strategists are paying attention to that. Green carried Fort Bend by 2,016 votes but would have won anyway. Oddly, I was more nervous about his chances going into today than I was about Parker’s, but less so about them once the early results were in. I figured if there was an African American surge that could carry Locke to a win, it would bring Green in its wake as well.

City Council At Large #1

Stephen Costello – 67,842, 52.15%
Karen Derr – 62,249, 47.85%

I had no feel at all for this race. The only thing that would have surprised me was a not-close result. Derr led coming into Election Day, but Costello pulled it out. If I had to guess, I’d say his late TV blitz – after not seeing any of his ads in months, I saw it four times this week – was a factor. Surely having such a large financial advantage should mean something. Costello had a fair amount of crossover support, and while I’m sad to see Derr lose I think he’ll make a fine Council member.

City Council At Large #2

Sue Lovell – 68,676, 54.08%
Andrew Burks – 58,317, 45.92%

Lovell has the easiest win of the night in the race with the highest undervote. Make of that what you will.

City Council At Large #5

Jolanda Jones – 69,763, 50.61%
Jack Christie – 68,080, 49.39%

Let this be Exhibit A for how hard it is to unelect a sitting Council member in Houston. It’s hard for me to imagine conditions more favorable for Jack Christie going into Election Day. Ultimately, he could not overcome the Democratic tilt of the early vote. Jones won early in person voting by a 58-42 margin, easily the widest of any candidate, but Christie ran strongly on Saturday, capturing Harris by 53.5-46.5, which combined with the absentee vote put him over the top in this county. Unfortunately for him, Fort Bend was to Jones what it was to Lee Brown in 2001, and that was enough for her to hang on. I voted for Jones, I’m very glad she won, but I have nothing bad to say about Christie, who ran a clean and honorable race. I sincerely hope that Council Member Jones uses this experience to help her channel her considerable talent and smarts more productively.

Houston City Council, District A

Brenda Stardig – 9,258, 56.59%
Lane Lewis – 7,103, 43.41%

Houston City Council, District F

Al Hoang – 4,681, 52.72%
Mike Laster – 4,180, 47.28%

The City of Houston proved its Democratic bona fides, but Districts A and F remained Republican. I’ll be interested to see how the citywide candidates did in each of these districts. Beyond that, my congratulations to the winners and my condolences to the losers. Oh, and in my favorite bit of trivia for the evening, Laster and Hoang split the Fort Bend vote evenly, with 19 ballots apiece.

HISD Trustee, District I

Anna Eastman – 4,959, 50.99%
Alma Lara – 4,766, 49.01%

HISD Trustee, District IX

Larry Marshall – 6,295, 51.15%
Adrian Collins – 6,012, 48.85%

A bad night for the Houston Federation of Teachers, as both of their candidates lost. Conversely, a good night for the HISD Parent Visionaries, who ultimately went three for three in the Trustee races. Lara had a slight early lead, which Eastman overcame, while Marshall led all along for yet another close escape. Again, my congratulations to the winners, and my condolences to the losers.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll have more when the precinct results are in. Chron coverage is here, here, here, and here. Let me know what your thoughts are about this election.

Eight days out finance reports, At Large candidates

Continuing on with our look at the eight days out reports, here’s how things stack up for the At Large Council candidates in the runoffs.

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Derr 26,692 13,034 5,000 5,487 8,650 32.4 Costello 193,225 165,200 15,000 16,065 71,000 36.7 Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Derr 0 0 0 0 250 Costello 125,000 0 0 4,200 6,000

First, if I didn’t already know Costello was an engineer, I might have guessed it from his exceedingly orderly finance report, in which PAC and corporate donations were separated from individual ones, and each were alphabetized. As with the general election, he continues to raise money like gangbusters, and is putting a lot of it into TV ads. I have no idea what Derr is doing beyond having a presence at the early vote locations and all those yard signs that have been in place for months. It’s almost bizarre comparing the finances of these two candidates, in that if you knew nothing else you’d expect Costello to win without breaking a sweat. But Derr has nearly all of the establishment Democratic support, and with the primary history of early voters being roughly 60D/30R, with the rest having no primary history, that may be enough. Here are the current and former officeholders and candidates who have donated to each:

Derr – State Rep. Garnet Coleman (500), State Rep. Ana Hernandez (100), former At Large #4 candidate Deborah Shafto (50)

Costello – Lonnie Allsbrooks (200), former Council Member Gracie Saenz (75), UH Board of Trustees President Welcome Wilson (250)

Coleman’s name will appear on the report of every candidate he endorsed. Rep. Hernandez’s husband Greg Luna also chipped in $100 to Derr. Allsbrooks held a meet-and-greet for Costello at Beer Island over the weekend, according to a postcard I got in the mail from Allsbrooks. That’s more mail than either candidate has apparently sent recently.

Moving on to At Large #2:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Lovell 75,104 59,791 0 102,896 39,758 52.9 Burks 12,030 13,118 10,000 964 1,750 14.5 Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Lovell 51,255 0 1,500 0 0 Burks 0 1,959 3,000 1,250 430

Again, no real contest in terms of who raised what, though in this case it really is the case that Lovell ought to win, if not that easily. I confess, I don’t get why she’s sitting on $100K in cash – that $51K won’t buy that much TV time (though I did finally see one of her ads on the air, during “The Closer” last night), and there’s little else to her outreach. I might have sent some mail or done some phonebanking or something. We’ll see how it goes for her. Here’s the officeholder/candidate list for each:

Lovell – Coleman (1000), Council Member Jarvis Johnson (100), Don Large (100), District Judge Randy Roll (50), State Rep. Ellen Cohen (50)

Burks – Dexter Handy (100), Justice of the Peace Zinetta Burney (100), Constable May Walker (250), Farouk Shami (1000)

I have no idea what the Shami-Burks connection is. Anyone want to guess?

And finally, At Large #5:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Jones 80,248 33,016 0 49,957 22,358 27.9 Christie 42,925 68,714 500 35,844 10,500 24.5 Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Jones 0 8,000 20,000 0 0 Christie 0 956 56,267 5,310 0

Jones has raised a respectable amount, but Christie has spent more, putting a huge sum into an effective attack mailer. She’s still got to be the favorite based on partisan affinity, but this may be the tightest race of the bunch. The list of who gave what to whom contains a couple of interesting bits:

Jones – Burney (150), Saenz (50), Handy (100), Coleman (1000), Ron Reynolds, Democratic candidate for State Rep. in Fort Bend, (250), State Rep. Kristi Thibaut (1000), District Judge Steve Kirkland (250), State Sen. John Whitmire (1000), State Rep. Sylvester Turner (400), Saenz (75), John Sharp (3000), US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (250), Wilson (500), Roll (50), former State Rep. (running again in 2010) Borris Miles (1000)

Christie – Council Member Anne Clutterbuck (10,000), Chase Untermeyer (250), State Rep. Beverly Woolley (500)

Clutterbuck’s $10K donation from her campaign fund is by far the biggest donation from any of the politicos, and is nearly 25% of Christie’s total haul for this period. It’s also the only example I saw of a Council member donating to the opponent of a sitting member. That could liven up some future committee meetings. I guess I have to take back what I said about Ronald Green getting the most donations from colleagues, as it sure looks like Jones has him beat on that score.

