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Noel Freeman

Woodfill and Hotze take their next shot at same sex employee benefits

Here we go again.

Anti-LGBTQ activists are again asking a Harris County judge to halt benefits for the same-sex spouses of Houston city employees, according to a recently filed motion.

The motion for summary judgment in Pidgeon v. Turner, a five-year-old lawsuit challenging the benefits, states that the city should not subsidize same-sex marriages because gay couples cannot produce offspring, “which are needed to ensure economic growth and the survival of the human race.”

The motion also asks Republican Judge Lisa Millard, of the 310th District Family Court, to order the city to “claw back” taxpayer funds spent on the benefits since November 2013, when former Mayor Annise Parker first extended health and life insurance coverage to same-sex spouses. And the court filing suggests that to comply with both state and federal law, the city should eliminate all spousal benefits, including for opposite-sex couples.

The motion for summary judgment was filed July 2 by Jared Woodfill, an attorney for Jack Pidgeon and Larry Hicks, two Houston taxpayers who initially brought their lawsuit in December 2013. Woodfill, a former chair of the Harris County Republican Party, is president of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, which is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.

In his motion for summary judgment, Woodfill asserts that although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges in June 2015, that decision does not require the city to treat same-sex couples equally.

“Obergefell does not require taxpayer subsidies for same-sex marriages — any more than Roe v. Wade requires taxpayers subsidies for abortions,” Woodfill’s motion states.

Alan Bernstein, a spokesman for the city, said it will respond to the motion “in a timely fashion.”

“The City hopes the Judge will be persuaded by the law,” Bernstein said in an email. “The Legal Department defers to the arguments it will make in response.”

See here for previous coverage, and here for the last update. It’s hard to know what will happen here because the basic goal of the lawsuit is so ridiculous and harmful, and the immediate reaction of any decent person who hears about it will be “but marriage is marriage and why would anyone want to do that?” The sad and scary fact is that some people are like that, and that includes some judges. Did I mention that the judge in this case, Lisa Millard, is up for re-election in August? Sonya Heath is her opponent. There’s never been a better time to elect some better judges. Think Progress has more.

Anti-same sex employee benefits lawsuit moved back to state court

On and on we go.

Nearly three years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, the city of Houston continues to battle for the rights of its gay workers.

On Tuesday, a judge struck down Houston’s attempts to defend its city benefits policy in federal court. The case will be remanded back to state court, and the city will have to pay the legal fees of the two men suing to overturn the policy, which extends spousal benefits to same-sex marriages.

The outcome of this case will be limited to the city of Houston. Dallas has a similar policy that has not been challenged.

But the fight is a good example of the war waged to erase, erode or at least stop the expansion of LGBT rights since since the 2015 marriage ruling, Noel Freeman said.

“These are people who are never, ever going to give up. They are going to go to their grave hating us,” Freeman, the first city of Houston employee to receive spousal benefits for his husband, told The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday. “And there is no court case … that’s going to change their minds.

“That’s just the way it is.”

[…]

In a last-ditch effort to shift the fight to federal court, Houston asked to move the case to the Southern District Court earlier this year. On Tuesday, Judge Kenneth Hoyt ruled the city did not prove federal court was the proper venue and ordered it to pay Pidgeon and Hicks’ legal fees.

The case will be remanded to Harris County District Court. Married gay city employees will continue to receive benefits for their spouses until a final ruling.

See here for previous coverage of this atrocity, which is still a thing because our feckless State Supreme Court allowed itself to be pressured into giving the case a second chance after previously refusing to consider it. Noel Freeman, who’s a friend of mine, is quite right that the people pursuing this action (including Jared Woodfill) will never give up – if this suit is ultimately ruled against them, they’ll find some other pretext to keep LGBT folks from being treated as full and equal members of society. We all need to oppose the politicians who enable these haters, and support those who favor equality. It’s the only way this will get better.

Jared Woodfill never stops never stopping

Here we go again.

RedEquality

Fifteen months after the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land, anti-LGBT groups in Texas are still fighting the decision.

Jonathan Saenz, president of the right-wing lobby group Texas Values, and Houston anti-LGBT activist Jared Woodfill announced Tuesday that they’re again asking the Texas Supreme Court to hear their lawsuit seeking to block the same-sex spouses of government workers from receiving health care and other benefits.

[…]

In their motion for a rehearing, Saenz and Woodfill argue that Obergefell should be interpreted narrowly because it violates states’ rights under the 10th Amendment, has no basis in the Constitution and threatens religious freedom.

“It is clear that the current Supreme Court will continue to use its power to advance the ideology of the sexual revolution until there is a change of membership,” Saenz and Woodfill wrote. “It is well known that the homosexual rights movement is not content with the judicial imposition of same-sex marriage in all 50 States; it is also seeking to coerce people of faith who oppose homosexual behavior into participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies.”

Ken Upton, senior counsel for the LGBT civil rights group Lambda Legal, told theObserver that Saenz and Woodfill are “more to be pitied than censored.”

“Obergefell requires the government to treat all married couples the same,” Upton said. “Obergefell doesn’t say that a government employer has to offer any married couple spousal benefits, but if it chooses to do so it must offer the same benefits to all married couples not just the different-sex ones. The government does not get to privilege straight couples over gay couples.”

If the Texas Supreme Court were to take the case and rule in favor of Saenz and Woodfill, the city of Houston could appeal the decision directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, Upton said.

“But let’s be realistic,” he added. “The Texas Supreme Court is not going to grant rehearing. My take is that the Texas Supreme Court is done with marriage. I don’t think there’s much appetite to re-engage that discussion.”

See here for the background. Some things call for logic and reason, some for scorn and derision, and for some all one can do is stare in slack-jawed amazement. That’s all I’ve got on this one.

State Supreme Court declines to hear lawsuit over city’s same-sex partner benefits

I had totally forgotten this was still a thing that was happening.

RedEquality

The Texas Supreme Court has declined to hear a case challenging Houston’s extension of health and life-insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of married employees, calling an apparent end to three years of legal battles over the policy change.

Houston began offering employment benefits to spouses of all married couples in November 2013, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Then-Mayor Annise Parker’s move prompted three lawsuits, two from conservatives who argued the policy violated Houston’s city charter, the Defense of Marriage Act and the Texas Constitution.

State District Judge Lisa Millard twice signed a temporary restraining order blocking the city from offering the benefits, most recently in November 2014.

Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals lifted that injunction last summer after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in the case Obergefell v. Hodges.

Conservative activists Jared Woodfill and Jonathan Saenz later appealed that decision, arguing that “there is no ‘fundamental right’ to spousal employee benefits.”

See here, here, and here for some background. The federal lawsuit was officially dismissed on July 6, 2015, but there remained a state-court lawsuit. You can see its full history at the Supreme Court level here. According to the Chron story, Woodfill intends to ask for a rehearing. I have no idea what he thinks he can accomplish at this point, but no one ever said Jared Woodfill was a rational being, and as Mark Joseph Stern at Slate observed, there was at least one Supreme Court justice (John Devine, of course) who really pines for the day when all those icky gay people had to hide themselves in closets. People like that are thankfully part of a shrinking minority these days, but don’t kid yourself into thinking they’ll ever truly go away. The Press has more.

Woodfill is still pursuing his anti-same-sex benefits lawsuit

From the inbox and the febrile mind of Jared Woodfill:

RedEquality

Last year Houston Judge Lisa Millard granted a temporary injunction and ordered Houston Mayor Annise Parker and the City of Houston to immediately stop recognizing same-sex ‘marriages’ and stop providing benefits to the same-sex couples married in other states. Judge Millard stated, “This court does not legislate from the bench” and ordered the injunction to stay in place until a trial date of December 2015. I filed the lawsuit on behalf of Larry Hicks and Pastor Jack Pidgeon. The City of Houston has appealed Judge Millard’s opinion. Mayor Parker is arguing that the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding same-sex marriage justifies her unilateral decision to use your tax dollars to fund same-sex benefits. I believe the City of Houston and Mayor Parker are wrong. The recent marriage decisions addressed a new right for same-sex marriage, but did not establish an entitlement for financial support at taxpayer expense. Consistent with the same dichotomy that resulted in the abortion decisions, which established an individual right to abortion but an equally strong right by the States to deny public funding for abortion. Accordingly, we have responded to Mayor Parker’s unlawful use of your tax dollars and filed a responsive brief. The brief can be accessed by clicking here. I am hopeful that the Houston Fourteenth Court of Appeals, like Judge Millard, will once again make it clear that Mayor Parker’s executive actions to force the funding of same-sex benefits on the people of Houston are illegal. It is time for Mayor Parker to stop wasting tax dollars on issues that have already been resolved by Texas voters and Texas state courts. I will keep you posted on the progress of this litigation.

Read Judge Millard’s order here.

To review the situation: In November of 2013, after SCOTUS knocked down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Mayor Parker issued an executive order declaring that spousal benefits for city employees extended to legally married (i.e., in other states) same-sex spouses. This was both in response to the deletion of DOMA and in recognition of the fact that the 2001 charter amendment limited benefits to “employees, their legal spouses and dependent children”. Pidgeon and Hicks, abetted by Woodfill, then filed a lawsuit challenging this, and got an initial injunction against it from Family Court Judge Lisa Millard. A second lawsuit was then filed by three City employees who would have benefited from Mayor Parker’s order, to force the action that she took. Both suits were then moved to federal court in December, where Judge Lee Rosenthal dropped the injunction against the city. The second plaintiffs, represented by Lambda Legal, moved to combine the two suits, which were eventually moved back to state court last August. Woodfill and pals filed another lawsuit in state court in November; I have no idea what happened to that one.

As far as I know, that was the last update until after the Obergfell decision, at which time the Lambda Legal lawsuit was formally dismissed for being moot. I would have assumed the same would have happened to the Pidgeon/Hicks lawsuit, but I have not seen anything to confirm or deny that. As for this current action, I have no idea what legal basis Woodfill thinks he has to draw a distinction between same-sex marriage and opposite-sex marriage – silly me, I thought the SCOTUS ruling was pretty clear on that point – but after what we’ve seen in the past few weeks, who knows what a Texas court might do. Any legal types out there who can explain any or all of this better than I can, by all means please do. I’ll keep my eyes open for any further developments.

Paxton drops another same sex marriage appeal

Another step forward.

RedEquality

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton plans to dismiss an appeal challenging a Travis County judge’s February ruling that found the state’s ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 decision declaring gay couples have a fundamental right to marry left no legal controversy to be decided by Texas’ highest civil court, the attorney general’s office said Monday.

Once the appeal to the Texas Supreme Court is dropped, Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman will be able to continue a case asking him to determine if an eight-year relationship between two Austin women should be recognized as a common-law marriage.

Paxton’s office, however, has not yet decided whether to continue a separate appeal in a Travis County case that allowed two Austin women to get married in February.

