Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Kristi Thibaut

At Large #2 runoff overview

One of these runoffs is not like the others.

CM Andrew Burks

CM Andrew Burks

On paper, the Houston City Council incumbent most at risk heading into Saturday’s runoff elections is first-termer Andrew Burks, in At-Large Position 2.

Challenger David Robinson had spent more than $201,000 as of last week, to Burks’ roughly $76,000. Robinson, who also earned more votes than Burks on Nov. 5, was the only challenger to out raise a council incumbent. Robinson also had about $73,500 on hand entering the campaign’s final week, more than three times what Burks had.

Burks, a preacher and small businessman, was a long shot in a 10-candidate field two years ago, having unsuccessfully sought public office numerous times. Political analysts, however, said he nonetheless will enjoy the advantage of incumbency against Robinson, an architect, Super Neighborhood Alliance past president and former member of the city Planning Commission. Robinson was among those who sought the At-Large 2 seat two years ago.

David Robinson

David Robinson

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said Burks may also be helped by a runoff in heavily black District D, which will drive turnout in areas likely to support him, whereas there are no district runoffs in Robinson’s best areas to drive turnout for him. Overall turnout is expected to be dismal.

“At-large races are tough because it’s citywide and it’s very difficult to reach voters,” Jones said.

Robinson’s cash edge will help him only if he spends it efficiently, said University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus.

“In a low-turnout election, more money is likely to trump ideology or the incumbency affect,” Rottinghaus said. “If they can adequately use those resources to get turnout in their direction, then it could be a very close race.”

As was the case with the November election and as is now the case with the runoff, Robinson has easily led in fundraising, with his finance reports looking like an incumbent’s. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything – Burks won on a shoestring two years ago, with Kristi Thibaut raking in the establishment cash in the runoff as Robinson has been doing all year. It’s a matter of who turns out.

One more thing:

Burks claimed Robinson has tried to fool black voters into thinking he is related to one of several past black council members named Robinson.

“By not showing up or putting his picture out in that community, he’s trying to get votes I normally would have because I am seen in the community,” Burks said.

Robinson rejected the charge, saying he has worked to raise his profile citywide, not obscure it.

Yeah, Dave Wilson will continue to be a pollutant in our elections for years to come. Some people may be confused by David Robinson‘s name, but unlike Wilson, Robinson is not running a stealth campaign. That means he’s doing things like showing up to candidate forums and having an actual photo of himself on his Facebook page. I don’t think I’d ever seen a picture of Dave Wilson before this November. If CM Burks is concerned that people may not have an accurate impression of David Robinson, there is nothing stopping him from working to correct that impression.

Endorsement watch: Twofer number two

Another pair of endorsements from the Chron, again one obvious and one that required more thought. First, the easy one.

CM Al Hoang

CM Al Hoang

Centered along the Westpark Tollway toward the city’s far west edges, District F is Houston’s international district.

When people from around the world immigrate to Houston, that Houston is often in District F. Home to large parts of Asia Town, especially Vietnamese communities, the district’s diversity also includes a growing Hispanic base. It is almost like the Alief and Westside neighborhoods are the setting for Houston’s own West Side Story – parents seeking the American dream, kids breaking cultural barriers and, unfortunately, gang violence. You may even find choreographed musical numbers at karaoke bars.

Incumbent Council Member Al Hoang’s first term was marred by controversy, but he’s spent the second delivering for his district. Voters should give him a third.

The Chron endorsed his opponent in 2011, but unlike that year CM Hoang drew only a no-name challenger, and as the Chron notes he did have a better term this time around. I’m not exactly the world’s biggest fan of CM Hoang, but the choice this year was clear.

The more interesting choice was in At Large #2, and for the third time so far the Chron recommended a vote for a challenger to an incumbent.

David Robinson

David Robinson

The task of Houston’s five city council members at-large is to see the proverbial big picture while being well-briefed on the needs of City’s Council’s diverse 11 single-member districts. Only the mayor and city controller have similarly broad, citywide duties.

In At-large Position 2, the vision needs to be more expansive than that shown during the two-year incumbency of Andrew C. Burks, whose performance has not met acceptable standards.

Reports of the sitting councilman’s less than courteous behavior toward constituents coming before council on several occasions are especially concerning.

Burks has drawn three capable opponents in this November’s race. From this group, we recommend the candidacy of David Robinson, a challenger to Burks in the 2011 race for the seat formerly held by three-term Council member Sue Lovell.

Robinson, 47, holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Yale and a master’s in architecture from Rice University. He is a practicing architect and planner with strong, informed views on how Houston’s future should be shaped.

Robinson’s previous service to the city is extensive. He was appointed to the city Planning Commission by Mayor Bill White and reappointed by Mayor Annise Parker.

His direct involvement with the city’s neighborhoods runs equally as deep. Robinson’s eight years as an officer of the Neartown Association included two terms as president. He currently serves as president of the citywide Super Neighborhood Alliance.

The Chron endorsed Kristi Thibaut in the open seat race last time. I’ve said plenty about this race, so I’ll just point you to my interviews from this cycle with Robinson and Burks. What are your thoughts on this endorsement?

Runoff precinct analysis, At Large #2

One of Santa’s election elves came by on Friday with a delivery of Harris County precinct data for the 2011 runoff elections. You can guess how I spent some of my weekend. Before I launch into the numbers, here are a few caveats about them. First and foremost, this is the first election under the new Council districts, so comparisons to prior elections are dicey propositions. That won’t stop me from making them, of course, just remember that the districts in question are different now, so be even more careful about the inferences you draw. Unlike the 2009 runoffs, the spreadsheet I got did not indicate what district the precincts were in. I had to figure that out as best I could by fitting that sheet next to the regular election data, for which I must first filter out the non-Houston precincts. I got it maybe 98 or 99 percent lined up, but I know it’s off a little because the numbers derived from the districts don’t total up exactly. And of course, this is all draft data, meaning it hasn’t been officially canvassed and may not include provisional ballots that will count later. Oh, and it’s Harris County only, too. In short, take all this as an approximation of the truth, as best I can put it together.

