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Mario Gallegos

Wait, there’s another special Senate election coming up?

Yes, there is. And you thought (okay, I had thought) SD04 was the last election till November.

Robert Duncan

The field is taking shape for the special election next month in Senate District 28, with at least five people announcing they’re running to replace Robert Duncan, who stepped down to lead the Texas Tech University System.

The filing deadline was 5 p.m. Friday, and the secretary of state’s office plans to release an official list of candidates later this week. Among those who’ve said they’ve filed: Republican state Rep. Charles Perry; Jodey Arrington, a former Texas Tech official and adviser to President George W. Bush; former Sweetwater Mayor Greg Wortham, a Democrat; former state Rep. Delwin Jones, the Republican whom Perry unseated in 2010; and Wolfforth resident Epifanio Garza.

Perry and Arrington are the early favorites, with both men getting into the race relatively early and each heading into July with about $200,000 in the bank. They’re expected to vie for GOP voters, with Perry tapping the tea party support he received during his run for the state House.

Last month, Gov. Rick Perry announced the election will be held Sept. 9, surprising some local Republicans who assumed he’d schedule it for November. Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said he picked the earlier date to ensure the winner could be sworn in before the beginning of the legislative session, even if a runoff occurs.

“Senate District 28 will gain seniority this way,” said Carl Tepper, chairman of the Lubbock County Republican Party. “This gives our guy a little of an advantage heading in to the session.”

Remember how long it took Perry to get around to scheduling the SD06 special election after the death of Mario Gallegos? God forbid a Republican Senate seat should sit open one minute longer than necessary.

This is a Republican seat, but unlike in SD04 there is a Democrat running, and if you read this profile of Greg Wortham, you’ll agree that he’s a Democrat worth supporting. Bill White scored 28.74% in SD28 in 2010, which needless to say isn’t close to winning but which ought to be good enough to get into a runoff. I don’t know how active Battleground Texas is in Lubbock – unfortunately, a Google search of “Battleground Texas Lubbock” and a look at the Lubbock County Democratic Party webpage and Facebook page don’t provide much fodder for optimism – but to whatever extent they hope to gig turnout for Wendy Davis and the rest of the Democratic ticket in November, they have a great opportunity to field test their methods next month, in the service of maybe getting a good Democrat into a special election runoff. I hope they take advantage of it.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia

Sylvia Garcia has been sworn in to succeed the late Mario Gallegos in SD06.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia

Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, took her place in the Texas Senate chamber Monday to succeed the late Mario Gallegos.

“We have 31 members. We are complete,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said, “Mario would be proud of this moment.”

Garcia, who is the seventh woman serving in the current Senate, expressed her thanks to her family members and voters in brief remarks.

“I believe in short and sweet,” she said.

Monday afternoon, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst named her to the following committees: Government Organization, Intergovernmental Relations, Jurisprudence and Nominations.

Texpatriate, who has a photo of the swearing-in, was the first person I saw to report this. Congratulations, Sen. Sylvia Garcia. Go and do the great job everyone knows you will do.

Sylvia Garcia wins SD06 runoff

Congratulations, Sen.-elect Sylvia Garcia.

Sylvia Garcia

Former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia beat State Rep. Carol Alvarado in the runoff race for the Senate District 6 seat, according to preliminary results.

Garcia earned 53 percent of the vote, compared to Alvarado’s 47 percent with 95 percent of precincts counted, according to the Harris County Clerk.

Shortly after Saturday’s race Alvarado tweeted: “I go back to Austin on Monday, and I won’t skip a beat!”

Garcia told her followers: “I’m so proud that you chose to send me to the Texas Senate. I will never stop fighting for you!”


More than 17,500 voters cast ballots in the runoff.

The final total was just over 18,000 votes, of which a bit more than 9.500 were cast early. Both were improvements over the January election, with the runoff turnout exceeding Round One by nearly 2,000 votes. I’ll note that I called it on the higher turnout.

Now here’s the bad news:

Harris County has 10 days to canvass the results after Saturday’s contest, and Gov. Rick Perry’s office of has an additional four days. The winner cannot take her oath until the governor’s canvass, which means the victor will not be able to file any bills after taking office.

Cripes. After all this time, we still have to wait another two weeks for SD06 to be represented. If Sen.-elect Garcia were able to file bills, I’d recommend that her first would be to amend the special election procedure to allow for an immediate swearing in when a special election to fill a vacancy occurs during a session and there’s no question of a recount or other challenge to the election to fill that vacancy. I mean seriously, in a just world Garcia would be sworn in on Monday. Maybe one of her colleagues-to-be can file this legislation on her behalf, or perhaps Rep. Alvarado can do it as a gesture of letting bygones be bygones. In any event, congratulations and best wishes to Sen.-elect Garcia, and my thanks to Rep. Alvarado, who I’m glad to say will still be my State Rep, for her candidacy. PDiddie, who was following the results last night, has more.

Endorsement watch: Why not both?

I should have seen this coming.

[Sen. Mario] Gallegos’ passing opened the Senate District 6 seat after the deceased man polled 70 percent in the November general election against a Republican opponent. No fewer than eight candidates are seeking to replace him in the Jan. 26 special election.

From among that number, we encourage District 6 voters to cast a ballot for either state Rep. Carol Alvarado or Sylvia Garcia, a former Harris County commissioner and city controller. In our judgment, these two are best suited by experience and familiarity with the turf to represent a sprawling, geographically unwieldy district whose needs are many.

This is of course not the first time the Chron has gone the multiple-choice route. They made a dual endorsement in the 2009 Mayor’s race, and a three-way endorsement in the GOP primary for CD36 this year. As one who has proclaimed himself to be resolutely neutral in this race – which I can do since I now reside in SD15 – I suppose I can’t be too critical. I just wonder if and how they’ll break the tie in the likely event that both Garcia and Alvarado make it to the runoff.

Chron overview of SD06

The day before early voting begins in the SD06 special election (which is today), the Chron previews the race. It has a lot of stuff we already know, and it mostly focuses on the two frontrunners, Sylvia Garcia and Rep. Carol Alvarado, so I’m not going to recapitulate that. There are a couple of interesting tidbits that I want to mention.

With eight candidates in the race in an overwhelmingly Democratic district that includes Houston’s East End, the race is likely to come down to a battle between two prominent Democrats, state Rep. Carol Alvarado, whose House district overlaps much of the Senate district, and former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia.

Also running are R.W. Bray, the Republican candidate who lost to Gallegos last fall; Democrats Susan Delgado, Joaquin Martinez and Rodolfo “Rudy” Reyes; Republican Dorothy Olmos; and Green Party candidate Maria Selva.

If a runoff is needed – and with so many candidates, one is likely – it will be held between Feb. 23 and March 9, with Gov. Rick Perry scheduling the exact date.


Among the state’s 31 senate districts, this predominantly Hispanic district ranks last in the number of registered voters (284,000) and in 2012 voter turnout (138,000). [Rice poli sci prof Mark] Jones estimates that fewer than 1 in 10 registered voters and 1 in 25 district residents will cast a ballot.

While there have been a number of legislative special elections in recent years, there hasn’t been one like this, in a strongly Democratic district with two clear leaders and at least one Republican who will likely do better than the default background candidate rate. The closest match is the 2005 special election in HD143 in which Rep. Ana Hernandez was elected to succeed the late Rep. Joe Moreno. It’s not an exact match because there were no declared Republicans in the race, though one of the minor candidates was the same Dorothy Olmos who is running in this race (and has run in many others since 2005) as a Republican. Hernandez and runnerup Laura Salinas combined for 68.4% in that race, with four other candidates splitting the remaining 31.6%. PDiddie does some crunching to suggest a vote total that would win this race in the first round. I look at it this way: Assume Bray gets 15%, and the other five combine to take 10%. For either Garcia or Alvarado to win it on January 26, one would have to beat the other by at least 25 points, i.e., by at least a 50-25 margin, since 25% of the vote is already accounted for. Do you think that’s even remotely possible? I sure don’t. And if the non-Sylvia and Carol candidates combine for more of the vote, a first-round winner would need an even wider margin. Ain’t gonna happen.

As for the vote total that Jones predicts, here’s a look at the four most recent Senate special elections:

Dist Date Num Votes Top 2 ================================ 22 May 2010 4 29,851 81.47 17 Dec 2008 2 43,673 84.52 31 Jan 2004 7 69,415 66.27 01 Jan 2004 6 69,206 75.50

“Num” is the number of candidates, and “Top 2” is the combined percentage of the top two candidates. There was a runoff in each case, and I’m cheating a little with the SD17 special election – the vote total (“Votes”) is from the runoff, since the special election itself (which had 6 candidates) was on the date of the 2008 general election, and thus had the kind of turnout (223,295) one would expect for a regular Senate election. I don’t know how much you can extrapolate from all this, but you write your blog post with the data you have, not the data you wish you had. For what it’s worth, from chatting with the campaigns I’d say they’re expecting a slightly higher vote total than Jones is projecting. We’ll see.

One more thing:

If a runoff is needed – and with so many candidates, one is likely – it will be held between Feb. 23 and March 9, with Gov. Rick Perry scheduling the exact date.


Meanwhile, the district’s approximately 813,000 residents will be without representation in the state Senate until the latter half of March, when the newly elected senator will be sworn in.

I would think that if the runoff is no later than March 9 that the newly-elected Senator would be sworn in sooner than “the latter half of March”. I know there’s a canvass period for election results that can take a week or more before the result is certified, but does that hold everything up until it’s done? It’s not usually a consideration because we have elections in November and swearings-in in January, but obviously here it does matter. The statutes on elections to fill a legislative vacancy were not clear to me on this, and the last time we had a vacancy during a session (2005, when Rep. Moreno died in an auto accident), the ensuing special election was not called until November. Anyone have a good answer for this?

