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Ramiro Fonseca

Omnibus election results post

I’m going to take the easy way out here, because it’s been a long day/week/month and I’m hoping to get some sleep tonight, and just hit the highlights. There will be plenty of time for deeper analysis later, and of course we are now officially in runoff season. There’s absolutely no rest for the political junkie.

– Obviously, the HERO result is deeply disappointing. I’ll leave the Monday morning quarterbacking to others, but I will say this: Whatever you think about this issue, get ready for Jared Woodfill to be the public face of Houston for a few days. There’s no way this is good for anyone.

– It’s Sylvester versus King in the Mayoral runoff. The runoff will basically be the campaign we should have had in November, which will be dominated by the Mayor’s race and not the HERO campaign and the avalanche of lies that accompanied it. Don’t expect the same crowd to show up in December – if I had to guess it would be turnout in the 150K range, as it was in 2009.

– The Controller’s race was reasonably according to form, with Bill Frazer and Chris Brown in the runoff.

– Four out of five At Large races will go to runoffs, with CM Michael Kubosh being the only candidate who can take November off. I suggested there might be some goofy results in these races, and we have them, in ALs 1 and 5, where candidates who didn’t do much if any campaigning are in the runoffs. The single best result of the night is Amanda Edwards’ big lead. She will face Roy Morales, who sneaked past Laurie Robinson into second place, in December.

– And the single worst result from last night, even worse than the HERO result, is Juliet Stipeche losing her race to Diana Davila. A terrible blow for the HISD Board. Jolanda Jones won easily, Rhonda Skillern-Jones leads but is in a runoff, and Manuel Rodriguez also leads but is in a runoff, with Jose Leal and nor Ramiro Fonseca. What a weird night. On the plus side, both Adriana Tamez and Eva Loredo won re-election to the HCC board easily.

– Mike Laster and Richard Nguyen are both in runoffs, in J and F. I feel pretty good about Laster’s chances, less so about Nguyen’s. Greg Travis is a close winner in G, and Karla Cisneros leads in H, Jason Cisneroz holding off Roland Chavez for second place; the difference between the two was in double digits most of the night. If there’s one race on the ballot where someone calls for a recount, it’ll be this one.

– I guess if you really wanted to change Houston’s term limits law, this was the election to do it. There was absolutely no campaign either way, and for all the shouting about “ballot language” in the HERO and Renew Houston elections, I’ll bet a large chunk of the people who voted for Prop 2 had no idea what they were voting for.

– All the county bond issues passed, as did all the state props, and Montgomery County finally got a road bond to pass. Hope it’s all you want it to be, MontCo.

I will have more to say later. For now, this is all the energy I have. I’m going to be looking for national reaction stories to the HERO referendum. I strongly suspect it will be ugly, and I expect the likes of Dan Patrick and Jared Woodfill to keep lying about it in the face of such blowback. But we’ll see. Thanks for reading, and I’ll post precinct analyses as soon as I can get my hands on the canvass. On to the runoffs!

Chron overview of HISD Trustee races

Little late in the game for this sort of thing, but better late than never.

Terry Grier

Terry Grier

With Superintendent Terry Grier leaving in March, the HISD board faces a big decision in choosing his replacement.

Voters can help to determine who makes that decision, with four of nine trustee seats on the Nov. 3 ballot.

At least one trustee will be new, as Paula Harris is not seeking re-election. Yet some familiar faces – a former trustee, a past city councilwoman and three repeat candidates – are vying to help govern the nation’s seventh-largest school district.

Grier, by announcing in September that he would resign six months later, removed his future in the district as the top campaign issue. However, his rapid rollout of programs and high staff turnover loom on the trail with candidates calling for more stability in the Houston Independent School District.

HISD’s reliance on student test scores to award bonuses and to evaluate teachers also could be at risk. Several candidates said they oppose the statistical measure used in both, and the board’s decision last week to continue the $10 million bonus program was narrowly split – a 5-4 vote.

At a recent forum sponsored by the research and advocacy group Children at Risk, chief executive Bob Sanborn noted that HISD won the top prize for urban school districts under Grier and asked whether the candidates would rehire him if they could. None of the candidates in attendance said they would do so.

You can see the interviews I did with several of the candidates here. I asked all of them if they would vote to give Grier a new contract or not – all these interviews were done before Grier announced his intent to step down – and with the exception of Rhonda Skillern-Jones, who declined to discuss the matter, they all said No. If I’d have known that Grier was not coming back, I would have asked what qualities they were looking for in a new Superintendent. That’s the question, and the challenge, for the next Board.

Endorsement watch: Four for HISD

Here are the Chron endorsements for HISD Board of Trustees. The endorsements of incumbents Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Juliet Stipeche were expected and easily justified, so not particularly remarkable. The other two are worth comment.

Manuel Rodriguez

District III: Manuel Rodriguez

Our choice for this important position, Manuel Rodriguez, was first elected in 2003 and then re-elected in 2007. His school district in East Houston includes Milby and Cesar E. Chavez high schools. A Stephen F. Austin High School graduate, Rodriguez has been involved for more than 30 years in HISD schools and knows the district well. Even so, longtime district observers say his aloof style and lack of consistent physical presence in District III make it difficult to ascertain where he stands on issues. Ideally, members of the HISD community should make the effort to attend school board meetings, but they also have every right to expect school board members to take the initiative to disseminate important information to the communities they represent. Rodriguez’s challengers, Ramiro Fonseca and Jose Leal, bring a refreshing passion to the race. Still, Rodriguez appears more knowledgeable on the issues and better able than his opponents to respond to the challenges that HISD is facing at this time. Our advice to Rodriguez: Don’t take this position for granted. Our advice to the challengers: Participate in district issues and run again.

District IV: Ann R. McCoy

Voters should cast their ballots for Ann R. McCoy, a research director at the University of Houston, to fill this seat being vacated by Paula Harris. The area she would represent includes Debakey, Sterling and Yates high schools. A graduate of Bellaire High School, McCoy went on to earn a doctorate in counseling and a post-doctorate in mental health research. McCoy has spent her career evaluating the effectiveness of educational programs, and the board stands to gain muchfrom her analytical skills. She has also taught in area universities. During a District IV candidates’ meeting with the Chronicle editorial board, McCoy displayed the thoughtful and deliberative approach that is needed to tackle the issues facing the district. Her deep experience in education and collaborative temperament earn our endorsement over her opponents: attorney and former City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones, retired HISD principal Davetta Mills Daniels, and community activist Larry McKinzie.

The Rodriguez endorsement…I mean, look, if you really think he’s the best candidate, then fine. I disagree, but whatever. What I can’t understand is how you can not mention at all the endorsement that was retracted in 2011 after a bunch of homophobic mailers attacking Ramiro Fonseca were sent out, which Rodriguez shrugged at. It’s part of his record, and with Fonseca running again it’s a pretty important part. How do you not even mention it?

