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Lane Lewis

Lillie Schechter elected HCDP Chair

Lillie Schechter

Six candidates were nominated for HCDP Chair at Sunday’s County Executive Committee meeting: Dominique Davis, Johnathan Miller, Chris Spellmon, Keryl Douglass, Eartha Jean Johnson, and Lillie Schechter. Each candidate was given two minutes for a speech in a pre-determined order, and the most interesting thing to come out of those speeches was candidates Spellmon and Douglass urging their supporters to cast their votes for Johnson. I presume this was a strategic move, to not split the vote among the three of them and give one candidate – Johnson – the best possible odds of making to a runoff. You may ask, as I did, why they just didn’t decline the nomination. Assuming they could decline the nominations, which may or may not be the case under the rules, being nominated meant they got to deliver those speeches and thus advocate for Johnson.

Not a bad plan, but it wasn’t enough. There were 359 current precinct chairs in attendance – afterwards, in the regular meeting, a bunch of new precinct chairs were inaugurated, but they were not eligible to vote in this election – and via the “division of the room” method we are all familiar with by now, Schechter emerged victorious in the first round, collecting 190 votes to Johnson’s 118; Miller had 30 and Davis 21. She was then sworn in by TDP Chair Gilberto Hinojosa, who was present for the meeting.

In the end, I supported Schechter. It was a tough choice – I liked all four of the candidates who asked for our votes – but in the end I decided Schechter had the best combination of priorities, experience, and fundraising abilities. She got off to a good start, calling all of the Chair candidates up to the dais and thanking them for their dedication. There’s always the possibility of bitterness after an election like this, but I didn’t get the sense there was any after this one. I hope that remains the case.

One promise all of the candidates made was to ensure the Party is fully funded for its day-to-day and campaign efforts, and to fill the empty precinct chair positions. The 359 chairs who voted were about 75% of active chairs at the time. There were others sworn in following the election as noted, but the grand total is still only about half of the total number of precincts, or maybe 60% of the precincts that have any real population in them. There’s plenty of room to grow, and that’s without mentioning the fact that some precinct chairs are more active than others. We will definitely have some objective data by which to judge Schechter’s tenure as Chair.

All in all, it was a good experience. I hope it’s a long time before I’m called upon again as a precinct chair to select someone for office. I’ve exercised enough power to last a lifetime, thanks. My thanks to now-former Chair Lane Lewis, and congratulations to Lillie Schechter. I think I speak for many when I say we hope for big things from you. The Chron has more.

Date set for HCDP Chair election

From the Inbox:

Lane Lewis

Two months ago, I announced my intention to resign in February 2017. This will result in a vacancy, therefore we must move forward with a special election. The Precinct Chairs of Harris County will elect a replacement Chair at the next County Executive Committee Meeting.

I am confident that our Precinct Chairs will select the best candidate to serve as Party Chair. Keep an eye out for further emails with meeting location information in the next coming days. The CEC Meeting will be open to the public.

February 26, 2017 from 4:00 PM-6:00 PM: Public Forum to meet the individuals interested in consideration for the Harris County Democratic Party Chair position. The Forum will be hosted by the HCDP (All are welcome and public comment will be encouraged).

March 05, 2017 from 3:00 PM-6:00 PM: CEC Meeting to select the replacement Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party (All are welcome, but only Precinct Chairs currently listed on the Texas Secretary of State’s website are eligible to vote).

I will definitely be there for both. In the meantime, Lillie Schechter made her formal announcement for Chair, while Tomaro Bell dropped out and endorsed Schechter. Assuming that Art Pronin is still either on the fence or not going to get in, we have: Robert Collier, Eartha Jean Johnson, Lillie Schechter, Chris Spellmon, Dominique Davis, Keryl Douglass, Johnathan Miller, and Rony Escobar. I hope to have Q&A responses from all of them before the 26th.

Still more HCDP Chair hopefuls

From the inbox, from precinct chair Sterling Camp:

Lane Lewis

10 Possible County Chair Candidates

I’ve been emailed that Keryl Douglas, former executive director of Houston NAACP, will be running for County Chair. The list grows to 10.

Tomaro Bell
Robert Collier
Dominique Davis
Keryl Douglas
Rony Escobar
Eartha Jean Johnson
Johnathan F. Miller
Art Pronin (considering)
Lillie Schechter
Chris Spellmon

SD17 Forum Moved to Feb. 9

The SD17 County Chair Forum has been changed to Thursday, Feb. 9. All are welcome to attend. Further details to be provided.

Special Election Meeting

I called the office, identified myself, and asked for when the meeting to elect the new County Chair is. The staff who answered the phone said that it has not been decided yet, and Precinct Chairs will be emailed when it is scheduled. So we still do not know when the meeting is.

Here’s Camp’s previous email, which contains information about the qualifications one needs to have to be a county party chair. I will make plans to attend that forum, which is being organized by SD17 Chair Tom Gederberg. I would note at this time that this race, like the ones last year for nominations to be County Commissioner and all that other stuff, will be decided by precinct chairs. What that means is that as was the case with those “races” last year, the only candidates will be those who are nominated during the selection process by a precinct chair, and what that means is that some number of people who say they are running will wind up on the sidelines when the actual vote takes place. That’s how it went with County Commissioner and SD13, where several of the announced candidates, some of whom participated in candidate forums, were never officially put up for consideration.

Which is why I’m a little puzzled that there hasn’t been more outreach from the candidates yet. I have received a couple of emails from Eartha Johnson, and both she and Rony Escobar were at a meeting of the Spring Branch Dems on Wednesday, where I had been invited to speak. I’ve now also received an email from Robert Collier, but so far that’s it. There are multiple people on that list above who have good resumes, but no clear frontrunners. Most if not all of them will need to introduce themselves and make a case for themselves to the precinct chairs. I hope we get more of that soon.

What I’m looking for in the next HCDP Chair

Lane Lewis

Following up on yesterday’s post, here are a few issues I’ve been thinking about regarding the position of HCDP Chair.

1. Focus on voter registration

My main takeaway from this past election is that Harris County is now fundamentally blue, with the majority of new voters coming into the county being more likely to be Democrats. By “new voters”, I mean people who move here, people who turn 18, and people who become citizens, so they are eligible to vote but have to actually register to do so. It needs to be our priority to make sure that they do. There are also a lot of people who move within the county every year and need to update their registrations, and there are still people who could be registered but aren’t. It should be the party’s goal, especially now that we have a friendly person overseeing the registration process, to maximize the voter rolls.

2. Expand the vote-by-mail outreach project (maybe)

There has been a focus under Chair Lewis to get more eligible Democrats to vote by mail. It has been successful by any measure, though I don’t know the details behind it. Specifically, I don’t know how many of these mail voters are people who had reliably voted in person before, and how many are new or lower-propensity voters. I’d like to hear how the Chair candidates evaluate this effort and what they would do to improve and expand it, if they think that is a good idea.

3. Continue the focus on “other” elections

Under Chair Lewis, the party has provided basic information about candidates in Houston municipal races – what their voting history is, who is or is not a sustaining member of the HCDP, etc. It has also done some advocacy for candidates in races where there is a clear choice between a lone Democratic candidate and one or more non-Democrats. This should definitely continue, and it should also be expanded, to include the various school board races, HCC and Lone Star College, and municipal races in other Harris County cities. The May elections in Pasadena should be a particular point of interest for the HCDP.

4. Think more regionally

Democrats did about as well as they could have in Harris County in 2016. I feel pretty good about making gains in 2018, though of course there are a lot of things that can and will affect how that election will go that have yet to play out. At some point, to continue the momentum, we are going to need to be more involved in races that go beyond our borders. Examples include the First and 14th Courts of Appeals, and multi-county districts like SD17 and CD22. Fort Bend and to a lesser extent Brazoria County are becoming more Democratic in part because they are more like Harris County in nature – more urban, and more attractive to the kind of person who tends to vote our way. We should seek to work more closely with our counterparts in neighboring counties to help maximize Democratic performance not just in Harris County but in the greater Houston region.

This is all high-level bullet point stuff, and there are more things that need to be in the discussion, but this is what I’ve been thinking about. I do intend to send out a Q&A to Chair hopefuls, to get a better idea of where they stand on things. If nothing else, I’ll need to make up my own mind about whom to support. What do you want the next Chair to focus on?

So who is running to succeed Lane Lewis as HCDP Chair?

Lane Lewis

It has been over a month since Lane Lewis announced his impemding departure as HCDP Chair. Since then, I have been asked by multiple people if I have heard from any potential candidates to replace him. My answer has been, and as of this morning continues to be, no I have not. I presume that with the holidays and the preparations for the Legislative session and the resistance to the Trump regime, this has been somewhat of a back burner item for people. That said, there will be a County Executive Committee meeting for the HCDP in February (date and time not yet scheduled, but we know it’s coming), at which precinct chairs will vote to name a successor. I have to assume that some time between now and then, the interested parties will make themselves known to the chairs and will ask them for their support.

In the meantime, I have now heard a few names mentioned as possibilities. The following are the names I have heard mentioned by more than one person:

Rony Escobar
Dominique Davis
Chris Spellmon
Lillie Schechter
Art Pronin

Lillie Schechter is a political consultant who has worked with Sen. Sylvia Garcia, CM Jerry Davis, former Council candidate Tom McCasland, and others. Her mother Sue Schechter was HCDP Chair in the late 90s-early 2000s, right before Gerry Birnberg. Art Pronin is the President of the Meyerland Democrats club, which is one of the more active clubs in the area. He’s the only person on this list that I have talked to so far, and isn’t committed to running but is thinking about it. He and Schechter are the two potential candidates that I know best. Davis is the Chief of Staff/Director of Operations of the HCDP, so she would clearly have plenty of experience going in. I’m sure I’ve met her but don’t know her beyond that. I don’t know Escobar or Spellmon at all. This email from the Meyerland Dems mentions the names Rob Collier and Tomaro Bell, whom I also don’t know. (The email actually says “Robin Collier”, but I have since received clarification that it is Rob Collier, whose wife Rabea was a candidate for judge in 2016.)

So that’s what I know at this time. I don’t have a preferred candidate yet, as I would like to hear from everyone and get an idea of what they have in mind to do as HCDP Chair. Tomorrow I will post about the sort of things I’d like to see our next HCDP Chair do.

UPDATE: One more name to add, Eartha Jean Johnson, who wins the distinction of being the first HCDP Chair hopeful to send me an official email of her candidacy.

Lane Lewis to step down as HCDP Chair

From the Inbox:

Lane Lewis

Lane Lewis

It has been 5 years to the month since you first elected me to be your Party Chair.

Over the last 5 years, our social media presence grew and enabled us to deliver our message to thousands more people; our fundraising increased and allowed us to have multiple full time staff all year every year; our mail ballot program went from non-existent to the most recognized in the state; we rebuilt strong relationships with our Union friends and engaged the resources of our Democratic Clubs especially in the suburbs; and we built an approach that the base is paramount and all Democrats need to be engaged regardless of where they live.

All of this came together this year and Democrats swept Harris County.

One of my campaign promises back in 2011 was to see us through the Presidential election of 2016 and I am immensely proud of all we have accomplished together. It is time for someone else to lead the Party and build on the successes we have had together.

Yesterday, I announced to the County Executive Committee of my intention to resign in February 2017.

I will call for a special election sometime in February (date to be announced soon). On that date, I will officially resign and the Precinct Chairs of Harris County will elect a replacement.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve, but we are not slowing down. We have coming up…

  • Early Voting: Dec 5th & 6th, and 10th Anne Sung, HISD Trustee District 7 Runoff (support a great Democrat and clearly the most qualified for the position) and Baytown Councilmember, District No. 3
  • Toast to A Blue Year: Thursday, December 8, 2016; 7:00 PM at Sterling House, Free admission for Precinct Chairs (come say thanks to all your 2016 candidates)
  • Harris Democrats University: mid-January 2016 (tentative) – (several of our students from the previous HDU won their elections in 2016 and/or worked on successful campaigns)

Thank you all for your support and service these many years!