Just the district Council races to go. I should have those tomorrow.

At Large #1 runoff overview

I believe this will be the last of the runoff overview stories.

The runoff for an at-large City Council seat has devolved into a battle over the subtle connotations of the phrase “city contractor.”

One of the candidates for Position One, Stephen Costello, has worked as a drainage engineer for Houston, Harris County and numerous municipal utility districts. His opponent, Karen Derr, has said that government contractors like Costello and his supporters view Houston “as a big place to make money.”

“His support is heavily, heavily weighted with people who contract with the city of Houston,” said Derr, 50, who built a successful residential realty firm focused on the Heights area. She recently sold the company, but still has a real estate license. “My support is very broad-based with people who live in the city, regular folks, taxpayers.”

Costello acknowledged that his company, Costello Inc., has received about $3.5 million in Houston contracts over the past 18 years. But he called Derr’s attitude “offensive.”

“The people that back me are people who bring jobs to the city, who bring economic development to the city,” the 56-year-old said.

I get the impression that this race is the farthest beneath the radar among the runoffs. It hasn’t generated a whole lot of heat that I’ve seen. Each candidate has been endorsed by two of their former opponents, Herman Litt and Donald Cook for Derr, Rick Rodriguez and Lonnie Allsbrooks for Costello. For the record, I voted for Derr, but I don’t have anything bad to say about Costello. What do you think about this race?

Council turnover

One underappreciated aspect of this year’s election is that we may wind up with more than two new At Large City Council members. We started with two open seats, and with incumbents Sue Lovell and Jolanda Jones in runoffs, the possibility exists that we could have as many as four freshman members in January. This would be a first for Houston, at least in the term limits era. Since 1997, here are all of the newly-elected Council members for that year:

1997 – Annise Parker (1), Carroll Robinson (5)
1999 – Gordon Quan (2)
2001 – Shelley Sekula Rodriguez/Gibbs (3), Michael Berry (4)
2003 – Mark Ellis (1), Ronald Green (4)
2005 – Peter Brown (1), Sue Lovell (2)
2007 – Melissa Noriega (3), Jolanda Jones (5)

There actually was a third new Council member in 1997, but not in November. John Peavy won a special election in January of 1995 to replace Sheila Jackson Lee in At Large #4 after she was elected to Congress. After he won re-election that November, he announced in 1996 that he was stepping down. Chris Bell then won a special election in January, and won election to a full term that November. His seat came open in 2001 when he ran for Mayor (Orlando Sanchez, who had been the incumbent in At Large #3, was first elected in 1995 and thus was term limited out that year.) Michael Berry, who won #4 in 2001, briefly ran for Mayor in 2003, and when he pulled back from that he filed instead for At Large #5; I forget what the reasoning behind that was. As such, there were technically three open seats in 2003, but only because of Berry’s seat shifting. Besides, Mark Ellis had been a two-term incumbent in District F before winning a final term in Council as the At Large #1 member, so even if one of Berry or Shelley Sekula now-Gibbs, who nipped Peter Brown in a runoff for her first re-election, had been beaten, there still would have been only two truly new At Large members.

This year, we will have new At Large members CO Bradford and the winner of the Stephen Costello/Karen Derr runoff. I think Sue Lovell will win easily enough in #2, but Jolanda Jones has a tough race on her hands, and may well lose. If either one does lose, then we’ll have the unprecedented situation of three or more new At Large members, and in a year with a new Mayor and a new Controller. I’m thinking the first few Council meetings would be a lot of fun under those conditions.

One other thing to consider in the event we do have three or four new At Large members is that there would not be an open seat until 2013, when Melissa Noriega gets term limited. I would think that a Council Member Andrew Burks or a Council Member Jack Christie would be wise to prepare for a strong challenge from somebody in 2011, for two reasons. One is that those with ambitions for Council aren’t going to want to wait that long. The pent-up demand for an open Council seat by then would surely lead to a ginormous field, in which even a good candidate’s chances would be a pure crapshoot. Seems to me you’d get better odds taking on a freshman incumbent in 2011, in what could be a straight up two-person race. And two, the political establishment might well view Burks and/or Christie as flukes whose victories said more about their opponents than themselves. I believe the likelihood of that is greater if the turnout for the runoff is low. The same could happen to Bradford or Costello/Derr, of course, but I’d expect Burks or Christie to be a more inviting target.

Anyway. Just something I’ve been thinking about. What do you think?

UPDATE: Forgot to include Jolanda Jones as a new Member in 2007. Whether she wins or loses, the only seat that would be open in 2011 is Sue Lovell’s seat, assuming Lovell wins. If Lovell wins and Jones loses, we have one open seat in 2011 and one in 2013, then three in 2015. If Lovell loses and Jones wins, we have no open seats in 2011, two in 2013, and three in 2015. If both lose, no open seats in 2011, one in 2013, and four in 2015. I should have been more clear about that. Also, as noted by Jennifer in the comments, we will have two new District Council seats in 2011, which may provide an outlet for some of those who would otherwise run At Large if there’s a paucity of those seats available.

Endorsement watch: Second time’s the charm

Among the runoff elections, only one does not include a candidate that was endorsed by the Chron in the first round. That race is City Council At Large #1, and today the Chron made their choice for the runoff by endorsing Karen Derr.

[Derr] would bring to the position well-honed expertise on quality-of-life issues, including historic preservation and protecting neighborhoods from unwise development.

“We have neighborhood problems that affect our economic growth in Houston,” says Derr, pointing to the negative impact of flooding, high crime and deteriorating infrastructure. If elected she promises to push for more neighborhood patrols by police, an expanded recycling program and improved drainage. She envisions the city evolving into a series of communities connected by expanded light rail, improved bus service and more hike-and-bike trails. “We need more connectivity where areas can keep their culture and distinctive architecture while eliminating blight,” says Derr.

Congrats to Team Derr on getting the endorsement. I presume from the wording of this piece, as well as their past history, that all of the relevant November endorsements will carry through, meaning Ronald Green for Controller, Sue Lovell in At Large #2, Jolanda Jones in At Large #5, Lane Lewis in District A, Mike Laster in District F, Anna Eastman in HISD I, and Adrian Collins in HISD IX are all still their recommended choices. That leaves the Mayor’s race, which as we know was dual-endorsed in the first go-round. You’ll see it in tomorrow’s paper, and I’ll blog about it then, but the word is already out that the Chron has endorsed Annise Parker for the runoff. Yes, no twofers this time – they made a choice, and it’s the right one. More on that tomorrow.