The Travis County cases are among the final loose ends remaining in the legal battle over gay marriage in Texas.

[…]

The Travis County marriage cases began Feb. 17, when Herman found the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional as part of an estate fight in which Austin resident Sonemaly Phrasavath sought to have her longtime relationship with another woman, Stella Powell, declared a common-law marriage. Powell died last summer of colon cancer.

Two days later, state District Judge David Wahlberg ordered the Travis County clerk’s office to issue a marriage license to Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant, citing Goodfriend’s poor health.

At Paxton’s request, the Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked both rulings in February, and then began accepting legal briefs on how it should ultimately rule.

During a Monday hearing on the common-law marriage case, a lawyer for Paxton told Herman that the appeal would be dropped in that case. Herman then set an Oct. 5 hearing to determine if Phrasavath and Powell were in a common-law marriage.

“We’re going to treat it like any other common-law marriage case in Texas, which is all we’ve ever wanted,” said Brian Thompson, lawyer for Phrasavath.

See here and here for background on the Phrasavath and Powell case, and here for more on the Goodfriend and Bryant case, including a link to the Supreme Court injunction. I have to assume Paxton will drop that appeal as well, since it’s hard to see any legal grounds he’d have for continuing to pursue it.

As far as other legal loose ends go, I have yet to see any further news regarding the injunction against granting FMLA benefits to federal employees with same sex spouses in Texas. I feel certain this will go away with the filing of a motion, but either that hasn’t happened yet or I just haven’t been able to find a story about it. Here in Houston, the lawsuits that were filed over Mayor Annise Parker’s executive order allowing spousal benefits to all legally married city employees – one filed by three city employees seeking to force this action, and two other filed by agitators seeking to stop it; see here for the latest update – have now been dismissed. According to a Facebook update on Noel Freeman’s wall (Freeman being one of the original plaintiffs), “the case was closed today with this last entry: FINAL ORDER LIFTING STAY, DISSOLVING PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION, AND DISMISSING CASE AS MOOT granting 15 Unopposed MOTION to Lift Stay, Unopposed MOTION To Dissolve Preliminary Injunction, Unopposed MOTION to Dismiss 13 Preliminary Injunction and Dismiss Case as Moot Pursuant to Rule 41(a)(2). Case terminated on 7/6/2015. (Signed by Judge Sim Lake)”. Spousal benefits are now available to all city of Houston employees, as they should be.

Decision on validity of HERO-repeal petitions coming today

Get ready for the fireworks.

City of Houston officials plan to announce Monday whether a petition submitted by opponents of the city’s new nondiscrimination ordinance contains enough valid signatures to force a vote on repealing the measure this November.

Opponents claimed to have gathered and verified 31,000 names, but City Attorney David Feldman said Friday many of the more than 5,000 pages fall short of legal requirements set out in the city charter. The final tally likely will be closer than many expected to the minimum threshold of 17,269 signatures, Feldman said.

“There’s an issue there with respect to the validity of pages,” Feldman said. “But right now I don’t know what the final count is.”

Feldman provided no numbers, but said his staff had found many invalid pages, most notably because some of the circulators who collected stacks of signatures were not qualified Houston voters, as required by law. In such cases, all the signatures the circulator gathered would be void, Feldman said.

Many names on valid pages also did not belong to registered Houston voters, Feldman said, and some signatures were gathered before June 3, when the ordinance was published and the petition drive could begin.

Noel Freeman, who led a volunteer group of ordinance supporters doing their own count, went further, saying the number of invalid pages alone pushes the signatures below the required level.

[…]

Freeman, who is treasurer of the Houston GLBT Caucus but said his group was distinct from the caucus, said its count showed almost 3,000 pages were invalid, voiding nearly 19,000 signatures. Assuming all of the signatures on the remaining pages are valid, Freeman said the count stands at 16,499.

“We hope that the city secretary and the city legal department have reviewed the same things we’ve reviewed, consistent with those criteria that the city has laid out, and our hope is that they come to a conclusion that is similar to or identical to the conclusion we came to,” he said.

Remember when the petitions were turned in and the opponents claimed they had gathered 50,000 signatures on them? Yeah, it turns out that was a wee bit of an exaggeration. Now they’re saying that they had only 31,000 signatures that they could verify. That’s a lot less than 50,000 and puts them squarely in the danger zone, since the conventional wisdom is that you need double the minimum required number to feel safe about meeting the validity requirement.

Freeman, whom I emailed with questions about the numbers in this story, said his group gave the opponents credit for 35,452 sigs originally, based on tallying up the numbers written at the bottom of each page, which they presumed was the number of valid signatures the petitioners’ own verification team thought they had on each page. They then knocked out all of the pages that did not meet legal requirements as noted in the story, and that plus the individual invalid signatures that they found on valid pages was enough to get them down to the 16,499 mark. They stopped looking at that point even though there were other valid pages that had not been scoured. Given the likelihood of more invalid sigs on those unexamined pages, plus the fact that the petitioners themselves thought they had some 3,500 fewer sigs to begin with than Freeman’s group assumed, it’s probable that the final tally is even lower.

Outsmart had a look at the petition review process as it was going on.

When it became clear that the opposition would be calling for its repeal, Freeman, along with numerous other community leaders and HERO advocates, developed a strategy to deal with the anticipated petition process. They held several training sessions at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church in the Heights to educate HERO supporters on how to check the petitions and determine whether or not signatures are valid. Over 80 people have been trained thus far, according to Kris Banks, a prominent volunteer who has been active in this process.

Signatures on the petitions can be marked invalid for numerous reasons, including signers not being valid registered voters and petitions not being properly notarized. Banks said that each page of the petition is different, with some containing 15 valid signatures, and others with none. “There are some things that the city secretary won’t be checking for, like fraud and duplicates,” Banks explained. “There are just so many potential issues with these petitions that it really helps to have many eyes looking at them and thinking about what problems there might be.”

Freeman has spent over 50 hours reviewing these petitions, and he plans on reviewing every single one of the 5,199 pages before presenting his findings. During this process, Freeman believes he even discovered a problem with one of the petition pages associated with longtime antigay activist Dr. Steven Hotze.

“We have found a very large number of petition pages that may be invalid because they do not appear to comply with state law,” Freeman said. “One of those pages is a page Steve Hotze both signed and circulated.”

Oh, the humanity! You’d think this gang of chuckleheads might have included a person or two in a leadership role that knew something about quality assurance, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case. Still, it’s up the city to make the call. Not that this will be the final word, of course.

Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city, has predicted the issue ultimately will find its way to a judge.

“If we say there are enough signatures, I’m assuming we get sued by groups like Mr. Freeman’s who have done their own count and disagree,” she said Tuesday, “and if we say that there are not enough signatures, I’m assuming we get sued by those who passed the petitions.”

Given the petitioners’ inability to do their own accurate count in the first place, that will be interesting to see. How can they claim they have enough valid signatures if they don’t even know how many signatures they turned in? HERO Petition, which had been the host of petition page scans during the validation process but which will transition to being an information site about the process, Buzzfeed, and Lone Star Q have more, and if you need a reminder of what the people behind the repeal effort are all about, see this.

UPDATE: From Facebook: “Not enough valid signatures on petitions to overturn HERO. 15,249 valid. 17,269 needed.” Will have a full report tomorrow.

City benefits for same sex spouses back on

For now, at least.

RedEquality

A federal judge ruled Thursday that same-sex couples legally married in other states can keep health and life insurance benefits that were extended to spouses of city of Houston employees in November.

[…]

[Noel] Freeman’s husband’s benefits, and those of spouses of four other city employees, were temporarily halted in December after two Harris County Republicans, led by Jared Woodfill, the county’s GOP chairman, sued the city.

The lawsuit claims Mayor Annise Parker’s policy violates Houston’s city charter, the state’s Defense of Marriage Act and the Texas Constitution.

After the lawsuit was filed in family court, state District Judge Lisa Millard signed a temporary restraining order putting the brakes on the administration of the benefits.

Days later, lawyers for the city of Houston had the case moved to federal court. At Thursday’s hearing, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal declined to grant the GOP’s request for a restraining order.

It was a difference Woodfill seized on after the hearing.

“Judge Millard’s position was that the Mayor’s actions were illegal and unlawful and she immediately restrained the Mayor from going forward,” Woodfill said. “This judge has not decided whether the Mayor’s actions were illegal, so she gave us more time to do additional briefing.”

Woodfill will next try to convince Rosenthal that the case should be moved back to state court. Only after Rosenthal decides if it will stay in her court or be sent back will both sides start to argue over the substance of the case.

See here, here, and here for the background. The next hearing will likely be sometime in February – the story doesn’t specify a date, just that it’s “more than a month away” – so that’s that for the immediate future. But look, does anyone believe that regardless of the outcome of this case that Woodfill is going to prevail in the end? The demise of DOMA and the court rulings in Utah and Ohio have shown that the dam is busted. It’s just a matter of time, and that time is sooner, not later. Jared Woodfill can try to build a wall of sand against the tide, but the tide is going to win. The only question is how much harm he will inflict on people like Noel Freeman and Brad Pritchett, and on the Harris County GOP, before he is forced to accept the inevitable. Texpatriate has more.

The truth is out there on the Ministers for Keryl email

In response to my previous post about the homophobic “Ministers for Keryl” email, a couple of commenters said that we didn’t have enough evidence to determine whether or not the email was genuine or spoofed. So, based on that feedback I’m going to provide as much information as I can to see what we can learn.

