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Laurie Robinson

The 2019 elections

We haven’t forgotten that there are some big elections on tap for us this year, have we? Let’s go a quick rundown.

May elections

Election campaigns are already in progress in the cities that have May elections, which includes big cities like San Antonio and Dallas, and smaller cities in our area like Pasadena, Sugar Land, and Pearland. Pasadena will be a hot zone again, with first-term Mayor Jeff Wagner up for re-election and local Democrats hoping to win the District A seat they came so close to in 2017, which would give them a 5-3 advantage on City Council. I don’t have much to say about these races yet, but I will note that my friend Nabila Mansoor is running for City Council in Sugar Land, so I wish her all the best with that.

Houston – Overview

This is the first city election since 2015, thanks to the change in the term limits law. It’s also the first city election since the election of Donald Trump, and the two high-turnout, Democratic-sweep elections in Harris County. How will that affect the course of this election? Normally, even if we have a hotly contested Mayor’s race, we’d be looking at 200 to 250K turnout max – less if the Mayor’s race was not contested – but with all the newly activated people from the past two years, will things change? The betting money always says No until events prove otherwise. The one other thing that may affect turnout this year is the Metro referendum, which itself will be conducted for the first time with no John Culberson in office. So many factors in play, so all I will say for now is don’t believe any firm, confident pronouncements. There’s a lot of room for variance and for doubt at this time.

Mayor

It’s Sylvester Turner versus Bill King, Round 2, with the extra zest (maybe) of Tony Buzbee. And maybe others, too – will anyone be surprised if Ben Hall manages to get a story published about how he’s “thinking about” taking another shot at it? The last Mayor to fail to be re-elected was Kathy Whitmire in 1991. Past performance does not guarantee future outcomes, but I figure there’s a reason for that. It’s Turner’s election to lose, and King doesn’t have his signature talking point from 2015 now that pension reform has been achieved, by Turner. He’s clearly going to attack Turner, but as to what he might campaign on beyond that, I have no idea.

City Controller

Honestly, I’ll be surprised if Chris Brown draws anything more than token opposition. Controller isn’t that sexy a job, and Brown hasn’t done anything to draw the bad kind of attention to himself.

City Council

Districts A, B, C, J, and At Large #5 are term limited. I’ve already received two invitations to like Facebook pages for District C candidates (Nick Hellyar and Bob Nowak), and I’m aware of at least two more such candidates (Shelley Kennedy and Abbie Kamin). Durrel Douglas listed some potential District B candidates a few weeks ago, and there are rumblings in the other slots as well. Raj Salhotra has announced a challenge to Mike Knox in At Large #1, while Laurie Robinson appears to be gearing up for another run in At Large #5. I’ll be reviewing the finance reports for January when they start to come out, which may yield a few more names. For now, let’s just say I expect a lot of activity, and not just in the open seats. Four years is a long time to go between city elections, and lots of people are in a mind to run for something.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that Sallie Alcorn, who had been Steve Costello’s chief of staff, has announced her candidacy for AL5.

HISD

Assuming we have HISD Trustee elections this November – we should know that for sure by August – the following Trustees are up in 2019: Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Sergio Lira, Jolanda Jones, and Diana Davila. Far as I know, all are planning to run for re-election. Lira was elected to fill out Manuel Rodriguez’s unfinished term in 2017, Skillern-Jones was forced into a runoff in 2015 and has had a rocky tenure as Board President, Davila upset Juliet Stipeche (now Mayor Turner’s education czar) in 2015, and Jolanda is Jolanda. I’m not currently aware of any opponents on the horizon, but I’m sure most if not all of them will draw someone. Assuming, again, we have HISD Trustee elections this November.

HCC

It will have been six long years, but we will finally have the chance to rid ourselves of the stain that is Dave Wilson, in HCC Trustee District 2, this November. Also up for election are Zeph Capo and Neeta Sane.

Metro

All of Harris County will have the Metro referendum, which is as yet unfinished, on their ballot in November. Again, I don’t have much to say about this yet, but this is one of my top interests for 2019. It will certainly be a component of the Mayor’s race as well. I figure if Metro could pass the 2003 referendum they have to be a favorite to pass this one, but you never know with these things.

That’s all I have for now. Next up will be the finance reports when they become available. If you know of any candidate announcements or other related news, leave a comment and tell us all.

Precinct analysis: At Large #4

At Large #4 features a newcomer and a multi-time candidate in its runoff.