Here’s the Chron story, which at this time doesn’t have any new information. This was announced at the Sunday CEC meeting, which I missed because I’m lame and had too many other things going on. I think Lewis has done a good job as HCDP Chair. Most people I talk to have a positive opinion of him, and the electoral results have been pretty good. The mail ballot program he instituted has been a success. Most importantly, there has been fairly little infighting, which is always a concern. There are still various fiefdoms within the county (and the state) that do their own thing and make it hard to tell who’s responsible for what – to be fair, I doubt any Chair could change this – and Lewis’ run for City Council in 2013 while still serving as Chair ruffled some feathers and opened questions about conflicts of interest that were never really addressed. I’d like to see the next Chair, whom I will get to help select, deal with that, and I’d like to see a more focused approach to stating and achieving our goals for 2018 and beyond. I will give some thoughts to what I want to see in the next HCDP Chair and write them up in the next few days. In the meantime, I’m sure I’ll be hearing from those who want to be that Chair shortly. My thanks to Lane Lewis for all his hard work at this often thankless job. Enjoy your retirement and best of luck at whatever comes next.

UPDATE: Here’s a later version of the Chron story, which does contain one mention of a potential candidate:

Names of potential successors swirled in Democratic circles Monday, but as of early evening, no one had confirmed an intent to run for what many see as a vital but often thankless post.

Personal injury lawyer Donna Roth, 58, and a thrice-unsuccessful state district judge candidate, said in an email that she is “interested in the position and will be giving it further consideration.”

As I said, I’m sure that interested parties will begin to make themselves known, especially to precinct chairs, in short order.

Chron overview of judicial races

In case anyone is paying attention to them.

HarrisCounty

As Harris County goes, so go most of its judicial races.

That truism appears to be good news for Democrats seeking to scoop up more district court benches in November, when two dozen criminal, civil and family court positions are up for grabs.

Three of the benches are open, while 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans are defending their seats.

“The Republicans are looking at a real uphill battle,” Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said, pointing to disaffection for Trump among some Republicans, which could impact voting patterns down the ballot. “I think the most likely scenario is we’re looking at a repeat of 2008, where we see a near or complete Democratic sweep of the judicial races.”

[…]

Looking for a repeat [of 2008], Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lane Lewis said the party is focused on encouraging voters to cast a straight-ticket ballot in November.

“I think you are going to see much more straight Democratic ticket voting. One, because we have the better candidates, and two, because their candidates are just so bad,” Lewis said. “The Republicans are going to lose votes because of Trump.”

Harris County Republican Party Chair Paul Simpson fired back, saying enthusiasm about Clinton does not compare to support for Obama eight years ago.

“This is not a wave, and I’ve been saying for months Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama. She’s the status quo,” Simpson said, adding that traditional Democratic voters may cast their ballots for Trump.

Even so, Texas Southern University political scientist Jay Aiyer said Trump’s controversial candidacy provides a structural advantage for Democratic judges.

“Traditional Democratic voters are inclined to vote straight-ticket, and the same is not necessarily the case on the Republican side because you have a percentage of Republicans that are likely to not vote for (Trump) for president,” Aiyer said.

The story references the recent Hobby Center poll of Harris County, which has Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump here by four or nine points, depending on how you define “likely voters”. As the story notes, a two-point win by President Obama in 2008 was enough for a near-Democratic sweep of the judicial races. Paul Simpson’s complaints aside, the last three Presidential races show that Democrats have done a better job voting all the way down the ballot than Republicans have done. That may change this year, but I personally would not bet on that. For what it’s worth, the little bit of gossip I’ve heard suggests that the Republican judges on the ballot this year are not feeling very confident. With all the standard caveats and disclaimers, I’d rather be in the Dems’ position right now.

Reps. Green and Green want investigation of voting machine shortage

I have three things to say about this.

eSlateImage

Two Houston congressmen are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether unequal distribution of voting machines and polling locations in Harris County disenfranchised minority voters during the March 1 primary election.

In a letter dated March 15, U.S. Reps. Al Green and Gene Green, both Houston Democrats, blamed insufficient voting machines and polling locations for “excessively long lines” in predominantly Hispanic and black precincts in Harris County. Citing local news reports, the congressmen indicated that long lines “deterred” minority voters from “exercising their right to vote that day.”

“The failure to distribute sufficient voting machines in predominantly Hispanic and African-American precincts in Harris County, in comparison to the resources made available in more affluent, predominantly Anglo precincts in the county, had a discriminatory impact on our constituents’ ability to participate in the political process,” the congressmen wrote.

[…]

The increased turnout — fueled by a heated Republican presidential race — left election officials scrambling to deliver additional voting machines to polling locations with long lines on election day. Still, some voters in Houston did not cast their votes until after 9:30 p.m. — hours after polls closed. Others reportedly abandoned their place in line without voting after waiting for hours.

The distribution of polling locations in primary elections is a responsibility of each county’s political party, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections and voting. Using a formula based on previous voter turnout, county parties are charged with estimating voter turnout and determining the number of voting machines and polling locations needed.

Individual county parties ultimately decide whether that estimate should be higher or lower depending on other factors, such as a contested presidential primary, said Alicia Pierce, a spokeswoman for the state agency

County and party officials estimated that about 144,000 voters would cast a Democratic primary ballot. But more than 227,000 Democratic voters made it to the polls for the primary election.

On the Republican side, officials estimated 265,000 voters would turn out but almost 330,000 voters actually cast a ballot.

Lane Lewis, chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, pushed back on allegations of unequal distribution of polling locations, saying there was nothing “nefarious” behind the wait times.

The long lines were a result of higher than expected turnout, he added, and there was little indication from early voting figures that voter turnout would be so high.

1. The formula is based in part on “the percentage of voter turnout for the office that received the most votes in the most recent comparable party primary election”, which in this case would be 2012. I don’t think the initial estimates were terrible at the time they were made, which as I understand it was late last year; in fact, I think they were quite defensible. The problem was that there was no way to adjust those estimates based on the on-the-ground and at-the-time conditions. And even taking that into consideration, the general consensus in the days between the end of early voting and Tuesday, March 1 was that more than half of the people who were going to vote had already voted. That was the real problem, as a good 57% of the vote was cast on Tuesday. To me, the main learning from this needs to be that the hotter the election, the more likely that people will show up on Election Day.

2. Compounding the problem was the consolidation of Election Day voting locations. Roughly half of Republican voting locations were folded into others, while the same was true for well more than half of Democratic precincts. This was also an effect of the initial underestimation of turnout, but because there are so few voting machines at Election Day polling locations, and because these were primaries where you had to consider each race individually – no “straight party” option – it made the lines longer. One can make a good case that voting centers, as they have in Fort Bend and other places but which are still “under consideration” in Harris County, could have greatly ameliorated this problem, if for no other reason than they will have more voting machines available at each location.

3. All that said, it’s wholly appropriate for the Justice Department to investigate, and make whatever recommendations they can. In the end, however, this is a problem that needs to be addressed locally. Trail Blazers has more.

UPDATE: The Chron story is here, and the Press has more, including a copy of the letter that was sent.

Chron story on Locke running for Commissioner

It’s officially official now.

Gene Locke

Gene Locke

Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Gene Locke, appointed to fill the unexpired term following the sudden death of longtime Commissioner El Franco Lee last month, said Tuesday he may seek the nomination for the powerful local office in the November election.

Locke said he has not made a final decision, but his statement signals a shift for the former city attorney, who previously said he intended to return to his job as a lawyer and spend time with his family after the end of the current term in December.

It also would conflict with County Judge Ed Emmett’s previously stated desire to appoint a caretaker commissioner who would not seek the job beyond Dec. 31

“It’s the number of people who I respect that are asking me to consider it,” Locke said Tuesday.

He declined to name those asking him to run and said he needs to talk to his family about it. He did not give a timetable for when he would make a decision.

[…]

After Lee’s death on Jan. 3, several people announced interest in the office, including Houston Councilmen Jerry Davis, Dwight Boykins and Larry Green. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said last month that he intends to run, sacrificing 25 years of legislative seniority.

“I have a lot of respect for Gene Locke and appreciate anyone who wants to serve the public,” Ellis said in a statement Tuesday.

Davis said the possibility of Locke seeking the nomination would not change anything for him.

“Right now, it’s just the opportunity to talk to different people and see what they want in the county commissioner,” he said.

Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis said Locke had not told him if he was interested in the nomination.

You heard it here first. I mean, look, there are 130 or so precinct chairs who will make this decision. Locke’s task, or any other challenger’s task, is to convince enough of them to make him their first or second choice. I don’t know how that’s going to go, but it will be a campaign and an election like nothing else we’ve seen anytime soon.

On succeeding El Franco Lee

Don’t rush anyone.

El Franco Lee

Within hours of longtime Commissioner El Franco Lee’s sudden death Sunday, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett received calls from three people vying for his seat.

Emmett, who alone must appoint a temporary successor, said he will not consider these three or five others who by day’s end expressed their interest.

“There’s such a thing as dignity,” Emmett said on Monday.

[…]

Replacing Lee will be a two-step process which is complicated by where it falls in the election cycle. State law dictates when a sudden vacancy occurs, the county judge must pick a commissioner to complete the term, which in Lee’s case is Jan. 1, 2017.

When the term ends, the commissioner’s job comes up for election. However, at this point it’s too late for candidates to submit their names for the March primary, and there is no Republican running for the seat.

After the primary, sometime in June, Democratic party officials for Precinct 1 will choose a replacement candidate for Lee. The candidate the party chooses will run unopposed in November.

Emmett said he hoped to announce a short-term appointee to the job in three weeks’ time, when he returns from a previously scheduled vacation. Emmett, a centrist Republican, sought input Monday morning from Lee’s staff to find an African-American Democrat for the job equipped to proceed with projects already underway. He said he wanted the individual to be in place in time to participate in the fiscal year budget process.

Lane Lewis, the Democratic Party chair for Harris County, will oversee part two of this process and believes it is in Emmett’s best interest to appoint a caretaker who is ineligible to run or who would choose not to run instead of picking a viable candidate for the November balloting.

“I don’t think he’s interested in trying to be kingmaker; he’s interested in having an honorable, respectable placeholder who can do the job while the process takes place over the next six to eight months,” Lewis said.

Like Emmett, Lewis fielded a handful of phone calls Sunday from individuals inquiring about the open seat on Commissioners Court. Two or three more people approached him Monday at Mayor Sylvester Turner’s inauguration asking how to submit their names to the party’s selection process in June.

“Some were more pushy than others,” he said. Lewis said he agreed with Emmett that these conversations should happen at some point but were premature.

See here for the background. Gotta say, much as I can understand why anyone and everyone would like to have this job, buttonholing Ed Emmett and Lane Lewis (at the Mayor’s inauguration!) like this when everyone is still in shock over the news of Commissioner Lee’s death is just plain tacky. And speaking as a precinct chair in Precinct 1, I agree with Campos about knowing who the eagerest beavers are, so I can take that into account at the CEC meeting when we decide who the nominee will be. I’m already dreading the emails and phone calls I expect I’ll be getting in the months ahead. But as long as we’re discussing this, let me say that one of my priorities for a new Commissioner is someone who will pledge to work with the local party and candidates to support GOTV efforts. With great power comes great responsibility, and all that. KUHF and PDiddie have more.

Precinct analysis: At Large #1

This week I’m going to look at the five At Large Council races, beginning with At Large #1. Before I get into the district breakdown, here’s a number to consider: In Harris County, there were 76,675 undervotes in this race. The combined vote total for top two finishers Mike Knox (47,456) and Georgia Provost (28,402) was 75,858. In a very real sense, “none of the above” was the winner in At Large #1.