The starting point for this kind of investigation is always the full headers of the email in question, as that’s how you can tell where the email originated, what path it took, and whether there’s anything bogus in there that would point to some kind of skulduggery. Different email clients have different ways of exposing this information to you. In Gmail, you click the dropdown menu next to the Reply button, and choose Show Original:

It opens the result onto a new webpage. Here’s what I get for the header information (it also includes the full HTML and Java code for the body of the email, which I will omit here) for the infamous “Ministers for Keryl” email:

Delivered-To: cakuffner@gmail.com Received: by 10.182.14.138 with SMTP id p10csp103284obc; Mon, 9 Apr 2012 11:33:58 -0700 (PDT) Received: by 10.224.98.3 with SMTP id o3mr10492149qan.62.1333996438456; Mon, 09 Apr 2012 11:33:58 -0700 (PDT) Return-Path: bounce-mc.us4_9329605.111797-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net Received: from mail125.us2.mcsv.net (mail125.us2.mcsv.net. [173.231.139.125]) by mx.google.com with ESMTP id a8si13886738qao.49.2012.04.09.11.33.58; Mon, 09 Apr 2012 11:33:58 -0700 (PDT) Received-SPF: pass (google.com: domain of bounce-mc.us4_9329605.111797-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net designates 173.231.139.125 as permitted sender) client-ip=173.231.139.125; Authentication-Results: mx.google.com; spf=pass (google.com: domain of bounce-mc.us4_9329605.111797-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net designates 173.231.139.125 as permitted sender) smtp.mail=bounce-mc.us4_9329605.111797-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net; dkim=pass header.i=MinistersForKerylDouglas=3Dyahoo.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha1; c=relaxed/relaxed; s=k1; d=mail125.us2.mcsv.net; h=Subject:From:Reply-To:To:Date:Message-ID:List-Unsubscribe:Sender:Content-Type:MIME-Version; i=MinistersForKerylDouglas=3Dyahoo.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net; bh=Sr1KnAmgb/3XEASAZvhocc4+cHA=; b=e8rsMzkHmbg1qzZiRx3SVuTNq5fJ+NWjB9WsTd3YN9fjRK993EOa0se1P/HqnGMUrZo7TDF89H1P s/qbDgg95CMhYHYNMTdiTNVadBsT1jwdiuD27q8aiV19GoCpnVNAfRNEHBzWwHS3YgGcKTPm8QQY l6NzRMBaP+rqmgGZB38= DomainKey-Signature: a=rsa-sha1; c=nofws; q=dns; s=k1; d=mail125.us2.mcsv.net; b=cSuqm0G7Gnm0HemlKLpwfQT4dJyqIgwcVV31ziTnSK/G4jsWl8OlFm47bvAh7AmNkLTdCrZyH7mX gOMZ8an++wh/JMBIdozWwfDEzTCcjXn+BfIqOqe/88wB3xHP+qhGdPAWgUGbzEvxjfzJJGrv90cv c/2qL94pTDyNSTyRlYE=; Received: from (127.0.0.1) by mail125.us2.mcsv.net (PowerMTA(TM) v3.5r16) id hgclpc11djob for cakuffner@gmail.com; Mon, 9 Apr 2012 18:29:05 +0000 (envelope-from bounce-mc.us4_9329605.111797-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net) Subject: =?utf-8?Q?Support=20Keryl=20Douglas=20for=20Harris=20Democratic=20Chair?= From: =?utf-8?Q?Rev.=20Willie=20J.=20Howard?= MinistersForKerylDouglas@yahoo.com Reply-To: =?utf-8?Q?Rev.=20Willie=20J.=20Howard?= MinistersForKerylDouglas@yahoo.com To: cakuffner@gmail.com Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2012 18:29:05 +0000 Message-ID: 83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc65e3510466.20120409182858@mail125.us2.mcsv.net X-Mailer: MailChimp Mailer - **CID03a4f8c00a65e3510466** X-Campaign: mailchimp83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc.03a4f8c00a X-campaignid: mailchimp83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc.03a4f8c00a x-im: 38509-03a4f8c00a X-Report-Abuse: Please report abuse for this campaign here: http://www.mailchimp.com/abuse/abuse.phtml?u=83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc&id=03a4f8c00a&e=65e3510466 x-accounttype: ff List-Unsubscribe: mailto:unsubscribe-83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc-03a4f8c00a-65e3510466@mailin1.us2.mcsv.net?subject=unsubscribe, http://keryldouglascampaign.us4.list-manage2.com/unsubscribe?u=83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc&id=0c4af39c85&e=65e3510466&c=03a4f8c00a>\ Sender: "Rev. Willie J. Howard" MinistersForKerylDouglas=yahoo.com@mail125.us2.mcsv.net x-mcda: FALSE Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="_----------=_MCPart_1217078024" MIME-Version: 1.0

That may look like a lot of gobbledegook if you’re not a techie, but there are a few important things to highlight. Where it says “Received: from mail125.us2.mcsv.net (mail125.us2.mcsv.net. [173.231.139.125])”, the key things are that “mail125.us2.mcsv.net” appears to be a MailChimp server – “mcsv.net” resolves to http://mailchimp.com/about/mcsv/ if you plug it into a browser – and that 173.231.139.125 is indeed the IP address for mail125.us2.mcsv.net – open a command prompt and do “ping -a 173.231.139.125” to see for yourself. We can therefore say that the email does appear to have originated with MailChimp, which as Noel Freeman noted in that Dallas Voice story was what the GLBT Political Caucus used to make the accusation that the email came from Keryl Douglas’ campaign.

That’s not enough for a conviction. As commenter Paul said to me in an email, it would be nice to be able to compare these headers to those from an email known to have come from a campaign via MailChimp. As it happens, I have several of those from the Keryl Douglas campaign in my mailbox. Here are the headers from the most recent one, dated January 23.

Delivered-To: cakuffner@gmail.com Received: by 10.182.81.230 with SMTP id d6cs32291oby; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:04:06 -0800 (PST) Received: by 10.224.168.84 with SMTP id t20mr7916103qay.2.1327309445041; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:04:05 -0800 (PST) Return-Path: bounce-mc.us4_7332577.43837-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net Received: from mail120.us2.mcsv.net (mail120.us2.mcsv.net. [173.231.139.120]) by mx.google.com with ESMTP id d10si4311876qcx.187.2012.01.23.01.04.04; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:04:05 -0800 (PST) Received-SPF: pass (google.com: domain of bounce-mc.us4_7332577.43837-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net designates 173.231.139.120 as permitted sender) client-ip=173.231.139.120; Authentication-Results: mx.google.com; spf=pass (google.com: domain of bounce-mc.us4_7332577.43837-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net designates 173.231.139.120 as permitted sender) smtp.mail=bounce-mc.us4_7332577.43837-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net; dkim=pass header.i=KerylDouglasforHCDP=3Dgmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha1; c=relaxed/relaxed; s=k1; d=mail120.us2.mcsv.net; h=Subject:From:Reply-To:To:Date:Message-ID:List-Unsubscribe:Sender:Content-Type:MIME-Version; i=KerylDouglasforHCDP=3Dgmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net; bh=ntfeE12aE8Vd8ky8gyVOZYlgy90=; b=Al+GShpwJsaGcDiox+RHHVKr5LzftL/sSCdd0QZU0cx5LSN4DfPotIhBZYHDdziUBgtQMuUFWxpD /REnpk1Yrbj0Gz1kHdwFP1zwbluQEtuLmF6rT/YxtyyEvxZ0Mhm+RBIhos6HK8CIIk6vdYim6eZH otqd3xPJvpYJYeJ6e0E= DomainKey-Signature: a=rsa-sha1; c=nofws; q=dns; s=k1; d=mail120.us2.mcsv.net; b=Bfe7MCVMbSbZ19eaGOTOAUNNM6I4j/GcRXpswVR8oRDBH9Q9LOBDgF46wxn2bwl5Rx0Ngp+dV0Os Qb/K1+ZpYiaVrBSnmcqS82b5ojXxvPcnnM/u9cn7ai9b8vu1QAW+u5LYeX4/G6qQOqKl9y2paef/ /BUOIjno3/IXcKSQAjM=; Received: from (127.0.0.1) by mail120.us2.mcsv.net (PowerMTA(TM) v3.5r16) id h3kh8811djoh for cakuffner@gmail.com; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 09:03:58 +0000 (envelope-from bounce-mc.us4_7332577.43837-cakuffner=gmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net) Subject: =?utf-8?Q?You=20can=20repeat=20history=20in=202012=21?= From: =?utf-8?Q?Keryl=20L.=20Douglas=20Campaign?= KerylDouglasforHCDP@gmail.com Reply-To: =?utf-8?Q?Keryl=20L.=20Douglas=20Campaign?= KerylDouglasforHCDP@gmail.com To: cakuffner@gmail.com Date: Mon, 23 Jan 2012 09:03:58 +0000 Message-ID: d87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd05f508aea06.20120123090345@mail120.us2.mcsv.net X-Mailer: MailChimp Mailer - **CID0160311a9e5f508aea06** X-Campaign: mailchimpd87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0.0160311a9e X-campaignid: mailchimpd87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0.0160311a9e x-im: 38509-0160311a9e X-Report-Abuse: Please report abuse for this campaign here: http://www.mailchimp.com/abuse/abuse.phtml?u=d87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0&id=0160311a9e&e=5f508aea06 x-accounttype: ff List-Unsubscribe: mailto:unsubscribe-d87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0-0160311a9e-5f508aea06@mailin1.us2.mcsv.net?subject=unsubscribe, http://democrats.us4.list-manage.com/unsubscribe?u=d87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0&id=7151477e83&e=5f508aea06&c=0160311a9e Sender: "Keryl L. Douglas Campaign" KerylDouglasforHCDP=gmail.com@mail120.us2.mcsv.net x-mcda: FALSE Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="_----------=_MCPart_1410715978" MIME-Version: 1.0

They look more or less the same; the IP address and mail server in the “Received from” match up as before. The main difference I see is in the “List-Unsubscribe” line; where the Douglas campaign email has “http://democrats.us4.list-manage.com/unsubscribe”, the Ministers for Keryl email has “http://keryldouglascampaign.us4.list-manage2.com”. (Those addresses also resolve to the MailChimp domain, by the way.) I wondered what that might mean, so I checked a couple of other MailChimp campaign emails I have. There’s one from the Elaine Palmer campaign dated February 6 for which the List-Unsubscribe is “http://ElaineHPalmerforJudge.us4.list-manage2.com/unsubscribe”, and one from the Andrew Burks for City Council campaign dated December 22 for which the List-Unsubscribe is “http://andrewburksforhouston.us4.list-manage.com/unsubscribe”. Seems pretty clear to me.

Again, not enough for a conviction, but nothing that would lead to an acquittal, either. I think we’re at the limit of what I can tell from the emails, but we can certainly get closer to the truth than this. Since everything indicates that the Ministers For Keryl email did come via MailChimp, then the next step is to ask them to check their logs to see what they can say about where it originated. I doubt they’d turn that information over without a paid account or a subpoena, neither of which I have. Not that it really matters, since I don’t have the bandwidth to pursue this any further, but there are surely other parties who ought to be able to. Keryl Douglas, who according to Noel Freeman claimed at her press conference that her account had been hacked, would presumably be interested in ferreting out the truth if she really has been victimized. Having formally accused her of being responsible, the GLBT Political Caucus might want to get an answer. And of course, a professional reporter might want to take advantage of the resources that a professional newsgathering organization could bring to bear on the matter. My point is that this isn’t another he-said/she-said dispute, and it should not be treated as one. There’s an objective answer to this question, and while we may not be able to answer it definitively, we can at least narrow down the objective possibilities. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Douglas denies sending anti-gay email

Keryl Douglas held a press conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the Willie Howard email, and she sent out this statement regarding the matter.

Let me begin by stating immediately and unequivocally that I did not write, nor cause to be written the letter allegedly penned by a Reverend Willie J. Howard on behalf of a group of ministers for Keryl. Neither did I have knowledge that such a letter was being written.

