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Pam Holm

When is a filing deadline not a filing deadline?

Answer: When there will be another filing period after the filing deadline, as will be the case in Texas, according to the Secretary of State.

“Based on the federal court’s order handed down December 16, candidates will be permitted to file when the filing period reopens on a date yet to be determined and set to close, again by the federal court’s order, on February 1, 2012,” said Secretary of State spokesman Rich Parsons.

I presume this only applies to the offices without districts, i.e., Congress, State Senate, and State House. Those of you looking to file for County Commissioner or some such, it’s now too late.

I have been informed that the second filing period, to begin on a date to be determined but to end no later than February 1, will be for all offices, not just those affected by the redistricting litigation. My apologies for the error.

The big news of the day is that Nick Lampson will saddle up again.

Nick’s back.

“I am. I have sent in the filing papers, so that means I am in the race (for the 14th Congressional District),” said Former Rep. Nick Lampson, 66, who held the Ninth Congressional District for eight years before redistricting split it up, putting Jefferson County and part of Orange County into the Second District along with a substantial chunk of Houston’s northern suburbs. Republican Ted Poe won the reconfigured Second District in 2004.

Also in the race are Beaumont attorneys Michael Truncale, 53, and Jay Old, 48, who both are running as Republicans, as well as a handful of other GOP contenders.

The latest round of redistricting hasn’t quite played out yet, but Lampson, a Democrat, was confident enough that the newly drawn 14th District will remain relatively stable, containing somewhere between 80-85 percent of the former Ninth District, that he was willing to throw his hat in the ring.

Expect there to be a lot of money in that race. It’s winnable for a Democrat, and Lampson is the best person for that job. Welcome back, Rep. Lampson.

Meanwhile, Democrats also now have a candidate for Senate who can claim to be someone some people might have heard of, former State Rep. Paul Sadler.

Sadler served as chairman of the House Public Education Committee and played a major role in passage of several key education laws from 1995 through 2001.

“I decided to run because Texas needs an advocate who can put the good of the state ahead of all else,” said Sadler, an attorney and current executive director of The Wind Coalition, a nonprofit that promotes use of wind as an energy source. “Like all Texans I am disgusted by the gridlock in Washington. I have a solid record of working with members of both parties to accomplish legislation that improves the lives and education of our children and all Texans.” Sadler represented an East Texas House district.

Best I recall he was a pretty decent fellow. He ran for SD01 in a special election to replace the retiring Bill Ratliff in 2003 and lost 52-48 in the runoff to Sen. Kevin Eltife. I doubt he has any more potential to win than Gen. Sanchez did, but he’s someone who has successfully run for public office before. He’s the frontrunner for my vote in the primary.

There were three new filings for the Lege in Harris County yesterday: Cody Pogue in HD127, Paul Morgan in HD135, and Sarah Winkler in HC137. Someone had left a comment recently asking where all the longshot candidacies were, well, those first two would qualify for that. As for Winkler, she’s a trustee in Alief ISD – I interviewed her in 2009 when she last ran for re-election. Her entrance makes HD137 a four-candidate race, with all four being good quality.

Unfortunately, there are also a couple of lemons on the ballot as well. A perennial candidate who has mostly filed as a Republican in races past is in for SD07; I’m not naming him because he has a history of harassing behavior. Popping up like a pimple in Precinct 4 is hatemeister Dave Wilson, filing for the second election in a row for County Commissioner. He was booted from the ballot last time for having an invalid residential address; I’m not sure where the ensuing litigation now stands, but with any luck he’ll be thrown off again. Even if he isn’t, the good news is that this time he’s not alone – in a deliciously ironic twist, former HGLBT Political Caucus Chair Sean Carter Hemmerle filed to run as well. Don’t let me down here, Precinct 4 voters.

I mostly haven’t paid much attention to the GOP filings in Harris County, as I’m not that interested in them, but with the “deadline” having passed I thought I’d take a peek and see who’s doing what to whom. Here are the highlights:

Senate: With the addition of the gentleman from ESPN, there are now ten candidates for KBH’s soon-to-be-vacated seat, a few of whom you’re familiar with. One recent entrant is 2008 HD134 candidate Joe Agris, who has apparently decided to go the Grandma Strayhorn route and call himself “Doc Joe” Agris. My guess is the end result will be approximately the same.

Congress: Kevin Brady, Mike McCaul, and Pete Olsen have primary challengers. Two-time loser John Faulk has not filed for CD18, with Sean Siebert taking his place as the designated sacrificial lamb. State Sen. Mike Jackson has six opponents for CD36, while three people I’ve never heard of are running for CD34. My guess is that the A-listers are waiting to see what SCOTUS does before hopping in.

Judiciary: A couple of old familiar names pop up on the Supreme Court ballot: Steven Wayne Smith, who ousted Xavier Rodriguez in 2002, was ousted by Paul Green in 2004, and lost to Don Willett in 2006, is back to challenge Willett again. Rodriguez, of course, went on to a federal bench, and was one of the three judges in the San Antonio redistricting case, who ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. (I’m assuming this is Steven Wayne Smith – the Harris GOP website simply says “Steve Smith”.) Also making like a zombie is John Devine, wingnut former occupant of a Harris County bench who went on to lose races for County Attorney and CD10. He’s one of two people running against Justice David Medina. Ken Law gets to be the 2012 test of “Can a guy with a nice, easy, Anglo name knock off an incumbent Latino Republican in a primary even if the entire GOP establishment is against him” as he goes against Perry-appointed Judge Elsa Alcala on the Court of Criminal Appeals. CCA Judge Larry Meyers is also taking another crack at Presiding Judge Sharon Keller. In Harris County, several judges who lost in 2008 are seeking rematches, including Jeff Hastings, John Coselli, Lamar McCorkle, Roger Bridgwater, Tad Halbach, and Brock Thomas.

SBOE: As noted before, Terri Leo is stepping down in District 6. Donna Bahorich is unopposed for the nomination to succeed her. Barbara Cargill has a challenger in District 8.

The Lege: State Rep. Larry Taylor has two opponents for SD11, which is being vacated by Sen. Jackson. Five Republican incumbent House members have primary opponents – Dan Huberty (HD127), John Davis (HD129), Bill Callegari (HD132), Jim Murphy (HD133), and Debbie Riddle (HD150). I can only shudder to think what a challenge from Riddle’s right might look like. There are still four people listed for HD136, including former Council Member Pam Holm, even though that district was eliminated by the San Antonio court. You never know what SCOTUS will do, of course. The most interesting name for a Democratic-held seat is another former Council member, MJ Khan, who is vying for the open HD137. Seems unlikely to me that the court will rule in a way to make both of these candidacies valid, but again, you never know.

County: We already knew that DA Pat Lykos and Tax Assessor Don Sumners had company. So do looney-tunes HCDE Trustee Michael Wolfe and newly-appointed County Commissioner Jack Cagle, who has two opponents in his primary. There are three candidates for the open HCDE Precinct 3 seat, with two others running to be the candidate who gets crushed in Precinct 1 in Roy Morales’ place. Finally, there are eight candidates for Sheriff, including 2004 Democratic nominee for Sheriff Guy Robert Clark, who also lost in the 2008 Dem primary to Sheriff Adrian Garcia. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, I guess.

Finally, both the HCDP and the Harris County GOP will have contested elections for Party Chair, as Lane Lewis and current GOP Chair Jared Woodfill drew last-day opponents. Keryl Douglas, the subject of that “draft” movement I mentioned before, will oppose Lewis, while Woodfill will face someone named Paul Simpson. I know basically nothing about either person, but I do know I’ll be voting for Lewis to be interim Chair at tonight’s CEC meeting.

That’s all I’ve got. Let me know what I missed. PDiddie and Texas Politics have more, and be sure to see the Texas Tribune and TDP pages for any other blanks to be filled.

Former CM Pam Holm to run for HD136

So says Robert Miller.

Pam Holm, who represented District G on the Houston City Council from 2004 through 2009, has decided to run to replace Speaker Beverly Woolley in Texas HD 136.

Ms. Holm was a prolific fundraiser the three successful campaigns she ran for City Council and in her unsuccessful race for City Controller in 2009. She was also a tireless door to door campaigner when first elected in 2003, knocking on 19,000 doors in her winning campaign against 6 male opponents. At campaign forums, she would describe the field as “six guys and a winner.” Many of those doors are still in HD 136 because of the strong overlap between District G and HD 136.

Miller lists some other folks who are also sniffing around this race. I would expect a crowded field. Holm should be able to raise a bunch of money, she has excellent taste in campaign swag, and I agree with Miller’s assessment that she’s the frontrunner. Having said that, I’ll say again that a Democrat needs to look at this one as well. It’s a long shot to be sure, but you can’t win if you don’t play.

