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Robert Talton

Final EV report for the May 6 election

Before I get to the numbers, here’s a Chron overview of the Pasadena Mayor’s race that mentions the numbers towards the end.

“I believe it’s a pivotal time in this city’s history – that it can either draw together and continue being one city, or it can divide apart and be fractured,” said John Moon Jr., a commercial real estate agent who grew up in Pasadena and worked as a banker for more than 30 years.

In addition to Moon, the field of candidates includes Pasadena city council members Pat Van Houte and Jeff Wagner; Robert Talton, who served as a state representative from 1993 to 2009; Gilbert Peña, who represented the same district from 2015 until 2017; David Flores, a former city employee who runs a Pasadena-based construction business; and Gloria Gallegos, an assistant superintendent with the Pasadena Independent School District.

[…]

The candidates are stressing different issues.

Talton is campaigning for increased investment in the city’s police and fire departments and senior services. Moon wants a five-year capital improvement plan. Gallegos, based on her experience with the school district, is pushing workforce development programs to bring people out of the city’s growing poverty.

Peña has said he will invest in programs to grow small businesses. Flores is calling for city departments to formally justify funding requests. Flores has five misdemeanor convictions from 2001 to 2004, including for theft, assault and evading arrest, and giving a false name to a police officer. He said his trouble with the law helped spur a commitment to public service.

Van Houte, among others, calls for increased transparency among the city and touts her ability to speak English and Spanish as a means to better communicate with voters. She once was escorted from a council meeting after questioning Isbell’s redistricting plan.

Wagner emphasized boosting employee morale.

But while there are differences in the candidates’ priorities, all emphasize a strong need to break from the past, including what some have described as a “political machine” associated with Isbell.

“That machine is not alive and well right now, without a doubt,” Wagner said. “In the past, I’m sure they had it. But, this is a new day.”

It’s unclear whether the alleged disparate treatment of Latino residents will result in higher turnout by Hispanic voters. Historically, Hispanic voters have turned out at lower rates than white voters.

As of Tuesday, just more than 3,200 had cast ballots at Pasadena City Hall, which University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus said was high. Rottinghaus said roughly 50 percent of voters come out to early voting, with another 50 percent on Election Day. In 2013, the number who cast ballots early was 1,327, according to city records.

Here are the final EV totals, which I saved for posterity since you never know when I may feel the need to reference them. (Like, maybe for the Pasadena Mayor’s race runoff.) There were 3,204 in person early votes cast in Pasadena, but that’s not the sum total of all votes, as of course there are also absentee ballots. I asked around and was informed that as of yesterday 1,548 mail ballots had been returned as well, for a grand total of 4,752. If Professor Rottinghaus is correct about how many votes are cast early versus on Election Day, then we are headed for either about 8,000 total votes cast or 9,500 total votes cast, depending on whether he meant to include absentee ballots in the half of votes being cast early.

That’s obviously a lot more than 2013, when Mayor Isbell was very lightly challenged by current candidate and former State Rep. Gilbert Pena. A better comparison is to 2009, when a much more contested Mayoral race drew 7,539 votes. This year seems to be on track to exceed that, possibly by a fair amount.

I’m not exactly sure how to tally up the early votes for Humble ISD, as there are two early vote locations in Humble ISD buildings plus a third location at Humble City Hall. The first two have seen a combined 2,817 votes, with another 426 at Humble City Hall. There are also some number of absentee ballots, but I have no way of knowing how many. In 2015 there were 2,150 early in person votes cast and 1,358 Election Day votes cast; in 2013 it was 2,410 early in person and 1,767 on Election Day. No matter how you slice it, this year looks busier, though it’s hard to say by how much.

Finally, in Brazoria County there have been 3,139 early in person votes cast in Pearland, which I will presume covers both the city and Pearland ISD. Just that amount, which does not include absentee ballots, is more than the grand total for the 2014 Pearland ISD election (the trustees there appear to serve three-year terms), in which 2,868 total votes were cast. The city of Pearland also appears to be on three-year terms, so they have elections each year. Turnout figures for those last three years: 2,744 in 2016, 3,559 in 2015, and 3,387 in 2014, which was the previous Mayor’s race. Again, it would seem that turnout will be higher than in any of those years, though at least some of that may be fueled just by population growth, as the number of registered voters in Pearland climbed from 58,563 in 2014 to 63,584 in 2016. Still, we appear to be three for three in terms of increased voter participation. We’ll see what if anything that means for the results.

We could be at the end of the road of the Pasadena redistricting case

Mike Snyder continues his reporting on the Pasadena redistricting litigation. He notes that while the whole thing was concocted and pushed forward by current Mayor Johnny Isbel, several of the candidates to succeed Isbell are not interesting in picking up where he will leave off.

Pasadena City Council

Attorneys in the case say the city’s appeal is likely to be unresolved when Pasadena voters choose a new mayor on May 6. Seven candidates are seeking to replace Isbell, who has led the city off and on over 26 years but can’t run this year because of term limits. And at least three of the candidates say they’ll drop the appeal if they win.

U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal “spent a week and a half hearing from many witnesses, looking at a lot of information, and made a decision,” Councilwoman Pat Van Houte, a candidate for mayor, told my colleague Kristi Nix. “The city has spent almost $2 million on the lawsuit already, and I don’t think it is in our best interest to spend more public money on this.”

