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Rick Green

Ballot order

Kevin Drum finds this paper, entitled “The Ballot Order Effect is Huge: Evidence from Texas”, by a professor at Sam Houston State, and notes that it confirms what we have all long believed, that being first on the ballot in a non-partisan race like a primary or a municipal election is an advantage. From the paper:

Across all twenty-four contests, the effect is invariably positive and, with two exceptions in runoff elections, statistically significant. The smallest effects are found in high-profile, high information races: the Republican primary for U.S. Senator, which featured the incumbent, John Cornyn; the governor’s race, which featured long-time Attorney General Greg Abbott; and Land Commissioner, which featured well-known political newcomer George P. Bush. In these races the ballot order effect is only one or two percentage points.

Larger estimates obtain for most “medium-profile, medium-information” races such as Comptroller, Railroad Commissioner, or the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator. Most of these fall in a fairly tight band that ranges from three to five percentage points. Estimates are even larger in the low-profile, low-information judicial elections, generally ranging from seven to ten percentage points. Overall, the ballot order effect tends to be larger in contests that receive less attention and in which voters are likely to know less about the candidates on the ballot.

[…]

In an ironic twist of fate, we were recently able to [test our hypothesis] with the March, 2016 Texas Republican primary, held just after the first draft of this paper was completed. Featuring a highly visible Presidential race, it drew twice as many voters as in 2014—and had contests for three Supreme Court positions, one of which was between Paul Green and Rick Green, two men with common first names and identical last names. It was The Perfect Storm, and our logic implies that this should lead to large ballot order effects. This is immediately evident in the histogram of county vote shares presented in Figure 2(a), without even looking at ballot order: in a race won with 52.1% of the statewide vote, virtually no county’s vote was nearly evenly split. Instead Paul Green’s vote shares are bifurcated into two clusters, one around 40%, and another around 60%, suggesting a ballot order effect approaching twenty percentage points. The regression results in Figure 2(c) confirm this: the coefficient estimate is 19.4 percentage points. We have never seen a ballot order effect this large, and may never again.

Drum concludes that randomizing ballot order for each voter, which is something that is certainly feasible with electronic voting machines, is the best answer to this. I’ve been on that hobby horse for a long time, so it’s nice to have some empirical evidence in my corner, but in the absence of a new law from the Lege, nothing will change. But we persist in highlighting the problem, in the hope that some day our cries will be heard.

I should note that while the first-on-the-ballot effect is largest in low-information races like judicial primaries and executive offices like Railroad Commissioner, some races defy that effect. I will always cite the three-way Democratic primary for RRC in 2008, between gentlemen with basic, simple names, as Exhibit A for counterexamples. Mark Thompson, who nearly won the race on the first go, basically carried every county regardless of where he was on the ballot. Here’s Harris County:


Dale Henry       85,153  32.00%
Art Hall         69,377  26.07%
Mark Thompson   111,598  41.93%

Travis County:


Art Hall         37,444  30.87%
Mark Thompson    57,909  47.74%
Dale Henry       25,959  21.40%

Dallas County:


Art Hall         45,670  24.84%
Dale Henry       57,234  31.13%
Mark Thompson    80,980  44.04%

Three different orders, Mark Thompson was second or third on all three, and yet he easily led in all three counties, despite being a first time candidate with no money. Henry had been the Democratic nominee for Railroad Commissioner in 2006, and Hall had been a City Council member in San Antonio (Hall did carry Bexar County, though Thompson came in second), yet Thompson overcame it all and ran away with the nomination. Till the day I die, I will never understand that result.

Runoff wrapup

Here are the Republican and Democratic runoff results from yesterday. With the exception of Marc Brown, who came from behind to defeat Danny Dexter in the GOP runoff for the 180th Criminal District Court, everyone who led in early voting won. In the one statewide contest, the establishment-backed Debra Lehrmann, a family court judge from Fort Worth, held off social conservative favorite Rick Green for the Place 3 Supreme Court nomination. The more mainstream Marsha Farney defeated Brian Russell in the runoff for the Republican nomination to replace wingnut Cynthia Dunbar on the State Board of Education. Those were setbacks for the far right, but they did well in legislative races.

Republican voters in Lubbock and four other counties ousted long-time state Rep. Jones in favor of Charles Perry, a Tea Party organizer who campaigned for change and apparently got voters worked up about his candidacy: The runoff drew 17,501 voters — more than most primaries in March turned out. There’s no Democrat ahead, so Perry will take a chair in the House next January.

[…]

John Frullo upset the establishment candidate in Lubbock’s other race for the Texas House, an open seat where Republican Rep. Carl Isett decided not to seek reelection. Isett endorsed Frullo and helped finance and run his campaign. And they overcame endorsements from the likes of state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, for Mark Griffin. The former Texas Tech regent nearly won the race in March, but a last minute mailer in that round undercut his lead and set the table for his loss in the runoff. Frullo will face Democrat Carol Morgan in November.