So with that out of the way, here’s what the vote looked like:


Dist  Griff   McCas    Pool  Provost  Oliver    Knox   Lewis  PGalv
====================================================================
A     2,465   1,415   1,138    1,303   1,113   5,560   1,300     575
B     1,314     927   1,799    5,861   3,183     919   1,817     568
C     5,201   7,154   2,530    1,758   1,863   7,375   6,170     799
D     1,509   1,395   1,623    8,152   4,425   1,657   1,867     606
E     3,040   2,346   1,770    1,395   1,774  10,861   1,247     868
F     1,144     959   1,194    1,093   1,114   2,051     699     472
G     5,242   4,910   1,610    1,287   2,002  12,040   1,748     400
H     1,287   1,463   1,414    1,606   1,472   1,451   1,654   1,739
I     1,250     889   1,113    1,619   1,476   1,258   1,176   1,644
J       719     797     682      750     717   1,601     613     318
K     1,555   1,922   1,536    3,573   2,775   2,678   1,773     553
								
A    16.58%   9.52%   7.65%    8.76%   7.49%  37.39%   8.74%   3.87%
B     8.02%   5.66%  10.98%   35.76%  19.42%   5.61%  11.09%   3.47%
C    15.83%  21.78%   7.70%    5.35%   5.67%  22.45%  18.78%   2.43%
D     7.11%   6.57%   7.64%   38.39%  20.84%   7.80%   8.79%   2.85%
E    13.05%  10.07%   7.60%    5.99%   7.61%  46.61%   5.35%   3.73%
F    13.11%  10.99%  13.68%   12.53%  12.77%  23.50%   8.01%   5.41%
G    17.93%  16.79%   5.51%    4.40%   6.85%  41.18%   5.98%   1.37%
H    10.65%  12.10%  11.70%   13.29%  12.18%  12.01%  13.69%  14.39%
I    11.99%   8.53%  10.68%   15.53%  14.16%  12.07%  11.28%  15.77%
J    11.60%  12.86%  11.01%   12.10%  11.57%  25.84%   9.89%   5.13%
K     9.50%  11.74%   9.39%   21.83%  16.96%  16.36%  10.83%   3.38%
Georgia Provost

Georgia Provost

I’ve previously discussed how if Lane Lewis, Tom McCasland, and Jenifer Pool had been a single candidate instead of three candidates splitting a subset of voters evenly, that candidate would have led the pack. In a slightly different universe, we could be saying the same thing about Georgia Provost and Chris Oliver. In this universe, Provost did sufficiently better than Oliver among their African-American base of voters to break free from the pack and make it to the December election. That gives her a path to build on for the runoff, and with the formal endorsement of the HCDP (sent out on Friday), she stands to inherit the Lewis/McCasland/Pool voters as well. She will need them to win – her base isn’t big enough if Anglo Dems skip this race next month. I didn’t do an interview with Provost for At Large #1 because it never looked like she was running much of a campaign – you can find the interview I did with her in 2013 for District D here – but since Election Day I’ve seen numerous people rallying around her candidacy on Facebook. I’ll be interested to see what her eight day runoff finance report looks like.

It should be noted that if Georgia Provost had split the vote more evenly with Chris Oliver in places like B and D, the immediate beneficiary would have been Griff Griffin. I know a lot of people who were disillusioned by some of the runoff choices they would be facing immediately after the election. Imagine how much worse that would be if the race here were between Griffin and Mike Knox. I have no idea why anyone would vote for Griff, but in a city this size where only a small minority of voters have any idea who the At Large candidates are, let alone have a chance to meet them and get to know them, it’s not surprising that a name the voters have seen every two years since Bill Clinton was President would draw some support. Along those same lines, note that James Partsch-Galvan was the leading vote-getter in Districts H and I. If you don’t know who you’re voting for, vote for a name that sounds familiar. There was a bit of chatter awhile back about eliminating the at large Council seats in favor of an all-district Council. I like the idea of having Council members that represent the whole city, but the data in At Large #1 is as strong an argument in favor of scrapping the at large system that you’ll see.

As for Mike Knox (whose 2013 interview for District A is here), his task is basically that of Bill King, Bill Frazer, and Jack Christie: Run up the score in the Republican boxes, and not do too badly everywhere else. He collected the most endorsements among the late-entry anti-HERO candidates, he had the best overall performance, and he’s run a Council campaign before. I doubt he’ll have much crossover appeal, but his floor is high enough to win if Provost can’t put it together.

Initial day-after-election thoughts

– We now have two cycles’ worth of data to suggest that having more good candidates in a Council race does not necessarily lead to better outcomes. Following in the footsteps of At Large #3 in 2013, a handful of Democratic candidates in At Large #1 split the vote with sufficient closeness to keep them all out of the runoff. The votes were there, they just went too many places. Lane Lewis + Tom McCasland = candidate in the runoff, pretty close to Mike Knox in total. Lane Lewis + Tom McCasland + Jenifer Pool = leading candidate going into the runoff. I have no idea what, if anything, there is to be done about this. There is no secret cabal that meets in a back room to decide who does and doesn’t get to file for a race, and we wouldn’t want there to be one if there were. I’ll just put this out there for candidates who are already looking at 2019, when the terms will be double and the stakes will be concurrently higher: If there’s already a candidate in a race – especially an open seat race – that would would be happy to vote for in a runoff scenario, then maybe supporting them in November rather than throwing your own hat in the ring is the better choice. I realize that framing the choice this way turns this decision-making process into a multi-level Prisoner’s Dilemma, but one can’t help but wonder What Might Have Been.

– On the plus side, the runoffs have given us some clarity:

Mayor – Turner
Controller – Brown

At Large 2 – Robinson
At Large 4 – Edwards

In AL 4, Amanda Edwards faces Roy Morales, who caught and passed Laurie Robinson by less than 900 votes by the end of the evening. As for ALs 1 and 5, I’m still deciding. I said “some” clarity, not complete clarity.

– Speaking of CM Christie, if he loses then there will be no open citywide offices in the next election, which is now 2019. That won’t stop challengers from running in some or all of the other AL races, but it would change the dynamics.

– In District Council runoffs, it’s Cisneros versus Cisneroz in District H, which is going to make that race hard to talk about. Roland Chavez finished 202 votes behind Jason Cisneroz, who got a boost from late-reporting precincts; he had been leading Chavez by less than 40 votes much of the evening. Jim Bigham finished all of 28 votes ahead of Manny Barrera for the right to face CM Mike Laster in December, while CM Richard Nguyen trailed challenger Steve Le but will get another shot in five weeks. I’m concerned about Laster and Nguyen, but at least their opponents pass my minimum standards test for a Council member. That would not have been the case if either third-place finisher (Barrera and Kendall Baker) had made the cut.

– Moving to HISD, if I had a vote it would go to Rhonda Skillern-Jones in II. I would not vote for Manuel Rodriguez in III, but I’d need to get to know Jose Leal better before I could recommend a vote for him.

– Your “Every Vote Matters” reminder for this cycle:


Aldine I.S.D., Trustee, Position 1
=======================================
Tony Diaz                  5,813 49.98%
Patricia "Pat" Bourgeois   5,818 50.02%

Yep, five votes. There were 3,742 undervotes in this race. I have since been forwarded a press release from the Diaz campaign noting that provisional and overseas ballots have not yet been counted, and hinting at a request for a recount down the line. I’d certainly be preparing to ask for one.

– Speaking of undervoting, one prediction I made came true. Here are the undervote rates in At Large Council elections:

AL1 = 28.56%
AL2 = 31.02%
AL3 = 33.09%
AL4 = 28.35%
AL5 = 32.34%

That’s a lot of no-voting. Contrast with the contested district Council races, where the (still high) undervote rates ranged from 15.97% to 22.49%. See here for a comparison to past years.

– Meanwhile, over in San Antonio:

In a stunning outcome, Republican John Lujan and Democrat Tomás Uresti were leading a six-candidate field for Texas House District 118 in nearly complete results late Tuesday.

In his second run for the office, Lujan, 53, showed strength in a district long held by Democrats, narrowly outpolling members of two prominent political families.

“I’m still on pins and needles. It’s not a done deal,” Lujan said with many votes still uncounted.

In his low-key campaign, the retired firefighter, who works in sales for a tech company, emphasized tech training to prepare students for the workforce. His backers included some firefighters and Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC.

Uresti, 55, a legal assistant, is vice chairman of the Harlandale Independent School District. With 35 years of community involvement as a coach, mentor and tutor, Uresti capitalized on his network of friends and family name — his brothers are state Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio and Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti.

“Democrats are going to pull together again to win this one,” Tomás Uresti said of the impending runoff.

A runoff between Lujan and Uresti would be Jan. 19.

Gabe Farias, son of outgoing Rep. Joe Farias, came in third, less than 300 votes behind Uresti. Three Democratic candidates combined for 53.3% of the vote, so I see no reason to panic. Even if Lujan winds up winning the runoff, he’d only have the seat through the end of next year – the real election, which may produce an entirely different set of candidates, is next year, and Democrats should have a clear advantage. Nonetheless, one should never take anything for granted.

– Waller County goes wet:

Waller County voters overwhelmingly passed a proposition Tuesday to legalize the sale of all alcoholic beverages, including mixed drinks.

Though Waller County is not dry everywhere to all types of alcohol, various parts of it have operated under distinct alcohol policies passed in the decades following Prohibition. The change will apply to unincorporated areas of the county.

“I’m ecstatic with the numbers,” said Waller County Judge Carbett “Trey” Duhon III, who had publicly supported the proposition. “… It’s a good result for the county and for all the citizens here.”

Supporters like Duhon have said the measure was needed to smooth over confusing, overlapping rules and to help attract restaurants to a county poised to benefit from Houston’s sprawling growth.

See here for more details. And drink ’em if you got ’em.

– I’m still processing the HERO referendum, and will be sure to dive into precinct data when I get it. (I have a very early subset of precinct data for just the Mayor’s race and the two propositions. I may do some preliminaries with it, but this data is incomplete so I may wait till the official canvass comes out.) One clear lesson to take from this campaign is that lying is a very effective tactic. It also helps when lies are reported uncritically, as if it was just another he said/she said situation. Blaming the media is the world’s oldest trick, and I’m not going to claim that lazy reporting was a deciding factor, but for a group of people that considers itself to be objective truth-seekers, they sure can be trusting and unprepared for for being lied to. As with item 1 above, I don’t know what if anything can be done about this.

– Bond elections and miscellaneous other things are noted elsewhere. Have I missed anything you wanted to see me discuss?

8 day finance reports: Controller candidates

How about a look at the 8 day finance reports for Controller candidates? I figure if you’re reading this blog you won’t look at me funny when I say things like that, so here we go:


Candidate    Raised      Spent      Loans   On Hand
===================================================
Brown        46,375    151,848     30,000    12,067
Frazer       58,953    146,767     32,500    38,072
Khan         44,965    351,902    215,000    32,986
Robinson      6,375          0          0     1,151

Candidate    Advertising     Print/Mail
=======================================
Brown             99,600         34,600
Frazer            76,500         53,000
Khan             307,500         24,000

BagOfMoney

A few comments:

– Neither Dwight Jefferson nor Jew Don Boney have 8 day reports, or for that matter 30 day reports. I have no idea why this is the case. Carroll Robinson’s 8 day report does not list a total for expenses, and it has no itemization of contributions or expenses; there’s basically nothing after the initial cover page.

– Bill Frazer had $16,450 in in-kind contributions listed as “pro-rata share of mailer”, from the C Club and Houston Realty Business Coalition. $69,215 of his expenses were from personal funds, including $50,250 for advertising, $7,490 for “GOTV mailout printing”, and $9,747 for postage.

– 22 off MJ Khan’s 44 contributors gave non-Houston addresses. I think I’ve seen his circa-2009 ad and Chris Brown’s “high school swim team” ad more than any Mayoral candidate’s ads except for maybe Costello. Khan also spent $825 on Facebook ads, because why not?

I have not had the time or energy to do the same scrutiny on Council reports, but this Chron story provides a few highlights.

1. At-large 1: Candidates competing to replace term-limited Stephen Costello, who is running for mayor, dropped nearly $299,00 during the past month. The biggest spender was Tom McCasland, former CEO of the Harris County Housing Authority, whose political action committee dropped nearly $155,000. Mike Knox, who has positioned himself as the conservative candidate, spent $57,000 and Lane Lewis, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, spent $44,000.

2. At-large 4: In another competitive at-large race, seven candidates combined spent $252,000. Amanda Edwards, a municipal finance lawyer, has significantly outpaced competitors in spending, dropping $208,000.

4. At-large 2: Incumbent David Robinson and four contenders spent a combined $147,000. Challenger Eric Dick, a lawyer and former mayoral candidate, shelled out the most, spending almost $75,000. Robinson spent more than $47,000.

Since they didn’t go into it, I will note that in At Large #3, CM Kubosh spent about $28K, while Doug Peterson and John LaRue combined to spend about $12K; in At Large #5, CM Christie spent $60K, while Philippe Nassif spent $13K. I know I’ve received some mail from Amanda Edwards (and also received a mailer yesterday from Chris Brown), as well as two robocalls from Eric Dick and – this is the strangest thing I’ve experienced this campaign – a robocall from “former Houston Rocket Robert Reid on behalf of [his] good friend Griff Griffin”. Who knew Griff even did campaigning? Not that this appeared anywhere on his finance report, as either an expense or an in-kind donation, of course. Let’s not go overboard, you know. Anyway, if you look at the 2015 Election page, you will see that as with the Controllers, several At Large candidates have not filed 8 day reports. James Partsch-Galvan and Joe McElligott have filed no reports; Moe Rivera and Jonathan Hansen have not filed 30 Day or 8 Day reports; Jenifer Pool filed an 8 day but not a 30 day; and Larry Blackmon and Brad Batteau filed 30 day reports but not 8 day reports. It’s possible some of these may turn up later, so I’ll keep looking for them. I’m working on the district reports as well and will list them as I can.