Trib overview of SD06 special election

For all the delays in getting this called, the special election in SD06 is one month from today. The Trib takes a look.

Sylvia Garcia

State Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat and former Harris County commissioner, are vying to replace state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston. Gallegos, the first Hispanic senator to represent Harris County, died Oct. 16 of complications associated with a 2007 liver transplant. Also in the race is R.W. Bray, a Republican who was defeated by Gallegos during the general election.


Alvarado said her experience in the House should sway voters.

Rep. Carol Alvarado

“I can talk about specifics because I have had two sessions,” she said.

Garcia, the former president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, also served as the comptroller for the city of Houston. She said that if legislative experience were essential to serving in the Senate, it would be required.

“If you’re trying to suggest that I don’t have experience because I am not a House member, well neither did Sens. Dan Patrick, Joan Huffman and a couple of others,” she said. “Neither did Barbara Jordan, but does that mean they weren’t qualified to be in the state Senate? Of course not.”

Alvarado, a two-term Texas House member and former member of the Houston city council, has the support of Gallegos’ family and of state House Black Caucus lawmakers, including Representatives Harold Dutton, Borris L. Miles and Senfronia Thompson. Senators Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, have also backed Alvarado.

Garcia’s support comes from key Hispanic Democrats in the Houston delegation, including Rep. Jessica Farrar, the House Democratic Caucus leader, and Reps. Ana Hernandez Luna and Armando Walle.

Note to story author Julian Aguilar and the Texas Trib editors: It’s Houston Controller, not comptroller. I don’t know what the difference is, either, but it’s there.

The filing deadline for this race is tomorrow at 5 PM. While the story says that RW Bray is in, as he has previously said he would be, as of Monday morning he had not yet filed. According to the Garcia campaign, the only candidates who had filed as of then are Garcia, Alvarado, and perennial candidate Dorothy Olmos. Other potential candidates besides Bray whose names I have heard include HCC Trustee Yolanda Navarro Flores, who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Gallegos in the 2004 primary; Maria Selva, the Green Party candidate in CD29 this year; an unnamed Libertarian; and Susan Delgado, Gallegos’ former mistress, who ran against him as a write-in in 2004 and a Libertarian in 2008. Wouldn’t that be special?

As of this publication, the 30 day finance reports are not up, so we don’t know yet how the two main competitors are doing on that front. I was unaware that Alvarado had secured the endorsements listed above for her – Garcia got a big splash early on when Reps. Farrar, Hernandez Luna, and Walle endorsed her. Basically, this is a Democratic primary, with all of the usual drama and family feuding that entails. I have interviews with Garcia and Alvarado that will be published the week of January 7, which is when early voting begins. If this remains a three-candidate race we could get a clear winner on January 26. The more candidates that do file, the more likely that this will go into overtime. We’ll know the answer to the first part of that soon enough.

And it begins in SD06

I’m only going to do this kind of post once, because I agree with Rick Noriega that the special election in SD06 needs to be about the issues and leadership, not just for that district but for the state as a whole. I understand that in an election where there are two well-qualified candidates who are essentially indistinguishable on matters of policy that personality and muckraking are going to be at the fore. I’ve been through a primary or two, I know how this goes. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, or to act as an amplifier for the charges and counter-charges. So let’s do this and get it over with, and get back to what matters:

Sylvia Garcia sent out a press release yesterday morning announcing that she would make available her tax returns going back to 1998 (her first year in elected office) and calling on Rep. Carol Alvarado to do the same, and also to disclose her consulting clients. The latter is a reference to this Patti Hart column, which reported that Rep. Alvarado earned $24K doing work for HISD on the bond referendum.

Rep. Alvarado subsequently sent out her own press release that echoed Noriega’s call for an issues-oriented campaign, promised that she “will make appropriate personal disclosures at the appropriate time”, and made an accusation of her own about Garcia not paying her taxes on time.

You can follow all the links and see what there is to see. I’m sure there will be more like this to come, but as I said I don’t plan to write about it if I can help it.

Precinct analysis: A closer look at the Latino districts

Here’s a more in-depth look at the Latino districts in Harris County. I’m particularly interested in the question of how President Obama did in comparison to the other Dems on the ballot, since as we know he lagged behind them in 2008, but we’ll see what else the data tells us.

CD29 Votes Pct ======================== Green 85,920 73.40 Garcia 81,353 73.29 Ryan 76,188 69.01 Trautman 75,904 68.97 Obama 75,464 66.60 Bennett 74,691 68.48 Petty 74,275 69.19 Hampton 73,917 67.97 Oliver 72,971 66.19 Henry 72,581 67.46 Sadler 71,382 64.73 08Obama 70,286 62.20 08Noriega 75,881 68.30 08Houston 73,493 67.70 SD06 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 95,602 73.28 Gallegos 93,136 70.94 Ryan 90,047 69.29 Trautman 89,853 69.31 Obama 89,584 67.14 Bennett 88,289 68.78 Petty 87,920 69.55 Hampton 87,456 68.37 Oliver 86,390 66.56 Henry 85,891 67.84 Sadler 84,671 65.26 08Obama 85,445 63.50 08Noriega 91,173 68.80 08Houston 88,565 68.30 HD140 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 17,674 76.57 Walle 18,297 75.67 Ryan 16,719 70.92 Trautman 16,653 72.89 Obama 16,548 70.74 Bennett 16,481 72.57 Petty 16,341 73.07 Hampton 16,225 71.63 Oliver 16,184 70.75 Henry 16,131 71.96 Sadler 15,668 68.64 08Obama 15,399 66.20 08Noriega 16,209 71.00 08Houston 15,967 71.00 HD143 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 22,258 74.89 Luna 21,844 72.94 Ryan 20,902 70.92 Trautman 20,731 70.57 Obama 20,597 67.82 Bennett 20,580 70.51 Petty 20,377 70.97 Hampton 20,335 69.97 Oliver 20,077 68.19 Henry 19,971 69.18 Sadler 19,597 66.40 08Obama 20,070 64.10 08Noriega 21,525 70.10 08Houston 21,130 70.20 HD144 Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 13,555 57.96 Ryan 12,668 53.96 Trautman 12,663 54.18 Perez 12,425 53.35 Bennett 12,382 53.63 Petty 12,328 54.27 Obama 12,281 51.47 Hampton 12,226 53.24 Oliver 11,966 51.07 Henry 11,919 52.49 Sadler 11,761 50.50 08Obama 11,983 48.00 08Noriega 13,197 53.60 08Houston 13,129 54.50 HD145 Votes Pct ======================== Alvarado 20,829 68.86 Garcia 19,180 67.67 Ryan 17,860 63.04 Trautman 17,886 63.30 Petty 17,254 63.03 Bennett 17,252 61.90 Hampton 17,154 61.85 Obama 17,890 61.13 Henry 16,624 60.63 Oliver 16,778 59.22 Sadler 16,655 58.79 08Obama 16,749 57.10 08Noriega 18,427 63.70 08Houston 17,315 61.70 HD148 Votes Pct ======================== Farrar 25,921 64.56 Garcia 23,776 63.87 Ryan 22,413 59.91 Trautman 22,199 59.77 Petty 21,013 58.89 Hampton 21,219 58.49 Obama 22,393 57.92 Bennett 21,061 57.80 Sadler 21,210 56.51 Henry 19,888 55.55 Oliver 19,848 53.34 08Obama 22,338 57.50 08Noriega 22,949 60.10 08Houston 21,887 59.20

My thoughts:

– First, a point of clarification: Reps. Armando Walle and Carol Alvarado were unopposed, while Rep. Jessica Farrar had only a Green Party opponent. In those cases, I used their percentage of the total vote. Also the 2008 vote percentages on the Texas Legislative Council site are only given to one decimal place, so I added the extra zero at the end to make everything line up.

– In 2008, there was a noticeable difference between the performance of Barack Obama and the rest of the Democratic ticket in Latino districts. Obama underperformed the Democratic average by several points, as you can see from the above totals. This year, in addition to the overall improvement that I’ve noted before, President Obama’s performance is more or less in line with his overall standing at the countywide level. Generally speaking, those who did better than he did overall also did better in these districts. Obama’s vote percentage is still a notch lower in general, but this is mostly a function of undervoting or third-party voting downballot. What all this suggests to me is that whatever issues Obama had with Latino voters in 2008, he did not have them in 2012. This is consistent with everything else we’d seen and been told up till now, but it’s still nice to have hard numbers to back it up.

– Paul Sadler’s issues, on the other hand, come into sharper relief here. We know that Ted Cruz got some crossover votes in Latino areas, though the total number of such votes was fairly small. I continue to believe that this has as much to do with Sadler’s lack of resources as anything, but if you want an even more in-depth look at the question, go read Greg.

It’s still Gene Green’s world. That’s all that needs to be said about that.

– I have to think that Mike Anderson left some votes on the table here. Some targeted mailers into these areas that highlighted some of Lloyd Oliver’s, ah, eccentricities, would likely have paid dividends. Didn’t matter in the end, but if it had you’d have to look at this as a missed opportunity.

Let the endorsement race begin!

We may not have a date for the SD06 special election, but that doesn’t mean the race hasn’t begun. In particular, the race to begin collecting endorsements has begun, and both major declared candidates have announced wins. Sylvia Garcia has the AFL-CIO on her side.

[Wednesday] Harris County AFL-CIO COPE Members met with Senate District 6 candidates and by a landslide voted to endorse Sylvia Garcia as the leader they know will fight for fair jobs, healthcare and education in Austin.

