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Ken Legler

RIP, State Rep. Ken Legler

Very sad news.

Rep. Ken Legler

State Rep. Ken Legler, R-Pasadena, passed away Friday, according to the Texas House speaker’s office. He was 54.

The cause of death is believed to be a heart attack, according to his office.

Legler was first elected to represent part of Harris County in 2008. He announced in March that he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Legler was president of Houston Wire Works in South Houston. Before his election, he served as chairman of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency National Advisory Board and on the boards of the Texas Association of Business and the National Federation of Independent Business.

Legler’s survivors include his wife, Barbara, three children and one grandchild.

My sincere condolences to Rep. Legler’s family and friends. BOR has a statement from Mary Ann Perez, Democratic nominee for HD-144, and you can see a lot of other tributes and reactions on Twitter. Rest in peace, Rep. Legler.

Filings and un-filings

Tomorrow is the re-filing deadline, the last day that candidates have to jump into a district that now looks good to them, or to withdraw from one that no longer does. There is still a possibility of further map changes, however, which would require yet another filing period and almost certainly another delay to the primaries. The reason for this is that there are still unsettled issues with the DC court, and its ruling could make their San Antonio counterparts go back to the drawing board one more time.

I just wanted to post this picture one more time

In the ongoing redistricting saga, the Washington, D.C., court asked for briefs by March 13 on Congressional District 25, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. The three-judge panel seems to be struggling with a contentious issue that has divided plaintiffs’ groups suing the state in a San Antonio federal court over redistricting maps drawn by the Legislature last year; the plaintiffs say the maps are racially and ethnically discriminatory.

At issue is whether District 25 is a minority district protected by the Voting Rights Act or a white district that would not require protection. Some plaintiffs in the redistricting fight argue that Hispanics and blacks join with whites in District 25 to elect a candidate of their choice, while other plaintiffs say it is a majority Anglo district that has long elected Doggett, a white Democrat.

If the D.C. court issues an opinion saying that District 25 deserves protection, it could throw Texas’ election schedule into turmoil again. That’s because the San Antonio court adopted the Legislature’s boundaries for District 25 in drawing the congressional map to be used for this year’s elections.

Assuming the D.C. court will allow enough time to produce new maps by March 31, the San Antonio court could redraw new boundaries for District 25 and the surrounding districts, said Michael Li, a redistricting expert and author of a Texas redistricting blog. But because of tight timetables, any changes would force the court to push back the primary until June 29, almost four months after the original date of March 6.

But if the D.C. court does not allow for new maps to be drawn by March 31, then the primary would have to be pushed back to July with a runoff in September — a move that would be problematic because of general election deadlines, Li said.

There is another — perhaps more likely — option if the Washington court has problems with District 25: The San Antonio judges could shrug off their colleagues in Washington and simply say that they’ll make changes to a remedial map for the 2014 elections.

Michael Li has more on that here and here. It is my non-lawyer’s opinion that the DC court is going to find substantial problems with the Lege-drawn maps, most of which have not been corrected in the interim maps. However, I don’t think their required changes will be made for this election. Still, what I’ve been telling people lately is that until we actually start voting, anything can happen.

Until then, however, one of the effects of the court-ordered maps was to convince CD10 candidate Dan Grant to drop out. Here’s his statement:

Today, Dan Grant, Congressional candidate in the 10th District of Texas, announced he will withdraw from the race citing the most recent changes to the district lines made by the San Antonio Federal Court.

“In the latest version of Congressional maps the 10th District has been redrawn to solidly protect Congressman McCaul. This latest iteration of CD-10 is the same as in the illegal map drafted by the Republican-controlled state legislature last year whose primary goal was to disenfranchise minority voters, dilute Democratic voting strength, and protect Republican incumbents,” Dan Grant said.

“I will continue to do all that I can to support the principles of our campaign: real representation for all Americans, a government that is focused on the people and not on personal politics, and working for the future of our great country. The support that our campaign received shows that all Texans are hungry for these principles, and I’ll continue to work for them,” he added.

“I cannot thank enough all the people who have made this effort possible: my family, friends, supporters and allies. This rested on their shoulders, and I’m deeply grateful for and humbled by what they’ve given.”

Here’s a comparison of CD10 as it is under the 2003 map and as it will be under the interim map:

Plan McCain Obama Wainwright Houston =========================================== Current 54.8 44.0 52.5 44.0 C235 56.2 42.6 53.1 43.2

Not that much redder, but just enough to make an already-daunting task look impossible. If the DC court doesn’t intervene for this year, there’s always 2014.

As Grant looks to the future, a fellow former Congressional candidate gets in to a different race this year. Former CD21 candidate John Courage sent out an email announcing that he had filed for the State Senate. From his email:

I am running for the Texas Senate for District 25.

I am running in opposition to everything Perry, Dewhurst and Abbott have espoused and forced on us. I am running for a stronger, better public education system for all Texans; for a healthcare system that protects our most vulnerable citizens – our children and our seniors, and for the right of every Texas woman to have access to the healthcare she needs and wants. I will fight for a real Citizens Commission for Redistricting our legislative boundaries, to take the process out of the hands of the self-serving politicians who are only interested in their own reelection. I am running to change the way we do business in the Texas Senate, to change the good old boy, back slapping, backroom deal making, that has corrupted our Legislature.