Chron race overview: At Large #1

Here’s the Chron overview of the race to succeed term limited Council Member (now Mayoral candidate) Steve Costello in At Large #1.

CM Stephen Costello

CM Stephen Costello

M. “Griff” Griffin

A perennial candidate in Houston politics, Griffin is running for the council for the 11th time, 22 years after first competing for a spot in 1993. The former owner of Griff’s, a sports bar in the Montrose area that he opened in 1965, Griffin is now a private investigator.

“As an investigator on the City Council, I can do a little more checking out,” Griffin said.

[…]

Mike Knox

Knox, a second-time candidate, positions himself as the conservative the council needs.

“I’m the conservative candidate running to bring conservative financial responsibility to our city’s issues,” Knox said.

[…]

Lane Lewis

Seen by many as the front-runner, Lewis is chair of the Harris County Democratic Party.

An education consultant and former teacher, Lewis ran for the council’s District A seat in 2009 and lost in a runoff. His priorities include infrastructure, transportation and attracting middle-class jobs to Houston to improve the city’s quality of life, but his pitch for office centers on his deep connections in local politics.

[…]

Tom McCasland

McCasland is a first-time candidate for City Hall, but he’s not new to local government. The former CEO of the Harris County Housing Authority, McCasland resigned in August to focus on his campaign.

“I plan to be a full-time city councilperson. I’m the only candidate committed to that,” McCasland said.

[…]

Chris Oliver

Houston Community College trustee Oliver is running for the City Council 15 years after his first attempt in 2000. With his slogan, “An Even Better Houston, An Even Better Tomorrow,” Oliver is looking to address the city’s infrastructure, economic development, safety and fiscal responsibility issues.

“I think we’re facing serious challenges, and now is the time to see whether or not we can start addressing these issues,” Oliver said. “I can serve as a voice to address some other issues we face, from infrastructure to community development.”

[…]

Jenifer Rene Pool

Pool is an activist and owner of a Houston construction company. Pool is running for the City Council for the third time since 2011.

Pool has been an appointee to several city commissions and is a former president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.

“I work hard to represent those who don’t have a voice and I use what influence I have to make everyone’s life a little better,” Pool said.

[…]

Georgia Provost

Photographer and philanthropist Georgia Provost is making her second run for the City Council. A volunteer for many causes, including the Houston Area Urban League, injured law enforcement officers, and fundraising for her alma mater, Texas Southern University, Provost is looking to bring those skills to the City Council.

In addition to addressing infrastructure and economic development, Provost wants to re-evaluate Houston’s city charter to allow council members to more easily add items to the agenda.

There’s also perennial candidate James Partsch-Galvan, who hails from the planet Murgatroid. I have interviews with Lewis, McCasland, Pool, and Oliver and links to Q&As elsewhere for them and others on my Election 2015 page, and interviews with Knox and Provost from the last cycle on my Election 2013 page. McCasland is the Chron candidate, Knox is the Hotze candidate, and Lewis has most of the other endorsements. Here are the totals from their 30 day finance reports, also available on the Election 2015 page:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Griffin 1,000 1,600 0 895 Knox 22,940 11,370 0 9,349 Lewis 40,164 64,479 100 48,803 McCasland 60,978 33,222 0 112,443 Oliver 9,400 7,840 0 25,230 PartschGalvan Pool Provost 1,956 6,841 0 543

Neither Pool nor Partsch-Galvan have reports available as yet. Griff’s one contribution was from himself, and the two expenditures I saw listed were for less than $1,000 combined, so I have no idea what his numbers mean. I’ve received one mailer from McCasland, and have seen sponsored Facebook posts from him, Lewis, Oliver, and Pool. I tend to agree with the consensus that Lewis is in a good position to make the runoff, but beyond that I have no idea. Who are you supporting in this race?

Mail ballot update

Carl Whitmarsh forwarded me a breakdown of all mail ballot applications that have been received by the County Clerk’s office as of Friday, October 2. I saved the file here, but for ease of discussion here’s a screenshot:

EV Applications Harris Count 100215

That’s a grand total of 30,337 mail ballot applications, with 14,799 of them coming from Lane Lewis and Sylvester Turner. The question as always with this sort of thing is how does it compare? Is it a sign that something unusual is happening, or is it more or less what we might expect?

The simplest way to answer that question is to look at the totals from the last election. Here they are for 2013. As of the end of early voting that year, some 30,672 ballots had been mailed, and 21,426 had been cast. That’s…almost identical to the number of mail ballots sent out this year.

Now that total is as of November 1 – the last day of early voting – that year. We’re still four weeks from Election Day. It’s certain that the mail ballot total will be higher at the end of early voting this year. If you take a closer look at that 2013 EV spreadsheet, you will see that the total number of mail ballots sent as of the start of the EV period, which in 2013 was October 21, 28,620 absentee ballots had been sent. We are definitely ahead of that, though not by that much. If mail ballots are sent out during the next three weeks at about the same rate as they were during the first week of early voting in 2013, we’ll probably wind up with about 36 or 37 thousand in all. That’s a respectable increase, in the 20% range, but not that much in absolute terms. And as I frequently mentioned in 2014, a lot of these new voters-by-mail are likely to be people who voted reliably in person before. I would be very hesitant to suggest that this by itself is indicative of an increase in turnout.

Keep two other things in mind, too. One is that not all mail ballots that get sent out wind up getting returned. If we assume that the final total of ballots sent out in 2013 is 30,337 – a reasonable guess since the cutoff day for applying for a mail ballot is a few days before the election – then we can see that 24,022 of those ballots were returned. That’s about an 80% return rate, so if we wind up in the neighborhood of 36,000 ballots sent, expect about 29,000 of them to come back. Note also that not all of these ballots were from city of Houston voters. Some 20,297 mail ballots from Harris County were cast in the 2013 Mayor’s race. That’s 84% of the total, so notch that 29,000 down to 24,500 or so. (For comparison, 67% of all Harris County ballots in 2013 came from the city of Houston.) Again, an increase, but hardly a flood.

Can this change? Sure it can. There’s no reason to believe that the “mail ballots sent” function is linear. It could be that we see a disproportionate number of such ballots sent between now and October 19. I’ll know when I see the first early voting daily total for this year. It could also be that there’s an increased focus on getting absentee ballots out to people who vote regularly in even-numbered years, but not odd-numbered years. Again, we should have some idea about this from the daily roster of early voters. I reserve the right to change my mind, but so far I don’t see anything that swings my opinion one way or the other on What This All Means for this year’s election.

One more thing: If you look at those totals embedded above and count up the number that came from clearly Republican/conservative sources, you get 10,193 all together. (I am not counting the 1,504 that are labeled “Stan Stanart, Harris County Clerk Applications”, as that appears to be the total from applications received from the County Clerk website.) Once you account for the 80% return rate and the 84% City of Houston rate, you get 6,882. The total number of mail ballots that originated in Council districts A, E, and G in 2013 was 8,018. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison by any means – Republicans live in all districts, and non-Republicans live in those three – but it suggests there isn’t a surge in Republican mail ballot applications, at least at this time. Again, things can change, there’s still time, your mileage may vary, and so forth. All I’m saying is that so far these are fairly boring tea leaves to read.

Endorsement watch: Off to a good start, predictions-wise

First Chron endorsement of the season, and it’s one I called.

Tom McCasland

Tom McCasland

When government is broken, who do you hire to fix it? For the Harris County Housing Authority, the answer was Tom McCasland. Plenty of candidates can tout their ideas for repairing Houston’s problems, but only McCasland has a record of working within government to cut fat, root out corruption and balance budgets. In the race to replace a term-limited Steven Costello for the City Council At-Large 1 seat, voters should send McCasland to City Hall so he can put his skills to work.

McCasland, 42, has a biography that reads like a Horatio Alger story. The child of missionaries, he grew up next to a Navajo reservation in a home that he shared with his nine siblings – no electricity and no running water. From these modest beginnings he ascended to Baylor University for a master’s degree in philosophy, Yale Law School and a job at Vinson & Elkins. McCasland stepped into the public eye, however, when he was appointed to head up the troubled county housing authority after a Chronicle investigation revealed that the agency had wasted millions of dollars on unnecessary expenditures, including statues, parties and executive pay.

As CEO, McCasland cut the operations budget while increasing services to the needy and even giving his lowest-paid employees a much-needed raise. Essentially, he took a slush-fund and successfully rededicated it to its true purpose: helping the poor and homeless find safe places to live. This focus on core services is a philosophy that voters should want to see in City Hall.

[…]

In this field of seven candidates, former police officer Mike Knox and Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lane Lewis also stand out. However, voters should be wary of Chris Oliver, a Houston Community College trustee, who voted for a contract with a major vendor without disclosing it had hired his own company as a subcontractor. He has since apologized for what he calls an “honest mistake,” but there’s little room for mistakes in this crowded race for At-Large 1.

Among all those candidates, McCasland has a proven record of going above and beyond the call of duty in office and deserves voters’ support in this election.

Let’s review. I made McCasland the favorite to get this endorsement, though I thought Lane Lewis had a shot at it. I also suggested the Chron would not be favorable to Chris Oliver. Not too shabby so far. The mention of Mike Knox is a tad bit worrisome, since Knox is an anti-HERO candidate, but he ran a pretty respectable race for District A in 2013, so that probably helped him. As noted, this is the first Chron endorsement, but there are lots more to come. I’ll be keeping an eye on them and updating the 2015 Election page as we go.

Time to guess the Chronicle’s endorsements

vote-button

We are a bit more than a month out from the start of early voting, and as such we are getting close to the start of Chronicle endorsement season. I know from doing candidate interviews that the Chron has been holding screenings in recent days, so it shouldn’t be long now. So while we wait for that, why not take a crack at guessing what their endorsements will be?

I want to stress up front that these are not my endorsements. I’m not making any endorsements, here or elsewhere. Nor are these necessarily the candidates I think the Chronicle should endorse. I’m not making any value judgments. These are my best guesses at who the Chron will endorse, based on past history and my read on what they are looking for this year.

What are they looking for this year? I don’t think that’s any mystery. They’re looking for candidates who support HERO and who are sufficiently “serious” about pension reform. That doesn’t mean these are their only criteria, nor does it mean that they can’t or won’t endorse a candidate who doesn’t agree with them on one or both of them. I’m not there in the screenings, I don’t know what else might be on their minds. I’m just making what I hope are reasonable guesses. None of this should be taken seriously. Consider this the political nerd’s equivalent of Sean Pendergast predicting the Texans’ season, with fewer references to the WWE and Game of Thrones.

So with all of that said, let’s begin.

Mayor

At first glance, you’d think this would be a tough one to guess, but looking back at what I wrote above, it jumps right out at you: I believe the Chron will endorse Steve Costello. He checks all their boxes, and he has the most experience in city government to boot. King and Hall are both anti-HERO. McVey is an extreme longshot. I think they will be too critical of the recent issues with the jail to go with Garcia. Bell and Turner are possible, I guess, but I don’t think the Chron would consider them “serious” enough on pensions; the Chron did not care for the agreement that Turner helped broker with the firefighters earlier this year. The more I think about it, the clearer it seems. I’ll be surprised if it’s not Costello.

Controller

This one is murkier. Chris Brown is possible, but I think they will ding him for being Ronald Green’s second in command, and it’s not like they were ever big fans of his father. They endorsed Bill Frazer in 2013 and could endorse him again, but I think that was at least partly about Green’s baggage. I also think that if I’m right about Costello, they may be reluctant to endorse two Anglo Republicans for the top offices of a city that is not particularly Anglo nor Republican. I believe they will view Carroll Robinson’s tenure with the HCC Board as a negative. Honestly, I think the favorite at this point is Dwight Jefferson, who was part of the best Metro board in recent memory and who has no obvious negatives about him. I’ll say Jefferson 60%, Frazer 25%, Brown 15%.