As for District IV, I predicted the McCoy endorsement – I was three for four in this group – so no surprise here. Honestly, I think both McCoy and Jolanda Jones would make good trustees, they’d just make very different trustees. Pick the style you prefer and go from there.

Interview with Ramiro Fonseca

Ramiro Fonseca

Ramiro Fonseca

HISD Trustee District 3 is a rematch of one of the uglier elections from 2011. Ramiro Fonseca is back to challenge incumbent Manuel Rodriguez again. The College Success Coordinator for Project GRAD Houston, Fonseca has a long history of service. He’s has served as President of the Houston Hispanic Forum, the Clean Houston Commission (Keep Houston Beautiful), the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Board, and as President & Chair of the HPD Eastside P.I.P. As for the ugliness in 2011, you may recall there was an anti-gay mailer sent in the latter days of the race, which Rodriguez didn’t admit to but didn’t disavow, either. This caused the Chronicle to withdraw their endorsement of him. In the end, Rodriguez was re-elected by 24 votes. Needless to say, all of that serves as background for this race, and it was one of the things Fonseca and I talked about.

(Note: All HISD candidate interviews took place before Superintendent Terry Grier announced his resignation.)

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2015 Election page.

Time to guess the Chronicle’s endorsements

vote-button

We are a bit more than a month out from the start of early voting, and as such we are getting close to the start of Chronicle endorsement season. I know from doing candidate interviews that the Chron has been holding screenings in recent days, so it shouldn’t be long now. So while we wait for that, why not take a crack at guessing what their endorsements will be?

I want to stress up front that these are not my endorsements. I’m not making any endorsements, here or elsewhere. Nor are these necessarily the candidates I think the Chronicle should endorse. I’m not making any value judgments. These are my best guesses at who the Chron will endorse, based on past history and my read on what they are looking for this year.

What are they looking for this year? I don’t think that’s any mystery. They’re looking for candidates who support HERO and who are sufficiently “serious” about pension reform. That doesn’t mean these are their only criteria, nor does it mean that they can’t or won’t endorse a candidate who doesn’t agree with them on one or both of them. I’m not there in the screenings, I don’t know what else might be on their minds. I’m just making what I hope are reasonable guesses. None of this should be taken seriously. Consider this the political nerd’s equivalent of Sean Pendergast predicting the Texans’ season, with fewer references to the WWE and Game of Thrones.

So with all of that said, let’s begin.

Mayor

At first glance, you’d think this would be a tough one to guess, but looking back at what I wrote above, it jumps right out at you: I believe the Chron will endorse Steve Costello. He checks all their boxes, and he has the most experience in city government to boot. King and Hall are both anti-HERO. McVey is an extreme longshot. I think they will be too critical of the recent issues with the jail to go with Garcia. Bell and Turner are possible, I guess, but I don’t think the Chron would consider them “serious” enough on pensions; the Chron did not care for the agreement that Turner helped broker with the firefighters earlier this year. The more I think about it, the clearer it seems. I’ll be surprised if it’s not Costello.

Controller

This one is murkier. Chris Brown is possible, but I think they will ding him for being Ronald Green’s second in command, and it’s not like they were ever big fans of his father. They endorsed Bill Frazer in 2013 and could endorse him again, but I think that was at least partly about Green’s baggage. I also think that if I’m right about Costello, they may be reluctant to endorse two Anglo Republicans for the top offices of a city that is not particularly Anglo nor Republican. I believe they will view Carroll Robinson’s tenure with the HCC Board as a negative. Honestly, I think the favorite at this point is Dwight Jefferson, who was part of the best Metro board in recent memory and who has no obvious negatives about him. I’ll say Jefferson 60%, Frazer 25%, Brown 15%.

At Large incumbents

With incumbents there’s an extra factor to consider, namely whether the incumbent in question has done anything to disqualify himself or herself. There are no Helena Browns this year, so the main question is how big a strike against someone is a vote against HERO? I’ll get to that in a minute. In At Large #2, I think David Robinson is an easy call. He checks the boxes, and none of his opponents are anyone I’d expect the Chron to consider seriously. Kubosh and Christie are the tougher ones to guess. How much will their opposition to HERO be held against them? My guess is “some”, but unless the screening goes badly for them or I’ve underestimated the commitment the Chron has to HERO, I figure they’re both favorites. I’ll make it 80% for Kubosh and 65% for Christie, with the difference being that Christie made some goofy statements about vaccines in his first term, and Philippe Nassif is compelling enough that the Chron might take a flyer on him as a “breath of fresh air” candidate.

At Large open seats

I’m going to go with Tom McCasland in AL1 and Amanda Edwards in AL4. Edwards feels like the safer choice. It would have been a harder call if Laurie Robinson hadn’t flipflopped on HERO, but if my conviction about this means anything, it means it in this race. In AL1, I could see the Chron supporting Lane Lewis or Jenifer Pool – as with Carroll Robinson, I think the Chron will not consider Chris Oliver’s time with HCC to be a positive – but I think McCasland’s resume will carry the day. Let’s say 60% McCasland, 30% Lewis, 10% Pool.

District seats

All district incumbents will be endorsed. This is easy, as there are no disqualifiers and outside of F and J no challengers that are likely to be considered. The cases worth examining are the open seats in G and H. G is a two-candidate race, and you can make an argument for or against either – both candidates are sufficiently qualified, and both are against HERO in a district where that would be expected. The main negative for Sandie Mullins Moger is being on the HCC board – yeah, there’s a theme here – and the main negative for Greg Travis is that he recently announced an endorsement by Helena Brown. I make it 55-45 for Travis. As for H, I can see any of Jason Cisneroz, Roland Chavez, and Karla Cisneros getting the nod. For no reason I can easily explain, I think Karla Cisneros is a slight favorite – let’s say 40-30-30. Have I mentioned that I’m guessing?

HISD and HCC

For HISD, they’ll stick with incumbents Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Juliet Stipeche, and they’ll reverse themselves from 2011 and go with Ramiro Fonseca over Manuel Rodriguez. In the open District 4 seat, I don’t seem the picking Jolanda Jones, so I’ll say they’ll endorse Ann McCoy. The only contested races in HCC involve the two incumbents running for re-election, Adriana Tamez and Eva Loredo. I’ll be surprised if they don’t endorse those two.

Referenda

Obviously, they’ll endorse HERO. I think they’ll be as “meh” on the term limits item as I am, and will either give it a lukewarm thumbs up or they’ll advocate a No. Same for the Harris County bond issue, with a slightly better chance of a Yes. I have no idea on the state constitutional amendments, if they bother with them. There were none that excited me one way or the other, though there are a few I’m likely to vote against.

So that’s how I see it. Go ahead and tell me where I’m wrong in the comments. I’ll check back in a few weeks and see how good a job I did trying to read their mind.