With all that said, here’s how the numbers look for the At Large #2 race between CM-elect Andrew Burks and Kristi Thibaut. Thibaut won the Harris County portion of the city by a small margin, but lost the Fort Bend portion by a slightly larger margin, making Burks the winner. Since Burks was also in a runoff in 2009 for this seat against outgoing incumbent CM Sue Lovell, I thought I’d put those numbers in as well.

Dist Thibaut Burks Thib% Burks% Lovell Burks Lovell% Burks% ================================================================== A 2,535 2,180 53.8 46.2 8,953 5,571 61.6 38.4 B 1,703 4,042 29.4 70.4 3,128 7,773 28.7 71.3 C 5,834 2,922 66.6 33.4 12,427 5,962 67.6 32.4 D 2,183 4,802 32.2 68.8 8,015 11,974 40.1 59.9 E 2,478 2,370 51.1 48.9 7,659 6,834 52.9 47.1 F 851 655 56.5 43.5 3,967 2,966 57.2 42.8 G 4,441 3,696 54.6 45.4 12,963 8,770 59.7 40.3 H 1,385 1,214 53.3 46.7 7,235 3,721 66.0 34.0 I 981 775 55.9 44.1 3,625 3,036 54.4 45.6 J 957 617 60.8 39.2 K 2,192 2,248 49.4 50.6

Bearing in mind that these districts are different, the results aren’t all that different. The main exception is District H, where Lovell nearly doubled up Burks while Thibaut squeaked past him. I wish I had an easy way of knowing which precincts were in the old districts, but not only are the districts different, there are differences in the individual precincts as well. Nonetheless, that one comparison stands out like a sore thumb.

Looking at these numbers, there’s not much there to change my mind about how this election played out. Burks did just well enough in the African-American districts to outweigh Thibaut’s advantage everywhere else. Alternately, you could say Thibaut did not do well enough outside the African-American districts to overcome Burks’ lead there, even though she did reasonably well in them; you’ll get a clearer picture of that when I show you the At Large #5 data. Robert Miller wrote on Friday about how Burks was finally able to win on a coalition of African-Americans and westside Republicans, which was visible to him at a fundraiser held for Burks at the home of Republican Fred Zeidman:

In attendance were Democratic elected stalwarts Judge Zinetta Burney, Constable May Walker and State Rep. Ron Reynolds; and Republicans Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel and former Judge Levi Benton (Burk’s treasurer). Mayor Annise Parker was the Special Guest. Burks announced that he had hired Sandra Strachan from the Greater Houston Partnership as his Chief of Staff, and former Council Member Mark Goldberg as an Executive Advisor — two strong hires.

I’m curious to know what Burks’ supporters here think of that. Is this the Council member you thought you were getting? I personally will be eagerly awaiting Burks’ January finance report, to see who has hopped on the late train for him.

Be that as it may, the question is whether this coalition can be successful in a normal-turnout election, or if it’s an artifact of the unique conditions that a runoff like this one entails. I continue to believe that Burks will be vulnerable in 2013 in a way that freshman Council member usually aren’t, but I have no more history or precedent to go on than anyone else does.

One other interesting aspect of this race was the undervote, which was considerably higher than the undervote in At Large #5. That’s not surprising, since clearly AL5 was the marquee race, but I’ve heard several disappointed Thibaut supporters grumble about how that affected the outcome. Here’s how the non-votes went by district, for both At Large runoffs:

Dist Thibaut Burks Under Under% AL5 UV AL5 UV% =================================================== A 2,535 2,180 826 14.9 152 2.7 B 1,703 4,042 622 9.8 112 1.8 C 5,834 2,922 623 6.6 58 0.6 D 2,183 4,802 641 8.4 51 0.6 E 2,478 2,370 450 8.5 31 0.6 F 851 655 101 6.3 19 1.2 G 4,441 3,696 800 9.0 36 0.4 H 1,385 1,214 196 7.0 34 1.2 I 981 775 145 7.6 15 0.8 J 957 617 108 6.4 25 1.5 K 2,192 2,248 332 7.0 42 0.9

Clearly, Thibaut left some votes on the table in District C, but then so did Burks in Districts B and D. Again, this was the pattern for him from 2009 – far fewer people vote for him in the African-American districts than for Jolanda Jones, or any other such candidate. I think that may hurt him in a normal election, assuming he doesn’t gain some polish and add a professional campaign to address these shortcomings, but it’s hard to say that the dropoff in voting helped or hurt either candidate in this race. I don’t think you can make assumptions about who the non-voters in the Republican districts would have chosen if they had bothered to do so. I’m certain quite a few of them made the deliberate “none of the above” choice. Will those voters, presumably mostly Republicans, be part of a Burks coalition in 2013? His re-election likely gets a lot harder if they aren’t. On the other hand, if he does enough to merit their support (and keep out a Helena Brown type from his race), how much does he lose from the Democratic side? It’s going to be fun to watch, that’s for sure.

In any close race, it’s easy to point at this factor or that as a key to the outcome. I think it’s equally fair to say that if Thibaut had done a better job driving turnout in the Anglo Dem areas she could have won as it is to say that if Burks had run an actual campaign he’d have won more comfortably. After all this time, and with the precinct data in hand, I still don’t know what to make of this race. Greg has more.

Don’t draw broad conclusions from muddled evidence

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

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

In short: Voters want change.

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christie, Burks, Davis, Brown

Those are your runoff winners.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November was like 2007, December is more like 2005

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

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

Runoff overview: At Large #2

For a guy who’s run multiple campaigns for Council – more than he can remember – Andrew Burks is somewhat of a cipher. Let’s see what the Chron overview of the At Large #2 runoff says about perennial candidate Andrew Burks.

Andrew Burks Jr. is harder to pin down. He’s a lifelong black Democrat who ran once for chairman of the county party, yet he scored an A on the Texas Conservative Review’s questionnaire and had the publication’s endorsement for the general election when there were 10 candidates in the running.

Burks is endorsed by the county Republican Party. Despite a claim on his Web site that he is endorsed by a former At-Large 5 candidate Laurie Robinson, she said she has not endorsed him.