Another candidate, former state Rep. Gilbert Peña, agreed: “If elected, I definitely would stop the appeal process,” he said. “There’s a lot of other things we could do with this money other than give it to lawyers.”

Candidate David Flores, a former city employee who runs a construction company, told Nix that the city’s money would be better spent on infrastructure than on additional legal fees.

Councilman Jeff Wagner, a retired Houston police officer, told me he would ask the City Council to vote on whether to continue the appeal if his bid for the mayor’s office is successful. Pasadena, like Houston, has a strong-mayor form of government, and Isbell has exercised his authority on this issue without consulting the council. But Wagner said he has a different leadership style.

“I’ll put this in front of the council, we’ll have a discussion and we’ll make a decision,” said Wagner, who was one of four council members who voted with Isbell to put the new council structure on the ballot in 2013. (Van Houte cast one of the four votes against the plan.)

I couldn’t reach the other three candidates: San Jacinto College trustee John Moon, former state Rep. Robert Talton, and Gloria Gallegos, a Pasadena school district administrator.

See here, here, and here for some background. If I had to guess, I’d posit that Gallegos is in the same camp as Van Houte, Pena, and Flores, while Talton is either on board with the appeal or would put it before Council, as does Wagner. It would be good if all three candidates stated their position for the record, and for all interested voters in Pasadena to know where all the candidates stand.

The 2017 lineup for Pasadena

Here are the candidates for office in Pasadena for this May:

I wish I could give that to you in a more reader-friendly format, but online news sources for this are scant. This Patch.com story is the only post-filing deadline news I’ve seen, and it bizarrely identifies my blogging colleague Gary Denton as a candidate for Mayor. (Denton is working with Council Member Pat Van Houte on her Mayoral campaign.) This Chron story from the end of January gives a bit of background on some of the Mayoral candidates, but others have since filed. I’ll be keeping my eyes open on this and will post more if and when I find something worth posting.

In the meantime, according to Gary, the three unopposed Council candidates are all Democrats, as are Felipe Villareal in A, Steve Halvorson in B, and Oscar Del Toro in G. I don’t have particulars about other candidates as yet. I plan to keep a closer watch on these local May races than I usually do, and I welcome feedback if you know about any campaigns or candidates I should be watching.

Pat Van Houte for Pasadena Mayor

This is the local race to watch this May.

Pat Van Houte

A Pasadena councilwoman who became a key witness in a recent federal lawsuit contesting the city’s redrawn voting districts said she will run for mayor in the upcoming election.

Pat Van Houte, who holds an at-large seat, made her announcement Friday, Jan. 6, the same day a federal judge’s decision overturning the city’s 2013 redistricting measure was released.

[…]

Van Houte was in the middle of the political fray nearly four years ago when the council, led by Mayor Johnny Isbell, pushed for the redistricting and a switch to two at-large positions and six-single member districts. However, Van Houte found herself in the council’s minority opposing the changes and ultimately went on to win election to an at-large position in 2015.

“The position of mayor is not something I had considered before; but since serving as an at-large council member, I’ve been traveling and seeing many different parts of the city. Over the last year, as I’ve been out meeting with residents, many people have offered their support and asked me to run for mayor,” Van Houte said. “I’m not running because of this ruling. However, serving as an at-large council member has put me in contact with a lot more people and has made me think more about stepping to the next level as far as leadership and the direction of the city.”

All eight single-member districts, based on the May 2013 election map and plan, will be on the ballot in the upcoming election. Filing for candidates runs from Jan. 18 through Feb. 17.

Van Houte, who was first elected to serve as the District D council member in 2009, said she anticipated the ruling.

“I was hoping for this outcome. From some of the questions that the judge asked during my testimony and a few things I heard after that point, I wasn’t surprised. I could not assume this would be the decision but I was certainly hopeful and I’m pleased with the decision,” said Van Houte, who testified during the trial.

It’s not been easy finding news about the Pasadena elections so far, though Chron columnist Mike Snyder continues to do a fine job writing about the redistricting case and its related effects. Van Houte doesn’t have a website or Facebook page yet, but she was the Council member that Mayor Johnny Isbell threw out of the meeting where the redistricting plan was adopted for exceeding the three-minute speaking time he had imposed on everyone. I’m pretty sure her willingness to take a stand like that will be a campaign theme.

Other candidates that have filed or will file, according to my Pasadena-base blogging colleague Gary Denton, include Jeff Wagner, JR Moon, Robert Talton, and Gilbert Pena. All are Republicans, with the latter two being former State Reps in HD144. I will be keeping an eye on this race going forward.

More primary thoughts

I wonder if Big John Cornyn will come to rue this interview.

Big John Cornyn

Big John Cornyn

BDS: At the kickoff for your reelection campaign in November, Governor Perry said that you are “the epitome of what I look for in a U.S. senator.” He has certainly been embraced by members of the tea party. But in your speech you said that Republicans should be the party of the “big tent,” which sounded an awful lot like it was pointed in their direction.