Dist  Edwards  Hansen  Blackmon  Robinson  Thompson  Murphy  Morales
====================================================================
A       3,707     572       662     2,378     2,565   1,844    2,702
B      10,732     306     1,296     2,109     1,160     327    1,477
C      11,309   1,226     1,189     6,688     3,891   2,967    3,911
D      12,636     400     2,691     2,618     1,559     542    1,902
E       3,612   1,054       960     3,197     5,033   5,288    4,158
F       2,673     438       542     1,368     1,370     713    1,675
G       4,914   1,150       960     7,210     5,746   4,073    4,193
H       4,121     304       475     1,397       982     468    4,664
I       3,187     302       537     1,022       895     418    4,568
J       1,911     281       325     1,031       909     408    1,339
K       8,357     395     1,444     2,555     1,730     646    1,900
							
A      25.69%   3.96%     4.59%    16.48%    17.78%  12.78%   18.72%
B      61.65%   1.76%     7.45%    12.12%     6.66%   1.88%    8.49%
C      36.27%   3.93%     3.81%    21.45%    12.48%   9.52%   12.54%
D      56.54%   1.79%    12.04%    11.71%     6.98%   2.43%    8.51%
E      15.50%   4.52%     4.12%    13.72%    21.60%  22.69%   17.84%
F      30.45%   4.99%     6.17%    15.58%    15.61%   8.12%   19.08%
G      17.40%   4.07%     3.40%    25.53%    20.34%  14.42%   14.84%
H      33.20%   2.45%     3.83%    11.26%     7.91%   3.77%   37.58%
I      29.16%   2.76%     4.91%     9.35%     8.19%   3.82%   41.80%
J      30.80%   4.53%     5.24%    16.62%    14.65%   6.58%   21.58%
K      49.08%   2.32%     8.48%    15.01%    10.16%   3.79%   11.16%
Amanda Edwards

Amanda Edwards

Amanda Edwards turns in an impressive performance, even more so for being a first time candidate. It occurred to me in looking at these numbers that Edwards has the kind of profile that would make for a strong challenger to Michael Kubosh – a progressive African-American with solid business/establishment credentials. Of course, a candidate with that profile would be a formidable opponent for anyone, which is a big part of the reason she did so well here. Every candidate in the runoff is at least somewhat dependent on the Mayor’s race, as that will do far more to determine who votes and how many of them there are, but Edwards’ first round performance makes her less dependent on that than most.

I suspect a lot of people (I was one) expected Laurie Robinson to do better than she did. She’d run before, she collected a decent number of endorsements, including a few from more conservative groups who apparently weren’t too impressed with the Republican candidates in the race, and it seemed likely she would collect a fair share of the vote in districts B and D. Instead, Edwards blew her out of the water, so much so that Robinson slipped into third place and out of the runoff. Robinson did slightly worse in these districts than she did in 2011, though here there were seven candidates including three African-Americans, while in 2011 there were four and two. One possible explanation for this is that people may have held a grudge against her for opposing then-CM Jolanda Jones, who was forced into a runoff she eventually lost. I have no way to test that hypothesis, so it’s just a guess. Whatever the case, if Robinson wants to take another crack at a Council campaign in 2019, her inability to do well in these districts is an issue she’s going to have to address.

With Roy Morales sneaking ahead of Laurie Robinson into the runoff, this race shapes up as D-versus-R, as are most of the others. In this case, while there were several Rs in the first round, they combined to score almost no endorsements from the Republican/conservative establishment; as noted above, Robinson did better with that crowd than Morales, Matt Murphy, Jonathan Hansen, and Evelyn Husband Thompson combined. They’re pulling together for Morales now, as they did at the tail end of the 2009 Mayor’s race, and Morales does have the advantage of picking up some low-information votes in districts H and I, but this is Morales’ third runoff out of five citywide races (2007 AL3 special election, 2007 AL3 November election, 2009 Mayor, 2013 AL3, and 2015 AL4, with the first, fourth, and fifth being the runoff races) and it’s hard to see him doing any better than he has done before. One should never take anything for granted, but I suspect the Vegas oddsmakers would install Edwards as a strong favorite in this race.

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?

Omnibus election results post

I’m going to take the easy way out here, because it’s been a long day/week/month and I’m hoping to get some sleep tonight, and just hit the highlights. There will be plenty of time for deeper analysis later, and of course we are now officially in runoff season. There’s absolutely no rest for the political junkie.

– Obviously, the HERO result is deeply disappointing. I’ll leave the Monday morning quarterbacking to others, but I will say this: Whatever you think about this issue, get ready for Jared Woodfill to be the public face of Houston for a few days. There’s no way this is good for anyone.

– It’s Sylvester versus King in the Mayoral runoff. The runoff will basically be the campaign we should have had in November, which will be dominated by the Mayor’s race and not the HERO campaign and the avalanche of lies that accompanied it. Don’t expect the same crowd to show up in December – if I had to guess it would be turnout in the 150K range, as it was in 2009.

– The Controller’s race was reasonably according to form, with Bill Frazer and Chris Brown in the runoff.

– Four out of five At Large races will go to runoffs, with CM Michael Kubosh being the only candidate who can take November off. I suggested there might be some goofy results in these races, and we have them, in ALs 1 and 5, where candidates who didn’t do much if any campaigning are in the runoffs. The single best result of the night is Amanda Edwards’ big lead. She will face Roy Morales, who sneaked past Laurie Robinson into second place, in December.