“Sylvia Garcia has been a strong supporter of working families’ issues from her days with the City of Houston to Commissioners Court. She has the experience and knowledge to represent the people of District 6 and will address critical needs like education and healthcare. Sylvia will be an outstanding Senator for the State of Texas,” said Richard Shaw, Harris County AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer.

Meanwhile, Carol Alvarado has the firefighters.

State Representative Carol Alvarado has received the backing of Houston Firefighters in her campaign for Texas State Senate District 6. She is running to succeed the late Senator Mario Gallegos, a former Houston Firefighter who passed away in October.

Alvarado has been endorsed by the Houston Professional Firefighters Association Local 341, which represents over 3,800 men and women who serve in the nation’s third largest fire department.

“I am honored to receive the support of Houston Firefighters,” Alvarado said. “These men and women put themselves on the line every day to protect the people of this community, and it means a great deal that they are supporting with me, particularly since Senator Gallegos was one of their own.”

“Mario Gallegos was our brother,” said Local 341 President Jeff Caynon. “While we still grieve his passing, we are proud to stand with Carol Alvarado to succeed him in the Senate. She is a strong advocate for firefighters and public safety and we believe she is the best candidate to continue Mario’s work.”

We have discussed the value of endorsements many times, and while that value varies with the race and the endorsement in question, they ought to be quite valuable in a special election like this one, since endorsements like these should translate into some number of votes from the members of the endorsing groups. Especially in a race where there’s hardly any difference between the candidates in terms of issues or record of public service, endorsements like these give people like me whose impression going in is that either candidate would be fine by them a reason to pick one over the other. Finally, if there are any other potential candidates out there still weighing their options, as Rick Noriega is said to be doing, the longer they take to decide the more of these they’ll miss out on, thus making it that much harder to win when and if they do jump in. It’s in both Sylvia Garcia’s and Carol Alvarado’s interest to keep the field small, or at least the field of candidates with a realistic path to victory.

When will we have that special election in SD06?

Sylvia Garcia would like to know.

Senate District 6 candidate Sylvia Garcia, today called on Governor Rick Perry to set an election date to fill the senate district seat as soon as possible.

“This is a simple taxation without representation issue,” Garcia said. “The working families of our district, most of whom are Latino and African American, deserve to have their voices heard in Austin without delay.”

“I have one thing to say to Governor Perry,” Garcia continued, “call this election now. The families of Senate District 6 deserve a strong voice in Austin for the legislative session that starts in January of 2013.”

According to published reports by the Houston Chronicle and Texas Tribune, Perry can set the special election for District 6 anytime between Dec 15, 2012 and February 5, 2012.

“The next legislative session begins in less than 2 months,” said City Council Member Ed Gonzalez. The legislature will be making decisions that impact our city and the citizens of Senate District 6. That is why it is so important that this election happens as soon as possible — the families of our district don’t have time to waste.”

Robert Miller helpfully laid out the timeline shortly after the regular election.

Gov. Perry must conduct the state canvas for the November 6 election no earlier than November 21 and no later than December 6. Sec. 67.012. After the canvas, Gov. Perry must call a special election within 20 days to fill the vacancy in SD 6. Texas Constitution Article III, Section 13.

Because the vacancy occurs within 60 days of the convening of the 83rd Legislature, the special election is an expedited election. Sec. 203.013. An expedited election must be held on a Tuesday or Saturday between 21 and 45 days after the date the election is ordered.


The following is my calculation of the earliest and the latest date for this decisive runoff.

Earliest scenario: If the canvas occurs November 21 and the Governor issues a writ of election the same day, the special election could be held Saturday, December 15. The local canvas could occur December 26, and the runoff election could be set for January 8.

Latest scenario: If the canvas occurs December 6, the Governor could issue the writ of election on December 26. The election could be called for February 5. If the local canvas then occurs February 15, the Governor could wait until March 6 to order a March 30 runoff election.

Summary: The SD 6 special election could occur as soon as December 15 or as late as February 5. The runoff could occur as soon as January 8 or as late as March 30.

The state canvass has not yet occurred as far as I can tell, which isn’t too surprising given that the 22nd was Thanksgiving. I have not seen any announcement about when it will occur, and with Secretary of State Hope Andrade stepping down as of Friday, my money is on a late canvass. I seriously doubt we will have this election before February 5, as Robert documents above.

Garcia and Alvarado and everyone they know

It’s not just Sylvia Garcia versus Carol Alvarado to succeed the late Sen. Mario Gallegos in SD06. It’s also everyone else that’s getting involved in the race.

In this corner…

Alvarado’s chief rival for the Senate seat is expected to be former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, who announced her candidacy last week. Garcia, 62, the first Hispanic woman elected to the court, served for eight years and was defeated for a third term in 2010. She and Alvarado are roughly equal in terms of name identification in the district and financial resources.

The contest has local officials already taking sides. Backing Garcia, an attorney and former social worker, are Alvarado’s fellow House members, state Reps. Armando Walle, Jessica Farrar and Ana Hernandez Luna.

And in this corner…

“Sylvia has never stopped working for us,” said Farrar, the House Democratic Caucus leader, in a statement.

A lifelong resident of the East End, Alvarado boasts endorsements from former Houston mayors Lee Brown and Bill White, state senators Rodney Ellis, of Houston, and Leticia Van de Putte, of San Antonio, and former Congressman Chris Bell, among others.

“Carol has lived in the district her entire life and never forgotten where she came from,” White said. “She is a tough, effective lawmaker who will represent her district and work to improve public education.”

At this point, it may already be easier to keep track of who has not taken a side than who has. Add in the fact that former State Rep. and 2008 candidate for US Senate Rick Noriega is also considering this race and it may become impossible to find a local Democratic official who isn’t on someone’s endorsement list. I’m thinking there may be a few awkward moments at holiday parties this year. The best thing that can happen is for this race to be held as quickly as possible, which of course means it won’t be since the timing is up to Rick Perry. Be that as it may, Robert Miller helpfully lays out the process and potential calendar for this event. Ready or not, here it comes.

It’s official: Sylvia vs Carol for SD06

It’s on.

Sylvia Garcia

Houston community advocate and longtime public servant Sylvia Garcia announced today she will run in the coming special election to represent Texas Senate District 6.

“I’ve been fighting for our community and our families for years in Houston and Southeast Harris County,” said Garcia, “and now I am ready to take our fight to Austin.” “Our neighborhoods need a State Senator who understands our priorities and our values,” Garcia continued.

“Rick Perry and his Tea Party allies have already cut nearly six billion dollars from public schools and fired thousands of teachers. Now Perry’s opposition to the new health care law means four hundred thousand people in Harris County could continue to be without health insurance. That is why I am running for Senate — to protect our schools, our jobs, and our families,” concluded Garcia.

“I have worked with Sylvia to improve the availability of health care in East Harris County,” said Representative Ana Hernandez Luna (Dist. 143). “She understands the issues, has the ability to work with others to achieve the goal, and the passion and energy to stay in the fight until the battle is won.”

“Sylvia has never stopped working for us,” said House Democratic Caucus Leader Jessica Farrar. “Serving as a social worker, attorney, city controller and county commissioner has provided her broad experience and solid relationships at all levels of governent. She is well equipped to fight against the special interests in Austin putting people first. Sylvia’s priorities of education, healthcare, and jobs are what strengthen families most.”

“You can trust Sylvia Garcia to say what she’ll do and do what she says,” said State Representative Armando Walle (Dist. 140). “Throughout her years of public service you have always been able to count on Sylvia’s word. She has the intellect, honesty, maturity professionalism and integrity we want in our representative in the Texas Senate. Someone our children can be proud of”.

“Make no mistake, Rick Perry and his cronies are not going to give up their disrespectful opposition to our President,” said Representative Garnet Coleman (Dist. 147). “They may have lost the election, but our community knows Perry will keep fighting our President’s efforts to improve our schools and health care. We need Sylvia Garcia to stand with us.”

The Republican who got 29% in November is also running, not that it matters. Note all the testimonials from State Reps, which among other things shows how big a family fight this is going to be. Let me say up front that I like, admire, and respect both Sylvia Garcia and Rep. Carol Alvarado, and that I think either of them would do an outstanding job as Senator. I’m also very glad that I was redistricted into SD15 so that I don’t have to choose one or the other in the voting booth. Best of luck to them both, and may the best woman win.

Succeeding Sen. Gallegos

With the posthumous victory by Sen. Mario Gallegos, there is still one unsettled matter for 2012 in Texas.

Sen. Mario Gallegos

Mario Gallegos, one of the Texas Senate’s most reliable liberals until his death last month, scored a final win Tuesday, easily defeating his Republican challenger after his name remained on the ballot.

Beleaguered Texas Democrats also withstood a spirited, well-funded challenge to Sen. Wendy Davis in the Fort Worth area. Nevertheless, Republicans will retain control of the Senate with a 19-12 advantage when it convenes in January.

The GOP targeted the Davis seat in an attempt to pull within a single vote of an unbreakable two-thirds majority. The Senate operates under a rule that requires the agreement of at least 21 senators for any bill to be brought up for debate during a regular session.


Gallegos, the first Hispanic elected to the state Senate from Harris County, died last month from complications of liver disease. Under Texas law, his name remained on the ballot because he died less than 74 days before the election.

Voters rallied around his candidacy, handing the longtime lawmaker a victory over Republican R.W. Bray in the heavily Democratic District 6, which covers east Harris County. The win by a dead incumbent was not unprecedented – in 2006, state Rep. Glenda Dawson, R-Pearland, was re-elected two months after dying from a brief illness.

Cynthia Gallegos, his youngest sister, said she had worked at polls all day and repeatedly answered the big question from people: Why vote for the late senator?