JC: To be clear, I was talking about being a welcoming party, not an exclusive party. I don’t know how we got off on this track, where some people are welcome in our party and some people are not. Hence my reference to Ronald Reagan’s line, “What do you call someone who agrees with you eight times out of ten? An ally, not a twenty-percent traitor.” Well, we’re at a point where you can agree with someone 98 percent of the time, but they think of you as a 2 percent traitor, which is just an impossible standard. I like to point out that my wife and I have been married for 34 years, we don’t agree with each other 100 percent of the time. We need to be a little more realistic about the goals, and we need to look not just at the short term but at the long term. If the goal is to change the direction of the country—and I would say to save the country from the big government track we’re on now—then we have to win elections by adding voters, not subtracting them.

That sound you hear is Steve Stockman rubbing his hands and cackling with glee. Remember, Steve Stockman is nuts. I know that term gets thrown around a lot, but seriously. That boy ain’t right.

Josh Marshall ponders what the implications are of Stockman’s entrance.

Everyone seemed to think Cornyn had successfully evaded a challenge and that he was home free. And Stockman got in just under the wire. I’m curious whether he waited so long precisely to assure a serious Democrat didn’t get into the race. As long as there’s no serious Democrat running, that will make it easier for him to argue he’s not another Akin in the making.

Of course, he is basically an Akin in the making, or an Akin before there was Akin (Stockman first came in in the ’94 Republican landslide but was too nuts and got bounced out after one term). But if there’s no credible Dem, maybe he gets through?

I seriously doubt the condition of the Democratic field for Senate had anything to do with Stockman’s move. I don’t think he operates that way, and I don’t think the Texas GOP would behave any differently towards him if he wins the nomination regardless. A better question is whether or not the DSCC and other national Dem groups get involved in the event it’s Stockman versus Maxey Scherr or David Alameel or Mike Fjetland. If it winds up as Stockman versus Kesha Rogers, we may as well just admit that this whole experiment in self-governance has been an abject failure and see if Great Britain is willing to take us back.

Speaking of Maxey Scherr, the El Paso Times covered her campaign kickoff in Austin.

[Scherr] said she is coordinating her effort with statewide Democratic organizations that are hopeful that with Texas’ changing demographics and, in Wendy Davis, an attractive candidate at the top of the ticket, 2014 will be the year Texas starts to turn blue.

[…]

“If I can raise $7 million, I can be competitive, and I think I can,” she said.

She plans to suspend her law practice and spend the coming year the same way she spent Monday — traveling the state in a motor home towing a car with a smashed-in hood and emblazoned with her campaign slogan, “Texas on Cruz Control.”

If she wins the Democratic Primary, Scherr will likely face Cornyn, but she says her real opponent is Texas’ junior senator, Ted Cruz, who won’t be on the ballot until 2018.

“This race is about Ted Cruz,” Scherr said. “This race is about Ted Cruz because John Cornyn has taken a back seat to Ted Cruz. It’s unfortunate that our senior senator of Texas has done everything that Ted Cruz, the junior senator, wants him to. He doesn’t have the guts to stand up to Ted Cruz on anything that matters to Texans and I will.”

[…]

Among the issues Scherr plans to attack Cornyn are education, health care, women’s rights and immigration. On the latter topic, Scherr said she’s tired of Republicans whipping up false fears about security on the border.

“Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have voted against a comprehensive immigration reform bill every single time it has come up. I find that offensive,” she said.

“I come from El Paso and El Paso been consistently rated as one of the safest cities for several years. What these guys want to do is militarize our border, put a military-type outfit along the border. But they are wrong about that. El Paso is a huge border city and we don’t need to militarize it. We are safe as can be. What we need to do is pass comprehensive immigration reform that doesn’t tear apart families.”

Even if Emperor Cruz stays out of the GOP Senate primary – well, at least if he doesn’t take any overt action – a Stockman win would cement the point that Scherr is making about Cruz driving the action. In a sane world, Cornyn would have nothing to worry about in March. He may yet have nothing to worry about, but I doubt he’ll run his campaign that way. Of the sane Democrats running, I see Scherr as having the highest upside. I look forward to seeing her first couple of finance reports to see if she can make any headway on that fundraising goal.

More news from El Paso:

Meanwhile, all of the El Paso County incumbents in the Texas House of Representatives have filed for re-election.

Four have challengers.

District 76 Rep. Naomi Gonzalez faces former state Rep. Norma Chavez and Cesar Blanco, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego.

District 77 Rep. Marisa Marquez faces El Paso attorney Lyda Ness-Garcia.

District 75 Rep. Mary Gonzalez is being challenged by Rey Sepulveda, president of the Fabens school board.

And District 79 Rep. Joe Pickett, the dean of the El Paso delegation, faces Chuck Peartree.

I have no brief for Reps. Marquez or Naomi Gonzalez; they can explain their support of Dee Margo over Joe Moody (who did not get a primary challenger) to the voters. Pickett has been the Transportation Committee chair and has some juice, but he also voted for HB2; if he gets beaten up about that in his primary, I’ll shed no tears. The one legislator in that group I do care about is Rep. Mary Gonzalez, who is a force for good and deserves to be supported for re-election.

I mentioned yesterday that Rep. Marc Veasey avoided a rematch in CD33 with Domingo Garcia. I thought at the time that meant he was unopposed in the primary, but apparently not.

Several local members of Congress drew opponents as well.

U.S. representative, District 6: Republican Joe Barton (i), Frank Kuchar; Democrat David Edwin Cozad.