– And the single worst result from last night, even worse than the HERO result, is Juliet Stipeche losing her race to Diana Davila. A terrible blow for the HISD Board. Jolanda Jones won easily, Rhonda Skillern-Jones leads but is in a runoff, and Manuel Rodriguez also leads but is in a runoff, with Jose Leal and nor Ramiro Fonseca. What a weird night. On the plus side, both Adriana Tamez and Eva Loredo won re-election to the HCC board easily.

– Mike Laster and Richard Nguyen are both in runoffs, in J and F. I feel pretty good about Laster’s chances, less so about Nguyen’s. Greg Travis is a close winner in G, and Karla Cisneros leads in H, Jason Cisneroz holding off Roland Chavez for second place; the difference between the two was in double digits most of the night. If there’s one race on the ballot where someone calls for a recount, it’ll be this one.

– I guess if you really wanted to change Houston’s term limits law, this was the election to do it. There was absolutely no campaign either way, and for all the shouting about “ballot language” in the HERO and Renew Houston elections, I’ll bet a large chunk of the people who voted for Prop 2 had no idea what they were voting for.

– All the county bond issues passed, as did all the state props, and Montgomery County finally got a road bond to pass. Hope it’s all you want it to be, MontCo.

I will have more to say later. For now, this is all the energy I have. I’m going to be looking for national reaction stories to the HERO referendum. I strongly suspect it will be ugly, and I expect the likes of Dan Patrick and Jared Woodfill to keep lying about it in the face of such blowback. But we’ll see. Thanks for reading, and I’ll post precinct analyses as soon as I can get my hands on the canvass. On to the runoffs!

Chron race overview: At Large #4

With all of the Mayoral profiles done (*), the Chron turns its attention to the other open seat races. Here’s their profile of At Large #4.

CM C.O. "Brad" Bradford

CM C.O. “Brad” Bradford

Laurie Robinson kicked off her campaign in December 2014, almost a year before Election Day. Robinson, a managing principal and majority shareholder in her company, unsuccessfully ran for City Council in 2011 but says this time she’s more “solution-based.”

The city’s budget deficit is her main issue, and she cites her background uncovering waste in city contracts and her time as project manager during Hurricanes Katrina and Ike as an advantage. Her first order of business would be to sit down with the controller’s office and finance department, to “really look at the financial condition of the city.” Robinson, 50, wants to examine city pensions as well as ReBuild Houston, the city’s “pay-as-you-go” fund for infrastructure improvements.

[…]

First-time candidate Jonathan Hansen, 35, wants to take his experience teaching economics from the classroom to council chambers. A high school teacher and head swim coach, he sees city pensions and the permitting process for businesses as the city’s top troubles.

If elected, he would advocate for a defined contribution system, such as a 401(k) or 403b. Hansen said a lot of small businesses have been negatively affected by the “cumbersome” permitting process, pushing possible tax revenue from new businesses outside of city limits. Once these issues have been resolved, he would move on to infrastructure.

[…]

Amanda Edwards, another first-time candidate, wants to focus on quality-of-life issues that will bring more people to live within city limits so they can contribute to the tax base and fund necessary infrastructure repair.

“It’s falling apart, literally, as we speak. It’s fallen apart,” she said.

Edwards, 33, wants to give Houston residents access to grocery stores, walkable streets and healthy lifestyle choices. A municipal finance lawyer, Edwards plans to rely on her experience with public-private partnerships to find different ways to pay for these ideas.

[…]

While some are first-timers, other candidates such as Roy Morales, 58, are more “seasoned.” A technology consultant and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, Morales previously ran unsuccessfully for mayor as well as City Council. He debated which ring to throw his hat in this time, and ultimately decided on the at-large position.

Morales says the first item on his to-do list would be to fix city streets. He links better roads and infrastructure to more business.

[…]

Evelyn Husband Thompson, 57, made her decision official to run for City Council 12 hours after dropping her son off at college. The widow of Rick Husband, the captain of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Husband Thompson said she “felt a little more freedom to give back to the community she loves” once her children had grown up and left home.

Husband Thompson said she’s done a “tremendous amount” of research to better understand City Council responsibilities and issues facing Houston. She hasn’t had as many public appearances or meetings as her competitors, but plans to go out with police officers and firemen to see different areas of the city.

[…]

For Larry Blackmon, 65, the retired educator and community activist, the Memorial Day floods helped him decide to run. He had considered running four years ago, but the birth of his new granddaughter kept him occupied. Now, she’s his campaign manager. She’s good at getting people to take campaign materials, he said.

Blackmon found it hard to believe that in the fourth largest city, “we had someone drowning in the middle of the city.” He proposes dividing Houston into regions with dedicated pump stations and other flood control measures, with one command station. Then he said, it would be easier to address the region that floods.

