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Mike Jackson

GOP results, statewide

Full, though not necessarily the most up to date, results, are here. The Trib and the Observer have good roundups as well.

– Mitt. Yawn. He was at just under 70% statewide, with Ron Paul getting 11% and Rick Santorum 8%. You have to wonder what might have been if Santorum had held on through May.

– Dewhurst and Cruz in a runoff, with the Dew getting 45% to Cruz’s 33%. I will not be taking bets on the outcome of that one. Tom Leppert had 13% and Craig James – cue the sad trombone – was below 4%. Why did he get in this race again? And did he really think he had crossover appeal? Geez.

(UPDATE: Mike Baselice, Dewhurst’s pollster, says every Republican candidate with over 43 percent going into a statewide runoff during the last 20 years has gone on to win. So Cruz may as well go ahead and concede now, right?)

– Christi Craddick and Warren Chisum will go into overtime for Railroad Commissioner, as will Barry Smitherman against Greg Parker. Supreme Court Justice David Medina got less than 40% in a three-way race and will face the will-he-never-go-away? candidate John Devine.

– All incumbent Congressfolk easily won re-nomination, with Campaign for Primary Accountability targets Ralph Hall (59%) and Joe Barton (63%) not particularly bothered. Kenny Marchant in CD24 was on some people’s watch lists as well, but he got 68% in his race. The two open seats for which the GOP is heavily favored in November were interesting. Roger Williams will duke it out with somebody, most likely Wes Riddle as I write this. Michael Williams was a total dud, finishing with just over 10% and in fifth place. Over in CD36, what in the world happened to Mike Jackson? Steve Stockman (!) and somebody named Steve Takach were neck and neck for the runoff slot. The other open seat, CD14, saw Pearlanders Randy Weber and Felicia Harris make it to the second round.

– The first signs of carnage are in the SBOE races. David Bradley, Barbara Cargill, and thankfully Thomas Ratliff all won, but George Clayton was headed to a third place finish in his four way race – Geraldine Miller, whom Clayton knocked off in a 2010 shocker, was leading the pack – and in a race that sure wasn’t on my radar, SBOE Chair Gail Lowe lost to Sue Melton. Where did that come from? The open SBOE 15 seat to replace Bob Craig was the closest race, with Marty Rowley leading Parent PAC-backed Anette Carlisle by 2000 votes.

– State Sen. Jeff Wentworth will have to keep running in SD25, as he had about 36% of the vote with 75% of precincts in. His opponent in July, in a blow to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, will not be Elizabeth Ames Jones, however, as Donna Campbell took for second place. I hope Wentworth can do better in overtime, because Campbell would make the Senate even dumber than Ames Jones would have. Former State Reps. Kelly Hancock (SD09), Mark Shelton (SD10, opposing Wendy Davis), Larry Taylor (SD11), and Charles Schwertner (SD05) all won the right to get a promotion in November.

– It’s in the State House that the body count begins to pile up. The following incumbents lost their races:

Leo Berman (HD06)
Wayne Christian (HD09)
Rob Eissler (HD15)
Mike Hamilton (HD19)
Marva Beck (HD57)
Barbara Nash (HD93)
Vicki Truitt (HD98)

Hamilton was paired with James White. Eissler was the chair of the Public Education committee. With Scott Hochberg retiring, that’s going to put a lot of pressure on two new people next year. And no, Eissler wasn’t beaten by someone who wanted to make public education better. Eissler didn’t distinguish himself last session in my opinion, but this is not an upgrade.

Incumbents in runoffs:

Turncoat Chuck Hopson (HD11, 47.15% to Travis Clardy’s 46.30%)
Turncoat JM Lozano (HD43, 41.55% to Bill Wilson’s 44.38% but with only 42 of 69 precincts reporting)
Sid Miller (HD59, 42.48% to JD Sheffield’s 41.50%)
Jim Landtroop (HD88, 34.63% in a four way race to Ken King’s 30.08% with two precincts out)

Speaker Joe Straus easily survived his re-election bid and picked up an opponent for Speaker before the first vote was counted.

– The Parent PAC slate had mixed results:

Texas Senate

S.D. 9: Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless – Lost
S.D. 11: Dave Norman, R-Seabrook – Lost
S.D. 25: Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio – Runoff

Texas House of Representatives

H.D. 2: George Alexander, R-Greenville – Lost
H.D. 3: Cecil Bell, Jr., R-Magnolia – Won
H.D. 5: Mary Lookadoo, R-Mineola – Lost
H.D. 7: Tommy Merritt, R-Longview – Lost
H.D. 9: Chris Paddie, R-Marshall – Won
H.D. 24: Dr. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood – Leading, in runoff
H.D. 29: Ed Thompson, R-Pearland – Won
H.D. 57: Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin – Won
H.D. 59: Dr. J.D. Sheffield, R-Gatesville – In runoff
H.D. 68: Trent McKnight, R-Throckmorton – Leading, in runoff
H.D. 74: Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass – Winning as of last report
H.D. 92: Roger Fisher, R-Bedford – Lost
H.D. 94: Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington – Won
H.D. 96: Mike Leyman, R-Mansfield – Lost
H.D. 97: Susan Todd, R-Fort Worth – Lost
H.D. 106: Amber Fulton, R-The Colony – Lost
H.D. 114: Jason Villalba, R-Dallas – In runoff
H.D. 115: Bennett Ratliff, R-Coppell – In runoff
H.D. 125: Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio – Won
H.D. 138: Whet Smith, R-Houston – Lost
H.D. 150: James Wilson, R-Spring – Lost

State Board of Education

SBOE 7: Rita Ashley, R-Beaumont – Lost
SBOE 9: Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant – Won
SBOE 15: Anette Carlisle, R-Amarillo – Lost

Unclear to me at this time if this is a net gain, a net loss, or a wash.

– David Bradley won his race, but Williamson County DA John Bradley was trailing as votes slowly trickled in. If that holds, it’s one of the best results of the day.

