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Nile Copeland

Endorsement watch: A veritable plethora, part 1

Whoa, all of a sudden the Chron is chock full of endorsements. Let’s run through ’em. Actually, let’s start to run through them. So many appeared all at once that I’m going to need to break this into more than one post.

For Lite Guv: Anyone but Dan.

Lieutenant governor: Scott Milder

Scott Milder has become the tip of the spear in this statewide effort to fight back against Patrick, and we endorse his run to unseat the incumbent as the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. A former City Council member in Rockwall, a Dallas suburb, Milder, 50, is aligned with the schools, business interests and pastors who are hoping to restore the conservative values of local control and pro-growth that for decades sat at the core of Texas politics. It is a movement that wants to put an end to the potty-bill politics that have dominated our state Legislature under Patrick.

From El Paso to Texarkana, Brownsville to Canadian, local cities and counties are starting to stand together against a state government obsessed with the political minutiae that excites the partisan wings but does little to make our state a better place to live. A vote for Milder will be a vote to fix school funding and return Texas to normalcy.

Democratic Lieutenant governor: Mike Collier

In the Democratic primary for this important post, the Chronicle recommends Mike Collier, the more experienced, better qualified of the two candidates vying to face off against the Republican winner in the November general election.

A graduate of the University of Texas with a bachelor’s degree and MBA, Collier wants to see more state money directed to public schools, arguing that overtaxed homeowners cannot afford to carry what ought to be the state’s share of education funding. An accountant by training, Collier held high-level positions in auditing and finance during his career at a global accounting firm, giving weight to his proposal to close a corporate tax loophole as a means of raising revenue for public education and property tax relief.

Collier, 56, is well-versed in this region’s need for storm surge protection and Harvey recovery, and he’s ready to tap the state’s substantial rainy day fund to pay for it. “Let’s crack it open and stimulate recovery as fast as we can,” he told the editorial board.

Collier supports expanding Medicaid to improve health for poor children, and he wants to improve care for rural Texans dealing with local hospital closures and few physicians wanting to practice outside large cities.

I count myself lucky that I have not yet been subjected to Dan Patrick’s TV ad barrage. I’m all in for Mike Collier, but for sure Scott Milder would be a step away from the dystopia that Patrick is determined to drag us all to.

Land Commissioner: Not Baby Bush.

Four years ago, this editorial page enthusiastically supported Bush in his first bid for elected office. We were mightily impressed with his command of the complex issues facing the General Land Office. Anybody who thought this guy was just coasting on his family name was wrong. “George P. Bush is the real deal,” we wrote.

Now the real deal has become a real disappointment.

Bush has repeatedly stumbled during his first term in his first elected office. He directed the General Land Office to spend nearly $1 million in taxpayer money to keep at least 40 employees on the payroll for as long as five months after they’d actually quit their jobs, but only if they promised they wouldn’t sue Bush or the agency. Three days after a contractor scored a $13.5 million hurricane cleanup contract, Bush’s campaign accepted almost $30,000 in contributions from the company’s executives.

But his highest profile problem has been his plan to “reimagine” the Alamo. It’s an ongoing mess criticized not only by Texas history buffs but also by Republican lawmakers irate about the way it’s being managed. Among other problems, Bush played a cynical shell game with state employees, shifting about 60 people over to a taxpayer-funded nonprofit so he could brag that he cut his agency’s staff. As one incredulous GOP fundraiser put it, “How do you screw up the Alamo?”

To his credit, months before Hurricane Harvey, Bush wrote President Donald Trump a detailed letter requesting funding for a coastal storm surge barrier. Unfortunately, since then we haven’t seen him do much to advance the cause of this critical infrastructure project.

Losing faith in a man who once looked like a rising political star is disillusioning, but voters in the Republican primary for Texas land commissioner should bypass Bush and cast their ballots for Jerry Patterson.

I feel reasonably confident that Jerry Patterson will not buy any secret mansions with secret money. He was a perfectly decent Land Commissioner whose service I respect as you know, but just clearing that bar would have been enough to prefer him. I only wish the Chron had expressed an opinion on the Democratic side, as that’s a race where I don’t feel like I know much about the candidates. Maybe we’ll get that later.