Asked about the city’s controversial drainage fee approved by voters a year ago, Burks said, “I was against it at first. The people spoke. Now, I’m with it.”

He said he would not support its repeal unless it was replaced with another flood protection plan. He learned firsthand the ravages of inundation during Tropical Storm Allison a decade ago when he entered his church in its aftermath and found it full of water and a copperhead on the piano.

[…]

Burks said he cannot remember how many times he has run for office. Chronicle research indicates this is his 12th run for public office and his seventh for a council seat. He also has run for state representative, Congress, county school board and party chairman. Two years ago, he took incumbent Sue Lovell to a runoff. Lovell, who is term-limited, endorses Thibaut.

For Burks, jobs are the campaign’s big issue. He proposes to lower business fees to make it more attractive for businesses to locate within the city. He also calls for a makeover of Houston Business Development, Inc., a city-established nonprofit that provides small business loans and support services for start-ups. He would like to start with a marquee outside the headquarters in Palm Center, and proposes bringing in experts from Rice University and the University of Houston to improve operations.

[…]

Burks was under house arrest for 40 days last year following his second DWI conviction. Burks said he had not been drinking nor driving, but that he had been prescribed improper medication at a Veterans Affairs facility, where he was in a parked car at the time of his arrest.

As a point of comparison, here’s the 2009 runoff overview story. The reason Burks has been endorsed by the GOP despite his “lifelong Democrat” status is likely because he welcomed the endorsement of Steven Hotze in the 2009 runoff. There are plenty of reasons not to vote for Andrew Burks, but that one would be sufficient for me. Beyond that, I just don’t know what to make of the guy. Like Griff, the impression I get is of a guy who’s running to run, not because he has some idea of what he wants to do if he wins. His finance reports are a mess, and he says ridiculous things – in that 2009 story, he talks about a “conspiracy of silence” that he can’t articulate. None of this is to say that he can’t win – he can, and he might. I just don’t know what we’ll get if he does.

There’s also some stuff in there about Kristi Thibaut. As someone who’s actually won an election before, she’s much more of a known quantity. I guess we’ll see what the voters prefer.

Eight day runoff finance reports

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

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

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

District B:

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

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

At Large #2:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early voting for city runoffs begins today

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

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

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

Looking ahead to the runoffs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saggy pants

I’m not much of a candidate forum attender, but I wish I had gone to this one.

Half-a-dozen candidates in runoff City Council elections each made his or her case as champion of the downtrodden before a mostly black and Latino audience at a Fifth Ward church on Saturday afternoon.

Council aide Alvin Byrd faces nonprofit director Jerry Davis in District B; pastor Andrew Burks faces former state Rep. Kristi Thibaut for the At-Large Position 2 seat; and chiropractor Jack Christie is challenging incumbent Councilwoman Jolanda Jones for the At-Large 5 seat in the Dec. 10 elections.

At the forum sponsored by a coalition of labor and civil rights groups, the lead-off question prompted candidates’ positions on whether they would oppose changing public employee pensions from the guaranteed benefits they now offer to a 401(k) system in which the payouts are determined by how well retirement investments perform.

[…]

Burks generally did not answer questions directly but used the floor to complain that not enough police officers and firefighters live inside the city limits and that Mayor Annise Parker does not want him to defeat Thibaut in the race. He even responded to a question about providing birth control in city health clinics by calling for issuing tickets to young men who wear sagging pants that reveal their underwear.

That may be the most awesome thing I’ve heard from a candidate forum. I only wish the story had indicated how the audience reacted. Please, someone tell me you were there and can answer that.

Early voting for city runoffs begins today

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

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

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

Precinct analysis: 2011 At Large #2

What can you say about a ten-candidate pileup? Let’s start by seeing what the district numbers look like:

Dist Thibaut Perez Burks Goss Fraga Dick Pool Griff Robinson Shorter ==================================================================================== A 15.69% 17.99% 13.94% 3.03% 6.93% 11.67% 6.41% 11.35% 9.75% 3.25% B 8.93% 6.65% 31.58% 1.83% 4.70% 4.43% 5.48% 3.93% 18.52% 13.94% C 18.49% 10.79% 7.76% 1.41% 10.92% 9.49% 14.37% 11.63% 12.93% 2.20% D 7.24% 6.22% 35.65% 1.38% 4.64% 3.36% 4.45% 4.22% 13.85% 18.98% E 15.70% 23.72% 15.98% 2.69% 7.03% 9.61% 5.19% 9.44% 8.27% 2.38% F 28.18% 16.73% 11.24% 2.67% 5.41% 7.79% 5.23% 7.60% 9.72% 5.41% G 25.08% 15.87% 14.93% 1.64% 7.85% 9.80% 4.16% 9.95% 9.07% 1.65% H 9.93% 20.35% 9.70% 1.50% 24.90% 6.49% 7.73% 6.96% 8.31% 4.13% I 8.56% 24.54% 9.54% 1.82% 27.29% 4.11% 4.95% 4.74% 8.12% 6.34% J 20.07% 16.78% 11.47% 2.52% 8.47% 7.12% 7.14% 9.64% 11.79% 4.99% K 15.34% 11.16% 19.45% 1.92% 5.68% 4.69% 6.89% 7.52% 15.72% 11.62%

Starting from the top:

– Andrew Burks obviously and expectedly did well in the African-American areas. I had thought that Rozzy Shorter might shave a few points off his totals, and I daresay she did, but it wasn’t enough to knock him out. He also did pretty well everywhere else, no doubt in part to the decent name ID gained by being a seven time candidate for a Council seat, even if he himself can only remember five of them. I guess at some point it’s hard to keep track of them all.

– Kristi Thibaut did well in District C, but it was her advantage in the west/southwest part of town that carried her into the runoff. She led the field in Districts F and G, and had a strong showing in K as well, all of which was enough to overcome third-place finisher Elizabeth Perez’s advantages elsewhere (more on that in a second). Also good news for Thibaut is that three of the four candidates that finished behind her in C – Jenifer Pool, David Robinson, and Bo Fraga, who combined with her for almost 57% of the vote in C – have endorsed her for the runoff. She will need big margins in places like C to counter Burks’ numbers in B, D, and K.