“Every person who came up to me was like, ‘Didn’t he die?’ ” she said. “I would bite my lip and explain the process. We want to keep the district Democratic.”

With the posthumous win by Gallegos, Gov. Rick Perry will declare the seat vacant and call for a special election to be held within 45 days, on a Tuesday or Saturday.

Possible Democratic candidates include state Rep. Carol Alvarado and former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia. At a victory party for Gallegos on Tuesday, Alvarado said she would wait a few days to discuss her plans.

“Tonight is about Mario, to savor his victory,” she said of the former firefighter who served 22 years in the state Legislature.

The win by Sen. Davis removes any incentive Rick Perry may have had to drag his feet on calling a special election to fill the vacancy in SD06. Which doesn’t mean he’ll snap to it, just that the practical effect in the Senate is minimized. If Rep. Alvarado runs and wins, there would then need to be another special election in HD145. I was going to say we’re getting way ahead of ourselves, but then this happened.

The morning after his posthumous victory party, the late state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, got his dying wish when his choice to succeed him announced her intention to seek the seat he held since 1994.

State Rep. Carol Alvarado, who was re-elected to her House seat without opposition Tuesday, announced her candidacy for the Senate seat in an email Wednesday.


Alvarado is expected to formally announce her candidacy at an event with members of Gallegos’ family on Monday.

Here’s the email. All I know is that I like both Rep. Alvarado and Sylvia Garcia, and I’m glad I was redistricted out of SD06 so I don’t have to choose between them. In the meantime, I salute Sen. Gallegos and his family for his life and his service, and once Perry gives the go-ahead I look forward to a worthy successor being elected to fill his seat in Austin.

Back to Basics polls SD06

We don’t know when a special election in SD06 to succeed the late Sen. Mario Gallegos would be, but Back to Basics says we should start preparing for one.

Sen. Mario Gallegos

According to a new poll commissioned and released by the Back to Basics PAC, the late Senator Mario Gallegos is well-positioned to receive a majority of the vote in the Senate District 6 general election, and longtime Harris County leader Sylvia Garcia is the strongest candidate to replace Gallegos in the yet-to-be-scheduled special election for the district.

“This survey shows a few key things,” said Jeff Rotkoff, a consultant to the Back to Basics PAC. “First, Harris County voters have a high awareness of Senator Gallegos’ tragic and untimely passing, and they are ready to honor his legacy by voting for him on November 6.”

“And second, Harris County Democrats have a strong candidate to hold this seat in Commissioner Sylvia Garcia. Whenever Governor Perry chooses to set the special election to fill Senator Gallegos’ vacancy, the ballot might as well read ‘Sylvia Garcia’ and ‘everybody else,’” Rotkoff concluded.

Back to Basics’ survey of 403 likely voters was fielded between October 23 and 25 by the respected polling firm Opinion Analysts. The results include a +/- 4.9% margin of error. Key findings are below.

You can see the full memo at the link above. I think their characterization of Garcia’s chances is, shall we say, exuberant. They show her up by 12 points over State Rep. Carol Alvarado in a hypothetical four-way race that includes two male Republicans, but only at 31%, which is still a long way from 50. Suffice it to say that there’s a lot that can happen between now and whenever Rick Perry deigns to call this election. Rep. Alvarado released a statement disputing B2B’s assessment of the race the day after the poll came out. I don’t have anything further to say about this till after Election Day.

More on Sen. Gallegos

For better or worse, we must discuss the politics of Sen. Mario Gallegos’ death this week. The first question to address is what happens next?

Sen. Mario Gallegos

Rich Parsons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Hope Andrade, this morning clarified the timing of a special election in state Senate District 6 if the late Mario Gallegos Jr. wins re-election posthumously.

Gallegos, 62, a Houston Democrat and retired firefighter, died Tuesday from complications of a liver transplant several years ago.

Explained Parsons:

Gallegos’s name cannot be removed from the November general election ballot because it is within 74 days of the election. If he wins on election day, the seat will be declared officially vacant, and Gov. Rick Perry will call an expedited special election to fill it.

It must be held within 21-45 days after Perry calls for the election, officials said, meaning the special election would be held sooner than the May date that Houston officials said late Tuesday was expected.

Gallegos is on the ballot with Republican R.W. Bray, who is considered a long-shot. If Bray should be elected, he will take the seat.

Here’s the relevant statute for why Sen. Gallegos will remain on the ballot. We had a similar situation in 2006 when State Rep. Glenda Dawson passed away in September. As was the case with Rep. Dawson, I fully expect Sen. Gallegos to win re-election and thus trigger a special election to replace him. The real question is when will that special election be? The Trib notes the math.

It’s not a swing district. President Obama got 63.5 percent of the vote in 2008. Republican Gov. Rick Perry got 31 percent in 2010. It’s not a race the Democrats were sweating.


Bray would be the 20th Republican in the 31-member Senate. If Democrat Wendy Davis of Fort Worth were to lose her hotly contested re-election race, Republican Mark Shelton would become the 21st Republican. That’s consequential: Under current rules, it takes consent from two-thirds of the senators to bring up legislation for consideration. With 21 senators, the Republicans would have two-thirds and, on partisan bills, enough votes to disregard the Democrats.

Here are the relevant laws for filling the office of a state legislator who has died. While I expect Sen. Gallegos to defeat Bray (a former staffer of CM Helena Brown, if you’re wondering where you heard that name before), it becomes critical if Sen. Wendy Davis does not win. If Sen. Gallegos wins re-election, then the Democrats will continue to have at least 11 Senators, which is enough for them to block legislation via the two thirds rule, or whatever is left of it when the Senate adopts its rules for the session. At least, they will have that many once the special election is settled, which if it is indeed expedited should be well before any serious votes come up. The important thing if you live in SD06 is that you still have a responsibility to vote for Sen. Gallegos.

At least, that’s how it would be until the special election is held to replace Sen. Gallegos, assuming that he wins in November. But here’s the thing – Rick Perry isn’t required to call the special election until the next uniform election date, which will be in May. Given the near certainty of a runoff in what will be a multi-candidate race, that means that SD06 would go unrepresented for the entire session. Which would be mighty convenient for the Republicans.

Now, Governor Perry does have the discretion to call an expedited election. That’s what he did in the case of Rep. Dawson – the special election to fill her seat came six weeks after the November election, with the ensuing runoff a month later, in plenty of time for all the action of that session. This stands in contrast to his actions in 2005, following the tragic death of State Rep. Joe Moreno, who was killed in an auto accident towards the end of the regular session. Perry called for the special election to replace him in November, despite subsequently calling two special sessions in the interim. What choice do you think he’ll make?

I know it’s distasteful to talk about this while we’re all still grieving the loss of Sen. Gallegos, but I know I’m not saying anything out loud that isn’t being said in private. We may as well be prepared for what is to come.

In the meantime, here are some more tributes to Sen. Gallegos, from Marc Campos, Stace Medellin, State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the Lone Star Project, and beneath the fold from SEIU Local 1.

UPDATE: Here’s information on the memorial services in Austin and Houston for Sen. Gallegos.

UPDATE: I clearly misread that Postcards story when I first saw it, and as such it renders my speculation moot. The election will take place earlier than May in the event Sen. Gallegos wins, and that’s what matters. All Democrats in SD06 need to remember that they must still vote for Sen. Gallegos so that they can then choose a proper successor. I apologize for the confusion.


RIP, Sen. Mario Gallegos

Sad news.

Sen. Mario Gallegos

State Sen. Mario Gallegos, 62, a Democratic lawmaker whose 22-year career in the Texas Legislature was marked by courage, controversy and dogged commitment to issues of importance to the Hispanic community, died Tuesday afternoon at Methodist Hospital in Houston from complications of liver disease.

Gallegos, the first Hispanic elected to the state Senate from Harris County, took a special interest in public education, minority hiring, criminal justice, redistricting and other issues he believed would have an effect on the lives of the predominantly working-class residents who made up the majority of his state Senate district.

“Sen. Gallegos had a long and dedicated record of service to the people of Houston, both as a firefighter and long-time member of the Texas legislature,” said Houston Mayor Annise Parker in a statement.

In 2007, only weeks after undergoing a liver transplant, a sick and weakened Gallegos ignored a doctor’s call to return to Houston and installed a hospital bed in the office of the Senate sergeant-at-arms so he could cast his vote against a bill requiring voters to show photo identification. Gallegos argued the bill would discriminate against minority voters.

Sen. Gallegos’ courage in 2007, literally putting his life on the line for something he believed in, is one of the most enduring and inspiring political acts of recent memory. I was his constituent since moving into the Heights in 1997, and I had the pleasure of interviewing him a couple of times, most recently in 2010. He was a fighter, a friend of the working man and woman, a trailblazer, and a stalwart defender of progressive values. I am one of many, many people who will miss him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

I have received numerous statements and tributes to Sen. Gallegos in my inbox, all of which you can see beneath the fold. Harold Cook, the Trib, PDiddie, Burka, and BOR have more. Rest in peace, Sen. Mario Gallegos.


Sen. Gallegos in “grave” condition


Sen. Mario Gallegos

State Sen. Mario V. Gallegos Jr., D-Houston, is in grave condition at Methodist Hospital in Houston, sources have confirmed.

“Senator Gallegos’ family is at his side during this difficult time, and they have asked me to respectfully request that they be allowed their privacy, so that they may devote their undivided attention to their loved one,” political consultant Harold Cook said in a statement.

It was unclear what prompted Gallego’s’ hospitalization, but the senator received a liver transplant in 2007. In 2006, Gallegos began treatment for alcoholism and learned he had cirrhosis of the liver.

