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Leticia Van De Putte

Still waiting for those other special elections

Ross Ramsey returned to a frequent topic a few days ago.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia

State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, was found guilty of 11 felonies earlier this year. He has not yet faced sentencing and says he will appeal the convictions on charges including money laundering and fraud. He’s not required to quit the Senate in the face of that, but it’s safe to say many of his colleagues are eager to see him go. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick stripped him of his committee assignments, and the Senate Democratic Caucus called on him to quit.

The other potential resignation is a happier story: State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, won her party’s nomination to succeed the retiring Gene Green in the U.S. House. It’s a Democratic district, but she’ll face the winner of a Republican primary in November’s election. And in the unlikely event that Garcia were to lose that race, she would still be a state senator; her term in the current job doesn’t end until 2021.

Without putting their names to their words, many of Garcia’s colleagues are hoping she’ll quit early, allowing a replacement to be seated before the Legislature convenes in January.

“A vacancy is never politically helpful, but no one is more harmed than the constituents who are in that district, who have zero representation,” said Harold Cook, a longtime Democratic operative and one-time staffer to the Senate’s Democratic Caucus. “Aside from the fact that it kind of screws with a few majority votes, and that is not unimportant, you’re leaving Texans with no representation — and you don’t have to.”

The idea is that Garcia’s election to Congress is all but certain and that her timely resignation would position Democrats in the Texas Senate at full strength next year, instead of leaving them waiting on a special election to fill her seat. Or Uresti’s seat, for that matter.

Since he wrote that, we have gotten an update on SD06. Also from Ross Ramsey:

A one-seat pickup [in the Senate] would leave the Democrats one vote short of the number needed to force debate. It would also put them in position, if they could hold their own folks together, to block debate by luring one Republican to their side.

Another way to put it: Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats would have any wiggle room — a generally rotten prospect for a group since it empowers any one member to hold an issue hostage by saying, “Do it my way or lose my vote.”

If the Democrats were to win more than one seat now held by Republicans, the Texas Senate would be back in the position it was in for years — when nobody could get an issue to the floor without brokering enough of a compromise to convince a supermajority that the issue is worth hearing.

That’s been used to keep all kinds of things — not all of them partisan, by the way — from coming to the Senate floor for a vote. For a moment, think like one of the swamp creatures; sometimes, it’s safer not to vote on something controversial than it is to take a stand. The three-fifths rule provides a way to either work on a compromise or just walk away without any political bruises.

One needn’t agree with that to appreciate its political value.

But even a big Democratic day in November could leave crafty Republicans with some breathing room. Two Democratic senators who aren’t on the ballot this year — Sylvia Garcia of Houston and Carlos Uresti of San Antonio — are contemplating resignation.

Garcia won the Democratic nomination for a congressional seat in a district unlikely to elect a Republican to Congress. But she said [last] Thursday, in an interview with The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, that she won’t resign until after the Nov. 6 election. She said she’s doing that out of consideration for the voters and doesn’t want to presume what they’ll do. If she wins and then resigns, it’ll take a special election to replace her — one that would likely leave her seat in the Senate empty for the early days of the legislative session.

Gotta say, I’m disappointed to hear that. I really believed Sen. Garcia would step down in a timely fashion, perhaps after the May 22 primary runoffs, to allow a successor to be in place by January. If she does wait till November to step down, then the Leticia Van de Putte experience kicks in, where the special election is in January and the successor is installed in March/a>; that runoff actually happened in February, but the swearing-in didn’t take place till after the official canvass. As Ramsey goes on to say, even if the Dems have picked up one or more seats, they’d lose the numerical advantage if the Garcia and Uresti seats are empty.

So yeah, the timing up front can have a big effect on the back end, and that’s before we take into account the subsequent vacancies that may be caused by the Garcia and Uresti specials. I appreciate Sen. Garcia’s position. It’s honorable and respectful. It’s also completely impractical, and potentially very damaging. I really, really hope she reconsiders.

Sen. Uresti convicted on fraud charges

Time to resign.

Sen. Carlos Uresti

The courtroom was silent and thick with anxiety Thursday morning as the judge’s deputy read the verdicts: “Guilty,” “guilty,” “guilty” — 11 times over, and on all felony counts.

State Sen. Carlos Uresti sat stone-faced, his gaze directed at the deputy, as he heard the ruling that throws into question his two-decade career in the Texas Legislature and opens up the possibility more than a century in federal prison and millions of dollars in fines.

If upheld on appeal, the 11 felony charges — including multiple counts of fraud and money laundering — would render the San Antonio Democrat ineligible to continue serving as a state legislator. Uresti, an attorney by trade, would also be disbarred.

Uresti has no immediate plans to step down from his seat in the state Senate, he said minutes after the verdict. And he will “absolutely” appeal the jury’s decision.

[…]

There were no calls for resignation among state lawmakers immediately after the verdict, but Texas Democrats issued an immediate rebuke of the senator Thursday morning, saying “no one is ever above the law.”

“After being found guilty of such serious crimes, Senator Uresti must seriously consider whether he can serve his constituents,” Texas Democratic Party Communications Director Tariq Thowfeek said.

And state Rep. Roland Gutierrez, another San Antonio Democrat, said that elected officials are “held to a higher standard.”

“Over the next few weeks we need to have a serious discussion as constituents and taxpayers about how we move forward and turn the page,” he said. Gutierrez, whose district overlaps with Uresti’s, could be eyeing the senator’s seat.

See here and here for some background. You can have that “serious discussion” about moving forward and turning the page if you want, but it should happen in conjunction with Sen. Uresti resigning, which frankly he should have done months ago, for other reasons. As such, I’m glad to see this.

“In light of today’s jury conviction of Sen. Carlos Uresti, the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus is calling upon Sen. Uresti to resign his position,” caucus chair Sen. José Rodriguez said in a statement.

[…]

“Voters in this time and age want people who have at least so far [demonstrated] good judgements,” said Leticia Van De Putte, former Democratic senator for Texas’ District 26. “All I know is that if the defense is ‘Well I didn’t know this was wrong,’ it’s very difficult to go back and ask people to vote for you.”

[SMU political science professor Cal] Jillson agreed: “He might find that his political career is ended because of this, and it will provide political opportunities for others.”

Van de Putte served in the Texas Senate from 1999 to 2015, overlapping nine years with Uresti, who won his senate seat in 2006.

“I’m heartbroken at the situation,” said Van de Putte, who later co-founded a consulting firm. “I know Sen. Uresti … has been an amazing champion for abused children. I worked with him on a number of efforts, he’s done great work in the Legislature.

“No one will remember all the great work he did. They’ll remember this case.”

[…]

State Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) released a statement Thursday, saying elected officials are “held to a higher trust” and that constituents and taxpayers would have to “move forward and turn the page.”

Political analyst Harold Cook, who has worked in the Texas House of Representatives and as an advisor to Democrats in the Texas Senate, said Gutierrez’s tone implies he’s vying for Uresti’s seat.

“This is what I would have written for somebody [who is] already going to be a candidate,” Cook told the Rivard Report. “Senate districts don’t come up often and they’re not open often.”

District 19 is one of the biggest senate districts in the country, Cook said. “There are a lot of Democrats holding office in those counties [who] would love to be state senator.”

There are others mentioned the story, and I’m sure the list will be long when and if it comes to it. But first, we need Uresti to resign. Step down now, so we can get someone else in place as soon as possible and so we don’t face the prospect of not just one but TWO incumbent legislators going to jail, perhaps during the next session. Among the many things that I hope we’ve learned from the #MeToo movement is the concept that no one is so important or accomplished that they must be shielded from being held accountable from their actions. Please do the right thing here, Senator. The Current and the Rivard Report have more.

Finance reports start coming in

And once again, CD07 is the big story.

The winner in the money chase so far is nonprofit executive Alex Triantaphyllis, who raised over $255,000 in the fourth quarter of 2017, bringing his total raised for the election to over $925,000. After expenses, that leaves him over $630,000 cash on hand heading into the final stretch of the March 6 primary.

Culberson, 17-year incumbent who trailed Triantaphyllis in fundraising at the end of September, responded in the last three months by raising more than $345,000, bringing his year-end total to over $949,000.

But Culberson’s campaign also has been burning through money more quickly than Triantaphyllis, leaving him with about $595,000 in the bank — a slightly smaller war chest than the Democrat’s.

Culberson ended the third quarter of 2017 – the end of September – with more than $645,000 in receipts, trailing Triantaphyllis’ $668,000. Culberson’s war chest of nearly $390,000 at the time also was dwarfed by the $535,000 Triantaphyllis had at his disposal, raising alarms in GOP circles.

While Culberson, a top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, had narrowed the gap, he has not shown the usual outsized incumbent advantage in campaign fundraising. However unlike all the Democrats in the race, he does not face a well-funded primary opponent.

Three other Democrats have shown their fundraising chops ahead of the January 31 Federal Election Commission deadline.

Laura Moser, a writer and national anti-Trump activist, said she raised about $215,000 in the fourth quarter of 2017, bringing her total to about $616,340.

Another top fundraiser in the Democratic primary is Houston attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, who had raised more than $550,000 by the end of September, trailing only Triantaphyllis and Culberson. She has since raised some $200,000 more, bringing her total to more than $750,000, leaving about $400,000 in cash on hand.

Houston physician Jason Westin, a researcher MD Anderson Cancer Center, reported $123,369 in fourth-quarter fundraising, bringing him up to a total of $421,303 for the election so far. He goes into the final primary stretch with $218,773.

Here’s where things stood in October. I recall reading somewhere that the totals so far were nice and all, but surely by now the candidates had tapped out their inner circles, and that from here on it was going to get tougher. Looks like the challenge was met. Links to various Congressional finance reports will be on my 2018 Congressional page; the pro tip is that the URL for each candidate stays the same.

Elsewhere, part 1:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew White raised over $200,000 during the first three weeks of his campaign, while one of his better-known primary opponents, Lupe Valdez, took in a quarter of that over roughly the same period.

White’s campaign told The Texas Tribune on Monday that he raised $219,277 from 200-plus donors through the end of the fundraising period on Dec. 31. The total haul includes $40,000 from White, a Houston businessman and the son of late Gov. Mark White. Andrew White announced his bid on Dec. 7.

[…]

Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff who announced for governor the day before White did in early December, took in $46,498 through the end of that month, according to a filing Sunday with the Texas Ethics Commission. She has $40,346.62 cash on hand.

Nobody got started till December so the lower totals are understandable. But we’re in the big leagues now, so it’s time to step it up.

Elsewhere, part 2:

Mike Collier, a retired Kingwood accounttant running as a Democrat for lieutenant governor, on Friday said he will report raising about $500,000 in his bid to unsert Repubnlican incumbent Dan Patrick.

Collier said his campaign-finance report due Monday will show he has about $143,000 in cash on hand.

Patrick, who had about $17 million in his campaign war chest last July, has not yet reported his fundraising totals for the last six months of 2017. He raised about $4 million during the first part of 2017.

Not too bad. At this point in 2014, Collier had raised about $213K, and had loaned himself $400K. For comparison purposes, then-Sen. Leticia Van de Putte raised about $430K total between her account and her PAC.

Elsewhere, part 3:

Justin Nelson, a lawyer from Houston, raised $911,000 through the end of 2017, his campaign said Thursday. More than half of that amount — $500,000 — came out of the candidate’s own pocket.

[…]

Paxton has not yet released his most current fundraising numbers, but he reported more than $5 million in the bank in June.

As the story notes, neither Nelson nor Paxton have primary opponents. They will also be in the news a lot, mostly due to Paxton’s eventual trial. One suspects that could go a long way towards boosting Nelson’s name ID, depending on how it goes. I’ll have more on the reports from all the races later.

The potential Sylvia effect

Sen. Sylvia Garcia

As we know, Rep. Gene Green is retiring, and as we also know, Sen. Sylvia Garcia is one of the contenders to succeed him. As noted before, this is a free shot for Garcia, as she would not otherwise be on the ballot in 2018. If she loses, she gets to go back to being Sen. Garcia, until she has to run again in 2020. The same cannot be said for at least one of her opponents, Rep. Armando Walle, who will not file for re-election in HD140 as the price for pursuing CD29. Unlike Garcia, the downside for Walle is that he would become private citizen Walle in 2019. The same is true for Rep. Carol Alvarado if she joins in.

This post is about what happens if Sen. Garcia wins, because unlike the losing scenario she would step down from her job. Again, the same is true for Rep. Walle, but the difference is that Walle’s successor will be chosen (or headed to a runoff) at the same time Walle’s fate is decided. His successor will be in place to take the oath of office for HD140 in January of 2019, having been officially elected in November.

There is no potential successor for Garcia on the horizon, because her term is not up till the 2020 election. There will only be a need for a successor if she wins. Because of this, the process will be different, and Garcia has some control over it.

For these purposes, we will assume Garcia wins the primary for CD29, which is tantamount to winning the general election; the Rs don’t have a candidate as of this writing, and it doesn’t really matter if they come up with one, given the partisan lean of the district. So what happens when Sylvia wins?

Well, strictly speaking, she doesn’t have to resign from the Senate until the moment before she takes the oath of office for CD29. At that moment, her Senate seat will become vacant and a special election would be needed to fill it. That election would probably be in early March, with a runoff in April, leaving SD06 mostly unrepresented during the 2019 session.

Of course, there’s no chance that Garcia would resign in January. Most likely, she’d want to act like a typical Congressperson-elect, which would suggest she’d step down in November, probably right after the election. That would put SD06 in roughly the same position as SD26 was in following Leticia Van de Putte’s resignation to run for Mayor of San Antonio. The special election there was on January 6, with eventual winner Jose Menendez being sworn in two months later.

She could also resign earlier than that, perhaps after she wins the nomination in March or (more likely) May. Doing that would ensure that her successor was in place before January; indeed, doing it this way would give her successor a seniority advantage over any new members from the class of 2018. I think this is less likely, but I’m sure she’d consider it, precisely for that reason.