[…]

Matt Murphy, 40, compares the campaign experience to triathlon training, something that takes a gradual build-up. The two-time triathlete took on the challenge as a tribute to his son, who was born with a rare birth defect. Murphy, a fire protection engineer designer, is a first-time candidate.

“If you wait around to get qualified, wait around until you feel like you deserve or you earn it, then you’re really kind of neglecting the opportunity to make change now,” he said.

If you look at my Election 2015 page, you can see links to interviews I have done with Robinson, Edwards, Hansen, and Murphy. There are also links to Q&As they and Larry Blackmon have done elsewhere. All of the 30 day financial reports for six of the seven candidates are posted as well; I can’t find one for Jonathan Hansen. Here are the current totals for them:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Blackmon 27,285 34,500 0 0 Edwards 131,417 61,327 0 191,445 Hansen Morales 17,495 30,042 2,200 3,786 Murphy 670 5,125 14,045 167 Robinson 29,050 25,923 15,040 35,886 Thompson 0 1,850 0 0

Blackmon’s finance report is not correctly filled out – his “Support and Totals” section on cover sheet page 2 is blank, though he does have the Subtotals section on cover sheet 3 filled out. That doesn’t include a cash on hand number, so I filled in the zero on my own. Blackmon reported a $10,000 contribution from a Daniel Jackson of Stafford, which if true seems like a violation of the $5,000 limit for individual contributors. I haven’t looked very closely at the other reports just yet.

We got a mailer from Edwards late last week. I’ve not gotten anything from the other candidates as yet, though I have seen numerous sponsored posts on Facebook from Robinson and Edwards. Only Edwards is officially for HERO. Husband Thompson is the Hotze candidate. I suspect those items will serve as filters for some of us. Robinson got the Chron endorsement; she and Edwards split all the other non-Hotze endorsements that I tracked. I couldn’t find a webpage or campaign Facebook page for Husband Thompson, so i guess you’re on your own if you want to know more about her. Other than that, I hope this is enough to help you at least narrow the field down for yourself.

Endorsement watch: A bad call

I’m sorry, I don’t get this at all.

Laurie Robinson

Laurie Robinson

The race for the At-Large 4 City Council seat offers two of the most capable candidates running this fall. Amanda Edwards, a municipal finance attorney with Bracewell & Guiliani, and Laurie Robinson, a government oversight contracting auditor who runs her own consulting firm, are thoughtful and knowledgeable about city issues. Both are impressive.

[…]

Our choice, and it’s almost a toss-up, is Laurie Robinson, and it’s a choice based on her years of experience with government-related endeavors. Although her opposition to the city’s equal rights ordinance gives us pause – she says she favors an ordinance in principle, but this one has become too divisive – we believe she will be an effective councilmember from her first day in office.

Although we endorse Robinson, we recognize that her chief opponent has the potential to be an influential voice in public affairs and public service for years to come. Whether Amanda Edwards wins or loses this time, it’s a win for Houston if she stays involved.

It’s not that I expected Edwards to get the endorsement. It’s that I expected all of the Chron’s prior editorializing on HERO to mean something. If support for HERO – which Laurie Robinson expressed in her interview with me before doing a 180 for reasons unclear – isn’t enough to serve as a tiebreaker in a case like this, then what exactly does the Chron’s stated support for HERO mean? Why say you support something if you don’t back the candidates that agree with you on it? And I’m sorry, but saying HERO “has become too divisive” is a load of baloney. It’s like saying President Obama is “too divisive” because a significant portion of the Republican Party has gone completely bonkers since his election in 2008. Over 200 cities across the US have equal rights ordinances exactly like Houston’s. It is completely mainstream. One hundred percent of the divisiveness is the fault of the extreme zealotry of people like Jared Woodfill, Dave Welch, and Dave Wilson. Shame on the Chronicle for being so gullible.

The real tragedy of this is that Laurie Robinson is a genuinely well-qualified candidate. She made a bad decision in renouncing her prior support for HERO, and she does not deserve to be rewarded for it. Again, I don’t understand why the Chronicle doesn’t understand that. The time for Amanda Edwards, whose interview is here, to be an influential voice in public affairs and public service is now. I recognize that, and I hope you do too, even if the Chronicle doesn’t.

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.

Interview with Laurie Robinson

Laurie Robinson

Laurie Robinson

Next up in my series of interviews with candidates seeking to succeed the term-limited Council Member C. O. Bradford in At Large #4 is Laurie Robinson. Robinson is the only repeat candidate in this group, having run for At Large #5 in 2011. An MBA with an extensive background in compliance, audit, government affairs, and more, Robinson has worked for several large firms as well as at the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services. She has managed disaster rebuild funds for UTMB-Galveston following Hurricane Ike, and worked with the city of Houston to get reimbursements for the city following Ike and Katrina. Robinson has served on numerous committees, including the Houston chapter of the NAACP and with the Greater Houston Partnership. Here’s what we talked about:

(Note: This interview took place after the Supreme Court ruling that required a repeal or referendum on HERO. I mean like less than an hour after the news hit. We were both still trying to process what it meant as we did the interview.)