– Perez won the Election Day vote and didn’t miss the runoff by much. She did well in the Republican districts as you’d expect, but both Thibaut and Burks were able to keep close enough to her to prevent her from passing them. Where she really did well was – say it with me now – in Districts H and I, where she outdistanced Thibaut by enough to wipe out her margin in District C. Unfortunately for her, she shared the ballot with Fraga, who did better than she did, thus again keeping her from making a real run at the top. While this looks on the surface a bit like a missed opportunity for the Republicans – Perez wasn’t exactly raking in the contributions – it’s a bit hard to see where she could have drummed up more support.

– The retiring Griff finished fourth in his old stomping grounds of District C, just ahead of Bo Fraga, and fourth in District E, just ahead of Eric Dick. I guess that means something, but compared to his performance in 2009 it’s hard to say what other than another step in the random walk. His single best shot at a win post-1993 was in 2007, if only he’d cared enough to do more than just show up.

– Speaking of Dick, well, there’s really not much to say, is there? He finished fourth in his home District A. He barely got half as many votes as Perez did for considerably more money. But a lot of people know his name now, so mission accomplished, I guess.

– David Robinson finished second in B, third in D, and second in K. I’m going to take a wild guess here and posit that his name was advantageous to him.

That’s about all I’ve got for now. Last but not least will be At Large #5, coming up next.

More thoughts on the Council elections

One district at a time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011 Houston results

Let’s go through the races…

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Robert Miller offers his perspective.

UPDATE: Nancy Sims weighs in.

Eight day finance reports, part II

Finishing what I started…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristi Thibaut – $34,599 on direct mail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endorsement watch: Costello and Thibaut

Another day, another twofer as the Chron makes recommendations in the first two At Large races. In At Large #1, they go with the incumbent:

Houston City Council member Stephen Costello, an engineer, is best known as the force behind Rebuild Houston, the initiative to upgrade our city’s ailing streets and drainage system. Given the nation’s anti-tax mood in November 2010, asking voters to approve spending money on infrastructure took nerve. But Costello had faith that Houston was willing to invest in its future.

[…]

Besides Rebuild Houston, Costello has logged other achievements in his first term in office. As chair of the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Committee, he helped preserve core city services while making the painful cuts that lagging revenues required.

And as at-large Position 1 council member, he made an admirable effort to help people too often underrepresented at the council table. He’s worked to bring grocery stores to “food deserts,” low-income areas where it’s easier to buy French fries than a fresh potato. And he’s now investigating programs to serve the homeless in ways that are both more humane and more cost-effective than addressing their problems in jails and emergency rooms.

For his engineer’s approach to solving problems, for his willingness to pursue long-term solutions and for his willingness to tackle hard problems, we urge the citizens of Houston to send Stephen Costello back to City Hall for a second term.

I’m a fan of people who make a sincere effort to fix problems. I may or may not agree with a given solution, but I figure that as long as we can agree on what the problems are, we can find an agreeable path to resolving it. CM Costello fits this mold very well, and I fully concur with the Chron’s endorsement of him. You can listen to my interview with CM Costello here; I also did interview with two of his opponents, Scott Boates and Don Cook.

The open At Large 2 race is a much tougher call, as there are several strong candidates running. The Chron picked Kristi Thibaut from that group for their choice.

The Chronicle believes former state Rep. Kristi Thibaut has the experience, temperament and idealism to best represent the city’s politically and ethnically diverse population.

As a Democrat in the minority in the highly partisan Texas House for one term, Thibaut proved she can bridge ideological divides and find common ground on tough issues. She was voted freshman of the year by her colleagues. We believe she will be the same positive force on the expanded City Council.

[…]

The Chronicle twice endorsed Thibaut in her state campaigns based on her enthusiasm for public service tempered by practicality and political savvy. We think those qualities will make her an effective addition to City Council.

Like I said, there are several strong candidates in this race. There are also a few jokers. In a low turnout race and a multi-candidate field, it won’t take many votes for anyone to make it to the runoff. Choose wisely, that’s what I’m saying. It helps to know something about the candidates, and to that end here are the interviews I’ve done in AL2:

Kristi Thibaut
David Robinson
Jenifer Pool
Bolivar Fraga
Eric Dick

Stace has more.

Interview with Kristi Thibaut

Kristi Thibaut

We conclude our tour of the At Large #2 field with Kristi Thibaut, who was the State Representative for HD133 from 2009 to 2011. Thibaut has worked for Continental Airlines and as a fundraiser for non-profits such as the American Heart Association. She was also the first Executive Director of the Texas Youth Hunting Association. Here’s our conversation:

Download the MP3 file

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

A closer look at finance reports: Elected officials

In addition to contributions from PACs, there was another class of donor that I thought was worth highlighting: Elected officials and candidates for public office. Basically, the idea is to see who “the establishment” is supporting, to see what we might learn from that. So without further ado, here’s a Google spreadsheet with all the details, as before sorted by both donor and recipient. Some notes:

– I only counted current candidates and officeholders. There are numerous donations in these reports from former (and possibly future) officeholders/candidates, such as Sylvia Garcia and Peter Brown, but I drew the line at current incumbency and candidacy.

– Also not included, partly because I wasn’t sure I’d recognize them all, were appointed officials. I saw a few – Janiece Longoria and Kase Lawal from the Port Commission, and J. Kent Friedman from the Sports Authority, all showed up multiple times – and probably missed many more. Unfortunately, having all this data in individual PDFs makes that kind of detailed analysis a lot harder to do.

– As with PACs, it should come as no surprise to learn that incumbent council members were the main beneficiaries, receiving about 75% of the donations from other politicians. Again, everyone likes to back a winner, and incumbents almost always win. And again, as open seat races sort themselves out, expect to see more involvement in them.

– It’s clear that CM Jolanda Jones knew going into this election that she had an arduous task ahead of her, and in keeping with that she tapped into the broadest network, receiving donations from ten different elected officials. CM Melissa Noriega was next with five; no other incumbent received more than three. Among non-incumbents, Larry Green in K (four) and Ellen Cohen in C (three) were the leaders.