At Large incumbents

With incumbents there’s an extra factor to consider, namely whether the incumbent in question has done anything to disqualify himself or herself. There are no Helena Browns this year, so the main question is how big a strike against someone is a vote against HERO? I’ll get to that in a minute. In At Large #2, I think David Robinson is an easy call. He checks the boxes, and none of his opponents are anyone I’d expect the Chron to consider seriously. Kubosh and Christie are the tougher ones to guess. How much will their opposition to HERO be held against them? My guess is “some”, but unless the screening goes badly for them or I’ve underestimated the commitment the Chron has to HERO, I figure they’re both favorites. I’ll make it 80% for Kubosh and 65% for Christie, with the difference being that Christie made some goofy statements about vaccines in his first term, and Philippe Nassif is compelling enough that the Chron might take a flyer on him as a “breath of fresh air” candidate.

At Large open seats

I’m going to go with Tom McCasland in AL1 and Amanda Edwards in AL4. Edwards feels like the safer choice. It would have been a harder call if Laurie Robinson hadn’t flipflopped on HERO, but if my conviction about this means anything, it means it in this race. In AL1, I could see the Chron supporting Lane Lewis or Jenifer Pool – as with Carroll Robinson, I think the Chron will not consider Chris Oliver’s time with HCC to be a positive – but I think McCasland’s resume will carry the day. Let’s say 60% McCasland, 30% Lewis, 10% Pool.

District seats

All district incumbents will be endorsed. This is easy, as there are no disqualifiers and outside of F and J no challengers that are likely to be considered. The cases worth examining are the open seats in G and H. G is a two-candidate race, and you can make an argument for or against either – both candidates are sufficiently qualified, and both are against HERO in a district where that would be expected. The main negative for Sandie Mullins Moger is being on the HCC board – yeah, there’s a theme here – and the main negative for Greg Travis is that he recently announced an endorsement by Helena Brown. I make it 55-45 for Travis. As for H, I can see any of Jason Cisneroz, Roland Chavez, and Karla Cisneros getting the nod. For no reason I can easily explain, I think Karla Cisneros is a slight favorite – let’s say 40-30-30. Have I mentioned that I’m guessing?

HISD and HCC

For HISD, they’ll stick with incumbents Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Juliet Stipeche, and they’ll reverse themselves from 2011 and go with Ramiro Fonseca over Manuel Rodriguez. In the open District 4 seat, I don’t seem the picking Jolanda Jones, so I’ll say they’ll endorse Ann McCoy. The only contested races in HCC involve the two incumbents running for re-election, Adriana Tamez and Eva Loredo. I’ll be surprised if they don’t endorse those two.

Referenda

Obviously, they’ll endorse HERO. I think they’ll be as “meh” on the term limits item as I am, and will either give it a lukewarm thumbs up or they’ll advocate a No. Same for the Harris County bond issue, with a slightly better chance of a Yes. I have no idea on the state constitutional amendments, if they bother with them. There were none that excited me one way or the other, though there are a few I’m likely to vote against.

So that’s how I see it. Go ahead and tell me where I’m wrong in the comments. I’ll check back in a few weeks and see how good a job I did trying to read their mind.

Does your JP still do marriages?

Some do and some don’t.

RedEquality

Last Wednesday, Judge Dale Gorczynski, a justice of the peace in Harris County, heard 19 eviction cases, sent 147 traffic and misdemeanor cases to trial and presided over five weddings: Three for same-sex couples and two for heterosexual couples.

It was the first time gay couples outnumbered straight ones in his north Houston office. The judge estimated that during the two peak wedding season months since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage about 10 to 20 percent of the couples he has married are gay or lesbian.

But that trend is not playing out with at least three of the county’s 16 justices of the peace who previously performed weddings but no longer do. Judges Laryssa Korduba, Russ Ridgway and Jeff Williams, all Republicans who officiated weddings prior to the decision, are taking down their shingles, although they have done so gradually. These judges, who operate in Humble, near Bellaire and Addicks, still adjudicate criminal, civil and traffic proceedings, but despite phone prompts and online links at their offices that indicate otherwise, marrying couples is no longer among services they offer, staff members confirmed last week.

Korduba performed her last ceremony Aug. 7, according to the county clerk’s data through Aug. 20. That data shows that Ridgway last officiated Aug. 11; and Williams held his last wedding Aug. 14. The county clerk, Stan Stanart, said Tuesday these JPs performed weddings after the Supreme Court ruling, but in a limited capacity. Stanart said Ridgway told him, “I had these commitments beforehand.” The others made similar comments: “That’s what Laryssa [Korduba] told me, too, and Jeff [Williams]. They had commitments. They booked them up beforehand. But there are no new bookings. That’s what I’ve been told at this time,” Stanart said.

[…]

To be clear, these JPs will not be breaking the law or shirking their duties by halting weddings, legal experts say. In fact, they are opting to forego thousands of dollars of personal income, based on the rates they charged in recent months. Justices of the peace may keep this income. They have complete discretion to set their rates. Costs range from $50 to $400 per ceremony.

Although the Ohio Supreme Court issued an opinion this month stating judges may not refuse to perform marriages altogether based on personal, moral or religious objections to same sex marriage, officiating weddings in Texas is a choice.

In other words, all JPs in Texas may marry same-sex couples, but the law does not oblige them to marry anyone, according to Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan.

As far as turning away same-sex couples, Ryan said, “As long as they are not doing any weddings they can make that choice. If they do any marriages, they have to do all the marriages.”

Rebecca L. Robertson, legal and policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, agreed: If you choose to opt out of marrying all couples, that is perfectly legal. If you marry anyone, you may not discriminate, she said.

“If they feel this strongly, at least they’re being fair about it,” said Lane Lewis, chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, adding he thought, “They are on the wrong side of history.”

Daniel Williams, spokesman for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender rights group Texas Wins, said he applauded judges who abstained from marrying anyone if their personal beliefs guided them to pick and chose who to marry.

“To the JP who says, ‘In order to follow the law, I need to set aside the optional power of my office to perform weddings,’ Kudos.”

I agree. I’m glad that at least around here none of the JPs have tried to be jerks in the way that some county clerks were, to their detriment. I think they’re missing out – my dad was a judge for 14 years in New York, and he always says that performing marriages was the best part of the job – but it’s their choice. I sincerely hope some of them come to the realization that they’re no better off this way and get themselves back in the game. Everyone would benefit if they do.

Endorsement watch: The score so far

We’ve had a slew of endorsements for municipal races this past week. I’ve been keeping track of them as best I can on my 2015 Election page. This isn’t always easy to do, because some groups are not very good at posting their endorsements anywhere. I gather, for example, that the HPFFA has made endorsements, based on these tweets, but so far no official list appears to be visible. Groups whose endorsements I have added to the page so far:

AFL-CIO
Houston GLBT Political Caucus
Houston Stonewall Young Democrats
Houston Area Stonewall Democrats
Democracy for Houston
Harris County Tejano Democrats

Log Cabin Republicans
Houston Police Officers Union
Houston Building Owners & Managers Association

I’ve separated the traditionally Democratic/progressive groups from the rest. There are still a lot of groups out there to endorse – HOPE (they have endorsed Sylvester Turner for Mayor but I’ve not seen anything else from them as yet), SEIU, Houston Black American Democrats, Houston Association of Realtors, Houston Contractors Association, the C Club, Texas Organizing Project, and the firefighters if they ever produce a list. Things may change as more endorsements come in, but here are my initial impressions on what we’ve seen so far.

Sylvester Turner has done very well so far. I had thought some endorsing organizations might want to keep their powder dry in this crowded field, but Turner has stood out with his ability to collect support from different groups. Given all the competition for the LGBT group endorsements, snagging two of them is an accomplishment. Stephen Costello nabbed the other two, with the nod from the Stonewall Young Dems being a bit contentious. Adrian Garcia got on the scoreboard with the Tejano Dems; I’m sure that won’t be his last endorsement. Chris Bell has impeccable credentials for some of these groups, but he’s come up empty so far. You have to wonder if they’re getting a little discouraged over there, and you have to wonder if their fundraising is taking a hit. Ben Hall is getting Hotze support; I’ll be interested to see if he buys Gary Polland’s endorsement in the Texas Conservative Review. Will also be interesting to see if a more mainstream group like the C Club throws in with Hall or goes with an establishment choice like Bill King.

My initial reaction to Chris Brown’s dominance in Controller endorsements so far was surprise, but on reflection it all makes sense. He’s really the only viable Democrat running – Carroll Robinson has Hotze taint on him, and Jew Don Boney doesn’t even have a campaign website. Frazer got the Log Cabin Republicans, and I expect him to sweep up the other R-based endorsements. Keep an eye on what the realtors and contractors do in this one, if they get involved at all rather than waiting for the runoff.

Lane Lewis has crushed it so far in At Large #1, not only sweeping the Dem/progressive endorsements over three quality opponents, but also picking up support from the police, firefighters, and BOMA, who didn’t endorse in any of the other three open citywide races. He won’t win any Republican endorsements, of course – I assume new entrant Mike Knox will, if he can get his campaign organized in time to do whatever screenings are needed – but at this point I’d make him a favorite for most of what’s left. Amanda Edwards has impressed in AL4, though Laurie Robinson has split a couple of endorsements with her and will be a threat to win others. Not clear to me who will take the Republican support that’s available.

I expected more of an even fight in the two At Large races with Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents, but so far Doug Peterson and Philippe Nassif have taken them all. As I understand it, Durrel Douglas hasn’t been screening for endorsements – this can be a very time-consuming thing if you are doing a solo campaign – so Nassif has had a clear path and has taken it. As for AL3, I get the impression that Peterson is considered the more viable candidate against CM Kubosh. I though both he and John LaRue were good interview subjects, for what it’s worth. CMs Kubosh and Christie have gotten the “friendly incumbent” endorsements so far, and I expect that will continue. CM David Robinson has gotten those and the Dem/progressive nods. I’ll be interested to see if HBAD backs Andrew Burks; I expect Gary Polland to give Burks some love for being a HERO opponent, but I don’t know if groups like the C Club will join in with that. Burks is doing his usual thing campaign-wise (which is to say, not a whole lot), so anything that requires an organized response is probably beyond his grasp.

Not a whole lot of interest in the District Council and HISD/HCC races. I’m a little surprised that Karla Cisneros hasn’t picked up any endorsements in H, but there’s still time. Ramiro Fonseca has done well against Manuel Rodriguez, who is deservedly paying for the rotten things his campaign did in 2011. Jolanda Jones still has some game. Beyond that, not much to say.

So that’s where things stand now. As I said, they may look very different in a month’s time. And as with fundraising, a good showing in endorsements only means so much. Plenty of candidates who have dominated the endorsement process have fallen short at the ballot box. So consider all this as being for entertainment purposes only, and take it with a handful or two of salt.

UPDATE: Corrected to reflect the fact that HOPE and SEIU are no longer affiliated.

Interview with Lane Lewis

Lane Lewis

Lane Lewis

We are now done with the district Council interviews, so we move on to the At Large races, where most of the non-Mayoral action is happening this year. There are two open At Large seats, and both of them have drawn a large field of candidates. This week we focus on At Large #1, currently held by Mayoral hopeful Steve Costello. First up is Lane Lewis, who currently serves as the Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, an office he won in 2012. He has a background in social work, where he was the co-founder of a youth center, and in education, where he has been a classroom teacher and now works as the chief compliance officer at a charter school. He has served as an adviser to the City’s Health and Human Services department, and been appointed to various boards and committees by former Mayors Lanier, Brown, and White. Here’s what we talked about:

(Note: This interview took place before the Supreme Court ruling that required a repeal or referendum on HERO.)

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2015 Election page.

Endorsement watch: Houston GLBT Political Caucus 2015

Congrats to all the endorsees.

A raucous municipal endorsement meeting brought mayoral candidate Sylvester Turner the coveted backing of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus on Saturday, positioning the 26-year state representative to broaden his coalition to include the city’s progressive voting bloc.

Caucus members voted 142-85 to endorse Turner after more than an hour of insult-laden discussion in which they rejected the recommendation of the group’s screening committee to endorse former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

Turner also beat out former Congressman Chris Bell, a longtime ally of the gay community who had been considered a likely pick for the group’s endorsement.

Once-shunned, the caucus’ supprt is now highly sought-after by candidates aiming to win over left-wing voters, known for reliably showing up at the polls.

“This is a major step to the finish line,” said Turner, seen as a frontrunner in the crowded mayor’s race. “This is a race about the future of the city versus its past, and this group represents a vital component of Houston’s family.”

[…]

Of the five mayoral candidates angling for caucus support, Turner, Garcia and City Councilman Stephen Costello received the highest ratings from the group’s four-member screening committee.