A few weeks after receiving the transplant, the weakened senator installed a hospital bed in the office of the sergeant-at-arms in the Capitol, so he could cast a vote in opposition to a bill that would have required a photograph to vote. The Senate passed the bill last session.

“We are certainly very concerned about his condition and he’s certainly in our thoughts and prayers,” Harris County Democratic Party chairman Lane Lewis said.

As he is in mine. Get well soon, Sen. Gallegos.

Endorsement watch: Another critic on board

State Sen. Mario Gallegos sent out the following email on Monday:

Sen. Mario Gallegos

“The 2012 Bond Referendum will modernize outdated high school buildings and build new schools to meet students’ needs across the city. This proposal is a good investment that will create much needed new classrooms and improve safety and technology at campuses city-wide. Houston cannot expect to attract the best teachers or graduate top-notch, college-bound students if it has crumbling infrastructure in need of some major work–some of the schools are at least 40 years old. Therefore, I urge all voters to support this bond election,” said Senator Mario Gallegos.

Parents want the best for their children, and this bond plan is a step in the right direction. Senator Gallegos supports this investment in our children and our future in order to meet the growing demand for a skilled workforce. “Putting money into public education and our schools is never a wrong choice, and I look forward to seeing these improvements in Senate District 6,” said Senator Gallegos.

The plan replaces 20 high school buildings, partially replaces four and renovates four others. In addition, five elementary schools would be replaced with K-8 schools, three new elementary schools would be built and two middle schools would be rebuilt. Also, the proposed measure would include funds that would improve conditions for students in all HISD schools. Those proposals include: district-wide technology improvements, replacement of regional field houses and improvement of athletic facilities, and renovation of middle school restrooms.

(Details are available on the HISD bond website at

Sen. Gallegos has been one of the biggest critics of HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, going all the way back to Grier’s hiring. I figured that once State Rep. Sylvester Turner, the biggest critic of the 2007 referendum, endorsed this referendum, if anyone on the Democratic side was going to come out against it, it would have been Sen. Gallegos. Having him on board means that the bond advocates have as united a front as they could reasonably want. It’s good to see.

Bond concerns

Early reactions to the HISD bond proposal that was unveiled last week.

“I think in the long run any anti-tax opposition will make it a close race,” said state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, predicting that Hispanics could swing the vote.

Gallegos said he was worried about HISD’s timeline. The Houston Chronicle reported this month that HISD had not started construction as of late March on 40 percent of the projects stemming from the 2007 bond, but all were expected to be finished by 2014.


Gallegos said he could not support the plan as is, in part because he didn’t think it focused on schools that could see their enrollments boom as a result of President Barack Obama’s loosening of deportation rules.

Paul Bettencourt, a Harris County Republican Party Advisory Board member, said HISD should scale back its proposal. A $1.9 billion bond issue would be the largest for a Texas school district, according to The Bond Buyer newspaper.

The economy is fragile, Bettencourt said, and businesses will be hit harder by a tax hike because they don’t qualify for HISD’s optional homestead exemption, which reduces the taxable value of homes by 20 percent.

“This is a Titanic bond, and you hope it doesn’t hit an iceberg,” said Bettencourt, the former Harris County tax assessor-collector. “The problem from the economic conservative viewpoint is HISD has declining enrollment and that’s going to be an issue.”

Latinos were big supporters of the 2007 referendum, while African-American voters largely opposed it, on the grounds that they didn’t think they got much out of it and they didn’t think HISD did a good job communicating about it. This proposal was introduced a lot earlier, and so far no one is a firm No, so HISD starts out in a better place. As for Bettencourt, it’s nice to see that he has some official role to play in this other than Generic Cranky Republican Who Answers Reporters’ Phone Calls, but let’s be honest here: He’s not interested in supporting an HISD bond package, full stop. The tax rate increase, which wouldn’t kick in until 2014, is a convenient excuse for saying what he’d say anyway. The good news is that people like him are a minority of the electorate for HISD. If they can satisfy the concerns of their core audience, the bonds will pass regardless of what the Paul Bettencourts think.

HISD will not raise the tax rate

Instead, they will dip into their reserves to balance their $1.5 billion budget for this year.

The amount is about the same as last year, when the district reduced spending by approximately 5 percent to offset unprecedented state cuts.

Instead of seeking a tax increase – which the school board has been reluctant to embrace – [Superintendent Terry] Grier has recommended spending $9 million, or 3.5 percent, from savings next year.

“I would hate to arbitrarily raise taxes at this point when we don’t know what’s going to happen down the road,” said Mike Lunceford, president of the Houston Independent School District board.

HISD is one of about 600 districts suing the state, claiming funding is inadequate. Lunceford said he is hopeful that lawmakers will revise the school finance system next session.


[HISD Chief Financial Officer Melinda] Garrett said the district cannot continue to spend its fund balance. The account contains $257 million, about two months’ worth of operating expenses. HISD also plans to use $18 million from one-time federal jobs funding to close the budget shortfall.

“The district and the board will have to address how to balance this budget next year,” Garrett said.

The budget was adopted Thursday night. I’m sure the improved real estate market, which has led to higher property tax revenues and thus greatly eased the budget situation for entities like the city of Houston, enabled HISD to get close enough to balance to take this approach. A lot of the cost cutting they did last year – i.e., staff reductions – carry over as well. Still, as Garrett says, they can only go to their reserves for so much. Especially with a big bond package on the table for this year, they will need a healthy amount of reserves to ensure good bond ratings.

That bond package was unveiled Thursday as well, and unlike this year’s budget it will mean higher taxes down the line. Most of the focus will be on the high schools. You can see the details in School Zone and Hair Balls. The Board has not yet voted on Grier’s bond proposal, but there is some early opposition.

Trustee Juliet Stipeche criticized the plan for not including a new High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, her alma mater. Grier acknowledged the facility is lacking but said he wants to sell the valuable property on Dickson and find a new site.

Stipeche said she opposed changing the location, which is convenient to internships at downtown law firms and to students who transfer in from across the city.

State Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, made a special appearance at the board meeting Thursday night to tell trustees he did not support the bond proposal as is, particularly the slight to Law Enforcement.

You can’t have everything. I don’t think that’s sufficient reason to oppose the entire package, but by all means until such time as the board has voted on it anyone who is unhappy with some part of Grier’s proposal go ahead and fight to make it better as they see fit.

The alternative Commissioners Court map

Opponents of the proposed County Commissioners map have presented their version in the last public hearing on county redistricting.

Democrat Sylvia Garcia was Precinct 2 commissioner from 2002 until this year, having lost to Republican Jack Morman in last November’s elections. Garcia, State Sen. Mario Gallegos (D-Houston) and others helped draft the alternative map and organize opposition to the county consultants’ proposal.

That proposal, by attorney Gene Locke, of Andrews & Kurth, and Dick Murray, a University of Houston political scientist, adds a swath of reliably conservative northeast Harris County to Precinct 2. It also reduces the population of Hispanics in the precinct by about 3 percent from current levels.

Locke and Murray said the need to protect Precinct 1, a black opportunity district that shares a lengthy border with Precinct 2, forced Precinct 2 to add population to the north. Locke has said the Department of Justice will consider numerous factors in deciding whether the map complies with the Voting Rights Act, not just the 2010 Census data used to estimate current demographics in the precinct.

Greg has already shown that that’s not the case. The county’s map is about incumbent protection. Which I understand, but let’s not kid ourselves.

You can see the county’s proposed map here, and the Gallegos/Jara alternative map here. Incumbent protection is the big stumbling block.

Some political observers have questioned the political viability of this alternative, given that it draws Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Eversole, a Heights resident, out of his district.

Eversole “lives in the inner city and represents a suburban district,” Jara said. “It’s pretty hard to protect him without bringing in a peninsula of some sort and to just basically grab his house.”

The alternative map also turfs Morman out of his precinct; he would wind up in Precinct 4. Precincts 2 and 4 are on the same election schedule, however, so in theory Morman could run for reelection in 2014 regardless.

The Gallegos/Jara map is quite a bit different from the current map, and from the county’s proposed map, which makes a fairly minimal set of changes. If it looks vaguely familiar, I’ll refer you back to Greg’s initial takes on a new map, which do a lot of similar things. You’ll note that if Jerry Eversole were to do everyone a favor and ride off into the sunset – or the federal pokey – most of these problems solve themselves. Morman can become Commissioner For Life in precinct 4, Latinos can regain the representation they deserve, and we all live happily ever after. This is not an intractable problem, and the county can save itself a lot of time and money in litigation costs if it grabs the obvious answer that’s right in front of its nose. Eversole can even stay on the Court till his term ends in 2014, assuming the next jury cooperates. What’s not to like?

Is there or isn’t there a Latino opportunity precinct in the new Commissioners Court map?

Many Latinos say No.

“This map is an insult to the Latino community,” State Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, said at a public hearing Wednesday night. “The proposed map is full of the Christmas turkey.”

Gallegos called on Commissioner El Franco Lee, in whose Precinct 1 the hearing was held, to help him alter the proposed lines to protect Latino power in Precinct 2. Democrat Sylvia Garcia — who has helped Gallegos organize opposition to the map – held the Precinct 2 commissioner seat until she was ousted by Republican Jack Morman in last November’s election.

The proposed map, needing to add voters to Lee’s and Morman’s precincts to make the four districts roughly equal in population, gives Morman a bloc of reliably conservative voters in the northeast part of the county.

“The Latino community represents 40 percent of the population of Harris County, the Latino community represents 80 percent of the growth (in the last decade), yet the proposed map eliminates the only Latino precinct that we have,” said Rey Guerra of the Greater Houston Civic Coalition.