For County Treasurer – Dylan Osborne

Dylan Osborne

Three Democrats are running in this friendly race. All seem to be self-starters, and all recognize that taxpayers need to get more for their dollar than a mere office figure head who oversees routine financial operations conducted by professional staff. All want to increase efficiencies and cost savings, and improve service through better use of technology.

Our choice, Dylan Osborne, 36, is the candidate with the background in customer relations and experience in community service needed to elevate this job from one of sinecure to public service.

Osborne, who holds a Master’s in Public Administration, currently works in the city of Houston Planning and Development Department. The University of Houston graduate got his start as the manager of a restaurant and an auto parts store and has risen his way through city ranks. While employed by two city council members, the personable Osborne organized events with civic clubs and super neighborhoods to educate citizens about local issues.

My interview with Dylan Osborne is here and with Nile Copeland is here; Cosme Garcia never replied to my email. The Chron has endorsed Orlando Sanchez in the last couple of general elections. Maybe this year they’ll break that habit.

And for HCDE: Josh Wallenstein and Danny Norris.

County School Trustee Position 3, At large: Josh Wallenstein

This Democratic primary is a coin toss between Josh Wallenstein and Richard Cantu.

The HCDE has come under political fire in recent years, and it needs to achieve two goals to stay on course. The department needs to avoid conflicts of interest and maximize its use of the public dollar. Wallenstein was chief compliance officer of a major corporation before starting his own law firm and could bring to the board the skill of contract review and analysis including, minimizing waste, fraud and abuse, conflict of interest and self-dealing and maximizing efficiencies for schools. He graduated from Stanford Law School.

The department does a good job of offering school districts services at a much reduced rate, but it does a poor of job of communicating to voters how it saves taxpayer money. Cantu, who holds a masters in public administration from St. Thomas University, would be in the best position to develop partnerships and collaborations around the city and to help the department get the word out. He’s held management positions with the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, Baker Ripley, the Mayor’s Citizens Assistance Office and currently he’s deputy executive director of the East Aldine Management District.

It was a tough choice but choose we must, and we endorse Wallenstein.

County School Trustee, Position 6, Precinct 1: Danyahel (Danny) Norris

There is no Republican running for this seat vacated by Democratic incumbent Erica Lee Carter, which stretches from the portion of Friendswood in Harris County to near Galena Park in the south. The winner of this primary will become a trustee on the HCDE board. Two candidates — John F. Miller and Danyahel “Danny” Norris — stand out in this three person race. We tip our hat to the only candidate with experience in education policy: Norris.

Norris, 37, holds the distinction of being a chemical engineer, a former teacher and tutor for math students, a lawyer with a degree from Thurgood Marshall School of Law, a law professor, and a librarian with a masters of library science from the University of North Texas.

Miller, who is also a chemical engineer, demonstrated an admirable commitment to the board position, having attended all of its meetings since September. However, he didn’t convince us that his budgeting or hiring skills would fill a gap in the board’s expertise.

Interviews:

Josh Wallenstein
Richard Cantu
Elvonte Patton
Danny Norris
John Miller

Prince Bryant did reply to my email request for an interview a week ago, but then never followed up when I suggested some possible times to talk. I agree with the Chron that the choices we have in these races are good ones.

Interview with Nile Copeland

Nile Copeland

I have one more interview for County Treasurer. There are three candidates, but Cosme Garcia did not return my email asking to schedule something, so two is all I have. As before, if Garcia gets back to me now I will do my best to accommodate him. In the meantime, here is my interview with Nile Copeland, who currently serves as a municipal judge in Houston and who has been a candidate for district court judge in Harris County in past years. Publishing this today reminds me of one of the perils of doing interviews in advance as I do. It’s a rare days when incumbent Treasurer Orlando Sanchez does something newsworthy – honestly, I think it’s a rare day when he does something other than surf Facebook – but there he was getting quoted in that story about Harris County’s recent cybercrime near-miss. Had that story run a few weeks ago, or if I had done these interviews more recently, I’d have brought this up, but alas, it was not to be. So you’ll have to do with what we did talk about:

You can see all of my interviews for candidates running for County office as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2018 Harris County Election page.