This is the tip of the iceberg I want to take to Austin, and with your help and support we will make it happen.

SD25 is currently held by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, who is frankly not that bad from a Dem perspective. He’s that nearly-extinct subspecies known as the pro-choice Republican – he actually voted against the awful sonogram bill, which would have been enough to derail it if one of Sens. Eddie Lucio, Judith Zaffirini, or Carlos Uresti had had the decency to join him. It would not be the worst thing in the world for Wentworth to return to the Senate. But he’s got opposition from the radical wing of the GOP, and could well be knocked off in the primary. Even in a district that voted 61% for McCain in 2008, you can’t let that go unchallenged.

By the way, the TDP is tracking filings that it has received here; sort it by date to see what’s new. Note that most filings take place with the respective county party office, so don’t sweat not seeing a given name. The most interesting addition to the pool of candidates on that list so far is former State Rep. Dora Olivo, who lost to Rep. Ron Reynolds in the HD27 primary in 2010 and who has thrown her hat into the ring for the new HD85.

More good news on the State House side of things as former Rep. Joe Moody will try to win back HD78. Moody defeated Rep. Dee Margo by a fairly comfortable margin in 2008, then got caught up in the 2010 wave. The redrawn district was won by all statewide Dems in 2008, so Moody should have an excellent shot at taking the tie-breaker. It was a bit of a question if he’s run in HD78, however, because the interim map drew him out of it and into HD77, which gave rise to some speculation that Moody would stay there and primary freshman Rep. Marissa Marquez. But he chose to fight it out in his old district, which I think everyone was rooting for him to do. Here’s his statement on getting back in.

Finally, here’s a little quiz for you. The following are the 2008 numbers for a couple of mystery State House districts. See if you can guess which is which:

Dist McCain Obama Wainwright Houston ======================================== "A" 51.45 47.94 42.24 54.68 "B" 51.04 47.95 43.02 54.53

Figured it out yet? District “A” is HD43, in which the turncoat Rep. JM Lozano decided he’d be better off running as a Republican. District “B” is HD144, in which two-term Rep. Ken Legler decided he couldn’t win it as a Republican.

State Rep. Ken Legler, R-Pasadena, has decided to pack it in. The two-term incumbent from District 144 in southeast Harris County announced today that he would not seek reelection in 2012. He blamed the redistricting controversy for his decision.

“Those that know me know I do not back down from a fight,” Legler said in a statement. “I seem to always enter a contest as the underdog and exit the victor. I have no reason to believe that 2012 would be any different. However, the sad fact is that the Federal Court has seen fit to give me a district that will be a constant electoral struggle every two years throughout the decade. That is a political distraction from legislative responsibilities that I choose not to accept.”

I’ll leave it to you to decide who’s the genius and who’s the chump. Burka reacts to Legler’s decision. I had said that I was hoping for former HD43 Rep. Juan Escobar to jump in against Lozano. I won’t get that, but according to the Trib, former Rep. Yvonne Gonzales Toureilles, who was another 2010 wipeout in HD35, will take up the challenge. As that Trib story notes, HDs 43 and 35 were paired, so YGT should be on familiar ground. This is obviously now a top priority for Dems, so it’s good to have an experienced candidate in place.

Three for HD144, Lee for HCDE

Since Monday night, I have heard of three people who are interested in running for HD144, the State Rep district that was drawn to favor the election of a Democrat by the San Antonio court. For the record, the 2008 numbers in HD144 are as follows:

President: Obama 53.16%, McCain 45.92%

Senate: Noriega 59.25%, Cornyn 38.89%

Supreme Court, Place 7: Houston 59.01%, Wainwright 38.87%

Supreme Court, Place 8: Yanez 59.57%, Johnson 38.43%

CCA, Place 3: Strawn 58.06%, Price 39.79%

Two candidates have filed for this seat and a third announced that he was running, though his announcement came before the two filings were announced. The first to announce a filing was Kevin Risner, son of George Risner, the Democratic JP in Precinct 2. The second was Pasadena City Council Member Ornaldo Ybarra, whose statement is beneath the fold. Finally, there is Cody Wheeler, who made an announcement and put out this statement, but as of last night had not filed. I look forward to meeting and interviewing these gentlemen, and may the best person win, including any others who may yet be looking at this district.

In other Harris County news, Erica Lee, daughter of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, has filed to run for HCDE Trustee in Precinct 1. She is the first Democrat to file for this position, the single easiest pickup opportunity for Democrats in Harris County next year, and whoever wins the primary will be virtually guaranteed to win in November. That person will not face incumbent Roy Morales, however, as he has undoubtedly done the math and will head off to the sunset and future opportunities to run for something. He wasn’t on the ballot this year and he may not be on it next year – I have no idea what this world is coming to. I am aware of at least one other person who had expressed an interest in this seat, but so far Erica Lee, whom I met briefly at the petition signing event the week of Thanksgiving (though I did not make the connection to her mother), is it. Stace has more.