Jolanda versus the world

If you’re on Carl Whitmarsh’s mailing list, you’ve probably seen this, which is one of several mailers being sent out by the Jack Christie campaign. That one is going to the Heights, Montrose, and District C. The others are this one, being sent to voters in Council Districts A and G; this one, being sent to voters in District E; and this one, also being sent to voters in District C.

Looking at all of these, I think it’s safe to say that Council Member Jones has alienated a number of her colleagues. I can’t recall anything like this in recent years, where sitting members have openly support a challenger to a colleague. (Did anyone do this to Shelley Sekula Gibbs in 2003 when Peter Brown ran against her?) What’s damning about it is that much like the earlier mailer Christie sent out, it uses Jones’ own words and actions against her. I like CM Jones. I think she has a lot of talent, I think she represents a constituency that otherwise doesn’t have much of a voice, and I think she has the potential to do a lot of good. But she has definitely provided her critics with a lot of ammunition, and it’s stunning to see so many of her fellow Council members try to oust her like this. If she does survive, it’ll be very interesting to see what her relationship with these members will be like going forward. I’m thinking it’ll be awkward for awhile.

With all that said, I don’t think anyone has too much trouble with CMs Lawrence, Clutterbuck, Sullivan, and Holm, all of whom are on the opposite side of the political fence as Jones and none of whom are currently involved in an election of their own, supporting a fellow member of their party. The mailer by CM Lovell is the explosive one. It’s a little bizarre to think that at this time in 2007, Lovell was working to help Jones get elected. The relationship fell apart pretty quickly after the election, and the two have been feuding ever since. I happen to think that Sue Lovell is also a pretty good Council member, but it’s no secret that she is not the forgiving type. She has reportedly been telling donors not to contribute to Jones. I’m not going to defend what Jones said about HPFFA President Jeff Caynon, which is the basis of Lovell’s attack on her, though I will note that Jones did get a $1000 contribution from the Houston chapter of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters. But I believe Lovell crossed a line here, and judging from what I’ve seen elsewhere, that may be one of the more restrained reactions to this. If Lovell was still thinking about running for County Clerk next year, something that already seemed unlikely with the entrance of Sue Schechter and her show of strength early on, I’d say her odds of getting nominated just got a lot longer. Not to mention the fact that she still has an election of her own to win. She’s certainly stuck her neck out, I’ll say that much.

I guess what really bothers me about this is precisely that both Jones and Lovell are talented Council members. All of this is just a needless distraction and a waste of energy. I wish Jones had not put herself in this position but had instead channeled her energy and passion on Council in more productive ways. I hope that should she survive this election, it will spur her to do exactly that. I wish Lovell would learn to put things behind her and focus on what’s ahead. I hope whatever happens in their respective races, the next City Council finds a way to work together and help the new Mayor deal with the challenges that we face. Surely we all deserve that.

UPDATE: The Lovell mailer was sent out by her campaign, not by Christie’s. My apologies for the confusion.

Eight days out finance reports, Green and Khan

We’ve seen the eight days out finance reports for the Mayor’s race, now here’s the same thing for the Controller’s race. As before, the campaign finance spreadsheet has been updated with all of the raw data. Here’s how it breaks down for Ronald Green and MJ Khan:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Green 76,273 71,418 0 40,269 30,158 39.5% Khan 182,740 229,593 75,000 57,220 49,750 27.2% Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Green 0 2,000 45,117 1,930 2,200 Khan 70,264 625 96,588 0 16,619

Looking at this, you’d almost wonder how it is there’s any doubt about who ought to win. It still boggles my mind that Green has had such a weak fundraising track record, but there you have it. He has done a lot better this time around, with some help from various PACs, and more donations from current and former officeholders and candidates than I’ve seen for anyone else. Here are some of the people you know who have donated to Ronald Green:

Jarvis Johnson – $100
Pam Holm – $600 (in kind, radio ad)
Gerald Birnberg – $500
Garnet Coleman – $1000
Peter Brown – $3000
Peter Brown – $185.06 (in kind, food for breakfast)
Kristi Thibaut – $1000
Carol Alvarado – $500
Zinetta Burney – $50
David Mincberg – $500
Borris Miles – $1000
Morris Overstreet – $100

The Pam Holm in kind donation stems from an incident before the general election (the donation is dated October 30) in which Holm had a date to appear on KCOH and challenged Green to come on the air with her to discuss his tax issues. According to Keir Murray, with whom I inquired about this item, since Green repeatedly asked listeners to vote for him, and since Holm had paid for the radio time, they felt obligated to report it as an in kind donation. Sometimes, I really love politics. Anyway, I note that even though Holm endorsed Khan, she has not given him any money. Neither had any other elected official, as far as I could see. I don’t know that it matters, but I thought it was interesting.

Khan’s strategy appears to be what it was in the general, which is to boost his name recognition as much as possible. He’s also started attacking Green over his tax issues in the mail he’s sent out, according to what I’ve heard – I’ve not received one of Khan’s mailers myself. As noted before, he has a lot of paid field workers, too. He has to do all this because he’s not fighting on a level playing field. As we know, while Khan does very well among Republican voters, there are a lot more Democrats actually voting, and he needs to hold his losses there in order to win.

The flip side of that is Green’s strategy, which is largely to remind Democratic voters which candidate is on which team. I got a Green mailer last week that was mostly positive about him, but also had a bit that highlighted Khan’s GOP credentials. The message is pretty clear, and so is the need for it to work for Green. I still think he’s the favorite to win, but if you’d told me a year ago it was going to be this hard for him, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Next up, a peek at the Council reports. Let me know what you think.

The HCRP view of the candidates

Here, in PDF format, you will find a copy of the mailer that Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill sent out to his flock before the election. In it you will find three things of interest. One is all the ads several candidates reported spending $5000 on. Another is the official endorsement that Roy Morales got from them; he’s the only one whom they endorsed, at least at that time. They may not have trumpeted it on the internets, but they did make their feelings known the old-fashioned way. Finally, there’s the 16-question “How much do you agree with our positions?” test, which some candidates answered but quite a few did not. For the runoff elections, here’s how many questions the candidates got “right” from the GOP’s perspective:

Annise Parker – 8 out of 16
Gene Locke – Did not respond
(For comparison, Roy got all 16 “right”. Peter Brown did not respond.)

MJ Khan – 16 out of 16
Ronald Green – Did not respond
(Pam Holm got all 16 “right”.)

Stephen Costello – 4 out of 16
Karen Derr – Did not respond

Andrew Burks – 14 out of 16
Sue Lovell – Did not respond
(Griff Griffin got 14 out of 16. Keep that in mind the next time he’s on the ballot.)

Jack Christie – 12 out of 16
Jolanda Jones – Did not respond

For the two district races (A and F), only Al Hoang (16 out of 16) responded.

You can make of this whatever you want, I’m just presenting it. From my perspective, some of the questions are inconsequential, while others are very much not. Read through the questions and answers and see for yourself what you think.

Brown for Parker, Holm for Khan

As expected, Peter Brown endorsed Annise Parker for Mayor in the runoff.

In a news conference on the steps of City Hall, Brown today announced that he would be casting his vote for Parker in the runoff election December 12 and he asked all his supporters, friends and family to do the same.

Brown said: “One candidate stands out with a 12-year proven track record of public service, particularly in terms of efficient, transparent government, the quality of life in our neighborhoods, and fiscal responsibility, especially important in these difficult economic times.“

Brown also encouraged all of his “supporters, friends, and all who believe in the enormous potential of our great city” to join Parker’s campaign.

“I am proud to accept this endorsement from Peter Brown,” said Parker. “Councilmember Brown has dedicated his life to improving the quality of life in Houston. I know his service to his community will continue and I look forward to working with him as Mayor.”

If I hadn’t known this was coming, I’d have gotten a pretty good hint after receiving two press releases from the Gene Locke campaign, one touting the endorsement of Bishop James Dixon (Community of Faith), Pastor D.Z. Cofield (Good Hope Baptist Church) and Pastor Emeritus William Lawson (Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church), all of whom had been Brown supporters in the first round, and one rapping Parker for accepting the endorsement of someone she’d been criticizing not long ago. I know, hard to believe such things happen in politics; I trust you can fetch your own smelling salts as needed. Had the shoe been on the other foot, I’m sure Locke would have happily accepted the endorsement of someone who had been busily trashing him in the closing weeks of the campaign, and Parker would have sent out a similar release pointing it out. It’s the circle of life, you know? Miya has more.

Also as expected, Pam Holm gave her endorsement to MJ Khan in the runoff for Controller. From his press release:

“M.J. Khan has shown that he has the knowledge and dedication to really be a strong voice for the taxpayers of Houston, as the next City Controller,” stated Pam Holm. “I have endorsed M.J. today because I know that he will lead the City in a fiscally responsible manner and help the City through these challenging times. I will support M.J. throughout this runoff election and let my supporters know that he is the candidate who can effectively serve the citizens of Houston as the watchdog of the city’s finances.”