The Harris County slates

Let’s talk about the filings for Harris County. The SOS filings page is still the best source of information, but they don’t provide shareable links, so in the name of ease and convenience I copied the Democratic filing information for Harris County to this spreadsheet. I took out the statewide candidates, and I didn’t include Republicans because they have not updated the SOS office with their slate. Their primary filing site is still the best source for that. So review those and then come back so we can discuss.

Ready? Here we go.

– If there was an announcement I missed it, but HCDE Trustee Erica Lee, in Position 6, Precinct 1, did not file for re-election. Three candidates did file, Danyahel Norris, an attorney and associate director at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law; John F. Miller, who was a candidate for HCDE Chair earlier this year; and Prince Bryant.

– While there are contested races up and down the ballot, there’s one race that is no longer contested. Mike Nichols withdrew his filing for Harris County Judge, leaving Lina Hidalgo as the sole candidate to oppose Judge Ed Emmett next fall.

– The SOS page also shows that Sammy Casados withdrew his filing for County Commissioner. However, his campaign Facebook page makes no such announcement, and there’s no evidence I can find to confirm that. It’s possible this is a mistake on the SOS page. We’ll know soon enough, when the HCDP publishes its official final list. Anyway, the cast for Commissioner in Precinct 2 also includes Adrian Garcia, Daniel Box, Roger Garcia, and Ken Melancon, who was previously a candidate for Constable in Precinct 3 (note that Constable precincts, like Justice of the Peace precincts, do not correspond to Commissioner precincts). Also, there are now two candidates for Commissioner in Precinct 4, Penny Shaw and Jeff Stauber, who was a candidate for Sheriff in 2016.

– All other county races save one are contested. Diane Trautman has two opponents for County Clerk: Gayle Mitchell, who ran for the same office in 2014, losing to Ann Harris Bennett in the primary, and Nat West, who is the SDEC Chair for Senate District 13 and who ran for County Commissioner in Precinct 1 in that weird precinct chair-run election. Two candidates joined Marilyn Burgess and Kevin Howard for District Clerk, Michael Jordan and former Council candidate Rozzy Shorter. Dylan Osborne, Cosme Garcia, and Nile Copeland, who ran for judge as a Dem in 2010, are in for County Treasurer. HCDE Trustee Position 3 At Large has Josh Wallenstein, Elvonte Patton, and Richard Cantu, who may be the same Richard Cantu that ran for HISD Trustee in District I in 2005. Only Andrea Duhon, the candidate for HCDE Trustee for Position 4 in Precinct 3, has a free pass to November.

– I will go through the late filings for legislative offices in a minute, but first you need to know that Lloyd Oliver filed in HD134. Whatever you do, do not vote for Lloyd Oliver. Make sure everyone you know who lives in HD134 knows to vote for Alison Sawyer and not Lloyd Oliver. That is all.

– Now then. SBOE member Lawrence Allen drew an opponent, Steven Chambers, who is a senior manager at HISD. That’s a race worth watching.

– Sen. John Whitmire has two primary opponents, Damien LaCroix, who ran against him in 2014, and Hank Segelke, about whom I know nothing. Rita Lucido, who ran for SD17, threw her hat in the ring to join Fran Watson and Ahmad Hassan.

– Carlos Pena (my google fu fails me on him) joins Gina Calanni for HD132. Ricardo Soliz made HD146 a three-candidate race, against Rep. Shawn Thierry and Roy Owens. There are also three candidates in HD133: Marty Schexnayder, Sandra Moore, and someone you should not vote for under any circumstances. He’s another perennial candidate with lousy views, just like Lloyd Oliver. Wh you should also not vote for under any circumstances.