U.S. representative, District 12: Republican Kay Granger (i); Democrat Mark Greene

U.S. representative, District 24: Republican Kenny Marchant (i); Democrat Patrick McGehearty

U.S. representative, District 25: Republican Roger Williams (i); Democrats Stuart Gourd, Marco Montoya

U.S. representative, District 26: Republicans Michael Burgess (i), Joel A. Krause, Divenchy Watrous

U.S. representative, District 33: Democrats Marc Veasey (i), Thomas Carl Sanchez

There had been much speculation about whether former state Rep. Domingo Garcia, D-Dallas, would challenge Veasey for the 33rd Congressional District, setting up a rematch of last year’s hotly contested primary race. But Garcia put out a statement late Monday that he would not enter the race.

“I am truly humbled by the encouragement and support I have received to run for congress this year but after careful consideration I have decided against a run for congress in 2014,” he said. “I look forward to helping turning Texas blue and will continue to work to register and turn out more voters. I look forward to continuing to serve the community in one capacity or another.”

Democratic officials said Monday that little is known about Veasey’s challenger, Sanchez of Colleyville, other than that he is an attorney.

I feel reasonably confident that Rep. Veasey will win, but as always it’s best to not take anything for granted.

On the Republican side, Burka has a couple of observations. Number One:

Two trends are evident in this year’s campaign. One is that this is not necessarily shaping up as a tea party year. There are a lot of Main Street Republicans running for the House of Representatives — business people and school district leaders. Some of the candidates backed by Michael Quinn Sullivan might find themselves on the losing end of races. Matt Schaefer faces a strong opponent in Tyler. The same is true for Jonathan Stickland, whose opponent in Bedford is a popular former coach and educator.

That would be fine by me, but see my earlier comment about underestimating the crazy. Numero Dos:

The most significant late filings in the Republican primary:

(1) Steve Stockman vs. John Cornyn (U.S. Senator)

(2) Robert Talton vs. Nathan Hecht (Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court)

(3) Matt Beebe vs. Joe Straus (House District 121)

(4) John Ratcliffe v. Ralph Hall (U.S. House District 4)

(5) Mike Canon vs. Kel Seliger (Texas Senate District 31)

Stockman is about as far-right as far-right can get in this state. Cornyn can swamp him with money, but the tea party will be out in force against Cornyn.

Talton is a conservative trial lawyer who is famous for once having stationed a DPS officer outside his door to prevent gays from entering his office. He is a threat to Hecht (the stationing of the DPS officer outside his door notwithstanding).

Talton’s most recent foray into elections was last year as the GOP candidate for Harris County Attorney. He won that primary but lost the general, and slightly underperformed his peers. Hecht of course is deeply unethical. The winner of that race faces Bill Moody in the general.

There’s still a lot to process from the candidate filings. I don’t have a full picture yet of everything, and I suspect there are still some unexpected stories to tell. I’m already thinking about what interviews I want to do for March; with the primary back to its normal spot on the calendar next year, there isn’t much time to plan. What caught you by surprise this filing period?

Today’s the day

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

At long last, the death march known as Election 2012 will come to an end today, at which time we can begin gearing up for the next elections in 2013, 2014, and 2016, as well as dreading what the Legislature has in store for us. If you haven’t already voted, you can find your Harris County Election Day polling place here, or if you know your precinct number you can look up your location in this spreadsheet sent out by the County Clerk’s office. If all else fails, call the County Clerk’s office at 713 795 6965 for assistance.

Want more? You can get a free ride from Metro if you show your voter registration card. If you don’t have your voter registration card you can’t ride free on Metro but you can still vote as long as you have one of these other forms of identification. (Note: May not work in Williamson County.) As I expect that something like 60 to 70% of the votes have already been cast in the county for this election, I figure the lines won’t be too bad, but I still wouldn’t advise waiting till the last minute if you can help it. Remember, state law entitles you to at least two consecutive hours off on Election Day to vote, so take advantage of it as needed.

The best thing that can happen while people are voting is for nothing remarkable to happen. There will be Justice Department election monitors in Harris County to keep an eye on things in the event there is anything hinky going on. The less news there is to report about that, the better.

If you can’t bear the thought of having to wait till tomorrow morning to know what I think about what’s happened, you can tune into KPFT radio tonight from 7 to 10 to hear me blather on about it. I’ll be a guest on Mike Honig’s ThinkWing Radio show, which can be found at 90.1 FM on your dial or by going to KPFT.org and clicking on “Listen Live”, which naturally can be done from anywhere there’s an Internet connection. I may if I get ambitious dust off my badly neglected Twitter account (@kuff) and use that for quickie updates while waiting for my turn to speak. Don’t ask me about hashtags, I’m not that organized.

I will also be taping not one but two episodes of “Red, White, and Blue” on Houston PBS this week, one on national election results to run on the 9th and one on local election results to run on the 16th. By the time all this is done even I will be sick of me talking about the election. I’ll have more details on that later, in case you’ve ever wondered what I look like in a suit and tie.