Councilmember Holm is currently serving her third term on Houston City Council, representing District G. As a candidate for City Controller she campaigned for a clear path toward fiscal responsibility, emphasizing the need for increased transparency with the city’s finances

“I am both humbled and honored to receive the endorsement of Councilmember Holm. Her endorsement is a great boost to my campaign. Along the campaign trail she championed for transparency, smarter government and sound fiscal leadership. I plan to continue to carry that torch for her during this runoff election,” M.J. Khan stated. “As the campaign moves forward we are garnering more and more support and with the endorsement of Councilmember Holm we are building an even stronger base of support.”

Khan’s presser followed Parker and Brown’s, and was followed by Locke’s all in front of the reflection pool. If the city charged rent for using the steps to City Hall for this sort of thing, we’d have this budget shortfall solved already.

Khan has an announcement

Council Member and candidate for Controller MJ Khan has an announcement to make tomorrow. From his press release:

Who: Councilman M.J. Khan, Candidate for Houston City Controller

What: Press Conference on a major announcement from the M.J. Khan for City Controller campaign.

When: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. (after City Council has adjourned)

Where: Steps of Houston City Hall
901 Babgy
Houston, TX 77002

Info: Natural light and sound

I suppose that last bit is for the TV folks. My guess is that he’ll be announcing Pam Holm’s endorsement. I can’t think of anything else offhand that’s likely to occur and would qualify as a “major” announcement. No, these things are not automatic – remember, Sylvester Turner never endorsed Bill White even though you might have thought that would be natural for him to do. I could be wrong – he could just be announcing some other Republican endorsements, which may or may not be truly press conference-worthy. Or he could surprise me and announce the support of some high-profile Democrat, or some other members of Council. But if I had to place a bet, it would be on a Holm endorsement. We’ll know soon enough.

Speaking of endorsements, the HCDP made its endorsements for the runoffs. From their Facebook page:

The Harris County Democratic Party is proud to announce that it has endorsed the following candidates in the City of Houston Runoff Election, which will be held on Saturday, December 12, 2009:

RONALD GREEN for Houston City Comptroller
KAREN DERR for Houston City Council Member, At Large Place 1
JOLANDA (“JO”) JONES for Houston City Council Member, At Large Place 5
LANE LEWIS for Houston City Council Member, District A
MIKE LASTER for Houston City Council Member, District F

In the interest of party unity, the Steering Committee of the Harris County Democratic Party has elected to refrain from making an endorsement in races where two Democrats are running against each other.

In the citywide races and in District F (which you may recall voted strongly Democratic in 2008) this makes a lot of sense; it’s less clear you want to partisanize things in District A, but you do want to make sure your voters get out, so there you have it. As you’ve seen in the Controller’s race and will see tomorrow in the At Large races, improving performance in the core Democratic districts will be key to winning for them.

Precinct analysis: The City Controller race

Here are my numbers. As before, for maps, go see what Greg‘s got.

Dist Green Khan Holm ============================= A 4,685 6,750 7,125 B 7,483 3,329 1,362 C 7,356 7,494 6,332 D 13,410 4,673 3,047 E 5,133 7,684 6,633 F 2,403 4,171 1,975 G 4,908 8,446 16,733 H 4,879 4,236 2,973 I 3,725 2,708 1,510

One of the reasons why I thought Pam Holm would make it to a runoff, and why I thought MJ Khan had no chance to do so, is because there are so many more voters in District G than there are in District F. Indeed, Holm built up a huge lead in G, and had a small advantage in neighboring District A, but it wasn’t enough. She ran third in all six non-Republican districts, while Khan carried districts C and E in addition to his home district F, and ran second everywhere else, including in Fort Bend. I have to assume his TV advertising paid off for him; unlike the Mayor’s race, where Peter Brown’s air assault wasn’t enough to get him into the runoff, this race featured three far less known candidates, only one of which spent any significant amount on TV. The boost I presume he got in name recognition, with no countervailing forces from Holm and Green, propelled him forward. I don’t know why Holm didn’t spend more of her money on TV. She still had over $130K in her treasury as of the 8 days out report, and spent less than half of what Khan did ($380K to $160K) in the period. This strikes me as a critical mistake on her part.

As for Ronald Green, he did about as well as Gene Locke in District B, once you factor in the 15% undervote in the Controller’s race, and he did better in District D. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Khan’s first place showing in C, not to mention his strong second place finishes in H and I, should be a loud blaring klaxon that he needs to shore up his support among Anglo and Hispanic Democratic voters. With Holm’s support in the Republican districts likely to transfer to Khan, and with Khan’s strength in F (though I note he didn’t get a majority there), Green can’t take anything for granted. He needs to raise some money quickly, and to remind the Inner Loop folks that he’s their guy. I believe there will be another 8 days out report for the runoff, so we’ll have some idea if he’s doing that or not. If he continues to coast, I believe he will lose.

Next up: City Council At Large races.

Recount in HCC 3

No surprise at all.

Mary Ann Perez appeared to pull off a tight victory in the Houston Community College’s District III trustee race Tuesday night. But her opponent was in no mood for a concession.

“I’m requesting a recount,” said incumbent Diane Olmos Guzman, who added that “there will be a bright future for me.”

The unofficial final result is Perez 2881, Guzman 2837. That may change a bit as provisional votes are reviewed and any outstanding overseas votes come in. In the end, I doubt it will matter. Pam Holm defeated Jeff Daily in the 2003 runoff for District G by only 27 votes in an election with 37,000 total ballots cast, but that result stood up after further review. The only election I can recall offhand that changed after a recount was the 2004 primary in which Henry Cuellar unseated Ciro Rodriguez; Rodriguez led initially, then fell behind after some 200 uncounted ballots were found that heavily favored Cuellar. Anything can happen, of course, but I don’t expect that.

The Controller’s race

I’m still somewhat amazed by this result.

City Councilman Ronald Green led a three-candidate field in the race for Houston city controller Tuesday and will face Councilman M.J. Khan in a Dec. 12 runoff.

Green, whose campaign appeared unharmed by last-minute anonymous phone calls warning Democrats against him, led comfortably for most of the evening and finished with 36 percent. Khan and Councilwoman Pam Holm jockeyed for second place as the returns came in, and Khan finished with 32.5 percent to Holm’s 31.2 percent — a difference of about 2,000 votes.

Last night, as Khan overtook Holm, I thought there might be a recount in this race. With a 2000 vote difference, however, that would clearly be a waste of time and money.

Green said he was looking forward to the runoff campaign.

“Of course, I would have preferred no runoff,” Green said. “But I’m going to run on my qualifications and I feel confident that I’ll be the next controller.”

Khan, a Pakistani immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 1985, said he never expected to finish first but picked up support as voters learned more about him. The engineer and real estate developer said he expects that trend to continue during the runoff campaign.

“I believe Houstonians will reward qualifications,” Khan said.

Two questions: Will Green try to raise some money and be more visible in the runoff? Will Khan get the local GOP establishment to back him? I believe this race is fundamentally the same as the Controller’s race was in the beginning, which is to say it’s Green’s to lose. I don’t think the runoff in F will be as big a boost to Khan’s chances as a runoff in G would have been for Holm’s, had it gone that way. The lack of a runoff in G helps Green. If I’m right about Roy’s voters sitting it out – and I note that Martha isn’t so sure about that – that helps Green as well. If the GOP gets its act together – having a chance to knock off Jolanda Jones as well as win this race ought to motivate them – that helps Khan. Khan had $31K on hand as of his 8 days out report, so at least this time they start out more or less even in the money department. That’s what I’ll be watching for the overtime period.

As for whether or not Pam Holm picks a side in the runoff, all I can say is that as yet, she has not done so. Click on to see an email she sent out yesterday morning on the race.

(more…)

Comparing Controller’s races

In 2009, we have a Controller’s race that features an At Large Council member, a Council member from a high-turnout, mostly white district, and Council member from a low-turnout, mostly non-white district. In 2003, we had a Controller’s race that featured an At Large Council member, a Council member from a high-turnout, mostly white district, and Council member from a low-turnout, mostly non-white district. I thought it might be interesting, if not necessarily instructive, to compare the races and see if we can learn anything. Here’s the data:

Year Candidate Votes Pct ================================= 1997 Tatro 6,449 23.19 1997 Parker 47,841 20.25 97 Runoff Tatro 15,739 56.25 97 Runoff Parker 139,787 57.45 1999 Tatro 12,349 57.64 1999 Parker 112,470 63.23 1999 Vasquez 5,418 36.70 99 Runoff Vasquez 4,055 60.59 2001 Tatro 15,811 56.52 2001 Parker 112,153 50.66 2001 Vasquez 11,248 100.00 2003 Tatro 52,258 20.40 2003 Parker 106,441 41.54 2003 Vasquez 30,319 11.83 2003 Holm 11,172 35.37 2003 Khan 4,096 37.55 2003 Green 53,163 31.20 03 Runoff Holm 18,411 50.04 03 Runoff Khan 6,889 53.31 03 Runoff Green 98,464 52.21 2005 Holm 22,500 100.00 2005 Khan 7,019 69.22 2005 Green 123,254 100.00 2007 Holm 14,733 100.00 2007 Khan 4,662 100.00 2007 Green 82,417 100.00

Couple points of interest. The 2009 Controller’s race has just the three term-limited Council members in it. The 2003 race had three other candidates – Gabe Vasquez, who as you can see was not term-limited that year, actually finished fourth, behind Mark Lee. Both Ronald Green and Annise Parker finished second in their initial races, then went on to win in the runoff. Parker had two opponents in 2001.