Frullo, Perry, and Van Taylor in Plano all had significant support from Tea Party supporters and from voters upset with incumbents in general. And their victories came in a week in which legislative Republicans pulled together a new group designed to co-opt some Tea Party ideas and to repair the fracture that appeared in this year’s GOP primaries, and to do so before the November general election.

Taylor beat former Plano City Councilwoman Mabrie Griffith Jackson, who was endorsed by former Rep. Brian McCall. Taylor had the Tea Party folks (many of whom supported the third candidate, Wayne Richard, in the March primary) and also had endorsements from two other Collin County lawmakers, Reps. Jodie Laubenberg of Parker and Ken Paxton of McKinney. That wasn’t even close, with Taylor — dubbed “Moving Van” by Jackson for his recent move into the district — pulling 58 percent in the runoff. There’s no Democrat in that race, so Taylor is on his way to Austin.

The only legislative runoff on the Democratic side also saw an incumbent getting ousted.

State Rep. Norma Chávez, the brawler of the El Paso delegation, lost the most important fight of her 14-year political career Tuesday night.

Assistant County Attorney Naomi Gonzalez ousted Chávez in a bitter, high-dollar runoff election for the House District 76 seat.
Personal attacks between the two Democrats were routine as they racked up contributions totaling nearly $1 million. Much of the money went for negative ads.

Gonzalez, 31, talked less about herself than her opponent. She made her campaign a referendum against Chávez, 49.

She said that Chávez’s confrontational approach, one that put her at odds with other members of the El Paso delegation, had rendered her ineffective.

“This was a tough race, but we were focused on change, and the message resonated with the voters,” Gonzalez said. “We talked about the issues, the good and the bad. In the end, people decided to restore integrity in the district.”

The Trib has a full report of results.

Finally, a word on turnout.

Turnout in Harris County was less than 1.5 percent, except in the Humble-Kingwood area, where the [HD127] race between [winner Dan] Huberty and [Susan] Curling had grown increasingly bitter and expensive in recent weeks.

“Kingwood always comes out to vote,” said election judge Jzarela-Arethea “Yogi” Dougherty at Humble Independent School District’s James D. Eggers Instructional Support Center. “They’d come out at midnight if the doors were open.”

“It’s always high,” said [Jared] Woodfill, the county’s GOP chairman [who won his own runoff], “because it’s a Republican stronghold.” Woodfill, who was involved in a runoff himself, said the normally high interest among Kingwood area voters was stoked even higher by the expensive race between Huberty and Curling.

Woodfill’s Democratic Party counterpart, Gerry Birnberg, attributed low voter turnout in his party’s runoff to general voter satisfaction with the candidates running. “I believe that a reason there’s a muted turnout is because the candidates are all easily qualified,” Birnberg said.

Final turnout on the Republican side was 42,918; for the Democrats it was 15,109. Both totals were higher than I thought they’d be. Note that on the Democratic side, turnout in this year’s runoffs was higher than it was in 2006, when there were contests for Senate, Lt. Governor, and the first Borris Miles/Al Edwards matchup. In that context, I’d say Democratic turnout was pretty decent.

What do you do with a problem like Rick Green?

If former State Rep. Rick Green wins his primary runoff against Fort Worth family court judge Debra Lehrmann for the Supreme Court Place 3 nomination, he will join Railroad Commission nominee David Porter as a second underqualified Republican candidate on the statewide ballot. It’s clear that the GOP establishment gets this, and they are working to avoid it.

[Thursday,] five former state Supreme Court justices — Tom Phillips, Craig Enoch, Deborah Hankinson, Barbara Culver, and Alberto Gonzales — [threw] their weight behind Lehrmann in her bid for the nomination.

“It’s not unprecedented, but it is rare” for a coalition of former justices to publicly push a candidate in a closely contested race, says veteran judicial campaign consultant Todd Olsen. (Olsen worked for Houston Court of Appeals Justice Jeff Brown, who lost to Green and Lehrmann in the primary.)

It last happened in 2004, when all of the then-living former justices endorsed San Antonio Court of Appeals Justice Paul Green’s successful primary challenge against sitting GOP Justice Steven Wayne Smith. Just two years earlier, Smith had ousted incumbent Xavier Rodriguez, who Gov. Rick Perry had just appointed to the bench, a win some attributed to the perils of having a Hispanic name in a Republican primary. (See Victor Carillo, David Porter, and “The Elefante in the Room”). From any perspective, however, it was an upset victory: The little-known Smith spent only $9,500 in his race, while Rodriguez doled out more than $550,000.

In case you’re wondering, the Democratic nominee for Place 3 is Houston’s Jim Sharp, who was elected to the First Court of Appeals in 2008. You can see why those guys might be concerned about qualifications.