– The Republican side is boring. Stan Stanart has a primary opponent. Rep. Briscoe Cain no longer does. There’s some drama at the JP level, where Precinct 5 incumbent Jeff Williams faces two challengers. Williams continued to perform weddings after the Obergefell decision, meaning he did (or at least was willing to do) same sex weddings as well. You do the math. Unfortunately, there’s no Democrat in this race – it’s one of the few that went unfilled. There was a Dem who filed, but for reasons unknown to me the filing was rejected. Alas.

I’ll have more in subsequent posts. Here’s a Chron story from Monday, and Campos has more.

UPDATE: Two people have confirmed to me that Sammy Casados has withdrawn from the Commissioners Court race.

Judicial Q&A: Nile Copeland

(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. There are a lot of judicial races on the ballot in Harris County this election, and so this is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. I will also be conducting some in-person interviews of candidates who will be involved in contested primaries for non-judicial offices. Please see my 2010 Election page for a full list of Q&As and interviews.)

1. Who are you, and what are you running for?

My name is Nile Copeland. I am a Democratic candidate running for Judge of the 234th Civil District Court of Harris County, Texas.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

General civil litigation cases which includes: business disputes, employment disputes, real estate matters, contract disputes, construction, insurance matters, as well as personal injury matters, cases such as auto accidents, dangerous products, work-related accidents, malpractice and more.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I am running for this bench to bring balance, fairness, courtesy and justice back to the courtroom. As part of my campaign, I advocate reforming campaign financing laws to ensure everyone will be treated equally and impartially in the courts regardless of their financial status. Judicial campaign finance laws allow judges and candidates to accept campaign contributions from attorneys or parties with active cases in their respective courts. This practice needs to be changed to avoid the appearance of impropriety and bias. As a judicial candidate, I request that attorneys or parties who have cases presently pending before the court to not make contributions to my campaign while they are an attorney or party of record.

Additionally, I will provide oral hearings on motions when any party wishes to be heard by the court and will make prompt rulings. I will work to ensure that cases go to trial in a timely manner so that both sides can seek justice at the earliest, practical date and minimize costs.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

The Texas Secretary of State sets out the qualifications for Judge in Texas Government Code.

(See http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/candidates/guide/qualifications.shtml#b)

For this district court, as well as other courts, the requirements are:

(1) be at least 25 years of age;

(2) have resided in the county for at least two years before election or appointment; and

(3) be a licensed attorney in this state who has practiced law or served as a judge of a court in this state, or both combined, for the four years preceding election or appointment, unless otherwise provided for by law.

The Harris County Democratic Party Chairman as well as HCDP’s staff and volunteers have done a wonderful job in making sure all candidates are qualified.

Being qualified for judge is merely one factor to consider…but what really makes us judicial? Some candidates like to think that having 10, 20, or even 30 years of experience as a lawyer automatically qualifies them to be a judge. This does not entitle them to be a judge. If the State of Texas wanted their Judiciary to have a lengthy history they would have changed the qualifications. Texas realizes that each candidate vying for a judicial bench is unique and brings with him/her some amazing skills, experiences and a rich personal background.

In my case, I hold a Juris Doctors Degree from South Texas College of Law, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology, from Louisiana State University, a Masters of Education Administration Degree from Louisiana State University and a Mediation Certification from the A.A. White Dispute Resolution Center at the University of Houston. In addition, I am a realtor, an arbitrator, mediator, and by the time of the general election in 2010 I will have practiced law for over 8 years. My practice is a mixed practice handling various matters from real estate and business contracts, corporate, partnerships, employment discrimination, contract disputes, medical malpractice, personal injury, etc. As a mediator, I often volunteer my services with the Harris County Dispute Resolution Center to help parties resolve their conflicts without need of the trauma and stress a trial creates. As a Civil Service Grievance Examiner/Arbitrator, I also handle various hearings for the City of Houston.

Over the years, I have learned to work well with others but, most importantly, I have worked hard to help others maintain working relationships and resolve conflicts. I feel that my experiences in business and law gives me a well-rounded perspective of the bench, but this is only a small glimpse of my background and does not begin to touch on my community and civil involvement.