The HCRP view of the candidates

Here, in PDF format, you will find a copy of the mailer that Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill sent out to his flock before the election. In it you will find three things of interest. One is all the ads several candidates reported spending $5000 on. Another is the official endorsement that Roy Morales got from them; he’s the only one whom they endorsed, at least at that time. They may not have trumpeted it on the internets, but they did make their feelings known the old-fashioned way. Finally, there’s the 16-question “How much do you agree with our positions?” test, which some candidates answered but quite a few did not. For the runoff elections, here’s how many questions the candidates got “right” from the GOP’s perspective:

Annise Parker – 8 out of 16
Gene Locke – Did not respond
(For comparison, Roy got all 16 “right”. Peter Brown did not respond.)

MJ Khan – 16 out of 16
Ronald Green – Did not respond
(Pam Holm got all 16 “right”.)

Stephen Costello – 4 out of 16
Karen Derr – Did not respond

Andrew Burks – 14 out of 16
Sue Lovell – Did not respond
(Griff Griffin got 14 out of 16. Keep that in mind the next time he’s on the ballot.)

Jack Christie – 12 out of 16
Jolanda Jones – Did not respond

For the two district races (A and F), only Al Hoang (16 out of 16) responded.

You can make of this whatever you want, I’m just presenting it. From my perspective, some of the questions are inconsequential, while others are very much not. Read through the questions and answers and see for yourself what you think.

Precinct analysis: City Council At Large races

Moving on to the At Large City Council races. I’m going to look at each of them here. First up, At Large #1:

Dist Cook Litt Alls Cost Derr Rodr Perk Batt ============================================================ A 1,521 1,629 397 4,806 4,144 2,087 919 439 B 1,091 679 252 1,063 1,622 1,466 3,133 1,138 C 1,340 6,626 339 4,423 2,852 1,611 826 673 D 1,689 2,994 526 2,372 3,472 2,026 2,203 2,821 E 1,903 1,287 475 4,842 2,979 2,343 1,104 725 F 1,298 779 193 1,610 1,128 1,153 553 324 G 2,056 3,039 417 8,914 4,218 1,860 1,140 630 H 684 1,309 359 1,635 3,790 3,304 585 334 I 609 671 169 999 1,017 2,976 471 640

I think this is the kind of result you get when you have a lot of candidates, none of whom have citywide name recognition, and not a whole lot of money spent, Stephen Costello somewhat excepted. Costello ran strong in Republican areas, especially District G. I presume that’s where his ads ran on cable. He also led in F and was runnerup in C. Karen Derr did well in her backyard of District H, and reasonably well in neighboring District A. She led in District D, though with a fairly modest 19% of the vote. You can see each of their paths to victory here. Costello needs to amp up his numbers in the Republican and outside the Loop districts while staying competitive in C. Derr needs to dominate the Democratic districts – she has already collected a number of endorsements that went to Herman Litt originally, plus that of the HCDP – and stay close in A and G, both of which reach inside the Loop. She should benefit from having Litt, Rick Rodriguez, and Kenneth Perkins (who as far as I can tell never filed a finance report during this cycle) out of the race. Costello had the benefit of being the only Republican candidate in Round One, and so probably shouldn’t expect too many votes to be transferred to him – he apparently has Lonnie Allsbrooks’ endorsement, judging by the appearance of Costello signs at Beer Island – but the votes he does have should be pretty solid. This one could go either way.

At Large #2:

Dist Lovell Burks Shorter Griff =================================== A 8,333 2,311 940 3,908 B 3,156 3,841 1,684 1,332 C 10,803 2,582 1,254 3,342 D 7,108 6,390 3,039 2,071 E 7,278 3,330 1,175 3,717 F 3,333 1,317 740 1,568 G 11,617 3,404 1,087 5,762 H 5,856 1,708 1,023 1,930 I 3,272 1,434 945 1,233

Not much to see here, really. Lovell came close to an outright win, with Burks and Griff having a nearly equal share of the vote against her. She had majorities in districts A, C, G, and H. She has some issues with the African-American community but still did reasonably well in B and D. I don’t see any path to victory for Andrew Burks that doesn’t include dominating those two districts, and even then it’s unclear how he gets to a majority. You never know what can happen, but I don’t see how Lovell doesn’t win next month.

At Large #4:

Dist Bradford Shafto Freeman Garmon ======================================= A 5,762 2,935 4,031 2,873 B 9,561 666 883 589 C 8,815 2,780 4,261 1,905 D 14,467 1,673 2,884 848 E 6,614 2,604 3,792 3,266 F 3,051 1,227 1,779 959 G 9,296 3,226 5,447 3,942 H 4,942 1,933 2,683 905 I 3,757 1,264 1,517 660

I’m not sure if I underestimated Bradford, overestimated Freeman, or both. It had seemed clear to me that Bradford’s name recognition was a double-edged sword for him – if it had been an unequivocal positive, he’d be our District Attorney right now. By my calculation, he ran about a point and a half behind the average Democratic judicial candidate inside the city of Houston last year, which was enough to hold him back. But if there were any lingering negative effects, it’s just not apparent in the data. He did very well in the African-American districts, easily outpacing Gene Locke in each. He performed well in the three Republican districts, carrying each one and only dropping below 40% in District A. He had a near-majority in Freeman’s home district H, and a clear majority in District I. I don’t know if things might have been different had Freeman been able to raise more money, but it doesn’t really matter. However you slice it, Bradford is Council Member-elect, and all the others who had opponents are in runoffs. You have to tip your cap to him for that.

At Large #5:

Dist Obando Christie Daniels Jones ======================================== A 2,190 8,713 944 4,544 B 843 1,002 940 8,907 C 2,522 6,322 1,532 7,844 D 1,485 1,877 2,727 14,022 E 2,333 9,040 1,143 3,978 F 1,214 3,032 625 2,304 G 2,456 14,922 1,118 5,376 H 2,752 2,536 841 4,735 I 2,156 1,478 725 3,154

When Jack Christie first entered this race, I thought he had a good chance to make things interesting. Then he posted non-existent numbers for the 30 days out report, and I thought it meant his campaign was a non-starter. And then his 8 days out report showed a bunch of spending and I had to reassess again. He showed a lot of strength in the Republican districts, and he did well in C and F besides. I get the impression that the Republican base is more excited about his candidacy than any of the other citywide races, so he should get a lot of his voters back for the overtime period. If he can bring out some new voters, or find a way to grow a little inside the Loop, he can win. Jones, like Bradford, basically maxed out in B and D; I thought it was possible for Davetta Daniels to siphon off some support from her in those districts, but she was a non-entity in B, and didn’t do that much in D. If anything, Jones was probably more hurt by Carlos Obando’s presence in H and I than Daniels’ in D. If she can shore up her support in those places, and keep Christie at arms’ length in C, she ought to win. I think she’s the favorite to win here, but I wouldn’t put it at better than 3:2 odds.