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

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.

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.

Two more for At Large #4

We know that At Large #1, one of two open At Large seats for this year, has already drawn a crowd. Now the other open seat, At Large #4, is drawing one as well.

CM C.O. "Brad" Bradford

CM C.O. “Brad” Bradford

Laurie Robinson, Amanda Edwards and Larry Blackmon will all run for the at-large city council seat to be vacated by C.O. “Brad” Bradford, according to campaign treasurer designations filed in recent weeks.

Bradford, a former chief of the Houston Police Department, was elected to at-large position four in 2009 and is now term limited. The seat in recent years has been held by an African American.

Robinson, who leads a management consulting firm, lost her race for an at-large seat in 2011, and considered, but declined, a repeat run in 2013. Edwards is an associate at the law firm Bracewell and Giuliani, and Blackmon is a retired school teacher active in local politics.

See here for the announcement about Robinson. A little googling around for Amanda Edwards yields her Bracewell & Giuliani bio page, this Modern Luxury Home profile that notes her work with Project Row Houses, and her nomination for a 2014 Houston Tomorrow Catalyst Award. As for Larry Blackmon, he was quoted in this NYT story from 2003 as an alumnus of Yates High School and parent of a Yates student regarding exaggerated claims about how many Yates kids were going on to college. He’s listed as the director of the Jack Yates Class of 1968 Alumni. Neither has a finance report for January, of course. I’m sure we’ll learn more about them in the coming weeks and months.

Laurie Robinson to run in At Large #4

From Texpatriate:

Laurie Robinson

Laurie Robinson

Laurie Robinson, a local businesswoman, will run for the Houston City Council next year. Specifically, as Houston Chronicle reported Theodore Schleifer reported on Twitter, she will seek out At-Large Position #4. The seat is currently held by Councilmember C.O. Bradford (D-At Large 4), who is term limited. The seat, which was previously held by now-Controller Ronald Green, has historically been held by an African-American officeholder, and this recent history has been noted repeatedly in recent weeks as a plethora of Caucasian candidates have stampeded into At-Large Position #1 and only that position, the other open seat.

A number of other names have popped up for this seat in conversations taking place behind closed doors, but none with enough certainty to be written in ink. Thus far, as noted above, most activity has taken place around Position #1, currently held by the term limited Councilmember Stephen Costello (R-At Large 1), a likely mayoral candidate. As I noted in the article I linked above, Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis will run for the post, as will Jenifer Pool, Philippe Nassif, Trebor Gordon and Griff Griffin. All except Nassif have run for office a few times (Griffin in particular about a dozen times).

Just a nitpicky note here, but it was At Large #5 that was held by African Americans for a long time; in particular, by Judson Robinson from 1971 to 1990, then by his son Judson Robinson III through 1997, then Carroll Robinson through 2001. It was in 2003, when Michael Berry, who had previously served one term in At Large #4 before making an aborted run for Mayor in 2003, won to break the streak, after which we had Jolanda Jones and then Jack Christie. AL4 was held by Anthony Hall and Sheila Jackson Lee before John Peavy won a special election in 1995 to succeed SJL after she ousted Craig Washington in the primary for CD18; Peavy was re-elected in November of 1995, then Chris Bell (’97 and ’99) and Berry (’01) represented AL4. Had Berry not chosen to make a run for Mayor in 2003, thus paving the way for Ronald Green with an assist from Bert Keller’s bumbling campaign, he might have won two more terms there, and then who knows what might have happened. (All data on city elections courtesy of the City Secretary webpage.) Berry himself was the beneficiary of some infighting over whom to support to continue the tradition of African American representation in AL5. Point being, the history is more interesting than what we have been saying, and for a few terms back in the day there were consistently two African American Council members serving at large; there were three following the 1991 election, when little-known Beverly Clark ousted Jim Westmoreland after he was caught making racist remarks relating to the late Mickey Leland and an effort to rename IAH in his honor. Clark served one term and was succeeded by Gracie Saenz. Thus endeth the history lecture.

Aaaaaaaaanyway. Robinson made a decent showing in AL5 in 2011 (my interview with her for that race is here, and though she was rumored to be a candidate for AL3 in 2013, she declined to run, saying she might try again another time. Which appears to be now. As for Griff Griffin, all I can say is that we can’t miss you if you won’t go away.