Whatever schedule to-be-Rep. Garcia chose to leave the Senate, we would not be done with special election considerations. As was the case with SD26 in 2015, it is at least possible that Garcia’s eventual successor would be a sitting State Rep, which means – you guessed it – that person would then resign that seat and need to be replaced. We could wind up having quite the full calendar through 2018 and into early 2019. The second special election would not be a sure thing, as one top contender could well be soon-to-be-former Rep. Walle, who will spend the next few months campaigning in that area – CD29 and SD06 have quite a bit of overlap – but I figure Reps. Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez would be in the mix as well, possibly Jessica Farrar, too.

So there you have it. We could have up to four extra elections in the next twelve to fourteen months. Be prepared for it

Two (so far) for SD10

Here’s what we learn in this Star-Telegram story about incumbent Sen. Konni Burton’s intent to run for re-election.

Sen. Konni Burton

At least two Democrats already have announced their intention to seek Burton’s seat.

Allison Campolo, a research scientist and teaching assistant at Oklahoma State University who lives in Euless, announced her campaign on Facebook, saying “this is going to be a long and hard and expensive fight but every sacrifice will be worth it if we can put another progressive in the State Legislature to fight for Texans.”

Beverly Powell, a Fort Worth woman who serves on the Burleson school board and is Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter’s mother, also intends to run. Powell criticized Burton’s ardent partisanship that she said sometimes runs counter to the needs of her district.

“It’s time for new leadership that cares more about families here in Tarrant County than about narrow ideology or endless division and I will work to provide it.”

Fort Worth attorney Jeff Whitfield is considering a bid for the office as well.

Here’s Allison Campolo’s webpage and campaign Facebook page. She has a campaign kickoff event coming up on July 1. Google didn’t have any other useful information for me about her, but I see that she and several other Democratic female candidates in the D/FW area joined together for a campaign event, which seems like a great idea.

Beverly Powell’s candidacy also drew a local newspaper mention. Her website is here and her Facebook page is here. You can also see her official bio on the Burleson ISD School Board page.

This ought to be an interesting primary, between two candidates that at least on the surface offer a bit of contrast, as Campolo is a newcomer with a science background, and Powell is more of an establishment figure as well as a current officeholder. I wonder if Annie’s List will have a favorite or if they’ll wait till after the primary to publicly back the nominee. Hillary Clinton didn’t quite carry SD10, but overall it is the most competitive Senate district on the ballot next year. Even in the disaster of 2014, Burton only beat Libby Willis by 52.8% to 44.7%, with Greg Abbott beating Wendy Davis in her former district 52.9% to 45.6% and Dan Patrick topping Leticia Van de Putte 52.7% to 44.2%. It wouldn’t take much of a shift in turnout for SD10 to be at best a tossup. I look forward to seeing who emerges in this district.

Overview of two Bexar County legislative primaries

The turnover of Bexar County’s Democratic legislative caucus continues apace. With the departures in 2015 of Mike Villarreal and Jose Menendez (succeeded by Diego Bernal and Ina Minjarez, respectively) and the departures this year by Joe Farias, Trey Martinez-Fischer, and Ruth Jones McClendon, there will be a whole lot of Bexar County legislators being sworn in on January 2, 2017 that weren’t there two years before. The Rivard Report takes a look at the three candidates who hope to succeed TMF in HD116.

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer

Diana Arévalo, Martin Golando and Ruby Resendez are not exactly household names in San Antonio, but all three candidates are hoping past political training or staff experience propel them into elected office. The primary winner – or May 24 runoff winner if a second round of voting is necessary – will run unopposed on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot and be sworn into office in January.

[…]

A Jefferson High School graduate, Arévalo served on the San Antonio Youth Commission and became involved with student government while attending college. She majored in business, earning a bachelor’s degree at UTSA and a master’s degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. As an undergraduate, Arévalo was a fellow at the United Leaders Institute for Political Service at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and she attended the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University.

She worked as an intern in U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office, and at the Obama White House in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. She parlayed these and other experiences into a chance to work with the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee, and on President Obama’s 2013 inaugural committee.

Back home, Arévalo has served as secretary of the Bexar County Democratic Party, and currently chairs the 2016 Texas Democratic Convention Host Committee. Her party work led to an opportunity to manage the 2013 City Council campaign of Leticia Ozuna, who finished second in a three way-race won by Rebecca Viagran. Arévalo said she learned a lot from the experience that she now is applying in her own campaign.

[…]

Golando, 38, is a native Midwesterner who has called San Antonio home for 17 years. He earned his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and is a partner in the downtown law firm Garza Golando Moran, specializing in election and civil rights laws. Golando has the most direct connection to Martinez Fischer. He has worked for him for 10 years, including time as his chief of staff. Galindo said he focused on water policy, taxation and legislative procedure.

Golando has served for two years as general counsel for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the nation’s oldest and largest Latino legislative caucus, and he has served as a co-counsel during the hotly contested Texas redistricting case and all challenges to the Texas Voter ID law. In 2013, Golando was briefly in the national spotlight. In the wake of the legislative redistricting fight that began in 2011, Golando requested repayment from the state of more than $282,000 in legal fees he said he incurred while helping the caucus in its legal battle.

The state’s Attorney General’s office, then under Greg Abbott’s leadership, said Golando was ineligible for repayment because of his dual employment. Golando has kept up the legal battle, and the case is still active.

[…]

Resendez is the first graduate of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s program to prepare young Latinas for public service who is seeking elected office, which led to this recent story on the Rivard Report.

“People want to have good, high-quality, high-paying jobs. People also want to make sure senior citizens’ needs are met,” Resendez said she has learned in her district campaigning. “There are good ideas in the community. We’re getting out onto the streets to help find solutions to conflicts in our neighborhoods.”

Meanwhile, the Express News provides a glimpse of the six candidates running to succeed McClendon in HD120.

On the Democrats’ March 1 ballot — listed in the following order — are Lou Miller, Latronda Darnell, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, Art Hall, Mario Salas and Byron Miller.

[…]

Lou Miller, an insurance agent and district governor for Rotary International who served on the city zoning commission and the VIA Transit board, said he knows “how to get things done even as a non-elected official,” having helped lure a planned health clinic to the East Side.

He said he’d continue McClendon’s push to build a state office complex near downtown, a $135 million proposal that was approved by lawmakers in 2015 but vetoed by Abbott as too costly.

Darnell, a former legislative staffer to McClendon, said social justice issues are an overriding concern, along with improving education. Having served in the Legislature, she said she already has working relationships with key lawmakers and state officials, and her experience there taught her that “what happens in Austin happens to you.”

Working for McClendon, who had served District 120 since 1996, Darnell said she learned that “to serve 120 means to be engaged with this community.” And while candidates may have great ideas, change won’t happen if a lawmaker doesn’t have good rapport with other leaders.

Gervin-Hawkins, an educator who serves as executive director and superintendent of the George Gervin Youth Center, cited education as her focus, including faith-based, non-profit and public schools.

Calling these “pivotal times,” she said “what’s needed in Austin right now is someone with diplomacy, strategic planning and the ability to make things happen.” Lamenting a disinterested electorate, she said “we’ve got to give people hope again.” And citing rivalries exposed by the campaign, Gervin-Hawkins said “it’s about how we work together. Let’s unify. ”

Hall, a Harvard grad who earned a law degree from Texas Tech, likewise said education would be his top concern. The attorney who served on City Council and works as a district director for Alamo Colleges, said he’s wants to apply the financial and international business acumen he gained in the private sector.

“We deserve good, strong leadership to carry on the legacy that Ruth Jones McClendon and many others have left behind,” Hall said. Citing his role as a minister, Hall departed from the rest by saying he doesn’t condone same-sex marriage.

Salas, an educator who served on City Council and the Judson ISD board, wants teachers to be treated better by the state, along with minorities and women.

“We need a fighter in that position and I intend to wind it up,” Salas said. He called attention to his long involvement in racial equality and social justice causes and touted his backing by teacher groups. In Austin, Salas said he’s ready to fight “this jaugernaut of right-wing extremism” that impacts immigration policy and other issues.

Byron Miller, an attorney and Edwards Aquifer Authority board member who served as a justice of the peace and on numerous community boards, said he’s determined to bring better treatment of veterans and the elderly, and he’s also an advocate for early childhood education.

Although the district continues to have problems with infrastructure and social justice, Byron Miller said “it’s getting better” and will continue doing so “if we work together.” He added: “I want to represent everyone, equally.”

Golando in HD116 and Miller in HD120 were endorsed by the Express-News in their primaries. I don’t know much about any of these people, so it’s good to get at least a few tidbits.

It’s worth noting that in 2012, there were eight Democrats elected to the Lege from Bexar County, out of ten total districts. Here’s what the delegation looked like then, and what happened to them since:

HD116 – Trey Martinez-Fischer. He ran in the special election for SD26 after Leticia Van de Putte stepped down to run for Mayor but lost in a runoff to Jose Menendez. This year, he chose to go for a rematch in SD26, thus leaving his seat open.

HD117 – Philip Cortez reclaimed a seat that had been held by David Leibowitz from 2004 through 2010 before losing it in the 2010 wipeout. Cortez then lost it in 2014, and is trying to win it back this year.

HS118 – Joe Farias. Elected in 2006 to succeed Carlos Uresti after his successful primary race against then-Sen. Frank Madla, Farias announced his retirement at the end of the last session. He vacated his seat shortly thereafter, and the remainder of his term was won in a special election runoff by a Republican. Two Democrats, both of whom vied for his seat in the special election, are fighting each other in the primary for the chance to win it back in November: Gabe (son of Joe) Farias, and Tomas (brother of Carlos) Uresti; the latter was the loser in the special election runoff.

HD119 – Roland Gutierrez is now the senior member of the delegation. He was elected in 2008 in an unopposed primary to succeed Robert Puente, who was one of the last Craddick Dems still in the Lege.

HD120 – As noted above, Ruth Jones McClendon has retired, and resigned her seat. A special election to fill the remainder of her term will be held in May.

HD123 – Mike Villarreal. He stepped down after winning re-election in 2014 so he could run for Mayor of San Antonio. Diego Bernal won that seat in a January special election.

HD124 – Jose Menendez was the winner for SD26 last year, which then created a vacancy for his seat. Ina Minjarez won that in an April runoff.

HD125 – Justin Rodriguez is now the second longest-serving Democrat in Bexar County. He won the primary for that seat after Joaquin Castro moved up to Congress.

Whew. Lots of changes, with more to come. Good luck sorting it all out, Bexar County.

Garcia to challenge Green in CD29

This will be interesting to watch.

Adrian Garcia

Adrian Garcia

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia is challenging 23-year Democratic Congressman Gene Green in the 29th district, he told the Chronicle Monday, a risky intra-party challenge of a popular incumbent.

The move comes less than two months after Garcia’s third-place finish in the Houston mayor’s race, which already had created some ill will among local Democrats upset that he gave up his post as sheriff, costing the party the highest-profile countywide office. The GOP-led Harris County Commissioners Court appointed Republican Ron Hickman, the former Precinct 4 constable, to the sheriff’s post.

“What I am doing is with all the intention to strengthen the party and help cultivate a Hispanic electorate that can help move the country forward and be a part of the process of addressing the critical issues that are a challenge throughout,” Garcia told the Chronicle from the Harris County Democratic Party headquarters. “I’m not challenging Gene Green. I’m challenging Donald Trump with all of his vitriol, rhetoric, dividing the community and insulting hardworking men and women.”

I’d been hearing some chatter about this over the past couple of weeks, so I can’t say this took me by surprise. It’s still a big enough deal to make you step back and whistle. There are already several interesting primaries on the Democratic ballot this March – Kim Ogg versus Morris Overstreet for DA, AL5 candidate Philippe Nassif challenging Lane Lewis for HCDP Chair, and the open seat in HD139 to succeed Mayor-elect Sylvester Turner, to name three – but I think it’s fair to say this one will command a lot of attention. My initial thoughts:

– It’s a little hard to avoid a flashback to Leticia Van de Putte, who left her Senate seat to run for Lite Guv while denying she was really interested in running for Mayor of San Antonio, then ran for Mayor after losing the Lite Guv race. One of Garcia’s stated reasons for stepping down as Sheriff, which as noted did upset some folks given that it changed partisan hands when he left, was that the job he really wanted was Mayor…and now he’s running for Congress. I get it, and I get that there are only so many chances to make a difference in life, but I guarantee you, some people will think about that. There can be a fine line between being opportunistic, and being an opportunist.

– This is one of those times when endorsements from other elected officials, in particular Latino elected officials, will be worth watching. Gene Green hasn’t survived this long in an office that was intended to be held by a Latino politician by sitting on his laurels. He’s got deep roots in the community, and a long list of folks involved in politics and public service, including more than a few elected officials, who once worked for him. His endorsement of State Rep. Armando Walle in 2008 was a difference maker in that primary. Against that, Garcia would be the first Latino Member of Congress ever elected from the Houston area. What wins out, loyalty or history? That’s the question.

– Regardless of Garcia’s words about Donald Trump, elections are about “vote for me and not that other guy”. We don’t know yet what issues Garcia may campaign on, but I do know of one clear difference between them. Green is one of the last Democratic holdouts on marriage equality, while Garcia is a longtime champion of LGBT rights, who won plaudits for his policies regarding LGBT inmates in the county jail. Green’s view may track the 29th District’s, but one way or another that’s a big difference between them. How does that play out in a primary?

There will undoubtedly be more to talk about in the coming weeks, but this is what I’ve got for now, that and the sense that I’m already behind in scheduling interviews for the primaries. The Trib and Trail Blazers have more on this and other filings of interest.

Taylor wins SA Mayor runoff

And it’s over.

Mayor Ivy Taylor

Interim San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor claimed victory Saturday night, defeating Leticia Van de Putte for a full term in the mayor’s job and dealing the former state senator a tough loss in a city central to her long career in public service.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Taylor beat Van de Putte 51.7 percent to 48.3 percent, according to unofficial returns.

The result was set to be historic either way: Taylor is on the cusp of becoming the first black mayor elected to the position. Van de Putte would have been the first Hispanic woman to hold the job.