– Turnout was likely to be around 1.5 million, which will be a bit better for them than 2008 was (1,362,322 votes in the Presidential primary). Clearly, the Senate race drove their turnout. In 2004, they had less than 700,000 votes total.

(UPDATE: Total votes cast in the Presidential race were 1,438,553.)

On to the Democrats…

Four Congressional stories

CD27:

It’s a relatively unknown field of hopefuls trying to unseat incumbent Republican Blake Farenthold in the newly configured U.S. House District 27, an area that stretches from Bastrop County south to Nueces County.

The field includes former Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald — well-known in Central Texas but not in the most populous part of the district. His three opponents in the Democratic primary — Rose Meza Harrison, Murphy Junaid and Jerry Trevino — are from Corpus Christi, where Farenthold also resides.

The primary election is May 29. Early voting began Monday.

“I’m known in Bastrop, Caldwell and Gonzales counties, so I’m campaigning 24/7,” said McDonald, 41, who served 14 years as Bastrop County’s top administrator and led the county through its worst natural disaster, the wildfires last September.

McDonald is not fazed by his underdog status. No one gave him a chance when he became a county judge at age 27. He did it by going from door to door, which is his strategy again.

“This is not about connecting with people for their vote but about connecting to get to the heart of the people and find out what is important to them,” he said. He points to his experience in balancing a county budget and working across party lines to do that.

Other than one quote from the dimwitted incumbent Farenthold, that’s all you get from the candidates themselves. Several paragraphs are dedicated to stuff from outside experts who discuss how the district isn’t particularly competitive. Maybe so, but it still would have been nice to hear from the people who are running for the seat. I’ve said that before, haven’t I? You can hear from Ronnie McDonald in the interview I did with him here, and from Rose Meza Harrison here. I didn’t get to interview Jerry Trevino, but he picked up the endorsement of the Corpus Christi Caller.

CD23:

The winner of a three-way primary between Ciro Rodriguez, Pete Gallego and John Bustamante will become the Democrat’s best hope to unseat Republican Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco with strong GOP backing this fall.

“This is a must-win race for Democrats. The stakes are very high,” said David Wasserman, a political analyst with The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter.

[…]

Rodriguez is mired in a close race with Gallego, a popular state representative from Alpine and the favorite of the Democratic establishment that financially supports his campaign.

Bustamante, a patent lawyer and son of former U.S. Rep. Albert Bustamante, D-San Antonio, who represented the district in the 1980s and 90s, also is seeking the Democratic nomination.

The race tightened in the closing weeks, said Larry Hufford, a professor at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.

“It certainly could go either way. It depends on turnout and where the turnout is,” Hufford said.

Rodriguez’s strength is San Antonio and Eagle Pass; Gallego’s is in the western reaches of the district that he has represented in the state House for more than 20 years.

Hufford would not rule out a runoff. “The wild card is Bustamante,” he said.

I’ve heard that Bustamante has been pretty impressive out on the trail. In a world where I had more time and more certainty about who would respond to my emails and when, I’d have tried to contact him for an interview. My interview with Pete Gallego is here and with Ciro Rodriguez is here. The story notes that Rodriguez has been under attack from environmental groups for a vote he cast in 2009; that may have an effect on the outcome as well.

CD35:

“I am giving it my all to turn out more votes, but much more help is needed. We face a perfect storm of less than 2 percent voter participation resulting from Rick Perry’s redistricting scheme, recent local elections and the Memorial Day weekend,” [Rep. Lloyd] Doggett said in a statement. “I run every race like I’m 10 points behind, and I will be unless more folks vote and volunteer to help.”

In the challenging race for the Austin-to-San Antonio district, Doggett is running in a new, majority Hispanic district against Bexar County Tax Assessor-Collector Sylvia Romo, a Latina politician who has been in public life in Bexar County for 20 years. Furthermore, Doggett is seeking votes from hundreds of thousands of citizens he has never represented.

Walter Clark Wilson, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Texas-San Antonio, said Doggett’s efforts show he’s taking seriously the primary race for District 35, one of four congressional districts that were created in Texas to reflect population growth and to allow Hispanics to elect the candidate of their choice.

“It would make sense that Lloyd would dip into his significant war chest for this particular race,” Wilson said.

It also makes sense that he’d spend the majority of his time courting the party establishment in South Texas. Doggett, 65, has won the support of South Texas insiders and union members, who are expected to help turn out voters for him, Wilson said.

According to Federal Elections Commission reports, Doggett has pulled in more than $1.1 million since the race began.

Romo, who got into the contest later, has raised $60,800. Maria Luisa Alvarado, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor as a Democrat in 2006, has raised only about $5,000.

Romo, 69, has spent about $47,000; Doggett has spent $1.1 million.

Harold Cook, for one, thinks that turnout so far is not favorable to Doggett. I guess that depends on how well he’s been doing in Bexar County and other points south of Austin. My interview with Sylvia Romo is here; as you know, I was never able to get an appointment to talk with Doggett. I’ll try again for the general election if he survives the primary.

CD36:

Former Congressman Steve Stockman has a question for Republican voters in the new 36th Congressional District: “Would you eat at a restaurant that had to pay people to say nice things about it?”

Probably not, assumes Stockman, a GOP candidate for the congressional district that runs from the Louisiana state line into southeast Harris County. In a similar vein, he encourages voters who receive a voter guide or sample ballot in the mail to toss it in the trash, saying on his website that it is from “a liberal group using a Republican name that charged liberal candidates money for their endorsement.”

Stockman is alluding to the front-runner and best-known name in the race, state Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, who is among the more conservative lawmakers in Austin.

Ah, Steve Stockman. He was crazy before crazy was cool. For those of you who don’t remember the 90s or weren’t here to experience his particular brand of nuttiness, let me take you through a stroll of the Houston Press archives for a taste of how things were. It’s just a shame that Stockman isn’t running in CD14, because a rematch with Nick Lampson, who mercifully ended Stockman’s Congressional career back in 1996, would be too awesome for words. An interview with Democratic candidate Max Martin is on my to do list for November.