An early look at At Large #3

A little while back, Campos listed all of the people who had filed designations of treasurer for city office, which is the step you need to take before you can raise any money for a campaign. As expected, the field for City Council At Large #3, the only open At Large seat, is already crowded. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the six candidates who have already expressed their intent to run for this seat. Here they are:

Chris Carmona

Chris CarmonaFacebookTwitter

Carmona is making his second run for At Large #3. He was one of two opponents to CM Melissa Noriega in 2011, receiving 26.20% of the vote. Carmona is a Republican, was involved in the petition drive to overturn the homeless feeding ordinance, and would undoubtedly be an antagonist of Mayor Parker if both were to win this November. He’s also not a fan of Metro, as the entry on his blog-like campaign website would indicate. I wanted to note that particular entry, in which he grouses about the city not being prepared for the NBA All-Star Game this past February, since subsequent events and post-weekend reviews proved him to be quite spectacularly wrong. Predicting the future is hard, y’all.

Roland Chavez

Roland ChavezFacebookTwitter

Chavez is a first-time candidate, who announced his retirement from the Houston Fire Department after 34 years at the same time as he announced his candidacy. His treasurer is the former chief of staff for the late Sen. Mario Gallegos, which will undoubtedly be a good connection for him to have for his campaign. He does not yet have a campaign website or Twitter account that I could find. Chavez is a Democrat but as we know the firefighters and the Mayor do not have a good relationship, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

UPDATE: The Chavez campaign has informed me that he does have a Twitter account, which is now listed above. My thanks to Priscilla for the feedback.

Michael Kubosh

Michael KuboshFacebook

One of the Fighting Kubosh Brothers, Michael Kubosh ran as a Democrat against Sen. Dan Patrick in 2006, but is more readily identified as a Republican. He does not yet have a campaign webpage, and in what may just be an oddity there is a – Twitter account in his name, but it has had no activity. I noted Kubosh’s announcement here. He’s best known for being a leader in the effort to ban red light cameras in Houston, and his brother Paul was the plaintiff in the now-dropped lawsuit against the city over the homeless feeding ordinance. Kubosh was at Ben Hall’s campaign announcement event, not that there was any question about what his relationship with Mayor Parker would be like.

Roy Morales

Roy Morales

It’s like old times having Roy run for city office again, isn’t it? He ran for At Large #3 in the special election in May, 2007, losing to CM Noriega in the June runoff, then again in a November rematch. He ran for Mayor in 2009, coming in fourth, and ran for CD29 in 2010. He finished serving a six-year term as HCDE Trustee at the end of last year. He doesn’t have a campaign Facebook page or a Twitter account that I could find, but he has used his personal Facebook page to make campaign announcements. He is a Republican, having run for HCDE and CD29 on the GOP ticket. While Morales has been an actual opponent of Mayor Parker from the 2009 campaign, it’s not quite clear what his relationship with her would be if he were elected to Council, since he’s largely been quiet about city issues since then. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Rogene Calvert

Rogene Calvert

Campos notes that Calvert did not list what office she was running for on her form, but I know this is the office she has in mind. She is a first time candidate, is on the UH Center for Public Policy Advisory Board and is a past President of the Asian Chamber of Commerce for Houston. She is a Democrat. I don’t know for sure but I would expect that she would be mostly an ally of Mayor Parker. If elected, she would be the first Asian-American to serve At Large since Gordon Quan.

Jenifer Pool

Jenifer Rene PoolFacebookTwitter

Pool ran for At Large #2 in 2011, finishing 7th in the field of nine with 7.06% of the vote. You can listen to the interview I did with her for that race here. She is a Democrat and a past President of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, and is an ally of Mayor Parker. She was as far as I can tell the first entrant in this race.

That’s what I know right now. I expect there will be more entrants into this race – seems like the magic number has been nine candidates for open seat At Large races recently. Nancy Sims notes this KUHF story on At Large #3 that says there are eight candidates so far. I emailed Nancy to ask who else she knew about, and she replied by saying Laurie Robinson, who ran against Jolanda Jones in At Large #5 last year, has sent out an announcement of her intent to run; Nancy also mentioned that former State Rep. Al Edwards has been rumored to be looking at the race. Robinson’s Facebook page has no mention of her running for anything – for what it’s worth, the rumor I’d heard was that she’s looking at At Large #2 – and her campaign webpage is currently inactive. I’m going to file her as tentative and Edwards (Lord help us) as speculative for now.

For the other six candidates, all have a plausible case for making it to the runoff, though if we’ve learned anything from recent elections it’s that no one should overestimate their name ID, and in the absence of clear information voters can and will make random selections. Having said that, if there is one candidate in this race who can claim some name ID, it’s Roy Morales, and if this election were to be held tomorrow I’d put my chips on him making it to the runoff. Kubosh is probably the runnerup in the name ID department, but he and Carmona will be fishing from basically the same pool of voters as Morales, and I have a hard time seeing more than one of them emerge from the pack as a finalist. Kubosh has some inroads into the African American community from his anti-red light camera advocacy, but I don’t know how much that might add up to if someone like Robinson or Edwards gets into this race. In many open At Large races there has been a single dominant Democratic candidate – Peter Brown, Melissa Noriega, Jolanda Jones, Brad Bradford – but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. As always it will be interesting to see where the money and the institutional endorsements go. Finally, after all the recent concern about the lack of Latino representation on City Council, it’s good to see three viable Latino candidates running, even if two of them are not to my taste. No guarantees any of them will win, of course, but as they say about the lottery, you can’t win it if you’re not in it.