Finally, an amusing tidbit to send you off to your polling or poll-watching place. Remember that story about campaign contributions made by people connected to the strip club Treasures to Republican candidates like Robert Talton? You can see all that on Talton’s eight day campaign finance report. If you look a little farther down on that report, however, you will also see a $15,000 expenditure made to the Texas Conservative Review for an advertisement. The TCR is of course owned by Talton’s law partner, Gary Polland. Guess who is also a lobbyist for Treasures? That would be Gary Polland. It’s like the circle of life, you know? I’m going to miss having these guys involved in the election.

More strip club cash in the county races

Given the prevalence of strip clubs in Houston, I’m actually a bit surprised we don’t see more of this in our elections.

My, what big wads of cash you have

Four people associated with the strip club Treasures have contributed a combined $48,700 to the Republican challengers for Harris County attorney and a civil district judgeship – men who could, if elected, oversee an ongoing lawsuit against Treasures.

County Attorney challenger Robert Talton reported in a campaign filing on Monday that he got $15,900 from Casey Wallace, $6,000 from Ronald Monshaugen and $5,000 from Al Van Huff, all attorneys representing Treasures, as well as $7,000 from Ronnie Bird, the club’s longtime head of corporate security. The same foursome gave a combined $14,800 to judicial candidate Bud Wiesedeppe, who is seeking the bench in the 164th Civil District Court, where the Treasures case is being heard.

City of Houston and county attorneys sued Treasurers last May, labeling the club “an epicenter of illegal activity” and seeking to shut it down for a year. The club says it is being retaliated against for challenging the city’s sexually-oriented business ordinance. Trial is set for Dec. 10.

Lauren Serper, an attorney for other adult cabarets in the county, also contributed $3,000 to Talton and $2,000 to Wiesedeppe, records show. Serper gave input as the county strengthened its rules on sexually oriented businesses, rules that passed unanimously at Commissioners Court last month.

The five donors’ cash comprised 42 percent of Talton’s total contributions during the Sept. 28-Oct. 27 filing period, and half of Wiesedeppe’s.

As previously noted, Treasures is all in for GOP Sheriff candidate Louis Guthrie. Here’s Talton’s report, and here’s Wiesedeppe’s report. Did you know that Robert Talton and Bud Wiesedeppe both work for Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill’s law firm? That doesn’t have anything to do with this story, I just find it all amusing.

Commissioner Jack Cagle, who led the charge for the county’s new sexually oriented business regulations, said Talton assured him in a Thursday night phone call that he is committed to enforcement.

“There may be a statement that’s being made by some individuals that if you get involved in trying to clean up your streets that someone out there may choose to start making contributions to your opponents,” Cagle said. “Once that occurs, though, there’s no assurance that the opponent is going to agree with their position.”

Houston political analyst Robert Miller said lawyers, and others, have a right to make political contributions.

“That is our system, and our system of regulation is simply to disclose those contributions,” Miller said. “It’s clear that they want to elect (Talton), and voters would have to draw their own inferences as to why that is. Just because they want to elect him does not mean he would necessarily be favorable to them.”

This is all true. It’s also true that there’s a reason you don’t see these contributions earlier in the cycle. This is why the 8 day finance report is almost always the most interesting one to check out.

30 Day finance reports, Harris County candidates

Here’s a look at the 30 day campaign finance reports for Harris County candidates. All reports can be found by going to the Harris County Clerk campaign finance reports page.

Candidate Office Raised Spent Loans Cash ========================================================== Garcia Sheriff 192,670 120,957 0 388,197 Guthrie Sheriff 158,700 48,633 171,000 98,152 Alessi Sheriff 1,019 2,007 700 1,719 Oliver DA 3,125 6,213 0 3,125 Anderson DA 136,555 41,685 0 128,241 Ryan County Atty 24,775 79,799 0 88,714 Talton County Atty 24,922 3,952 39,250 15,286 Bennett HCTA 6,630 7,220 1,690 3,217 Sullivan HCTA 20,950 23,115 10,000 2,396 Trautman HCDE 1,685 2,704 0 8,090 Wolfe HCDE 100 750 0 109 EF Lee Com Ct 16,543 49,689 0 3,328,226 Maricle Com Ct 1,765 9,811 2,500 1,502 Radack Com Ct 39,750 28,403 0 808,390 McPherson Com Ct 0 0 0 0 Cagle Com Ct 197,106 129,312 0 203,657 Hammerle Com Ct 225 883 1,176 9 Rosen Constable 51,531 55,130 5,000 16,447 Danna Constable 18,800 15,852 0 2,568 Diaz Constable 31,750 34,163 10,815 31,837 McDonald Constable 1,645 2,151 0 0 Jones Constable 6,876 17,314 0 26,221 Cruzan Constable 31,970 7,506 552 20,720 E Lee HCDE 0 1,550 0 0 Pack HCDE 610 550 0 1,625 Mintz HCDE 0 0 0 0 Smith HCDE 500 0 0 530

My thoughts:

– You don’t need me to point out that the Sheriff’s race is the one where the money is. No other race is particularly close; one wonders how the DA race would have played out with a different result in the Democratic primary. Sheriff Garcia has 10 donors that gave at least $5,000 each – nine who gave exactly that amount, and Don McGill, who donated a whopping $50,000. Louis Guthrie has only six $5K+ donors, but each of them gave at least $10K apiece. It’s not clear to me why Guthrie has not spent more.