[…]

On or about Monday, April 9, 2012, this Willie Lynch style letter began to be widely distributed and was falsely blamed on or attributed to my campaign. Prior to this letter and responding e-mails being widely distributed by Carl Whitmarsh and/or others, I had absolutely no knowledge of such a letter, nor did I distribute or cause it to be distributed. From the onset, numerous libelous and slanderous statements have been made associating the letter with me or my campaign. Such conduct is not only malicious but actionable under the law. I urge everyone to immediately cease and desist from these false, libelous accusations against me and my campaign.

My immediate response after learning of the letter’s existence and the attempts by numerous persons to associate the letter with me or my campaign, was to immediately act to report the letter to law enforcement . I strongly believe that as it relates to fabricating this letter and its writer, creating an e-mail and possibly a P.O. Box for the purpose of falsely associating these to me or my campaign, if such conduct is not a crime, it should be. As a result of the distribution of this “Willie” letter, I have received hundreds of mean-spirited and accusatory, attacking e-mails which, at minimum, should qualify as cyber-bullying and harassment.

At no time in my campaign to date has there ever existed a group called Ministers for Keryl. This is a fabricated group just as I strongly assert that the letter is also a fabricated letter. I have absolutely no knowledge of having ever met a Willie J. Howard, let alone a Reverend by that name. It is my firm belief that Willie J. Howard does not exist. If he does exist, then I both challenge him to come forward AND I challenge “Team Whitmarsh” and other responders to the letter to produce this Willie J. Howard.

The letter, a copy of which accompanies my press advisory and statement, is not only an attack on me and my campaign, but also on Ministers, the Religious Community, and the African American Community in general. I strongly assert that it originated with neither of us, nor could or would serve either of us any benefit. I assert that the identification of the source of this letter would be identical to who gained the most from it being produced and distributed.

This letter was written and distributed as a despicably desperate attempt to distract or derail my substantive campaign on the issues, while at the same time intended to demean, disrespect and denigrate ministers and the religious community. The Church is a traditional pillar of the community which deserves respect and reverence. Even such a base, depraved attempt to compete with my campaign on the issues should not have also targeted the ministers. I believe that only those who are morally and ethically bankrupt could concoct and distribute such a letter, and especially to blame it on one or more ministers.

I cannot recall even once in my life when one or more ministers have expressed their views or concerns under the cloak of an alias or anonymity. A google search does not show the existence of a Reverend Willie J. Howard. In a search to determine the origin of the letter, the path actually grows cold for us at the forwarded e-mails of Carl Whitmarsh and an internet link where the letter can be accessed. It cannot ever be truthfully linked to any ministers I know of nor with the only e-mail and website established by me or my campaign. Whoever initiated, distributed and/or attributed to me this letter, lacks the affirmative defense of TRUTH in any potential civil litigation. This letter has or will be reported to all agencies that may be of assistance in determining its origin and holding accountable its originators.

The strategy of the incendiary and inflammatory letter of unknown origin is unfortunately not a new one. It was used in the Mayoral election in 2009, as well as prior mayoral elections. It has been used to incite defeat of other measures. It is not a new strategy, but it is definitely time that it becomes an unsuccessful and unacceptable strategy.

Let me assure you that neither I nor anyone representing or acting on behalf of my campaign wrote this letter; nor do we embrace or approve of the spirit and intent of it. I will continue to endeavor to include and work with ALL people from ALL walks of life across our myriad diverse communities. I will continue to focus my campaign on the critical issues our voters and our nation face, educating and empowering our voters on the Democratic platform, mobilizing and inspiring them to turnout to vote and protecting them from voter intimidation, suppression or civil rights violations as they exercise their right to vote.

I’m glad to hear Douglas disavow the “spirit and intent” of that email, but a key question remains unanswered. The Dallas Voice explains.

The above screen grab shows the yellow information window that pops up when you 'mouse over' a link at the bottom of an anti-gay email sent by 'Ministers for Keryl Douglas.' Based on this 'metadata,' the Houston GLBT Political Caucus alleges the email was in fact sent by Douglas' campaign itself.

In a press release sent out [Monday] night in response to Howard’s letter, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus alleged that a digital analysis shows the email containing Howard’s letter was in fact sent by Douglas’ campaign itself, and not by “Ministers for Keryl Douglas.”

We contacted Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Caucus, to find out how the Caucus determined this. Freeman explained that electronic data, called “metadata,” is attached to every email. When you use an email client — such as iContact or Constant Contact, but in this case “MailChimp” — it attaches its own specific data.

“We examined the metadata on that email that was sent out and compared it to an official email from the Keryl Douglas campaign,” Freeman said. “They were identical. The metadata that was attached was identical, and it says Keryl Douglas campaign.”

Freeman directed us to “mouse over” a link at the bottom of the copy of Howard’s email that was forwarded to us. We confirmed that when you mouse over a link that says “Add us to your address book” at the bottom of the email, what pops up is a web address associated with Douglas’ campaign website. (See screen grab above.)

“You’d be amazed at how stupid people can be about this stuff,” Freeman said.

I can also confirm that a mouseover of the links in the “Ministers for Keryl” email that I received showed the link you see in that screenshot. That does not square with Douglas’ denials. I will reiterate what I said when I published my interview with Lane Lewis: Keryl, if you contact me with a time and place that are suitable for you, I will still do an interview with you. Obviously, I will ask about this. You know how to reach me.

Finally, from Patricia Kilday Hart, who unfortunately treats this as a he-said/she-said dispute instead of exhibiting any curiosity about whether the objective claim being made about the “Ministers for Keryl” email is, you know, factually correct or not:

As Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus explained it to me, the tags cannot be altered by users. “Any claim that this email did not come directly from the Keryl Douglas Campaign is a lie. The digital trail of evidence is indisputable.”

Douglas held a news conference Thursday not only disputing the allegations, but turning the tables. In her statement, Douglas, an attorney, asserted that “numerous libelous and slanderous statements have been made associating the letter with me or my campaign. Such conduct is not only malicious but actionable under the law.”

Like I said, you would think that the objective claim Freeman made, which logically implies that someone is not telling the truth here, would have piqued Hart’s interest. The Chron does have a couple of computer experts on staff in the event one would like an evaluation of such things. I’m just saying. Be that as it may, there was a political angle that did catch Hart’s eye:

This mystery has an interesting cast of characters: Michael Kubosh, who ran as a Democrat against Sen. Dan Patrick, attended Douglas’ press conference, as did Pastor James Nash.

Well-known for his activism – with his two brothers – to overturn Houston’s red-light camera ordinance, Kubosh told me that Nash’s support had been critical in winning that election. “We wouldn’t have won had it not been for Pastor Nash,” Kubosh said. If Nash was supporting Douglas, then so would the Kubosh brothers, he said. In recent years, they have been mostly known for their Republican ties.

I would think that if there’s one office a person might seek for which bipartisan credentials are not an asset it would be the chair of a county political party. I’m pretty sure that if I showed up at a Jared Woodfill press conference and expressed my support for his leadership that it would not be looked upon fondly by Republican primary voters. Putting everything else aside, I don’t see how this is helpful for Keryl Douglas.

Non-discrimination ballot referendum coming

I’ve been waiting for this.

they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

Activists are preparing a petition to put a referendum on Houston’s November ballot, calling for a ban on discrimination against gays and permission for the city to grant health insurance benefits to the unmarried partners of city employees.

If organizers collect the 20,000 signatures needed to get it on the ballot, the measure again would take the temperature of Houstonians who have voted against both proposals in separate measures in the past 27 years and could make Houston the focus of national attention as the latest political battleground over gay rights.

“Discrimination exists everywhere. It’s really hard to determine how big the problem is,” said Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Caucus, who said he expects to submit petition language to the city secretary as early as the end of the month. A local law is necessary, Freeman said, because gays and lesbians who want to press claims of discrimination currently must undertake costly litigation in state or federal courts.

Houston voters rejected two initiatives in 1985 that would have banned discrimination against gays and lesbians in city employment. In 1998, Mayor Lee Brown issued an order banning discrimination against gay city employees. It survived a three-year legal challenge from Councilman Rob Todd.

[…]

Todd supports Freeman’s referendum.

“I believe that everyone has a right to be loved,” said Todd, a Republican. “And everyone has a right to gainful employment and to be able to support their loved ones, and if those aren’t bipartisan values, then I don’t know what is.”

The former councilman explained that his objection to Brown’s order was parliamentary – that such a change should come from the voters or Council, “not some wave of the wand by the executive branch.” Todd said he believes this referendum has a chance of passing where others have failed because of a new generation of voters, an influx of newcomers and changed attitudes among long-time Houstonians.

I got a similar response from former Council Member Todd when I asked him about it after the city of San Antonio extended domestic partnership benefits to city employees. I too believe that a referendum like this – we don’t have the exact wording yet – should have a better chance of passing than previous ones had. The 2001 charter amendment that denied domestic partner benefits in Houston received 51.52% of the vote, not an overwhelming mandate. It won’t be an easy fight, and a lot will depend on how the issue is framed and who lines up with whom, but it’s a fight worth having and a fight that needs to be won. I’m looking forward to it.

More pushback on Perry’s choice of prayer partner

Glad to see it.

Gov. Rick Perry’s Aug. 6 day of prayer and fasting at Reliant Stadium is generating significant heat nationwide, with critics protesting the exclusively Christian focus of the event and Perry’s partnership with the controversial American Family Association, which advocates against gay rights.

Expressing objections on a variety of religious and cultural grounds, some opponents have organized a protest on Facebook, while others are urging the nation’s 49 other governors invited by Perry to boycott the event.

To host the Reliant Park event, Perry chose the Mississippi-based American Family Association, a nonprofit that operates a network of 192 radio stations with 2 million followers that has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for what the SPLC calls the dissemination of “known falsehoods” about homosexuality. The AFA also has called for numerous boycotts against companies and entities it says “promote the homosexual agenda.”

Critics also accused Perry of using a religious event to boost a possible presidential bid.

“I want to be clear that my criticism of the governor doesn’t stem from my lack of appreciation for religion, rather it comes from my deep respect for religion and from not wanting religion to be prostituted for political purposes,” said C. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Interfaith Alliance. “I think the people of Texas elected him to be the governor of the state, not the pastor of the state.”

[…]

Noel Freeman, head of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, said his organization did not take offense with “the event itself. If Governor Perry wants to have a prayer event, that’s his prerogative. The thing we take exception to is that his primary partner in this is an anti-gay hate group. They are primarily known for that fact. This was not a secret to either Governor Perry or his staff.”

Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, rejected the label of “hate group” and characterized his organization’s position on homosexuality as representative “of a lot of people who have traditional values.”

“They want somebody to speak for them,” he said. “We try to do that. We are reaching the Christian community with the truth about what is going on in our country.”