Endorsement watch: The score so far

We’ve had a slew of endorsements for municipal races this past week. I’ve been keeping track of them as best I can on my 2015 Election page. This isn’t always easy to do, because some groups are not very good at posting their endorsements anywhere. I gather, for example, that the HPFFA has made endorsements, based on these tweets, but so far no official list appears to be visible. Groups whose endorsements I have added to the page so far:

AFL-CIO
Houston GLBT Political Caucus
Houston Stonewall Young Democrats
Houston Area Stonewall Democrats
Democracy for Houston
Harris County Tejano Democrats

Log Cabin Republicans
Houston Police Officers Union
Houston Building Owners & Managers Association

I’ve separated the traditionally Democratic/progressive groups from the rest. There are still a lot of groups out there to endorse – HOPE (they have endorsed Sylvester Turner for Mayor but I’ve not seen anything else from them as yet), SEIU, Houston Black American Democrats, Houston Association of Realtors, Houston Contractors Association, the C Club, Texas Organizing Project, and the firefighters if they ever produce a list. Things may change as more endorsements come in, but here are my initial impressions on what we’ve seen so far.

Sylvester Turner has done very well so far. I had thought some endorsing organizations might want to keep their powder dry in this crowded field, but Turner has stood out with his ability to collect support from different groups. Given all the competition for the LGBT group endorsements, snagging two of them is an accomplishment. Stephen Costello nabbed the other two, with the nod from the Stonewall Young Dems being a bit contentious. Adrian Garcia got on the scoreboard with the Tejano Dems; I’m sure that won’t be his last endorsement. Chris Bell has impeccable credentials for some of these groups, but he’s come up empty so far. You have to wonder if they’re getting a little discouraged over there, and you have to wonder if their fundraising is taking a hit. Ben Hall is getting Hotze support; I’ll be interested to see if he buys Gary Polland’s endorsement in the Texas Conservative Review. Will also be interesting to see if a more mainstream group like the C Club throws in with Hall or goes with an establishment choice like Bill King.

My initial reaction to Chris Brown’s dominance in Controller endorsements so far was surprise, but on reflection it all makes sense. He’s really the only viable Democrat running – Carroll Robinson has Hotze taint on him, and Jew Don Boney doesn’t even have a campaign website. Frazer got the Log Cabin Republicans, and I expect him to sweep up the other R-based endorsements. Keep an eye on what the realtors and contractors do in this one, if they get involved at all rather than waiting for the runoff.

Lane Lewis has crushed it so far in At Large #1, not only sweeping the Dem/progressive endorsements over three quality opponents, but also picking up support from the police, firefighters, and BOMA, who didn’t endorse in any of the other three open citywide races. He won’t win any Republican endorsements, of course – I assume new entrant Mike Knox will, if he can get his campaign organized in time to do whatever screenings are needed – but at this point I’d make him a favorite for most of what’s left. Amanda Edwards has impressed in AL4, though Laurie Robinson has split a couple of endorsements with her and will be a threat to win others. Not clear to me who will take the Republican support that’s available.

I expected more of an even fight in the two At Large races with Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents, but so far Doug Peterson and Philippe Nassif have taken them all. As I understand it, Durrel Douglas hasn’t been screening for endorsements – this can be a very time-consuming thing if you are doing a solo campaign – so Nassif has had a clear path and has taken it. As for AL3, I get the impression that Peterson is considered the more viable candidate against CM Kubosh. I though both he and John LaRue were good interview subjects, for what it’s worth. CMs Kubosh and Christie have gotten the “friendly incumbent” endorsements so far, and I expect that will continue. CM David Robinson has gotten those and the Dem/progressive nods. I’ll be interested to see if HBAD backs Andrew Burks; I expect Gary Polland to give Burks some love for being a HERO opponent, but I don’t know if groups like the C Club will join in with that. Burks is doing his usual thing campaign-wise (which is to say, not a whole lot), so anything that requires an organized response is probably beyond his grasp.

Not a whole lot of interest in the District Council and HISD/HCC races. I’m a little surprised that Karla Cisneros hasn’t picked up any endorsements in H, but there’s still time. Ramiro Fonseca has done well against Manuel Rodriguez, who is deservedly paying for the rotten things his campaign did in 2011. Jolanda Jones still has some game. Beyond that, not much to say.

So that’s where things stand now. As I said, they may look very different in a month’s time. And as with fundraising, a good showing in endorsements only means so much. Plenty of candidates who have dominated the endorsement process have fallen short at the ballot box. So consider all this as being for entertainment purposes only, and take it with a handful or two of salt.

UPDATE: Corrected to reflect the fact that HOPE and SEIU are no longer affiliated.

Endorsement watch: Houston GLBT Political Caucus 2015

Congrats to all the endorsees.

A raucous municipal endorsement meeting brought mayoral candidate Sylvester Turner the coveted backing of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus on Saturday, positioning the 26-year state representative to broaden his coalition to include the city’s progressive voting bloc.

Caucus members voted 142-85 to endorse Turner after more than an hour of insult-laden discussion in which they rejected the recommendation of the group’s screening committee to endorse former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

Turner also beat out former Congressman Chris Bell, a longtime ally of the gay community who had been considered a likely pick for the group’s endorsement.

Once-shunned, the caucus’ supprt is now highly sought-after by candidates aiming to win over left-wing voters, known for reliably showing up at the polls.

“This is a major step to the finish line,” said Turner, seen as a frontrunner in the crowded mayor’s race. “This is a race about the future of the city versus its past, and this group represents a vital component of Houston’s family.”

[…]

Of the five mayoral candidates angling for caucus support, Turner, Garcia and City Councilman Stephen Costello received the highest ratings from the group’s four-member screening committee.

Committee members said concerns about Bell’s viability landed him a lower rank.

Bell closed out the first half of the year with less money in the bank than any of the other top-tier candidates.

“He’s in a tough position, because absent resources, financial resources, he would need key endorsements like this one to bolster his candidacy,” [consultant Keir] Murray said. “It just makes what was already a tough road even tougher.”

Bell, for his part, remained optimistic after the endorsement vote.

“Obviously not everyone participates in the caucus endorsement process,” Bell said. “I still think I am going to have tremendous support in the progressive voting bloc.”

See here for some background. I followed the action on Facebook and Twitter – it was spirited and lengthy, but everyone got a chance to make their case and to be heard. Here’s the full list of endorsed candidates:

Mayor – Sylvester Turner

City Council
District B – Jerry Davis
District C – Ellen Cohen
District F – Richard A. Nguyen
District H – Roland Chavez
District I – Robert Gallegos
District J – Mike Laster
District K – Larry Green
At Large 1 – Lane Lewis
At Large 2 – David Robinson
At Large 3 – Doug Peterson
At Large 4 – Amanda K. Edwards
At Large 5 – Phillipe Nassif

Controller – Chris Brown

HISD District 2 – Rhonda Skillern Jones
HISD District 3 – Ramiro Fonseca
HISD District 4 – Jolanda Jones
HISD District 8 – Juliet Katherine Stipeche

HCCS District 3 – Adriana Tamez
HCCS District 8 – Eva Loredo

None of these come as a surprise. Several could have gone another way, thanks to the presence of multiple qualified and viable candidates. I look forward to seeing this slate – and the near-misses – do very well in November.