I should note that we have two candidates for the at large HCDE position currently held by the ridiculous Michael Wolfe – Diane Trautman and David Rosen have both filed. There is also a Precinct 3 position for HCDE that does not have a Democratic challenger. I have heard that incumbent Republican Louis Evans is not running again, so while this would not be a likely pickup opportunity it seems to me that it deserves a candidate, since who knows what kind of candidate will emerge on the R side. For that matter, it would be nice to have a serious challenger to County Commissioner Steve Radack. Yeah, I know, I’d like a pony, too. Hey, wishes are still free.

Meanwhile, over in Fort Bend County, attorney Vy Nguyen has announced her candidacy for HD26, the multi-cultural district that was drawn to be nearly 50/50 by the court. Her statement is here. It’s fair to say that the Democratic road towards a House majority will go right through that district.

Finally, a semi-comprehensive list of Democratic filings from around the state can be found here. I see that Sylvia Romo has made it official, so we will have that contested primary over there. If you’re aware of any filing news I’ve missed, please let us know in the comments.

UPDATE: According to Robert Miller, HCC Trustee Mary Ann Perez is also interested in HD144, while incumbent Rep. Ken Legler has not decided if he will file for re-election.

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More map feedback

In addition to AG Abbott’s pitiful whining, a few other parties have been heard from regarding the interim legislative map. First, Speaker Joe Straus performs his duty as a Republican. Here’s his statement:

“As the panel of three federal judges prepares to issue its ruling on district lines for the Texas House of Representatives, I hope that the judges will take into account the will of the people of Texas as expressed by their elected representatives.

“I, along with many Members of the House, have strong concerns that the initial map released by the court last week goes much further than is necessary to correct any perceived legal defects in the recently-adopted redistricting plan.

“Members of the Texas House approved a redistricting plan that is fair and that the State’s lawyers have advised us is legal. Even if the panel of judges concludes that the new lines violate federal law in some respects, their role should be limited to making as few revisions as possible to cure those perceived defects, instead of making wholesale changes to the duly elected map.

“If the final order of the court is not substantially closer to the plan we passed, I will urge the Attorney General to seek an immediate stay from the U.S. Supreme Court so that several issues under the Voting Rights Act can be clarified before the federal judges impose their new map on Texas voters for the 2012 elections.”

Blah blah blah mean ol’ Republican-appointed activist judges…Clearly we need some other activist judges to step in and correct the error made by some other activist judges who did something we don’t like. Even if that means moving back the primaries, which wouldn’t be disruptive at all. The irony of this is that the court-drawn map is likely to be friendlier to Straus’ re-election as Speaker than the one the Lege drew. But certain ritualistic obligations must be met.

Meanwhile, Burka notes that various Republican legislators are none too happy with Abbott’s office for their role in pushing preclearance to the DC court and for losing the battle to get summary judgment. He also has some whining from doomed Republican HD144 incumbent Ken Legler. In that same post, he suggests that there may be some discontent on the D side as well:

Mike Hailey’s Capitol Inside reports that African-American members and support groups are not happy with the court-drawn maps either, which involve significant changes to districts that break up communities of interest.

African-Americans who’ve been involved in the court fight over redistricting that Democrats and minority groups have been waging contend that the House map that a pair of federal judges in San Antonio proposed last week is inferior from their perspective to the plan that the Republican-controlled Legislature approved earlier this year.

This has the potential to turn into a nasty fight–not just R’s against D’s, but also blacks against browns. Hispanics are the clear winners to this point, and African Americans (and, of course, anglo Republicans) saw their communities of interest disrupted for no obvious Voting Rights Act purpose. I don’t see how this often-arbitrary map can withstand a trial on the merits.

That sounds pretty bad, until you read the brief that was filed by the NAACP-Jefferson plaintiff-intervenors. They ask for a grand total of 42 precincts (I counted) to be interchanged in Dallas and Harris Counties, mostly between neighboring African-American districts – 23 of the 42 precincts in all. Seventeen precincts, all in Harris County, would be swapped between African-American and Latino districts (this includes HD137, which has a Latino voting majority if not a Latino representative) and exactly two precincts between a Democratic district and a Republican district (HDs 146 and 134). In other words, these changes are pretty darned unlikely to affect the partisan balance that might result from Plan H298. In addition, there’s this footnote on page 3:

We understand that the State has mis-used the constructive comment of the NAACP-Jefferson plaintiff-intervenors in unwarranted attacks on the Court’s efforts. We wish to disassociate ourselves from such criticism. While we regard these changes as exceedingly important, indeed essential, to a racially fair redistricting plan, we understand the virtual inevitability of unintended circumstances, especially in such a short time period.

In other words, they may both be asking for changes, but they have very different reasons for doing so. I fully expect that there will be some changes to the interim map, but I do not expect them to be more than tweaks like what the NAACP-Jefferson plaintiff-intervenors have offered. You’ve got to figure we’ll know soon enough. For that matter, you’ve got to figure there’s a Congressional map in there somewhere. I don’t mean to rush you, Your Honors, but, um, tick tock.