Committee members said concerns about Bell’s viability landed him a lower rank.

Bell closed out the first half of the year with less money in the bank than any of the other top-tier candidates.

“He’s in a tough position, because absent resources, financial resources, he would need key endorsements like this one to bolster his candidacy,” [consultant Keir] Murray said. “It just makes what was already a tough road even tougher.”

Bell, for his part, remained optimistic after the endorsement vote.

“Obviously not everyone participates in the caucus endorsement process,” Bell said. “I still think I am going to have tremendous support in the progressive voting bloc.”

See here for some background. I followed the action on Facebook and Twitter – it was spirited and lengthy, but everyone got a chance to make their case and to be heard. Here’s the full list of endorsed candidates:

Mayor – Sylvester Turner

City Council
District B – Jerry Davis
District C – Ellen Cohen
District F – Richard A. Nguyen
District H – Roland Chavez
District I – Robert Gallegos
District J – Mike Laster
District K – Larry Green
At Large 1 – Lane Lewis
At Large 2 – David Robinson
At Large 3 – Doug Peterson
At Large 4 – Amanda K. Edwards
At Large 5 – Phillipe Nassif

Controller – Chris Brown

HISD District 2 – Rhonda Skillern Jones
HISD District 3 – Ramiro Fonseca
HISD District 4 – Jolanda Jones
HISD District 8 – Juliet Katherine Stipeche

HCCS District 3 – Adriana Tamez
HCCS District 8 – Eva Loredo

None of these come as a surprise. Several could have gone another way, thanks to the presence of multiple qualified and viable candidates. I look forward to seeing this slate – and the near-misses – do very well in November.

Finance reports come trickling in

As always, the Mayoral reports lead the story.

BagOfMoney

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia closed out the first half of the year with more than $1.3 million in the bank, eclipsing City Councilman Stephen Costello by a mere $7,423.

According to their campaign finance reports, Garcia raised $1.5 million and spent just over $122,000, while Costello raised about $30,000 less in contributions, was loaned $90,000 and spent $496,000.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner and former mayor of Kemah Bill King trailed in cash on hand, reporting $1.1 million and $544,000, respectively.

[…]

Costello’s campaign previously said his funds include a $250,000 personal contribution and a $262,000 transfer from his council account.

Among those with reports already in, King spent the most in the first half of the year, coughing up more than $680,000. He raised more than $755,000 and lent himself an additional $500,000.

Turner’s expenditures came in just under King’s, at $601,000, according to his report. However, his campaign noted that $125,000 of those expenditures were related to his state office, not his mayoral campaign.

After starting the race with about $900,000 in the bank from his legislative account, Turner raised an additional $763,000 in the nine days between when his state fundraising blackout period ended and the close of the reporting period.

See here for more. As previously noted, the reports are not in their usual place due to changes in state law and the reporting system. For now, you can see the reports that the city has posted here. I’ve linked to them on my Election 2015 page and will keep updating that as more of them appear. I’ll do a more in depth look at the reports once they’re all there, starting with the Mayorals, which were added to that page as of last night. Expect that for next week.

The Chron story has a spreadsheet embedded in it with totals for candidates who had turned in reports by publication time. Among the other Mayorals, Chris Bell had raised $381K and had $190K on hand; Ben Hall raised $94K and loaned himself $850K to have $812K on hand; and Mary McVey had raised $60K and loaned himself $1.075M to have $1.071M on hand. Forget the price of oil, this Mayoral campaign will be stimulating the local economy over the next few months.

So far, mayoral fundraising has far overshadowed that for Houston’s second-highest political post, city controller.

Deputy controller Chris Brown reported raising $270,000 and spending $22,000, leaving him with more than $222,000 in cash on hand.

Meanwhile, Bill Frazer, runner-up in the 2013 controller’s race, raised $129,000, received $32,000 in loans, spent $120,000 and closed out the first half of the year with more than $53,000 in the bank.

Former Metro board member Dwight Jefferson lagged behind with $11,000 raised $1,800 loaned and $9,000 spent. It was unclear how much cash he had on hand.

Carroll Robinson had raised $50K and had $5K on hand; Jew Don Boney did not have totals posted. Other hauls of note: Amanda Edwards dominated At Large #4 with $165K raised and $118K on hand. Laurie Robinson was the runnerup with $43K and $26K, respectively. In At Large #1, Tom McCasland ($141K raised, $98K on hand) and Lane Lewis ($104K raised, $62K on hand) were far out in front; Chris Oliver raised $37K and had $23K on hand, while Jenifer Pool had not yet reported. CM Michael Kubosh was the only one with any money in At Large #3, raising $63K and banking $44K. Philippe Nassif had a very respectable $73K raised in At Large #5, but only $12K of it remained, far less than CM Jack Christie’s $100K cash on $124K raised; Durrel Douglas had not yet reported.

For district races, CM Mike Laster had a big haul and an equally big financial lead in J, while CM Richard Nguyen had a decent total in F. His opponent, Steven Le, did not have a report up as of last night. There was surprisingly little money raised in the two-person District G race; Greg Travis led in cash on hand over Sandie Moger thanks to a $41K loan to himself. Roland Chavez had the most raised and the most on hand in H, with Karla Cisneros and Jason Cisneroz a notch back. Abel Davila raised a small amount but loaned himself $20K to be even in cash on hand with the other two.

That’s it for now. For the other races, HISD and HCC reports lag behind the city’s – HISD by a little, HCC by a lot – so I’ll keep an eye on those and update as needed. As always, fundraising is just one aspect of one’s candidacy, and is in no way predictive in many races. We only get a few chances a year to see who’s funding whom, and this is one of them. I’ll have more when I can.

Should Lane Lewis resign as HCDP Chair to run for Council?

That’s the question some people are asking.

Lane Lewis

Lane Lewis

“What I want is someone who is going to be, at least in the political world, dedicated 100 percent to the mission of advancing the ideals of the Democratic Party,” said John Gorczynski, a local Democratic staffer and head of the Young Democrats of Texas. “If someone’s going to be running a campaign, I can’t imagine what that would look like.”

Lewis’ fundraiser next month will be hosted at the home of Bill Baldwin, the former county Democratic finance chair who resigned a few weeks ago to raise money for Lewis’ bid, a move intended to make the line between the party and the campaign clear. Some are calling for Lewis to follow Baldwin’s example and resign.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said Lewis should consider that, adding there would be a potential conflict of interest between Lewis trying to neutrally advance the Democratic Party – which includes several members running against him for council – while “competing in the trenches” himself.

“When you serve as party chair, you at least leave some of your political ambition at the door,” Jones said.

Lewis faces Houston Community College trustee Chris Oliver, local Democratic activists Jenifer Rene Pool and Philippe Nassif, Republican activist Trebor Gordon, and possibly Harris County Housing Authority chief Tom McCasland in the non-partisan race to succeed term-limited city councilman Stephen Costello in the At Large 1 council seat.

[…]

The county Democratic and Republican parties typically stay out of endorsing candidates in non-partisan municipal races, but Jones said that some Democratic elected officials and campaign staff may be pressured away from backing any of Lewis’ opponents.

Oliver and some Democratic activists also charge that Lewis could improperly use the party’s email list – though Lewis said the campaign email list was culled from his phone’s contacts, not the party’s -and that his time spent preparing the party for 2016 would now be split between his personal campaign and the party’s.

“That person should be focusing on Democratic Party politics, not city council politics,” said Oliver, a Democrat.

Lewis is not required to resign, as some but not all elected office holders are. My opinion is that we’re early enough in the cycle that being Chair and being a candidate are not inherently in conflict. Any candidate running a full-fledged campaign is likely to find as time goes on that it doesn’t leave much room in his or her life for other things. Lewis may eventually decide he should resign just to ensure he has enough hours in the day to do all the things he needs to do. Alternately, he may find that more and more Democratic activists, the kind of people whose vote he will want in November, are grumbling that the duties of HCDP Chair are being neglected and someone else needs to take over to ensure there isn’t a mess to clean up going into 2016. Or maybe he’ll be able to handle it all, and the complaints will be limited to his opponents and their supporters. As I say, I think it’s too early to know. But he should be prepared to resign at the first sign of the juggling act being too much. Lane Lewis has done a good job as HCDP Chair, but no one is irreplaceable. If leaving will be necessary, better to do so a little too early than a little too late. A statement from candidate Philippe Nassif is here, and Campos has more.

Lane Lewis announces for At Large #1

Interesting.

Lane Lewis

Lane Lewis

Harris County Democratic Party chair Lane Lewis will run for an at-large city council position, he told Democratic activists Wednesday evening.

Lewis, who has led the county’s party operation since 2011, is running to succeed Stephen Costello in At-Large Position 1, one of two open-seat at-large races next year. Lewis will remain party chair during his campaign.

Several other candidates already have appointed campaign treasurers in advance of runs for at-large positions, though only Philippe Nassif, a local Democratic activist, has specified that he will run for Position 1.

As does Texpatriate, I like Chairman Lewis. Also like Texpatriate, I’m not sure why there’s so much more focus on At Large #1 right now than on any other position. Jenifer Pool may not have officially specified what position she’s running for, but she has been telling people it’s AL1, and her business cards identify her as a candidate for that office. At Large 4, currently held by CM Bradford, will also be open, though no one has yet indicated they will run for it. At Large 5 may be open as well if CM Christie runs for Mayor, and even if he doesn’t I believe he has a glass jaw. I will be more than a little surprised if no one files to run against CM Kubosh in At Large 3. It’s early days and we should expect a lot of activity to begin in a few weeks, but as things stand right now I don’t look forward to the choice I’ll have to make in At Large #1. Stace has more.

Mail ballots

Campos:

AbsenteeBallots

I put out this yesterday and it got some buzz:

In 2010, here in Harris County, 54,625 folks voted by mail. 24,231 went straight GOP and 11,448 went straight Dem. 31,101 voted for Governor Perry and 22,875 for Bill White.

In 2012, 75,177 voted by mail with 28,608 going straight GOP and 19,557 going Dem. 43,270 voted for Mitt Romney and 31,414 voting for the President.

As of yesterday here in Harris County, 80,641 mail ballot applications have been submitted. 36,910 of the applications have been generated by the Democratic Party or Democratic candidate campaigns and 34,381 by the GOP and GOP candidate campaigns.

Here are the new numbers:

As of yesterday (Oct. 8) here in Harris County, 82,129 mail ballot applications have been submitted. 37,250 of the applications have been generated by the Democratic Party or Democratic candidate campaigns and 35,230 by the GOP and GOP candidate campaigns.

Now what I didn’t say because I didn’t know until I checked was in 2012, the Harris County Clerk mailed out a little over 92,000 mail ballots and 76,000 were returned. That means 16,000 or so never made it back and didn’t get counted. I am figuring the Dems know this and are following up if you know what I mean. Dems are not going to let the mail ballots sit at home. Regardless, this looks like a pretty impressive effort. Just to approach the 2012 figure is A-Okay. Nice work! Keep following up!

I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago. I had some questions at the time about how these voters were being targeted, which have been addressed. This looks like it will be very effective. As of yesterday, about 12,000 of these ballots had already been returned. According to Kyle Johnston’s analysis of the roster, about 54% of the ballots were returned by people that could be classified as Democrats, 37% by Republicans, and the rest undetermined. That’s not a bad start, and there are still two weeks in which one can request a mail ballot.

Well, assuming those ballots make it in to be counted.

Hundreds of mail-in ballots that are being mistakenly held for days at a downtown post office will now be delivered to the Harris County Clerks Office.

The downtown post office was holding the ballots for insufficient postage, something they are not supposed to do.

“We found a glitch. And we’re going to expose this,” said Harris County Democratic Chairman Lane Lewis.

Lewis found out about the ballots and offered to pay for the postage shortage. Almost all the ballots were short on postage by just pennies.

“These votes whether Republican or Democrat, I don’t know, but they need to be counted,” said Lewis.

A postal worker told Eyewitness News the shortage was about $57.

[…]

Eyewitness News learned Stanart made his own mistake. The return ballot states the postage is 69 cents. But it should have been 70 cents. Some ballots were being held for just a penny. Stanart said he didn’t know about the change in postage.

“I personally didn’t. I would have to talk to my office if they do know that,” said Stanart.

That’s your Houston Chronicle-endorsed County Clerk Stan Stanart right there, ladies and gentlemen. Isn’t he something?