He acknowledged that a stated purpose of the August prayer event initiated by Perry – to pray for an end to the “debasement of our culture” – refers to the increasing acceptance of homosexuality by American society.

Well, as we’ve seen, the AFA is going to continue to tell everyone exactly how they feel about gays and non-Christians and anyone else they consider to be undesirable, which in turn will tell us all what this rally really is about, no matter what Rick Perry may say. It would be nice, as Perry makes his national tour this week, if he were to be asked at every stop whether he agrees with what the AFA is saying or not. I don’t actually expect that to happen, of course.

In the meantime, someone might want to visit with this fellow and help him point his browser to the AFA’s website.

When it comes to hosting potentially controversial events at the Reliant Complex, SMG/Reliant Park general manager Mark Miller said each proposal is considered on its own merits — within reason.

“It’s really a case-by-case basis of who wants to come book the building and what they want to book the building for,” said Miller, whose company contracts with Harris County to operate the Reliant complex. “If any group came by that was presenting a program that we didn’t feel was in the best interest of the community, I think it would be doubtful the building would be rented to them.”

Miller said SMG has turned down events in the past, but those denials were based on the events not being in the park’s business interests – renting out for an arena football game, for instance, a Texans competitor — and not because of ethical or moral concerns.

“Whether or not somebody has categorized (the AFA) as a hate group, I didn’t have any knowledge of that,” Miller said of Perry’s event. “Somebody coming in wanting to have a prayer event for the nation doesn’t automatically raise a red flag that it’s a bad thing to do.”

The content of a proposed program matters more than the group wishing to present it, he said.

“The presenting entity would raise the level of scrutiny regarding the program and the appropriateness of the program. If somebody came in that was obviously a group that had a reputation of violence or a reputation of being anti-government or anti-whatever, then obviously we would look,” Miller said. “We wouldn’t want to rent to al-Qaeda.”

You shouldn’t want to rent to the AFA, either. Perhaps if Mr. Miller were to learn a little more about them, he’d feel that way, too.

Judge rules against Nikki Araguz

This is unfortunate.

A judge has ruled that the marriage between a Wharton fire captain killed in the line of duty and his transgender wife was not legal, an attorney in the case said Tuesday.

Frank Mann III, one of the attorneys representing family members of Thomas Trevino Araguz III, said he had received notice from the office of State District Judge Randy Clapp that the judge ruled in his client’s favor.

“It is our understanding, having read a draft order circulated by Judge Clapp, that he has ruled that any marriage between Thomas Araguz and Nikki Araguz is void as a matter of law,” Mann said in a prepared statement sent by email a few minutes after 5 p.m., when the judge’s office was closed. Mann said he had a proposed order from the judge but was not allowed to circulate it.

[…]

Noel Freeman, president of the Houston Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Political Caucus, said by phone that the news was very disappointing, given that Nikki Araguz had presented legal documents, including her reissued birth certificate, showing she is female.

“Here you have a birth certificate, a legally binding document, which the court has chosen to completely ignore,” Freeman said. “The transgender community jumps through a lot of legal hoops — records of sex changes, amended birth certificates – to try to live the same life that everybody else gets to live. This is a very frustrating setback.”

See here for some background. This will be appealed, and we’re a long way from getting any kind of resolution. The issues here are a lot more complicated than they need to be.

Steidley, representing Nikki Araguz, argued that the marriage was legal because a 2009 change in the Texas Family Code allows a person to get a marriage license on the basis of a sex change recognized by the court.

But Burwell said the 2009 change in the family code did not overturn a 1999 Texas case, Littleton v. Prange, which is typically cited in Texas as the basis for determining a person’s sex. That case held that a person’s gonads, genitalia and chromosomes determine sex at birth.

The problem with that argument, of course, is that you can’t always determine someone’s gender at birth. Some people are born with the gonads, genitalia, and chromosomes of both sexes. What has usually happened is that they have surgery while they are still infants to assign one gender or another to them. Sometimes, the surgeon who did this guessed wrong about what gender the person “should” be, and that person corrects it later in life. Others have chosen to live with it. Different approaches are sometimes taken today, but the basic point remains that gender is more of a continuum than a binary option, and it’s more of a social construct than a biological one.

Our attempt to force the social construct of gender into our laws has led to contradictions, which is why the El Paso County Clerk asked AG Greg Abbott for an opinion about whether or not it was legal to issue a marriage license to a transgender woman who wanted to marry another woman. Going by the logic of “you are the sex you were at birth”, the answer is yes, but our laws against gay marriage say no. Abbott took the easy way out and declined to offer an opinion because of pending litigation like this, but the underlying issue remains unsettled, as the Lege did not address that 2009 law this session. The simplest answer to all of this, of course, is to quit dictating who can and cannot get married to whom and just allow any two consenting adults to get a marriage license. Do that and all these thorny legal questions magically disappear. Organized religions are still free to impose their own restrictions, but the state of Texas, and every other state, should not. In the meantime, our twisted reasoning has led to a situation where transgender folks could be not allowed to marry anyone at all. I would hope that a court will eventually rule against this unconstitutional mess. It’s just a shame that people will have to keep suffering for our poor lawmaking until then.

Who’s got a treasurer?

Noel Freeman, in a note on his Facebook page takes a look at who has filed a proper treasurer appointment for a City Council race, and who has not. (He did a “who’s in so far” report in 2009, too.) You can’t raise or spend money on a Council campaign without doing this, and you must specify which Council seat you’re running for, else you are in violation. If you file for one seat and then later change to another for some reason – like, say, being redistricted out of the seat you wanted to run for – you have to file anew. Check it out.

Unfinished business

One thing that stood out to me from the Chron’s Q&A with Noel Freeman, the newly-elected president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus:

Q. What has changed about Houston’s GLBT community in past three decades?

A. We have branched out. People recognize Montrose as kind of the historical center of the gay community in Houston, (but) we’re much more comfortable in a lot of different neighborhoods. I live in the Heights, and on my street there are three same-sex households. I think the GLBT community is much more comfortable and more prosperous than it used to be, but that’s not to say that we don’t have a long way to go.

Q. What do you mean?

A. We still have on the books, in the city charter, a provision passed by popular vote prohibiting the extension of same-sex partner benefits to city employees. That’s just flagrant discrimination written into our charter. I think there will be a point when we can revisit that. We have a nondiscrimination policy for city employees that prohibits discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity. We would like to see that extended to people who have city contracts. There are housing issues. So there are things we need to deal with.

During the 2009 campaign, Mayor Parker avoided talking about that city charter referendum. She did so, she said at the time, because she didn’t want to be thought of as “the gay candidate” but rather as a candidate – and ultimately Mayor – for all of Houston. Fair enough, and there are certainly plenty of other things that require her attention now. But there’s nothing to stop the rest of us from taking action to right this wrong. I’d love to see a referendum that would repeal that earlier discriminatory amendment on the ballot in 2012, and I’ll support any effort to get it there and get it passed. Ten years is long enough.

Precinct analysis: City Council At Large races

Moving on to the At Large City Council races. I’m going to look at each of them here. First up, At Large #1:

Dist Cook Litt Alls Cost Derr Rodr Perk Batt ============================================================ A 1,521 1,629 397 4,806 4,144 2,087 919 439 B 1,091 679 252 1,063 1,622 1,466 3,133 1,138 C 1,340 6,626 339 4,423 2,852 1,611 826 673 D 1,689 2,994 526 2,372 3,472 2,026 2,203 2,821 E 1,903 1,287 475 4,842 2,979 2,343 1,104 725 F 1,298 779 193 1,610 1,128 1,153 553 324 G 2,056 3,039 417 8,914 4,218 1,860 1,140 630 H 684 1,309 359 1,635 3,790 3,304 585 334 I 609 671 169 999 1,017 2,976 471 640

I think this is the kind of result you get when you have a lot of candidates, none of whom have citywide name recognition, and not a whole lot of money spent, Stephen Costello somewhat excepted. Costello ran strong in Republican areas, especially District G. I presume that’s where his ads ran on cable. He also led in F and was runnerup in C. Karen Derr did well in her backyard of District H, and reasonably well in neighboring District A. She led in District D, though with a fairly modest 19% of the vote. You can see each of their paths to victory here. Costello needs to amp up his numbers in the Republican and outside the Loop districts while staying competitive in C. Derr needs to dominate the Democratic districts – she has already collected a number of endorsements that went to Herman Litt originally, plus that of the HCDP – and stay close in A and G, both of which reach inside the Loop. She should benefit from having Litt, Rick Rodriguez, and Kenneth Perkins (who as far as I can tell never filed a finance report during this cycle) out of the race. Costello had the benefit of being the only Republican candidate in Round One, and so probably shouldn’t expect too many votes to be transferred to him – he apparently has Lonnie Allsbrooks’ endorsement, judging by the appearance of Costello signs at Beer Island – but the votes he does have should be pretty solid. This one could go either way.

At Large #2:

Dist Lovell Burks Shorter Griff =================================== A 8,333 2,311 940 3,908 B 3,156 3,841 1,684 1,332 C 10,803 2,582 1,254 3,342 D 7,108 6,390 3,039 2,071 E 7,278 3,330 1,175 3,717 F 3,333 1,317 740 1,568 G 11,617 3,404 1,087 5,762 H 5,856 1,708 1,023 1,930 I 3,272 1,434 945 1,233

Not much to see here, really. Lovell came close to an outright win, with Burks and Griff having a nearly equal share of the vote against her. She had majorities in districts A, C, G, and H. She has some issues with the African-American community but still did reasonably well in B and D. I don’t see any path to victory for Andrew Burks that doesn’t include dominating those two districts, and even then it’s unclear how he gets to a majority. You never know what can happen, but I don’t see how Lovell doesn’t win next month.

At Large #4:

Dist Bradford Shafto Freeman Garmon ======================================= A 5,762 2,935 4,031 2,873 B 9,561 666 883 589 C 8,815 2,780 4,261 1,905 D 14,467 1,673 2,884 848 E 6,614 2,604 3,792 3,266 F 3,051 1,227 1,779 959 G 9,296 3,226 5,447 3,942 H 4,942 1,933 2,683 905 I 3,757 1,264 1,517 660

I’m not sure if I underestimated Bradford, overestimated Freeman, or both. It had seemed clear to me that Bradford’s name recognition was a double-edged sword for him – if it had been an unequivocal positive, he’d be our District Attorney right now. By my calculation, he ran about a point and a half behind the average Democratic judicial candidate inside the city of Houston last year, which was enough to hold him back. But if there were any lingering negative effects, it’s just not apparent in the data. He did very well in the African-American districts, easily outpacing Gene Locke in each. He performed well in the three Republican districts, carrying each one and only dropping below 40% in District A. He had a near-majority in Freeman’s home district H, and a clear majority in District I. I don’t know if things might have been different had Freeman been able to raise more money, but it doesn’t really matter. However you slice it, Bradford is Council Member-elect, and all the others who had opponents are in runoffs. You have to tip your cap to him for that.