Endorsement watch: Three’s company

It’s not uncommon to see dual endorsements in multi-candidate races. Even the Chron did one for the 2009 Mayor’s race. But this is the first time I can ever recall seeing a three-way endorsement.

The creation of District 36 has attracted a field of candidates on the Republican side comparable in number to an event such as the Kentucky Derby. A few have held or now hold public office, but many of the 12 candidates on the GOP primary ballot are political newcomers. Given the sheer number of candidates making this race, a runoff seems likely. That being the case, we recommend District 36 voters’ consideration of the following three candidates:

[…]

We encourage District 36 voters to give consideration to state Sen. Mike Jackson, Kim Morrell and Ky D. Griffin in the Republican primary.

Seriously? They couldn’t even narrow it down to Jackson and whoever they thought was most likely to make it to a runoff with him? Why even bother? Better to just wait for the runoff, if one happens, and pick from the two finalists. I don’t see how this helps anyone make a choice.

On a side note, Campos has an update on the Chron’s endorsement process this year.

In Harris County, if you are running for Constable, Justice of the Peace, State Board of Education, and a few other races, you won’t get screened by the Chron E-Board. That’s the way it goes these days.

Again I say “Seriously?” I found the time, all by myself, to interview 44 candidates, and they can’t be bothered to hold screenings for these offices? I can’t wait for their next editorial lecture bemoaning the lack of voter engagement and participation. Sheesh.

March fundraising reports for Congressional candidates

Here’s a roundup of campaign finance reports for Congressional races and candidates of interest. I’ve been collecting links to the reports for contested Democratic races on my 2012 primary pages.

Area races

Nick Lampson had a typically strong fundraising report, which brings him up to parity with most of his potential Republican rivals. James Old, Michael Truncale, and Randy Weber (by the way, welcome to the district, Randy) have raised more in total – they’ve also been in the race longer – but only Old has more cash on hand, and that’s likely to change by the time the primary rolls around. Lampson should be in good shape to take on whoever emerges from that cattle call.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that Mike Jackson‘s fundraising in CD36 has been less than impressive? Just over $200K total, with $50K of that being loans, and $75K on hand, for a veteran legislator who’s been running since the beginning and is the consensus favorite? Sure, he’s got a clear path to the seat in November once he vanquishes his unheralded primary opponents, but that’s my point: The guy who’s gonna win generally has no trouble raking in the dough. Anyone want to venture a theory about this?

Along the same lines, what in the world is John Culberson spending all that money on? He’s got no primary opponent, a district that’s drawn for him to win, Democratic opponents who haven’t raised any money, yet he has a paltry $62K on hand, which is actually an improvement over the December report. He’s spending it as fast as he’s collecting it, and I have no idea why.

UPDATE: As Mainstream notes in the comments, Culberson does have a primary opponent, Bill Tofte. My confusion on that point stemmed from the fact that the FEC shows Tofte in CD36. Of course, they also show Ciro Rodriguez in CD35, plus a few other misplaced people. I presume Tofte re-filed in February and I missed it. My apologies for the confusion. At least now Culberson’s spending makes sense to me.

Elsewhere

Beto O’Rourke now has more cash on hand than incumbent Rep. Silvestre Reyes, but Reyes has raised more than twice as much, spent almost five times as much, and recently received the endorsement of President Obama and former President Clinton. I don’t know offhand how much the Campaign for Primary Accountability may be spending against Reyes.

It’s basically a two-person affair in CD30, at least if you go by the fundraising reports. Incumbent Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson and challenger Taj Clayton have far outraised challenger Barbara Mallory Caraway; Johnson holds a better than two-to-one lead over Clayton in cash on hand. This is another race in which President Obama is supporting the incumbent, and it’s one in which things have gotten a little personal.

Pete Gallego has raised $590K, more than double the haul of former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, who is still shown as running in CD35; several candidates who are now in CD34 are still shown in CD27 as well. Gallego has a ways to go to catch up to Rep. Quico Canseco, whose buddies are well aware he’s in for a fight this November. As far as I know neither Obama nor Clinton have weighed in on this race, but the League of Conservation voters endorsed Gallego recently.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett is again a million-dollar man and surely holds a wide lead in every financial category in his race. I can’t say exactly how wide because as of this posting, the March 31 report for Sylvia Romo has not been posted, but Postcards says Romo raised $52K between January 1 and March 31; add that to the $35K reported in her December report, and you get that Doggett has raised more than ten times as Romo. While the President has not offered an opinion on this race, however, Romo has the backing of most of the San Antonio political establishment and may wind up garnering some support in Austin after Statesman columnist Ken Herman wrote about her age in a way that probably won’t endear himself to some voters.

There’s a lot of money in the open seat cattle call of CD33, with a good chunk of it coming from the candidates themselves. David Alameel, who started in CD06 before the San Antonio court redrew its interim map, has loaned himself over $2 million so far. I have to say, that’s just nuts. I don’t know that it’s even possible to spend that much money in a Congressional primary; if it is, I’m not sure it’s advisable. The record of zillionaire first time candidates in Congressional races is not enviable. Former State Rep. Domingo Garcia wrote a $300K check for his campaign, and Chrysta Castaneda gave herself $65K. State Rep. Marc Veasey had the best non-self-funded haul at $177K, followed by former Dallas City Council member Steve Salazar at $77K. There are a couple of reports still outstanding. The Lone Star Project has an analysis of the candidates, though I’m pretty sure they’re not an unbiased source on this.

Joaquin Castro isn’t in a primary, but he sure continues to bring in the donations, a development that will undoubtedly make eyes twinkle at the DCCC. I could compare his performance to that of Mike Jackson, but it’s not really fair to do so, as Castro was going to be in a smoking hot primary for much of the cycle, and much of his total is the result of that. I still think Jackson is underperforming, though.

