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Lissa Squiers

Endorsement watch: Hey, there’s still a little bit of early voting left

From the “You just can’t rush these things” department, the Chron endorses James Cargas in the Democratic primary rematch in CD07.

James Cargas

James Cargas

Whomever wins in the Democratic primary for U.S. House 7th District will face an uphill battle in a Republican-friendly district to defeat Rep. John Culberson. But voters can also look at this race as something more than preparation for November. The choice in this primary reflects a decision that Texas Democrats will have to make if they ever find electoral success: the tempered insider or the strident activist. It is a choice that Republicans have had to grapple with for some time. Sometimes it is a division over policy, sometimes over strategy, but it rarely leaves everyone satisfied.

So, in this race we provide the same advice for Democrats that we give Republicans: Go for the candidate who talks about Houston issues and not just in cable news quotes. That candidate is James Cargas.

His career in oil and gas has sent Cargas, 47, from the Clinton White House to City Hall and the energy corridor. That’s experience tailor-made to represent the district, which stretches west from Bellaire and the Galleria area, following Interstate 10 as its northern barrier before turning north to follow Highway 6. It is a district filled with energy company high-rises, and they need a representative who understands the nuances of the industry.

Cargas peppers his speeches with quotes from George Mitchell about reasonable regulation and focuses his regulatory eye on irresponsible operators who give the industry a bad reputation. It is the sort of voice that Houston needs in D.C.

Not sure why it took them until ten days into early voting to get around to this one. I mean, the Chron endorsed Cargas in the 2012 primary runoff, and other than a few potshots at Lissa Squiers what they said then isn’t all that different from what they’re saying this time. The runoff in 2012 was nasty and personal even by Democratic primary standards, but the rematch has been fairly subdued, perhaps because of that. I don’t think the winner will have much better luck against Culberson this year than in 2012, but there you have it anyway.

Who are these people on our ballot?

The filing deadline is long past, and campaigning for the primary and general election is well underway. Democrats in Harris County have a fairly full complement of legislative candidates this fall, some of whom are better known than others. I thought I’d take a moment to look over the primary ballot list and see what I can find about the candidates who are challenging incumbents of either party. In particular, I’m looking to see if I can find a campaign webpage and/or Facebook page, plus whatever Google can tell me. I’m limiting this to Harris County and to legislative races not counting the US Senate. I may do more of these later if I have the time and the inclination. For now, let’s get started.

Congress

CD02 – Niko Letsos: No webpage or Facebook page that I can find so far. Google tells me nothing.

CD07 – James Cargas and Lissa Squiers – Both ran for this office in 2012. Their links from that year still work.

CD10 – Tawana Cadien: Another repeat candidate from 2012. Her old website and Facebook page are still available. Interviews for all three of these candidates can be found on my 2012 Primary Election – Harris County page.

CD22 – Frank Briscoe and Mark Gibson: Neither appears to have a webpage or a Facebook page yet. Briscoe is a candidate with some pedigree. He ran for CD22 in 2002, losing by a hair in the primary to Tim Riley. He’s the son of the late District Attorney and two-time Houston Mayoral candidate Frank Briscoe, Senior, and apparently a relative in some fashion of former Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe. Here’s an interesting Q&A with him in Architectural Record, which isn’t dated but based on context appears to be from not too long after his unsuccessful run in 2002. As for Mark Gibson, Google tells me there’s a Mark Gibson that was an independent candidate for Congress in Virginia in 2012. I rather doubt this is the same Mark Gibson – it’s not that unusual a name – but that’s what I could find in Google.

CD36 – Michael Cole. Cole was the Libertarian candidate for CD36 in 2012 before announcing in August that he would run again as a Democrat. Here’s an interview he did with a Daily Kos member shortly thereafter, which includes links to all his relevant web and social media pages.

State Senate

SD07 – Jim Davis: Google tells me nothing.

SD15 – Sen. John Whitmire and Damian LaCroix: Sen. Whitmire has served in the Senate for many years, but is new to the internets; his Facebook page was created on November 19. I’ve written about LaCroix before and will have an interview with him, and one with Sen. Whitmire, soon.

SD17 – Rita Lucido: Lucido is a longtime activist and volunteer, and is the highest-profile challenger to a Republican incumbent among the legislative candidates. Her campaign Facebook page is quite active.

State House

HD129 – John Gay: No webpage or Facebook presence yet, but Google tells me that John Gay ran for CD14 as a Republican in 2012; he finished seventh in the field of nine. His campaign webpage domain (johngay.org) has expired, but via here I found his personal Facebook page, and while I consider myself to be open and welcoming to party-switchers, it’s safe to say that this guy is a problem. Here’s a screenshot from his Facebook page, so you can see what I mean. Barring a major and convincing change of heart from this guy, my advice is to not waste any time or effort on him. There’s plenty of other good candidates to support.