So that’s the end of these analyses. I may have one or two more things to add later. Hope you found this useful.

UPDATE: Greg brings the neighborhood data.

Khan has an announcement

Council Member and candidate for Controller MJ Khan has an announcement to make tomorrow. From his press release:

Who: Councilman M.J. Khan, Candidate for Houston City Controller

What: Press Conference on a major announcement from the M.J. Khan for City Controller campaign.

When: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. (after City Council has adjourned)

Where: Steps of Houston City Hall
901 Babgy
Houston, TX 77002

Info: Natural light and sound

I suppose that last bit is for the TV folks. My guess is that he’ll be announcing Pam Holm’s endorsement. I can’t think of anything else offhand that’s likely to occur and would qualify as a “major” announcement. No, these things are not automatic – remember, Sylvester Turner never endorsed Bill White even though you might have thought that would be natural for him to do. I could be wrong – he could just be announcing some other Republican endorsements, which may or may not be truly press conference-worthy. Or he could surprise me and announce the support of some high-profile Democrat, or some other members of Council. But if I had to place a bet, it would be on a Holm endorsement. We’ll know soon enough.

Speaking of endorsements, the HCDP made its endorsements for the runoffs. From their Facebook page:

The Harris County Democratic Party is proud to announce that it has endorsed the following candidates in the City of Houston Runoff Election, which will be held on Saturday, December 12, 2009:

RONALD GREEN for Houston City Comptroller
KAREN DERR for Houston City Council Member, At Large Place 1
JOLANDA (“JO”) JONES for Houston City Council Member, At Large Place 5
LANE LEWIS for Houston City Council Member, District A
MIKE LASTER for Houston City Council Member, District F

In the interest of party unity, the Steering Committee of the Harris County Democratic Party has elected to refrain from making an endorsement in races where two Democrats are running against each other.

In the citywide races and in District F (which you may recall voted strongly Democratic in 2008) this makes a lot of sense; it’s less clear you want to partisanize things in District A, but you do want to make sure your voters get out, so there you have it. As you’ve seen in the Controller’s race and will see tomorrow in the At Large races, improving performance in the core Democratic districts will be key to winning for them.

Corrections, clarifications, and conundrums

This is a followup to my post from this morning about the 30 days out reports. I’m sure there will be more of this stuff to come, from plenty of folks, but this is what I’ve got as of now.

– First, please be sure to see the updates I made to that post. In particular, be sure to read Martha‘s posts about the reports filed by C.O. Bradford and Roy Morales, and see my update about Phillip Garrison’s report. More generally, David Ortez has some observations about the reports as well.

– I doubt I’ll have the time to closely examine every report in detail, but I took a closer look at a couple that had oddities in them that I wanted to examine. One of them is the report of perennial candidate Michael “Griff” Griffin. Griff, who I can only speculate must really like seeing his name on a ballot, reported no contributions in either July or October, and loaned himself $1000 in April, yet he reports expenditures totaling over $3000 since the beginning of the year. He spent about $2200 before July 1 and a bit more than $800 since then. Needless to say, that doesn’t add up. I don’t know if the expenses above the $1000 loan that he declared should be considered subsequent loans to himself or if there’s something else going on, but regardless it seems to me this is the sort of thing that should be spelled out in a campaign finance report. I realize this is small potatoes, but by the same token, how hard could it be to do that?

– Along similar lines, I note that District F candidate Joe Chow reported exactly zero dollars on hand in both July and October. Yet his October report, which includes a $5000 loan to himself from June, shows that he took in less money than he spent. Now, he listed one single expenditure for the period ending June 30, a printing fee of $120, though he added some more pre-July expenditures in the October report, and given that he raised $5510 in the first six months, I’m sure he has some cash on hand, whether the loan amount is accounted for as cash on hand or not. But you can’t easily tell how much cash he has from what he reported.

– As I said, Griff’s report is small potatoes, though in the context of District F Chow’s totals are much more substantial. I’m pointing them out because they seem like such obvious red flags that I don’t quite understand why the forms weren’t simply rejected out of hand by the City Secretary. How can you leave the boxes for the totals blank, as Griff did? Davetta Daniels in At Large #5 did the same thing. At least in her case the contributions she listed outweighed the expenses, but the bottom line remains that you can’t tell at a glance what her cash on hand position is. Nor can you tell for Chow, who like Daniels appears to have several thousand dollars at his disposal. So I ask again: How is it that a form where certain required values are left blank can get accepted? If this were a web form, they wouldn’t have been allowed to submit it till those boxes were filled in. Shouldn’t the City Secretary do the same?

– Meanwhile, several candidates’ reports are still not available online. Among them are Alex Wathen and Bob Schoelkopf in District A (there’s no July form for Schoelkopf, either); Roger Bowden in B; Otis Jordan and Larry McKinzie in D; Lewis Cook, Peter Acquaro, and Robert Kane in F (no July forms for Cook or Kane, either); and Mills Worsham in G. Bear in mind that quite a few reports didn’t appear until many days after July 15, despite the fact that they had been submitted. I’m just noting this for the record, and will continue to look for them and update the spreadsheet as I find them.

– What is now available are the HISD Trustee candidates’ reports. Ericka Mellon summarizes them for us.

– One other report that isn’t there is for CM Noriega in At Large #3. I am told that unopposed candidates are not required to file a 30 days out report, or an 8 days out report, so that’s the reason for that.

– Finally, on a tangential note, Karen Derr also writes in to say that she has been producing campaign videos as well. I appreciate the update, and invite anyone else that I’ve omitted to correct me on this point.

At Large action

We’ve certainly got a fascinating Mayor’s race going on this year, with three viable candidates that can all plausibly claim a path to victory, but it seems to me that there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening in the At Large races as well. Marc Campos writes about a development that could affect one of them.

Yesterday, Commentary’s shop sent out an email announcing the supporters for Rick Rodriguez, candidate for H-Town City Council, At Large, Position 1. We will be helping him out this election season. Rodriguez is being taken very seriously. One opposing campaign asked him to consider running in At-Large, Position 4 race – no thanks. Another major interest group asked Rodriguez to run in At-Large, Position 5 – no thanks again. It is pretty obvious to Commentary that local political players know that Rodriguez has a strong base and is a force to deal with. Stay tuned!

Stace made notes of this as well. The email Campos’ shop sent included State Sen. Mario Gallegos, who I’m told made numerous calls on Rodriguez’s behalf, State Rep. and former City Council Member Carol Alvarado, and current City Council Members Ed Gonzalez and James Rodriguez, as supporters. And according to David Ortez, who attended Gene Locke’s event at Doneraki’s on Tuesday, at which Locke announced the endorsement of Gallegos, Alvarado, and several other local Latino leaders, Locke has “informally endorsed” Rodriguez as well. I wish I’d seen that before I conducted my interview with Rodriguez, who was as non-committal about his preferred candidate for Mayor as just about everyone else has been, but oh well. That’s an impressive amount of support for Rodriguez, and established him as someone to watch in a race that already has several strong candidates.