– Speaking of not spending more, I’m not sure why Mike Anderson is sitting on his cash like that, though I suppose he could be planning to unload it this month. I certainly expect Anderson to win, but given how he says he’d deal with losing, I’d not be taking any chances. A couple of mailers to Democratic voters reminding them of Lloyd Oliver’s idiocy and the fact that even the HCDP didn’t want him on the ticket might not be a bad idea.

– Again on the spending theme, the disparity between Vince Ryan and Robert Talton is notable. Maybe there isn’t much that can be done at the County Attorney level to overcome the predominant partisan tendencies, but we won’t know from this race.

– Wasn’t there more money in the Tax Assessor’s race last time? Checking the July and 30 day reports for Paul Bettencourt and Diane Trautman, the answer is Yes, there was more money in that race in 2008. Your guess as to why that is not the case this year is as good as mine.

– Given all this, that’s a lot of money in the Constable races. Again, you tell me what that’s all about.

– I have no idea why El Franco Lee needs $3 million in his campaign account. What in the world is he ever going to use it on? I can’t think of any good reason why anyone would want to add to that.

That’s all I’ve got. What do you see in these numbers?

Endorsement watch: For the watchdog

The Chron endorses County Attorney Vince Ryan for re-election.

Because crime makes more headlines than drawing up contracts for bond issues or conducting reviews of county agencies, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office has a much higher public profile than the Harris County Attorney’s Office.

But measuring the relative value and importance of the two by headlines and column inches alone is a fool’s errand. As the county’s chief civil lawyer, the county attorney sits at the center of a humming world of government business.

The office mandate is “to preserve and protect the public interest.” We believe the Democratic incumbent, Vince Ryan, takes that role seriously and, for the most part, succeeds in achieving it. We favor Ryan for re-election over the Republican candidate, former state Rep. Robert Talton.

Ryan, a longtime assistant under former County Attorney Mike Driscoll, brings a thorough knowledge of the inner workings of the county to his job, which includes all manner of duties. Among them: advising county officials and preparing contracts for the county; defending the county when lawsuits are filed against it; and helping protect neighborhoods, cleaning up the environment and shutting down illegal enterprises.

[…]

We endorse Vince Ryan for re-election as Harris County attorney in the belief that he will continue to bring the requisite seriousness of purpose to the job.

I’ll be publishing an interview with Ryan a week from Monday. I think Ryan has done a good job, and I’m glad the Chron endorsed him. And I still don’t understand what happened with the Republican primary for County Attorney. Given how much the establishment didn’t like Robert Talton, it amazes me that they couldn’t find someone to run against him before the original filing deadline. Old news, of course, but still curious. Anyway, good call by the Chron.

July campaign finance reports for Harris County candidates

You know the drill by now.

Office Candidate Raised Spent Cash Loans ============================================================ Sheriff A Garcia 47,025 41,900 357,818 0 Sheriff L Guthrie 70,176 75,646 33,075 157,000 Sheriff C Pittman 11,309 11,566 5,217 24,000 DA M Anderson 73,888 60,980 33,371 0 DA L Oliver 0 150 0 0 County Atty V Ryan 56,571 33,047 145,606 0 County Atty R Talton 7,250 17,359 2,020 39,250 Tax Assessor M Sullivan 2,900 24,126 1,966 20,000 Tax Assessor A Bennett 8,500 5,344 3,657 0 HCDE Pos 3 M Wolfe 0 0 9 0 HCDE Pos 3 D Trautman 6,674 1,722 8,849 0 Commish 1 EF Lee 307,025 199,407 3.2 M 0 Commish 1 C Maricle 0 4,085 3,520 2,500 Commish 3 S Radack 86,250 63,619 797,044 0 Commish 3 G McPherson Commish 4 J Cagle 16,850 36,738 178,700 0 Commish 4 S Hammerle 1,348 2,918 357 866 HCDE Pos 4 K Smith 0 0 31 0 HCDE Pos 4 S Mintz 710 2,000 506 0 HCDE Pos 6 E Lee 17,255 20,769 0 0 HCDE Pos 6 J Johnson HCDE Pos 6 BartlettPack Constable 1 C VaraLeija 32,264 3,056 13,404 0 Constable 1 A Rosen 54,811 69,130 16,600 0 Constable 1 S Danna 0 2,299 0 3,500 Constable 2 Z Guinn 12,275 2,669 9,637 0 Constable 2 C Diaz 9,950 11,748 28 23,337 Constable 2 C McDonald 0 2,013 0 0

My comments:

Some candidates do their fundraising through committees. These are the reports you have to check, their personal reports will show nothing. Such candidates include Adrian Garcia, Mike Anderson (I made this mistake with him before), and Jack Cagle.

I didn’t blog about this story about the colorful histories of Garcia opponents Louis Guthrie and Carl Pittman, so I figured this was as good a place as any to include it. I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more about it during the campaign.

Believe it or not, there was an actual debate between Mike Anderson and Lloyd Oliver. The mind reels. You can find links to footage of the debate here. I will note that Oliver did apparently manage to file a finance report this time, but it has not been posted on the County Clerk website as of this publication.

Vince Ryan seems to have learned from the example of his predecessor, Mike Stafford, who hadn’t raised much money for his 2008 campaign. I’d have thought Talton would have raised more by now as well, but then Ryan didn’t raise much as a challenger, either. That may just be how it is for County Attorney hopefuls.