UPDATE: Upon further investigation, it appears there are two John Gays, the one who ran as an R in 2012 in CD14, and the one who is running in HD129 as a Dem. The latter one does not have any web presence that I found at a cursory search, hence the confusion. I’ve got a business phone number for the HD129 John Gay and will try to reach him tomorrow to discuss. My apologies for the confusion.

HD131 – Rep. Alma Allen and Azuwuike Okorafor: Rep. Allen has a primary challenge for the second straight cycle. Okorafor is a newcomer on the scene but looks like a good candidate. I intend to interview them both for the primary.

HD132 – Luis Lopez: No web presence yet, and the name is too common for Google to be reliable. This may be his personal Facebook page.

HD133 – Laura Nicol: No campaign webpage yet, but her campaign Facebook page is active. She and I have been Facebook friends for awhile, and I met her in person at an HCDP event a couple of weeks ago.

HD134 – Alison Ruff: No web presence as yet. I’ve mentioned her on my blog a couple of times, and met her at HCDP headquarters a couple of weeks back. This is her personal Facebook page.

HD135 – Moiz Abbas: I got nothing.

HD138 – Fred Vernon: Another blank, though this may be him.

HD145 – Rep. Carol Alvarado and Susan Delgado: Rep. Alvarado is my State Rep, and I consider her a friend. Delgado is a realtor, a multiple-time candidate, and the former mistress of the late Sen. Mario Gallegos. Based on comments she has left here and on her personal Facebook page, I think it’s fair to say mud will be flung in this race. For the record, I’ll be voting for Rep. Alvarado.

HD150 – Amy Perez: The full complement – webpage, Facebook page, and Twitter account. Well done.

That’s it for now. I may do a similar exercise for judicial candidates if I find myself with a few spare hours. You can also check out my new 2014 Election page, where I’ll be tracking contested primaries mostly but not exclusively in Harris County. If you think I’ve misrepresented anyone here, or if I’ve missed anything relevant, please let me know. Thanks.

Congressional runoff stories

A couple of Chron stories about area Congressional primary runoffs for your perusal.

CD14:

Sometimes [CD14 GOP candidate Randy Weber] mentions that he was designated the most conservative member of the Texas House during his two terms in Austin.

“We don’t knock on a lot of moderate doors, because my message doesn’t really resonate with them,” he said.

[…]

Felicia Harris, whose reserved, no-nonsense style is in sharp contrast to the voluble Weber, said she has been knocking on doors, as well – thousands and thousands, sometimes between 200 and 400 a day.

“Our grass-roots game is the same as it’s always been,” she said at her campaign office in a League City strip center.

The lawyer and former Pearland city councilwoman, a graduate of Texas A&M University and South Texas College of Law, said she has a more youthful outlook than her opponent.

“I’m 42 years old. He’s almost 60,” she said. “Nothing wrong with age differences, but it’s a different perspective.”

It is, or at least it can be. I don’t really expect that Harris would vote any differently than Weber – the story doesn’t mention any disagreements the two have on issues – so it’s all a matter of style. Weber’s style is apparently to only talk to people who already agree with him. Unclear if Harris is the same way or not, but I doubt she’d say otherwise in the heat of a primary runoff. Much better to vote for Nick Lampson in November and get someone who’d do his best to represent the whole district, wouldn’t you say?

CD36:

If neophyte political candidate Stephen Takach was unaware that politics ain’t beanbag, as the saying goes, he’s fully aware now, thanks to his Republican primary runoff experience in the newly created 36th Congressional District with an opponent whose campaign strategy is unorthodox, to say the least.

Steve Stockman, 55, who served one term in Congress in the 1990s, spurns most public events and candidate forums and rarely talks to news media. Instead, he has blanketed the East Texas district with fake tabloid newspapers emblazoned with such headlines as “Stephen Takach drove family friend into bankruptcy,” “Gunowners Furious as Takach sides with ‘gun grabbers’ ” (Sheila Jackson Lee, Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi) and “Takach smears Stockman for taking care of his Alzheimer’s-stricken father.”

Takach, 50, said last week that he mentioned in a mailing that Stockman had declared bankruptcy in 2002. According to the account in Stockman’s “Times Free Press,” the candidate had to declare bankruptcy because he quit work to tend to his father’s needs – ergo Takach was smearing Stockman for caring for his father, “a World War II veteran who served his country fighting the Nazis.”

“The people that know me are just livid,” Takach said. “They are so upset.”

[…]

Most of Takach’s positions are doctrinaire Republican: against the Affordable Care Act, against amnesty for undocumented immigrants, for traditional marriage, against abortion.

He pointed out that he and his opponent hold similar positions on a number of issues – issues that are closer today to the tea party-infused GOP mainstream than they were when Stockman was in Washington. Back then, Stockman supported a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, as does Takach.