UPDATE: Laurie Robinson posted the letter she sent to supporters on my Facebook wall, in which she said she will not be a candidate in 2013, though she may run for something in the future. So take her off the list for this year.

Precinct analysis: 2011 At Large #5

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

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

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

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

The 8 day non-filers

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

Amanda Ullman, Mayor

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

Elizabeth Perez, At Large #2

Rozzy Shorter, At Large #2

Gordon Goss, At Large #2

Brad Batteau, At Large #3

Louis Molnar, At Large #4

Laurie Robinson, At Large #5

Bob Ryan, At Large #5

Phillip Bryant (*), District B

Bryan Smart (*), District B

Charles Ingram, District B

James Joseph (*), District B

Kenneth Perkins (*), District B

Larry McKinzie (*), District D

Nguyen Thai Hoc (*), District F

Peter Lyn René, District F

Patricia Rodriguez, District H

Alex Gonik (*), District K

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

Chron overview of At Large #5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endorsement watch: The Chron proves me wrong

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

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

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

Endorsement watch: White for Christie

This came as a surprise to me.

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

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

30 day finance reports for City of Houston races

The 30 day campaign finance reports for City of Houston elections were due last week, and they are now mostly up on the city’s campaign finance report website, with a large number showing up today. Already I’m seeing questionable, curious, and interesting things in the reports. Some highlights so far:

  • Helena Brown, the late-filing candidate in District A, reported a quite respectable $15,848 raised, but she did not file a Schedule A report, so you can’t see who gave her how much.
  • Griff Griffin, who failed to file a report in July, did not include any totals on his report. I did the math and counted $2522 in contributions along with $6443 in expenditures. As he did not report any loans or expenditures from personal funds, there’s no way to reconcile these numbers in the absence of a cash on hand balance from an earlier report. Which Griff, who’s run for Council approximately three thousand times and very well may be carrying a balance from those prior efforts, really ought to know. Perhaps one of the consultants whom he lists as a payee could advise him on this.
  • Jack O’Connor, who switched from At Large #5 to the Mayor’s race just before the filing deadline, also failed to list totals on his report, even though he did so correctly in July. By my count, he raised $7866 and spent $11,195, of which $5295 came from raised funds and the remaining $5900 were personal expenditures.
  • Bo Fraga took in a very respectable $55K in the period. He also reported a $35K loan from Lupe Fraga of Tejas Office Products, which I am told may be a problem because loans are apparently subject to the same $5,000 limit as contributions. I’m not a lawyer and I haven’t read the ordinances myself so don’t take my word for this, but I will say that’s the biggest non-personal loan I can recall seeing offhand.
  • Both of CM Jolanda Jones’ challengers had decent reports. Laurie Robinson raised almost $81K, though a bit over $30K of that was in kind. Jack Christie took in $40K, and unlike last time he’s not loaning himself big bucks. Of interest is that former Council member and Mayoral candidate Peter Brown showed up as a contributor to each. CM Jones’ report is not up yet, so I can’t say yet if Brown went for the hat trick or not.
  • The only thing interesting on Brad Batteau‘s report, which showed no money raise or spent, is that he declared himself a candidate in At Large #3, not District B. There may come a day when I will quit harping on this, but that day is not here yet.
  • Ellen Cohen continues to be a fundraising machine, raking in over $92K for the period. I didn’t scroll through the whole thing, but at first glance she appeared to have quite a few small dollar donors as well. She also continues to be a one woman economic stimulus package, spending $104K since July 1. She still has nearly $93K on hand for the home stretch.
  • CM Al Hoang raised a surprisingly small $10,950, and has less than $14K on hand. Both of his opponents were deadline day filers, so I don’t expect either of them to have that much, but it wouldn’t be that hard to have outraised him. I’ll let you know when I see their reports.
  • CM Oliver Pennington raised a fairly modest $33K, but thanks to previous fundraising prowess and not spending a huge amount, he has $185K on hand. Other than Mayor Parker, no one is going to come close to that.
  • Finally, we have one report from a non-candidate, Jim Bigham, who was going to run in District J but had to drop out because his voter registration had been purged by the Tax Assessor and could not be restored in time. Let this be a lesson to all of us, kids: As long as it is the philosophy of the Tax Assessor that it is better to purge nine eligible voters in order to ensure one ineligible one is removed, no one should take their registration status for granted. Today at 5 PM was the deadline to be registered for this election. I hope none of my readers will find out that they have suffered a similar fate.