HISD and HCC finance reports

Here’s what we know, though it’s incomplete.

BagOfMoney

Fundraising among most HISD board members was slow during the first half of 2015.

Board president Rhonda Skillern-Jones, who plans to seek re-election to her District 2 seat this November, raised the most money this reporting period ($4,000) and has the most on hand ($8,195), according to the July campaign finance reports.

Three other board seats are on the ballot in November. Trustees Manuel Rodriguez Jr. (District 3) and Juliet Stipeche (District 8) have told me they plan to seek re-election. Trustee Paula Harris (District 4) has not returned messages, but she has raised no money and reports none on hand — a good sign she is not running again.

The first day to file the formal paperwork to be on the ballot was Saturday. Only one candidate, Ramiro Fonseca, who’s seeking the District 3 seat, had filed as of Monday morning. The last day to file is Aug. 24.

Three others have filed reports naming a campaign treasurer, indicating they were interested in running: Jolanda “Jo” Jones (District 4), Ann McCoy (District 4) and Darlene “Koffey” Smith (District 2).

July reports for all of the HISD and HCC Trustee candidates that I know of are now up on the 2015 Election page. Note that only reports for HISD incumbents are available through the HISD website. HCC posts non-incumbent candidate reports as well, and good on them for doing so. HISD, you need to do something about this.

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand ================================================ Skillern-Jones 4,000 5,150 0 8,195 Rodriguez 3.325 808 0 2,856 Stipeche 0 5,733 0 9,884 Tamez 16,750 248 0 15,820 Evans-Shabazz 0 0 0 0 Hansen 200 1,826 5,000 3,374 Loredo 4,147 779 0 4,805 Aguilar 0 4,827 10,000 5,172

Compared to some of the other races we’ve seen, these are Dollar General to their Niemann Marcus. In HISD IV, everyone I’ve spoken to has told me that Paula Harris is not running for re-election. It’s annoying that the non-incumbent reports are not online, but they do exist in paper form, and Ericka Mellon was kind enough to track them down.

Former City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones has raised more than $8,100 in her run for the HISD school board, nearly twice as much as competitor Ann McCoy.

Jones’ contributions for the District 4 race include more than $2,800 from her council campaign. She served on the council from 2008 through 2011.

Community activist Larry McKinzie also has filed a campaign treasurer report to run for District 4 but did not submit the fund-raising report due July 15, indicating he had not raised money at that point.

[…]

In District 3, incumbent Manuel Rodriguez Jr. faces a rematch with Ramiro Fonseca. Rodriguez has more than $2,800 on hand. Fonseca has filed a treasurer report but said he has not raised funds yet.

In District 2, incumbent Rhonda Skillern-Jones, the board president, raised $4,000 during the last six-month reporting period. Darlene “Koffey” Smith, also running for District 2, has not raised any money but reports spending $1,800 that she intends to reimburse with donations. Youlette McCullough, who lists her nickname as “Baby Jane,” has filed a treasurer report for the District 2 seat, indicating her plans to run.

No word yet on whether HISD trustee Juliet Stipeche will face an opponent in the District 8 race.

There’s more at the link, so go check it out.

As for HCC, the only contested race so far is in my district, District 8, where first-termer Eva Loredo faces Art “brother-in-law of Abel Davila” Aguilar. John Hansen is running for the seat being vacated by Sandie Mullins Moger, Carolyn Evans-Shabazz was appointed to replace Carroll Robinson after he stepped down to run for Controller, and Adriana Tamez is running for a full term after winning the remainder of Mary Ann Perez’s term in 2013. I have heard that Dave Wilson plans to back some candidates for the Board, including Aguilar, but there are no other candidates as yet. His own finance report shows no funds raised or spent and nothing but an outstanding loan on hand; if he does play in any races I’m sure he’ll do it via a PAC, however, so don’t read too much into that. If you hear anything about that, let me know. Otherwise, not too much of interest here to report.

What now for Terry Grier?

The HISD Superintendent is in the last year of his contract, and it’s not clear whether it will get extended or not.

Terry Grier

Terry Grier

Kashmere has made limited strides as one of the schools in Superintendent Terry Grier’s signature reform effort, called Apollo. Students passed their first AP exams and the graduation rate rose, yet the school still ranks among the district’s worst academically, and it will have its fourth principal in six years next fall.

The Apollo program exemplifies much of Grier’s six-year tenure leading the Houston Independent School District. He launched the project quickly, ousted staff and demanded a “no excuses” attitude, drawing praise and criticism from the community and the school board.

That hard-driving style and his relentless agitation for change have made Grier a polarizing figure to some as he fights to raise student achievement in the nation’s seventh-largest school system.

HISD has performed well compared to big-city peers, winning the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2013. Dropout rates also have fallen under Grier, and voters approved the largest school building program in Texas history. Yet academic progress, particularly in reading, is stagnant.

Test scores released last week showed HISD mostly lost ground with the Texas average while the gap between Anglo students and their black and Hispanic classmates widened. The Apollo experiment likewise yielded mixed results, with bigger gains in math than in reading.

Grier defended the district’s results in a recent interview. HISD has held steady, he said, despite enrollment increasing to more than 215,000 students, including more deemed at risk of dropping out. (The major spike occurred in 2013, when HISD took over the low-performing North Forest district.)

“Having said that, we still need to be getting better, faster,” he said.

But the upcoming school year could be Grier’s last. The board has not extended his contract beyond June 30, 2016. For his part, Grier, 65, said his future in Houston, a city he and his wife have come to love, depends largely on his relationship with the board at the time. Four of nine trustees are up for re-election in November.

There’s a lot more to the story, which covers things Grier has done and the progress or lack of same that HISD has made in various areas. It’s worth your time to read. What it doesn’t cover that I think would have been worth including is what the potential changes on the Board of Trustees were and how they might affect Grier’s status. As noted, four Trustees are up for re-election: Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Manuel Rodriguez, Paula Harris, and Juliet Stipeche. Skillern-Jones and Stipeche, both of whom are often critical of Grier, seem likely to get by with at most token opposition. Rodriguez and Harris are both Grier allies, and both are rumored to not be running for re-election. I am not aware of a challenger for Rodriguez’s seat yet – his 2011 opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, who lost in a very close race, has not made any statement about this year that I have heard as yet – while former City Council member Jolanda Jones is running for Harris’ seat. I’m going to guess she will be more of a critic than Harris has been. Losing these two Board members would make things a lot less comfortable for Grier.

January campaign finance reports – HISD trustees

Four HISD Trustees are up for re-election this year. There are nine Trustees in all, and they serve four-year terms, so in a normal year either four or five are up for re-election. As things stand right now, all four incumbents would be running for re-election, which would be the first time there would be no open seat since at least 2001; Harris County Clerk election records only include HISD results as far back as that. Here’s a brief look at those incumbents, along with their January finance reports and a summary of their campaign balances.