Declaring victory at her election night party, Taylor asked supporters if they realized they had “defeated a political machine.” Yet she struck a conciliatory tone as she turned her attention to San Antonio’s future.

“I will be working with everyone throughout our city,” Taylor said. “It’s time for us to turn the page. It’s time to get back to work.”

Meanwhile, at her campaign headquarters, Van de Putte told supporters their “hearts may be slightly broken” but expressed gratitude for hearing their concerns as she campaigned.

“I’m in love with San Antonio all over again,” she said.

As expected, Taylor easily won the early vote, beating Van de Putte by about five percentage points among the more than 65,000 early ballots cast. Van de Putte’s campaign was counting on her voters to flood the polls on Election Day, but she never closed the gap, consistently trailing Taylor by a few points throughout the night.

The Rivard Report adds some details.

With all voted counted, Taylor defeated Van de Putte 50,659-47,328, a 3,331 vote margin and good enough for a 51.70%-48.30% win, a 3.4% difference.

Taylor showed stronger on Election Day than predicted by Van de Putte supporters, who expected to lose the early vote convincingly and then make up the difference with Saturday’s turnout. Instead, Taylor won the early vote by less than some expected, but stayed strong on Election Day.

In the end, only 96,277 people, 14.5% of the city’s 660,983 registered voters, went to the polls. Early voting over eight days drew 65,091 voters, more than 67% of the total vote, while 31,136 voted Saturday. Van de Putte supporters had hoped for a turnout of 40,000 voters on Saturday.

Taylor won 34,070 votes, or 52.51% of the early vote, while Van de Putte won 30,813 votes, or 47.49%.

If you do the math, or if you scroll down the page to the totals from the Bexar County elections admin, you see that Taylor won on Election Day as well, though only by 74 votes. It’s still a solid win for her. Taylor was not my preference, but the people have spoken. Congratulations and best of luck to Mayor Ivy Taylor. The Current has more.

Runoff day in SA

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I’m glad the San Antonio Mayoral runoff is almost over. We hope, anyway.

Leticia Van de Putte

Leticia Van de Putte

After weeks of bruising attacks — and at least one hand left unshaken — the San Antonio mayoral race is coming to a close. Presumably.

“It might not end on Saturday,” said Manuel Medina, chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party, raising the prospect of an election night too close to call, spawning recounts or challenges. “It might be that close.”

Whoever eventually wins the hard-fought runoff, the outcome will be historic. Incumbent Ivy Taylor, appointed to the office after Julián Castro left last year for Washington, D.C., would be the first black person elected to the position. Former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte would be the city’s first Hispanic female mayor.

Higher-than-expected turnout during early voting has both sides claiming momentum. The campaigns say they are especially encouraged by new voters entering the picture, perhaps a measure of enthusiasm largely missing from the rapid-fire series of elections Bexar County has held over the past several months.

If anyone has a lead — however slight — heading into Saturday, it is Taylor, insiders agree. But they say it is nothing Van de Putte cannot overcome with a strong turnout operation come Election Day.

“We know based on data that our voters vote early,” said Justin Hollis, Taylor’s campaign manager. “The challenge, as with any campaign, is just getting the rest of your voters out.”

[…]

The at times vicious back-and-forth has left some political observers looking forward to the day after Saturday.

“It’s gotten more personal and in fact there’s been very little of substantive policy issues, and we do have a lot of issues that need to be addressed in our local government,” said Henry Flores, a political science professor at St. Mary’s University. “And there’s things that hang in the air right now until the end of the election,” Flores added, citing several issues including the city’s contract negotiations with police and firefighters.

I’m pulling for Leticia, but really I’m just glad it will be over, and I say that as someone who isn’t in San Antonio and is still mentally armoring up for the long campaign slog here. The Express-News’ Bruce Davidson adds on:

Mayor Ivy Taylor

Money is a huge advantage in a political campaign, but it can’t guarantee a victory. And the pattern in early voting indicates that Taylor will enjoy a big lead when the early vote totals become public shortly after the polls close Saturday night.

Voting boxes in North Side conservative neighborhoods piled up more votes that the rest of the city. That is typical for a San Antonio election, and while Taylor may not be a Republican, her campaign’s DNA is certainly of the GOP variety.

Democratic and liberal candidates usually close the gap with Election Day voting. It isn’t always enough for victory, but that gives Van de Putte’s team hope.

Van de Putte’s 25-year history as a Democratic legislator is one of the reasons that the politically amorphous mayor can reasonably be viewed as the front-runner. Taylor’s vote against the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, her move to kill the planned streetcar project and public safety union support for Van de Putte also moved conservative voters into the appointed incumbent’s column.

Saturday night’s drama will center around whether Van de Putte can gain enough Election Day votes to overcome Taylor’s expected lead. Weather forecasters are reporting a 50-percent chance of rain on Saturday. Van de Putte’s chances would be damaged by heavy rain.

[…]

Changing demographics have made San Antonio municipal elections more friendly to progressive politicians, although moderates win if they get into a runoff. Phil Hardberger had deep Democratic ties, but was perceived as the moderate candidate in 2005 when he defeated Julián Castro. While Van de Putte is in reality a centrist, Taylor holds the stronger moderate image in this runoff.

I consider that example of how words like “moderate” and “centrist” can mean whatever people want them to mean in certain contexts. Sometimes it’s what you do, sometimes it’s what you say, and sometimes it’s how you say it. Be that as it may, polls are open from 7 till 7 today. Get out and vote, or don’t complain later if you don’t like the result. The Current and the Rivard Report have more.

The Trib on the big Mayor’s races

Those being the Houston and San Antonio Mayors races, with a look at how candidates of color are faring.

If former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte wins the runoff for San Antonio mayor next weekend, she’ll become the Alamo City’s first Hispanic female mayor, though not the first Hispanic, nor the first female.

If opponent Ivy Taylor wins, she’ll become the first black person elected to the position, though she’s already the first black mayor by appointment, taking over when Julián Castro left for a federal job.

And when Houston voters pick their next mayor in the fall, they could make former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia the first Hispanic mayor of the state’s most populous city. A win by state Rep. Sylvester Turner would give the city only its second black mayor.

As Texas’ major cities continue their decades-long evolution to minority-majority populations — where there are fewer whites than blacks and Hispanics combined — tracking minority and female ascension to mayoral firsts has almost reached the complexity of a political trivia game.

But the diversity of candidates is not a mere function of census numbers, political organizers and local leaders say. It’s the result of years of work in the trenches as people of color have labored to accumulate political capital.

“It’s not a magic bullet,” said Laura Barbarena, a San Antonio-based political consultant.

[…]

In modern times, San Antonio has been led by only three Hispanic mayors, despite the massive Hispanic share — 63.2 percent — of the population.

But the configuration of its local and legislative districts — particularly on the East Side — has also helped propel blacks into leadership positions. Taylor hails from the East Side and represented it on the City Council from 2009 until her peers appointed her interim mayor in July 2014.

Whichever way it goes, the June 13 runoff will give San Antonio its first woman of color elected to the top post at City Hall.

Still in its early stages, the Houston race has no clear front-runners in a crowded field, with at least seven candidates looking to win the Nov. 3 election. But with high name identification and wide appeal, Garcia and Turner are likely among the top contenders. The five other candidates are all also men, four white and one black.

In a city more diverse than San Antonio — Hispanics make up 43.8 percent of the population, blacks 23.7 percent, almost double the state’s share — both candidates have been more overt with messages about bringing people together.

As far as Houston goes, I would note that we had an African-American candidate and a Hispanic candidate in each of the last two open-seat Mayor’s races. Gene Locke in 2009 and Orlando Sanchez in 2003 (as he had against then-Mayor Lee Brown in 2001) made it into the runoff but lost there. This year, I would not bet any amount of money on any runoff candidate combination, and I would not bet any amount of money on any runoff outcome. There are too many candidates with a credible shot at making it into overtime, and too many possible variables in play once that happens. Unless something happens to clearly separate one or two candidates from the rest of the pack, I will continue to believe that the difference between finishing in the money and finishing fourth or fifth could be as little as a couple thousand votes, much like the At Large 3 race in 2013. Anyone who says otherwise is probably on one of the candidates’ payrolls.

Today is the last day of early voting in the San Antonio runoff, with Runoff Day being this Saturday, the 13th. Early voting turnout is up from the May election, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that final turnout will be up. From what I have gleaned on Facebook, there are a decent number of new voters (i.e., those who did not vote in May) in the mix, so an uptick is definitely a possibility. Who that favors is a question I’m not in a position to answer. If you’re from San Antonio, what’s been your impression of how the vote is going so far?

Moving equality forward in San Antonio

From the Rivard Report:

RedEquality

Members of San Antonio’s lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community want the city’s next mayor to follow the lead of Dallas and Houston and expand the 2013 non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) to include private companies.

The NDO now extends to city employment, public accommodations (restaurants, stores, public events), public housing, city contracts, and appointed officials, boards and commissions. There are significant religious exemptions to the rule. Unless they have an internal policy, private companies that operate outside the realm of public accommodations can fire an employee for being gay or choose not to do business with someone because of their sexual orientation.

The push to extend the NDO comes less than two years after then-Mayor Julían Castro and City Council voted 8-3 to pass an updated non-discrimination ordinance that extended greater protections to the LGBTQ community and to veterans. That vote, however, was not followed by any specific action.

This month, Mayor Ivy Taylor answered her critics by directing city staff to establish what is now called the Office of Diversity and Inclusion that will enforce the NDO and act on any complaints of it being violated. The updated NDO now covers sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status along with race, color, religion, national origin, sex, and disability.

Taylor voted against passage of the NDO in 2013, but since becoming interim mayor she has pledged to uphold the ordinance.

Taylor and former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte are in a June 13 runoff for mayor, with early voting June 1-9. The Rivard Report reached out to both candidates to ask for their views on the subject of including private companies in the ordinance and related topics.

Click here to read the Q&A with Taylor. Click here to read the Q&A with van de Putte.

[…]

Robert Salcido, an Equality Texas field organizer and the local LGBT Chamber of Commerce board vice president, said putting real “teeth” to the NDO is a major goal, meaning it needs to be enforced and it needs to be expanded.

To date, only three complaints have been filed with the City based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation discrimination. Two have been dropped due to technicalities. One complainant backed out to pursue a civil suit.

Taylor and others have speculated that the newly established Office of Diversity and Inclusion might now have the legal authority to actively enforce the NDO, something city staff might have lacked until now.

Salcido said he is encouraged by Taylor’s move but wants to see San Antonio’s City Council follow their counterparts in Dallas and Houston to amend the ordinance to include private companies.

Christina Gorczynski, the Texas Wins campaign director based in Houston, agrees.

“Waiting for Washington D.C., or waiting for Austin to resolve local issues like this will keep us waiting for too long,” Gorczynski said. “People find discrimination now, so let’s resolve discrimination right now with the powers that are available to the mayor and city council.

“Local officials are empowered by their charter to create ordinances like the nondiscrimination ordinance and they should be able to take full advantage of that and be able to protect the values of its community.”

Taylor told the Rivard Report that she will not support expansion of the NDO into the private sector. Van de Putte said she would not support such an initiative at this time, either.

It’s probably safe to say the highly contentious battle that ended with the 8-3 vote in 2013 is fresh enough in everyone’s memory locally that few officeholders would be eager to see the issue come up for another debate and vote.

The wording in that penultimate paragraph is a little misleading. Taylor’s full answer to the question whether she would support “either now or in the future – expanding the NDO to include private companies that operate outside of public accommodations?” was “I would not vote to further expand the ordinance”, while VdP’s answer was “No, not at at this time”, followed by a discourse on her record in the Senate. I’d prefer an affirmative commitment to expanding the NDO at some point during her Mayoral tenure, but at least “Not at this time” allows for that, while a flat “No” does not. Taylor to her credit created the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to enforce the NDO, but between her record and her pandering to anti-equality voters during the campaign, I just don’t trust her. Your mileage may vary. Early voting in the San Antonio runoff elections begins today, so those of you who are there, be sure and make your voice heard/

That brings up a point about Houston’s Mayoral race, since everything comes back to the Houston Mayoral race. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is now being enforced by the city. Yes, the opponents are appealing their loss in the lawsuit – they’re also requesting a new trial in the district court, because Andy Taylor has bills to pay – but as of Judge Schaffer’s ruling, the ordinance is in effect. It’s too early to ask anyone what they think of the process, since I doubt there’s been an opportunity to test it yet, but an opinion about how it was designed and what if anything they’d have done differently if they had been Mayor in 2014 would not be out of line. At some point, we will need to know how they think it’s working and what their level of commitment to it is. Doesn’t have anything to do with potholes, I’m afraid, but it is an issue the next Mayor will have to deal with.

Moving on to the runoff for the SA Mayor’s race

This Express News story on the beginning of the Mayoral runoff in San Antonio between Leticia Van de Putte and Ivy Taylor gets to the question of what if anything the two runnersup and their supporters will do.

Leticia Van de Putte

Leticia Van de Putte

But all eyes were on the mayoral race, and the historic runoff with two women candidates. Van de Putte would be the first Latina elected to the mayor’s post, and Taylor the first African-American elected to the seat.

As Villarreal and Adkisson, the third- and fourth-place finishers, licked their wounds Sunday, questions remained about whether they would support either Van de Putte or Taylor.

Communications Director Greg Jefferson said Villarreal planned to meet with his supporters Monday to discuss the matter. Adkisson said after conceding the race that he wasn’t in a hurry to throw his support behind either candidate.

“I think we’ll take some time to chill,” Adkisson said.

Campaign consultant Colin Strother said there’s no way to predict what the former county commissioner would do.

“The guy has been through 50 forums with these ladies and he probably knows better where they stand on the issues than anyone else. At some point, I’m sure he’ll have meetings with them,” Strother said. “With Tommy, one thing I’ve learned is he’s an unconventional guy and he thinks unconventionally, so it’s hard to predict what he’s going to do. I don’t know what he’s going to do, and I don’t know that he knows what he’s going to do.”