Having said that, Rodriguez still has to establish himself. He finished fourth in the District H special election, with 9.5% of the vote. He entered this race late, and reported essentially no money raised as of July 15. He has not won any endorsements yet; the Tejano Dems went with Herman Litt. All this backing puts Rodriguez on the map, and may position him to get into a runoff, but winning it would be another matter; ask Joe Trevino about that. Let’s not forget, Steve Costello raised a ton of money in the first six months, and has won several endorsements; he announced the support of the Houston Contractors Association and the Houston Apartment Association Better Government Fund today. Herman Litt starts out as a fave among many Dems for all the work he did on things like the Johnson-Rayburn-Richards dinner last year, and he came out of the gate with a lot of endorsements from establishment Dems. Karen Derr has been running longer than anyone in this race, and has raised a pretty respectable amount, though she didn’t have much cash on hand as of July 15. She has won some group endorsements as well. Lonnie Allsbrooks trails in all of these categories, but I sure see a lot of his signs in yards around where I live. Point being, this is a crowded field, and everyone in it has a base.

So I can understand the reasons why there might have been suggestions to Rodriguez that he consider another race. I’m going to guess that one reason why he might prefer At Large #1 to #s 4 or 5 is that he might not want to wind up in a runoff against an African-American candidate when there’s a strong likelihood Gene Locke will also be in a runoff for Mayor. On the other hand, a lot of the votes in this year’s runoff are likely to come from Districts A and G, and while Locke has certainly spent time courting Republican support, it’s not at all clear to me that those folks would go on to vote for C.O. Bradford and/or Jolanda Jones as well.

And that brings me to the other At Large races. Melissa Noriega in #3 is uncontested so far, and will likely get nothing more than token opposition. Pretty much everyone likes her, and nobody likes running against an incumbent, especially one with good fundraising numbers. Sue Lovell in #2 has three opponents, first-timer Roslyn Shorter plus perennials Andrew Burks and Griff Griffin. Unlike 2007, when Lovell spent a lot of her time helping Wanda Adams, James Rodriguez, and Jolanda Jones get elected and wound up in a surprisingly close race against the do-nothing Griff, Lovell is taking her re-election very seriously this time. She’s raising money like never before. I see no reason why she won’t win easily, but I daresay she won’t take anything for granted.

At Large #4 hasn’t changed from the beginning. Bradford and Noel Freeman are fairly evenly matched. Both have won some endorsements. Neither has raised a ton of money. Bradford has more name recognition, but that’s not necessarily a positive for him. I understand the logic that would go into gaming out various runoff scenarios, as described above, but I still don’t quite understand why At Large #1 has five candidates and this race has (for all intents and purposes) two. And I say that as someone who likes both of these gentlemen.

And finally, there’s At Large #5. A month or two ago, I’d have expected Jolanda Jones to cruise to re-election. Carlos Obando, whom I interviewed recently, is a nice guy and I thought he had some good things to say, but he has no money and no obvious backing, and it’s just hard to knock off an incumbent in our system; it’s only happened once since we adopted term limits. Now Jones has two more opponents, and I daresay a larger number of people who would prefer to vote for someone else, but I don’t see any of that translating into support for any one person yet. All three of her opponents have fared poorly in previous elections – Obando lost a GOP primary for HD134 last year, Davetta Daniels lost by a 2-1 margin for HISD Trustee in 2007, and the less said about Jack Christie’s abortive attempt to win this same At Large #5 seat in 2007, the better. I can envision there being enough of a not-Jolanda vote to force a runoff, and I can envision the challenger coming out on top in that scenario, but until one of these folks shows me something, like winning an endorsement that Jones has lost or getting some establishment support on his or her side, I think the smart money stays on the incumbent. Again, while I understand the reasons for running in At Large #1, I can’t help but think there’s an opening here for someone.

Endorsement watch: HGLBT Political Caucus on Controller and Council races

From Wednesday night’s meeting of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus:

The Houston Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgendered Political Caucus met on Wednesday evening to endorse candidates in the 2009 Houston municipal elections as well as HISD Board of Trustee elections.

Those candidates screened and then endorsed by majority vote of the membership assembled are:

  • Ronald Green Houston City Controller
  • Lane Lewis Houston City Council District A
  • Anne Clutterbuck Houston City Council District C
  • Wanda Adams Houston City Council District D
  • Michael Laster Houston City Council District F
  • Ed Gonzales Houston City Council District H
  • James Rodriguez Houston City Council District I
  • Herman Litt Council At Large, Position 1
  • Sue Lovell Council At Large Position 2
  • Melissa Noriega Council At Large Position 3
  • Noel Freeman Council At Large Position 4
  • Jolanda “JO” Jones Council At Large Position 5
  • Alma L. Lara HISD Trustee, District I

Previously endorsed for the Office of Mayor is the Honorable Annise Parker

No endorsements were given in Districts B, E, and G. I was there for some of this, though I was outside with the candidates and campaign managers while most of the debate took place. I’m told it was a fairly close vote for At Large #1, as Karen Derr had a decent amount of support. I did step inside for the debate over At Large #5. Carlos Obando had some supporters who spoke on his behalf, but Council Member Jolanda Jones had many more, and in the end she won the endorsement handily.

I have reprinted several press releases from candidates who received the HGLBTPC endorsement beneath the fold. Click on to see them.

UPDATE: Added one more press release.

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City campaign finance reports followup

A few things to add to last night’s post.

– Ronald Green’s numbers for City Controller are now in – my spreadsheet has been updated to reflect that. He took in $48,515 and has $32,700 on hand. Which is to say, about 10% of what each of his opponents has. You can do the math from there.

– Here’s the Chron story about the fundraising totals, which is all about the Mayor’s race. I agree with Professor Murray that the city’s Republican voters are largely up for grabs. I think even with his non-existent fundraising, Roy Morales will get his share of them – he’s basically the “none of the above” choice for these voters. I also agree with Greg that a lot of these folks may simply not turn out, though with interesting races in Districts A and G, plus a challenge to incumbent Mike Sullivan in E, I don’t think their turnout will be too dampened. It’ll be interesting to see if the Mayor’s race gets fewer votes than the Council races in those districts, however. And who knows what the effect of runoffs in A and G might have on the eventual Mayoral runoff. That may be an even bigger factor down the line.

– I’ve added in all Council incumbents to the spreadsheet, which I didn’t have time to do last night. No real surprises among the reports that were present. Anne Clutterbuck has the most cash on hand so far, while Ed Gonzalez, who was only elected a month ago, has the least. He did report over $50K raised, which I presume is since his previous report on June 5, and I am unaware of anyone currently planning to run against him, so he’s in good shape.