At Large #5:

Dist Obando Christie Daniels Jones ======================================== A 2,190 8,713 944 4,544 B 843 1,002 940 8,907 C 2,522 6,322 1,532 7,844 D 1,485 1,877 2,727 14,022 E 2,333 9,040 1,143 3,978 F 1,214 3,032 625 2,304 G 2,456 14,922 1,118 5,376 H 2,752 2,536 841 4,735 I 2,156 1,478 725 3,154

When Jack Christie first entered this race, I thought he had a good chance to make things interesting. Then he posted non-existent numbers for the 30 days out report, and I thought it meant his campaign was a non-starter. And then his 8 days out report showed a bunch of spending and I had to reassess again. He showed a lot of strength in the Republican districts, and he did well in C and F besides. I get the impression that the Republican base is more excited about his candidacy than any of the other citywide races, so he should get a lot of his voters back for the overtime period. If he can bring out some new voters, or find a way to grow a little inside the Loop, he can win. Jones, like Bradford, basically maxed out in B and D; I thought it was possible for Davetta Daniels to siphon off some support from her in those districts, but she was a non-entity in B, and didn’t do that much in D. If anything, Jones was probably more hurt by Carlos Obando’s presence in H and I than Daniels’ in D. If she can shore up her support in those places, and keep Christie at arms’ length in C, she ought to win. I think she’s the favorite to win here, but I wouldn’t put it at better than 3:2 odds.

So that’s the end of these analyses. I may have one or two more things to add later. Hope you found this useful.

UPDATE: Greg brings the neighborhood data.

Eight days out: Spending on voter outreach by At Large candidates

As with the Controller’s race, I took a look at spending on voter outreach for At Large candidates in the 30 day out report. Given that some large number of people have no clue about who is running for these offices, I figured I’d better look at the 8 day out reports as well. Here we go, starting with the big field in At Large #1:

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Karen Derr 1,000.00 Advertising (HBAD) Karen Derr 150.00 Advertising (Jewish Herald Voice) Karen Derr 251.00 Advertising (Allen Jamail) Karen Derr 1,813.78 Advertising (Allen Jamail) Herman Litt 300.00 Advertising (Charity Productions) Herman Litt 600.00 Advertising (Jewish Herald Voice) Herman Litt 15,998.63 Mailer Herman Litt 1,110.65 Yard signs L Allsbrooks 2,000.00 Signs S Costello 840.13 Push cards S Costello 970.30 Push cards S Costello 80,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) S Costello 12,625.00 Production S Costello 79,975.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) S Costello 297.42 4 x 4 signs S Costello 2,846.98 4 x 4 signs Don Cook 315.73 Yard signs Don Cook 432.24 Postcard mailer Rick Rodriguez 1,500.00 Door hangers Rick Rodriguez 650.00 Web ad (Houston Chronicle)

Costello’s media buy is the big news here. You figure that has to be an advantage for him for getting into the runoff, as nobody else is doing anything remotely like it. Only Litt has sent a significant amount of mail, so advantage to him as well. I’ve been getting text messages from the Lonnie Allsbrooks campaign, but did not see an expenditure listed for text messaging; it may have simply been classified as “phones” or “phone service” or some such, however. I also didn’t see anything relating to video production, but that expense may be recent enough to not be in the 8 day report. He does have a contribution of $7280 listed in this report from “The New Beginning hosted by Nosa Edebor”, which I suppose could be an in-kind donation of the video production, but 1) it wasn’t listed as such, and 2) that’s above the $5K contribution limit. There was also a $12,125 contribution from the 30 day report that I’d forgotten about till I went back looking for something that might relate to this, with “friends of Barrett Brown” written in the in-kind box. Not sure what that’s about, but again, over the $5K limit. Oops.

UPDATE: I received the following in response to this:

We, here at the Allsbrooks Campaign, saw your latest blog entry about the At Large Candidates spending on voter out reach. We noticed you had some questions about our expenditures and our contributions.

1. First there is the question of text messages. Those are sent directly from our campaign phone and not by an outside company, so that is included in our “phone service”.

2. Secondly there is the video production of our latest video or slide show on YouTube. That video was done by a friend of Mr. Allsbrooks and will be on our next campaign finance report. Given it came out after the final day of our last report.

3. Lastly there is the question of our actual contributions because they appear to be over the $5000 limit. The “friends of Barrett Brown” and “The New Beginning hosted by Nosa Edebor” were two separate fundraisers that had nothing to do with the video production. The reason they are over the $5000 single person limit is because they were hosted by those people and other people were contributing to the campaign.

Thank you for you time,
Allsbrooks Campaign 09

So there you have it.

At Large #2:

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Sue Lovell 30,450.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Sue Lovell 1,418.04 Mail R Shorter 375.00 Advertising (D-Mars) R Shorter 750.00 Signs Griff Griffin 70.00 Signs Griff Griffin 160.00 Push cards Griff Griffin 300.00 Flyers Andrew Burks 1,957.19 Signs Andrew Burks 376.80 Campaign Literature

My understanding is that Lovell’s purchase is enough for a week on cable – MSNBC was the station I’d heard – but I have not seen a video of her ad, nor have I seen it myself (no surprise since I never watch cable news). Anyone out there seen this? As for the rest, I guess they finally had their fill of Subway sandwiches at Griff’s headquarters, as I saw no more purchases of them. Good news for Lovell that nobody else is spending money, bad news that Griff and Burks come with built-in name recognition, thanks to their tireless efforts to be on a ballot as often as possible. She may win without a runoff, but it’s easy to imagine those two getting 20-25% of the vote each, and that leaves her very little room to get to 50% plus one.

At Large #4:

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Noel Freeman 4,354.90 Printing & processing bulk mail CO Bradford 125.00 Radio ad (KWWJ) CO Bradford 75.00 Ad (Williams Temple) CO Bradford 1,000.00 Ad (African American News & Issues) CO Bradford 650.00 Radio ad (KCOH) CO Bradford 1,948.50 Door hangers CO Bradford 2,704.52 Push cards CO Bradford 2,186.65 Campaign signs CO Bradford 420.00 T-shirts CO Bradford 5,347.55 Door hangers CO Bradford 500.00 Texting campaign info CO Bradford 225.00 Ad (Jewish Herald Voice) CO Bradford 300.00 Ad (Our Tribune) CO Bradford 530.43 Yard signs Curtis Garmon 357.63 Car magnets Curtis Garmon 525.01 Push cards Curtis Garmon 1,428.48 Bumper stickers Curtis Garmon 2,458.36 Signs Curtis Garmon 1,200.00 Ad (KSEV)

We knew about Freeman’s mail piece, which attacked Bradford; I’m not sure if that had gone out before and this is a second mailing or if it’s just going out now, but he’ll need it to counter some of Bradford’s outreach. As with Gene Locke, Bradford has a paid field campaign, though of course not nearly as large, and he’s been on the radio. Bradford has the better name recognition, too, which cuts both ways for him. Garmon is basically self-financing – he listed no contributions on his form, and all of his expenditures were filed on the Schedule G form, which is for spending money loaned to oneself for the campaign.

Finally, At Large #5:

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Jolanda Jones 8,521.44 Printing Jolanda Jones 23,115.12 Direct mail Jolanda Jones 21,273.92 Direct mail Jack Christie 3,003.94 Signs Jack Christie 5,000.00 Ad in mailer (Tx Conservative Review) Jack Christie 5,000.00 Ad in mailer (HCRP) Jack Christie 8,865.10 Mailer Jack Christie 30,000.00 Mailer

Jones hits the mailboxes in a big way, though as yet I have not seen what she may have sent. Anyone gotten this? Christie did pretty well in this period after having squat to report with 30 days out. He raised $48K, helped by six $5K donations, including one each from Bob and Doylene Perry. He also spent $62K, which includes that $30K mailer, which was a loan to himself. Makes you wonder what things would be like if he’d gotten an earlier start. Regardless, I think his late push has the potential to make this a race again. I still expect CM Jones to win, but Christie could sneak up on her and force a runoff. I did not see any reports for Davetta Daniels or Carlos Obando; at least in the latter case, he may have been distracted.

Coming Monday: Spending in the district Council races.

UPDATE: See the note above from the Allsbrooks campaign. As of this morning, reports from the Obando and Daniels campaigns were available online. Obando had some expenditures on signs, and Daniels had three entries totaling $3500 on “advertising/marketing”, whatever that means.

We’ve got mail

Campos observed the other day that he’d hardly received any campaign mailers so far this year. That’s largely been true for me as well – before this week, I’d gotten the Peter Brown pieces, an Anna Eastman mailer, and maybe one or two others that aren’t sticking in my mind. But since Thursday, things have picked up considerably. Over the last three days, I have received:

– One more Peter Brown piece.
– Two mailers from Alma Lara, one of which prominently features State Rep. Jessica Farrar.
– A Pam Holm mailer, which has the same front as this one but a different back, which appears to be an image taken from her TV ad.
– A Ronald Green mailer – yes! he’s spending money!
– And the Noel Freeman mailer that Martha and Stace have discussed.

That last one was interesting in that it was addressed to Tiffany and not me or the both of us, as all the others were. Unlike me, Tiffany has voted in a GOP primary or two in her day, and as such we occasionally get mail or robocalls that are clearly intended for that kind of an audience. Which makes me wonder who the intended audience for Freeman’s piece was. Frankly, if it’s being aimed at soft Rs with a good voting history, that strikes me as a very reasonable strategy. Given that Freeman did not report much cash on hand in his 30 days out report, one wonders how widely this was sent, or if he got a late infusion of cash from somewhere. We’ll know when we see the 8 days out report, I guess. What mail have you received lately, if any?

Correction!

Now that everyone has had a chance to look over everyone else’s campaign finance reports, a number of candidates have made some corrections to their reports.

Former City Attorney Gene Locke and City Controller Annise Parker received money from donors who gave to their campaigns during “contractor blackout” periods. City ordinance prohibits donors from making contributions during the time a contract involving them is awarded or for 30 days afterward.

The Locke campaign returned $15,000 and Parker’s $7,900 after both were contacted by the Chronicle this week and last.

[…]

A review of contributions to the Locke, Parker and City Councilman Peter Brown, who also is running for mayor, showed nine donors over the $5,000 limit — five for Locke, two for Parker and and one for Brown.

[…]

Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales, who also is running for mayor and has raised a fraction of what his opponents have hauled in , did not appear to have violated any donation limits or regulations.

Actually, if you read the Chron profile of Morales, you’d know that his report did contain at least one “minor error”. Which, as noted in the comments, he would still be held accountable for by the TEC if a complaint were to be filed. I’m just saying.