Rhonda Skillern-Jones, District 2

Skillern-Jones is serving her first term as HISD Trustee. She was the only candidate in 2011 to succeed Carol Mims Galloway. After serving as Board Secretary last year, she was elected to be Board President this year. Prior to the redrawing of Trustee district boundaries last year, hers was one of two districts to absorb schools and students from the former North Forest ISD. She officially announced her intent to run for another term a few weeks ago via email and Facebook. As far as I know, she was the first Trustee to make such an announcement, and is the only one whose plans are known so far.

Manuel Rodriguez, District 3

As noted, there are four Trustees that would be on the ballot this year if they all do run. Of the four, I’d gladly vote for three of them if I lived in their district. The fourth is Manuel Rodriguez, who disgraced himself in 2011 by sending an anti-gay mailer as an attack against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. (Fact I did not realize until I scanned through old election results in researching this post: Fonseca also opposed Rodriguez in 2003, when the seat was last open. He finished third in the field of four.) Rodriguez eventually offered a lame apology for his actions, which caused the Houston Chronicle to retract their endorsement of him, after winning an excruciatingly close vote. There was a bit of a hubbub initially, then everyone moved on to other things. I hope everyone remembers this, and that the voters hold Manuel Rodriguez responsible for his despicable behavior if he does choose to run this year.

Paula Harris, District 4

Paula Harris is serving her second term on the HISD board, having won an open seat race in 2007. A prominent supporter of HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, she served as Board President in 2011, during some of the more turbulent times of the Grier era. She was also the focal point of some conflict of interest allegations at that time, which eventually led to a revamp of the Board’s ethics policies. Despite that, she won re-election in 2011 easily over token opposition, and has had a much quieter second term. Harris is an engineer who has published a children’s book encouraging kids to explore engineering, and has been a booster of STEM education on the board.

Juliet Stipeche, District 8

Juliet Stipeche, who served as Board president last year, is finishing her first full term in office. She won a special election in 2010 to fill a seat left vacant by the resignation of then-Trustee Diana Davila. She was one of the driving forces behind that ethics policy revamp, which occurred in 2012, before the last bond referendum. She has also been one of the more active critics of Superintendent Grier, though as noted things have been quieter on that front of late. Her district also contains some former North Forest ISD territory. In my opinion, she’s one of the Board’s best members.

So that’s my brief overview of the incumbents who are up for re-election. As noted, so far there are no open seats. I am also not aware of any declared opponents as yet. Here are the January finance reports for these four:

Skillern-Jones
Rodriguez
Harris
Stipeche

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Skillern-Jones 18,215 12,119 0 9,345 Rodriguez 0 0 0 340 Harris 0 1,500 12,000 0 Stipeche 5,500 7,162 0 15,618

The HISD Board does not have a Council-like blackout period, so incumbents and candidates were able to raise money during 2014. Rhonda Skillern-Jones was the busiest of the four, but I wouldn’t read too much into any of this. We’re very early in the cycle, and the one thing I feel confident saying is that we don’t know what kind of Trustee races we’re going to get yet.

Dave Wilson is up to his usual tricks

Yolanda Navarro Flores

As you know, Dave Wilson is running against incumbent HCC Trustee Bruce Austin in HCC District 2. I wasn’t sure at first if it was that Dave Wilson or not, but it unquestionably is. The fact that he’s running in HCC 2 isn’t stopping him from meddling in his usual slimy way in the HCC 1 race, where Zeph Capo and Kevin Hoffman are challenging scandal-prone incumbent Yolanda Navarro Flores. Here are front and back scans of a mailer Wilson has sent to voters in HCC 1:

Wilson mailer 1

Wilson mailer 2

Like fleas on a rat, Dave Wilson continues to cling to the body politic. Yolanda Navarro Flores then followed the path Wilson blazed:

Flores mailer 1

Flores mailer 2

She has also sent out a mailer touting the endorsement of some current and former elected officials:

Flored endorsement mailer

I wonder if these folks have any idea what else is being said on behalf of Yolanda Navarro Flores. Since she herself has (as far as I know) not asked Dave Wilson to stop saying hateful things about her opponents, perhaps her supporters might. So let me ask the following people:

HCC Trustees Carroll Robinson and Eva Loredo, whom I might add is my Trustee
Constables May Walker and Ruben Davis
CM Andrew Burks
Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel
Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez

Do you have anything to say about what Dave Wilson is doing in support of Yolanda Navarro Flores? Leave a comment, send me an email, post it on Facebook, just let me know one way or another and I’ll be happy to echo your sentiments. To be clear, I’m not calling on anyone to rescind their endorsement of Navarro Flores. I have no problem with anyone supporting her for whatever the reason. I am saying that I hope these folks would want to distance themselves from the Dave Wilson campaign playbook from which Navarro Flores is drawing. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to say that this kind of campaign rhetoric, like what HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez employed two years ago against Ramiro Fonseca, has no place in decent society. I especially don’t think it’s too much for Navarro Flores’ Democratic supporters, most especially those that will be on my ballot at some point in the future, to denounce such tactics. (Democratic voters in HCC 2 that have not cast their ballots yet might also note Navarro Flores’ support from the Texas Conservative Review. I’m just saying.) I look forward to hearing from you.

HISD Board renews Grier’s contract

It was not unanimous.

Terry Grier

The Houston school board on Thursday extended Superintendent Terry Grier’s contract through June 2014 in a split vote that signaled the controversial chief has bridges to build with the newer trustees.

The five trustees who were on the board that hired Grier in 2009 supported the extension, expressing their confidence in his leadership and the gains in student achievement. Three trustees elected after Grier’s appointment abstained from the vote, while another newer trustee opposed the deal.

Trustee Harvin Moore, who made the motion for the two-year extension, acknowledged that Grier and the board need to improve, particularly in listening and in rolling out changes.

“He did well on his performance review, but he didn’t get perfect marks,” Moore said.

Trustee Anna Eastman, the lone trustee to vote against the extension, said she knows Grier is passionate, but she is concerned about the mood in the Houston Independent School District.

“I fear the culture of this organization is struggling,” she said. “And I worry that these gains will (not) be sustainable.”

Eastman later added, “I will be available for a big fat ‘I told you so’ if it’s warranted.”

Trustees Mike Lunceford, Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Juliet Stipeche abstained from the vote.

As Campos and Stace have observed, this isn’t exactly an overwhelming vote of confidence in Grier. A handful of votes go the other way in the Rodriguez-Fonseca election, who knows what might have happened. For what it’s worth, I think Grier has done enough to warrant an extension, but he’s also done enough to have been denied that extension. I hope he puts some thought – and action – into the reasons for that.

On a side note, prior to the Board meeting Texas Watchdog ran a report saying that the vote on Grier’s contract was illegal, according to a lawyer specializing in open government. They subsequently took that down with the explanation that said attorney had revised his opinion. The Examiner explains:

The attorney quoted in a Texas Watchdog article as saying a probable vote by HISD trustees to extend Superintendent Terry Grier’s contract would be “illegal,” said he was not accurately informed about the agenda item and that such a vote “would withstand a legal challenge.”