Ronnie McDonald made a big splash when he announced he was leaving his post as Bastrop County Judge to pursue a seat in either the Texas Lege or Congress, but so far his choice to go for CD27 hasn’t translated to fundraising success. Rose Meza Harrison, who was in the race before he was, has outraised him so far and has more cash on hand, though neither is remotely in Rep. Blake Farenthold‘s neighborhood. I hope McDonald responds to my email requesting an interview, I’d love to ask him why he chose this race, which always seemed objectively less winnable to me.

Republican Reps. Ralph Hall and Smokey Joe Barton have been targeted by the Campaign for Primary Accountability, but it’s not clear to me they have much to worry about. Hall isn’t exactly swimming in cash, but his main opponent has collected less than $10K of other people’s money. Of Barton’s opponents, Joe Chow has raised a respectable $162K, but he’s got a high burn rate and has only $28K on hand. Itamar Gelbman‘s $185K is almost entirely his own money, but he’s hardly spent any of it. CPA has its work cut out for it.

To put this in some perspective, Barton has $1.3 million on hand after having raised $976K and spent $1.1 million. CPA has raised $1.8 million and spent $1.2 million, leaving it with $588K on hand; their totals are through February 29, not March 31. They do have a stable of well-heeled donors, though curiously enough none of the $100K+ club has given anything in 2012. That could have changed since March 1, or could change any day, of course, but my point is that some targets are softer than others.

Finally, in CD34 Filemon Vela reported $245K total, of which $150K was his own. That leaves Armando Villalobos with the biggest actual haul at $157K. Ramiro Garza ($138K, including $58K in loans), Denise Saenz Blanchard ($104K, $10K in loans), and Anthony Troiani ($56K) followed behind.

January finance reports: Congress and Senate

The last batch of finance reports to come in are the federal reports, which for the most part don’t get posted till a full month after they’re due, which in this case was February 1. I’ve created a Google spreadsheet of the Texas FEC reports, taken by querying on Texas from this page, then culling the chaff. You can compare my report to this one at Kos, which focuses on the more interesting race. Note that in my spreadsheet you will find links to each candidates’ report so you can see for yourself what they’ve been up to. You can see all the finance report links on my 2012 Harris and 2012 Texas primary pages. A few highlights:

– Still no report yet from David Dewhurst and Paul Sadler. I can’t say I’m expecting much from Sadler, but I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised. As for Dewhurst, it’ll be interesting to see how his contributions from others compare to his self-funding – he would surely like to do better than Tom Leppert in that regard – and to the contribution totals Ted Cruz puts up.

– There’s Jim Turner in East Texas, who ran his last race in 2002 before being DeLayed into retirement, still sitting on a million bucks in his campaign treasury. Why it is that he hasn’t ever used any of that money to help the Democratic cause, and why it is that we rank and file Democrats tolerate that sort of behavior from so many current and former officeholders is a mystery to me.

– Nick Lampson’s late entry into the CD14 race produces a small fundraising total so far. Given his presence on the early DCCC watch list, I expect much bigger things in the March report.

– Joaquin Castro continues to hit it out of the park. Assuming the courts cooperate, you can see why the DCCC is expecting big things from him.

– A couple of Democratic primaries just got more interesting, as challengers outraised incumbents in both of them. In CD16, former El Paso Council member Beto O’Rourke took in $211K to Rep. Silvestre Reyes’ $177K. There’s a third candidate in this race, but he has no report listed. The Lion Star blog discusses what this means.

– Meanwhile, in CD30, challenger Taj Clayton raised $212K to Rep. Eddie Berniece Johnson’s $95K. State Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway took in $16K. Clayton’s accomplishment is more impressive given his late entry into the race – he did it all in just ten weeks.

– Other Democratic races of interest: David Alameel wrote himself a $245K check for his challenge to Smokey Joe Barton in D06. His co-challenger Don Jacquess had no report. New dad Dan Grant raised $37K in CD10. State Rep. Pete Gallego took in another $137K in CD23 to bump his total to $288K for the cycle. Rep. Lloyd Doggett has over $3.3 million on hand after raising another $150K. Armando Villalobos led the pack in CD27 with $134K raised, followed by Ramiro Garza with $70K and Rose Meza Harrison with $15K. However, Villalobos spent $116K to Garza’s $3K, leaving him with only $16K on hand to Garza’s $67K. State Rep. Mark Veasey collected $46K for CD33, putting him ahead of Kathleen Hicks, who had $5800. Finally, former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez was actually out-raised by Sylvia Romo in CD35, with her getting $35K to his $27K, but he maintained $99K in cash to her $30K.

– On the Republican side, there’s a lot of money flowing into CD14. I don’t know who James Old is, but he’s taken in $433K for the cycle and has $310K on hand. Following him are State Rep. Randy Weber ($313K for the cycle, $206K on hand); Michael Truncale ($269K for the cycle and $149K on hand); and Felicia Harris ($161K for the cycle and $103K on hand). State Sen. Mike Jackson has a surprisingly paltry $61K on hand for CD36, having raised $130K for the cycle. No one else has as much as $10K on hand in that race, however. The Williams non-brothers, Michael and Roger, have plenty of money available to them but as yet not district in which they would want to use any of it. I’m sure they’re burning candles in hope of a favorable map from the judges.

That’s about all I have for now. The good news for me is that with the delayed primary, the next reports won’t be out till April.