Anyway. This is a Harris County program, and Lane Lewis and the HCDP get the credit for it. There are other mail programs going on around the state, though I doubt any will be as big as the HCDP’s will. While I know a decent number of the people targeted by Lewis and the HCDP are Presidential year voters, surely a fair number of these ballots are coming from people that would have turned out anyway. This isn’t a silver bullet, because there aren’t any, it’s just one of a lot of small, medium, and large things that need to be done to try to close the gap. It’s in addition to the voter registration numbers, for which there’s more good news and a bit of national attention. You have to feel good about it.

Again, it’s still too early to draw any conclusions, and even if everything is going exactly according to plan there’s still a ginormous gap that needs to be closed. Like I keep saying, even a really big step forward can fall well short. But what this election feels like to me is a dogfight. We’ve got Abbott and Patrick running attack ads even as the narrative was that frontrunners don’t do that. We’ve got the voter ID ruling, which came down late yesterday and for which I’ll have more tomorrow. It’s game on. Get out there and make something happen.

Pushing absentee voting

We’ll see how this goes.

AbsenteeBallots

Texas Democrats, armed with better data and a reinvigorated ground game, have launched an aggressive campaign to turn out voters in November who have spurned them by wide margins for decades: the elderly.

The state Democratic Party sent out 600,000 mail ballot applications this month to Texans over 65, a strategy party leaders believe could allow the party to compete with Republicans, who have run a successful vote-by-mail initiative for several years and are expanding theirs just as the Democratic program takes its baby steps.

Down in the polls ahead of November’s governor’s race, Democrats are clawing for every vote that can mitigate Republicans’ historical advantages with certain populations. The elderly are, perhaps, America’s most reliable voting demographic, casting 20 percent of the ballots in the 2010 Texas governor’s race despite only being 10 percent of the population. Nearly two-thirds of those senior votes went to Rick Perry.

This year, state Democrats are aiming to increase senior turnout by about 4 percentage points, which could tip the scale if the election tightens – especially in Harris County, where both parties’ outreach campaigns are at their most vigorous.

[…]

Given that Davis trails in the polls and that allied Democratic groups are motivated to transform Texas politics in the long term, the push to turn out seniors who generally do not vote in midterm elections could pay off in the future, [pollster Jim] Henson said.

“The argument from the beginning is that you have to chip away from multiple fronts, and this is one of those fronts,” said Henson. “It makes sense for them to leave no stone unturned looking for votes under the circumstances.”

In Harris County, both county parties have decided to supplement Austin’s vote-by-mail campaigns with their own operations. Whichever county party is better at encouraging seniors to send in their ballots could determine who represents Pasadena in the State House, considered one of the area’s most competitive elections this November. Seniors cast 36 percent of all ballots in the 144th District in 2010.

That is why Lane Lewis, chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, said he has made increasing vote-by-mail a part of his platform since running for party chair in 2011.

“Our message is: There’s an election. We know you vote Democrat. Vote by mail. It’s simple. It’s clear. If you have any questions, call this number,” he said.

I don’t get the sense that the HD144 race is particularly competitive this year despite its lean-Dem composition, but never mind that. I agree with Henson that this is a good move by the Dems. It’s easy enough to identify the voters you want to target, and as the story notes it’s easier now to apply for a mail ballot. This has indeed been part of HCDP Chair Lane Lewis’ strategy, and you saw some of its effects in the 2013 city elections. Like I said, I approve of this, but I would caution against reading too much into any initial numbers on who has requested or returned mail ballots. As was the case with the big jump in early voting we saw in 2008 and that has continued since then, some portion of this will be people shifting behavior to absentee voting, and thus won’t represent any kind of increase in overall turnout. I’m not saying we won’t see an increase in turnout this year – Lord knows, I hope we do, it’s what the Davis/BGTX strategy is based on – just that we won’t know the effect by this alone. We’ll need to know who is voting, by which I mean what their past voting history looks like. We’ll keep an eye on this and see what we can tell as it’s going on.

And now a word from the HCDP

Note: The following is a guest post written by Michael Kolenc

A week has come and gone since the election, and while we still wait for the provisional ballots to be counted, we can say that the 2012 elections gave Harris County Democrats a reason for celebration. We won elections from the top to the bottom of the ticket; we expanded the capacity of the HCDP; and we moved out of our comfort zone to change the organizing culture of our local party.

HCDP Chair Lane Lewis has been making the case to everyone that will listen: Investing in the HCDP, so that it is a stronger and sustaining operation, will help us all achieve our goals. This past year demonstrates that commitment.

With the election now a week behind us, it is important for us to take a careful inventory of our work and how it contributed to electing Democrats. No one at the HCDP Campaign will claim to have re-created the rubric for how to run campaigns, but they will claim to having been focused on the goal of talking to a universe of targeted voters. It was this – with the help of some amazing candidates, elected officials, donors, staff and nearly 1,000 unique volunteers – that enabled the HCDP Campaign to be effective and deliver results.

Through the HCDP’s program over 36,000 doors were knocked, some 890,000 calls made from nine offices county-wide, and, for the first time, a vote by mail program was instituted making us competitive with the Republican’s program. These are not things that happen by accident or in a vacuum. Programs like these require planning, resources, and a commitment from stakeholders that this is the new way to operate. It requires a belief that organizing does not end on Election Day, but rather is a year-long process despite even or odd numbered years.

The work of the party has just started. 2013 municipal elections and the 2014 contests are here and require planning. In order to build upon the success we had this year – VMB program, voter contact numbers, and vastly increasing straight party ticket voting – we need to invest in our party.

Candidates, elected officials, donors, and party activists should want to see a HCDP that is focused the entire year on electing Democrats and not just in the six months before the election. As we approach the end to our first year with Chair Lewis at the helm, know that he will make the case once again about the importance of us all having a little skin in the game.

Michael Kolenc is a political advisor to Chair Lewis.

===============================================================

This is me speaking again. I now have my hands on a draft canvass and am happily crunching away to see what I can learn from it. I hope to get some empirical idea of how turnout, Latino voting, and other things went. I am encouraged by talk of involvement in the city elections, and we definitely need to be thinking about 2014 already. My thanks to Michael for his report on the HCDP’s activities for this past election.

Everybody loves early voting now

From the County Clerk’s office:

The Chief Election Officer of the County, Stan Stanart, announced [Monday night] that Harris County voters set a new record for voting during the first day of Early Voting in person. 47,093 persons voted on Monday, shattering the November 2008 first day total of 39,201.

“We had a record breaking first day of Early Voting,” said County Clerk Stanart. “It is obvious that our message encouraging voters to vote early and avoid the issues of determining their Election Day voting location has been heard.” Due to redistricting, the County Clerk’s office estimates about 20 percent of the Election Day polling locations for Harris County voters have changed. Voters are encouraged to vote at any of the 37 early voting locations. Locations and times can be found at www.HarrisVotes.com.

Champion Forest Baptist Church led all early voting locations with 2,657 voters, the Metropolitan Multi-Services Center had 2,556 and Cypress Top Park had 2,291. The locations which experienced the least amount of traffic include Galena Park Library with 382 voters, Ripley House with 460 and Holy Name Catholic Church with 506. “I urge voters to check www.HarrisVotes.com for their personal sample ballot, Early Voting locations, ID requirements and Election Day locations before voting,” added Stanart.

“Early voting by mail is also at an all-time high and requests for ballots have broken records for Harris County,” asserted Stanart. The Clerk’s Office has received 82,946 requests for mail ballots exceeding the 2008 record of 80,861 requests, seven days before the October 30th deadline to request a mail ballot. As of Friday, 40,566 of the mail ballots sent to voters have been voted and returned to the Clerk’s Office.

To find more early voting information, voters can visit the Harris County Clerk’s Election website at www.HarrisVotes.com or call 713.755.6965.

Here’s my updated early vote-tracking spreadsheet, which includes the daily EV totals from 2004 and 2008 as well. Tuesday was even stronger than Monday, with 51,578 in person votes cast. That’s over 98,000 in person early votes already, which is over 142,000 when you include mail ballots. Wow. It’s a little tricky doing a straight comparison with 2004 and 2008, since EV locations change over the years, but you can get a good feel for where the vote is coming from. I strongly suspect that Republicans will do better in early voting this year than they did in 2008, mostly because they’ve been pushing it as relentlessly as Dems have been. The key question as always is what percentage of this is new voters, and what percentage is regular voters who have changed their habits. Dems grabbed that big lead in 2008 on the strength of early voting, then saw most of it slip away (in the case of a few candidates, all of it) because they pretty much ran out of voters by Election Day. Who’s got the new voters this year? Voter registration reached a new high this year.

Harris County’s voter roll topped 2 million Monday morning for the first time, county Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar Don Sumners announced.

The precise tally of 2,003,436 represents a 80,852-voter increase since early September.

“The county’s still growing. If we look at it as a percentage of the population, it might not even be a big surprise,” Sumners said. “But I thought it was of interest that we had finally gone over the 2-million mark. We had been flirting with it for years.”

The previous record was set in mid-November 2008, also a presidential election year, when roughly 1.97 million people were registered.

An estimated 2.9 million of Harris County’s 4.1 million residents were 18 or older as of the 2010 Census. If that number is similar today, about 68 percent of the county’s voting-age residents are on the rolls.

Stan Stanart predicted turnout of a bit more than 1.2 million in this article, or about 61% of the total. The story says that would be an improvement of about a point over 2008, when turnout was 59.8%, but the election results page from 2008 put turnout at over 62%, so go figure. I’m going to hold off on such predictions for now, because we don’t know what the share of the final tally will be early voters. There were some rather giddy predictions made in 2008 based on the belief that early voting usually account for about half the final total. It wound up being about 63% of the final total in 2008. I will not be at all surprised to see it be a larger share this year. This may wind up being a good year to vote on Election Day if you want to avoid lines.

And while the GOP may do better in early voting, it looks like the Dems may do better in voting by mail.

As of Friday evening, 18,808 county residents had requested a mail ballot by returning applications sent to them by the county Democratic Party, and 3,567 more had returned applications mailed to them from other Democratic sources, for a total of 22,375.

That is compared with 26,591 voters who had returned mail ballot applications sent to them by the state Republican Party.

The numbers are far closer than in previous presidential years. In 2008, Republicans requested four times as many mail ballots as Democrats, and more than five times as many in 2004.

“A lot can happen between ‘I want to vote’ and ‘I’m going to go vote.’ We hurt ourselves, grandkids come over, who knows what,” said county Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis, who campaigned on the issue. “By running an effective vote-by-mail program, you are providing them with direct access, minimizing excuses and complications of them getting themselves to the polls and back.”

As you might expect, Harris County GOP Chair Jared is unimpressed by this. We’ll know who’s right when we see the final score. I noted this trend earlier, and as I said then, this may well be another example of shifting behavior rather than increasing overall turnout. Still, as HCDP Chair Lewis says, it can’t hurt.

Oliver to remain on the ballot

Can’t say I’m surprised.

The Lloyd Oliver Tree

Attorneys representing Harris County Democratic Chairman Lane Lewis and the state Democratic Party argued that perennial candidate [Lloyd] Oliver should be kept off the ballot because he violated a party rule prohibiting a complimentary remark he made about defeated District Attorney Pat Lykos, a Republican, but District Judge Bill Burke ruled that Oliver was not bound by that rule.

Burke also rejected the argument that the party, as a private association, has the right to determine who should be on the ballot, regardless of election results.

[…]

“I don’t think that what happened amounted to a rule violation under party rules,” Burke said after a two-hour hearing on Wednesday morning.

Oliver admitted saying that he would have voted for Lykos had he not been running against her. He told the court Wednesday that he made the statement the day after the primary, so she technically no longer was a candidate. He also argued that the party rule applied only to chairmen and other Democratic officials.

“I have a First Amendment right to compliment public officials,” he told the court.

The judge agreed.

“I don’t think that amounts to an endorsement of the Republican candidate, since she had been defeated by then, and it was coupled with a swipe at the prevailing candidate, Mike Anderson,” Burke said.

Oliver, who told the court that Wednesday was his birthday and that he was either 68 or 69, had likened Anderson to a prison guard.

Responding to the argument that a political party had the right to determine who should be on the ballot, Burke noted that most of the cases that Democratic Party attorneys cited involved decisions reached before voters went to the polls in party primaries.

“It seems to me to be a different situation that we have here when the party accepts the filing fee, Oliver campaigns, does whatever he does to win the election and does receive the majority of the votes in the primary,” the judge said.