Erica Lee not only has a July finance report up, she also has an eight day report, which covers the period of July 15 through July 18, up for viewing. She raised an additional $825 and spent $10,407 during this time period. Neither Jarvis Johnson nor JuLuette Bartlett-Pack, the GOP candidate, has a report of any kind that I can see. A. Robert Hassan, opposing Steve Radack for County Commissioner in Precinct 3, also has no report.

Cindy Vara-Leija does have a report filed, but like Oliver’s it is not viewable. As her filing date is given as July 16, I have no idea why this is so.

Chris McDonald is listed on the campaign finance reports page as being a candidate for Commissioners Court, but his actual finance report correctly lists him as a candidate for Constable in Precinct 2.

All right, that’ll do it till the 30 day reports. Is there anything in here that stands out to you?

UPDATE: Per the comments, I incorrectly identified A. Robert Hassan as the winner of the Dem primary for County Commissioner in Precinct 3. Gloria McPherson won that race, but like Hassan she has no report filed. The reports for Cindy Vara-Leija and Lloyd Oliver are now visible on the County Clerk site, and I have filled in the appropriate values for them. Still no reports for Jarvis Johnson or JuLuette Bartlett-Pack. Finally, in going over all this again I realize that I managed to overlook the Tax Assessor race in my initial roundup. I have included the totals for Mike Sullivan and Ann Harris Bennett as well. My apologies for the oversight.

UPDATE: Added in totals from Commissioner Precinct 1 at the request of Republican candidate Chuck Maricle. Commissioner El Franco Lee’s cash on hand total is $3,279,326, but I didn’t leave enough room in that column for a seven-figure total, so I abbreviated.

GOP results, Harris County

Bullet points for all these result posts, I was up way too late last night. See the numbers here and the chat transcript from last night here.

– You could have sold me on any result in the GOP DA primary going into yesterday, but I definitely did not expect such a wide margin. Mike Anderson ran away with it, garnering 63% of the vote. I’m stunned by that. Similarly, I would have had no trouble believing that Mike Sullivan could knock off Don Sumners, but I didn’t expect a 64-36 thrashing. Finally, given the establishment support she had received, I’d have expected Leslie Johnson to do well in the County Attorney race, but it was a rout just like the others, with former State Rep. Robert Talton collecting 66% of the vote. Wow.

– By the way, with Sumners’ defeat, as a chat participant noted we will have our fourth Tax Assessor in four years when either Sullivan or Ann Harris Bennett is sworn in next January.

– All incumbent legislators – State and US House, plus Tommy Williams in the State Senate – won easily, with no one breaking a sweat. HD133 might have been seen as competitive, with the district being significantly reconfigured and Ann Witt throwing a ton of money into it, but Jim Murphy cruised with over 62%.

– Jack Cagle easily won the right to run in November for his Commissioners Court seat. Incumbent Constables all won. A couple of judicial races are headed for overtime. With Dewhurst versus Cruz also being on the ballot for July, there will be some votes to fight over.

– I hadn’t even realized there was a contested race for GOP Chair, but Jared Woodfill won another term.

– Turnout was 152,000. Election Day ballots slightly exceeded early voting plus absentee ballots.

On to the non-Harris GOP races next.

Endorsement watch: Madden in HD137

The Chron picks Joe Madden as their preferred candidate to succeed Rep. Scott Hochberg in HD137.

Joseph Carlos Madden

In the Democratic primary on May 29, an impressive slate of candidates has come forward to run for Hochberg’s seat representing the 137th District in the Texas House. But one would be hard pressed to find a first-time candidate more knowledgeable about how Austin works than Joseph Carlos Madden.

If elected in the fall (the Democratic primary winner will face Republican M.J. Khan), Madden would be a freshman representative, but one with years of legislative know-how in his portfolio. Currently serving as chief of staff for Rep. Garnet Coleman and as executive director of the Texas Legislative Study Group, Madden has a thorough familiarity with the bills that end up on the House floor, and the often byzantine methods by which they get there.

During an interview with the Chronicle editorial board, Madden described in intricate detail the process of working with both the Perry and Obama administrations to improve managed health care in Texas. Anyone who can successfully help build bridges between camps as diverse as Gov. Perry’s and the White House demonstrates a talent much needed in Austin.

They specifically cite Jamaal Smith as one of that impressive slate of candidates. I certainly agree it’s a strong field and a tough choice. Bloggers were divided on this one – BOR went with Madden, but Stace endorsed Smith and Greg is on Gene Wo’s team. Carl Whitmarsh announced his support of Madden to his email list on Thursday. With four quality candidates, this race is highly likely to go to a runoff. We’ll see how supporters reorganize themselves after the first round. My interview with Madden is here, with Smith is here, with Wu is here, and with Sarah Winkler is here.

Completely unrelated to this except that it also appeared in yesterday’s paper, the Chron also endorsed Leslie Johnson in the GOP primary for Harris County Attorney.

We recommend a vote for Johnson in the GOP primary.

Her experience in the County Attorney’s Office, serving under both Michael Fleming and Mike Stafford, and her private practice experience as a litigator, are impressive credentials that tip our endorsement in this primary in her favor.