– On the flip side, State Rep. Garnet Coleman was the most frequent giver, donating to nine different incumbents. He was an equal opportunity contributor, donating to five Democrats (Bradford, Gonzalez, Jones, Rodriguez, and Adams) and four Republicans (Costello, Stardig, Pennington, and Sullivan). Justice of the Peace Zinetta Burney was the next most frequent with five contributions, all Democrats: Bradford, Rodriguez, Jones, Adams, and Larry Green.

– The contributions listed from Ellen Cohen and Kristi Thibaut to themselves are transfers from their State Rep campaign accounts. Mayoral candidate Fernando Herrera was also a candidate for State Rep in 2010, but he did not list any such transfer, which I found curious since he listed more than twice as much in expenditures ($9206) as he did in contributions ($4550) and still claimed $3334 on hand despite having filed no report in January and claiming no loans. Leftover cash from his prior candidacy is the most logical source for the discrepancy, but if so he did not document this.

– The other curiosity about this class of contributor, which I have mentioned before, is the generosity of At Large #2 candidate Eric Dick, who gave a total of $640 to five candidates – Cohen, Jones, Green, Noriega, and District B candidate Phillip Paul Bryant, who received by far the biggest donation of $500. As we will see in a subsequent post, Dick did not limit his giving to city races. Among other candidates, Jack Christie donated to three campaigns (Hoang, Noriega, Sullivan), and Jenifer Pool to two (Gonzalez and Adams). CM Stephen Costello was the only Council member to donate to his colleagues, making contributions to CMs Noriega and Gonzalez.

– To be honest, I expected there to be more of this type of donation. Perhaps the 30 day and 8 day reports will be more in line with what I thought would be the case. If I had the capability, I’d love to expand this analysis to include all of the people who show up on multiple finance reports. You really do see the same names over and over again.

Starting with the next post in this series, I’ll take a look at expenditures. Let me know what you think.

Two more for At Large #2

Open Council seats always draw a crowd, and when there’s only one of them for the At Large positions, it’s usually a big crowd. There were already several entrants in the At Large #2 sweepstakes, and as of today there are a couple more.

First, over the weekend Montrose activist David Robinson jumped in. From his press release:

David W. Robinson is a longtime community leader who has served as president of several civic organizations including: the Park Civic Association, Neartown/Montrose Super Neighborhood #24, the Super Neighborhood Alliance, and as a member of the Houston Planning Commission.

Robinson is a small business owner who has run his own architectural firm for the past twelve years. He is an active father, jointly raising his 11-year old daughter, Elissa with his ex-wife.

As a council member Robinson wants to focus on public safety, infrastructure, neighborhood resources and city finances.

A website is coming very soon as well as details about David W. Robinson’s Campaign Launch Party. Stay tuned!

You can see his Facebook page here. I don’t recall having met Robinson, so that’s all I know about him.

Today, former State Rep. Kristi Thibaut joined him in that race. From Hair Balls:

“The city of Houston, like virtually all government entities today, faces challenging financial circumstances,” she said in her announcement. “If elected, I will work constructively with Mayor Parker and my City Council colleagues to meet our current fiscal challenges without sacrificing core services, and to continue moving Houston forward as a great city to work, live and raise a family.”

Rumors that she would be entering the race began to surface recently when a prominent fund-raising group announced it was dropping Jenifer Rene Pool as its candidate in the at-large District 2 race.

Thibaut is someone I do know; you can listen to the interview I did with her for her campaign last year here. If you want to see who else is out there, Noel Freeman has a very helpful spreadsheet of municipal treasurer appointments, which are required in order to raise money for a city office, and a discussion of who’s in and who’s rumored to be in on Facebook. Nothing is final until the filing deadline, of course, but there’s already a lot of names out there.

Our first campaign drama of 2011

I’m pretty sure we’d have had some sort of kerfuffle like this by now if we hadn’t had to redraw Council lines, which has pushed the timeline back a bit.

Lone Star Strategies has dropped City Council candidate Jenifer Rene Pool as a client in anticipation of working for another candidate in the race to succeed the termed-out Sue Lovell in at large seat #2.

Lone Star’s Matt Zeis won’t comment on whom the firm will be raising money for other than to say she is an existing client. Pool campaign manager Clay Sands said Zeis told him it’s Kristi Thibaut, who is listed on Lone Star’s Web site as a client and lost her re-election bid as state representative in 2010.

I like both Jenifer and Kristi, whose apparent candidacy for Council is news to me, so I’m sorry to see this happen. Be that as it may, I guess this is further evidence that Council doesn’t represent a “step down” from the Lege. We could have three former State Reps, on Council next year if Kristi Thibaut and Ellen Cohen join on Melissa Noriega there. Might make for an interesting dynamic if it happens.

Thibaut versus Murphy, third time around

We know that the story of HD133, which has now been won twice by Jim Murphy and once by Kristi Thibaut, is one of turnout. With sufficient turnout in the Democratic part of the district – that is, the precincts in Rep. Al Green’s CD09 – it’s a Democratic district. With dominant turnout in the Republican part of the district – the precincts in Rep. John Culberson’s CD07 – it’s a Republican district. How did things look this year?


CD07 - 2010

Pcnct  Votes  Turnout  Murphy Thibaut  T Pct  T Margin
======================================================
130     1483    64.37    1145    285   19.93      -860
356     1456    51.02     978    425   30.29      -553
395     1064    59.64     782    240   23.48      -542
437     1195    60.38     892    270   23.24      -622
438     1132    63.52     879    213   19.51      -666
483     1856    43.85    1075    700   39.44      -375
492     1214    48.39     790    400   33.61      -390
493      962    53.47     696    235   25.24      -461
499     1498    65.56    1146    311   21.35      -835
504     1363    60.82     991    346   25.88      -645
625      990    53.40     646    314   32.71      -332
626     1231    43.22     731    455   38.36      -276
706      213    40.19     130     78   37.50       -52
727      764    31.48     265    466   63.75       201