The case had been remanded to state court last Friday, as noted by commenter Jerad Najvar in my previous post. You know how I feel about this. I agree with Judge Burke’s reasoning, and I think he would have set a potentially dangerous precedent had he ruled otherwise. The situation the party is in is unfortunate, but these things happen and it’s not right to undo the result of a primary over a silly statement by a silly person. (Speaking of the primary, the version of the story I saw said that Oliver won it “by 30,000 votes”. He actually won it by a bit less than 3,000 votes, as you can see on page 19 here. Math is hard, y’all.) The best course of action, which is what I plan to go back to doing, is to ignore the guy. It’s not like he’s going to be out on the campaign trail making further mischief. If Oliver subsequently manages to win this election as well, we should all remind him that he only filed for the race to increase his name ID. Having unquestionably achieved this objective, he should then go ahead and resign, so that he can collect the reward for his higher profile. I mean, actually being DA would be bad for his business as a defense attorney, am I right? Let us speak of this no more until after November 6. You can go back to sleep now, Lloyd. PDiddie has more.

Oliver sues to stay on ballot

We’ll find out who’s right soon enough.

On Friday, Houston attorney Lloyd Oliver filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the Harris County Democratic Party’s attempts to oust him from the ticket.

“They’re not going to put any candidate on the ballot. They just shut the whole thing down,” Oliver said.

The lawyer called the move an attempt by party officials to disenfranchise voters.

[…]

Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state said there was no provision in state law for removing a political candidate accused of violating party rules.

Harris County Democratic Party officials say they have federal law on their side.

“Political parties get to determine who their nominees are going to be,” said Chad Dunn, the party’s attorney.

He said the Constitution prevents government officials from compelling a political party – a private association – to select a particular candidate.

Dunn said Oliver could run as an independent or a write-in candidate.

“But, if you want to run as a Democrat, then the Democratic Party gets to decide if you are its nominee,” Dunn said.

The irony of all this is that filing the lawsuit is the first proactive step Lloyd Oliver has ever taken to be elected to something. I wasn’t sure he’d even bother, given that his goal was never to actually get elected, but merely to get publicity. Well, now he gets to keep his name in the papers for a few more days.

I’ll say again what I said originally. I don’t see what leg the HCDP has to stand on. I hope I’m wrong and that they really do have chapter and verse of federal law on their side, because they’re going to look like a bunch of idiots if they lose. I just have a bad feeling about this.

As for Dunn’s statement about who gets to decide who the nominees are, well, not to belabor the obvious, but that’s what primary elections are for. The fact that the voters made a poor choice this time is certainly unfortunate and a failure of the process that I believe the party needs to address for the future, but that’s a separate issue. It’s true that Oliver could have run as an independent or as a write-in, but to do so would have required filing paperwork that was due at the same time as the paperwork to be on the primary ballot. Unlike, say, Connecticut, where you can form your own party to run in after losing in the primary of another party, you only get one shot at this in Texas. Oliver chose to file as a Democrat for his own inscrutable reasons. He won the primary, and that means he’s earned the right to run in November, much as I dislike the idea of him winning. I’ll wait to see what the judge has to say, but I really don’t understand this. Tactically speaking, it’s hard to see how Oliver was going to be more trouble on the ballot than he is now trying to get him off of it.

Dems boot Oliver

Here we go.

The Harris County Democratic Party worked Wednesday to take district attorney nominee Lloyd Oliver’s name off the ballot, deciding to go forward without a candidate in November’s general election.

Whether they can actually take the outspoken and controversial lawyer out of the race remains an open question because state law does not appear to allow the party’s actions.

“There are ways to remove a candidate, but not the way they’re doing it,” Oliver said. “And my ultimate remedy is an injunction in the federal court, and I think the federal courts will agree with me.”

Oliver, a perennial candidate who has run as both a Republican and a Democratic, usually in judicial elections, said he did not know why the party wants to take him off the ballot.

[…]

Chad Dunn, the party’s attorney, said the party’s actions are lawful.

“All of the federal court decisions addressing this issue have found that political parties have an intrinsic right, as a private political association protected by the First Amendment, to choose and select their nominees,” Dunn said. “I think the law is very clear that political parties can’t be forced by the state, either by statute or some state officer’s requirement, to have a nominee in a race they don’t want to have a nominee in.”

I still don’t see it, but I remain a non-lawyer, so what do I know. Oliver is a barnacle on the political process and I have zero sympathy for him, but that doesn’t make this legal or right. I presume a judge will eventually decide the former; the latter is for you to determine. I hope Dunn et al are correct about the law, because this will be a debacle otherwise. I’ll say again, I hope the lesson learned is that the party needs to be involved in the primary when a clearly unsuitable candidate files.

Mark Bennett objects to this move on principle. I’ll leave the principle to others to discuss, but I will offer a pragmatic defense: If this sticks, it at least ensures that an unqualified boob like Lloyd Oliver cannot be elected DA. How likely would that be? If Harris County is roughly 50-50 as it was in 2008, then I’d have bet money on Mike Anderson winning. If Harris in 2012 is to 2008 as 2008 was to 2004, then Oliver could easily win on partisan momentum. If it’s somewhere in between, who knows? Point is, as long as Lloyd Oliver is on the ballot there’s a non-zero chance he could win. Your opinion of that risk will likely color your opinion of the HCDP’s action. Murray Newman has more.

Birnberg files complaint to force Oliver off the ballot

I’m far from thrilled to have Lloyd Oliver as the Democratic nominee for District Attorney, but this seems a bit much to me.

Gerry Birnberg, the former party chair, filed a complaint earlier this month to have Oliver removed from November’s ballot because he praised the sitting district attorney, Republican Pat Lykos.

Specifically, Birnberg said in his complaint, Oliver told the Houston Chronicle in May that Lykos was such a good candidate that she “would have gotten my vote.”

[…]

Birnberg said he was not retaliating against Oliver for beating Zack Fertitta in the primary, but said he is concerned about Oliver’s loyalty and the Republican strategy.

“I believe the Republicans are planning on using his colorful past as a way to bring down the entire ticket,” Birnberg said.

He also said he expects loyalty to Democrats across the ticket, “and if a candidate is saying that ‘Republicans are still good candidates too,’ that’s not helpful for the Democratic party.”

So much to cover here, but let me start off by noting that Gary Polland was the first to report this:

This hasn’t made the local media yet, but former Democratic Chair Gerald Birnberg has made a complaint designed to remove Democratic “accidental” District Attorney candidate Lloyd Oliver from the ballot. This is an interesting development.

TCR wonders, do the D’s intend to remove and replace with a handpicked star who they think could take advantage of the nasty GOP primary battle between incumbent Pat Lykos and successful primary challenger Mike Anderson? Do the Democrats think that they can convince enough swing and Lykos loyalists to vote their way, and win a tight battle? Maybe it’s time for the Anderson group to smoke the peace pipe with District Attorney Lykos and her supporters.

Birnberg is worried that the Republicans will user Oliver as a club against the Democrats elsewhere on the ticket. Polland is worried that the residual acrimony from the Anderson-Lykos primary could let Oliver win a race he has no business winning. We live in interesting times.

I’m sure that Birnberg and Polland have both forgotten more election law than I’ll ever know, but I don’t see how the Dems can do this. For one thing, the case Birnberg is making seems exceedingly weak to me. I mean, the Democratic Speaker of the State House in 2000 (Pete Laney) endorsed George Bush for President, and he was far from the only Dem to do so back then. Compared to that, Oliver’s words barely register. I mean, they’d be grounds to remove him as a precinct chair, but to declare him ineligible as a nominee? I just don’t see it. Oliver is an idiot, but unless he chooses to withdraw I’m afraid we’re stuck with him.

Assuming that HCDP Chair Lane Lewis buys the ineligibility argument, it’s also not clear to me that Oliver can be replaced. Section 145 of the Elections Code doesn’t specifically address the question of replacing candidates who have been declared ineligible on the ballot, but Sec 145.039 says “If a candidate dies or is declared ineligible after the 74th day before election day, the candidate’s name shall be placed on the ballot”. By my calculation, that makes the deadline this Friday, the 24th. I have no idea if the machinery can be made to move swiftly enough to allow for this, again in the event that Lewis goes along with Birnberg’s complaint. It just adds to my incredulity about this.

Guinn seeks recount

Can’t say I blame him.

Zerick Guinn

Democratic Precinct 2 constable candidate Zerick Guinn has requested a recount in his primary runoff against Chris Diaz, who won by 16 votes after incorrect election results posted online showed Guinn with a commanding lead late on election night.

[…]

“This is not an example of a candidate with sour grapes. This is a candidate who was involved in an election where the individual in charge of counting the ballots made numerous mistakes,” said [HCDP Chair Lane] Lewis, referring to County Clerk Stan Stanart. “This is an example of a candidate who wants to make sure everything was done correctly.”

Lewis said he was not sure what Guinn’s campaign would need to pay for the recount, but estimated it at about $2,000.

I’d have done the same in Guinn’s shoes. I doubt a recount will make a difference because they very seldom do, but I’d still want to go through the motions after what happened on the night of the 31st. We’ll see how it goes.

We speak again of an elections administrator

As you know, I’ve been wondering when this might happen.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said he will ask the Texas Secretary of State’s Office to examine his office’s election processes after a “human error” in his office caused erroneous primary runoff election results to be posted online for hours last Tuesday. The error made the Democratic runoff for Precinct 2 constable appear to be a blowout for one candidate when, in fact, the correct count had his opponent ahead.

Democratic Party chairman Lane Lewis also called for an audit of election procedures. Lewis referenced delays in the posting of results in May and July, and a Democratic primary race for the Harris County Department of Education run on outdated boundaries. County tax assessor-collector Don Sumners has accepted some blame for the error but says the Department of Education was required to notify him of the change; the department disagrees.

“We all want a fair election, so why not have an independent auditor come in and be able to identify, ‘This is what’s going right, this is what’s going wrong’?” Lewis suggested. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

County Judge Ed Emmett – like Stanart, a Republican – revived his proposal that an elections administrator, an appointed official outside the clerk’s office and tax office, be considered. Emmett said 85 Texas counties, including most large ones, use the system.

“I’m not saying we need to go to what they do, but if there are improvements we can make, I think we ought to consider making those improvements,” Emmett said. “If there is an error, then at least you have somebody who is a professional election administrator. Nobody reads into it that this is an elected person that’s partisan one way or the other.”

I’m glad to see the elections administrator idea has been brought up again, because it really does need to be fully debated. It’s hard to say from the story if it will go anywhere – Judge Emmett and Commissioner Lee were the only ones quoted. Stanart unsurprisingly hates the idea, and if he has cover from the other members of the Court then that’s pretty much that. As for Chairman Lewis’ request for an audit, all we know at this point is that the Secretary of State reported not having received such a request as of press time. I would hope that County Clerk Stanart follows up on that. If Stanart is correct in his assertion that the runoff screwup was just one of those things that could happen to anybody, then the audit ought to help restore a little confidence in him. If not – if there were systemic problems that can and likely will happen again – we need to know that now.

One more thing. Campos, who is on the elections admin bandwagon, asks a question:

I wonder why local Dem Party leaders won’t come out and support an Election Administrator?

Former HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg gives a reason for that in an email sent to Carl Whitmarsh’s list, which I’ve edited a bit:

Under Texas law, the Elections Administrator is appointed by a five person committee consisting of (1) the County Clerk, (2) the County Tax Assessor-Collector/Voter Registrar, (3) the County Judge, (4) the Chair of the Harris County Republican Party, and (5) the Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party. […]

And once you appoint an Election Administrator, that person cannot be replaced — even for cause, unless four of the members of that committee vote to remove him or her. So, as a practical matters, once appointed, it’s essentially a lifetime appointment. (Commissioners Court can abolish the position by majority vote, but they cannot fire the Administrator and obtain a replacement).

The supermajority requirement to remove an elections administrator is one of the concerns I raised when the issue was first brought up. I understand the reason why it’s done this way – allowing for a simple majority to recommend the removal of an elections admin would make it too easy to play political games with the position – but doing it this way may make it too hard. I’d like to hear more about the experience other counties have had before I’m willing to sign off on the idea. Birnberg also notes that if an elections admin position were to be created and filled today, two of the people that are the root cause of why we need an elections admin – Stan Stanart and Don Sumners – would be on the board that selects and oversees said admin. That doesn’t sound like a brilliant idea to me, either. I suspect nothing will happen till after the election anyway, but then something was supposed to happen after the last election, and here we are now. So who knows? PDiddie has more.