Powerbrokers have lined up against him, but Green, who did not respond to a request for comment, may still have reason to smile. His campaign has more 13,000 Facebook fans — a base that’s nothing to sniff at, especially in an obscure runoff race that doesn’t have a noisy gubernatorial contest drawing voters to the polls — and the support of rightwing celebrities like Chuck Norris, motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, and the stars of TLC’s “18 Kids and Counting,” Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.

I don’t think I can really add anything to that. I mean hey, why should the Court of Criminal Appeals have all the fun?

Election results: Other statewides

The big story in the other statewide primaries is the loss of Railroad Commission Chair Victor Carillo to a first-time candidate.

David Porter, who moved to Giddings after building a business in Midland, ousted Victor Carrillo, the highest-ranking nonjudge Latino in Texas government, in an election some said was determined by ethnicity.

Carrillo, who was appointed to the panel in 2003 before winning election a year later, had the support of top Republicans and vastly more money, according to campaign filings. Through Feb. 20, Carrillo had $322,601 on hand; Porter had $11,251.

Porter, who said he spent about $50,000 on his campaign, played up his lack of political credentials in his campaign, and he credited his outsider status for the victory. “People are tired with professional politicians, and looking for a change,” he said Tuesday night.

But Carrillo’s camp thought his biggest problem might have been his last name.

“We’ve got the problem of an Anglo surname versus an Hispanic,” said campaign consultant Susan Lilly, who said Carrillo’s campaign had spent at least $600,000. Candidates with any kind of unusual name are at a disadvantage, she said.

Hold that thought, because we’ll be coming back to it when we look at the Harris County results. I had the opportunity to finally meet Jeff Weems last night at the Bill White event. As you might imagine, he was happy with that result. The question is whether the industry support in this race will switch from Carillo to Porter or Weems. Their July finance reports will be a lot more interesting to look at now.

Democrat Linda Chavez-Thompson won without a runoff in the Lite Guv primary; the SOS shows her at 53.10% to Ronnie Earle’s 34.67%. You have to figure there might have been a runoff if Mark Katz had run an actual campaign. Hank Gilbert won what turned out to be a not-too-close race against Kinky Friedman, getting over 52%. Friedman is now a three-time loser, once as an R, once as an I, and now as a D. Turn out the lights, dude. Hector Uribe won a closer-than-I-expected race to be the candidate for Land Commish, winding up with 51.67% after early returns had him trailing. When I went to bed last night, Bill Burton was up on him by about 10,000 votes, but Uribe’s turf in South Texas had largely not reported yet. The Democrats got the slate their best slate.

Finally, there will be a runoff for the Republican nomination for Harriet O’Neill’s open Supreme Court slot, with four candidates finishing within 2000 votes of each other. The leader, former State Rep. Rick Green, is the worst of them.

Green, who represented the Dripping Springs area in the Texas House from 1999 to 2003, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the night’s returns and “real thrilled” about the prospect of a runoff, and that he thought his campaign had “good ground game and a good Internet presence.” The former lawmaker made headlines in 2006 for a public row with his Democratic successor, state Rep. Patrick Rose, whom he allegedly punched and shoved on Election Day. While in the Legislature, Green attracted criticism for using his Capitol office as the setting for a health supplement infomercial for a company and arguing successfully for the parole of a man who had lent $400,000 to his father’s company. He also made Texas Monthly’s list of the 10 worst legislators.

The libertarian-style candidate has earned the endorsements of rightwing celebs Chuck “Walker, Texas Ranger” Norris and the prolific Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of TLC’s 18 Kids & Counting!, as well conservative lawmakers like state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center. Green is also cozy with the Aledo-based organization WallBuilders, a group that wants to close the gap between church and state, and advocates for other causes that preserve America’s “moral, religious and constitutional heritage.”

Yecch. Barring anything strange, Green will apparently face off against Fort Worth District Court Judge Debra Lehrmann, with the winner going up against Jim Sharp in November. In the other Supreme Court primary, the newly-appointed Justice Eva Guzman won easily against Rose Vela.

The ideal candidate

Former State Rep. Rick Green is running for the State Supreme Court.

While in the House from 1998 to 2002, Green drew fire for using his Capitol office as the backdrop for a health supplement infomercial. He also came under scrutiny for successfully arguing before the parole board for early release of a man convicted of defrauding investors (who just happened to have loaned $400,000 to Green’s father’s company); allegedly pressuring the state health department on behalf of ephedrine maker Metabolife International, one of his law firm’s clients; and squeezing lobbyists to pony up at a fundraiser for a private foundation he started. He made Texas Monthly’s list of the 10 worst legislators.

[…]

Green, a lawyer, has worked with the Aledo-based group WallBuilders, whose founder David Barton says the Founding Fathers did not intend for there to be a formal separation of church and state.

(Link added by me.) So he’s a religious wacko with ethics problems. Throw in a sex scandal, and he’d be the perfect distillation of your modern Republican Party. He’s running for Position 3, the bench vacated by Harriet O’Neill, for those of you who may be inclined to vote on the GOP side of the street in March.