Meanwhile, the story notes some issues with C.O. Bradford’s report that had been blogged about before, such as the complaint with the TEC that was filed against him.

Others have raised questions about Bradford’s report because more than 60 percent of his total of $112,945 was in-kind rather than monetary donations. These included $7,200 in donations for the value of the use of donors’ property for placement of large political signs.

Several political professionals unaffiliated with Bradford’s or his opponents’ campaigns said they had never heard of this being reported as an in-kind contribution. They suggested it was an effort to create the appearance of greater support.

“He wanted to show the bottom-line funds on his report as higher than he had received in cash donations or checks,” said Nancy Sims, a longtime Houston political consultant who now works in public relations and is blogging about the mayor’s race. “He’s stretched a bit to beef those numbers up and make the race look competitive.”

I’d actually argue that the effect was to make the race look less competitive, as Bradford’s initially reported total far exceeded that of Noel Freeman. In any event, Bradford filed several correction affidavits on the 14th. You can see one of them here, which notes the lowered values of the in-kind donations. As far as I can see, however, looking at the updated report that went with it, the totals and individual contributions reported are still the same. I don’t know if the affidavit itself is sufficient, or if a report that reflects those revised amounts should have been filed as well. If it’s the latter, I believe he still has work to do.

And finally, there’s KA Khan and his clearly bogus non-electronic report, in which he swore in an affidavit that he hadn’t raised more than $20K, then reported that he’d raised $34K. He also didn’t account for the many mailers he’d sent by then. What’s up with that?

Khan said he filed the affidavit because he was unable to get a password to file his report electronically from the city secretary’s office on the day it was due. He said the mailing expenses were not reported because he had not been billed for them yet, although the law requires that expenses be reported when they are incurred.

Okay then. I’ll just note again that in the report Khan filed, it says “I swear or affirm that I have not accepted more than $20,000 in political contributions or made more than $20,000 in political expenditures in a calendar year.” I don’t think “my dog ate my password” is an acceptable excuse for not living up to that, but then you never know how the TEC might rule on a complaint, if one ever gets filed against him. I for one am looking forward to Khan’s eight days out report.

UPDATE: Greg adds on about Khan.

Endorsement watch: SEIU and HOPE

The Houston Organization of Public Employees (HOPE) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 members have made their endorsements for the November elections. From the press release:

Mayor – Annise Parker
At Large 1 – Karen Derr
At Large 2 – Sue Lovell
At Large 3 – Melissa Noriega
At Large 5 – Jolanda Jones
District A – Lane Lewis
District B – Jarvis Johnson
District D – Wanda Adams
District F – Mike Laster
District H – Ed Gonzalez
District I – James Rodriguez
City Controller – Ron Green

You can read the full release here. I note that they did not mention the At Large #4 race, for which the endorsement status has been the subject of controversy. I sent an inquiry in about this and received a reply that indeed, no endorsement was made. Seems a bit anti-climactic, but there you have it.

Freeman and Bradford spar over SEIU endorsement

Last night, Noel Freeman sent out this press release:

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 confirmed Tuesday during a screening interview with City Council At-Large Position 4 candidate Noel Freeman that his opponent, C.O. Bradford, has falsely claimed to have received its endorsement.

Bradford issued a press release on August 17, 2009 announcing he had received SEIU’s endorsement. According to SEIU officials, Bradford had been asked to remove the endorsement from his campaign website more than a week ago, but as of 11:00 pm on September 1st, the endorsement still appeared on the website.

“I find it disappointing my opponent would attempt to mislead voters by claiming an endorsement he does not have.” Freeman said. “My opponent’s claim that he received SEIU’s endorsement more than two weeks before they even finished screening candidates in this race does a tremendous disservice to the proud men and women of SEIU who take the political process seriously.”

This morning, C.O. Bradford responded with a press release of his own:

“C.O. “Brad” Bradford does have Labor’s endorsement. Noel Freeman’s claim that C. O. Bradford is falsely claiming that he had received the endorsement of the SEIU, Local 1 is not truthful. I am the person that told C. O. Bradford that he had the endorsement of the Harris County AFL-CIO Council and of all of the Unions affiliated with it – including SEIU, Local 1. It is possible that SEIU, Local 1, is reserving their endorsement and they have every right to do so. I gave C. O. Bradford the wrong information. Noel is off base on this one and is stirring up trouble to get attention. The Unions of the Harris County AFL-CIO Council did endorse C. O. Bradford. If one or two of the 77 Unions choose to do otherwise, this is still an endorsement of the whole (thousands and thousands of members who will be informed of the endorsement) of the Labor movement for a very good candidate who will represent Houstonians very well on City Council. Noel Freeman does not have our endorsement,” stated Mr. Richard Shaw, Harris County AFL-CIO Council.

“I am honored to have received the endorsement of the Labor Unions in Harris County. I am committed to helping the thousands of workers who are striving for better conditions, benefits, safety equipment, and training for the greater good of all in our community,” stated Bradford.

Both Freeman and Bradford suggested that I speak to Tiffany Hogue with the SEIU, Local 1 organization. So I did, and this is what she told me:

– Generally speaking, all of the local unions participate in the AFL-CIO screening process, with the AFL-CIO acting as an umbrella organization for this purpose. Each union has the right to conduct its own screenings and make its own recommendations, but most of them follow the AFL-CIO’s lead. This is basically what Shaw said.

– SEIU, Local 1, and HOPE, which is affiliated with AFSCME, is in the process of conducting its own screenings and making its own endorsements for all city races. They have already issued an endorsement of Annise Parker for Mayor, but have not yet completed the screening process for other races. They anticipate doing so and announcing their endorsements in the coming weeks. I specifically asked if this meant that they could endorse Freeman, and she said yes, that could happen.

What that says to me is that Freeman’s claim that Bradford did not have the SEIU endorsement is truthful. On the other hand, Bradford certainly had reason to believe he had the SEIU endorsement once he had won the AFL-CIO Council nod, based on the usual way these things go and on what Shaw told him. I don’t think either of these points is seriously in dispute.

Where it gets dicey is the claim that Bradford had been told to remove SEIU’s name from his endorsement list. Bradford denied being asked by anyone to do this. Freeman says he had several conversations with Hogue about this, that she told him she had asked Bradford to take SEIU’s name off his list, and that when he asked her at his screening interview to confirm that someone had asked him to take it down, she said Yes. Hogue agrees she told Freeman that she had heard that someone had asked Bradford to do this, but she told me she didn’t know who that was, and she couldn’t say for certain that it had happened at all. Freeman, in a followup email, gave specific dates and times for the conversations in which he said he asked about this.

So that’s where it stands. I’m somewhat at a loss for what to make of it. It’s clear there was miscommunication, but it’s not clear where it all comes from. This is hard for me, because obviously I wasn’t party to any of the original conversations, and because I like everyone involved. I don’t know what actually happened, but this is what I’ve been told about it. I don’t know how much this clears things up, but it’s what I know. If I hear more, I’ll update this post.

At Large action

We’ve certainly got a fascinating Mayor’s race going on this year, with three viable candidates that can all plausibly claim a path to victory, but it seems to me that there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening in the At Large races as well. Marc Campos writes about a development that could affect one of them.

Yesterday, Commentary’s shop sent out an email announcing the supporters for Rick Rodriguez, candidate for H-Town City Council, At Large, Position 1. We will be helping him out this election season. Rodriguez is being taken very seriously. One opposing campaign asked him to consider running in At-Large, Position 4 race – no thanks. Another major interest group asked Rodriguez to run in At-Large, Position 5 – no thanks again. It is pretty obvious to Commentary that local political players know that Rodriguez has a strong base and is a force to deal with. Stay tuned!

Stace made notes of this as well. The email Campos’ shop sent included State Sen. Mario Gallegos, who I’m told made numerous calls on Rodriguez’s behalf, State Rep. and former City Council Member Carol Alvarado, and current City Council Members Ed Gonzalez and James Rodriguez, as supporters. And according to David Ortez, who attended Gene Locke’s event at Doneraki’s on Tuesday, at which Locke announced the endorsement of Gallegos, Alvarado, and several other local Latino leaders, Locke has “informally endorsed” Rodriguez as well. I wish I’d seen that before I conducted my interview with Rodriguez, who was as non-committal about his preferred candidate for Mayor as just about everyone else has been, but oh well. That’s an impressive amount of support for Rodriguez, and established him as someone to watch in a race that already has several strong candidates.

Having said that, Rodriguez still has to establish himself. He finished fourth in the District H special election, with 9.5% of the vote. He entered this race late, and reported essentially no money raised as of July 15. He has not won any endorsements yet; the Tejano Dems went with Herman Litt. All this backing puts Rodriguez on the map, and may position him to get into a runoff, but winning it would be another matter; ask Joe Trevino about that. Let’s not forget, Steve Costello raised a ton of money in the first six months, and has won several endorsements; he announced the support of the Houston Contractors Association and the Houston Apartment Association Better Government Fund today. Herman Litt starts out as a fave among many Dems for all the work he did on things like the Johnson-Rayburn-Richards dinner last year, and he came out of the gate with a lot of endorsements from establishment Dems. Karen Derr has been running longer than anyone in this race, and has raised a pretty respectable amount, though she didn’t have much cash on hand as of July 15. She has won some group endorsements as well. Lonnie Allsbrooks trails in all of these categories, but I sure see a lot of his signs in yards around where I live. Point being, this is a crowded field, and everyone in it has a base.

So I can understand the reasons why there might have been suggestions to Rodriguez that he consider another race. I’m going to guess that one reason why he might prefer At Large #1 to #s 4 or 5 is that he might not want to wind up in a runoff against an African-American candidate when there’s a strong likelihood Gene Locke will also be in a runoff for Mayor. On the other hand, a lot of the votes in this year’s runoff are likely to come from Districts A and G, and while Locke has certainly spent time courting Republican support, it’s not at all clear to me that those folks would go on to vote for C.O. Bradford and/or Jolanda Jones as well.

And that brings me to the other At Large races. Melissa Noriega in #3 is uncontested so far, and will likely get nothing more than token opposition. Pretty much everyone likes her, and nobody likes running against an incumbent, especially one with good fundraising numbers. Sue Lovell in #2 has three opponents, first-timer Roslyn Shorter plus perennials Andrew Burks and Griff Griffin. Unlike 2007, when Lovell spent a lot of her time helping Wanda Adams, James Rodriguez, and Jolanda Jones get elected and wound up in a surprisingly close race against the do-nothing Griff, Lovell is taking her re-election very seriously this time. She’s raising money like never before. I see no reason why she won’t win easily, but I daresay she won’t take anything for granted.