First thoughts on the new Congressional map

OK, down to business. Here’s a map of the new plan, which was unanimously approved by the three judges, the 2008 election data, and here’s 2010 election data. Going by the 2012 data, I break it down as follows:

Strong R


Dist  Obama Pct  Houston Pct
============================
01         30.5         36.4
02         34.4         35.6
03         37.4         36.8
04         29.4         37.6
05         36.5         41.2
08         25.6         29.3
11         23.0         28.4
12         34.1         35.5
13         22.2         27.4
17         33.2         38.2
19         28.0         32.4
21         33.0         31.5
24         38.0         37.5
26         35.4         35.5
31         39.8         41.3
34         32.9         37.1
36         31.1         39.8

Likely R


Dist    Obama Pct    Houston Pct
============================
07         42.5         40.8
14         41.9         47.3
22         40.6         41.2
32         43.0         43.1

Lean R


Dist  Obama Pct  Houston Pct
============================
06         44.8         47.5
10         46.5         45.5

Strong D


Dist  Obama Pct  Houston Pct
============================
09         77.3         77.6
15         61.9         65.8
16         66.6         68.8
18         77.4         77.5
25         68.4         65.2
27         58.3         62.1
28         58.6         63.0
29         62.0         67.6
30         81.5         81.3
33         62.5         63.1

Likely D


Dist  Obama Pct  Houston Pct
============================
20         58.5         58.8

Lean D


Dist  Obama Pct  Houston Pct
============================
23         51.4         53.1
35         54.4         55.9
 

Barring any surprises, that’s a 23-13 split, which means (contra the Chron and its funny math once again) a four-seat gain from the current 23-9 split. The Dems have more upside than downside, and it’s not crazy to think that over the course of the decade some districts could move into a different classification, such as currently solid R seats 05, 24, and 31. I was just on a conference call with Matt Angle and Gerry Hebert about the new map, and Angle suggested CDs 06 and 14 as ones that will trend Democratic. I asked him about CD10, which has a similar electoral profile right now to those two, and while he agreed it can be competitive, he didn’t think the demographics will change as much as in the others.

Note that CD33 is now a majority-minority seat in Tarrant County – BOR notes that State Rep. Marc Veasey, one of the plaintiffs and strong fighters in these suits, has already indicated his interest in running for it. He’s already got an opponent if so – a press release from Fort Worth City Council member Kathleen Hicks that announced her entry into the CD33 sweepstakes, hit my inbox about ten minutes after the publication of the new map. PoliTex confirms both of these. One way or another, though, it sounds like sayonara to Roger Williams.

CD34 stretches from the Gulf Coast into the Hill Country, taking a chunk out of the southern edge of the old CD10. CD36 is more or less as it was before, in the eastern/southeastern part of Harris County and points east from there. CD35 is no longer in Travis County, so the Doggett/Castro death match is no more – Rep. Lloyd Doggett gets his Travis-anchored CD25 back, and Rep. Joaquin Castro gets a new Bexar-anchored district to run in. I don’t know if freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold can run in CD34 – I suspect he’d face a challenge from some Republican State Reps if he tried. Perhaps State Rep. Geanie Morrison, based in Victoria and now paired with State Rep. Todd Hunter, might take a crack at it, or maybe Hunter will. I presume State Sen. Mike Jackson will continue to pursue CD36. All of the Republican contenders for the Lege-drawn CD25 are also now out of luck, so bye-bye to former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams as well. Not a good day for Williamses who wanted to run for Congress.

Comments and objections are due on Friday, and one presumes it, along with the other two, will be finalized by Monday the 28th, which is the opening of filing season, though I hear that could possibly get pushed back a day. Greg, Stace, the Lone Star Project, Postcards, the Trib, and Trail Blazers have more.

The Chamber of Commerce tax cut gets extended

Remember the Chamber of Commerce tax cut from the 2009 legislative session? Ed Sills of the Texas AFL-CIO has an update on it:

Much to our chagrin, the 2009 Texas Legislature approved a law that exempts local Chambers of Commerce from property taxes based on their status as a “nonprofit community business organization.”

The notion that Chambers of Commerce, which in some cases occupy very expensive properties, should not contribute to schools, cities, counties and other local entities seems contrary to their purported roles as catalysts for community growth. While we haven’t seen a full accounting of the cost of this exemption, the permanent tax holiday for Chambers of Commerce certainly seems inappropriate at a time when the Legislature has cut $4 billion from the state budget for public schools.

Now, under an opinion released [last week] by Attorney General Greg Abbott, it turns out that local boards of realtors also fall under the same tax exemption. This apparently comes as a surprise to one of the sponsors of the law, Sen. Mike Jackson, R-Pasadena, who argued in requesting the opinion that the legislative intent was to exempt local chambers of commerce only. That doesn’t matter, Abbott said. The view of one legislator does not determine legislative intent for legal purposes, and the plain language of the statute fits boards of realtors, he argued.

For the record, labor unions pay property taxes and have not lobbied the Legislature for similar tax-exempt status.

The next time you hear a local chamber of commerce official discuss school finance, or local taxes, or support for city and county institutions, remember the privileged status the chambers (and now the realtor boards) have wangled from the Texas Legislature. Come to think of it, you might want to remember when you pay your property taxes in the coming months that your local Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have to join you in supporting local government.

This is an issue that, in hard times, cries out for a revisit. Who’s next on the list of privileged business entities that don’t have to pay taxes?

Sure is nice to be in the one percent, isn’t it?

Senate changes

I’m not worried about the State Senate becoming more conservative, I’m worried about it becoming more stupid.

“A seat in the Texas Senate does not come open very often, and all of a sudden now there are four,” said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, one of the four who have announced their retirements.

“The Senate is pretty conservative now but that could change, depending on who wins the seats. It’s going to be an interesting election.”

Retiring with Shapiro, the longtime chair of the Education Committee, are Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan; Jurisprudence Committee Chairman Chris Harris, R-Arlington; and Economic Development Committee Chairman Mike Jackson, R-LaPorte.

The four senators will take with them a combined 64 years of experience in the upper chamber.

And that’s before next year’s election, when all 31 senators are up for election because of redistricting, instead of the usual one half. In addition to the retirements, some senators could lose their re-election bids.

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, for example, was one of only two freshmen senators in 2009. Now, she is expected to have a tough time running in a new district that the Republican-majority Legislature drew to elect a Republican.

Other senators are drawing challengers from the right. On Oct. 3, Donna Campbell, a Columbus ophthalmologist and tea party favorite who ran for Congress in 2010, announced that she will challenge longtime Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio.