As for what it all means, well, the parallels are obvious, but I would not draw too much from them. Parker had a fair amount of money in 2003, more than Green has now, and she had three competitive elections going into her Controller’s race, where Green had only the first one. Tatro had money in 2003, but Holm and Khan have more. They’ve run aggressive campaigns, while Green has, um, not. Green and his tax issues have also presented a large target for his opponents, at which Pam Holm has gleefully aimed, with mailers, press releases, challenges to appear on the radio with her, and so forth. I don’t know who’s behind that robocall that trashes Green over this, but I’ve heard from a lot of people that have received it. And MJ Khan is out there, too, spending over $300K on TV, which is something Gabe Vasquez never did. This is just a very different race. I could try to come up with some mathematical relationship between all the numbers involved, beyond what you can plainly see, but I wouldn’t believe any of it. Consider them for entertainment purposes only.

“I don’t know” wins big!

Just as the Chron poll also asked about the Controller’s race, so did the recent KHOU poll, which went it one better and also asked about the At Large Council races. Not that this told us anything useful.

The poll, conducted by the Center for Civic Engagement at Rice University, reveals that registered Houston voters who describe themselves as likely to vote are unable to settle on a candidate in several major citywide races.

“Maybe what we’re seeing here is a complacency that leads to simply voting for incumbents,” said 11 News political expert Bob Stein, who conducted the poll. “Maybe complacency means simply not voting. And perhaps the turnout will be historically low.”

And maybe what we’re seeing is a bunch of people who have never voted in city elections but don’t want to admit that to a stranger on the telephone not having any idea about who to vote for in an election they weren’t going to participate in anyway. I mean, about 35,000 people in the city of Houston have already cast a ballot, which is maybe 15% of what the final turnout will be. These are people who know who they’re voting for. Maybe that’s who should be getting asked. I’m just saying.

Anyway. The poll has the Controller’s race as Green 12%, Khan 11%, and Holm 9%. None of the four contested Council races had as many as 20% of respondents give a definitive answer. I suppose you could say that C.O. Bradford, who had 11% to Noel Freeman’s 2%, and Council Member Jolanda Jones, with 11% to Jack Christie’s 3%, are “leading”, but I’d also say that as the sample of genuinely likely voters is probably a lot smaller than the number of people queried for this poll, the real margin of error is a lot higher than the 4.6% cited. Use these numbers at your own risk.

Eight days out: What the Controller candidates are spending their money on

You may recall I looked at how the Controller candidates were spending their money after the 30 day reports came out, and I figured I’d do it again with the 8 day reports. Along the way, I found a little surprise. I’ll get to that in a minute. Here we go:

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Ronald Green 809.17 Printing Ronald Green 1,301.17 Printing Ronald Green 1,081.42 Door hangers Ronald Green 150.00 Ad (Riverside UMC) Ronald Green 16,573.30 Direct mail Ronald Green 16,573.30 Direct mail

Well, he’s sending mail. That’s something. And I even got one of his mailers yesterday. Progress! Anybody else get some mail from Green?

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ MJ Khan 500.00 GOTV services MJ Khan 6,000.00 Radio ad production and buy MJ Khan 105,048.70 TV media buy MJ Khan 18,300.00 TV ad production MJ Khan 1,100.00 GOTV services MJ Khan 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) MJ Khan 10,000.00 Ad (HCRP) MJ Khan 214,473.00 TV & radio media buy MJ Khan 1,690.00 GOTV services MJ Khan 2,895.69 Printing of signs MJ Khan 2,500.00 Radio ad buy MJ Khan 2,000.00 Ad (Aubrey Taylor Communications)

Pretty decent media buy. Khan’s $300K will get him a fair amount of TV time, including in some places that don’t have very many voters. Note the $5K ad with the Texas Conservative Review, which you’ll see again and again, and the accompanying $10K ad with the Harris County GOP, which most Republican candidates bought at some level as well. Gotta give ’em credit for knowing how to make a buck when the opportunity presents itself.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Pam Holm 10,000.00 Video shoot Pam Holm 10,063.82 Direct mail Pam Holm 3,750.00 GOTV field ops Pam Holm 125.00 Ad (South Wesley AMC) Pam Holm 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Pam Holm 1,000.00 GOTV Pam Holm 10,000.00 Radio time Pam Holm 612.40 Ad (Houston Community Newspapers) Pam Holm 1,650.81 Yard Signs Pam Holm 1,914.94 Push cards and letterhead Pam Holm 14,641.00 Mailer Pam Holm 1,350.00 Push cards Pam Holm 5,000.00 Ad (HCRP) Pam Holm 50.00 Ad (Acres Homes Citizen Council) Pam Holm 1,500.00 Ad (Aubrey Taylor Communications) Pam Holm 487.13 T-shirts Pam Holm 1,850.00 Push cards Pam Holm 4,350.00 Ad (Aubrey Taylor Communications) Pam Holm 2,301.40 Signs Pam Holm 22,158.91 Direct Mail

Okay, something here is missing. We know Pam Holm is on the air – Martha asked around on Facebook and received confirmation from a couple of people that they have seen her ad several times, on CNN. Yet I cannot find a line item in her finance report that would correspond to a media buy of that magnitude. She only listed about $180K of spending in her report, which frankly wouldn’t buy that much TV time if that’s all it were being spent on. Stephen Costello’s report for his At Large #1 race showed $160K spent on a TV buy, and that’s the smallest one I’ve seen so far. Heck, just look at how much MJ Khan spent. She’s been on the air long enough that this should be accounted for in this report – it’s not in her 30 days out report – unlike the situation from earlier this month where Gene Locke announced his debut on TV after the reporting deadline for the 30 day reports. So I’m going to ask here: Where is Pam Holm’s spending on TV advertising documented? Maybe I’m missing something, and if so I hope someone will point me to it. But especially with Holm taking shots at Green about his tax lien, I think it’s fair to wonder why Holm has apparently filed an incomplete finance report.

UPDATE: Via Greg, here’s the purchase order for Holm’s ad buy. Martha has more.

Green’s tax liens

I know some people think that the Mayor’s race is boring, so perhaps they should take a look at the City Controller’s race instead.

The Internal Revenue Service has filed two tax liens on City Councilman Ronald Green for more than $120,000 in alleged federal tax debt and fees, according to public documents unearthed by one of his opponents in the city controller’s race.

Green acknowledged the liens Thursday, but said they were part of an “honest dispute” over income that he mistakenly overlooked several years ago.

“We have been working together over the last couple months to get this resolved,” he said. “I’m aggressively advocating for myself.”

[…]

The IRS liens claim Green owes $38,842.62 from 2002, $35,046.07 from 2003, $39,942.65 from 2004 and $6,211.77 from 2006, according to the documents filed with the Harris County Clerk’s office.

Green, who has his own law practice, said the IRS dispute began when it discovered about $30,000 another attorney reported as having been paid to him in 2002 that he did not report on his return because of an oversight.

“As a small businessman, you do your taxes by collecting many separate 1099s, and unfortunately, this one didn’t get included,” he said. Much of the remaining IRS claims and his dispute with the agency stem from fees and interest it says he owes, Green said.

Texas Watchdog has the documents in question. Green’s explanation seems reasonable to me, though not having been in a similar position myself, I can’t fully judge it. But it is the sort of thing that sounds bad, especially when one is running for a job whose purpose is keeping track of finances, and however reasonable the explanation sounds, the old maxim about “if you’re explaining, you’re losing” comes to mind. The risk for Green is that Pam Holm, whose campaign sent out the press release with copies of those documents that is the basis for these stories, has the money to drop a bunch of mail attacking him for it if she chooses to do so. So does MJ Khan, for that matter. I’m not sure how Green responds if that happens. Green may be “leading” in that Chronicle poll, and that may have influenced the timing of Holm’s charge against him as he says (though really, this is the time that such attacks always come out, precisely because there’s not much time to adequately respond to them), but there’s a ton of undecided voters, and this may well have an effect on them. If he’s got a bullet to fire back, now would be the time to do it.

More details on the Chron poll

Here we have crosstabs and more details about that Chron poll from the weekend. The first thing that leaps out at me is that they also polled the Controller’s race:

“If the election for city controller was held today and the candidates were Ronald Green, Pam Holm, and MJ Khan, for whom would you vote?”