UPDATE: Michael Li explains what must happen for the Supreme Court to step in and put a halt to the implementation of the interim maps.

First impressions of the new maps

Before I get too into this, the invaluable Texas Redistricting reminds us that the parties in the lawsuit will be able to make objections and comments to the proposed maps today at noon. Meaning, there may yet be some tweaks to come.

Until then, this is what we have. I have 2008 electoral data for the House here and for the Senate here. The Trib has some nice pictures of the maps here, Greg has a Harris County view here, Stace has a look at his neck of the woods here, and Texas Redistricting notes all of the pairings here. My opening thoughts:

– The Senate map is not very different from the one we had coming into 2011. Sen. Wendy Davis, whose statement about the proposed maps can be seen here, gets a district she can win but will have to work hard to do it. Note that SD09 is also somewhat purple in hue, though redder than SD10. It’s certainly worthy of a challenge. I don’t have much to add to this, just to note that Dems would have a puncher’s chance of maintaining 12 seats. No guarantees, but they’re in much better shape for it than they were when they started.

– By my count in the House there are 60 seats that Democrats should have some reasonable expectation of winning:

Dist County Incumbent Obama Houston ========================================= 22 Jefferson Deshotel 68.8 72.6 23 Galveston Eiland 47.8 54.3 27 Fort Bend Reynolds 68.8 68.6 31 Webb Guillen 77.1 80.7 33 Nueces Torres(R) 49.8 55.4 34 Nueces Scott(R) 49.8 55.3 35 Hidalgo Aliseda(R) 63.3 65.0 36 Hidalgo Munoz 72.8 75.1 37 Cameron Oliveira 67.5 69.7 38 Cameron Lucio 64.7 67.0 39 Hidalgo Martinez 72.3 74.6 40 Hidalgo Pena(R) 74.8 77.4 41 Hidalgo Gonzales 57.0 59.7 42 Webb Raymond 70.8 76.5 43 S Texas Lozano 51.6 57.9 46 Travis Dukes 76.6 74.6 48 Travis Howard 60.7 56.7 49 Travis Naishtat 73.9 69.5 50 Travis Strama 59.6 56.6 51 Travis Rodriguez 80.6 77.9 54 Bell Aycock(R) 60.6 60.4 74 Maverick Gallego 57.9 61.3 75 El Paso Quintanilla 74.1 75.4 76 El Paso Gonzalez 74.7 77.5 77 El Paso Marquez 60.8 62.6 78 El Paso Margo(R) 58.3 60.0 79 El Paso Pickett 64.8 67.4 80 Uvalde T. King 51.9 56.8 90 Tarrant Burnam 66.8 68.7 93 Tarrant Nash(R) 62.1 62.4 95 Tarrant Veasey 79.2 79.3 100 Dallas E. Johnson 87.6 87.7 103 Dallas Anchia 60.5 61.9 104 Dallas Alonzo 68.2 70.8 105 Dallas H-Brown(R) 49.7 51.6 107 Dallas Sheets(R) 65.6 66.9 109 Dallas Giddings 74.2 74.7 110 Dallas Caraway 80.8 81.7 111 Dallas Y.Davis 73.8 74.3 116 Bexar M-Fischer 59.6 59.4 117 Bexar Garza(R) 53.7 54.2 118 Bexar Farias 53.7 56.3 119 Bexar Gutierrez 58.2 59.7 120 Bexar McClendon 64.9 64.5 123 Bexar Villarreal 59.2 58.9 124 Bexar Menendez 59.4 59.6 125 Bexar Castro 57.7 58.5 131 Harris Allen 80.7 81.1 137 Harris Hochberg 60.3 60.7 139 Harris Turner 75.9 76.1 140 Harris Walle 70.0 73.8 141 Harris Thompson 72.7 73.4 142 Harris Dutton 77.3 78.9 143 Harris Luna 60.2 66.9 144 Harris Legler(R) 53.2 59.0 145 Harris Alvarado 61.6 65.7 146 Harris Miles 81.2 80.8 147 Harris Coleman 81.0 79.2 148 Harris Farrar 59.0 62.4 149 Harris Vo 55.2 55.5

Note the post above about pairings, and note also that Reps. Gallego and Castro are planning to run for Congress as things stand right now. Harris County remains with 24 seats, but instead of Reps. Hochberg and Vo being paired, Rep. Beverley Woolley was “paired” with Rep. Jim Murphy. I put “paired” in quotes because of course Woolley is retiring, and what they really did was eliminate HD136 – it’s now in Waller and Montgomery Counties – and give Murphy a stronger red district. The Harris split as I see it is now 13D – the twelve existing incumbents plus the redrawn HD144 – to 11R, with Woolley and Rep. Ken Legler going away. Quite remarkable.