I can’t speak to whatever ludicrous litmus test is controlling Republican minds this week, but none of the four retiring Senators can be reasonably classified as anything but solid conservatives. Ideologically speaking, whoever replaces them will be very close to them. What concerns me is that Ogden and Shapiro are well-informed (if generally wrong) on policy and care about outcomes, while it is highly likely that the people who replace them will be cookie-cutter Dan Patrick wannabees that won’t be able to add anything to the discussion beyond sound bites. (I see Jackson and Harris as essentially fungible; swapping them out won’t matter much.) Our discourse is dumb enough already, we don’t need it dumbed down any further. As for Davis and Wentworth, who may be the last remaining pro-choice Republican in the state, losing them would indeed make the Senate a more conservative place as well as a less intelligent place. I’m hopeful that Davis at least will get a court-mandated lack of preclearance reprieve, but beyond that it’s all up to the campaigns and the voters. In other words, one more thing to add to your list of things to worry about.

Jackson to run for Congress, Anderson to primary Harris

State Sen. Mike Jackson makes official what had been speculated.

As expected, state Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, will run for Congress next year instead of for re-election to the Texas Senate.

He’ll be running in the newly created CD-36. Jackson, the Senate’s president pro tempore, has been in that body since 1999, and served in the Texas House for ten years before that. He’ll turn 58 this weekend.

Jackson’s main claim to fame is his valiant attempt to protect the right of manufacturing plants to pollute the city of Houston. Other than that, to the best of my recollection, he hasn’t done much; certainly, he’s done very little that was constructive. He’ll fit right in with the other Republicans in Washington. State Rep. Larry Taylor has announced his interest in Jackson’s seat. The names may change but that’s about it – there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two. The new Senate map doesn’t make SD11 any more competitive than it was, so I would not expect much of a fight for this open seat next November.

Moving up north, there’s a primary battle brewing for a different Senate seat.

Freshman state Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, plans to challenge state Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, in the March Republican primary, according to a source familiar with Anderson’s plans.

In this year’s state House redistricting, Anderson was drawn into a district that would have had him running in 2012 against fellow GOP Rep. Linda Harper Brown of Irving.

Anderson lives in Harris’ Senate district, and much of his current House district is within that seat.

I guess he figured Harris was the easier target. SD09 was drawn to be about eight points more competitive than SD11, but that means Sam Houston lost it by ten in 2008 instead of 18. Still, the Democrats might have won that seat in 2008 had they run a real candidate, and if there are any changes made to Sen. Wendy Davis’ SD10 as a result of current litigation, there will be an effect in SD09 as well. Whether that would make it any more or less competitive, I couldn’t say. Nonetheless, this is a seat that really ought to be fought for, just as Davis fights to retain hers.

The Chamber of Commerce tax cut

I mentioned before that a secondary reason for Governor Perry to veto HB770 and its Wayne Christian Beach House provision was an amendment slipped in by State Sen. Mike Jackson to give a property tax exemption to local chambers of commerce. Ed Sills of the Texas AFL-CIO went off on a righteous rant about this in his email newsletter the other day, and I wanted to reproduce it here. With his permission, it’s beneath the fold, so click on to read it.

(more…)

Falkenberg on HB770

Lisa Falkenberg hops on the HB770 train, both in her column and her blog, with video of Rep. Wayne Christian at work. I don’t really have anything to add to that, but I will note that there’s another reason to dislike this bill, beyond Christian’s self-dealing. An amendment by Sen. Mike Jackson, added before the conference committee, basically grants an exemption to paying property taxes for chambers of commerce. What that has to do with the original intent of the bill, never mind why that would be considered good public policy, is a question I can’t answer. But if I didn’t already think this bill should be vetoed, this would give me a considerable shove in that direction. And hey, if we must have a special session, Governor Perry can add “granting homestead exemptions to Hurricane Ike victims” to the call so a non-polluted version of HB770 can be passed. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Open beaches

Got the following email from a colleague and thought it was worth mentioning:

Very late Sunday night a “deal” was made in the Texas legislature to make an exemption in the Texas Open Beaches Act – the law that guarantees public access to our beaches.

Rep. Wayne Christian of Center, Texas use to have a beach house on Bolivar. Hurricane Ike destroyed it. I feel badly for him and the thousands of others who lost property. But state law prohibits construction of houses on the public beach. Why? Because its the PUBLIC BEACH, not private beach.

Anyway Rep. Christian wants to build a new house on what is now PUBLIC BEACH, and he snuck a law through that exempts front-row owners in Bolivar to build new houses on our beach. That is bad public policy. Beaches are like public parks, you can live near them but not in them.

Right now, please phone Gov. Perry and respectfully ask him to “veto HB770, building houses directly on the public beach will cost us billions of dollars in the next storm”.

512-463-2000

Rep. Christian was on the conference committee for HB770, which is (I presume) where this amendment was added. The Galveston News had a story about HB770 on Monday.

House Bill 770 started as a bill to allow homeowners whose houses were destroyed by a hurricane to maintain their homestead exemptions — even if a final decision on whether to rebuild hadn’t been made.

But the law also appears to have exempted houses along the Bolivar Peninsula from the requirements of the Texas Open Beaches Act for four years.

Under existing law, buildings must be behind the line of naturally occurring vegetation.

The bill would exempt from state open beaches laws a house “located on a peninsula in a county with a population of more than 250,000 and less than 251,000 that borders the Gulf of Mexico.” Only one area in the state meets that description — the Bolivar Peninsula.

The bill, which was co-authored by Galveston County’s state representatives, Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, and Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, won unanimous approval in the state House and easily earned passage in the Senate. One of Galveston County’s two state senators, Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, was the bill’s sponsor in the Senate.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, whose agency is responsible for managing the open beaches laws in Texas, blasted the law.

“I don’t think building houses on the beach, with the waters of the Gulf beneath them, is a good idea or good public policy,” Patterson said. “This bill is so poorly drafted that will happen.”

Here’s the bill text. I agree with Commissioner Patterson on this, and think a veto is not a bad idea. And according to today’s Chron, he plans on sticking to his guns.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has asked Gov. Rick Perry to veto the bill containing the amendment. The bill has not yet crossed the governor’s desk, and he will not make a decision until he sees it, said Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger.

“I don’t think building houses on the beach, with the waters of the Gulf beneath them, is a good idea or good public policy,” Patterson said.