“This is not a question of legality and criminal law,” Joel White, an expert in law pertaining to open meetings and records, told the Examiner. “This is a question about whether an item was adequately posted.”

The reporter for Texas Watchdog, a nonprofit investigative news agency whose HISD coverage is utilized by the Examiners, did not provide him with a written copy of the HISD board agenda and left out critical wording when explaining it to him verbally, White said.

The attorney called HISD’s attorney, David Thompson, “a good lawyer, and they’re going to have to trust what he tells them.”

Although White said he found the wording “slightly problematic,” he said he had conversed with Thompson Thursday and “saw and heard nothing that would rise to the level of a legal challenge.” State open meetings laws require that agendas be posted 72 hours in advance of a public meeting and outline circumstances for employee matters to be discussed in closed executive session.

Glad we got that cleared up. I can only imagine what kind of fuss there would be now if that allegation were being pressed. Hair Balls has more.

We haven’t forgotten Manuel Rodriguez

Neil has the details of a planned protest to call for the resignation of HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez at the next HISD Board meeting on December 8. Click over to see the what, when, and where. It occurs to me that if Rodriguez were a student at an HISD school and he said the things he said about his opponent Ramiro Fonseca in an election for class president he would have been subject to official sanctions for having violated HISD’s code of conduct. If that’s so, then shouldn’t the same kind of sanctions apply to a Board member. At the very least, it seems to me that it’s the duty of the Board to discuss the issue. What kind of example are they setting for the students by not dealing with it? Perhaps someone should ask that at the meeting.

No recount in HISD III

There will be no recount in the HISD Trustee District III race as challenger Ramiro Fonseca has officially conceded.

“After examining the official election results, I have decided that a recount is not an option that would change the outcome of this election,” Fonseca said in a statement. “I congratulate Mr. Rodriguez on his re-election.”

Because of the close margin, Fonseca, a Houston Community College administrator, did not concede on election night three weeks ago. At that time, Fonseca trailed by 24 votes.

After mail-in and provisional ballots were counted, Fonseca was down by an additional vote, and the school board canvassed the results last week to make them official.

Monday was the day that the election results were officially canvassed and certified. As close as the HISD III race was, it’s not realistic to expect that a recount would change anything. I wish the result had been different, but it’s time to move forward and keep shining a spotlight on the incumbent, who continues to not get it. My thanks to Ramiro Fonseca for running a good race. Stace has more.

Sometimes an apology isn’t enough

That’s what we tell our kids when they do something particularly egregious. It’s what I would tell Manuel Rodriguez, too.

The day after he retained his Houston school board seat by just 24 votes, Trustee Manuel Rodriguez formally apologized for a campaign brochure he distributed last week that many described as homophobic.

“I am aware that some people have said they were offended by one of my ads, and I apologize to all of those people,” Rodriguez wrote in a letter he released Wednesday afternoon. He said he “respect(ed)” challenger Ramiro Fonseca’s “contributions to our community and his record of public service.”

[…]

“I’m glad he finally did this,” [Trustee Juliet] Stipeche said Wednesday night, when she learned of Rodriguez’s apology. “I just wish he had apologized earlier. But I hope he truly understands how the ad was hurtful and harmful. Perhaps we can use this as a means of truly understanding our total non-discrimination policy and have a better understanding of what ‘bullying’ is.”

Fonseca was not impressed by Rodriguez’s words.

Fonseca said he was waiting for the final vote tally, which would count outstanding mail and provisional ballots, before deciding his next step – including a possible request for a recount.

“I think the hurt has been deep in the community,” Fonseca said in response to Rodriguez’s statement.

[…]

Mike Pomeroy, a member of the GLBT caucus, said he thought Rodriguez’s statement was insufficient, and he plans to join others – including an HISD student – in addressing Rodriguez during the public comment period.

“I don’t think he gets it,” Pomeroy said. “He was throughout the weekend saying, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with this. It’s the truth.’ And he was still handing out the flier at the polls. This is all coming a little bit too late.”

I agree with all these reactions. Rodriguez didn’t admit to doing anything wrong – his “apology” amounts to little more than “I’m sorry if someone was offended by what I said” – and didn’t say what if anything he might do to atone for his words. Talk is cheap. Rodriguez has shown us who he is, now he needs to show us – not tell us – that he intends to be better than that. He’s got a long way to go. Hair Balls has more, while K-12 Zone and Stace report from the protests at last night’s HISD meeting.

2011 Houston results

Let’s go through the races…

– Mayor Parker won with a shade under 51%, with none of her opponents cracking 15% on their own. Obviously, this is not a position a Mayor with no serious opposition wants to be in, and it won’t surprise anyone if one or more potential opponents for 2013 are on the phone already calling potential financial backers. It’s certainly possible, perhaps likely, that she will face a much tougher challenge in two years. It’s also possible, given a better economy, a less dire budget, and fewer externally-driven issues like a red light camera referendum, that she could be in a stronger position for re-election in two years and that the time to have beaten her was now. Many people thought Rick Perry looked vulnerable after winning with 39% of the vote in 2006, but things don’t always go as you think they will. Often uncertain the future is, that’s all I’m saying.

– Brenda Stardig trailed Helena Brown in District A by 479 votes. She and Jolanda Jones, who led Jack Christie by about 6700 votes, will be headed to a runoff. All other incumbents won majorities, with CM Stephen Costello having the closest race but winning with 51.2%. So much for the anti-Renew Houston slate.

– Only two of the five open seats will feature runoffs. Ellen Cohen in C (53.62%), Mike Laster in J (67.27%), and Larry Green in District K (67.23%) all won. Alvin Byrd (25.11%) and Jerry Davis (24.38%) head to overtime in District B, while the perennially perennial Andrew Burks led the field in At Large #2, garnering 17.33%. Kristi Thibaut came in second, with 15.65%, followed by Elizabeth Perez and David Robinson. This is at least the third time Burks has made it to a city election runoff – he lost to Sue Lovell in overtime in 2009 – and I wonder if he will get any official support. Being in a runoff with Jolanda Jones and a District B race also on the ballot will help him, but beyond that it’s hard to see him doing much of anything. You have to wonder what Michael P. Williams is thinking this morning. Oh, and Eric Dick finished seventh out of ten. Apparently, it takes more than spreading campaign signs like grass seed and putting out puerile press releases to win public office. Good to know.

– Paula Harris and Juliet Stipeche easily won re-election in HISD, as did Chris Oliver in HCC. Carroll Robinson defeated Jew Don Boney by a 55-45 margin to succeed Williams as the District IV Trustee. The closest race of the election, one that will have people gnashing their teeth all winter, was in HISD III, where Manuel Rodriguez barely held on. I’m a staunch advocate of early voting, but you have to wonder how many early-goers to the ballot box may have regretted pushing the button for Rodriguez before his shameful gay-baiting mailer came out.