– Clutterbuck, who has Green Party candidate Alfred Molison (no report yet) running against her, and Sullivan are the only district Council incumbents to have opponents so far. Sullivan raised $75,550 and has $83,900 in the bank. His opponent, Phillip Garrison, raised $24,190 and has $21,085 on hand. That would make him a contender in some other races, but he trails the money race by a decent margin here.

– The At Large races are still up in the air. I’m a bit surprised at how little has been raised in At Large #4. Like Greg, I think there may be an opening in that race. I’ve said before that it was awfully late for someone to jump into a race by now, but as neither candidate has piled up a lot of cash, a late entrant would not start out as far behind. A potentially more likely scenario is for one of the #1 candidates to switch over. Neither Karen Derr nor Herman Litt, who clearly has some high profile supporters behind him, have reported yet. Given Steve Costello’s impressive haul, it would not be ridiculous for one of them to think this race has gotten a little crowded, and to contemplate other options.

– Likewise, I’m surprised at the relative lack of cash in District A. I have to assume that will pick up in the next few months. I’ll reserve judgment on F and G until I see some more reports.

– Finally, I think I’ve identified all the candidates in my spreadsheet, though of course we won’t know for sure till the filing deadline. I actually found another candidate in A while searching through the reports, a fellow named Darrell Rodriguez. If I’m missing anyone you know of, please leave a comment and tell me who it is. Thanks!

UPDATE: I’ve made a correction to the earlier post to note tha MJ Khan’s cash on hand is $353K, not $312K.

Interview with Karen Derr

Karen DerrToday we start my series of interviews for the November 2009 elections. I hope interview as many candidates for City Council, City Controller, and Mayor as possible, as well as candidates for HISD Trustee. First up is Karen Derr, who is running for the open At Large #1 seat that is being vacated by Council Member Peter Brown. Derr is a realtor and resident of the Heights and was briefly a candidate for the District H seat in the May special election. You may notice that with my migration to WordPress I’ve now got a built-in player for these interviews, but you can still get a copy of the MP3 file as well for your iPod. If I’ve done this correctly, you can subscribe to a podcast feed here. As always, please let me know what you think.

Download the MP3 file.

Rick Rodriguez to announce for At Large #1

I’d heard rumors to this effect, and now it’s official: Former District H candidate Rick Rodriguez is joining the race for At Large #1 in November. From the email announcement:

Rick Rodriguez to launch campaign for Houston City Council At-Large, Position 1.

Richard “Rick” Rodriguez is a native Houstonian and a 23-year veteran of the Houston Police Department. He is a product of public schools, attending the Houston Independent School District’s DeZavala Elementary, Edison Jr. High and Austin High School.

For 11 years, he was assigned to the Gulfton Police Storefront where he worked on the front lines in community-oriented policing. In addition to regularly riding bicycle patrol in this neighborhood, he served as the primary liaison officer to many businesses, civics, schools and church organizations. He is currently the president of the Houston Police Organization of Spanish Speaking Officers, a title held since 2007.

“I am running to be the next Council Member for At-Large Position 1 to continue my career in public service in a capacity that will allow me to directly serve all our communities. I look forward to crafting a detailed plan of action in partnership with the leaders of our city.”

He will formally launch his campaign for City Council At-Large, Position 1 on July 2, 2009 at Casa Grande Restaurant located at 3401 N. Main at 6:00 PM.

Rodriguez joins a field that includes Herman Litt, Lonnie Allsbrooks, Steve Costello, and fellow former District H candidate Karen Derr. I presume he’ll update his website shortly.

Another contender for At Large #1

The following press release hit my Inbox today:

Lonnie Allsbrooks announced his intent to become candidate for At-Large Position 1 for the City of Houston.

Lonnie Allsbrooks, a successful small business owner from the Heights, has decided to run for the City of Houston At large Position 1. As a resident of Houston for the past 38 years, Lonnie Allsbrooks has come to value and appreciate this community, but has realized there is the potential for growth and change.

Lonnie stated, “The reason I am running for this position is to give the people of Houston a representative that is fair, honest, and genuinely willing to take the time to listen to the needs of the citizens of this community. I am that person.”

Lonnie Allsbrooks currently resides in the Heights where he owns and operates his small business, Beer Island. He is also in the process of opening a small café in the Heights called The Trail Mix. After the encouragement and support from other small business owners, Lonnie is excited about his decision to run for city council and the possibility of making a difference in the Houston community.

Beer Island, for those not familiar with it, is on the southeast corner of Studewood and White Oak, catty-corner from Fitzgerald’s. I attended a meeting of the Woodland Heights Civic Association a couple of years back after Beer Island and its across-Studewood neighbor the Sixth Street Bar and Grill opened at which the topic of discussion was the loud live music being played at those locations. I live about six blocks away, and there was one night I recall where I could sing along with the band from my front porch. The meeting was a bit contentious, but in the end everything appears to have been worked out – at least, I’m not aware of any current complaints, and I’ve not heard any more music from either of those location. That’s all I know about Lonnie Allsbrooks, who joins a field that includes Herman Litt, Steve Costello, and fellow Heights resident Karen Derr.

Litt announces for At Large #1

Former HCC Trustee Herman Litt has been a potential candidate for City Council this year for some time. Last night, in an email to Carl Whitmarsh’s list, he made his official announcement:

I am announcing my decision to run for City Council At-Large Position 1 and hope that you will help let everyone know of my plans.

I am a native Houstonian with a masters degree in psychology and rehabilitation counseling. My career has included developing and managing programs for the physically disabled, drug and alcohol abuse, and mental health experiences in business development and hospital based administration. I directed the efforts of business and industry and other area agencies in the Job Fair for the Handicapped.

Elected to the Houston Community College Board in 1999, I was fortunate to serve for six years and was elected Chairman of the Board in 2004. Achievements included economic and community development projects, the first Early College/High School collaboration with the Houston Independent School District, adopting LEED’s standards for new building projects, and reaching out to underserved communities to increase enrollment, and calling for a performance audit by the State Comptroller that identified about $31 million in projected saving for tax payers over a five year period.

More recently I have served several years as a board member & president of Southwest Houston 2000, a coalition of civic groups and community organizations working and dedicated to improving the quality of life through economic development, crime prevention, and safety and security in the Fondren Southwest area of Houston.

For the past two years I have chaired the annual Johnson-Rayburn-Richards Dinner, helping raise funds for the Democratic Party and helping elect our Democratic office holders in the county elections. Last year’s Dinner was the most successful ever, having the highest attendance in history (1,110).

I believe there are some key issues which are very important to the city of Houston and will be an integral part of my campaign. Crime Prevention and safe neighborhoods are a must if we are to progress as a city and ensure that our residents are safe.

Economic development & jobs is another issue which has become even more significant as we face our current economic crisis. We must encourage increased development in the city which will lead to more badly needed revenue for the city budget and increase job opportunities for our residents.