Ultimately, support from Villarreal and Adkisson could play a pivotal role in the runoff election. St. Mary’s University political scientist Henry Flores said the contrast of support for the candidates is stark.

“If Leticia gets support from Adkisson, that would be some really important support from the South Side, and that’s a high turnout area. That’ll work to her advantage,” he said. “Ivy is tied to the evangelicals and the tea party, so her support is going to come out of (North Central and Northeast Side) Districts 9 and 10 and a little bit of 8.”

Randy Bear helpfully points out that all campaign acrimony aside, Van de Putte and Villarreal are much closer on the issues that Taylor and Villarreal. That’s not a guarantee of anything, but Van de Putte needs Villarreal voters, so I’m sure she’ll be working to get them, while Taylor will make her pitch to Republicans. Van de Putte did pick up County Judge Nelson Wolff’s endorsement, which is nice but I don’t know how many actual votes it moves. Early voting begins June 1, so there’s not a lot of time to get it done. This is going to be a fast and eventful ride.

UPDATE: And Taylor picks up the endorsement of Mike Villarreal’s campaign treasurer. I figure there will be a lot more of this going back and forth.

Van de Putte and Taylor in SA Mayor runoff

Here we go.

Leticia Van de Putte

Leticia Van de Putte

Former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte is set to face San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor in a runoff for the city’s top job.

With 95 percent of all precincts reporting late Saturday, Van de Putte led Taylor 31 percent to 28 percent, according to unofficial returns. Former state Rep. Mike Villarreal trailed in third at 26 percent, and former Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson in fourth at 10 percent.

With 14 declared candidates — four considered runoff prospects — the chance of an outright victory seemed slim Saturday. The runoff is scheduled for June 13, with early voting taking place from June 1-9.

“Our work’s not over, because what this means is we’re doing to work even harder to convince those who may not have cast a ballot to trust Leticia, to believe in her vision in this city,” Van de Putte said shortly after 10 p.m., surrounded by her family as confetti lingered in the air at her campaign headquarters on San Antonio’s West Side.

As results came in, Taylor told supporters at her election night party she was ready for a runoff.

“We can’t rest on our laurels because we’ve got some work to do to get to June 13,” she said, shortly after Adkisson and Villarreal conceded.

The four major candidates were seen as Democrats, though the election was nonpartisan.

That much is true, though as the Rivard Report notes, Taylor was generally the preferred candidate for Republican voters. It’ll be interesting to see how the runoff plays out, as there was no love lost between Van de Putte and Villarreal in the first round. She’s going to need Democrats to turn out to win, and if Villarreal supporters carry a grudge, that could get dicey. I’m no expert on San Antonio’s politics, so take that with some salt. Runoffs are tricky things, and anything can happen.

That was the marquee race, but I was at least as interested in Pasadena and Fort Bend ISD. Here are the unofficial results from Pasadena:

DISTRICT A — Ornaldo Ybarra leads Keith Nielsen 284-45;

DISTRICT B — Celestino Perez leads Bruce Leamon 118-107;

DISTRICT C — Sammy Casados leads Emilio Carmona 108-81;

DISTRICT D — Cody Ray Wheeler (182) leads J.E. “Bear” Hebert (77) and Pat Riley (28);

DISTRICT E — Cary Bass leads Larry Peacock 144-96;

DISTRICT F — Jeff Wagner 219 (unopposed)

DISTRICT G At Large — Pat Van Houte leads Steve Cote 859-599;

DISTRICT H At Large — Oscar Del Toro leads Darrell Morrison 755-728.

If you look at the comment on that Pasadena post, you’ll see that the folks who opposed Mayor Johnny Isbell and his power grabbing did pretty well. I wish I could find a list of candidates endorsed by the Texas Organizing Project to compare to this, but I can’t. Still, it looks good. And finally, as far as FBISD goes, I’m glad to see that Addie Heyliger won her race, which will help make that board a little more diverse and a little more reflective of the community. Congrats to her and to all of yesterday’s winners.

Homestretch for the SA Mayor’s race

Jeanne Russell, wife of San Antonio Mayoral candidate Mike Villarreal, makes the case for her husband in the Rivard Report.

Mike Villarreal

Mike Villarreal

Many people who have known Mike and I professionally associate us most often with our work toward building a stronger, more educated workforce. Only through education and training can San Antonio attract the best-paying jobs. But there are many other concerns that we also feel passionately about.

Today I want to highlight an overlooked issue, which distinguishes Mike from the rest of the mayoral candidates.

It is fitness – with all its personal and societal implications. Perhaps jump started by the extension of the San Antonio River and the “emerald necklace” of Howard Peak Linear Parks, we have seen a flowering of running, walking and cycling in San Antonio in recent years.

Former Mayor Julián Castro made this a central push with his Mayor’s Fitness Council and the first Síclovía. No one thought San Antonians would come – but they did.

Mike is the man to pick up this baton and literally run with it – leading by example.

When you understand what fitness means to you and your family, because you walk to your neighborhood school and ride your bike to the library and the bookstore, you want that for everyone. Mike will improve streets and sidewalks and lighting in ways that increase safety and get people outside talking to each other because he knows how this has improved our relationships to our neighbors, made our children healthier and more independent, and allowed us to support nearby small businesses.

Right next to that was this musical endorsement of Leticia Van de Putte.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

“Years from now, when hundreds of thousands of people are at Maverick Music Festival, remember that you were here today.”

Leticia Van de Putte proclaimed these words as she introduced Nina Diaz from Girl in a Coma to several thousand attendees of the Maverick Music Festival. As an organizer of the event from its inception, I can assure readers that there would be no Maverick Music Festival today without Leticia’s support. She has championed the event to the next level. More importantly, she is the biggest advocate among the candidates for supporting the music and arts economies, which are viable opportunities to generate a consistent and major economic impact here in San Antonio. Maverick is just one example of how Leticia has taken a leadership role in advancing music and the arts, and progressive causes in general.

Many readers might not be aware that Leticia comes from a musical background and family. Her mother, Belle Ortiz, was a teacher and choir director. In 1970, Belle created, spearheaded, and taught the first Mariachi Class taught in local schools. In 1976, Belle went on to become the Music Program Specialist for San Antonio Independent School District. The same year she created the first district Mariachi Music & Program, which culminated in her founding the Mariachi Campanas de America. Mariachi Campanas de America began to provide performing mariachi performers who graduated from high school with paying mariachi gigs while in college. There are now approximately 2,500 schools nationwide with mariachi programs.

Leticia’s husband, Pete, who incidentally played trombone professionally for 20 years, was Band Director at Jefferson High School, and performed or participated in every of Battle of Flowers parade from 1965-1980. Her brother Roland plays 11 instruments, and daughter Nichole graduated with a degree in Music Therapy from Loyola University in New Orleans. Stepfather Juan Ortiz is a two-time Grammy Award winner.

In a competitive race with 14 candidates competing to be San Antonio’s next mayor, Leticia sets herself apart from the rest as San Antonio’s champion of music and the arts, progressive candidate of choice, and voice of a growing generation of change agents who have increasingly asserted their own voices in recent months and years. She’s proven herself to be more than someone who perfunctorily announces policies, but rather, takes decisive and effective action when it’s most needed for our community, and the people who reside here.

I like both of those articles, which were solicited by the Rivard Report as early voting goes on in San Antonio and elsewhere. (The campaigns for Ivy Taylor and Tommy Adkisson were also invited to write something but declined.) A day later, Robert Rivard disclosed who he voted for.

I like and respect all four people at the top of the mayoral ballot and each has a long record of public service. I have friends working in each camp. But this election is about one thing and one thing only: the future of San Antonio.

Mike Villarreal is the only candidate who set out methodically to run for mayor, to develop an in-depth urban agenda, and to give up a secure career in the Texas Legislature to do so. He’s all in, and has been since last July. As I have listened to all four candidates, it’s evident to me that Mike is the best prepared.

Our city has lost ground in the nationwide competition for recruiting and retaining talented young professionals. San Antonio needs a mayor who not only admits we have lost momentum, but has a plan to quickly regain it. The city needs a mayor who understands we don’t need another city manager. We need a strong leader. Anything less and we will fail to transform San Antonio into a city where our children want to live and work and where others want to make their careers and homes.

As I’ve said before, and since I don’t have to cast a vote in this race, I consider myself officially neutral between Villarreal and Van de Putte, both of whom I think would make find Mayors. I know little to nothing about Adkisson, and I consider Ivy Taylor to be unacceptable. Early voting ends today, so if you’re in San Antonio or anyplace else that is holding an election, you have today and Saturday to make your voice heard. This race for sure is going to a runoff. I’ll be rooting for only good choices to be available for the overtime period.

Endorsement watch: Express News goes for LVdP for Mayor

Early voting has begun in San Antonio, and the Express News has made its choice for Mayor.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Will San Antonio be blessed enough to elect three exceptionally strong mayors in a row? That’s a tall order.

But if any of this year’s crop of 14 mayoral contenders has the potential to wield maximum clout at City Hall, it is former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. The 60-year-old former lawmaker has the best combination of political skill and understanding of policy among the contenders. And we recommend that voters elect her as the city’s next mayor.

Only four of the 14 candidates have a plausible case for election — Van de Putte, former state Rep. Mike Villarreal, appointed Mayor Ivy Taylor and former County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson.

Van de Putte’s more than 25 years of legislative service and her track record of working well with colleagues are the strongest credentials in the 2015 mayoral field.

After emerging as a surprise victor in a 1990 contest for the Democratic nomination to a Texas House seat, Van de Putte proceeded to put together a solid legislative career marked by her determination to help the state’s needy and ensure that military veterans are treated well in Texas. She also led the charge to pass legislation to fight human trafficking and played a vital role in expanding health care for needy children.

And Van de Putte was a steady voice for better public education, as well as an influential force on behalf of San Antonio’s institutions of higher education. Van de Putte worked well with her colleagues in Austin, including Republicans.

[…]

Villarreal has shown that he is a serious student of municipal issues, but his track record of clashing with colleagues in the Bexar County delegation raises doubts about his ability to consistently muster majority support on City Council and be an effective leader.

While being an appointed mayor imposes limitations, Taylor has not grown in stature or demonstrated that she has the ability to take charge during her several months as mayor.

Adkisson’s quirky approach to the campaign and city issues is entertaining but does not inspire confidence in his leadership.

Van de Putte is the candidate best suited to dealing with the routine grind of hammering out policy agreements and being the city’s ambassador to political and business leaders on a national and international level. The city is most likely to maintain political stability and continue successfully nurturing its economic development efforts with Van de Putte at the helm.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. From my perspective, either Van de Putte or Villarreal would be fine by me. Current Mayor Ivy Taylor’s vote against San Antonio’s updated Equal Rights Ordinance, followed by her pandering to a church crowd about it, disqualifies her in my mind. I know little about former County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, and to the extent that I have paid attention to this race, I’ve not seen anything interesting or notable from him. The place where I might break a tie would be in future statewide potential. LVdP has already run statewide and didn’t do anything wrong, it just wasn’t a good year. Still, she’d be 68 at the end of four Mayoral terms, so you have to wonder if this would be her swan song. As for Villarreal, he is 45 and has had statewide ambitions for awhile, so serving as Mayor would be a good jumping off point for him in the future. That’s an edge for him, but as I said either of them would be fine by me. For a dissenting view on that, see Randy Bear, who strongly backs Villarreal. If you’re in San Antonio, who is your first choice for Mayor?

How many candidates are too many?

The Rivard Report brings up a point I hadn’t considered before.

Candidates or their representatives arrived at City Council chambers Monday morning to draw lots to determine the order of name placement on the ballot. As candidates waited in the audience, the room seemed to be filled with equal parts anticipation and dread. It doesn’t matter much if you are first, second or even third in a three-person race. Three our four names fit easily enough on a single screen of a voting machine.

But there are 14 people running for mayor, and in an informal street poll I conducted downtown Monday, I was unable to find a single person who could name six candidates. Quite a few people named three, several named four, a few named five and none could name six. Four of the candidates are running visible campaigns with yard signs, frequent public appearances, organized block walking events and participating in public forums.

But what about voters who won’t recognize the names of Ivy R. Taylor, Mike Villarreal, Leticia Van de Putte or Tommy Adkisson? The four frontrunners are seasoned officeholders who have run multiple campaigns and appeared on multiple ballots. But they face 10 other candidates, some of whom have filed for office before but none of whom have much name recognition or a record of holding elective office. I’m talking about Paul Martinez, Douglas Emmett, Michael “Commander” Idrogo, Raymond Zavala, Rhett Rosenquest Smith, Julie Iris “MamaBexar” Oldham, Cynthia Cavazos, Gerard Ponce, Pogo Mochello Reese, and Cynthia Brehm.

The voting machines are going to have as hard a time as the voters with the mayor’s race. There is simply no way to list all 14 names on a single computer screen, and I wonder if even two screens will prove sufficient. It’s even more of a challenge when two of the candidates feature “Commander” and “MamaBexar,” nicknames that have to be listed.

If you are a candidate listed on the second screen, you have to wonder: How many people will think the contest is only between the candidates listed on the first screen and cast their vote before they get to the next screen? The computer allows a voter to reverse a decision and also prompts a voter to review his or her choices before pressing “VOTE,” but that’s small comfort to a second page candidate.

Here’s the Bexar County Elections webapge on their voting system. The video didn’t load for me, and the ES&S Flash Demonstration links are broken, but the picture at the bottom gives some idea of what they use. Here in Houston, we’ve not had a 14-candidate race in recent years that I can recall – there were 19 candidates in the January 1995 special election for Council At Large #4 – but we did have ten for At Large #2 in 2011 and twelve for District D in 2013. I’m pretty sure that Harris County’s eSlate machines were able to list everyone on a single page. At least, I don’t recall hearing anything about the candidate list spanning multiple pages. If San Antonio is like Houston, then Mayor will be the first race on the ballot. If the voting machines in Bexar County really can’t fit 14 names onto one page, then that seems like a serious flaw with them. Is this a real concern? I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around it.