In addition to these, the following seats could be competitive for Dems and certainly should be contested:

Dist County Incumbent Obama Houston ========================================== 17 Bastrop K'schmidt 40.9 46.2 26 Fort Bend Open 48.4 48.3 45 Hays Isaac 46.7 45.8 47 Travis Workman 44.6 41.2 64 Denton Crownover 42.0 41.8 65 Denton Solomons 43.0 42.4 94 Tarrant Patrick 41.5 42.0 97 Tarrant Shelton 43.0 43.0 102 Dallas Carter 43.4 43.8 106 Williamson Open 46.0 43.1 108 Dallas Branch 48.7 46.0 112 Dallas Chen Button 42.1 44.0 113 Dallas Driver 46.0 48.2 114 Dallas Hartnett 42.4 41.3 115 Dallas Jackson 44.0 42.9 134 Harris S. Davis 50.1 46.2 135 Harris Elkins 42.8 43.8 138 Harris Bohac 42.2 42.9

Obviously, some of these are more potentially competitive than others, but there are a couple that could reasonably go the Dems’ way. Note that Reps. Driver, Hartnett, and Jackson are all stepping down, and that Rep. Burkett was paired with Driver and Rep. Sheets was paired with Hartnett. HD26 was Rep. Charlie Howard’s (HD30 is the new Fort Bend-centered district), and HD106 had been called HD149 before.

Bottom line: Assuming this map with no unfavorable changes made to Dems, I’d consider a 10-seat pickup to be acceptable, and a 15-seat pickup to be a hell of a day. I have no idea why the Chron says that Dems “could gain a half-dozen seats” when a cursory glance shows eight Republicans now in districts that were majority Dem all the way in 2008. If six was all we got under this map, I’d call for beheadings. Note that Robert Miller predicts a more or less 90R 60D House, which is right in line with my view, so it’s not just my optimism talking here.

– Bear in mind that if the Dems pick up 13 seats, which I would consider a very good result, that leaves the partisan balance at 88-62 in favor of the Republicans, or exactly where we were after the 2002 elections. The loss of all those rural Democrats really hurts. The path forward from here is urban and suburban, and it won’t be easy.

But at least there is a path forward now. We’ll see if the court makes any further adjustments to the maps after today’s hearing. BOR, Juanita, EoW, and PDidde have more.

New map, new opportunities: Harris County

For our last stop on this tour we look at Harris County, which provided several pickup opportunities for Democrats last decade. How will they fare this time around?

Harris County's new districts

Republicans started the last decade with a 14-11 advantage – they intended it to be 15-10 after drawing Scott Hochberg out of his seat, but he moved into HD137, drawn at the time to be a 50-50 district, won it, and watched it grow more Democratic with each election. Democrats picked up seats in 2004, 2006, and 2008, then lost two of them in 2010, ending the decade at a 13-12 disadvantage. This map shrinks the Harris delegation to 24 seats and in doing so forces the only Dem-on-Dem pairing, as Hochberg and Hubert Vo were thrown together. At this point I don’t know who is going to do what. I’ve heard rumors about Hochberg moving to 134, which includes a fair amount of turf from his pre-2001 district, but that’s all they are. We won’t know till much later, and I doubt anyone will commit to a course of action until the Justice Department has weighed in.

Assuming there are no changes, the Republicans had some work to do to shore up their members. With the current map, Jim Murphy in 133 and Sarah Davis in 134 would be heavily targeted, with Dwayne Bohac in 138 and Ken Legler in 144 also likely to face stiff competition. By virtue of shifting districts west, where the population has grown and where the Republicans have more strength, they bought themselves some time. Here’s a look at the 2004 Molina numbers for the old districts versus the 2008 Sam Houston numbers in both the old and the new ones.

Dist 04 Molina Old Houston New Houston ======================================== 126 32.9 42.0 37.9 127 28.3 33.3 32.4 128 35.5 38.9 38.0 129 33.4 36.8 38.6 130 23.6 29.5 26.4 132 30.3 41.4 40.6 133 44.0 51.2 41.6 134 43.3 44.7 42.6 135 35.5 42.1 39.5 136 28.1 31.7 40.0 138 41.1 44.8 40.3 144 39.9 45.1 42.1 150 28.4 36.4 33.0

A couple of massive shifts, in 133 to protect Murphy, and in 136 where Beverly Woolley gave up some turf to help out Bohac and Davis. Some Democratic districts got even bluer, though not all of them; losing a district allowed voters of all stripes to be spread around more. Woolley and Davis’ districts cover neighborhoods that are unlikely to change much, so what you see there is likely to be what you’ll get. Everywhere else, especially in the western territories – 132, 133, 135, and 138 – are likely to see change similar to what we saw last decade. I wouldn’t be surprised if their partisan numbers are already different. The question is how much time have the Republicans bought themselves, and how much effort and resources the Democrats will put into reaching the new residents out there; not much had been done in the past. Other than perhaps Davis, who will surely be attacked for voting mostly in lockstep with the rest of the Republicans, it’s not clear that any of these seats are winnable next year, but the results we get at that time may tell us when they’ll be ripe for the picking. I expect we’ll see some turnover over time, but I don’t know how much.