What we learn: Being a better person does not necessarily make one a better Congressperson. As with CD14, and with every other Congressional Republican from Texas, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Takach and Stockman on the issues. Having not been raised by wolves, Takach will be less embarrassing, though even Steve Stockman may have a hard time outdoing Louie Gohmert these days. But that’s about all it means. Sadly, CD36 was drawn to elect a Republican, so there’s a decent chance Stockman will get his return engagement to Congress. You ought to get to know Max Martin anyway.

As of the end of early voting, no story has been written on the Democratic runoff in CD07. I know, it likely won’t matter in November, but if you wanted to highlight a race in which the two candidates did actually differ on some issues, and for which there’s been no lack of, um, material for a story, I don’t know how the Chron could overlook this one right in their own back yard. Finally, I have to agree with David Nir that the Democratic runoff in CD34 deserved a hell of a lot more attention than it has gotten. Unfortunately, I can’t claim to have done much about that, either. I sent Filemon Vela an email asking to do an interview way back when I first geared up for the May primaries and the Congressional districts had been settled, but he never replied. I didn’t try to contact Denise Saenz Blanchard, and once the May primary was over I was too busy and distracted to try either of them again for the runoff. I’ll try to reach the nominee for a November interview, but you know how it goes. The CD33 race has understandably gotten a ton of coverage, but this one should not have slipped under the radar.

Endorsement watch: An opponent for Culberson

The Chron gets around to another race it ignored in May, the Democratic primary in CD07.

The winner of the Democratic primary runoff for Texas’ U.S. House 7th District will face quite a battle against incumbent Rep. John Culberson on this comfortably Republican turf. Challengers for these sorts of safe seats have a dual duty: Try to win a race in unfriendly territory, but also lay groundwork to help future candidates. From that perspective, there is something to be said for Lissa Squires’ approach of taking the strongest position possible and unapologetically charging forward. But while her anti-corporate rhetoric may help rally the most liberal members of the Democratic base, it is neither a winning strategy nor the way to best represent Houston. But Squires’ moderate Democrat opponent, James Cargas, seems excellently suited to reflect the district’s energy industry.

[…]

In the midst of our natural gas boom, this founding member of the Oil Patch Democrats could be a strong voice for the Houston economy, showing that the oil and gas industry isn’t merely a Republican institution, but a broad and important economic driver that deserves attention from the entire political spectrum.

And even if he doesn’t win in the general election, putting forth a candidate like Cargas can remind voters in the district that there are plenty of Texas Democrats who support fracking, will bring federal grants to the Texas Medical Center, and put Houston before party.

I’m going to make the Arrogant Pundit’s Assumption that the bit about putting Houston before party is a reference to the one issue that interests me the most in this race, which is funding for Metro and the University line. You won’t find a more egregious example of putting petty partisan and personal interests ahead of the city’s needs than you will with Culberson’s neverending vendetta against the will of the voters. Since I criticized both candidates for their lack of noise about this, I am compelled to note that Cargas has been much more vocal about this lately. For reasons I can’t fathom given what a hanging curve this ought to be for any Democrat, Lissa Squiers still has nothing about this issue that I can find on her webpage or Facebook page. I don’t get it. I have no opinion on this race beyond that – I remain grateful that the redistricting gods have spared me from being “represented” by Culberson. I hope some day soon the rest of Houston will be so lucky.

Culberson’s Univesity Line attack makes it through the House

Great.

It's all on KBH now

Advocates of federally subsidized expansion of the Houston Metro light rail system lost a crucial round to Houston Congressman John Culberson on Friday, leaving dwindling opportunities to overturn spending restrictions on the Richmond Avenue project.

The House adopted a $51.6 billion spending measure on a 261-163 vote that included Culberson’s ban on federal spending for any Metro expansion along Richmond Avenue and Post Oak Boulevard. The measure also requires an in-depth audit of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County by the inspector general of the Department of Transportation.

In a boost for Metro, the spending package included $200 million in 2013 to support continued work on the lines in the North Corridor and Southeast Corridor.

[…]

The House vote left Metro supporters holding their fire and looking to deliberations by a House-Senate conference committee later this year to make the final decision on a ban included in the House bill but not included in the Senate version.

“We will await the outcome of the normal process in the House and Senate,” said Metro Chairman Gilbert Garcia. “We remain hopeful that Congress will respect the wishes of local voters on local issues, as is normally the case.”

Robin Holzer, of the pro-Metro Citizens Transportation Coalition, said voters and civic organizations have voiced strong support for light rail construction along both Richmond Avenue and Post Oak Boulevard.

“Culberson is pandering to a handful of his supporters at the long-term expense of this district,” Holzer said. “Marketing himself as “Letting Texans run Texas,” while pushing his personal anti-rail agenda in Washington is ironic.”

Retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, will be squarely in the middle of any House-Senate negotiations on Culberson’s spending restriction.

Point of clarification here, the CTC is pro-transit, not pro-Metro. If you don’t get the distinction, go look up some of the things Metro was doing when Frank Wilson was CEO. Despite Culberson loading up KBH’s office with his baloney about Metro and rail expansion, I think there’s a decent chance that KBH will do the right thing. But now would be a very good time to contact her office and let her know that she needs to step up and support transit in Houston. Call 713 653 3456 or 202 224 5922, send email from here, write on her Facebook wall, or send her a tweet. Be nice, be respectful, and be clear.

Long term, the only solution is to elect a new member of Congress. To that end, it would be nice if the two Democratic contenders for the nomination in CD07 could take a few minutes out of their busy schedule of sniping at each other and maybe put out a press release on this or something. It would also be nice if the business interests in Greenway Plaza that support the University Line would say something about this. Barring a significant change in the Congressional map resulting from the DC Court’s long-awaited ruling on redistricting, the best chance of getting an upgrade in CD07 is going to be in the Republican primary. That’s not going to happen as long as these folks refuse to rock the boat. Until we all get on the same page here, Culberson will continue his crusade to nullify the 2003 referendum and ensure Houston is unable to move forward as a competitive 21st century city.

Democratic results, Harris County

The good:

– Lane Lewis won a full term as HCDP Chair by a 55-45 margin. If you heard a whizzing noise this evening, it was the bullet we all dodged in this race.

– Sheriff Adrian Garcia easily won renomination with over 70% of the vote.

– State Reps. Garnet Coleman and Borris Miles won their races. We may finally have seen the last of Al Edwards.

– Sean Hammerle held off Dave Wilson in Commissioners Court Precinct 4. It was a close race, but the forces of good prevailed.

The bad:

– Jarvis Johnson, who finally held a campaign event during the first week of early voting, nearly won HCDE Position 6, Precinct 1 outright. A late surge by Erica Lee pushed him into a runoff. It’s not that I have anything against Johnson, but he didn’t lift a finger during this race and he was up against two much more qualified opponents. There’s nothing like being a familiar name in a race like this.

– Elaine Palmer drubbed Judge Steve Kirkland, winning over 60% of the vote. I’ll be honest, I had thought that Palmer and Keryl Douglas would win or lose together, but Douglas didn’t have much money, and really didn’t do that much campaigning. Palmer had plenty of money and it worked for her. I wonder if her financial backers will be there for her in November.

The ugly:

– Perennial candidate Lloyd Oliver became the heir apparent to Gene Kelly by defeating the vastly better qualified Zack Fertitta for the DA nomination. I just about threw up when I saw the early numbers, and they never got any better. Let this serve as a very painful example of what can happen when a good candidate doesn’t have enough money to raise his name ID up to the level of the barnacle that is running against him. You can assess the blame however you like for this debacle, all I know is that I will be skipping this race in November.

– If that isn’t bad enough, Kesha Rogers will once again be the “Democratic” nominee in CD22. KP George had an early lead based on a strong showing in Fort Bend County, but he lost in Harris and Brazoria, and that was enough. I don’t even know what to say.

The rest:

– Diane Trautman won the HCDE Position 3 At Large race against David Rosen. Traci Jensen scored a clean win in the three-way SBOE 6 primary. Dexter Smith won in SBOE 8.

– Rep. Alma Allen also successfully defended her seat, winning with 59% against Wanda Adams. Mary Ann Perez had a late burst to win the nomination in HD144 outright, while Gene Wu rode a strong early showing to the top spot in HD137. He garnered 44%, and will face Jamaal Smith, who had 23%, in the runoff.

– Lissa Squiers led the three-way race in CD07 with 40%. She will face James Cargas, who was second with 33%. Tawana Cadien will be the nominee in CD10.

– Incumbent JP Mike Parrott won re-election, as did incumbent Constables Ken Jones, Victor Trevino, and May Walker. In Constable Precinct 1, Alan Rosen and Cindy Vara-Leija will face off in overtime; Grady Castleberry had been running second but Vara-Leija overtook him late. In the Constable Precinct 2 cattle call, Zerick Guinn and Chris Diaz made the cut.

– Turnout was about 73,000, with almost exactly half of it coming on Election Day. Some people just don’t like voting early.

Interview with Lissa Squiers

Lissa Squiers

My next interview for CD07 is with Lissa Squiers. Squiers was a write-in candidate for this office in 2010 after deciding that incumbent Rep. John Culberson should not go unchallenged by a progressive. Squiers has been active with Occupy Houston, helped organize the “Response to The Response” rally that protested Rick Perry’s prayer-a-palooza at Reliant Stadium, and has been a close observer of the KSP chuckleheads. Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.