This is also an opportunity for me to bring up one of my favorite hobbyhorses, which is that the draw for ballot position is ridiculous. I still can’t understand why an electronic voting machine system can’t be programmed to randomize ballot order for each race with multiple candidates and each voter. I’m sure it would take a change to state law to allow that – or better yet, require it – and I know that there would still need to be a draw for candidate order on mail ballots, but still. This seems like such a simple fix to a problem that vexes people in every single non-partisan election. Can we please do something about it?

More thoughts on the special election results

There has been very little news about the four legislative special elections that were decided last week, other than the brief hubbub over what the result in SD26 meant. Among other things, I’ve been looking for any kind of reporting on the results in the other three races, as well as on the fact that there will need to be yet another special election to fill Sen.-elect Jose Menendez’s seat in HD124. This Trib story about Sen. Leticia Van de Putte’s upcoming departure from the upper chamber to focus on her race for Mayor of San Antonio contains the first tidbit of news concerning any of that I’ve seen:

Sen.-elect José Menéndez, who was on the floor on Tuesday, won the race for Van de Putte’s Senate seat on Feb. 17 and is set to be sworn in on March 5.

Sen. Jose Menendez

RG Ratcliffe also wrote about VdP’s good-bye if you want more of that. Me, I want more on the other stuff. If Menendez won’t be seated will next Thursday, that means the clock won’t start ticking for a special election to be called in HD124 until then. That puts such an election in April at least, and unless someone wins it outright it pretty much guarantees that whoever succeeds Menendez won’t be seated until there’s precious little left to do in this session. That said, there will almost surely be a special election sometime next year to (one hopes) fix school finance, so the stakes will still be as high as ever. I have not seen any names floating around as possible candidates for HD124, so if you know something I don’t know, please leave a comment and enlighten us.

One thing I’d like to add to my earlier commentary on the SD26 runoff: As much as I downplayed the pronouncements about that election being “decided” by Republican voters and bad actors like Texans for Lawsuit Reform, there is no question that some number of Republicans voted in that runoff. And why shouldn’t they? This wasn’t a primary, and the winner would be representing them, too. You may recall that just because the Houston City Council At Large #3 runoff in 2013 was between two Republicans doesn’t mean Democrats weren’t involved or courted by both sides. Quite the contrary, in fact. Some number of Republicans voted in the SD26 runoff. It’s likely that they went heavily for Menendez, and it’s entirely possible that they made up a good chunk of his margin of victory, if not all of it. The problem with making statements about this is that we have no “normal” election to compare this one to. For all we know, the number of Republicans voting in that runoff was about what it should have been expected to be. We don’t know, because the conditions for this election were unique, and will never be replicated. We can compare November elections, in Presidential years and not, and make statements about the partisan mix and whether a given cycle was remarkable in some way. We can’t do that here because there’s no other election like it. It stands on its own.

As for the other elections, however you feel about SD26 I think you should consider the election of Diego Bernal in HD123 a reason to celebrate. Bernal is like Rep. Martinez-Fischer in style and tenacity, and will be a more progressive voice in that district than Mike Villarreal, who cast himself as a moderate, business-friendly type. Having said that, I should note that Villarreal was in many ways “conservative” the way Menendez was “conservative”. It shows up much more in tone and rhetoric than it does in voting records. Villarreal’s record, at least in 2013, compares quite well – an A+ from Equality Texas, a 93% from the TLCV, and another nice, round zero from Texas Right to Life. Villarreal was more business-friendly, and I’m sure his fans and detractors could point to some votes he made that stood out from the caucus. His style is not like Diego Bernal’s has been, and especially if you were a TMF supporter in this special election, that should make you feel good.

The HD17 runoff was in a way a mirror image of the SD26 runoff, with the candidate who emphasized his crossover appeal emerging as the winner. That was a much closer election, and I have to wonder if the TLR crowd regrets not going all in on it. If John Cyrier had lost after running that campaign and being the big leader in round one, the articles about What It All Means pretty much write themselves. I’m a little surprised no one has taken this race and used it to run with a “Republican moderation” narrative. Assuming he doesn’t get primaried out in 2016, Cyrier ought to have a bright future under Speaker Straus.

And as for HD13, it remains as under-reported and mysterious as ever. Here’s a little factoid for you to consider: Rep.-elect Leighton Schubert defeated runnerup Carolyn Bilski in all but two counties in the runoff. One of them was Austin County, where Bilski had previously served as County Judge. Bilski had won a clear majority in Austin County in January, against three opponents. Schubert doubled his vote total in Austin County in a month, and it was enough to slip past her there. How in the world did that happen? Even more remarkable is the margin in Burleson County, Schubert’s home, which he won by the ridiculous total of 1,181 to 72. That’s the kind of margin you expect to see in a race featuring a major party candidate against a Green or Libertarian. Schubert won Burleson big in January as well, but with 75% of the vote, not almost 95%. Again, how does that happen? It sure would be nice if some professional reporter tried to figure that out.

Ivy Taylor enters SA Mayor’s race

It’s on.

Mayor Ivy Taylor

Mayor Ivy Taylor declared her candidacy for mayor Monday in an exclusive interview with the San Antonio Express-News.

Taylor, who was appointed mayor last summer by her council colleagues, said that she made the decision after significant thought and prayer and consultation with trusted advisers.

The mayor said she’s been “honored and excited, humbled” by leading the seventh-largest city in the U.S. since her July appointment.

“I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be able to make an impact here,” she said. “And just after really thinking about it further, I realize how important that experience is that I have to bring to the table, that municipal-level experience.”

In recent weeks, speculation had mounted that Taylor would seek a full mayoral term, despite having told her colleagues when they appointed her last year that she had no intention of running for the seat in May. With less than three months until Election Day, she joins an already-crowded field of candidates.

[…]

Taylor is one of the longest-serving members of the current council. She was elected in 2009 to the District 2 seat and won re-elections in 2011 and 2013. When then-Mayor Julián Castro announced last summer that he was resigning his position to become secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Taylor was one of several council members who became candidates for appointment. She ultimately won the position, in part because of her willingness to stay out of the May 9 mayoral race.

See here and here for some background. The Rivard Report adds on.

The Rivard Report broke the story Saturday that Mayor Taylor was poised to return from a mayors’ conference in New York this week and declare her candidacy. She confirmed her candidacy in a Monday morning interview with the Rivard Report.

“It took me awhile to make this decision, I know it’s pretty late in the race,” Mayor Taylor said. “I’m not a conventional candidate, but that just mirrors my record of service. I’m not a career politician. I have a lot to offer San Antonio. My municipal experience is substantial, and we’ve had a lot of turnover on City Council so stability now would serve the city well.”

Mayor Taylor said she gained a new perspective on the mayor’s job after serving the last seven months of an interim appointment following the departure of former Mayor Julián Castro, who resigned in late July to become Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration.

At the time she accepted City’s Council’s unanimous appointment, Mayor Taylor said, she had not considered running for the office after her term as the District 2 Council member came to an end.

“Without a crystal ball, I don’t know how anyone can know what they will do in the future, what’s right when the moment comes,” Mayor Taylor said, adding that she was appreciative of community leaders who are supportive of her decision to change her mind and enter the race.

I don’t live in San Antonio, and as interested as I am in this race, I don’t have a preferred candidate. I don’t think Mayor Taylor’s earlier words about not wanting to seek election this May are a big deal, though I suppose if I were a Council member that supported her on the grounds that she didn’t intend to run, I might grumble a bit. With four credible candidates (former Rep. Mike Villarreal, soon-to-be-former Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, former Commissioner Tommy Adkisson being the other three) and thirteen (!) total candidates according to Randy Bear, it’s a question of how much support do you need to get to the runoff, and who has the clearest path to it. I have no idea at this point what will happen, but it should be fun to watch. Texas Leftist has more.

Uber to leave San Antonio

Not unexpected.

Uber

Uber management sent a letter to Mayor Ivy Taylor and City Council Wednesday, warning that the rideshare service will leave San Antonio on March 1 unless the recently-passed existing is modified or repealed.

Uber representatives say the new ordinances raises “substantial barriers” to ridehsare companies operating in the city. The ordinance was aggressively pushed by the local taxi industry and former Police Chief William McManus.

Mayor Taylor and Councilmember Rebecca Viagran (D3), chair of the City’s Public Safety Committee, which studied the issue and recommended the restrictive measure while praising the local taxi industry, led Council in approving the ordinance. Mayor Taylor and some of the council members who supported the new ordinance have acknowledged that they have never personally experienced the rideshare service and refuse to do so.

[…]

“After much consideration, it is clear that these regulations will cripple Uber’s ability to serve drivers and riders in San Antonio. A vote in support of these regulations was a vote against ridesharing, and if the rules remain unchanged, Uber will have no choice but to leave San Antonio,” stated Chris Nakutis, general manager for Uber Texas in the letter sent out early Wednesday evening. “We respectfully ask the city to repeal these burdensome requirements and replace them with smart regulations, like those adopted by Austin, that protect public safety while at the same time fostering technological innovations that enhance transportation options and economic development for the city.”

See here, here, and here for the background on San Antonio. Gotta say, whatever you think of Uber, it might have been better for Council to have put this issue off until after the May election, since at least two of the Mayoral candidates – Mike Villarreal and Leticia Van de Putte – supported having Uber and Lyft in town, and likely would have taken a different approach to crafting the ordinance. They both supported delaying the decision as well. (I don’t know where Tommy Adkisson stands on vehicles for hire; all this happened before he formally announced his candidacy.) That said, both companies did their usual operate-as-if-they-had-approval-even-though-they-didn’t thing, and were frequently crosswise with SAPD Chief William McManus, who served on the committee that wrote the revised ordinance and appeared to be a taxi sympathizer. One could easily argue that this was their own arrogance coming back to bite them in the rear fender.

As for Lyft, it hasn’t committed to a course of action yet.

Rideshare representatives agree with checks and inspections, but not to the degree that the local ordinance demands. They also point to the insurance grey area when the app is turned on a car, but has not been assigned to pick up a customer. New products such as the one offered by USAA in Colorado offer an alternative to rideshare company insurance covering that grey area.

“Expensive fees, excessive insurance regulations, and burdensome processes do not enhance public safety; they will eliminate a safe transportation option,” Nakutis stated.

Lyft representatives did not go so far as to say they would cease operation in San Antonio.

“We hope the City Council will revisit these regulations and allow Lyft drivers to continue providing safe, affordable, and friendly rides to people in San Antonio. Unfortunately, without any changes to the law before the March 1st date of compliance, it will be extremely difficult for our peer-to-peer model to operate in the city,” stated Lyft spokesperson Chelsea Wilson in an email.

See here for more on the USA offering. I wonder if both companies leave if the ordinance will be reconsidered under the next Mayor. Maybe, maybe not, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

January campaign finance reports – San Antonio

As we know, while we wait for the Mayoral field to shape up here in Houston, there’s already a hot open-seat race going on in San Antonio, featuring now-former State Rep. Mike Villarreal, State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (who has submitted a letter of resignation but is staying on until her successor is sworn in), and former County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson. Let’s get the easy part of this post out of the way first:

Tommy Adkisson
Leticia Van de Putte
Mike Villarreal

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ================================================== Adkisson 0 5,000 5,013 0 Van de Putte 129,679 62,465 0 197,516 Villarreal 201,454 149,466 0 189,801

Those are just the city campaign reports. As former (or soon to be former) holders of other offices, all three also have at least one other finance report for January out there:

Tommy Adkisson – Bexar County
Leticia Van de Putte – TEC report
Leticia Van de Putte for Lt. Gov. SPAC – TEC report
Mike Villarreal – TEC report

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Adkisson 80,975 54,779 0 0 Van de Putte 152,094 54,790 0 197,516 VDP SPAC 754,295 1,525,162 0 237,432 Villarreal 82,195 86,989 0 189,801

The identical totals for Van de Putte and Villarreal are not coincidences. They have one balance, but two accounts that are presumably used for different purposes. (I don’t know what if anything Van de Putte may be doing with her SPAC account.) Randy Bear summarizes the situation.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

You see, whereas the City of San Antonio has campaign finance limits of $1,000 from either individuals or SPACs, the state has no limits. In fact, it’s not uncommon for donors to give in the tens of thousands to state candidates during the course of the year. So these accounts could reflect donations that exceed the limits imposed by the City in its attempts to control special interest influence.

To top that off, remember that Van de Putte also ran for Lieutenant Governor this past year? In that election, where the stakes were much higher, her campaign raked in over $2 million. In fact, some donors gave as much as $100,000 to the campaign. At the January 15th filing, that warchest still had almost a quarter of a million dollars in it. That’s after transferring over a half a million dollars to the state party right before the election.

So, this starts to unfold some questions about where the money came from and might end up. So far, Van de Putte has transferred a little over $17,000 from her Lieutenant Governor campaign fund to her candidate fund. Since she’s still a state officeholder, there are technically no limits on those amounts.

The City’s Campaign Finance Code allows a candidate to maintain a single candidate fund for both offices. But there is a limitation as stated in the Code – “However, if the candidate seeks a municipal office which is subject to lower campaign contribution limits than the previously sought office, the candidate shall return all contributions in excess of the limits for the municipal office sought.”

Mike Villarreal

Mike Villarreal

Furthermore, the Code states that “Contributions transferred must be aggregated with any contributions made by the same donor to the committee receiving the transfer. Amounts that would cause a contributor to exceed his or her pre-election cycle contribution limit must be excluded from the transfer.”

What this means is that any contributions exceeding the city’s limits must be returned to the donor. The problem is that since Van de Putte is still a state officeholder, she continues to incur expenses in fulfilling the duties of that office. In fact, with regards to activities, it’s difficult to tell when she is acting in the role of state senator or candidate for mayor at functions. So any expenses could be construed to be for her role as a state officeholder, such as tickets to events or traveling around the city.

Villarreal has already resigned from his state office and has publicly stated in his report that no expenditures were paid from the account for the final acts as state representative. In other words, he’s closed the books as a state representative and all actions forward are for the mayoral race.