If the governor signs the bill, Patterson vowed that he would not enforce the amendment. “My option is just to say, ‘Screw you, Wayne Christian,’ because the Legislature didn’t pass this, one guy passed this,” he said.

Patterson said the Legislature would have to impeach him if lawmakers wanted the provision enforced.

That would be going too far – filing a lawsuit strikes me as the better way to stop enforcement of that law – but at least we know where he stands. Christian, for his part, says this wasn’t about him:

Christian said his vote for the amendment benefited other peninsula property owners and therefore was not a breach of ethics. “If I were to pass a law that affected only Wayne Christian, that would be a conflict,” he said.

At least 12 of his neighbors want to rebuild but can’t without the amendment, Christian said.

The amendment will keep property on the tax rolls that otherwise would be taken off if left undeveloped, Christian said. He also insisted the amendment is “not mine,” because it was put forward by Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton, R-Mauriceville.

“I did sign with him because I approved the concept,” Christian said. The amendment targeted the Bolivar Peninsula because it bore the brunt of the storm, he said.

He denied that it was improper to add the amendment to a bill so close to the end of the session. “This is not an unethical, deceptive method of doing anything,” Christian said. “This is the way it’s been ever since government was invented.”

Well, that much is certainly true. As has also been the case since government was invented, sometimes these last-minute deals contain unpalatable provisions. And so here we are.

You’ll be hearing more about the Open Beaches Act this November, as the passage of HJR102 means there will be an amendment voted on to make the Open Beaches act part of the Constitution instead of an ordinary law that could be changed by a majority vote in the Lege. The above-linked story, and this Chron story from last week have more info about that.

The push to protect public access comes in the wake of lawsuits challenging what is public and what is private along the 367 miles of mostly wild Texas coastline.

The Open Beaches Act prohibits houses seaward of the vegetation line, which crawls steadily landward as the beaches erode.

While trophy houses, subdivisions and hotels have sprouted along the Gulf of Mexico, rising seas, sinking land and storms have led to the rapid erosion of Texas coastline. By some estimates, as much as 10 feet of beach front washes away each year.

As the sandy shore shifts over decades, a barrier island, such as Galveston, may look the same, but it will be farther landward. Houses that once stood hundreds of feet from the surf will be encroaching on the Gulf.

In some cases, the Texas General Land Office, which is responsible for the coastline, has sued to remove houses from the beach.
Jerry Patterson, the state’s land commissioner, suggested that the proposed amendment wouldn’t change anything along the coast.

“We work every day at the Texas General Land Office to ensure the public’s right to access the beach,” he said.

Property owners contend that the existing state law tramples on their rights and that a constitutional amendment would make matters worse, according to the House’s analysis of the pros and cons of the bill.

J. David Breemer, a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney who is challenging the land office’s enforcement of the Open Beaches Act, said he doesn’t believe a constitutional amendment would insulate the state from lawsuits.

“The issue is how the law is used, not the intent,” Breemer said. “The easement keeps rolling over land that the public hasn’t ever walked and development has already happened.”

Still, beachgoers and environmentalists expressed enthusiasm over the proposed amendment, which cleared the state House on a 140-1 vote and the Senate on a 29-2 vote.

Ken Kramer, director of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star chapter, said the environmental group would campaign in favor of the ballot measure.

“It’s a great issue to elevate people’s awareness of coastal protection,” he said.

This KHOU story has more on that lawsuit. I’ll be voting for this proposition, and I look forward to seeing how the Supreme Court deals with it when that lawsuit, which has been sent its way by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, comes before it.

UPDATE: Land Commish Jerry Patterson keeps pushing this, with a press conference tomorrow in Galveston. From his release:

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson will hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. Friday on the beach in Galveston to rally Texans to demand Governor Perry kill a proposed law that would exempt the Bolivar Peninsula from the Texas Open Beaches Act.

The press conference will be on the beach in the Pirates Beach subdivision in Galveston, just seaward of the 4200 block of Ghost Crab Lane.

“Call Governor Perry now and let him know you want to keep Texas beaches for the enjoyment of the public,” Patterson said. “An eleventh hour amendment to HB770 would allow an elite few to rebuild their houses on the public beach or even in the surf. That’s not just a bad idea, that’s bad public policy.”

Patterson urged Texans who love the beach to call Governor Perry’s office at (512) 463-2000 and ask him to veto HB770.

The amendment was covertly slipped into the bill without any public debate on the first day of the 2009 hurricane season, which was the last day of the 81st Legislature.

“As Gulf Coast residents were thinking about the next storm, a few lawmakers were actually sneaking an amendment on to a bill that would allow their neighbors to rebuild their houses on the public beach or even in the surf zone of the area hardest hit by Hurricane Ike,” Patterson said. “That’s just unthinkable.”

Far as I know, there’s been no public comment from Governor Perry yet. He probably won’t say anything until he takes action on the bill, but it’s possible he could telegraph his intent.

Senate passes windstorm bill

The one bill that has been expressly mentioned as a reason for a special session if it doesn’t get done is SB14, the windstorm insurance bill. It was a chubbing victim on Tuesday, but on Wednesday it was revived by the time-honored “attach it as an amendment to another bill” method.

By a 27-4 vote, senators voted to amend House Bill 4409 to include the provisions of Senate Bill 14, that was passed in April to address the looming crisis in the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.

“This is our last hope to be able to work on this issue,” said state Sen. Mike Jackson, R-LaPorte, the Senate sponsor of the House legislation.

[…]

Jackson said that while the House may not accept the Senate’s provisions, the approval of the amended bill tonight will provide a way for House and Sehate negotiators to come up with a final version that can be approved before the Legislature adjourns on Monday.

The original version of HB4409 passed the House by a 147-0 margin, so one hopes that the addition of SB14 to it will be palatable. I’m in favor of there not being a special session, so taking action to reduce the odds of one is a good thing in my book. Floor Pass has more.