Total 18,369    50.44  11,146  4,738   29.83    -6,408


CD09 - 2010

Pcnct  Votes  Turnout  Murphy Thibaut  T Pct  T Margin
======================================================
96       323    26.22      38     274  87.82       236
338     1561    33.85     498    1001  66.78       503
429     1142    27.93     278     819  74.66       541
487      966    30.35     340     582  63.12       242
503      402    28.71     131     246  65.25       115
508     1179    36.71     397     728  64.71       431
559     1449    32.14     433     940  68.46       507
565      752    22.49     120     597  83.26       477
620     1948    39.05    1103     783  41.52      -320
765     1335    34.83     608     681  52.83        73

Total 11,057    32.14   3,946   6,651  62.76     2,705

The good news from Thibaut’s perspective is that turnout was up in her good precincts by quite a bit over 2006. The bad news is that it was also up in the bad precincts for her. Both did a little better percentage-wise in their strong areas, with Murphy doing a little better than Thibaut at improving the base rate. In the end, Murphy’s margin was larger in absolute terms than it was in 2006, but slightly smaller in relative terms. That’s not a whole lot of comfort, but given what a wave this was for Republicans, it makes Thibaut’s showing look more respectable.

I wondered what the result might have been in a somewhat more normal year. Out of curiosity, I applied the turnout and voter percentage rates from 2006 to all of the CD07 districts, and left the CD09 districts as they were for this year. This is how it looks in CD07 based on that:


Pcnct  Votes  Turnout  Murphy Thibaut  T Pct  T Margin
======================================================
130     1246    54.09     924     322  25.85      -602
356     1128    39.51     756     371  32.94      -385
395      880    49.32     626     253  28.81      -373
437      997    50.39     748     249  24.98      -499
438      975    54.71     731     244  25.03      -487
483     1464    34.58     873     591  40.35      -282
492      917    36.55     610     307  33.47      -303
493      818    45.46     577     240  29.40      -337
499     1237    54.15     911     326  26.38      -585
504     1153    51.47     797     357  30.93      -440
625      830    44.75     517     313  37.69      -404
626     1049    36.83     611     438  41.72      -173
706      175    33.09     108      68  38.69       -40
727      484    19.96     198     287  59.20        89

      13,354    42.49   8,987   4,366  32.70    -4,621
                       12,933  11,107  46.38           

That last row represents what the total numbers would have been. The overall turnout rate, and Thibaut’s percentage of the vote, are each a bit different than what I showed in the original post for 2006 because I apparently just averaged the percentages back then, instead of adding the actual vote and voter numbers and figuring it out from there. My bad. Anyway, what this shows is that this district was always going to be a tough hold, but was at least within hailing distance of a win under more normal circumstances. It’ll be very interesting to see what happens here in the 2011 redistricting. One obvious “fix” would be to shift some of those CD09 precincts to Hubert Vo’s HD149, while moving some CD07 precincts from there to here. That shores up Murphy while acknowledging that if the Republicans couldn’t take out Vo in 2008 with his apartment issues and a strong candidate opposing him, and they couldn’t take him out in this hundred-year-flood year, they’re not likely to ever take him out. We’ll see about that.

For those who might wonder about Bill White’s ability to attract crossover votes, I should note that he lost this district by all of 15 votes. Here’s how the other statewide candidates who had Democratic opponents did this year and in 2006:


Incumbent   2006%   2010%   06 margin  10 margin
================================================
Dewhurst    62.30   58.94       4,952      4,645
Abbott      63.43   60.33       5,456      5,436
Patterson   59.84   59.03       3,902      4,656
Staples     59.27   58.18       3,688      4,197

Dewhurst and Abbott saw their percentages drop as much as they did because their margins were smaller with more votes being cast. Patterson and to a lesser extent Staples were helped by the increase in straight ticket voting, as both of them had a higher undervote rate in 2006 than in 2010. If you’re curious, you can see how the first three candidates did in 2002 here, on page 131.

“The cul-de-sac battleground”

The Observer has an interesting look at three State House races in suburban areas that were once Republican strongholds but have now become battlegrounds. Two of them are Democratic-held – HDs 52 and 133 – and one (HD105) is still Republican, with all of them having photo finishes in 2008 and all of them being key to the makeup of the 2011 Legislature. To give some idea of how these three districts have changed over time, here’s the average percentage of the two-party vote received by Republicans in each:

Year HD52 HD105 HD133 ========================= 2002 63.9 63.1 63.3 2004 60.2 57.9 56.4 2006 54.5 56.9 57.6 2008 51.9 47.8 48.2

There were eight contested judicial races in 2002, two each in 2004 and 2006, and five in 2008. That year, every Democratic judicial candidate won at least a plurality in HDs 105 and 133; in HD52, thanks to Libertarian candidates getting upwards of five percent, only two of the five Republicans got majorities, with the others carrying the district with pluralities.

You look at these numbers and you realize two things: One, what a huge missed opportunity HD105 was last time around. And two, even without the Obama surge of 2008, there was a lot of Republican erosion in those districts. In 2006, the Democratic judicial candidates ran ahead of their statewide numbers in HD52, as the WilCo Democratic Party was starting to get its act together. Both HDs 105 and 133 showed the effect of non-Presidential year turnout – remember, even as Dallas Democrats were sweeping the county that year, it was almost entirely about a huge decline in Republican votes. It’s all about changing demographics. I have no idea what things might look like this year, but I know you can’t overlook that effect. Combine four more years of such change with better organization and the Democrats in these districts have a fighting chance.

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.