This is the first time since our city enacted these campaign finance regulations that such a situation like this has presented itself. It creates a challenge for our City’s Ethics Review Board on what money is legal and what may cross a line.

It’s not clear what Van de Putte plans to do with her money in the Lieutenant Governor SPAC. Until she resigns the senate, she can continue to transfer money into her candidate fund since she is still a state officeholder. That could give her a substantial financial advantage over Villarreal, even if the money was contributed to an entirely different race from people with different intentions for the money.

As you can see, one candidate has worked to establish a clear delineation of the money. The other has left it ambiguous while remaining a state officeholder. It’s just part of the fun we can expect with this mayoral race.

Emphasis in the original. There are some obvious parallels to Houston here and the legal jousting over Rep. Sylvester Turner’s campaign account, but there are also two key differences. One is that as far as I can tell San Antonio doesn’t have a fundraising blackout period, so that the activity by these candidates didn’t come at a time when others would have been locked out. The other is that there isn’t (again, as far as I can tell) an interested party with a similar grievance as Chris Bell in Houston. All three San Antonio Mayoral hopefuls were incumbents of some kind last year, and all three were running for one office or another. One could argue that Villarreal, running for an easy re-election against a Green Party opponent, had the advantage during this time. Regardless, no one in this race has a financial advantage of the order that Sylvester Turner does in Houston. Given that, it may not be in any of their interests to make an issue out of this. No guarantees there, and if another candidate emerges all bets may be off, but if I had to guess right now I’d say that this is something none of these candidates are that interested in talking about.

Others may make an issue of it, however, and it is at best a very gray area. Some clarity would certainly be nice, but I have this nagging feeling that if push comes to shove, the most likely outcome is for San Antonio’s contribution limits, which are considerably smaller than Houston’s ($5K for individuals and $10K for PACs), to get thrown out for being too restrictive. As Randy notes, there are no limits on contributions to state campaigns, and while there are federal contribution limits, the rise of super PACs make them almost irrelevant. In our post-Citizens United world, I have a hard time seeing how strict contribution limits – in either city – could withstand close legal scrutiny if someone chose to push the issue. (And just so we’re clear here, that is very much an outcome I would not like.) As a matter of crass political calculation, the best move by folks who think there’s already too damn much money in politics might be to recognize the unusual nature of this year’s race and let things play out as is. We may never see another race like this one in San Antonio again, and with the blackout period disabled in Houston we may not have another situation like the Bell/Turner one again. Just a thought.

Tommy Adkisson joins SA Mayoral race

And then there were three major candidates.

Tommy Adkisson

Bexar County Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Adkisson became the latest candidate to enter the 2015 San Antonio mayor’s race Sunday as he announced his bid to lead the Alamo City.

[…]

His announcement touted that the city needs a “Stay-at-home” mayor to handle the resolution of the fire and police contract and appeared to single out City Manager Sheryl Sculley.

“We need to get back to the bargaining table and resolve, not leave the table until we reach a resolution,” he said.

“My fellow citizens, one thing should be clear: the city manager works for the mayor and council, not vice versa,” he said in a statement released Sunday night.

The statement in question is here, via his campaign Facebook page. Adkisson, like Mike Villarreal and Leticia Van de Putte, is a Democrat; he was a Bexar County Commissioner for four terms before making an unsuccessful challenge in the Democratic primary to County Judge Nelson Wolff this March. He was also in the Lege for two non-consecutive terms back in the 80s. His candidacy for Mayor had been rumored/known about for some time, so this is no surprise. Beyond that, I don’t know much about him, but his presence pretty much guarantees that there will be a runoff, and it adds a few extra dimensions to things. I’d be interested in hearing from my San Antonio readers what you think about this.

Overview of the Bexar County special legislative elections

From The Rivard Report:

Texas House District 123

Former District 1 City Councilmember Diego Bernal resigned his city seat in mid-November to launch his campaign for Villarreal’s former seat. His VoteDiego website offers voters his positions on a number of issues, ranging from education to civil rights.

Melissa Aguillon, a small business owner and the principal of Aguillon & Associates, a public relations and digital marketing firm, also is running. Her VoteAguillon website displays her digital media acumen, offering videos, her Twitter feed, Facebook feed, etc.

Former District 5 Councilmember Walter Martinez (1985-92) and the Texas House District 119 representative for a single term (1983-85) is making a run to regain elected office after a two-decade-plus hiatus that began with a failed bid to win a seat on Commissioners Court. Martinez apparently does not have a campaign website.

Republican candidate Nunzio Previtera, with Integrity Insurance Agency in San Antonio, jumped into the race this week. His campaign website lists his support for small business, job growth and his pro-life position.

Libertarian candidate Roger Gary, who apparently sought his party’s nomination for president in 2012, also is running. He does not have a campaign website.

Click here to see a map of District 123, which extends from the Southside through the central city and north in Castle Hills and part of the Northside.

Texas Senate District 26

This vacant seat has attracted two strong and respected state representatives among other candidates.

Disrtrict 116 state Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher and District 124 state Rep. José Menéndez are the two leading candidates for the seat.

Sylvia Romo, the former Bexar County tax assessor-collector who served two terms in the Texas House in the 190s and who lost a Democratic primary race against U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett in 2012, is looking to regain elected office.

Converse Mayor Al Saurez also is running for the seat as a long shot contender.

Here is a great map of the districts and the early voting locations within them. Early voting runs from December 29 through January 3, with a day off on January 1. Election Day will be January 6. Assume turnout will be low, so if you live in HD123 and/or SD26, your vote really counts.

These elections are important, especially the one in SD26 since Senate seats don’t have that much turnover, but please don’t get sucked into a narrative about it being some kind of proxy battle for the soul of the Texas Democratic Party. This is a low-turnout special election for a vacancy that no one knew would exist less than two months ago. It’s also no longer a straight-up battle between a liberal State Rep and a somewhat less liberal State Rep thanks to the entry of a third major candidate. Listen to the candidates and support whoever you think is the best choice. Don’t give a thought to what the nattering nabobs (of which I am one) think. But if you do care what I think, I’d vote for Trey Martinez-Fischer in SD26, and Diego Bernal in HD123. All due respect to Jose Menendez and Sylvia Romo, both of whom I think would be fine Senators, but TMF is my first choice, as is Bernal for the House. Just make sure you get out there and vote, in these races or in HD17, if you live in one of these districts.

UPDATE: Sylvia Romo has dropped out of the race for SD26 after it turned out out that she didn’t live in the district.

Legislative special elections set

Gear up quickly, here they come.

Mike Villarreal

Mike Villarreal

Gov. Rick Perry on Monday afternoon set three special elections for Jan. 6, including the race to replace state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

Van de Putte, who lost her bid for lieutenant governor last month, is stepping down to run for mayor of San Antonio, leaving a vacancy in Senate District 26. State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, resigned earlier this month to also launch a campaign for City Hall, a move that created an open seat in House District 123.

In addition, Perry scheduled a special election for Jan. 6 in House District 17, where Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt, R-Lexington, is resigning to become general counsel for the Texas Department of Agriculture. The district covers a five-county area east of Austin.

Democrats have already lined up to vie for the two seats in solidly blue Bexar County. San Antonio State Reps. Jose Menendez and Trey Martinez Fischer as well as Converse Mayor Al Suarez are running to replace Van de Putte. Former San Antonio Councilmen Diego Bernal and Walter Martinez as well as public relations consultant Melissa Aguillon are competing for Villarreal’s House seat.

See here for the background. Al Suarez is a new name for the SD26 seat; Converse is a small town inside Bexar County, but beyond that I know nothing about him. I can’t find any news about potential candidates for Kleinschmidt’s seat – as you know, I’m rooting for a Democrat to file for it – but I’m sure we’ll hear something soon enough. I wasn’t expecting it to be part of this set, but it makes sense for it to be. If either Martinez-Fischer or Menendez wins in SD26 we’ll need one more special, and then I presume we’ll be done for the near term. The Current has more.

San Antonio special legislative elections appear to be set

Rumor has it.

Mike Villarreal

Mike Villarreal

State Rep. Mike Villarreal said Friday that Gov. Rick Perry has set Jan. 6 as the date for a special election to fill his position in the state House and a Senate seat being vacated by Leticia Van de Putte.

Villarreal and Van de Putte are leaving the Texas Legislature to run for San Antonio mayor.

In social media posts Friday, Villarreal divulged a snippet of a conversation he had with Ken Armbrister, a top Perry staffer, about the scheduling of the special election.

“He just called to let me know that the election will be called on Jan. 6,” Villarreal said in a phone interview. “This will minimize the possibility that there’s a vacancy in the House.”

The legislative session starts Jan. 13.

A Perry spokeswoman declined to confirm the date, saying: “We don’t have anything to announce on this. When we do, we will put out a press release.”

A formal announcement from Perry’s office could come as early as Monday.

Villarreal tweeted and Facebooked the news, which as you can see is unconfirmed at this time. Villarreal seems to be the only one willing to state this for the record, but we’ll know for sure soon enough.

Former San Antonio Councilmen Diego Bernal and Walter Martinez, who is also a former state representative, and Melissa Aguillon, who runs a public relations firm, all Democrats, are vying for Villarreal’s House seat. Nunzio Previtera, a Republican, and Libertarian Roger Gary are also eyeing the race.

[…]

State Reps. Jose Menendez and Trey Martinez Fischer, both Democrats, have launched campaigns to replace Van de Putte in the upper chamber. GOP activist Alma Perez-Jackson is also mentioned as a candidate, but has not officially announced her campaign.

I’ve said before that the special election in SD26 is a worthwhile shot for the Republicans to take, though I wouldn’t bet any money on their candidate making it to a runoff. Worst case scenario is a few fat cat donors waste some money.

Bexar County election officials already were urging reconsideration of the Jan 6. date.

Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said Friday the date wouldn’t allow the two days needed to prepare polling sites in schools that will be closed for the holidays until Jan. 5.

Surely there is an accommodation that can be made here. Both these races are near locks to need runoffs, so the sooner they are held, the better.

On a tangential note, January 14 – Day Two of the session – is the day that Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt is planning to resign to take the job of general counsel for the Ag Department. I would presume a special election to fill that seat, for which I have urged Dems to take a shot, will follow shortly thereafter. Assuming one of Reps. Martinez-Fischer or Menendez wins in SD26, we will need one more special election, likely in early March, to fill that vacancy. Barring any unforseen additional departures, that should be it for the time being.

Will the TNCs leave San Antonio?

The upcoming Council vote in San Antonio over vehicles for hire could have some repercussions.

Lyft

City Council will meet Thursday to vote on proposed rules that would allow rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber to operate legally in San Antonio. But the new regulations and requirements are so onerous, say rideshare company representatives and advocates, the net result would be to chase the services out of San Antonio.

Rideshare advocates say that more than 250 cities now offer rideshare services, and only a small number of cities with strong taxi unions prohibit the services from operating entirely. Houston and Austin have approved rideshare and Dallas is expected to approve its ordinance this week. Houston’s more demanding rules, which passed earlier this year, are similar to those proposed in San Antonio. Lyft suspended operations in Houston while Uber continues to operate.

Many observers believe the new rules are really meant to exclude rideshare from San Antonio and protect a small but aggressive taxi industry that has made a visible show of force at City Hall over several months of hearings.

Both Lyft and Uber have distributed online petitions and email campaigns that ask for a “no” vote from City Council members. The outcome of the vote is unclear, but at least five council members appear to support the taxi industry.

See here for the background. As noted before, Lyft did exit Houston, but their dispute with Houston’s ordinance was about background checks, where the fight here is about insurance. Uber is operating in Houston and never offered any complaint that I can recall about the revised ordinance. In San Antonio, they not only have a complaint, they put it in writing.

Uber

The ride-share firm Uber sent an email Sunday to San Antonio’s mayor and City Council, threatening to shutter operations in the area if new, burdensome regulations are adopted this week.

[…]

“Uber creates a marketplace where these people can use their own car to provide a ride to their neighbors when, where, and how often they want, a strong contrast to taxi, where multiple full-time drivers drive one car 24 hours/7 days a week with high mileage and significant wear and tear with the majority of the profit going to the taxicab company,” wrote Dallas-based Leandre Johns, an Uber general manager. “Simply put, there is virtually no comparison between taxis and TNCs that use smart apps to connect riders looking for transportation to drivers that provide transportation.”

[…]

Several months ago, the City Council created a task force that included representatives from both the taxi industry and the TNCs to craft recommendations on how to amend the city’s vehicles-for-hire ordinance to allow ride-share companies to operate legally — and under regulations — in San Antonio.

The group, overseen by Police Chief William McManus, met several times over the summer to form a series of recommendations. But when McManus presented the recommendations to the council last week, there were several key departures from what the task force had agreed upon.

Those changes, which include how TNC drivers and their vehicles are inspected, don’t protect public safety but rather make it prohibitavly difficult for TNCs to succeed here, Johns and others say.

You can read Uber’s missive to San Antonio City Council here. Council supporters of TNCs are now trying to postpone the vote, partly out of concern that there hasn’t been enough time to discuss the changes from last week, and partly because two Council seats are vacant – District 1’s Diego Bernal recently resigned to run for HD123, and Mayor Ivy Taylor’s District 2 is awaiting the results of a runoff election. In addition, as the Rivard Report notes, the two main contenders for Mayor in 2015 favor allowing the TNCs to operate:

[Mike] Villarreal supports rideshare and said a vote in favor of TNCs from council would signal San Antonio’s support for “innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship … when I think about what I want San Antonio to look like 50 years in the future, it’s a city on the cutting edge of technology.”

When it comes to attracting young professionals, reducing drunk driving, and providing another transportation option in the city, he said, rideshare helps all three.

“We should look at all of our regulations, and if we cannot justify them in the public interest, then we need to have the guts to strike them from the books,” Villarreal said. “We should not be in the business of creating artificial barriers to entry into any given market place. I think in this case I am very concerned that the city is moving forward with an ordinance that does not make us safer – that simply protects the status quo.

“(Traditional cab companies) have already overcome the (regulation cost) hurdle and they don’t want to lower that gate that would allow more competition,” he added.