That’s enough for now, as this post is getting long. I will follow up with another review post tomorrow, to cover the later report ones and to report on additional oddities and other things that merit comment. I will also be adding all reports to the 2011 Election pageand you can visit this spreadsheet put together by my pal Erik Vidor to see everyone’s running totals so far.

Interview with Laurie Robinson

Laurie Robinson

Concluding my interviews with Council candidates is a newcomer, Laurie Robinson, who is running for At Large #5. Robinson is a businesswoman and regulatory compliance expert in the health care industry. She has worked in the Department of Health and Human Services in DC and has also conducted audits and operational assessments for the City of Houston, among others. Here’s what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

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

Lineup update

The Chron story that ran in yesterday’s news is now updated online to reflect the fact that CM Melissa Noriega does have two opponents, Brad Batteau and Chris Carmona. I emailed reporter Chris Moran yesterday to ask about that discrepancy, and he replied that it was just an error on his part, for which he apologized to Carmona. The City Secretary‘s candidate listing hasn’t changed since yesterday, so I would assume at this point that what you see is what you’re going to get.

In my writeup yesterday, I noted that I could not find a voter registration online for now-former HISD candidate Art Huerta. Fred King with the Tax Assessor’s office emailed me to say that Huerta had requested some time ago that his registration certificate info be suppressed online, which is why it was not visible to me. He also confirmed for me that Huerta’s registration info listed him in HISD District VIII. Now I’m not sure why he thought he was in IV to begin with, since apparently the redistricting did not affect his address. HISD needs to get itself some better quality maps. My thanks to Fred King for the information.

I still have no idea if any new HCC Trustee candidates emerged at the last minute. There’s no listing of filed candidates for these races that I can see. If you Google “HCC Trustee Candidates”, you can find this page that tells you how to file to run, but nothing that tells you who has done so. I guess I need to send someone another email, but frankly I find it ridiculous that this information isn’t out there somewhere.

Having said all that, a Google search of “HISD Trustee Candidates” doesn’t find anything, either, but at least those races got reported on. My presumption is there’s nothing new to report, and the lineup we already knew about – Richard Schechter and Chris Oliver running unopposed, Carroll Robinson and Jew Don Boney running for the seat being vacated by Michael Williams – is the same. It would still be nice to have confirmation.

And finally, we have our first official attack mailer of the season, from the Houston Police Officers Union against CM Jolanda Jones. Both HPOU and the HPFFA have endorsed Jones’ opponent Laurie Robinson. There are a lot of interesting races this year, but it’s hard to top At Large #5 for drama and intrigue.

UPDATE: So I wake up this morning and there’s an email to Whitmarsh’s list that announces the endorsements made by the Harris County Tejano Democrats (not listed on their website yet), and one of the endorsed candidates is a fellow named Wendell Robbins, III, who is apparently running for HCC Trustee in District IX, against Chris Oliver. I found nothing useful about him or his candidacy via Google; he’s on Facebook but his last wall posting is from May; and of course as noted there’s no listing of HCC Trustee candidates anywhere. Awesome. Anyone know anything about this?

Possible challenger in At Large #5

CM Jolanda Jones gets her first announced opponent for At Large #5, but it comes with an asterisk.

Physician Joe Edmonds announced today his candidacy for City Council At-Large Position 5, currently occupied by Councilwoman Jolanda Jones.

“I feel there is a lot someone with my background can offer the city of Houston,” said Edmonds in a press release. “Whether it is bringing a practical approach to solving the city’s budget issues or helping to protect and improve our city’s world-class medical district, I am ready to take up the challenge.”

Edmonds is an otolaryngologist (that’s a fancy name for an ear, nose and throat doctor).

You can see his full press release here. The asterisk is this:

There is a Joseph L. Edmonds, Jr. registered in Precinct 0087 at the same address as the treasurer, Staci K. Edmonds. Unless the person who filed is Joseph Edmonds, Sr. or III, he has a Houston address, but Harris County considers him a resident of West University Place for voter registration purposes. Precinct 0087 also does not appear on the list of precincts that are included in the City.

In other words, it’s not 100% clear that Dr. Edmonds meets the residency requirement. I sent a reply to the sender of the press release, and was told the following:

I’m not working for Joe, just doing a favor for a friend. But, he sold his West U house a while back and had been living in a rental until recently, when he bought a home in Southhampton. Hopefully, that helps clarify.

That would depend on when he made the move into the rental unit, I suppose. If Dr. Edmonds would like to add further clarification to this, I’d love to hear it.

By the way, that last link was to Noel Freeman‘s new blog, which you should bookmark for future reference. According to an earlier post of Noel’s, CM Jones also has a rumored opponent, Laurie Robinson, who has filed a treasurer’s report but has not designated an office. As with 2009, don’t be surprised if she has multiple opponents.