Candidate        Frequency    Percent
=====================================
Ronald Green           103       17.2
Pam Holm                90       15.0
MJ Khan                 62       10.4
Someone else             8        1.3
Not sure               338       56.2

As there are only three candidates on the ballot for this race, those eight people who replied “Someone else” are in for a disappointment. Otherwise, I’d say this roughly conforms to my perception of that race.

The crosstabs themselves were about what you’d expect as well – the partisan split (Dem 43.5, GOP 35.5, Independent 21.0) and breakdown by race (White 51.0, Hispanic 14.7, African-American 26.5) seem reasonable. Getting down into the subgroups was very interesting. Brown led among men, with Parker second. He also led among women over Parker by a tiny bit. Parker led among Democratic voters, but Brown had a big lead among Republicans, with Locke trailing all three of his opponents; I’m going to guess the timing of his release in which he touts the support of numerous GOP bigwigs isn’t coincidental. Locke did lead among African-American voters, but not by much over Brown, and Brown had a large lead among Hispanic voters; despite sweeping the endorsements among Latino groups, Locke was in third among this group.

You shouldn’t read too much into any of this, as the subsamples are pretty small, but they’re fun to look at nonetheless. I still don’t have a satisfactory answer to my question about how this sample was done. They did use voters who self-identified as “very likely” (84%) or “likely” (16%) to vote, but frankly unless they pre-screened the pool to only quiz those who had some recent history of voting in city elections, I wouldn’t put too much stock in it. If all they did was ring up registered voters and use a “how likely are you to vote this fall” question as the screen, then unless they called about 2000 people to begin with, I think they’re way oversampling unlikely voters. In the end, we’ll just have to see what the scoreboard says. Campos and Greg have more.

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?

Khan goes on the air

We knew it was coming, and now here we have MJ Khan’s first TV ad.

It’s…okay. Unlike Greg, I think Pam Holm’s ad, which was strong up until the last few seconds, was better. The presentation in Khan’s ad, with the three “average citizens” expressing their preference for Khan’s candidacy, is a bit hokey, but I can live with that. The real issue I have is that Khan’s main argument is that he’s the best qualified candidate for the office – just review his interview and you’ll see what I mean – yet he barely touches on why this is so in the ad. What exactly are his qualifications and why are they superior to his opponents? Well, there’s something about zero-based budgeting in the ad – how many folks know what that is? – and that’s about it. I realize this is a 30-second spot and he has to introduce himself first, but I feel like this ad doesn’t really give me a reason to vote for MJ Khan, whereas Pam Holm’s ad did do that. What do you think?

Koozie!

Well, the Pam Holm campaign may not have received the Chron’s endorsement, but they did make my weekend by delivering this fine piece of campaign swag to me:

Pam Holm koozie

Pam Holm koozie

As you can see, it’s primed and ready to go for today’s Texans game. Is there some kind of blogger ethics form I need to fill out, or does this count as sufficient disclosure? My thanks to Sallie, Samantha, and the rest of Team Holm for the memento.

Spending on voter outreach: The Controller candidates

We know that this has been, relatively speaking, a low-dollar, low-profile election. I’ve been curious as to what the candidates’ strategies for doing voter outreach have been. We’ll probably know more when we see the eight-days-out reports, but for now, I’ve been looking through the various campaign finance reports to see what spending they have reported so far on various communication methods. Here’s a look at what the candidates for Controller have been doing.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== MJ Khan 3,716.81 Printing, postage, bumper stickers MJ Khan 12,592.56 Printing of signs MJ Khan 4,486.85 Printing of signs and stickers MJ Khan 944.48 Printing of T-shirts MJ Khan 22,469.00 Polling services

The “Amount” and “Purpose” are taken directly from the reports. I’ve listed anything that seems oriented towards getting the “Vote for Me!” message out, excluding basic things like website maintenance and email services. Nobody in this race has skimped on yard signs. I’m glad to see that someone is polling citywide. I’d kill to see the questions and answers Khan got. Word I’ve heard is that Khan will be running ads on cable, which he should be able to afford. I’ll be interested in seeing that as well.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Pam Holm 2,730.61 Yard signs Pam Holm 1,358.27 T-shirts Pam Holm 1,547.34 Mailing/printing Pam Holm 2,600.00 Signs Pam Holm 477.38 Koozies Pam Holm 2,520.33 Signs Pam Holm 8,358.00 Advertising (Stan and Lou Advertising) Pam Holm 2,774.85 Automated phone calls Pam Holm 662.06 Radio production costs Pam Holm 2,380.73 Signs Pam Holm 2,900.00 Door hangers (*) Pam Holm 26,367.15 Direct mail Pam Holm 1,487.00 Automated phone calls Pam Holm 10,000.00 Radio ads

Holm is the big spender here, which is no surprise. I saw two $2900 entries for door hangers, one of which listed the recipient and one which didn’t; I don’t know if this was a duplicate entry or not. We’ll know in about three weeks how much Holm spent on her TV ad. Oh, and I totally want a “Pam Holm for Controller” koozie. Surely someone with the campaign can set me up.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Ronald Green 1,930.91 Printing Ronald Green 753.79 Printing Ronald Green 1,107.72 Printing Ronald Green 1,091.71 Printing Ronald Green 275.00 Advertising (Jewish Herald Voice) Ronald Green 1,930.91 Printing Ronald Green 343.15 Printing Ronald Green 866.00 Printing Ronald Green 100.00 Advertising (St Peter The Apostle Catholic Church) Ronald Green 197.29 Printing Ronald Green 622.98 Printing Ronald Green 161.89 Advertising (Facebook) Ronald Green 200.66 Printing Ronald Green 411.97 Printing

He may not be able to afford radio or TV, but Ronald Green has the Facebook market locked up. That’s actually a pretty decent investment if you don’t have that much money to spend. I have no idea what all those printing costs are for – my guess is the ones in four figures are yard signs, but I’m not sure about the others. Who knew that churches took advertising?

Next up, the At Large Council races.

Interview with Council Member Pam Holm

Pam Holm

Pam Holm

Wrapping up my interviews with candidates for Houston City Controller is Council Member Pam Holm, the incumbent in District G. Holm is a native Houstonian and a longtime citizen activist who serves fulltime as Council Member. She is Chair of the Pension Review Committee and currently serves on the Budget and Fiscal Affairs committee, and has also served as Vice Chair of the Transportation Policy Council of the Houston-Galveston Area Council. She is married to Chuck Holm.

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
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A
Herman Litt, At Large #1
Natasha Kamrani, HISD Trustee in District I, not running for re-election
Alex Wathen, District A
Robert Kane, District F
Council Member Melissa Noriega, At Large #3
Jeff Downing, District A
Mike Laster, District F
Council Member Jolanda Jones, At Large #5
Mills Worsham, District G
Rick Rodriguez, At Large #1
Council Member Sue Lovell, At Large #2
Carlos Obando, At Large #5
Richard Sedita, District G
Jack Christie, At Large #5
Dexter Handy, District G
George Foulard, District G
Alma Lara, HISD Trustee District I
Anna Eastman, HISD Trustee District I
Linda Toyota, HISD Trustee District I
Council Member Ed Gonzalez, District H
Council Member Wanda Adams, District D
Council Member Anne Clutterbuck, District C
Progressive Coalition candidates
Council Member Mike Sullivan, District E
Council Member James Rodriguez, District I
Council Member Jarvis Johnson, District B
Mike Lunceford, HISD Trustee District V
Ray Reiner, HISD Trustee District V
Council Member Ronald Green, candidate for Controller
Council Member MJ Khan, candidate for Controller

Holm goes on the air

Via Mary Benton, we have the first non-Mayoral TV ad of the season, from Pam Holm:

My thoughts:

– Basically an intro ad, though a fairly substantive one. Holm’s pitch – she’s a strong financial manager who’ll keep a sharp eye on your tax dollars – is straightforward enough, and she makes it herself in direct fashion.

– Plenty of code words and catch phrases to remind Republicans of her bona fides – “protect your tax dollars”, “fought wasteful spending”, etc etc etc. As that fits nicely into all of the Mayoral messaging, it ought to have broad appeal.

– I hope she paid Vince Ryan a royalty for the use of his “watchdog, not a lapdog” slogan from 2008. Hey, it worked for him, so what the heck?

– I’d have lost the cutesy bit at the end where she turns to her husband and says “Right, Chuck?” One presumes she already has his approval. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but I thought that diluted her message a bit.

– Benton says she doesn’t know how much of an ad buy her team made. I took a peek in Holm’s finance report and didn’t see anything earmarked for TV, but given that report only goes up till September 24, that doesn’t mean anything. She had spent $10K on radio, in addition to $26K on direct mail. I doubt she has the funds to do a broadcast blitz, but she could probably be on cable for most of the rest of the month. Given that, it won’t shock me if MJ Khan joins her on the air soon.