5. Why is this race important?

The 234th, as all civil courts, is where one comes to recover financially from various civil actions. The 2010 judicial benches represent a piece of political real estate that we need to win in 2010. Republicans know it and we do too. Democrat Judicial candidates are out en masse because we want a change from Republican “justice”. In 2008, 24 out of 27 Judicial benches were won by Democratic candidates. I believe voters have grown weary of hearing about judicial misconduct and scandal. There is more work to do. If everything was satisfactory in the courts we would not see over 100 qualified attorneys working hard to get elected as Democratic judges. This brings me to the key point: voters need to make sure the candidates are indeed Democrats.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

As a voter, we all need to ask what makes a good Democratic judge? John William Fletcher once wrote: “Deeds, not words, speak to me.” I am proud to say that am the only candidate in my race who does not vote in Republican Primaries. I do not contribute to Republican judges and I do not contribute to Republican candidates. There is no strategy to be gained by supporting the other party’s political machine. Moreover, I have not taken any campaign contributions from anyone who has a pending case in the 234th Civil District Court.

As judge, I will follow the law and treat everyone fairly and with courtesy and respect. I expect all attorneys to do the same. I strive daily for my candidacy to set the standard in dignity, trust and respect that the citizens of Harris County deserve.

With regards to support, I was recently endorsed by Former Judicial Candidate, James Goodwill Pierre who narrowly lost the election in November 2008 by a mere 230 votes and subsequently filed an Election Contest in conjunction with a Federal Lawsuit against Harris County Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt. Both actions alleged that various election officers or other person(s) involved in the Harris County election failed to comply with election laws along with other “various irregularities” making it impossible to know who really won the election. Paul Bettencourt resigned from office only days after winning re-election when the Federal Lawsuit that was filed revealed he had held up the processing of over 5,000 Provisional Ballots without cause.

Goodwille Pierre said, “I am endorsing Nile Copeland because he was the first person that stepped up to the challenge of representing not only me, but more importantly the rights of voters in Harris County. Nile, along with other courageous lawyers believed in me and the cause for which I was fighting so much so that they represented me for free and performed exceptionally. I firmly believe, Nile Copeland along with my legal team did a great thing for Democrats and Texans by fighting to uphold their right to choose leaders, and that is why I am supporting Nile Copeland and not the other 234th District Court primary opponents. I encourage every Harris County Democrat to exercise their right to vote and to cast their vote for Nile Copeland in the race for Judge of the 234th Civil District Court.”

Although the suits have settled, I continue to remain active in meetings, committees and discussions regarding voter rights and voter registration issues because this is something that I am very passionate about as these issues continue to plague our elections.

Along with Pierre’s endorsement, I am very proud to announce that I have recently been endorsed by the Houston Professional Firefighter’s Association, Robert Starkey, Precinct 28 Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party – Baytown and Stace Medellin of www.doscentavos.net. I am deeply honored to have received these endorsements and am grateful for the support I have from family, friends, and voters throughout Harris County.

I work hard to make those who support me proud. I was raised by my mom in a small town in Louisiana. She instilled in me a high sense of morals and work ethic along with a sense of charity, compassion and to value education. After law school, I became a certified mediator to become an active listener and improve my skills in resolving conflicts. I also became a realtor because of my interest in real estate, construction and helping others realize the dream of home ownership. With regards to community involvement and charity, I feel the hand of friendship and support is needed more than ever today. I learned from Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children how charity can inspire others to give back. As such, I help with many organizations where I can and work hard to be able to give back to others as much as I am able. As Judge, I will make sure the courtroom is a place for integrity, professionalism and fairness not one of nepotism, cronyism and gamesmanship.

My name is Nile Copeland and I would appreciate your vote and support in the Democratic Primary Election on March 2 and the General Election on November 2, 2010. For more information about my campaign, visit my website: www.copelandforjudge.com, email & call.

Early voting is from February 16-26th.

Primary Election Day is March 2, 2010.