Harris County minus one?

Despite essentially keeping up with the state growth rate, Harris County may lose a legislative seat in the next round of redistricting.

As Texas lawmakers turn their attention to the complex and contentious task of redrawing their own districts, that loss will set in motion a game of musical chairs to determine who has a place among the 150 House seats. That number does not change despite a 20 percent increase in population statewide, which means the kaleidoscope of voters each lawmaker represents will shift. Harris County is expected to go from 25 to 24 state House seats.

Legislative districts, redrawn every 10 years in the wake of federal census results, must be roughly the same size, somewhere near 167,637 people per district. Although Harris County is home to more people than in 2000, its growth lags behind such suburban areas as Fort Bend and Montgomery counties.

Much of the redistricting process is a legalistic one involving adherence to federal law and state redistricting principles, said Trey Trainor, an Austin lawyer who advises Republicans on redistricting.

“From a political standpoint,” Trainor said, “it gets bloody when you start looking at population loss, and you have members of the Legislature who just don’t have the sheer numbers in their district, and you’ve got to go someplace else to get them. You start cutting into core constituencies of other members.”

In Harris County, the question is, who will be the odd man (or woman) out?

“It’s not necessarily that the seat goes away,” Trainor said, “but you’re going to end up with one or two incumbents in the same district having to run against each other, if they decide to do that. Of course, you know a lot of times what happens in these cases is somebody who’s been here awhile decides to retire and makes it easier on everybody else.”

A few thoughts:

Greg saw this coming months ago. The final Census totals put Harris County right on the knife’s edge of maintaining 25 seats, so I suppose it’s still possible that could happen. We still haven’t heard anything from those that are actually going to draw the maps, and dealmaking is always a possibility. I’m inclined to think that 24 is more likely than 25, however. Remember, for big counties like Harris state law forbids State Rep districts from crossing county boundaries, so sharing a district with Fort Bend or Montgomery is not an option.

– The story suggests that Republicans may target Rep. Scott Hochberg, the only Anglo Democrat currently serving in Harris County, for elimination. I say it’s far too early to write anyone’s political obituary. Hochberg was similarly drawn out of a district in 2001, but found a new home and won there. You just never know.

– Having said that, I might suggest that one person with a reason to be nervous is two-term State Rep. Ken Legler, whose district is centered in Pasadena. While the west, northwest, and north ends of Harris County grew like gangbusters, the eastern portion stagnated or shrunk; what growth there was out that way was mostly nonAnglo. It may be awfully hard to draw two sufficiently Republican districts with enough population out there to support both Legler and Rep. Wayne Smith, whose Baytown area is easily the redder. Again, you never know. My point is that there are a lot of moving parts to this, and you can’t affect one district without affecting all of them.

– Trainor is correct that sometimes these problems solve themselves via a member’s retirement, whether voluntary or not. Retirement isn’t the only way that a member may decide to free up a seat, however. There may be a different office available to them, for instance. Who do you suppose might become Ed Emmett’s bestest buddy in the event that Jerry Eversole gets convicted in his trial, which was actually supposed to begin this past week? Dwayne Bohac has been rumored to be interested in that job; I’m certain he’s not alone in that desire. Keep an eye on this.

– As we’ve seen, electoral results can differ greatly in Presidential and non-Presidential years. If nothing were changing this year, the most endangered incumbent in Harris County would be Jim Murphy, whose track record so far is winning in 2006 and 2010 and losing in 2008. As I said before, figuring out which electoral data to base the boundaries on will be extra challenging this time around, and could lead to some districts whose predisposition is dependent on the year.

All that and we haven’t even had the barest hint of a possible draft map yet. Just wait till that starts to happen. Greg and PDiddie have more.

Ethics ID

According to Martha, State Rep. Ken Legler (R, HD144) has filed HB1036, which would require two forms of ID to file an ethics complaint with the TEC. Who knew that ethics complaint fraud was so rampant in Texas? Clearly, our Attorney General has fallen down on the job in investigating this. I just want to know if Rep. Legler would accept an amendment to allow a concealed handgun license as an acceptable form of ID for these purposes. Because that’s how we roll around here.

Here comes the late money

The 8 days out finance reports are in, and it’s about what you’d expect.

Millions of dollars poured into Texas legislative campaigns during the past month as interest groups tried to maximize their influence and partisans readied for the upcoming fight over the redrawing of House and Senate districts.

Those millions, predominantly from business owners and trial lawyers, have allowed candidates in the Austin area and across the state to clog the television airwaves with their closing pitches before Tuesday’s election.

“Money flows late because late money follows the races that are being run effectively,” said Republican consultant Ted Delisi. “Because we have two weeks of early voting and we have a lot of polling, you can understand which campaigns are gaining traction and which ones aren’t, so you’re not betting blindly.”

Big-dollar donors and interest groups also give late so that the donors themselves don’t become lightning rods in the campaigns. Candidates did not have to publicly disclose contributions they received after Sept. 23 until Monday, when early voting was more than halfway over.