– You see this, Ronald Green? This is what you have to worry about. Yeah, I don’t really a see a way in which you don’t make it to the runoff, either. But you know, you still have to win the runoff. How are you going to get your supporters back to the polls in December if they don’t even know you’re running?

– Finally, on a tangential note, I finally saw an Annise Parker ad on the tube tonight, on KHOU during the local news. I believe it followed a Peter Brown ad. Haven’t seen a Locke ad yet, but they just started running.

UPDATE: Greg has more.

UPDATE: Houston Politics weighs in.

So who will the Republicans vote for in this election?

This article can basically be summarized as “Republican voters in Houston have a choice between three serious candidates who are all Democrats, and Roy Morales, and neither of those choices is particularly appealing to them”. I’ll put aside my sense of schadenfreude for a moment to make a couple of observations. One is that all three of the leading candidates will likely do all right among these voters. Gene Locke has as the story notes picked up a bunch of endorsements from Republican-leaning groups like the Houston Police Officers Union and the C Club, not to mention the backing of Bob Lanier, the last (final?) Republican mayor of Houston. Parker will do well with female voters, which will include a non-trivial number of Republican women. Brown’s dominance of the airwaves and mailboxes should help him get votes from those who like his vision. These votes aren’t going to Roy, and they’re going to go somewhere.

Having said that, it will be very interesting to see how the vote goes in heavily Republican areas like Districts A and G in the runoff, as those locations will have Council runoffs as well as the Mayoral one. I’ll be looking to see if there’s a higher rate of undervoting in the Mayoral race in those districts, as there’s always the choice of not making a choice at all.

And even if Republicans punt on the Mayor’s race, they can still exert some influence over the next Mayor’s ability to get things done by their choices in the Council and Controller’s races. I certainly got the impression from all the interviews I did that some of the candidates in Districts A and G are more likely to work with the next Mayor, and some are more likely to be resistant. Go back and give them a listen and draw your own conclusions. There’s also the Controller’s race, in which Pam Holm has sent a clear signal about how she intends to act in office. I wonder how many of them have paid attention to these possibilities.

Chron overview of the Controller’s race

Must be getting close to Early Voting, as the Chron has started writing about elections other than the Mayor’s race. Here’s their overview of the Controller’s race.

The city controller position traditionally has been a big draw in municipal races. Previous controllers have engaged in high-profile sparring with powerful mayoral administrations and tried, with limited success, to use the office as a stepping stone to brighter political fortunes.

This year, however, may be different, as council members Ronald Green, M.J. Khan and Pam Holm look back over six years at City Hall with little to distinguish themselves from one another in on a generally collegial, unified council. In a year when polls show that many voters know little about the city’s mayoral candidates, the race for Houston’s top fiscal watchdog may have an even tougher time getting people’s attention.

“If the mayor’s race is off the radar screen, the controller race is simply completely lost in the shuffle,” said Robert Stein, a political scientist at Rice University. “They are not running campaigns that are much above yard signs and block walking.”

Maybe my memory’s a little cloudy, but I don’t recall the 2003 race being all that visible beyond yard signs and blockwalking, either. Of course, that year we had a ton of spending in the Mayor’s race, which would have overshadowed if not completely drowned out whatever the Controller candidates were saying. Greg brings some numbers to show that in pretty much every election, the Controller’s race is a distant echo of the Mayor’s race. With the Mayor’s race this year being at a lower volume than usual, the effect is heightened.

In any event, you can see what the candidates have to say for themselves in this story, and you can hear what they have to say for themselves, in plenty of detail, next week in my interviews with them. This is an important race and it deserves much more attention than it’s gotten so far.

Holm drops some mail

We have our first indication of campaign expenditures outside the Mayor’s race as Council Member and Controller candidate Pam Holm puts out a mailer. Musings has a look, courtesy of @xtinagorczynski on Twitter. It’s a basic intro piece that establishes her brand and as Musings notes reminds Republicans that they have someone to vote for at the citywide level. You’ll hear more about her being a “watchdog” in the interview I did with her, which will run next week. Anyone else out there receive this? I’m wondering how widely it was sent. Leave a comment and let me know. Thanks!

Election tidbits for 9/22

More stuff that’s worth a mention.

– The deadline to register to vote in the 2009 election is Monday, October 5. Towards that end, Texans Together will be holding a voter registration drive this Saturday, September 26, at various locations around the city. If you want to participate, please contact Dee at 281-702-7864 or e mail dee.young@texanstogether.org.

– HISD District I candidate Alma Lara has a new website.

– City Controller candidate Pam Holm has been making robocalls. Personally, I’d advise sending mail now (if you can afford it, which she ought to be able to do), and saving the robocalls for the GOTV effort later. But then no one asked me.

– Along those lines, Peter Brown is making robocalls as well. I know this because there was a voice mail of such a call on my work number this morning. I don’t know how that number got onto anyone’s list. Maybe they were just dialing every number in town.

– Not at all campaign related, but my neighbor Mark Strawn, who was badly injured in a car accident two years ago, has been making huge strides in his physical therapy. His wife Sabrina recently sent out an email asking for support for SIRE, Houston’s therapeutic equestrian center, which has so helped Mark in his recovery. I’ve reproduced the email beneath the fold, and you can click here when you’re done reading it to give them a hand.

Purple Texas writes about Hank Gilbert and his nascent campaign for Governor. Maybe it’s just the city boy in me, but I can’t say I’ve ever felt a longing for a liberal-disguised-as-a-redneck to save us all. Which isn’t to say that Hank couldn’t win next year with that formula. It’s just that I’d support him in spite of his rural roots, not because of them.

– District G candidate Richard Sedita sent out a press release in support of the current efforts to build a stadium east of downtown for the Houston Dynamo.

– The Texas Tribune invites you to take a look inside their office:

– I cannot begin to express how little sympathy I have for poor widdle Rick Perry and that dirty trick that that mean old Senator Hutchison pulled on him. Karma is a remarkable thing, isn’t it?

UPDATE: Phillip says what needs to be said regarding Rick Perry and this incident.

(more…)

Controller’s debate

In case you missed it from Friday, here’s the Houston City Controller debate as hosted by Red, White, and Blue on KUHT.

I was out of town this week and didn’t get a chance to set the TiVo on Friday, but it reruns tonight at 5:30, so I plan to catch it then. In the meantime, here it is for your viewing pleasure. Greg did tune in on Friday and gives his review there. There’s a ton of Mayoral candidate forums going on, but not nearly as much for the second-most important elected office in Houston, so check this one out.

The Controller’s race

The Chron writes about fundraising in the race to replace Annise Parker as Houston City Controller.

The three major candidates vying to replace Controller Annise Parker, who is term-limited and angling to become the city’s next mayor, raised more than $400,000 in the first six months of the year. That far exceeds what City Council Members Pam Holm, Ronald Green and M.J. Khan raised during the same time period in previous campaigns.

“This is significant, and is much higher than normal for the controller’s race,” said Nancy Sims, a Houston political analyst and former campaign consultant. “They need to raise and spend some money to extend out and make their voices heard in the clutter out there.”

Actually, I don’t think it’s all that unusual. I say that from looking at the July 15 finance reports from 2003, the last time we had an open-seat Controller’s race. At that time, Bruce Tatro reported raising $132K, with $43,500 on hand. Annise Parker did better than that, raking in $212K, with $117K on hand. Mark Lee, who was not an officeholder of any kind, reported hauling in $100K. And Gabe Vasquez took in $133K, though he was still claiming to be running for re-election in District H as of July. That’s $444K raised by the three leading declared candidates, which actually exceeds the $428K that Holm, Khan, and Green took in. The main difference is that this year, the top three candidates have more cash on hand – $734K now versus a bit more than $200K then; Lee’s statement listed $35K in expenditures but for some reason omitted cash on hand, so I’m just guessing.

One other thing that struck me for the first time as I was putting this together: In the 2003 Controller’s race, you had a Democratic At Large Council member who ultimately prevailed over two Republican district members (Vasquez switched parties in early 2003). Of course, Parker did have more money than her opponents, and a higher profile then than Ronald Green has now. In terms of campaign narrative, Pam Holm is in the lead. I suspect that ultimately won’t mean much, but I do think there will be more interest than usual in the 30-day-out finance reports for this race.

Finally, on a side note, there are still a ton of July 15 reports not yet in the system for this year. Herman Litt’s report is now up – he had raised less than $5K as of the deadline, but he didn’t have a fundraiser till after then, and the one he had was very well attended, so expect him to post good numbers next time. I found a report for perennial candidate Andrew Burks, who is running for At Large #2, as well.

City campaign finance reports come rolling in

As the campaign finance reports for City of Houston races come online, I’ve been collecting all the reports and putting them together into an easier-to-read format. I’ve also received a bunch of press releases, which I’ll be reproducing beneath the fold. Here are some quick hits.