Fellow mayoral candidate Leticia Van de Putte also supports a set of rules that is more rideshare-friendly.

“Major Texas cities and others across the country have found a way to welcome the services of transportation network companies to meet their city’s growing demands while ensuring the safety of their communities. I have complete confidence that San Antonio will rise to the same challenge,” Van de Putte stated in an emailed response.

San Antonio would be the first Texas city to not allow Uber and Lyft if things proceed as they currently stand. Whether or not that happens, or if that is the intent, we’ll know tomorrow. By the way, Dallas City Council is expected to approve their vehicles for hire revisions today. A pro-TNC op-ed from Rackspace co-founder Graham Weston is here, and Slate has more.

Bexar legislative shuffle update

The two candidates that we thought were running for HD123 have officially announced that they are running for HD123.

Mike Villarreal

Two Democrats announced this weekend that they’re running for Texas House District 123, the San Antonio seat that state Rep. Mike Villarreal is leaving to run for San Antonio mayor.

Public relations consultant Melissa Aguillon and City Councilman Diego Bernal officially kicked off their campaigns surrounded by cheering supporters. Other contenders for the house seat could include former City Councilman Walter Martinez, a Democrat, and Libertarian candidate Roger Gary.

They’re gearing up for a sprint of a race that could be over in a matter of weeks. The candidates are waiting for the Texas governor to set the date for a special election to fill Villarreal’s seat.

Villarreal announced he’s running for mayor after Julián Castro stepped down to become secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Washington.

“We expect it to happen at the very end of this year or the first month of next year,” Bernal said of the special election.

See here and here for the background. There has been a bit of chatter that Villarreal would back out of the Mayoral race since Leticia Van de Putte jumped in, fueled by Villarreal’s not-quite-a-resignation letter that may have left him some wiggle room. Villarreal insists he is staying the course, and neither I nor these candidates have any reason to doubt him. As I have said before, Bernal starts out as my favorite in this race.

Meanwhile, speaking of LVdP, Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia asks what qualities the voters in SD26 might want in her successor.

In recent weeks, we’ve heard a lot about the virtues of nonpartisanship. Mike Villarreal has made it one of the centerpieces of his mayoral campaign, and former Councilman Walter Martinez — who is one of the candidates vying for Villarreal’s seat in the Texas House — has also talked about its importance.

Given that Democrats will be badly outnumbered in a Patrick-controlled Senate, however, this is a question that lurks in the shadows of the special election to succeed outgoing Sen. Leticia Van de Putte: Is nonpartisanship possible — or even advisable — for her would-be successor?

Keep in mind that Senate District 26 is overwhelmingly Democratic. In 2012, Barack Obama took 62 percent of the vote in SD 26, even while he could only muster 41.4 percent statewide. The great majority of the district’s constituents oppose Patrick’s agenda.

The contenders for Van de Putte’s seat are Trey Martinez Fischer and José Menéndez, two San Antonio Democratic representatives born a year apart (Martinez Fischer is 44, and Menéndez is 45) who were Texas House freshman classmates in 2001. Martinez Fischer is the Democrats’ voluble happy warrior, while Menéndez is the measured, behind-the-scenes conciliator rarely on the front lines of a partisan battle.

Martinez Fischer told me last week that he considers himself able to adapt to different legislative conditions.

In 2011, when partisan bickering was the order of the day and Republicans slashed education funding by $5.4 billion, Martinez Fischer dipped into his bag of parliamentary tricks with points of order designed to slow the onslaught. In 2013, when a spirit of compromise emerged, he played a key negotiating role in the restoration of $3.9 billion in education funds.

“Our job is to do whatever is best for the entire state,” Martinez Fischer said. “But I’m not going to be a Pollyanna about it. We find ourselves in some very divisive and partisan times and people have to know that there are lawmakers out there fighting day and night to represent their views.”

See here for the background. All due respect to Rep. Menendez, but TMF starts out as my favorite in this race. Unlike the one in HD123, this election would not occur until later in the year, most likely in November. Expect this debate to go on for quite some time, and keep an eye out for what these two Reps do during the legislative session to either advance this narrative or show another side to their character and abilities.

And the dominoes do begin to fall

Game on.

Rep. Mike Villarreal

A calf scramble for legislative seats set off by two lawmakers’ decisions to run for San Antonio mayor could produce a rare shakeup in the Bexar County delegation that reports for duty in Austin on Jan. 13.

As many as three of the county’s 10 Texas House members could be new, along with one of its four senators — the only senator whose district is entirely in Bexar County.

The main catalysts for the upheaval were announcements by state Rep. Mike Villarreal and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, both D-San Antonio, that they’ll run for the city’s mayorship in 2015, though the filing period isn’t until next year.

Both lawmakers have asked Gov. Rick Perry to call special elections to replace them in the upcoming 84th Legislature. No voting dates have been set.

Villarreal initially made his request to Perry on Nov. 6, but a clarifying letter was requested from him and had not been received late Thursday, state officials said. Election officials said that Villarreal can’t formally decline his office — and thus provide such a letter — until the votes are canvassed, which is expected around Dec. 1

The hiccup fueled speculation that Villarreal was reassessing his path, but he bristled at the suggestion and insisted he’s focused on the mayoral race.

“I’ve been in it for six months. We have built a coalition that is as diverse as our city. We all are in it to win. We all have our oars in the water and we’re pulling,” the District 123 representative said Thursday.

Here’s the letter Villarreal sent to Perry, from the Trib story that I had linked to previously. Note, which I had not done before, that he does not use the word “resign” but instead says he will “decline to assume the office”. I’m not an expert in the finer points of this sort of thing, but one could imagine the possibility of some wiggle room in that statement. I have no reason to doubt Villarreal’s sincerity when he says he’s running. He really has been planning for this for months, and it would be more than a little weird if he were to change his mind just like that. Still, if there’s one lesson we all learn again and again it’s that sometimes weird things happen. It’s not impossible that Villarreal could suddenly find that Sen. Van de Putte’s entry into the race has made his path to victory a lot harder, to the point that maybe it’s not worth giving up a safe legislative seat for it. We’ll know soon enough. Also, I take back the snarky things I’ve been saying about the difference between the pace at which a special election was called in SD18 and (not) in HD123. I can’t say for sure Perry is on the hook to call a special in HD123 just yet, so I’ll back off for now.

Pouncing on the Senate opening Thursday were state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and Jose Menéndez, both D-San Antonio, who declared they would compete in the District 26 special election to finish the remaining two years in Van de Putte’s current term. Neither candidate must vacate his House seat during the Senate race, only upon election, election officials said.

Other Democrats are considering the Senate race, and it wouldn’t surprise party leaders if a Republican enters the fray. Bexar Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina said local Republicans appear emboldened by their midterm election gains.

“I’m sure the tea party feels that in a low-turnout election, which this would be, they could be competitive,” Medina said.

Bexar GOP Chairman Robert Stovall confirmed his party is seeking a Senate candidate and probably won’t let the Democrats go unchallenged, despite “difficult” odds in District 26, where Van de Putte has served since 1999.

“There could be an opportunity of us,” Stovall said.

Greg Abbott actually nipped Barbara Radnofsky by 0.3 percentage points in SD26 in 2010, so I would agree that the Bexar GOP has an opportunity there. I’d actually agree even if that weren’t the case – there’s no real downside in trying, after all – but note that every other Dem that year carried SD26 by at least ten points, so I’d say their odds are slim and slimmer. I’d also note that President Obama scored 62% in SD26 in 2012, so if by some fluke a GOP candidate did manage to win a no-turnout special election there, he or she would be doomed in 2016. Be that as it may, I’ll put my money on either Martinez-Fischer or Menendez, both of whom had previously expressed their interest in VdP’s seat. For sure, San Antonio is in for a whirlwind of electoral activity over the next few months, and when all is said and done there ought to be more than a few new faces in new places.

Van de Putte to run for Mayor of San Antonio

Wow.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Ending weeks of speculation, state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte said Wednesday she is running for mayor of San Antonio.

Just two weeks after a crushing defeat in the lieutenant governor ‘s race, Van de Putte — who is credited with running a spirited statewide campaign — is expected to electrify the municipal election.

For months, there had been growing speculation that she would enter the fray, and more recently, she had said she was “praying for guidance” about whether to tackle a mayoral race.

Van de Putte, a third-generation San Antonian and West Side Democrat, told the San Antonio Express-News on Wednesday that since entering elected office in 1990, she has fought for the people of San Antonio.

“I think any leader has to have a basis of a character and of that makeup that makes them strong — and not strong physically and maybe not strong emotionally, but strong in the sense of commitment — and for me, that strength comes from a faith and family,” she said in an interview at the newspaper. “And so the decision that our family has made and that I want is to be the next mayor of San Antonio.”

State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, rolled out his campaign in the wake of then-Mayor Julián Castro’s announcement this summer that he’d be leaving to join President Barack Obama’s Cabinet as secretary of Housing and Urban development.

Van de Putte’s entry into the May 9 mayoral race certainly kills Villarreal’s chances of sailing easily into the office.

[…]

Van de Putte said she intends to send Gov. Rick Perry a letter Thursday asking him to call a special election for her seat, which she will hold until a successor is elected.

Her decision shakes up the Democratic landscape, setting off a scramble for the District 26 Texas Senate seat she’s held since 1999 and possibly affecting other offices that might be vacated.

Two Democrats in the Texas House have expressed interest in the Senate seat — state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and José Menéndez, and other candidacies are likely in the sprawling district.

Martinez Fischer, a longtime ally of Van de Putte, has represented District 116 since 2001. The outspoken chairman of the Mexican America Legislative Caucus would be a leading contender to replace Van de Putte but hasn’t formally declared his intentions.

Here’s the Trib story, which also mentions Van de Putte’s resignation strategy. I don’t think the two-thirds is likely to be much of a factor, but having a full contingent of Democrats is needed as a bulwark against any attempts to put noxious constitutional amendments on next year’s ballot. Rick Perry still hasn’t called a special election to fill Villarreal’s seat, though he broke records calling one for Glenn Hegar. My best guess is that there won’t be one for SD26 until next November, which may trigger the need for at least one more depending on who wins the election to succeed Van de Putte.

I will admit to being surprised by this. I have no insider knowledge, I just figured Sen. Van de Putte wouldn’t want to jump from one bruising campaign to another so quickly, though at least this one won’t have her on the road all the time. I can understand why she might be ready to leave the Senate, which I expect will be a whole lot of no fun for her this spring. Maybe once you’ve accepted the possibility of one big change, the possibility of another is easier to handle. I wish her well, as I also wish Mike Villarreal well; both would make fine Mayors. For at least the next two to four years, the best prospect for progress in this state is at the local level, where Mayors can push for a lot of things that our state government won’t. I hope both Leticia Van de Putte and Mike Villarreal (and anyone else who joins them in that race) embrace that potential and run a spirited, issues-oriented, forward-looking campaign, and may the best candidate win.

One more thing: It will be a sad day when Sen. Van de Putte leaves the Senate, but change is always inevitable and new blood is a good and necessary thing. It’s a great opportunity for some other talented politicians as well, and Democrats can emerge from all these changes just fine. There’s no point in looking back. What comes next is what matters.

If there are dominoes to fall…

…these two would like to be among them.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Election season may not be over just yet in San Antonio, where a game of legislative musical chairs could begin if state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte launches a bid for mayor.

A day after Van de Putte seemed to leave the door open for a mayoral bid, state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and José Menéndez both said Monday they’ll consider running for Van de Putte’s Texas Senate seat if she steps down.

“I definitely am seriously considering that possibility,” Menéndez told The Texas Tribune, emphasizing that Van de Putte’s departure was still a hypothetical. “Obviously if she chose to go into a different situation, someone has to step up.”

Menéndez, first elected to the Texas House in 2000, said he shares Van de Putte’s interest in helping veterans, noting that he chairs the House Defense and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which “mirrors” Van de Putte’s leadership of the Senate’s veterans affairs committee.

Martinez Fischer, also elected in 2000, hinted in a Twitter post Sunday night that a Senate run was on his radar. He confirmed that interest in a statement early Monday.

“If Senator Van de Putte chooses to continue her service to our community by entering the race for San Antonio Mayor, I will give serious consideration to asking the voters of Senate District 26 to allow me to be their voice in the Senate,” Martinez Fischer said.

See here for the background. Note that LVdP hasn’t said that she’s running for Mayor; she hasn’t even really said she’s considering it. She’s just said that some people have asked her about it, which is nice. I still think she’ll be back in the Senate in January, but one never knows. As for her wannabe successors, I’d favor Martinez-Fischer for the simple reason that I know him and his record better, and I know he’d be a good fit for the job. Nothing against Menendez, but TMF has earned my admiration. If it does come to this, he’d be my first choice.

And the recriminations begin

I’m going to do my best to stay out of this. Everyone quoted is someone I know and like, and if there’s one part of the political process I truly don’t care for, it’s the family fight. So I’m just going to offer a few observations and move on.

– The absentee ballot program was a success, and it definitely was an improvement over previous elections, but let’s keep some perspective. The difference in the total number of Democratic absentee votes between 2014 and 2010 is about 11,000 straight ticket votes, and about 17,000 total votes. That’s without taking into account whether these were new voters or the same old reliables that would have voted in person had they not received a mail ballot. I mentioned several times during early voting that some number of new mail voters were surely people changing behavior. It would be nice to know how many of these votes were by the usual crowd and how many represented a genuine new vote in this election. That data exists, and it’s what we should be talking about. There’s value to expanding the mail program even if it’s little more than a convenience for regular voters, but if that is the case then let’s treat it as such and not as a strategic advantage.

– It was great to see so many new voters registered, in Texas and especially in Harris County, but those elevated registration numbers did not lead to an accompanying boost in turnout, especially in Harris County. How many of those new registrants actually voted? Again, that data exists, and we need to know it. If they turned out at about the same rate as other voters, or if they didn’t, should inform how we approach this going forward.