The goals of adding Hispanics to Precinct 2 and bolstering the black population in Precinct 1 can be accomplished at the same time, said political consultant and blogger Greg Wythe, of Outreach Strategists. Wythe said his own research and alternative maps being drafted by Latino leaders meet both aims.

“The argument that Precinct 1 can only be (changed) up to a certain point is very easily proven not to be true,” Wythe said.

Good to see Greg, who has been attending these hearings, get recognized as an expert. The key point that he has been raising is that while the new map may have more Latinos in Precinct 2 than the 2001 map did, it will have fewer than it did in 2010, and that this qualifies as retrogression. Other experts agree with that interpretation:

“In general, the racial data that is most relevant is the most recent Census data,” said Nathaniel Persily, an expert on the Voting Rights Act and a professor at Columbia Law School. “You look at the effect of the redistricting plan on minority voting power and say, ‘How much voting power do they have right now, and how does the proposed plan diminish it?’ ”

This question will ultimately be settled by people who know an infinite amount about the law than I do. What I know is numbers, but I don’t think you have to be a math whiz to realize that adding a bunch of folks from Kingwood into Precinct 2 will make it harder for anyone to give a competitive challenge to Jack Morman. What this map does is take a precinct that was already Republican-leaning and add more Republicans to it. Sylvia Garcia won this precinct in 2002 not because it was drawn to elect a Democrat. She won it despite the fact that it wasn’t. Don’t believe me, believe the numbers:

2002 Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 62,934 52.8 Kirk 59,478 49.5 Sanchez 59,808 48.8 Sharp 61,562 51.3 Watson 57,404 48.2 Bernsen 55,100 48.9 2006 Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Garcia (*) 68,375 100.0 Radnofsky 42,251 42.2 Bell 36,487 49.6 Alvarado 45,077 45.0 Gilbert 47,745 48.4 Hathcox 46,136 46.9 Moody 50,515 51.7 2010 Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Garcia 63,841 49.1 White 65,462 50.3 Chavez-T 54,879 43.1 Radnofsky 52,335 40.7 Gilbert 55,055 43.8 Weems 55,331 44.4 Sharp 56,418 44.6

Garcia was unopposed in 2006, so her numbers were inflated a bit by that. Chris Bell, of course, was in that weird multi-candidate race for Governor. All percentages above are straight D-versus-R, which is why Bell’s is higher than you’d otherwise expect. Only John Sharp in 2002, Bill Moody in 2006, and Bill White in 2010 carried it for the Democrats. (Margaret Mirabal, Democratic candidate for State Supreme Court in 2002, also carried Precinct 2 and actually received 42 more votes than Garcia. I don’t currently have data for non-state candidates, but it’s likely a couple of them also carried it, with Jim Sharp in 2006 being the most likely to have done so.) Point being, Precinct 2 was not Democratic leaning.

The difference between 2002 and 2010 largely boils down to this: There were about 10,000 more votes cast in Precinct 2 in 2010 than in 2002. Democratic candidates got about 3,000 votes less, Republicans got about 13,000 votes more. In fact, Johnny Isbell got 56,278 votes in 2002 (there was also a Libertarian candidate that year), while Morman got 66,148 last year. They both underperformed – the average Republican statewide candidate got around 60,000 votes in Precinct 2 in 2002, while the average Republican statewide candidate got about 70,000 votes in 2010. Sylvia Garcia drew votes away from each of them. That’s how she won, in reasonable comfort, in 2002, and nearly hung on despite a Cat 5 hurricane blowing against her, in 2010.

The question, then, is who are these voters that chose Sylvia Garcia but for the most part not other Democrats? We can’t know that with absolute certainty, but here’s a hypothesis for you: Latino Republicans. Latinos vote Republican in the 30 to 40% range, and there are plenty of Latino voters in Precinct 2; that’s what this fight is all about, after all. Given a choice between a well known Latina like Sylvia Garcia and a good ol’ boy like former Pasadena Mayor Isbell or no-name teabagger like Morman, I think it’s highly plausible that many of them might have gone with the former. If that’s the case, then the question of whether Latinos living in Precinct 2 would have the ability to elect the candidate of their choice, at least in a non-tsunami year, has an obvious answer of No, they do not. From there, what to do with the map should follow logically. We’ll see if Commissioners Court is persuaded by this or not. Rey Guerra has more.

(PS – Mirabal in 2002 ran against Republican Steven Wayne Smith, who had defeated the Perry-appointed Xavier Rodriguez in the Republican primary. Think she might have gotten some of the same crossover votes as Garcia in that election?)

Alternate Commissioners Court map proposed

Via BJP, here’s an alternate County Commissioners map, with accompanying data, to the one that was proposed to the Court two weeks ago. The map comes courtesy of Sylvia Garcia and Sen. Mario Gallegos, whose stated goal is to ensure that there’s a real Latino opportunity precinct. As Greg says, it’s an aggressive map – I’ll be very interested to see what the electoral data looks like – that goes a long way towards correcting the retrogression that exists in the initial proposal. Note how Kingwood is put back into Precinct 4 in this map, for instance. It’s hard to say how open the Court will be to this kind of feedback – Houston City Council made changes in response to public input, but the stakes here are quite a bit different – but you tend not to get what you don’t demand in politics, so we’ll see. If nothing else, demonstrating the viability of an alternate plan is necessary for any future litigation. Somos Tejanos has more, and more from Greg is here.

Sylvia and Mario

Last week, Robert Miller mentioned that there was talk that former County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia might challenge Sen. Mario Gallegos in the 2012 primary. PDiddie expanded on that, and the chatter eventually led to a denial from both politicians via their shared consultant, Dan McClung; Campos pooh-poohed the denial. So basically, believe what and who you want about this. If it’s going to happen, we’ll know soon enough.

What I know is that I’ve been redistricted out of SD06, so if it does come to pass, I won’t be forced to pick a side between two people I like. Sen. Gallegos has done a lot of good representing this district; he’s certainly voted as I would want him to most of the time. I have no doubt that Garcia would also do an excellent job if she were to be elected. Having said that, let me say this: Whether by his choice or not, if it is time for new blood in SD06, what I would prefer to see is some actual new blood. There are four young, talented, and (I hope) ambitious State Reps whose districts include parts of SD06: Jessica Farrar, Carol Alvarado, Ana Hernandez Luna, and Armando Walle. Farrar is now a senior member of the House – she was the Democratic Caucus Chair this past session and did a fine job under terrible circumstances – which is a good argument for her to stay put, but the others have no such constraint. If there’s going to be a change in SD06, this is where I’d go looking for it.

Again, I mean no disrespect at all to Sen. Gallegos, who as far as I know isn’t going anywhere, or Sylvia Garcia, who was an outstanding member of Commissioners Court and who I still think would make a great Harris County Tax Assessor. I just see this as a logical extension of the case for Joaquin Castro in CD35. I’ve yet to hear a single Democrat in Texas tell me lately that we’re doing just fine with what we’re doing now. Well, if change is what we want then a key aspect of that is to make way for the next generation of leaders. Sen. Mario Gallegos isn’t going to run statewide for anything, but Sen. Walle or Sen. Hernandez Luna or Sen. Alvarado might. Hell, if one of them were to succeed Sen. Gallegos in 2012, I’d start beating the drum for them as a statewide possibility in 2014. If we’re not thinking about this sort of thing, we’re setting ourselves up for failure in the future.

Nobody knows when Texas is going to turn blue. I think it’ll happen this decade, but beyond that it’s a straight up guess. There are a number of factors that will affect that, and one of them is the quality of the candidates we put on the ballot going forward. If there’s an opportunity to upgrade our bench, we need to take it. What exactly do we have to lose?

Plans from an alternate universe: Uresti and Gallegos

Continuing with the Redistricting Plans From An Alternate Universe series, we’ve seen the Veasey-West proposal, now here are two more from the Senate debate. First, we have Sen. Carlos Uresti, who presented an amendment to Plan C136 that was aimed at drawing a Hispanic opportunity district in the D/FW area. Here’s a look at that:

Plan C135 by Uresti

The gray blob in the middle is labeled CD33; you have to zoom in closer to see it in the viewer. It looks a lot like the MALDEF CD35 that was proposed back in April. Not sure why Uresti labeled his district CD33, but that’s not important. The point of this, of course, is to demonstrate that such a district could be drawn. At the time, some folks complained about how ugly the MALDEF CD35 was. All I can say is that it sure ain’t any uglier than the Seliger-Solomons CD35.

Sen. Uresti’s amendment was limited to the Metroplex. (He had another amendment to Plan C130 that contained these same districts plus proposals for CDs 25 and 1.) Sen. Mario Gallegos put forward a full statewide substitute, Plan C131. Here’s a look at his proposal for the Metroplex:

Plan C131 by Gallegos for DFW

Again, to my eyes, that looks a lot like the MALDEF district, only he calls it CD35 as well. Here’s his view of Central Texas:

Plan C131 Central Texas

Lloyd Doggett gets restored to CD10, while CD23 migrates in a similar fashion as the Veasey plan. Where the rubber really meets the road is in Harris County:

Plan C131 Harris County

Voila, a new Hispanic opportunity district in Harris County. You can bet your sweet bippy that will make an appearance in a lawsuit near you.

You may be wondering about that weird boundary between Gallegos’ proposed CD36 and CD29. Here’s a closeup view:

Plan C131 closeup

Yeah, not exactly a work of art, but it does keep the African-American neighborhoods on the north side together. Right now, a lot of Latino precincts are in CD18; in this plan, they get separated out into CDs 29 and 36. After what the GOP did to advance its goals, don’t come complaining to me about this kind of dark magic.