“The general consensus among operatives is, it’s too late to do anything with it,” Delisi said. “The election is 30 to 35 percent over right now.”

Yeah, this is the time to do the stuff you’re least proud of, because the potential for blowback decreases greatly with each passing day. There’s stuff about particular races in that story, and the DMN and EoW have more. As I didn’t see anything specific to Harris County, I figured I’d spot check a few races here to see who’s getting what. Here are the amounts raised since the 30 day reports:

Kristi Thibaut, $119,649
Jim Murphy, $172,222

Ellen Cohen, $100,279
Sarah Davis, $69,116

Dwayne Bohac, $113,955
Kendra Yarbrough Camarena, $36,815

Ken Legler, $178,299
Rick Molina, $85,969

Legler also collected $184,885 as of the 30 days out report after only taking in $82,135 for the first six months of the year. I’ve heard a rumble or two that he’s in a tighter race than originally thought. Make of this what you will.

Hubert Vo, $109,135
Jack O’Connor, $183,938

O’Connor is a great example of how the late money train works. Almost $170,000 of that total comes from five sources:

– Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund, $40,000 cash
– Conservative Republicans of Texas, approximately $35,000 in kind
– Republican Party of Texas, $23,000 cash plus another $2,066 in kind
– Robert Rowling of Irving, TN (that’s Tennessee, not Texas), $25,000 cash
– Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, $40,000 cash plus $2,300 in kind

All for a guy who had raised about $65,000 on his own all year. He’s not the only one, of course – Legler got $125,000 from Speaker Straus. Murphy got a lot of assorted PAC money plus $25,000 from the Republican Party of Texas Texas Victory State Account plus a $9200 mailer from the RPT, $20,000 from Bob Perry, $10,500 from three members of the Trammel Crow family in Dallas, and $10,000 from TLR. Bohac also got help from the Speaker, $25,000 worth. I didn’t notice any other donations larger than $5K for him, nor did I see anything of the magnitude noted here for Davis. Again, draw your own conclusions about who sees what opportunities and threats.

Finally, on a tangential note, one unfamiliar name I saw in four of the five Republican reports (all but O’Connor) was a Curtis Mewbourne, of Mewbourne Oil, who handed out 16 donations of $5K each to various legislative candidates (plus a $75K gift to David Dewhurst) since September 24, all but two (incumbents Joe Heflin and Mark Homer) to Republicans. I note his name for future reference, since you know that sooner or later there’ll be some pro quo for all that quid.

Beware the stock photo

Here’s the best press release I received today, from the campaign of Rick Molina in HD144.

The front cover of a direct mail piece for endangered incumbent Ken Legler shows a photo of a doctor, standing with blue collar and white collar workers claiming that Ken Legler is fighting for jobs in Pasadena.

Only one problem — the presumably local workers from respective professions that have made repeated appearances on the pro-Legler mail don’t just look the part, they play the parts as well. The ‘group of professionals’ are not from Pasadena, or Texas, or the United States at all. Legler’s cronies at the front group Citizen Leadership PAC, who paid for the mail, outsourced the photo of “local workers.” It was bought from a stock photo site that offers the photo as a “portrait of people from different professions standing together on white.” The photo is by former Vaisnava monk Daniel Laflor, a photographer in Denmark. (http://www.laflor.dk/)

(The stock photo can be found at http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-11593417-group-of-people-from-their-respective-professions.php)

The mailer comes in the aftermath of the disclosure that Ken Legler has not only outsourced jobs from his manufacturing company, but has also placed a series of website postings looking for yet another Chinese manufacturing partner.

“It’s bad enough Ken Legler is directly responsible for outsourcing jobs to China,” noted Rick Molina, Legler’s challenger for House District 144. “But to have actors posing as our families reinforces that it is Legler who is nothing but a front for the same corporate interests who outsource jobs and disregard worker safety.”

“But knowing his record as most Pasadenans now do, I can see why local families aren’t willing to stand by his side,” Molina added.

A picture of the mail piece is here, courtesy of Trail Blazers.

Interview with Rick Molina

Rick Molina

Next up is Rick Molina, who is running in HD144 against freshman Rep. Ken Legler. Molina is an attorney and a longtime resident of Pasadena. He’s also a graduate of Rice University, which always counts for a little extra credit with me. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

Fundraising: Harris County State Reps

I’ve collected fundraising reports for Harris County State Rep races of interest; they’re all beneath the fold. Here are the highlights:

– In the rubber match between State Rep. Kristi Thibaut in HD133 and former State Rep. Jim Murphy, Thibaut has a slight lead in fundraising – she collected $116K to Murphy’s $112K – and cash on hand, $150K to $125K. I’m actually a little surprised there wasn’t more money raised in this race, but I figure by the time it’s all done at least double the amount raised so far will have been hauled in.

– Ellen Cohen has a commanding lead over Sarah Davis. Cohen took in $230K and has $265K on hand. Davis collected $54K, but thanks to a total of $114K in loans, all coming from Kent and Edie Adams beginning with the January 15 reporting period, she has $103K on hand.