I am a proponent of a regional approach to government, where the city, county and other government entities come together to collaborate on funding solutions to problems such as crime, mobility, economic development, etc. I have always been committed to other quality of life issues such as clean air and beautification of our city.

Houston is one of the great cities of America. I want to serve on City Council to help find ways to make it even better, a place where all of its residents will be able to take part in the vast array of opportunities that exist here.

Litt joins Karen Derr and Steve Costello in seeking this seat. He last ran for District C in 2005, finishing just out of the money. Litt’s email included a fair number of people who will be supporting him, so I think he’ll be a strong contender for this seat.

Derr to run for At Large #1

As we know, City Council hopeful Karen Derr missed the official filing deadline for the District H special election, and thus will not be on the ballot on May 9. Anyone who has driven through the Heights lately has observed that she had quite a few visible supporters, and from what I know many of them had been urging her to try a write-in candidacy. According to a press release dated March 9 on her website (which I didn’t get but others clearly did), she has decided to run for At Large #1 in November instead. From the release:

After much encouragement from supporters of the Karen Derr Campaign for City Council District H., Karen Derr has decided to continue her dream as a public servant to the City of Houston by running for a vacant At-Large position. Many of her supporters have asked that she continue to run and be a voice at the City Council table for all of Houston neighborhoods.

Karen Derr stated, “I have been working hard for years visiting civic clubs, organizations, and most importantly-talking with everyday people about the issues that concern them. I believe that a Council Member should truly represent all people and serve with responsive government. As your next At-Large Councilmember, I am ready and committed to improve our quality of life, provide efficient quality constituent services and fight crime in our streets.”

There’s now a Facebook group for her redirected campaign and her campaign website has been updated. I think this is a better choice than the write-in route, though that could have raised the interesting question of whether or not a write-in candidate who makes it to a runoff gets listed on the ballot for the runoff; I haven’t combed through the Elections code sufficiently to try to find an answer to that. I expect she’ll have to answer questions about how she managed to miss the filing deadline for the May election, probably many times. I don’t know how big a deal that will be to voters. I do know that the filing deadline for the November election is Wednesday, September 3 at 5 PM – assuming there are no special elections to be held in November, that date will be true for everyone – and that I recommend all candidates take care of that piece of business well in advance of the deadline, just in case. (Houston Politics says “mid to late August, according to the City Secretary’s office”; I’m not sure where they’re getting that from, but the point about filing early remains. Checking with them to be sure is also a good idea.) There are two other potential candidates of which I’m aware for At Large #1, former HCC Trustee and 2005 candidate for District C Herman Litt, and Steve Costello, who is the head of the Memorial Park Conservancy. I’m sure there will be more when all is said and done.

Derr misses filing deadline

Yesterday was the filing deadline for the District H special election. Usually, that brings a last-minute surprise in the form of an unexpected candidate. This time, it brought a different kind of surprise.

As one of the first people to declare her candidacy to replace Adrian Garcia in the District H City Council seat, Karen Derr seemed to have lined up all her ducks in a row.

Until today.

The Realtor and potential candidate apparently forgot to file her papers with the City Secretary by yesterday’s deadline.

Oops.

Officially filing the paperwork in candidacy 101. Derr had done everything else by the book. She started a website (which was just taken down), appointed her husband treasurer, and had a high name ID thanks to her real estate business. The City Secretary’s list does not show Derr, and that is a major break for Maverick Welsh, the former Chief of Staff for Council Member Peter Brown.

That’s a shame, and I feel bad for Karen. She’d certainly been an active campaigner – there’s a ton of her yard signs in my neighborhood, and we’ve been contacted twice by her team, once on the phone and once at the door. Nobody else has done that yet. I hadn’t made up my mind who was going to get my vote in this election, but she was certainly on the list of possibilities. Her departure makes my decision a little easier, but it’s still a shame.

KHOU has more.

Derr tells 11 News that she thought the city’s deadline matched a state deadline for special elections, which is not until later this month.

“To tell you the truth, we’ve been out with a very grassroots campaign on the trail and going to three and four meetings a day,” she said. “We dropped the ball, evidently.”

“You dust yourself off, and you try again,” she said.

She added that supporters are urging her to either mount a write-in campaign or run for an At-Large seat in November. Derr says she has not yet made a decision, nor is she ready to endorse another candidate.

I doubt she’ll do the write-in thing. There’s just no percentage in it. I do have a feeling she’ll be getting a bunch of calls from other candidates, as an endorsement from her ought to carry some weight. I’ve got a statement from Derr beneath the fold.

So with Derr out, who’s left? It’s still a long list.

The order on the ballot, which was determined by a drawing according to a longstanding tradition set up by the city secretary, is as follows: Edward “Ed” Gonzalez, Lupe Garcia, Gonzalo Camacho, Hugo Mojica, Larry Williams, Maverick Welsh, James Partsch-Galvan, Yolanda Navarro Flores and Rick Rodriguez.

Williams ran against Adrian Garcia in 2005 and got 22% of the vote. Partsch-Galvan has run in multiple elections before, including in 2005 against Shelley Sekula Gibbs, getting 27%. The other candidates had all been actively running for awhile and had participated in the first candidate forum.

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Council campaign miscellania

Just some notes and news about various Council campaign activities, collected and collated into one convenient location for you…

Karen Derr will have an “old fashioned patriotic grand opening” of her campaign headquarters, which happens to be her house in the Heights. The event is this Saturday, February 28, from 2 to 4, at 448 Columbia (map). For more information, call Lance Marshall at 281-702-6367. Derr also has a podcast up on her site, for those of you who want to hear from her and can’t wait for my interview.

Also this Saturday, from 2 to 5, is a house party for Maverick Welsh, at the home of Shannon Bishop and Kevin Jeffries, at 829 Allston (map).

If you’re looking for something before then, there will be a fundraiser for Yolanda Navarro Flores this Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:00 at Rico’s Triangle Cafe, 4002 North Main (map). There’s a Facebook event for it, or contact Marisol with Campos Communications, 713 861 2244, marisol@camposcommunications.com.

Finally for District H, while I missed posting the info about a fundraiser for Ed Gonzalez that took place this past Friday, you can help him with blockwalking any weekend from 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Show up at the headquarters on 415 Fairbanks St (map) or call Jason Cisneroz at 832 368 2042 for more info. We got our door knocked by the Derr campaign yesterday; I’m curious to see which others come by between now and May.

And in news from other districts, Carl Whitmarsh sent out word that there is another Democratic contender for District A, a fellow named Lane Lewis, who is an educator and resident of Oak Forest. That’s all I know about him at this point.

That’s what I know at this time. What are you hearing?

Shady Acres candidate forum report

I attended the District H candidate forum that was presented by the Shady Acres Civic Club last night. Eight candidates were in attendance: Gonzalo Camacho, Karen Derr, Yolanda Navarro Flores, Lupe Garcia, Ed Gonzalez, Hugo Mojica, Rick Rodriguez, and Maverick Welsh. That makes the logistics a bit unwieldy, but the Shady Acres folks and moderator Nancy Wilcox did a good job of keeping things on track and moving. You can see photos of all the participants here along with a list of questions they were all asked; the questions were sent to them in advance, and some of them have submitted written answers as well – there are links on the sidebar to those answers.