– I have a draft canvass now, and I am working my way through it. One thing to note is that no Democrat carried HD144. Rep. Mary Ann Perez came closest, and ran two or more points ahead of the rest of the ticket. The good news, if you want to look at it that way, is that overall HD144 was slightly less Republican this year than it was in 2010. Dems can and should reclaim this seat in 2016. They need to start engaging voters now to do so, and they should plan to continue engaging voters after that to try to hold this seat in 2018. Maybe the redistricting litigation will change the calculus here going forward, but that shouldn’t change the basic lesson that we need to learn here.

– By the same token, Democrats carried HD149 up and down the ballot. Rep. Hubert Vo was the pace-setter, but even in a year like this it was a blue district. In HD134, Dan Patrick was apparently a little too scary for the voters there, as Leticia Van de Putte was the only Democrat to win it. Make of that what you will.

I’ll have more going forward, but this will do for now.

Villarreal to launch his mayoral candidacy

We’re going to be talking a lot about Houston’s mayoral race next year, but six months before we elect a new Mayor San Antonio will elect one as well. The current frontrunner – and only declared candidate so far – is State Rep. Mike Villarreal, who will formally launch his campaign today.

Mike Villarreal

[Villarreal is] expected to resign his state office in the near future to focus on the mayoral campaign. A Twitter message to followers from @mikevillarreal [recently] announced that campaign signs would be ready to go on Monday, which will move his candidacy from the behind-the-scenes meetings stage out into the open.

Three months after announcing his run for mayor, Villarreal is still running alone. That is likely to change after the Nov. 4 general elections, so Villarreal is sending a message now to would-be challengers: He’s used his head start to build a $250,000 war chest, assemble a strong campaign team, launch a Mike for Mayor website, and secure key endorsements.

Nearly one-fifth of that money has come in the last 30 days, according to campaign consultant and public relations agency owner Trish Deberry.

“I’m proud of the fact that my campaign continues to gain momentum, and a great cross-section of San Antonio’s business as well as neighborhood leaders are making the early decision to support me in the Mayor’s race,” said Villarreal. “I’m not taking anything for granted and working hard every day.”

As we know, the ability of a non-city politician to transfer funds to a city campaign is currently being litigated. Clearly, the rules in San Antonio are a bit different. One presumes that subject will come up in court.

District 1 City Councilmember Diego Bernal is widely regarded as the strongest candidate to succeed Villarreal if he decides to resign from City Council and seek election to the Texas Legislature.

Villarreal has now officially resigned his House seat. One hopes Rick Perry will pay enough attention to his main job to schedule a special election ASAP. I’m a fan of CM Bernal, and I’d be happy to see him get elected to succeed Villarreal.

Who will oppose Villarreal in the mayoral race remains to be seen. The most closely-watched person on the short list is Mayor Ivy Taylor, who is serving out the 10-month unexpired term of former Mayor and now Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro.

Some people have also speculated that Sen. Leticia Van de Putte might run for Mayor on the theory that she won’t want to serve in a Senate presided over by Dan Patrick. I’m dubious, though she is at least considering the question, so I suppose anything is possible. Taylor had said during the selection process that she wasn’t interested in running in 2015, but you know how these things can go. She has other options available to her as well. My guess is that she doesn’t run, either. Someone will challenge Villarreal, but barring anything strange I think he’s a strong favorite to win in May. Randy Bear, who has several other possible contenders, and Texpatriate have more.

The Battleground effect in legislative races

So here’s a crazy idea. Rather than judge Battleground Texas by our own beliefs about how things should have gone, what say we take a look at the actual numbers of a few races and see what they tell us? In particular, let’s look at the numbers in the Blue Star Project races, which were legislative elections in which BGTX engaged directly. There was SD10 and eight State House races; I’m going to throw in CD23 as well even though BGTX did not specifically get involved there. I’m going to compare the performance of the Democratic candidates with those of Bill White, since everyone is obsessing about the White numbers even though about 15% of his vote total came from Republicans, and with Lt. Gov. candidate Linda Chavez-Thompson, since I believe her totals are a more accurate reflection of what the base Democratic turnout was in 2010. Here’s what I’ve got:

Dist Candidate Votes Pct White Pct LCT Pct Needed ================================================================== CD23 Gallego 55,436 47.7 55,762 45.6 47,950 40.2 57,902 SD10 Willis 80,806 44.7 76,920 44.6 66,783 38.8 95,485 023 Criss 14,716 45.4 19,224 50.1 15,866 41.8 17,703 043 Gonzalez 10,847 38.6 14,049 45.8 12,635 41.7 17,274 105 Motley 10,469 42.7 11,766 43.8 9,793 36.7 13,588 107 Donovan 13,803 45.0 14,878 46.3 11,936 37.5 16,880 108 Bailey 16,170 39.3 17,401 42.0 12,859 31.3 24,954 113 Whitley 12,044 40.6 13,483 44.8 11,575 38.7 17,639 117 Cortez 11,519 47.3 10,247 48.0 8,829 42.2 12,832 144 Perez 5,854 49.3 8,411 52.7 7,273 46.0 6,010

It’s a mixed bag. The best performances came from Libby Willis in SD10 and Phillip Cortez (one of two incumbents on BGTX’s list) in HD117. Both exceeded White’s totals and far surpassed Chavez-Thompson’s. This is partly a reflection of what happened in Tarrant and Bexar Counties, respectively. In Tarrant, not only did Wendy Davis beat Bill White’s numbers in her backyard, so too did Leticia Van de Putte and Sam Houston, with Mike Collier just behind. White and Van de Putte were the only ones to carry Bexar for the Dems, with VdP being the high scorer, but Davis came close to White’s number and downballot Dems improved by about 20,000 votes. Willis and Cortez both beat the spread, but not by enough.

Gallego, who again was not directly assisted by BGTX, and the four Dallas County candidates all fell short of White but exceeded, in some cases by a lot, Chavez-Thompson. As I said above, I think topping LCT’s totals represents an improvement in base turnout from 2010, and again that’s consistent with what we saw in Dallas overall, as White was the standard-bearer while the top four Dems all surpassed Chavez-Thompson. Gallego did about as well in Bexar as Ciro Rodriguez did in 2010, and there’s no one place where he did worse, though he could have used more turnout in Maverick County.

The other three results are just bad. Turncoat Dem Lozano carried Jim Wells and Kleberg counties even as all the statewide Dems won in Jim Wells and most of them carried Kleberg despite generally losing it in 2010. Davis didn’t win Kleberg, and she scored lower in Jim Wells than several other Dems. That may have been a contributing factor, but on the whole it was fairly marginal. Still, that needs to be understood more fully, and someone needs to come up with a strategy to keep Dems from crossing over for Lozano if we want to make that seat competitive again.

Criss had a tough assignment, as HD23 has been trending away as places like Friendswood have made Galveston County and that district more Republican. Unlike the other two Dem-held State Rep seats that were lost, HD23 isn’t going to flip to “lean Dem” in 2016. Turnout by both parties was down in HD23 from 2010, and it’s probably the case that White was a boost there four years ago. Better turnout could have gotten her closer, but Susan Criss was always going to have to persuade some Rs to support her to win. I will be very interested to see what the Legislative Council report on this one looks like when it comes out.

The loss by Mary Ann Perez was the worst of the bunch, partly because it looked like she was up in early voting and partly because Harris was alone among the five largest counties in not improving Dem turnout. You can ding BGTX or whoever you like as much as you want for the latter, but the candidate herself has to take some responsibility, too. Winning this seat back needs to be a priority in 2016, and making sure it stays won needs to be a bigger priority after that.

So like I said, a mixed bag. The 2010 numbers were pretty brutal overall in these districts, and where there were improvements it was encouraging, and offers hope for 2016. Where there wasn’t improvement was disappointing, and needs to be examined thoroughly to understand what happened. I’d give the project a final grade of C – there’s some promise going forward and some lessons to be learned, but while improvements are nice, results are necessary.

2014 Day 11 Early Vote totals

But first, a little Republican angst.

EarlyVoting

The Republican Party of Bexar County has issued a series of desperate pleas to conservative voters, saying “the Democrats are beating us on base turnout,” but two of the Texas party’s biggest names converged on San Antonio to get any complacent GOP voters off their couches.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott rallied supporters on Wednesday at Alamo Café, echoing concerns of local GOP leaders that loyalists who usually vote early aren’t all doing so.

“It’s a risk when people feel you’re going to win. They feel ‘why bother?’ That’s why events like this are so important, to encourage people to vote,” Cornyn said.

“We noticed that our base is sagging a bit,” said Bexar County GOP Chairman Robert Stovall.

“For the first time, I hope Republicans are right,” quipped his Democratic counterpart, Manuel Medina.

Both parties are armed with overnight data from early voting that ends Friday. While Republicans are anxious about their turnout numbers, Democrats are buoyed by theirs.

I have no insight into Bexar County, and it’s often difficult to distinguish between truth and bluff in this kind of story, but I like the sound of this anyway. It is credible to me that Bexar could be overperforming thanks to the presence of Leticia Van de Putte, as Tarrant appears to be doing for Wendy Davis and Harris did in 2010 for Bill White. Be that as it may, I think we can take this at face value.

And then there’s this from the Quorum Report, via email from the Davis campaign:

As we’ve said from time to time at Buzz Central, if Texas is a battleground, Harris County is ground zero. Perhaps never before has that seemed so true. Conservative activists, including the local GOP’s new and old leadership, are said to be waging all-out war to try to keep Sen. Wendy Davis’ performance in Harris County from affecting their down ballot candidates. There has been much grumbling in recent weeks from local Republican judicial candidates who feel that not enough has been done to turn out the GOP vote.

Longtime conservative activist and donor Dr. Steve Hotze – a major financial contributor to Sen.Dan Patrick – recently sent out mailers and emails pleading for Christian conservatives to get out the vote.

In offering what he called a “Contract with Texas,” Hotze said “Republicans are in trouble in Harris County. For the first time in over two decades the Democrats have matched the Republicans in Early Ballots by Mail which Republicans historically have led by a 2 to 1 margin.”

Hotze went on to explain that he’s seen polling that shows Attorney General Greg Abbott running behind Sen. Davis by just 1 percent in Harris County. Some reliable sources tell QR they have seen similar polling.

“This adversely affects the down ballot races,” Hotze wrote. “Republican District Attorney Devon Anderson is in a dead heat with Democrat challenger Kim Ogg,” he said.

“The Republican judges are running neck in neck with the liberal Democrat judicial candidates. Obama’s Battleground Texashas registered over 1,000,000 new voters in Texas.”

And with that, here are your Day 11 EV totals, and here are the full 2010 EV totals. In this case, skepticism is warranted. The evidence we have is that Republicans have an eight or nine point lead, which is smaller than what they’re used to for off year elections, but still nothing to sneeze at. Whatever the polls say – the KHOU poll is the only Harris County-specific public data of which I am aware – the actual vote rosters tell us more. The good news, from the Dem perspective, is that we have more base voters left to motivate. The bad news is that there ain’t much time left to do that, and I’m not sure anyone knows why the numbers haven’t been higher. But hey, at least you know that we’re not the only ones that have been sweating.

KHOU: Abbott 47, Davis 32

A new poll to open Early Voting.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

As early voters head to the polls for a landmark election in Texas, a new survey conducted for KHOU-TV and Houston Public Media shows Republican Greg Abbott with a commanding lead over Democrat Wendy Davis in the race for governor.

Abbott’s supported by 47 percent of likely voters surveyed for the poll, compared to Davis’ 32 percent. Another 15 percent were undecided.

Green Party candidates Brandon Parmer carried 1.4 percent and Libertarian Kathie Glass .7 percent. About 2 percent of surveyed voters wouldn’t say who they’re supporting.

This latest poll dovetails with other surveys conducted earlier this year showing Abbott with a double-digit lead over Davis, indicating few voters have changed their minds during the course of the campaign.

“There always could be a crisis, a major gaffe, something like that,” said Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist and KHOU analyst who supervised the poll. “But it’s very hard to imagine that you can reverse a double-digit lead.”

In the lieutenant governor’s race, Republican Dan Patrick also has a double-digit lead over his Democratic opponent, Leticia Van de Putte. Patrick’s supported by 36 percent of surveyed voters compared to Van de Putte’s 24 percent.

Libertarian Robert Butler had 1.8 percent in the lieutenant governor poll and Green Party candidate Chandrakantha Courtney .9 percent. Another 3.3 percent said they were voting for someone else, while about 2 percent declined to answer the question.

Democrats hoped Van de Putte’s presence on the ballot would energize Hispanic voters, but the survey indicates that hasn’t happened. About 36 percent of Hispanic voters told pollsters they didn’t know how they were voting for governor, and about 34 percent said they were unsure how they’d vote for lieutenant governor.

“If Leticia Van de Putte has a name that’s recognizable, it’s not moving what we consider to be core Democratic voters,” Stein said. “Self-identified Hispanics and self-identified Democrats are still undecided.”

Clearly, there are a lot of “undecided” voters in this poll. It’s a little hard to know what to make of that this late in the game. Some poll data is here but I can’t find crosstab information, so there’s only so much analysis one can do. I will say that most of the polls KHOU has done in the past have been for Houston Mayoral races, and their results have been mixed, to say the least. They also polled the 2013 Astrodome and inmate processing facility referenda, and the 2012 Presidential race in Harris County, with the latter being fairly accurate and the former two not so much. My main complaint with their non-Presidential year methodology has been having too broad a sample. That may be part of the issue here, though obviously I’d like for as broad a sample as possible to be an accurate reflection of the electorate, but without seeing full data I can only speculate.

One more point: Despite the 15-point lead they show for Abbott statewide, they show Davis leading Harris County by a 40-35 margin. (They have Patrick and Van de Putte tied in Harris County, 30 to 30, and show a meaningless one point lead for Devon Anderson over Kim Ogg, 23-22.) I don’t know how you can reconcile a five-point lead in Harris County for Davis with a 15-point lead statewide for Abbott. But hey, the only poll that matters, as they say, has begun. Greg has the latest look at the mail ballots, and by Friday or so we should have a decent inkling of what’s happening based on the early vote rosters. Get out there and vote.