– In HD138, Kendra Yarbrough Camarena did well, raising $106K, with $120K on hand. Dwayne Bohac clearly wasn’t taking any chances, as he raked in $201K, with $228K on hand.

– Possibly the biggest surprise was in HD144, where challenger Rick Molina out-raised first-term incumbent Ken Legler, $92K to $82K, and also held more cash, $23,597 to $11,545. It’s not clear to me why Molina’s COH figure isn’t higher, since he only spent $36K; Legler spent almost as much as he raised, $81K in all.

– As of last night, the reports for Hubert Vo and Jack O’Connor in HD149 were not available. According to the explanation, “the Ethics Commission may not make a report filed with the Commission available on the Internet unless all candidates and related specific-purpose political committees in a race have filed. To date, all reports in this race have not been filed. Therefore, this report is not currently viewable.” Note that there is a Libertarian candidate in this race as well. I’ll add these reports to the post when I find them.

As I said, other races of interest are posted below. Overall, I’d say the Democratic candidates have done a good job, with Republicans other than Legler and his puzzling cash shortage in decent shape, too. With no Congressional races of interest, and the County Judge race not evenly matched early on, these may be the highest profile contests in the county this year.

UPDATE: Vo and O’Connor’s totals are in. Vo raised $15K and has $37K on hand. He’s always done some self-funding, and has $95K in loans outstanding. O’Connor took in $12K and has $6500 on hand, but those numbers are a bit misleading. $10K of O’Connor’s contributions were two $5K in-kind donations, each for a month’s rent. He also reported $6K in a loan to himself on his detailed report, but for some odd reason that didn’t show up in the summary.

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Rick Molina campaign kickoff

There was a lot of good news for Democrats in Harris County in 2008, but one place we fell short was in HD144, which had been left open by Robert Talton’s decision to try to be the Republican nominee in CD22. There will be another effort to win that seat this year as Rick Molina takes on freshman Rep. Ken Legler. Molina, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, will officially kick off his campaign tomorrow night at 6 PM in Pasadena. You can get the details here. If you’re in the area or you just want to support a good Democrat, check it out.

Budget yes, UI not yet

The conference committee on the budget finished its work yesterday.

While final details are still emerging, the 10 conferees worked out a last minute plan for spending $700 million of federal stimulus money for state fiscal stabilization. They hope that it will avert a special session, even if Perry vetoes some or all of the money. It appeared to go to school textbooks in part. And there were other things funded that are near and dear to the Perry family, such as preservation of a couple more county courthouses ($7 million) and restoring the fire-gutted Governor’s Mansion.

Burkablog and Floor Pass, which notes that the committee will vote out the budget on Tuesday, fill in a few more details. The first obstacle is making sure Governor Perry will sign it, but so far there’s no evidence that he wants to force a do-over. Not dipping into the Rainy Day Fund, for which we can all thank President Obama and the stimulus package, likely helps out there.

Unclear at this time is the fate of the Davis/Walle amendment, which would drain money from the Texas Enterprise Fund in the event that SB1569 gets vetoed. And speaking of SB1569, it took a few steps forward in the House, but ultimately was not brought to a vote. The best writeup I’ve seen about what went on during this comes from Ed Sills’ TxAFLCIOENews; I’ve reproduced it beneath the fold.

According to Brandi Grissom on Twitter, the House has recessed for the night due to its computers being down, without having passed any bills today. They’re scheduled to work Saturday and Sunday, and according to Gardner Selby, voter ID is supposedly atop the calendar for Saturday. That’s assuming they actually get to it – as we’ve seen multiple times this session, being on the calendar is no guarantee of anything. The Democrats will surely do what they can to run out the clock if they feel they must. We’ll see how far down the agenda the House gets tomorrow.

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Here comes Karl

As I noted two weeks ago, Tuesday is the day that Karl Rove slinks into town for a fundraiser in support of four Harris County Republican candidates for State House. Rove’s a busy man these days, what with dodging all those subpoenas and appearing on teevee, so I guess maybe we should all feel lucky that he considered these races, plus Big Bad John’s, worthy of his time and attention. Certainly, HD144’s Ken Legler, who reported no cash on hand in July ought to be grateful.

If you’d like to give Rove an appropriate greeting during his “Fugitive Fundraiser Tour”, you can meet up with the Sherrie Matula campaign tomorrow at their headquarters, 17300 Saturn (Suite 105), Houston, TX 77058 (map), tomorrow at 5 PM for some good old-fashioned blockwalking. Call the campaign at 281-282-1351 or email john@sherriematula.com to let them know or if you have any questions. You can also sign the HCDP petition calling on Rove to take responsibility for his actions, which will be delivered to his office at Fox News. I know, I know, not likely to have any effect on the guy, but what the heck.

Greg has more. And I see that the local GOP is kicking up a fuss about money raised by a guy involved in the John Edwards situation. Hey, all’s fair in love and war, but I don’t see them turning down Rove’s money, and I think what he’s accused of is a bit more serious than having an affair. If they want to talk about about what constitutes “tainted” money and when it should be refused or returned, I’ll be more than happy to engage in that discussion.