– There were 123,047 city of Houston votes cast in Harris and Fort Bend Counties, making this election a near exact duplicate of 2007 turnout-wise. There were 164,283 votes cast in Harris County, of which 120,931 were Houston votes, for a Houston share of 73.6%. The final early vote total for Harris County was 60,122, almost exactly what I hypothesized it would be, and the early vote total was 36.6% of the overall tally in Harris. There were 920,172 registered voters in Houston, about 15,000 fewer than in 2009 but 7000 more than in 2007. City turnout was 13.14% in Harris County.

I have my second tour of jury duty today, this time in the municipal courts, so that’s all from me for now. I may have some deeper thoughts later. What do you think of how the election went? PDiddie has more.

UPDATE: Robert Miller offers his perspective.

UPDATE: Nancy Sims weighs in.

Your annual reminder that every vote matters

HISD Trustee, District III results, with 38 of 38 precincts reporting:

Manuel Rodriguez 2,401 50.25% Ramiro Fonseca 2,377 49.75%

There were 653 undervotes in this race, and turnout in the district was 11.61%. Fonseca carried Election Day by 78 votes, but had trailed by 102. At one point during the count, the Clerk had Fonseca up by one vote. What more do you need to know?

I will have recaps of the elections tomorrow morning. As of publication, about 95% of Harris County precincts are in. Mayor Parker appears to be headed to a just-over-50% victory, which beats the alternatives but is sure to get the chattering classes all fired up. The big surprise of the night to me is District A incumbent Brenda Stardig trailing her teabagger opponent, with the two of them headed for a runoff. We’ll see how that plays out. Other incumbents are all above 50% with the exception of Jolanda Jones, who will go into overtime again against Jack Christie. More tomorrow, see you then.

Chron retracts Rodriguez endorsement

Good for them.

Earlier this campaign season, we endorsed Manuel Rodriguez Jr. for another term on the board of the Houston Independent School District. We now retract that endorsement in the race for HISD Position III trustee.

A last-minute campaign flier for Rodriguez displays appalling homophobia. The flier urges recipients not just to vote for Rodriguez, but to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because he has been endorsed by the Houston GLBT Caucus, “the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” The flier further states that Fonseca has “spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights … not kids,” and winds up with a pair of bullet points noting that he’s 54 years old with no children and has a male partner.

That’s obvious gay-bashing, of the kind that HISD rightly prohibits on the playground. It has no place on HISD’s board.

Well said, and good on them for reacting appropriately.

HISD Trustee Rodriguez sends anti-gay mailer

I figured there was going to be more anti-gay stuff in this election. I just wasn’t expecting it in an HISD Trustee race.

Some Houston residents are calling for the resignation of Trustee Manuel Rodriguez from the Houston school board after the incumbent distributed a campaign flyer to his constituents earlier this week that included language critical of gay people.

“His records show he spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights… not kids,” the campaign brochure says about Ramiro Fonseca, Rodriguez’s opponent in Tuesday’s election for the District III seat of Houston school system’s Board of Trustees.

The flyer states Fonseca has received the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, “the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” (The underlined words are underlined in the flyer.)

Fonseca, an administrator for Houston Community College, could not be reached immediately today for comment.

Rodriguez said today that the brochure isn’t anti-gay.

“It’s the truth,” Rodriguez said during a phone interview, adding that he is not anti-gay. “I am not bashing gay people.”

Rodriguez said that the flyer emphasized the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus to “indicate who (Fonseca) represents.”

The incumbent said he underlined the words, ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights’ “to make sure parents know who’s going to make policy for their children.”

You can see the flyer here. This is just sad on so many levels. It’s sad that an incumbent feels that running on his record isn’t enough. It’s sad that Trustee Rodriguez doesn’t recognize what he’s done. It’s sad that he thinks not being a parent is a disqualification for being a Trustee – would he advocate a vote against his colleague Juliet Stipeche on the grounds that she hasn’t reproduced, too? It’s a multi-faceted fail.

A statement from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus is beneath the fold. I agree with their call to the Chron to reconsider their endorsement in this race. Every time I think we’re getting past this stuff as a society, I’m reminded that it never goes away, it just goes into hiding. School Zone has more.

UPDATE: Stace and PDiddie add on. And good for Juliet Stipeche, who as noted would not be considered qualified under the conditions set out by Rodriguez.

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Endorsement watch: HISD incumbents

The Chron sticks with the incumbents in the three contested HISD Trustee races.

For HISD Trustee in District III: Manuel Rodriguez Elected to the board in 2003, he was its president in 2007, when the district successfully passed an important bond to build 21 new schools and repair and remodel more than 100 others. He consistently supports Grier and Apollo 20.

For HISD Trustee in District IV: Paula Harris. Harris, currently board president, has been a forceful advocate for her district, and as board president, has pushed a consistent program of reforms to improve school performance. She has been a staunch ally of Grier and an advocate of Apollo 20. We have been seriously concerned by reports of fat HISD contracts awarded to her friends. But Harris says that she’s played by the rules, welcomes new, tighter ethics standards, and promises to avoid murky areas in the future.

For HISD Trustee in District VIII: Juliet Stipeche Elected in November 2010 to complete an unfinished term, Stipeche quickly proved herself a strong board member. She’s supported tighter ethics rules and a truly independent audit of HISD’s procurement system. An alumna of the district’s High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, she’s a strong supporter of high-performing magnet programs and in-district charter schools. We appreciate her diplomatic, thoughtful criticism of Grier and Apollo 20.

Based on their own reporting, that strongly suggests they want to see Superintendent Terry Grier’s contract extended after it expires next December. Be that as it may, Harris and Stipeche are clearly better qualified candidates than their opponents, while the Rodriguez/Fonseca matchup is closer to even. I thought Fonseca might have had the edge here since he won almost all of the endorsements from other organizations, but apparently not. (Campos, not surprisingly, vehemently disagrees with the Chron.) My interview with Paula Harris is here, with Juliet Stipeche is here, with Manuel Rodriguez is here, and with Ramiro Fonseca is here. What do you think?

Interview with Ramiro Fonseca

Ramiro Fonseca

Opposing Trustee Manuel Rodriguez in District III is Ramiro Fonseca. Fonseca is the program manager of Minority Male Initiative at HCC, where he has also been a financial aid associate. He has also served as President of the Houston Hispanic Forum, and is on Mayor Parker’s Hispanic Advisory Board. (See also School Zone’s Q&A with Fonseca and Rodriguez.) Here’s the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Your 2011 electoral lineup

There are many candidates running for office this year. Some of them have a better rationale for running than others, but thankfully for them that’s not a requirement.

A flurry of late filings to run for city office Wednesday filled out an election ballot that left only two Houston officials unopposed for re-election in November.

The city’s second-highest elected official, Controller Ronald Green, will run unopposed for a second two-year term as the city’s chief financial officer. Two-term District E Councilman Mike Sullivan also is unopposed.

Mayor Annise Parker has five challengers, but their combined campaign bank accounts total less than $5,000, compared with the $2.3 million Parker reported as of June 30.