– According to his press release, Houston Mayoral candidate Gene Locke raised $1.15 million for the six-month reporting period that just ended. That’s about $200K more than Annise Parker raised, and is a very strong showing, especially for a first time candidate.

Peter Brown‘s press release reports $477,000 raised and over $1.7 million cash on hand. He also reported a loan of $765,000. Even without that, he’d have a sizable lead in COH, as Locke has $574K and Parker $602K.

– All of the Mayoral candidates can claim success, and indeed all of them have – Parker put out another release later in the day today comparing her achievements with those of Locke and Brown. I think they all did pretty well in a tough environment, and I feel confident you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot from all three of them starting real soon.

– By the way, in case you’re curious, Roy Morales raised $18,720 and has a smidge under $10K on hand. He’s not going to be a factor. I could not find a report for TJ Huntley as yet.

– On the Controller side, Pam Holm raised $292K, with $348K on hand; MJ Khan raised $87,350 and has $312K $353K on hand. Ronald Green had not yet filed a report. As I said before, he’s got his work cut out for him.

(UPDATE: Fixed MJ Khan’s cash on hand number. My thanks to Andre Castro from his campaign for the correction.)

– For the At Large races, there are several reports missing. The biggest money-raiser so far is Stephen Costello in #1, who hauled in a fairly impressive $156K, with $106K on hand. The only other report I’ve seen so far is for Rick Rodriguez, who raised very little. In At Large #4, Noel Freeman sent out a release claiming $35,985.75 from nearly 175 donors, which edged out Brad Bradford’s $31,285.

– At Large incumbents Sue Lovell and Melissa Noriega each raised over $100K, with Jolanda Jones pulling in $64K. Roslyn Shorter, who is an announced candidate against Lovell, raised no money; Carlos Obando, running against Jones, had not yet filed his report.

– Finally, among the open district seats, the leading fundraisers were Lane Lewis in District A with $34,858 raised and $13,066 cash on hand; Mike Laster in F with $38,629 raised and $31,608 on hand; and Oliver Pennington in G with an impressive $182K raised and $101K on hand. Not everyone in those races has reported yet, so there could wind up being a reshuffling. I’ve put what I’ve got so far in this Google spreadsheet, so check that for further updates.

Beneath the fold are all of the press releases I got. If I get any more, I’ll add them as well. Let me know what you think about how the candidates have done.

UPDATE: Nancy Sims and Greg Wythe weigh in.

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Parker reports $800K raised for Mayoral race

Tomorrow is the deadline for filing campaign finance reports for City of Houston elections. In the meantime, expect campaigns that did well in that department to announce their results ahead of time. One such announcement comes from the Annise Parker campaign, which proclaims over $800,000 raised for the six-month reporting period. From their press release:

The Annise Parker for Mayor Campaign released its fundraising totals through June 30 today, raising $810,114.92 from 2,254 donors.

“We’re building a grassroots campaign like Houston has never seen before,” said Parker. “It will take all of us to keep Houston moving through these tough times to a strong economic recovery – and that’s why there is a place in our campaign for everyone to make a difference.”

The full release, which goes into detail about the numbers, is beneath the fold. According to the PDF report from January 15 that I can find via the simple campaign finance report search form but annoyingly cannot link to, Parker had about $238K cash on hand six months ago. That will give her a pretty good total, though it should be noted that Council Member Peter Brown started the year with $897K on hand. Gene Locke, who didn’t formally announce his candidacy until March (he filed his Treasurer’s report in February), doesn’t have a January finance report. Roy Morales does have one, with no money shown in it.

The one other announcement of which I am currently aware comes from City Council Member Pam Holm, who is running to replace Parker as Controller. She announced on Twitter raising $300K for the period. Add that to the $241K she started the year with, and she’s in strong financial shape. As for her opponents, At Large #4 Council Member Ronald Green began the year with $32K, and District F Council Member MJ Khan had $300K. I know Green has been busy fundraising these past few months; he’ll need to have been quite successful to catch up to these two.

By the way, since Parker touts her Facebook and Twitter followings in her release, and since I found out about Holm’s numbers via Twitter, I realized as I was writing this that while I was following all of the Mayoral candidates’ feeds (Parker, Locke, Brown, Morales) as well as CM Holm’s feed, I didn’t even know if Green and Khan had them. Turns out that they do – Khan, Green – and so now I’m following them as well. Oh, and if you’re wondering about Mayoral candidate TJ Huntley, well, here’s his Twitter feed. Go ahead, click it. I got nothin’.

If I receive or hear of any other announcements, I’ll add them to this post. There ought to be a boatload of announcements from state and federal candidates as well – for example, I’ve just seen (via Twitter, of course) that Kirk Watson has reported over $1.4 million on hand. Not as much as the Republicans, but then he’s not actually running for Governor yet. Anyway, and in the meantime, here’s Parker’s press release. Muse has more.

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Design guide versus transit corridors ordinance

Not sure what to make of this just yet.

Fallout from the long-dormant Ashby high-rise development emerged Wednesday as a potential obstacle to the city’s effort to promote walkable, urban-style development along Metro’s planned light-rail lines.

Neighborhood opposition to the Ashby project, a planned 23-story mixed-use tower whose developers continue to await a permit almost two years after they first applied, inspired changes to an obscure city document known as the Infrastructure Design Manual. The changes include a review process intended to prevent high-density developments from worsening traffic congestion on surrounding streets.

City Council members and speakers at a public hearing Wednesday said certain provisions in the design manual conflict with the goals of the proposed urban transit corridors ordinance. Councilwomen Toni Lawrence and Pam Holm threatened to withhold support from the ordinance, seen by many as a vital first step in creating walkable urbanism in Houston, unless the conflict was resolved.

“Urban corridors and transit streets are getting caught in the trap they set for Ashby,” said Kendall Miller, president of Houstonians for Responsible Growth, a group seeking to limit new regulations on Houston’s real estate industry.

[…]

Chapter 15 was added to the design manual in the aftermath of the Ashby controversy, but it simply put into writing procedures that the city already followed, said Andy Icken, deputy director of the Department of Public Works and Engineering.

Icken said he will work with Marlene Gafrick, Houston’s planning and development director, to add language to the transit corridors ordinance clarifying that reduced automobile traffic is likely along corridors where people will be riding trains. That should reduce the need for any traffic mitigation, Icken said.

But Miller, of Houstonians for Responsible Growth, said he remains concerned that Chapter 15 of the design manual gives Public Works personnel too much discretion to require developers to take costly steps to offset traffic impacts. Those costs and lack of predictability could discourage investment in transit corridors and elsewhere, Miller said.

Holm agreed.

“Many of these standards have been put in place to deal with a specific project,” she said, referring to the Ashby high-rise, “and it gives too much decision-making to one person as opposed to setting standards. It is in conflict with the goal of what we’re trying to do with this ordinance as a city.”

I’m not going to take Kendall Miller’s word for it – I think he’s more likely to be concern-trolling than anything else. I’d like to know what folks like Christof Spieler, Andrew Burleson, or David Crossley have to say about this. Having said that, the point that a bunch of us have made all along regarding the Ashby highrise is that the problem with it wasn’t traffic but scale – it just didn’t fit into the surrounding area. Until that is truly acknowledged and dealt with, there’s a real possibility of unintended consequences like this.

Lawrence looking at Commissioners Court

Something I’d realized recently is that almost everyone in city government who is or would have been term-limited out is running or has run for another office. Mayor White is running for Senate. City Controller Annise Parker is running for Mayor. Council members Ronald Green, Pam Holm, and MJ Khan are running for City Controller. Former member Adrian Gonzalez was in his last term when he got elected Sheriff last year. The odd one out was Toni Lawrence, but that may not be the case any more.

So we hear current City Council Member Toni Lawrence is eying her next move, possibly toward County Commissioner. Multiple people have told me that Lawrence is seriously considering running for Commissioner Jerry Eversole’s seat, whenever that becomes available. She has already begun privately gauging support. Contacted last night, Lawrence said it was definitely something she is looking at. This apparently, after another formidable female elected official decided to take a pass at the seat… again, whenever it becomes available, which of course, it’s currently NOT.

Perhaps the FBI will step in and make CM Lawrence’s decision easier for her, though given that she just moved into the precinct, barely in time to be qualified for the ballot, perhaps she’s already decided. In any event, an open County Commissioners Court seat is one of the ultimate prizes in our government, and if Eversole jumps or gets pushed out of the race you can be sure it’ll be a free-for-all to replace him. I’m confident there will be some Democrats in that mix as well; I know there are recruitment efforts going on now. Certainly, as a challenge to an incumbent, even one like Eversole, it’s a steep climb. I don’t recall the exact numbers offhand, but CC Precinct 4 is redder than Precinct 3 – it’s slightly on the Republican side of 60/40, so any Dem would be a heavy underdog, even in an open seat. Still, you can’t pass something like this up, and if the stars line up and you hit the jackpot, it’s huge.