Back to Basics jumps in to HD133

The Back to Basics folks, who must have the busiest website design shop in the Western hemisphere, have jumped into the HD133 race by going after Jim Murphy, the former Rep from HD133 running to win his seat back from incumbent Rep. Kristi Thibaut. This page doesn’t have the bells and whistles that some of their other efforts have had – it looks an awful lot like a mail piece that’s about to get dropped – but it is characteristically aggressive and unapologetic, two things you need in a year where base mobilization is key. And if there’s a single House district in Harris County where that will be critical, it’s HD133. Consider the following chart of Democratic high scores in the district since 2002:

Year Candidate Pct State ============================== 2002 Mirabal 42.7 45.9 2004 Molina 44.0 42.1 2006 Moody 43.8 46.8 2008 Obama 51.9 43.6

This doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Margaret Mirabal, who carried Harris County, was an outlier that year. Only John Sharp, at 40.3%, joined her in cracking 40% in 133, and all other Democrats ran six or seven points behind their state total there. In 2006, four other statewide Democrats topped 40%, with countywide candidates doing even better – Jim Sharp was the high scorer, with 44.7% – and all statewides doing two to three points worse there than overall. I figure the baseline has probably moved another two points or so in the Democratic direction. That’s clearly not enough to win, but now look at the difference between 2004, when then-Rep. “Moldy Joe” Nixon ran without a Democratic opponent and there was precious little going on organizationally to get Democratic votes out, and 2008. The district wasn’t that much bluer in 2008 than in previous years, it just voted like it. If Democrats get their voters out in HD133, they win, simple as that. We’ve got a great candidate at the top of the ticket, we’re vastly better organized than we were even four years ago, and we’ve got a strong candidate running for re-election. The rest is up to us.

Interview with State Rep. Kristi Thibaut

Rep. Kristi Thibaut

State Rep. Kristi Thibaut is a freshman representing HD133 out in west Harris County. She’s a former legislative aide and was a fundraiser for various organizations before winning election in 2008 in her second attempt. Hers is a true swing district and this will be one of the top races in the county as she faces off against former Rep. Jim Murphy for the third straight election. We talked about that and other things in our conversation:

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.

(more…)

Kirk Watson’s “Monopoly Busters”

I hadn’t written about State Sen. Kirk Watson’s Monopoly Busters drive before now – see here for his announcement of it last week. The primary goal is to decide which House incumbents will receive campaign contributions from Sen. Watson, but the secondary goal, which really may be the most important one, was getting more Texas Democrats – officeholders as well as the grassroots – involved in social media and online outreach. Turns out that’s been a big success.

Yesterday, we exceeded the 10,000-vote threshold – as well as all expectations for the success of this effort. The organization and energy that have gone into the last 10 days have been inspiring.

The question now is how to keep that energy flowing. As I’ve said before, while the $10,000 contribution that just one legislator will receive provides an excellent catalyst, it isn’t the biggest benefit of the Ballot. Instead, the biggest benefit will be the social media networks and email contacts that every representative will reap from participating. Clearly, this is a rare opportunity to get and keep Democrats engaged in your campaigns, and I want to do all I can to maximize it.

Yesterday, I received a letter from our State Party Chairman, Boyd Richie, which is attached. Noting the positive effect that the Ballot has had in these legislative races, Chairman Richie proposed extending its benefits by doubling the number of candidates who move on to Round 2. I think it’s a great suggestion – one that dovetails with some things I’ve heard and thoughts I’ve had about this effort and where we should go from here. And I’m writing to let you know that I’m taking his advice.

After Round 1 ends at 5 p.m. today, I will announce the ten candidates who will move on to Round 2. I believe that increasing participation and making the Ballot more open will cause the benefits to multiply, as well.

You can go here to cast your vote. I cast mine for Rep. Kristi Thibaut, who is running second right now. Round One ends today at 5, and Round Two will follow shortly. Thanks to Sen. Watson, whose example I hope will inspire some copycats, for doing this.

Election tidbits for 9/28

Two weeks till Early Voting begins.

Psst! Hey, Peggy! Rep. Kristi Thibaut represents HD133 here in Houston, not Galveston. Just FYI.

As for the news that the GOP will be targeting State Rep. Abel Herrero, given the 2008 partisan index of HD34, plus the apparent likelihood that the Dems are once again punting on the statewide races and don’t have much of a plan to engage their base in South Texas, it makes sense. On the other hand, Herrero performed pretty decently against a well-funded opponent (he had more money, but not that much more), and I don’t at this time see him as being in much danger; at least, I don’t see him as being in as much danger as some other Democrats. But if I were a Republican, I’d want to take a shot at him, even if I thought it was a long shot.

Republican State Rep. Charlie Geren may face another primary challenger. After taking Tom Craddick and James Leininger’s best shots, I doubt he’s seriously worried.

Speaking of primaries, Democrat Eric Johnson boasts about raising over $100K in his effort to unseat State Rep. Terri Hodge. I think the verdict in the Dallas City Hall corruption case, for which Rep. Hodge has been indicted but not yet tried, will be the bigger determinant in his race than his fundraising, but it can’t hurt to have the resources to run.

Empower Texans, one of the conservative agitprop groups in the state, wants to know if you think Sen. Hutchison should resign or not. Not sure why they think if she does resign it will “save taxpayers up to $30 million”, and I’m not sure why that’s her responsibility and not Governor Perry’s, since the cost of the special election is in part a function of the date he sets for it, but whatever. I don’t expect logic from these guys anyway.

Was that Rasmussen poll that showed a KBH bounceback against Rick Perry a bogus result?

Last week, the Press named Sheriff Adrian Garcia the Best Democrat, and County Judge Ed Emmett the Best Republican. I can’t argue with either of those choices.

Mayoral candidate Gene Locke has recordings of numerous robocalls being made on his behalf by various elected officials that support his candidacy. I’ll say again, I think you ought to be spending your money on other forms of outreach, like mail – in this case, why not do these recorsings as radio ads – and save the robocalls for GOTV efforts. I say this as someone who generally hangs up on robocalls. Maybe I’m the exception here, I don’t know. But I suspect most people find these things more intrusive and annoying than anything else.

Speaking of ads, Peter Brown is set to release his third TV ad tomorrow. I’ll post the video when I get it. So far, that’s Brown 3, Parker 1, Locke 0, and I haven’t seen Parker’s ad on the tube yet. Still wondering when we’ll see new poll numbers so we’ll know if Brown’s air war has moved anyone into his column.

The Cook and Delisi Top Ten

With the motto of “Why should Texas Monthly have all the fun?”, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi have put together their own Ten Best Legislators list, with the twist being that Cook picked the Republicans and Delisi picked the Dems. It’s an interesting and thoughtful list, but I’d bet their Ten Worst list, with each picking from their own party this time, would be a lot more fun. What say you, fellas?