You can see the full lineup here. There are a few oddities. The story list an Avery Ayers for District B and a Terence Jewett for District D, but the City Secretary does not. Similarly, the Chron only has Brad Batteau challenging CM Melissa Noriega in At Large #3, but the City Secretary has had Chris Carmona listed since early in the day yesterday. Also, there had been a candidate named Sergio Leal on the City Secretary’s page in At Large #4 before yesterday, but he has apparently dropped out. For that matter, I thought I had seen Jewett listed earlier, but at this point I couldn’t swear to it. Anyone know anything about these discrepancies?

There are two additions to the Mayor’s race: Jack O’Connor, who had previously been in At Large #5, and Dave Wilson – yes, that Dave Wilson – who presumably didn’t feel that the rest of the field hated gay people enough. I have no idea what made O’Connor decide to switch races. From what I can see, politically speaking he’s an Anglo Fernando Herrera, without the firefighters’ endorsement. There’s an anti-Parker vote out there, but I don’t see how the entrance of O’Connor or Wilson expands it in any way. They’re all fighting for the same 30% ± ε that was always going to vote against the Mayor. Had someone from the other end of the political spectrum jumped in, that might have made things more interesting. Wait till 2013, I guess. Speaking of which, now that both Ben Hall and Paul Bettencourt are officially non-candidates, can we please declare a moratorium on quoting them in any election-related story until after this election is over? Thank you.

What last minute surprises there were took place in the HISD races. First, we had a last minute dropout:

Rhonda Skillern-Jones, a mother of five who is active in the advocacy group HISD Parent Visionaries, confirms that she has filed to run for the District II seat now held by Carol Mims Galloway.

Galloway, who praised Skillern-Jones at a recent HISD board meeting, is expected to withdraw her application for re-election.

And withdraw she did. I respect Carole Mims Galloway, but I do not like this kind of placeholding. Handing your seat off like that to someone who will not be subject to any kind of scrutiny is not democratic. The voters deserve a choice. Even having a crackpot candidate in opposition would be preferable.

Another candidate discovered that he didn’t live in the district that he thought he lived in.

The Houston school board manager today notified Arturo “Art” Huerta, who had filed last month to run against trustee and board president Paula Harris, that he may not run for that seat because he does not live in the boundaries of the redrawn district.

The surprise came on the last day to file to run for the board. Like those of other governmental entities, the redistricting was done as a result of the new U.S. census data.

“I wanted to inform you that due to recent redistricting of HISD trustee boundaries, I have confirmed that your residential address of […] Vermont Street is in precinct 38,” board manager Suzanne Harrison emailed Huerta this morning, “and although precinct 38 is ‘split,’ your street falls within HISD Trustee District 8, not District 4 as we had originally discussed. I had this confirmed with the Harris County Voter Registrar this morning. Therefore, you will now be running against incumbent trustee Juliet Stipeche, Trustee for HISD District 8.”

[…]

Huerta said he will not seek election in District VIII, so he is out of the school board races for good this year.

“I have no interest in running against Juliet Stipeche,” Huerta said. “Her track record’s not the one that motivated me to run for this office.”

[…]

HISD spokesman Jason Spencer said the district’s legal consultant on school board boundaries, Gene Locke, confirmed that Huerta lives in District VIII — and the recent redistricting did not change that. The problem, Spencer said was the color-coded map that Harrison used. Huerta’s address looked like it was in District IV based on the color coding, which didn’t account for the precinct being divided into different school board districts.

I have sympathy for Huerta, who says he spent a bunch of his own money on signs, but I wonder if he was at that same address four years ago. If so, perhaps he remembers who he voted for in the Trustee race that year. For what it’s worth, I tried to find Huerta’s voter registration information so I could see what the Tax Assessor’s office thinks his HISD precinct is, but I could not find a registration for him. I don’t know what to make of that. Texas Watchdog has more on this.

In any event, Paula Harris will have an opponent, one who is familiar to her.

• In District IV, retired HISD principal Davetta Daniels is challenging Paula Harris, the school board president. Harris defeated Daniels four years ago. As we reported earlier today, Arturo “Art” Huerta, who had filed to run for the seat, was notified this morning that he didn’t live in that district and couldn’t run, despite being told by an HISD official last month that he did live in District IV.

• Juliet Stipeche, who represents District VIII, faces a challenge from Dorothy Olmos, who lost to Stipeche last year in a special election for the seat.

• Ramiro Fonseca, a Houston Community College financial aid associate, is running against incumbent Manuel Rodriguez Jr. for the District III seat.

Harris easily defeated Daniels in 2007 (page 19), garnering over 66% of the vote. Harris’ ethics issues may make this race closer, but I don’t really see Daniels, who also ran for At Large #5 in 2009 and received 8% of the vote, getting much traction. As for Olmos, she has run for numerous offices in recent years, and finished third (page 41) in the six-candidate special election for District VIII; as a multiple-time Republican candidate for office, I daresay she was bolstered by the makeup of that particular electorate. I don’t expect Stipeche will have much to worry about this time around. Fonseca, who has racked up a couple of nice endorsements since his entry into the race, looks to be the most interesting challenger.

Oh yeah, there’s also the HCC Trustee races. I have no idea who’s running for what beyond what I’ve said before, I will only list endorsements on my 2011 Election page if I can find a link to them. If an endorsing organization can’t or won’t list their supported candidates on a web page, I don’t see any reason to bother with them. I am listing the Houston Professional Fire Fighters’ endorsements because they were listed in this Houston Politics post, and that does count even if it is a technicality. The other endorsements mentioned in that post have no such luck. Whether you’re an endorsing organization or a candidate, if you want me to list your endorsements, show me the link.

UPDATE: I sent an email to story author Chris Moran to ask about Carmona in At Large 3, and was informed that his exclusion in the story was an error; there should be a correction in the online edition by now. CM Noriega does indeed have two opponents.

Trautman running for HCDE

And we have our first contested Democratic primary in Harris County for 2012 as Diane Trautman has announced her intent to run for Harris County Department of Education Trustee in At Large #3. Here’s her Facebook page for that. She joins David Rosen, who made his announcement last month. The At Large #3 seat is the one held by the notorious Michael Wolfe; also on the ballot will be the Precinct 1 seat now held by Roy Morales, which as we know will be the single easiest pickup opportunity for Dems next year, or at least it will be once there’s a candidate. If someone wins the At Large #3 race as well, Democrats will hold a majority on the HCDE Board of Trustees. Remember this race when you go to the polls next March, because it will matter.

In news related to this fall’s election, we have another challenger to an HISD trustee, as Ramiro Fonseca has announced his candidacy in District III, currently held by trustee Manuel Rodriguez. You can see his press release here.Fonseca is the president of the non-profit Houston Hispanic Forum; you can read a news story about it here. He has a personal Facebook page but does not as yet have either a campaign website or Facebook group that I have found.

Finally, there was another update from Educators For A Better District IV last night, including a link to a webpage for Arturo Huerta, so now I can say I know something about him. The full email is beneath the fold.

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