Oh, anyone have a clue who the “formidable female elected official” that declined to run might be? Leave a comment and let me know.

UPDATE: Stace has more, and his post suggests former City Council member Addie Wiseman as a potential candidate.

UPDATE: I’ve received some feedback that that the “formidable female elected official” in question is State Rep. Patricia Harless, who was in line to be appointed to the seat in the event that Eversole resigned. The word now is that Eversole will stay till the end of his term, and Harless will run for re-election to the State House.

Foulard announces in G, Khan for Controller

With the Legislature out of session (hopefully till 2011) and the District H special election about to wrap up, it’s time to refocus on the November elections for Houston. I think we will have a pretty good idea of who all the candidates are going to be very shortly, modulo a potential surprise or two. One newcomer to add to the mix is a fellow named George Foulard, who becomes by my count the fourth candidate for District G. I actually became aware of him a couple of days ago when he followed me on Twitter, and now I’ve gotten the more traditional press release about him, which I’ve reproduced below. We may get a couple more announcements like this in the next few weeks, but I’d say the window for a serious candidate rollout won’t be open much past July 4. Other than Rick Rodriguez, the former District H candidate who is reportedly looking at At Large #1, anyone hearing of new possibilities out there? Leave a comment and let me know.

Meanwhie, District F City Council member MJ Khan made the formal announcement of his campaign for City Controller in an email to supporters, which I’ve reproduced below as well. Khan’s interest in this office has been known for a long time, so this was just a confirmation of it. He joins fellow Republican Pam Holm, the outgoing City Council member in District G, and Democrat Ronald Green, who is term-limited out of At Large #4, in the race. I find it interesting that there are more Republicans running for Controller than Democrats, given that no prominent Republicans are running for Mayor (sorry, Roy). Bill King, at least, didn’t think that it was winnable for a Republican like him. I think Green is the clear favorite here, but we’ll see if the Controller’s race is any different.

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Houston’s budget

The Chron asks if the city of Houston’s budget is balanced, then answers that question with a “Well, maybe”.

Does the city of Houston have a balanced budget?

Like so many things in politics, it depends on whom you ask.

For wealthy businessman Bill King or City Councilwoman Pam Holm, the answer is no, since Mayor Bill White’s administration is planning to spend about $50 million more from its general fund in fiscal 2010 than it will take in from taxes and other revenue streams.

To Bob Lemer, conservative tax accountant and longtime critic of City Hall, the answer is an emphatic no. Lemer said a 2008 audit of Houston’s finances over the past five years shows the city in the red to the tune of $1.5 billion if it were to do its books like a private company.

And if you see things like the mayor, Finance Director Michelle Mitchell and most City Council members do, the answer is a strong yes in the sense that the city is not spending money it does not have.

Who is right? All of them, each in their own particular way, said City Controller Annise Parker.

“We have used borrowed money to meet some of our current obligations, which is, I think, fiscally unwise,” Parker said. “But while Mr. King and Mr. Lemer are out waving the red flag, I just have the yellow flag of caution up.”

I think a lot of the criticism in this article is more about semantics than anything else. Suppose I earn $50,000 in a year. Over the course of a year, all of the money I earn is dedicated to three things: Taxes, retirement savings, and living expenses. At the end of the year, my budget is “balanced” because every penny I took in is accounted for in one of these three ways. Now I decide I want to buy a house, so over the course of the next four years I scrimp on living expenses and put a little less into retirement savings, and create a fourth category of expenditure called Down Payment, to which I dedicate $5000 a year. Then, in year five, I go back to my previous allocations, and I plunk down the $20K I’ve got in the Down Payment fund on that house I want. I’ve now spent $70,000 in Year Five, but I still took in $50,000. Am I in a deficit situation? If so, is that a bad thing?

I give that example because of the way the “problem” is described for Houston’s budget.

In the course of his administration, White said he consistently has made sure the city built up its “fund balance” — governmentspeak for reserve or savings — to pay for large expenses and to improve the city’s bond rating. The latter is a key factor in holding down the cost of borrowing.

At the end of this fiscal year on June 30, the city’s reserves are projected at $220 million. Under White’s proposed budget, fiscal 2010 will end with $171 million in unspent funds, meaning the city will have drawn down its reserves by $49 million.

White said the city built up the balance with the expectation of spending it on certain big expenditures, such as raising the pay of firefighters. That means the budget is balanced, he said, despite the fact that expenses will outpace revenues by the $49 million.

I say the situation here is analogous to the one I sketched out. Perhaps not exactly, if the extra expenses being incurred are not one-time (it’s not clear if that’s the case), but I think the question is a fair one. If you’ve saved in previous years in anticipation of a big expense in a future year, does that mean you’re in a deficit situation when you make that expenditure, and if so is that a bad thing?

That’s the crux of Council Member Holm’s complaint, and I have a hard time seeing it as anything but a bullet point in her City Controller campaign. Lemer’s issue is with bigger than that.

For Lemer, the author of a 2004 ballot proposal to limit city spending, the $49 million question is moot. He argues that the city racked up a cumulative deficit of $1.5 billion from 2004 until 2008.

“That is absolutely frightening,” he said. According to his research, the main driver of that has been borrowing to keep up with costs for the city’s pension debt.

But White said that when the city has borrowed to pay pension expenses, it has reduced other borrowing accordingly, so its overall debt levels have remained low relative to its assets.

“The ratio of debt is down from where it was in the early ’90s, and it is very competitive with other cities,” the mayor said.

Parker said the city’s spending has exceeded revenues by $1.5 billion from 2004 to 2008 because Houston has been on a building boom since the administration of Mayor Bob Lanier, borrowing to pay for new infrastructure that helps fuel growth.

“We have invested back in the city of Houston,” she said. “Our long-term debt has gone up sharply, but our infrastructure assets have gone up in valuation as well. We’re a growing city, and we’re trying to meet the needs of that growth.”

Well, I’d think that infrastructure investment would be a good thing to do, especially these days, but I’m not a longtime critic of City Hall, so what do I know? I suppose too much at once is bad, but that isn’t the argument Lemer is making, and as I can’t say I consider him to be a reliable source, we’ll just have to agree to disagree here. As for Bill King, I’m not exactly sure why his name is in this story, since there’s no quote from him that I can see. Maybe he’s required to be mentioned in stories about Houston’s governance, the way John Sharp was required to be mentioned in any story about potential statewide Democratic candidates. I can’t say I’d be surprised by that.

Council OKs TIRZ deal for Regent Square

The deal to jumpstart Regent Square, the idle development on Allen Parkway, was approved by City Council yesterday.

The program, approved unanimously by City Council, will reimburse the developer of Regent Square — a 4-million-square-foot community that will abut Allen Parkway near Dunlavy and Dallas — for public improvements the developer has agreed to make to public roadways, sidewalks and streetscapes. The money will come from tax revenue generated by the development and will be paid through the Memorial Heights Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, or TIRZ.

In exchange, Boston-based GID Urban Development Group, which had been on the brink of putting the project on hold indefinitely, has agreed to begin work on the public improvements by Oct. 1, and initiate the private aspects of the property by Oct. 1, 2010. It also will provide 150 free parking spaces and rehabilitate a nearby historically black cemetery.

White said he generally has shied away from such public-private development efforts, but would continue to review opportunities on a case-by-case basis for distressed properties, such as Sharpstown Mall and for other major projects already in the works that have been delayed or canceled amid the national economic crisis.

In this case, the overriding question was whether the city would get the same benefits without the reimbursement, White said, adding that he did not believe it would.

“I would say that this is an unusual project in its scale and scope to be started in a big urban city today when real estate markets are seizing up,” he said.

Critics contend that the economic development effort is an artificial benefit to the economy, one that creates winners and losers in the marketplace.

“If these projects are stalling and developers are saying they’re not going to execute them, well, that’s the market and the market has slowed down,” said Greg LeRoy, executive director of GoodJobsFirst, a national watchdog of public economic subsidies. LeRoy said the city could do further harm to the local real estate market by helping add capacity when there is less demand, or creating more commercial space when rents already are growing soft.

The more I think about this, the more I think that the objections raised here and in the earlier story don’t add up to much. By the time the developer gets started on the project, the economy may be in far better shape and the real estate market may be back to normal. It’s not like this is a speculative area, either – there’s some high-end stuff immediately around it, and the location and view can’t be beat. And the city will get some infrastructure improvements out of it as well – just working on the sidewalks puts this in the W column as far as I’m concerned. So while this sort of thing definitely needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis, this particular case made a lot of sense to do.

Further, as Council Member Brown says in this KHOU story from Tuesday night, it’s not like the city has never done this sort of thing before. The fact that it didn’t even draw a token No vote from the likes of CMs Holm or Sullivan, and the fact that none of the people who could be Mayor by the time this project gets underway have raised any objections says to me this is no big deal.