In related news, as BOR notes, all four of the freshmen that had been endorsed by the TexBlog PAC were honored as outstanding members by different groups, and Houston freshman Rep. Kristi Thibaut was named House freshman of the year by the House Democratic Caucus. Click on for her press release on the subject. Congrats to all the winners!

(more…)

Is the Lege going back on red light cameras?

Last session, after several prior attempts to ban cities from using red light cameras, the Lege passed a bill (SB1119) that granted cities the authority to use them, with some restrictions. Via Matt Stiles, it seems one of the legislators who had made those previous attempts to ban the cameras is still at it.

A bill that would ban local authorities from using red-light cameras like this one at Bellaire and the Southwest Freeway in Houston got a key vote [Thursday] night in the Legislature.

The legislation, authored by state Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, was passed out of the House urban affairs committee on the 6-5 vote.

As we’ve written before, Isett is no fan of red-light cameras. His city actually lost money with them.

The Texas Legislature Online page for HB2639 doesn’t show the committee vote, so I can’t say who did what. I’ve looked at the text of the bill, and it’s not fully clear to me what it does – it substitutes “local authority” for “municipality” as part of its wording, which distinction I don’t really understand. Be that as it may, this may make it to the House floor to a vote, but I think it’s likely to be a calendars casualty in the Senate. I just don’t get the impression that there’s enough sentiment to undo what was done last time. But you never know, so we’ll keep an eye on this.

Fun fact: Three of the four House sponsors of SB1119 are no longer in the House: Jim Murphy, the author of the House companion bill for SB11119, was defeated in November by Rep. Kristi Thibaut; Kevin Bailey was defeated in the Democratic primary by Rep. Armando Walle, who is now on the Urban Affairs committee; and Dianne Delisi retired. I can confidently state that SB1119 had nothing to do with Murphy or Bailey’s defeats, but it’ll be interesting to see how all of their replacements vote on HB2639 if it comes to the floor.

Two legislator stories

The Chron has a nice profile of State Rep. Kristi Thibaut, who had a very busy year last year.

Thibaut first ran for the Legislature in 2006. She had been a state Senate messenger and a government major while in college and a legislative aide for two years. Taught by her father to hunt geese on the coast, she had headed the youth hunting group. She also worked for the Texas Wildlife Foundation and as a campaign fundraiser.

Thibaut got at least one Republican vote: her husband’s. But she lost the race to Republican Jim Murphy in District 133, which includes upper-middle-class homes and modest apartment complexes near Westheimer and the Sam Houston Tollway.

Democrats reloaded on hope for 2008. Thibaut started running again in late 2007. And the candidate, who had suffered a miscarriage months earlier, talked with her husband about starting the adoption process after November’s election.

Then Thibaut got pregnant.

“I was as hysterical as anybody in that position would be,” she recalled. She’d been fearful she would disappoint supporters and contributors who might think she no longer was game for political combat.

But she was. Her husband encouraged her to stay on the campaign trail, as did groups such as Annie’s List, which backs Democratic women seeking Texas offices.

Her son was born June 11, and soon after, Thibaut sought campaign donations with a letter that included a baby photo. On Election Day, she greeted voters at polling places with her son, who wore a T-shirt saying “Vote for my mommy.”

Child exploitation for political gain? “We were shameless,” Thibaut said.

Turnout doubled from 2006. She beat Murphy by fewer than 500 votes.

I remember talking to Thibaut shortly after the news of her pregnancy became public. She was confident at the time that she could run an effective campaign, and more importantly raise the funds she’d need to run that campaign, during and after her pregnancy. The results speak for themselves. Thibaut got a sizable boost from the Democratic wave of 2008, and will be one of the more endangered incumbents in 2010 because of that; Murphy is running again, for the rubber match. She’s a hard worker, she’s already got some good legislative results, and she’s just a super person, so if anyone can hold that seat, it’s her.

Meanwhile, the Statesman has an interesting piece on longtime conservative stalwart Rep. Warren Chisum, who lost power in the Speaker transition but has since morphed into a key player on environmental legislation.

With ever more likely federal rules limiting emissions of carbon dioxide, which have been associated with global warming, Chisum has teamed up with Democrats and some Republicans to make business-friendly proposals that would give subsidies to companies that capture greenhouse gas emissions.

Chisum, in short, has sought out engagement with the federal government over carbon dioxide rules even as some leading Republicans have taken a more confrontational posture.

Gov. Rick Perry, for one, has warned against an activist Environmental Protection Agency and said the greenhouse gas rules could derail the economy in a state that is the nation’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide.

But Chisum has avoided the politically divisive rhetoric of global warming, which most Texas Republican leaders are unwilling to connect to emissions from the state’s power plants and manufacturing facilities.

Instead, he has focused on modest goals aimed at tamping down the state’s carbon emissions by dishing out tax breaks and other incentives to industries. The proposals could save utilities and other industries money, depending on how expensive carbon emissions become under federal limits, and could earn Texas political credit as those limits are shaped.

“There’s not much sympathy for Texas” in Washington, said Chisum, who said the state should try to influence the shape of federal law. “We should try to get a legitimate seat in any rule-making that the federal government is involved in sooner rather than later.”

Chisum gets positive reviews from environmental advocates in the piece, though they note that there’s a whole lot of legislation that hasn’t passed yet. He’s really a good fit for the role he’s taken here, because everyone likes and respects him, and he’s clearly taken a pragmatic, let’s-get-things-done perspective. I wish him well in this pursuit.

Rep. Thibaut

Nice article in the Observer about freshman State Rep. Kristi Thibaut, whom the paper has tagged as a “woman to watch” for this session. I had the pleasure of meeting Rep. Thibaut back before she first ran for office, and I’m really happy to see not only that she made it, but that she’s looking to shake things up a bit. She’ll have a fight for re-election in 2010, in what will be the rubber match against now-former Rep. Jim Murphy, but she’s got the district’s trends (which mirror those of the county as a whole) and the power of incumbency in her favor. Hers may be the top race in the county next year; it will surely be in the top three or so. Keep an eye on Rep. Kristi Thibaut.