At Large #4 hasn’t changed from the beginning. Bradford and Noel Freeman are fairly evenly matched. Both have won some endorsements. Neither has raised a ton of money. Bradford has more name recognition, but that’s not necessarily a positive for him. I understand the logic that would go into gaming out various runoff scenarios, as described above, but I still don’t quite understand why At Large #1 has five candidates and this race has (for all intents and purposes) two. And I say that as someone who likes both of these gentlemen.

And finally, there’s At Large #5. A month or two ago, I’d have expected Jolanda Jones to cruise to re-election. Carlos Obando, whom I interviewed recently, is a nice guy and I thought he had some good things to say, but he has no money and no obvious backing, and it’s just hard to knock off an incumbent in our system; it’s only happened once since we adopted term limits. Now Jones has two more opponents, and I daresay a larger number of people who would prefer to vote for someone else, but I don’t see any of that translating into support for any one person yet. All three of her opponents have fared poorly in previous elections – Obando lost a GOP primary for HD134 last year, Davetta Daniels lost by a 2-1 margin for HISD Trustee in 2007, and the less said about Jack Christie’s abortive attempt to win this same At Large #5 seat in 2007, the better. I can envision there being enough of a not-Jolanda vote to force a runoff, and I can envision the challenger coming out on top in that scenario, but until one of these folks shows me something, like winning an endorsement that Jones has lost or getting some establishment support on his or her side, I think the smart money stays on the incumbent. Again, while I understand the reasons for running in At Large #1, I can’t help but think there’s an opening here for someone.

Interview with Noel Freeman

Noel FreemanContinuing with the At Large candidate interviews, today we hear from Noel Freeman, who is running in At Large #4. Freeman was a candidate for the At Large #3 special election of 2007, finishing seventh in the field of 11. He is an employee of the city’s Public Works and Engineering department, and he is a resident of the Heights.

Download the MP3 file.

PREVIOUSLY:

Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1

Neil talks to Noel

Neil Aquino wrote a post last week about At Large #4 candidate Noel Freeman, whom he had just met, and asked him a few questions about his campaign and vision for the city. Noel’s responses are here, and they’re worth reading. Check it out.

Bradford announces for At Large #4, Pennington announces in G

We know he had been contemplating the possibility, but now former HPD Chief C.O. Bradford has made it official: He’s going to run for the open At Large #4 City Council seat. From his email:

Chief Bradford has been a resident of the city of Houston since 1979. He has lived in the Hiram Clarke, Alief, Fondren Southwest, and MacGregor areas. He understands the various characteristics of the Houston community and appreciates the efforts to focus on neighborhood needs.

Bradford served 24 years as a Houston Police officer and seven years as Chief of Police. He was appointed Houston’s Police Chief by Mayor Bob Lanier and re-appointed by Mayor Lee Brown. He is an attorney and public safety consultant with degrees in law from the University of Houston Law Center, criminal justice from Grambling State University, and a public administration degree from Texas Southern University. Also, Chief Bradford is a graduate of the FBI Academy and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government Program for State and Local Executives.

“It is certainly an honor to serve in the public sector. Making a difference for the greater good of all is a tremendous reward. As Houston moves forward, we must get better prepared to deal with issues such as public safety, budget restraints, critical infrastructure repairs, representation via council redistricting and many others.” stated Bradford. “After careful consideration, I am most honored to be asked by so many friends, supporters, and family to run for Houston City Council. I will utilize my experience, training, and education to help improve the quality of life in this wonderful community, Houston, Texas.”

Noel Freeman is already in the running for this seat. I hold Chief Bradford in high regard, and I really admired the campaign he ran for District Attorney and the issues he emphasized in that race. I think he’d make a fine Council member. Having said that, Noel asked for my support awhile back, and I promised it to him. I did that, of course, because I think he’ll make a fine Council member as well, so my decision is clear. If I were starting out at this point, it would be a lot harder. But it’s a choice between good options, and you can’t ask for more than that.

Meanwhile, Oliver Pennington, who first came to my attention as a potential candidate for District G a month ago, has made his formal announcement as well. Here’s his email:

Houston municipal and environmental attorney Oliver Pennington announced today that he will seek the Houston City Council District G seat that is being vacated by Councilmember Pam Holm due to term limits. Pennington said “I believe I can make a positive difference for residents and business owners in District G. I will use my experience to secure funding for needed neighborhood and regional public works and crime prevention projects. I will help residents unravel the complex city regulations affecting neighborhoods such as those for traffic control and neighborhood protection.”

Pennington has designated District G community leader Penny Butler as his Campaign Treasurer and the Honorable Chase Untermeyer, recent Ambassador to Qatar, as the Campaign’s Chair.

Pennington received his B.A. from Rice University in 1960 and his J.D. from the University of Texas in 1963 where he was an Associate Editor of the law review. After graduation he joined the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski in 1963 as an associate and became a Partner in 1973 practicing municipal finance, municipal law, municipal utility district law, environmental and administrative law. In 2002 he became Of Counsel to the firm.

Pennington is former Chairman of the Houston Civil Service Commission. He was a member of Board of the Memorial Park Conservancy for five years, which is in the heart of District G. He is also a member of the Houston and Texas State Bar Associations. He is a member of the Greater Houston Partnership where he is or has been a member of the Water Laws Committee and the Environmental Committee and the Economic Development Committee. Pennington was also a member of the Board of Directors of North Houston Association, a trade group advocating public policy and economic development policies favorable to that area.

Pennington’s campaign will focus on improving the Quality of Life for residents, reducing taxes and eliminating waste at City Hall, improving infrastructure, safety and parks. Pennington said “I will forge coalitions with other council members and will work with the Mayor to insure that the City government works more efficiently for District G.”

Pennington is a native Houstonian and has lived in District G for almost 40 years with his wife Beverly; together they have raised and educated two children in the district. They have 5 grandchildren.

For more information visit the campaign’s web site at www.oliverpennington.com.

I know HCC Trustee Mills Worsham is also running in G, but I’ve not received any formal word on his campaign’s status.

Still no sign of a candidate for At Large #1. I can say that Sue Schecter will not be in the running, based on an email I got from her, and she was the only one I’d heard of up till now. Anybody else out there hearing anything?

A list of who has actually filed treasurer’s reports so far

Noel Freeman did us all the public service of trooping over to the City Secretary’s office and compiling a list of people who had filed treasurer’s reports as of Monday for election to a municipal office in 2009. As I discovered last week, they don’t give that information out over the phone, so this is the only way to know for sure who’s in and who’s not, at least for now. Here’s what Noel was able to find:

Mayor

Annise Parker
Gene Locke
Roy Morales
Peter Brown
Ben Hall

At-Large 4

Noel Freeman

District A

Alex Wathen
Jeff Downing
Brenda Stardig
Bert Schoelkopf

District E

Wayne Garrison

District F

Mike Laster

District G
Oliver Pennington
Mills Worsham

District H
Lupe Garcia
Rick Rodriguez
Ed Gonzales
Maverick Welsh
Karen Derr
Hugo Mojica
Yolanda Navarro Flores
Diana Davila Martinez
Gonzalo Camacho

The names in italics are folks who are at least rumored to be running but who have not yet filed. Nobody has made a move towards At Large #1 yet, currently held by Peter Brown. I figure no one will do so until he does his formalities for the Mayor’s race. I see freshman Member Mike Sullivan has an opponent – he’s the only incumbent so far to get one, though he surely won’t be the last. Lupe Garcia in District H is a new name to me – I’ve just stumbled across a Facebook group in support of his candidacy, but the man himself doesn’t appear to have a profile. Does anyone know anything about this person? Yolanda Navarro Flores had not filed as of Monday, but yesterday afternoon a press release announcing her candidacy (reproduced beneath the fold) appeared in my inbox. I also got a release for Mike Laster, who had filed but hadn’t made a formal announcement yet; that release is beneath the fold as well. Finally, there’s a release from Noel Freeman about a Facebook fundraising campaign he’s got going on. Miya and Greg have more. Anybody hearing anything else they’d like to add?

I’ll say again, I do not know why this information is not available on the web. I cannot think of a single good reason why it shouldn’t be. From the conversation I had with someone in the City Secretary’s office, I get the impression that this is extra work to them, which is probably why it’s not any kind of priority for them. It seems to me that the right answer is for the city to hire someone for whom handling elections and election-related activities like campaign finance reports is their primary duty. It was kind of amusing that the city didn’t get around to posting campaign finance reports online until 2007. It’s deeply embarassing that we can’t even get a list of candidates who have filed a simple report, not to mention a peek at those reports themselves, in 2009. What century are we in again? Let’s get with the program already.

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Derr files, Bradford contemplates

Karen Derr made her treasurer’s report filing on Thursday last week, becoming at least the second candidate for District H to do so. I know that Maverick Welsh has filed his report, and I know that as of Friday, Ed Gonzalez had not yet done so but would likely do it this week. Beyond that, I don’t know anyone else’s status. I think I may place a call to the City Secretary’s office this week to inquire about who has filed, and to ask why I can’t find that information online. It sure would be handy to have. I’ve reproduced a press release from Derr’s campaign beneath the fold. I figure with the opening of fundraising season a week from now, we’ll start to get a lot more action on this front.

In the meantime, I heard a report on Saturday that former HPD Chief and candidate for District Attorney CO Bradford is contemplating a run for an At Large City Council seat. Isaih Carey has now blogged about this – he’s looking at At Large #4, currently held by Ron Green, for which Noel Freeman has already filed his papers. As with all such contemplations, this may turn out to be nothing, but Bradford has been talked about as a citywide candidate before, and he would clearly be a strong contender for that seat. So we’ll see what happens.

One more report I heard on Saturday, which Carl Whitmarsh reminded me of in an email he sent out about his birthday party, which is where I heard both of these things, is that there’s another contender looking at District A: attorney Jeffrey Downing. He joins Bob Schoelkopf in expressing interest in that seat, and if Carl’s reaction is any indication, he’ll get the bulk of the Democratic support for that race. Which, as I’ve said, is enough to make a race of it in that district. This is going to be a fun year.

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Filing report: Noel Freeman

Noel Freeman, who had been a candidate for the At Large #3 position in the May 2007 special election that was eventually won by Council Member Melissa Noriega, has sent out a press release saying he’ll officially file his Treasurer’s report on Thursday for the At Large #4 seat. Freeman had announced his intent to run for that seat last month. As far as I know, he’s the first official candidate for this seat.

I’m going to try to keep up with these as best I can. I feel like there ought to be a way to look up who’s filed a report with the City Secretary online, but I don’t see anything obvious on the City Secretary’s web page. Am I missing something?

UPDATE: Some action on the Mayoral front as well. City Controller Annise Parker is planning to announce her candidacy on February 2, which is a day after the official start date for raising money. Also, a group of Latino leaders, including the suddenly-ubiquitous Vidal Martinez, has been busy vetting the Mayoral wannabees. I have a feeling this campaign will be in full swing a bit earlier than the 2003 version was.