A spreadsheet with 2008 electoral data for the Gallegos plan is here. Here are the Obama and Houston numbers, with districts grouped by likelihood of being won by one party or the other:

Safe R Dist Obama Houston ======================= 01 30.40 37.01 02 34.61 41.93 03 37.38 36.80 04 29.28 37.55 05 35.37 40.18 07 35.87 35.62 08 26.88 30.91 11 23.20 28.77 13 22.24 27.48 14 32.34 36.63 19 26.96 31.73 21 36.75 35.19 22 38.64 40.40 25 28.78 31.69 26 35.09 35.21 34 33.94 36.48 Likely R Dist Obama Houston ======================= 06 43.06 44.93 12 40.91 41.54 17 40.08 43.59 24 41.17 40.74 31 42.61 42.47 32 43.31 43.66 Likely D Dist Obama Houston ======================= 29 58.10 59.58 33 53.77 57.56 Safe D Dist Obama Houston ======================= 09 69.62 69.60 10 63.60 59.96 15 56.11 60.48 16 64.73 66.90 18 70.21 69.45 20 63.65 64.38 23 59.06 60.00 27 57.39 60.80 28 58.50 61.43 30 74.76 75.04 35 66.20 67.89 36 60.71 65.59

Remember that district numbering varies between these two plans. Under the Gallegos plan, CD10 is Doggett’s district, CD36 is the Harris County Hispanic opportunity district, CD33 is in South Texas, CDs 25 and 34 are in Central Texas, north and east of Austin, respectively; I’d say CD34 is Mike McCaul’s district, and CD25 is “new”. I don’t really think CD29 is less than safe for the Dems, but by my basic rule of needing to be above 60% in each of the two categories it qualifies only as Likely. Note that the effect of creating CD36 is to make all other Harris County districts less Democratic, as you’d expect. CD33 is more competitive, though not all downballot Republicans topped 40% there. Gallegos puts extra Hispanic districts in Harris County, South Texas, and DFW but does not create a third minority opportunity district in the Metroplex. There’s still another variation to examine, and it’s not like either of these.

Calling for a Latino Congressional seat in Harris County

From the inbox:


HOUSTON – Recently, Houston area Hispanic community leaders successfully coalesced to unite behind State Senator Mario Gallegos’s efforts to create a second Hispanic opportunity Congressional district in Harris County. Senator Gallegos serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee charged with redrawing Congressional lines for the State of Texas. The growth in Hispanic population is the primary reason Texas will receive an additional four seats in United States Congress. Specifically, much of that growth occurred in Harris County and the ten-county region, with an increase in the population from 3.4 million to 4.1
million, or 20.3%, in the last 10 years.

Please join Harris County Hispanic leaders on Monday, May 2nd, as they unite to present a Resolution calling for the creation of a Hispanic opportunity district in Harris County.

This will be at noon on Monday at the HCDP headquarters, 1445 North Loop West, Suite 110. I will be very interested to see if they present a map to go along with their call for a new Latino Congressional seat. As we know, that could be tricky business, but a map is worth a thousand words. And even if they don’t get what they want from the Lege (which is what I would expect), demonstrating that it can be done will help any case they bring to the Justice Department and/or the courts. Be there and see what they have to say.

Teach For America grants

In other education and budget news, there’s this.

Texas lawmakers have ordered a study of Teach for America to help determine if the Peace Corps-like program, which recruits top college graduates to work in needy schools, is worth the state’s $8 million investment.

The evaluation, due to the Legislature by Jan. 31, could serve as a key discussion piece as lawmakers debate how to slash the state’s budget, with a shortfall estimated to top $20 billion.

There’s not much to say about this. The study is expected to be favorable to TFA, and no one quoted in the story argued against the grants per se, they just expressed concerns about how much bang is gotten for the buck in these tight times. To me, it’s all about the numbers. In the context of a $20 billion (or more) shortfall, $8 million doesn’t even qualify as chump change. Eight million is to 20 billion as four pennies are to a $100 bill. I guess you can say every little bit adds up, I’m just saying you’d need a hell of a lot of these little bits to add up to something meaningful. And in the meantime, while you’re talking about these little bits, you’re not talking about the really big cuts you’re going to have to make if you truly intend to close that gap without increasing revenues.

Whatever happened to renaming UH-Downtown?

It’s been more than two years since regents at UH-Downtown first proposed changing the school’s name to something that didn’t include “UH” in it. An attempt to get a bill through the Lege in 2009 failed, in part to there not being an accepted alternative. Earlier this year, a consulting firm proposed a couple of possible new names, “City University” and “Houston City University”, but nobody liked them. With another legislative session about to begin, it’s looking like nothing will change again.

State Sen. Mario Gallegos, who graduated from UH-Downtown and represents the campus, said he will sponsor a bill if his colleagues in the Legislature think it’s a good idea.

“If they say no, then no,” said Gallegos, a Houston Democrat who said he has heard mixed opinions from other alumni. “There’s no use in filing a bill if my colleagues aren’t going to be for it.”

Garnet Coleman and Jessica Farrar, Democrats who represent the campus in the House, say they have yet to be sold on the idea.

“I haven’t been convinced that taking the name University of Houston off is advantageous to the University of Houston-Downtown,” Coleman said. “The rationale that has been given for a name change just doesn’t compute, in my book.”

Farrar said she understands the reasons the university is seeking the change.

“But my concern was to make sure it’s what the university community wanted to do,” she said. “I don’t think it would be successful without that support.”

UH-Downtown President William Flores and Carroll Ray, chairwoman of the UH board of regents, insisted the issue isn’t dead.

“We’re trying to develop a next step,” said Flores, who inherited the idea when he was hired last year.

It may not be dead, but it sure sounds moribund. I think it’s pretty clear that in the absence of a true consensus for one specific alternative, UH-Downtown will continue to be UH-Downtown. Which is fine by me – I kind of liked “Houston Metropolitan University”, but there’s nothing really wrong with “UH-Downtown”. There’s an old saying in baseball that sometimes the best trade is the one you don’t make. Perhaps that applies here as well.

Interview with State Sen. Mario Gallegos

Sen. Mario Gallegos

State Sen. Mario Gallegos has represented Senate District 6, which is where I live, since 1994. A retired firefighter who served two terms in the House before being elected to the upper chamber, Sen. Gallegos has been a champion for labor, diversity, and the environment, among other things. He played a dramatic role in stopping voter ID legislation in the 2007 session by being in Austin against medical advice after a liver transplant, literally risking his life to ensure the Democrats in the Senate had enough votes to block voter ID legislation from coming to the floor. He’s also been the most prominent local critic of HISD Superintendent Terry Grier. Those were some of the things we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

Briefly noted

Some interesting things from today that I wanted to note…

There are plenty of people who want to be on the Appropriations Committee, so putting some who doesn’t want to be there, like State Rep. Joe Driver of Dallas, doesn’t make much sense. But once you’re on Appropriations, whether you wanted it or not, you ought to show up to the big budget meetings, what with the budget being such a big deal and all these days.

As you know, TFN will be live-blogging what may be the last clown show of some SBOE members’ careers. I expect the Texas Observer and the Trib to be there as well. If you want some preliminaries, you can attend TFN’s “Don’t White-Out Our History” rally, about which SBOE candidate Judy Jennings has more. You can also read Martha’s explanation of the Board’s agenda for the next few days.

The long-awaited Martinez-Fischer/Riddle debate finally took place. Rep. Martinez-Fischer declares victory and talks a little smack.

State Sen. Mario Gallegos writes another letter about HISD Superintendent Terry Grier.

Finally, a release from the HCDP:

On the recent episode of the PBS local series Red, White and Blue, Republican candidate for Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners was asked if he was concerned about getting the support of the Hispanic community after defeating incumbent Leo Vasquez. His answer concluded with the following – “I don’t have a problem with their (Hispanics) agenda except for trying to get benefits that may not have been earned.”

Below is a statement from State Representative Armando Walle:

“Mr. Sumner’s position that Hispanic families don’t work hard for what they earn is both ignorant and offensive but not the least bit surprising. With their inflammatory rhetoric and political agenda, Texas Republicans have made it clear there is no room for Hispanics in their Party.

Most recently, local Republican state representative Debbie Riddle announced plans to introduce a Texas version of the highly controversial and discriminatory Arizona immigration legislation.  And later this week in Austin, the extremist Republicans who control the State Board of Education will meet to finalize their plans to purge Tejano heroes who died at the Alamo from our children’s social studies books. Latinos have played a major role in shaping Texas’s rich culture and history, but local Republican politicians see our community as a pinata to score points with the far right wing of their party. This assault on our community is disrespectful, intolerant and will not be forgotten when Hispanics head to the polls in November.”

I think that about covers it.

Gallegos versus Grier

State Sen. Mario Gallegos is not a fan of HISD Superintendent Terry Grier. He has made this clear through two letters he has released. This one, from April 8, raises questions about Grier’s past record in other school districts, while this one to the Greater Houston Partnership, which he sent to me on Wednesday, is a more direct challenge, and ends as follows:

If Dr. Grier’s past track record is any indication of what is to be expected from the changes he is putting in place at HISD, then I must say there is reason for great concern. It is time for all of us to start thinking about what is in the best interest of our children. It is time to start looking for new effective leadership for HISD before it is too late.

I remain conflicted about Dr. Grier, mostly because I hear such a wide range of opinions about him when I ask others what they think of him. I believe he’s correctly identified the highest priority problems within HISD, such as the dropout rate, and I believe he’s gotten us all focused on them in a way that perhaps we haven’t been before. I also believe he’s brought up subjects that need to be discussed but will always be difficult to talk about, such as poor-performing teachers. We can and should have a vigorous debate about the best ways to deal with these issues, and I’m glad that’s happening. But there are legitimate questions about how some of these things are being done, and about how HISD has engaged the stakeholders in these conversations, and there are legitimate questions about Dr. Grier’s track record that deserve more scrutiny, especially if we’re going to follow down a path that others have already taken. I’ve not had the chance to research the specific charges that Sen. Gallegos makes in his GHP letter, but I hope to be able to in the coming weeks. By all means, if anyone reading this has some insights on any of it, let me know, via email or comments.