I’m just going to give general impressions here. I thought the candidates generally came off pretty well. Nobody made me cringe or wonder what they were doing up there, as was the case with a couple of non-entity candidates (neither of whom was ultimately on the ballot) at a Mayoral forum our neighborhood association hosted back in 2003. There was a lot of agreement among them as they answered the questions that were posed to them. This was partly an artifact of the limited time they had to answer the questions (90 seconds each), and partly because the candidates are not too far apart in outlook and ideology. There is a broad range of backgrounds and experiences among them – the candidates include cops, lawyers, teachers, realtors, civil engineers, and business owners – and it’s clear they have different priorities and approaches. But at this stage of the game, there wasn’t that much dissonance among them. I assume that will change for the runoff, at least to some extent, but for now things were very civil and pleasant.

We’re about ten weeks out from the start of early voting. This is going to be a low-turnout affair, so it’s really important to try and get to know these folks, because with such a big field and with many of them having some base of support to begin with, it’s impossible to say who might make the runoff. There are at least two more candidate forums coming up that I know of, one of which will be held by the Greater Heights Democratic Club in March. I really urge everyone in H to make an effort to attend some event or meeting or whatever where these candidates will be and ask them whatever questions you may have. The odds are good they have been or will be at your neighborhood association’s meetings. The difference between making the runoff and not will likely be measured in something like a few dozen votes, so make sure your voice gets heard.

I will be conducting interviews with all these candidates starting next month. I still have to figure out who I’ll be voting for. In the meantime, take a look at the Shady Acres page and the candidates’ answers that they have so far and get acquainted with them. It’ll be time to vote before you know it.

District H candidate forum in Shady Acres

The following came to me via Facebook:

The Shady Acres Civic Club is hosting a Candidate Forum for District H. We would like to have an opportunity for community members to meet and hear candidates\’ vision for our neighborhood. We will also have specific questions that we will ask candidates to address as well an opportunity for them to give us an overview of their position. The Shady Acres Civic Club is inviting the Greater Heights and the press.

February 17 from 7 to 8 pm
at the SPJST Lodge Annex 1435 Beall Street
(At W. 15th Street )

Sam Jow
SACC Web/Secretary

Details and a map can be found here. Five candidates have confirmed their attendance as of this writing: Gonzalo Camacho, Karen Derr, Ed Gonzalez, Hugo Mojica, and Maverick Welsh. I’m going to try to be there as well.

Locke files his treasurer’s report

Former City Attorney Gene Locke has filed his treasurer’s report for the Mayor’s race. I’ve got his press release beneath the fold. He was joined in doing so by City Controller Annise Parker and (be still my heart!) Roy Morales, who says he plans to “merely raise money with which to explore the idea of running”. And if that isn’t a vision that will have them swooning in the aisles, I don’t know what is.

There are two other hopefuls who have not yet filed their reports. One is Council Member Peter Brown, whom everyone knows is running. The other is another former City Attorney, Benjamin Hall, who apparently was about to announce his entry into the race until he got a phone call from Locke. What happened isn’t clear, but Locke has made his announcement, and Hall as yet has not. And a lot of people I know are talking about it.

Today’s Chron talks about how the Mayor’s race keeps starting earlier and earlier – in 1991, Bob Lanier and Sylvester Turner made their announcements in the summer, and that was to challenge an incumbent, Kathy Whitmire. The story also notes that former Gov. Mark White is apparently “still strongly considering entering the race”, which is the first I can recall hearing of him in awhile. I really don’t see what his path to victory is, but stranger things have happened.

And finally, a note on campaign tactics:

When the Internet was not yet in general use, Lanier and Turner used debates, news coverage and heavy advertising on TV and radio to promote their candidacies.

This year’s contenders will use those tools and go far beyond, [Rice University political scientist Bob] Stein said, following the Obama campaign’s use of on-line networking and fundraising, as well as using computerized data about voting habits and other demographics to identify and contact likely supporters.

Building word of mouth through Facebook, Twitter and other online avenues, along with the “micro-targeting” of voters, takes time that most previous mayoral campaigns never allowed, according to Stein.

I’ve got invitations to join Facebook groups for Annise Parker and Peter Brown, though I haven’t taken either of them up yet. If any other candidates have such things going for them at this time, I’ve not gotten notice of them. Both Annise Parker and Roy Morales are on Twitter, though neither has done much with it – Parker has tweeted three times total, Morales has been silent since January 15. The campaigns may be starting earlier, but that doesn’t mean all aspects of them are geared up.

At the City Council level, District H candidate Ed Gonzalez takes the early lead in the social networking race, as he’s the first of that group (that I know of) to get on Twitter. Which he used to announce his new blog. Karen Derr has had one of those for awhile, but as far as I know Ed’s the only one on Twitter. Both of them, plus Maverick Welsh and Hugo Mojica, are on Facebook. I’m sure things will get going more quickly in this race, given the much shorter time frame for it.

UPDATE: Over in Austin, mayoral hopeful Carole Keeton Strayhorn is thrilled about the grassroots twitter. I don’t think I can add anything to that.

UPDATE: And you can add Maverick Welsh to Twitter.

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Derr files, Bradford contemplates

Karen Derr made her treasurer’s report filing on Thursday last week, becoming at least the second candidate for District H to do so. I know that Maverick Welsh has filed his report, and I know that as of Friday, Ed Gonzalez had not yet done so but would likely do it this week. Beyond that, I don’t know anyone else’s status. I think I may place a call to the City Secretary’s office this week to inquire about who has filed, and to ask why I can’t find that information online. It sure would be handy to have. I’ve reproduced a press release from Derr’s campaign beneath the fold. I figure with the opening of fundraising season a week from now, we’ll start to get a lot more action on this front.

In the meantime, I heard a report on Saturday that former HPD Chief and candidate for District Attorney CO Bradford is contemplating a run for an At Large City Council seat. Isaih Carey has now blogged about this – he’s looking at At Large #4, currently held by Ron Green, for which Noel Freeman has already filed his papers. As with all such contemplations, this may turn out to be nothing, but Bradford has been talked about as a citywide candidate before, and he would clearly be a strong contender for that seat. So we’ll see what happens.

One more report I heard on Saturday, which Carl Whitmarsh reminded me of in an email he sent out about his birthday party, which is where I heard both of these things, is that there’s another contender looking at District A: attorney Jeffrey Downing. He joins Bob Schoelkopf in expressing interest in that seat, and if Carl’s reaction is any indication, he’ll get the bulk of the Democratic support for that race. Which, as I’ve said, is enough to make a race of it in that district. This is going to be a fun year.

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