The zombie nominee

As we know, the Senate confirmation of Don McLeroy as Chair of the State Board of Education, which we all thought had been scuttled back in April, got new life earlier this week when Senate Nominations Committee chair Mike Jackson, who had originally said he wouldn’t bring the issue up if the votes weren’t there to confirm McLeroy, brought it up and got committee approval. The full Senate will take it up next week, and the question is what if anything has changed. Elise Hu games it out.

So the Dems think they can effectively block with commitments of twelve senators to vote no. Meanwhile, TEA sources say they’ve heard something different.

“I’ve heard two or three Democrats [would vote for McLeroy],” said TEA Commissioner Robert Scott. “I’ve also heard one Republican is a hard ‘no’, so no one really knows for sure.”

The timing is everything, considering the number of votes to confirm McLeroy depend on how many members are present at the time of the vote. Assuming all the Republican members will vote in favor, it would take at least three Democratic senators to leave the floor and not cast a vote in order for McLeroy to make it through.

Scott and TEA General Counsel David Anderson reminded us that this might be one of those “devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” situations, saying it’s unclear who McLeroy would be replaced with as chairman, and it’s unknown whether that would be more or less satisfying to McLeroy’s detractors.

The Dems could survive one defection, as eleven votes are sufficient to derail the nomination. Muse and Lisa Falkenberg consider what might happen if McLeroy does get sunk. Muse:

What happens if McLeroy is not confirmed? Governor Perry gets to appoint someone else from the SBOE as Chair. He could certainly appoint someone who is equally as bad – Dunbar, Cargill, Mercer, Leo or Bradley. Or he could appoint a moderate Republican like Bob Craig, who has the best interests of Texas school children top of mind instead of a far religious right agenda.

That’s a nice thought, but I fear Falkenberg is correct:

But another question is whether McLeroy’s defeat will really save the state of Texas any further embarrassment?

Maybe not. According to another bit of scuttlebutt from a lawmaker and few e-mailers today, it could actually make things worse. I always thought if McLeroy were ousted, Perry would pick one of thoughtful, sensible Republicans who serve on the board. There are several good choices: Bob Craig of Lubbock, Geraldine “Tincy” Miller of Dallas and Patricia Hardy of Weatherford.

But the name I heard mentioned today was none of those. It was Cynthia Dunbar of Richmond.

Yes, that Cynthia Dunbar.

It’s certainly makes me wonder if, under at least one scenario, McLeroy’s miracle could actually save us from a curse far worse.

What’s an enlightened Texan to do?

My answer to that question is to work one’s enlightened keester off in 2010 to ensure that we have a Governor who won’t view such embarrassments as good politics. Working to unelect Dunbar, whose SBOE district is a nice shade of purple, wouldn’t hurt either. Not the sexiest answer in the world, I know, but that’s the way it goes.

As far as McLeroy himself is concerned, if I thought there was a reasonable chance that Perry would take this failure as a lesson in the need to moderate, I’d go all in on torpedoing him. But when has Perry ever done that? I believe he’ll just double down on the crazy, since that’s clearly his electoral strategy and this would present him with another opportunity to stroke the aggrieved paranoia of his base while giving KBH another opportunity to not address a hot button issue because she’s too damn wishy-washy. Given that, I say the Dem Senators can do whatever they think is best. Draw the line in the sand, curry favor with Finance Chair Steve Ogden (who happens to be McLeroy’s Senator), come down with a newly-evolved 24-hour virus and miss the whole sorry spectacle, I’m giving a free pass. Just put us all out of our misery and get it over with.

UPDATE: Muse notes that Republicans are calling Democratic senators to implore them to vote to confirm McLeroy. She also has a list of Dem senators whose position on McLeroy’s confirmation are unknown.

UPDATE: And more from Muse, who clearly disagrees with me on this.

McLeroy confirmation lives again

Back in April, the Senate declined to act on the confirmation of Don McLeroy as the chair of the State Board of Education, as Nomination Committee Chair Mike Jackson decided there weren’t enough votes to confirm him. That may not be the case any more, as McLeroy has now been approved by the committee and will get a hearing before the full Senate soon. I’d like to see this go down in flames, because both he and Governor Perry deserve the dishonor, but it’s not like this boots him off the SBOE, and it’s not like we’ll get anyone better. It’s more optics than substance, and while the SBOE could use all the help it can get on either score, in the end this doesn’t amount to that much. I’m hoping for the best, but neither too optimistic nor too wigged out about it.

Senate passes clean air bill

This sounds pretty good.

New plants in heavily polluted areas like Houston’s Ship Channel could have a harder time getting state permits under a clean air bill tentatively passed Wednesday by the Texas Senate.

Environmental regulators would have to examine the effect of a new facility on the region’s overall pollution before granting permits. They also could decide that a company has to close an older plant in the same area or otherwise offset the additional pollution caused by a new plant, said Sen. Kip Averitt, author of the bill.

“We’re not just looking at the individual plant all by itself, which is what we do today. We look at all of the effects,” said Averitt, R-Waco.

Averitt denied that the bill represents a “cap and trade” system for companies seeking air pollution permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“We’re looking at the big picture and if there is a permit that’s going to create a problem somewhere, the TCEQ going to be able to say, ‘Give us some offsets or a new strategy on how to reduce emissions.’ ” Averitt said.

The bill in question is SB16. It still has to pass on third reading before going to the House, but I’m optimistic about its chances. There hasn’t been enough done recently by the Lege to improve air quality, so this is a big step forward.

The bill, which also includes rebates for buyers of hybrid vehicles, was tentatively passed on a vote of 22-9. Houston-area Republicans Joan Huffman, Mike Jackson and Dan Patrick voted against the bill.

Not that any of that is a surprise, but it’s always good to be reminded who likes pollution around here. I’m glad to see, as Floor Pass makes clear, that Sen. Averitt gets it. Kudos to him for his work on this bill. Postcards has more.

Won’t somebody please think of the mollusks?

Oyster offenders, long a scourge of the Texas criminal justice system, may have finally met their match in the Senate. A cautiously hopeful populace waits with, um, baited breath.