What it comes down to is this: The stakes are way too high to screw this up. Houston has a number of very good schools in it, and an unacceptable number of students who don’t make it all the way through them. Our population in the greater metropolitan area is relatively young and growing rapidly, and that’s a great opportunity to ensure its economic health and vitality for decades to come if we can successfully educate our children. We all basically know what to do to achieve this, we just have to do it. Some aspects of that are beyond the control of the school district, but we haven’t done a good job with those that are. I want Dr. Grier to succeed, in the sense that I want him to deliver on his promises to lower the dropout rate and improve performance across the board. If it becomes clear that he cannot, then we need to act sooner rather than later to correct that. It’s on the Trustees to hold Dr. Grier responsible, and it’s on all of us to hold the Trustees responsible.

I’ve sent Sen. Gallegos’ letter to HISD to ask if there is an official response from Dr. Grier to it, but as yet I have not heard anything. If and when I do, I’ll let you know.

HISD set to hire Grier

But not without some drama first.

The Houston school board is expected to officially hire Terry Grier as superintendent Thursday and offer him a multiyear contract that is likely to top $400,000 a year in salary and perks over time.

Three weeks of intense negotiations on the deal dragged into Wednesday evening, with trustees trying to ensure they didn’t end up repeating the costly deal they had with Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra, who stepped down last month.

Saavedra’s exit package cost taxpayers $978,967, according to the district. Much of the payout was for unused time off he had accrued over his career, plus extra vacation days the board granted him.

HISD Trustee Paula Harris said Saavedra’s contract served as a “lesson learned,” and this time around the board paid “a lot more attention to detail.”

“It’s a fair contract,” Harris said. “Both sides should be quite pleased.”

Harris said she expects the board to unanimously appoint Grier at its 5 p.m. meeting today — though state Sen. Mario Gallegos is threatening to derail the process.

Gallegos, D-Houston, said he is prepared to ask Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos’ office to investigate the school board for possible violations of the state’s open-meetings law.

He said he believes trustees unlawfully deliberated about Grier’s contract before naming him the lone finalist for superintendent last month, and he has requested documents from the district to try to prove his case.

“I’m serious about this,” said Gallegos, who sent a letter with his demands Tuesday to HISD’s outside counsel, Chris Gilbert. “I believe the public was shut out.”

I doubt Sen. Gallegos will get any joy out of this, but as one who’s on record opposing the secret superintendent search, I am interested in seeing what he finds out. I do think the Board should have been more open, and if they say that makes their job of finding superintendents too hard, then it’s on them to lobby the Lege to write a new law that explicitly allows them to do it their way. I hope in the end that Dr. Grier will be such a success that all of this will some day be looked back on as a mere trifle, but in the meantime we ought to know if all the rules were followed in hiring him.

What happens now in HCC District 8?

As we know, after the filing-deadline shenanigans in the HCC Trustee District 8 race, brother-in-law candidate Arturo Aguilar said he was withdrawing from the ballot. As I noted at the time, that meant there were no other candidates who had filed before the deadline for that office. The question is what happens in that race?

First, are we sure that Aguilar can withdraw? If this were an even-numbered year and a partisan race, the answer would be No, as that deadline would be 74 days before the election. However, in this kind of race, Section 145.092 of the Elections Code applies:

Sec. 145.092. DEADLINE FOR WITHDRAWAL. (a) Except as otherwise provided by this section, a candidate may not withdraw from an election after 5 p.m. of the second day before the beginning of early voting by personal appearance.

(b) A candidate in an election for which the filing deadline for an application for a place on the ballot is not later than 5 p.m. of the 62nd day before election day may not withdraw from the election after 5 p.m. of the 53rd day before election day.

That makes the deadline to withdraw this Friday, September 11. Let’s assume Aguilar does so, if he hasn’t already.

Now again, if this were a general election for state or county office, and given that Aguilar’s was the only name on the ballot, there would be a prescribed procedure for replacing him; basically, the chairs of the county Republican and Democratic Parties would choose a replacement nominee by whatever internal process they have. Note that this only applies in the event of an otherwise uncontested race – had there been more than one candidate, then no replacements are chosen and whoever else was nominated from the other parties would duke it out. This was the Tom DeLay story in 2006.

But this isn’t that kind of an election. Here’s what the law says about Aguilar’s withdrawal, in Section 145.094:

Sec. 145.094. WITHDRAWN, DECEASED, OR INELIGIBLE CANDIDATE’S NAME OMITTED FROM BALLOT. (a) The name of a candidate shall be omitted from the ballot if the candidate:

(1) dies before the second day before the date of the deadline for filing the candidate’s application for a place on the ballot;

(2) withdraws or is declared ineligible before 5 p.m. of the second day before the beginning of early voting by personal appearance, in an election subject to Section 145.092(a);

(3) withdraws or is declared ineligible before 5 p.m. of the 53rd day before election day, in an election subject to Section 145.092(b); or

(4) withdraws or is declared ineligible before 5 p.m. of the 67th day before election day, in an election subject to Section 145.092(f).

145.092(b) is what applies here, so Aguilar’s name will not appear on the ballot. So far, so good, but that’s only half of the question. I do not see any statute that specifies a replacement procedure in the event that a candidate’s withdrawal leaves nobody on the ballot. So, given that Aguilar was the only candidate that filed on time, what happens if he withdraws? I can think of two possible explanations, assuming my interpretation of the law is correct up to this point:

1. There is no election for HCC Trustee in District 8, because there are no candidates on the ballot. In this case, I presume that once Abel Davila’s term expires, a vacancy will then be declared and a special election will be set, presumably for the next uniform election date in May of 2010. Which, given the possibility a special election to fill KBH’s Senate seat at the same time, could make that one of the more interesting special elections for an otherwise obscure office ever held. You know that I think that possibility is highly unlikely, but it could happen, so I mention it here.

2. The election takes place with no candidates appearing on the ballot, but with the option to write in a candidate’s name. According to Section 146.054, the deadline to file a declaration of write-in candidacy is “not later than 5 p.m. of the fifth day after the date an application for a place on the ballot is required to be filed”. I asked Hector DeLeon in the County Clerk’s office about this, and he confirmed my assumption that this means the fifth business day, and not fifth calendar day (which would have made the deadline 5 PM on Labor Day), in which case the deadline is 5 PM tomorrow, September 10. I presume Eva Loredo has filed her declaration of intent; I wonder if anyone else has.

I strongly suspect that option #2 is what will actually happen. I have a call in to the Secretary of State’s office to inquire about it. I’ll post an update when I get a response. Frankly, I don’t find either of these alternatives to be particularly appealing. The former allows for a real election, at the cost of up to six months’ vacancy of the office plus the financial cost of running the election, while the latter is basically a freak occurrence that will allow someone to be elected with a tiny minority of the total votes cast, but at least fills the seat in a timely fashion and saves the expense of a special election. Note here that since the deadline to file a declaration of intent to run as a write-in is Thursday, and the deadline to withdraw is Friday, we could theoretically wind up with a situation where there’s no candidate on the ballot and no write-in option. The only way out of that, as far as I can see, is scenario #1 above. There has to be a better way. Clearly, when Sen. Gallegos and his colleagues return to Austin in 2011, they’ll need to address this situation as well when they tweak the law to allow for an extension of the filing deadline when a to-be-unopposed candidate decides on the last day to not run.

So that’s my reading of this situation. If I’m incorrect about any of this, I hope someone will leave a comment and set me straight. As I said, when I hear back from the SOS, I’ll post an update.

Aguilar drops out of HCC Trustee race

I’m guessing the backlash for being a last minute candidate who also happens to be the brother-in-law of the suddenly-stepping-down incumbent must have been pretty strong, because Arturo Aguilar has decided to withdraw from the HCC Trustee race in District 8.

For all everyone knew, Abel Davila was planning to run for re-election to the Houston Community College Board of Trustees, which he serves as chairman.

That’s what he had told supporters and fellow officeholders, and that seemed to explain why he paid $30,000 for five prominent billboards featuring a photo of him and his wife, a Houston ISD trustee, along with the slogan “Partnering for Success.”

He had more than $50,000 in his campaign account as of the latest July accounting — a significant amount for a non-partisan, down-ballot race — and he had the support of other elected and community leaders.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot. Davila never signed up. So when the deadline passed on Wednesday afternoon, the only candidate in the race for the District 8 spot was Arturo Aguilar, who submitted his ballot application 19 minutes before the cutoff.

Aguilar is the brother of Diana Davila, Abel’s wife. But Friday afternoon, the 34-year-old police officer said he is going to withdraw from the race. He did not explain why.

“It’s not in my best interest for me to run,” Aguilar said. “I don’t really want to say more than that. I will leave it as an open seat for those who are more interested.”

Oh, I think we know why Aguilar changed his mind. The rest of the story is quotes from State Sen. Mario Gallegos and the revelation of Eva Loredo as a write-in candidate, both of which I reported yesterday. What is not answered in this story is 1) does this mean Aguilar will not appear on the ballot; and 2) if so, can someone else be added, and under what procedures? I presume that if Aguilar’s name cannot be removed from the ballot that he intends to not take office, in which case there would be a special election to fill the seat. Perhaps some of Abel Davila’s no-longer-needed campaign funds can be used to help pay for that special election if that happens. Does anybody know what the relevant law is regarding who can be on the ballot for this situation?