Talton, her opponent, practices in the Woodfill Pressler law firm headed by GOP County Chairman Jared Woodfill. Interestingly, he is one of three attorneys from that relatively small firm running for office in the GOP primary. It seems to us that Harris County voters deserve a choice of candidates and officeholders from a wider political and intellectual circle than that.

They don’t say who else is connected to Woodfill like that and I’m too lazy to look it up. I just thought it was interesting that they’d go out of their way to mention that. Obviously, I have no dog in this fight, and I’ll be pushing the button for Vince Ryan in the fall, but I will once again note that Johnson was a late filer in this race and that it interests me that someone who might not have been a candidate at all has gotten so much establishment support. I can’t think of another such candidate in a race that wasn’t affected by redistricting.

January finance reports: Harris County

January is a very busy month for campaign finance reports, since they are due for all levels of government. I’ve been busy updating the 2012 Primary Election pages for Harris County and elsewhere in Texas with reports as I can find them. Here’s an overview of some races of interest in Harris County. I’ll have similar reports for State Rep and Congressional races next week.

Let me preface this post by saying that I loathe the County Clerks’ Campaign Finance Reports page. You can’t search for an individual by name, you can only search for all candidates whose last name starts with a given letter. All of the reports are scanned PDFs, which means that most of them are handwritten, though even the ones that are electronically generated are then apparently printed and scanned. This has the effect of creating much larger files, which are then harder to navigate, and Adobe being what it is they managed to crash Chrome on my PC and IE9 on my laptop. They do open in the browser with a direct link, unlike the city’s reporting system which opens each report as an Acrobat file for download, which I then have to upload and share to make available on my page, so as long as your browser continues to function that’s nice. All I know is that when I am named Supreme Commander of the world, my first official action will be to outlaw paper filing of campaign finance reports. It’s 2012, for Pete’s sake.

OK, rant off. Here are the highlights:

District Attorney

Incumbent Pat Lykos starts the year in good shape, having raised $194K with $320K on hand; she spent $40K during the cycle. Primary opponent Mike Anderson reported no money raised or spent. He was a late entrant and likely hasn’t had any fundraisers yet. I’m sure he’ll have sufficient resources to wage a campaign. On the Democratic side, Zack Fertitta had an impressive haul, taking in $170K, with $141K on hand. I don’t know exactly when he named a treasurer, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t start raising money until a couple of months into the cycle. His primary opponent Lloyd Oliver, who is listed for some bizarre reason in the county financial reporting system as “Oliver Lloyd” – I only found his report by accident, looking for other L-named candidates – reported no money raised or spent.

Sheriff

Sheriff Adrian Garcia will have a tough race in November, and he starts the year well armed for it, having collected $187K and maintaining $302K. He has two primary opponents – Delores Jones has $1,038 on hand, while perennial contender Charles Massey El had no report visible; yes, I checked under M and under E. There are eight Republican hopefuls, but only four filed reports. Ruben Monzon raised $33K; Carl Pittman raised $13K and reported $24K in loans; Brian Steinacher claimed the princely total of $750 raised. The most interesting report belonged to Louis Guthrie, who claimed to raise $96K with $30K in loans. That caught my eye at first, but he only listed $21K on hand, which made me suspicious enough to read the whole report. The individual contributions he detailed added up to only $6450 in cash plus about $18K in kind for things like printing and food, which are usually considered expenses. Something is definitely off there, but even if you took him at his word, the four of them together raised less than Garcia did.

County Attorney

Not really on anyone’s radar since it’s a lower profile office and there are no contested primaries, but Democratic incumbent Vince Ryan raised $29K and has $126K on hand. Republican challenger and former State Rep. Robert Talton raised $14,650 and had $10,500 in loans, but spent $14,978 and was left with $10,367 on hand.

Tax Assessor

In the battle of Guys Whose Surnames Both Start With The Letter S And Are Thus Convenient To Find In The Otherwise Wack Harris County Finance Reporting System, incumbent Don Sumners reported no cash raised and $3,911 on hand, while current Council Member Mike Sullivan made good use of his remaining Council campaign fund, which allowed him to report $53K on hand. He actually raised $8200 for this cycle, and had $15K in loans outstanding. Democratic challenger Ann Harris Bennett, who was listed under the Bs, raised no money and had $1,856 on hand, presumably left over from her 2010 race for County Clerk. Remind me to ask Clerk candidates in 2014 about how they propose to overhaul the finance reporting system.

Constable

I didn’t bother looking at a lot of these reports, as there are just so many Constable candidates. Among those I did look at were ones for the open Precinct 1 seat. Alan Rosen did the most, raising $43K with $37K on hand. Cindy Vara-Leija raised $22K and had $15K on hand; Grady Castleberry, who also had a July report, raised $2K but had $19K in loans and $23K on hand. Quincy Whitaker’s January report was not visible as of this publication; his July report claimed $5K raised and $18K spent but did not list any loans or cash on hand.

That’s your Harris County finance report. I’ll have state and federal candidates next week. The one other county race I’m watching is the Democratic primary for Travis County DA, featuring incumbent Rosemary Lehmberg and former judge Charlie Baird. The Statesman noted their totals, and I have their reports linked on the non-Harris page – here’s Lehmberg, and here’s Baird. Check that page and the Harris page for more reports as they come in. Greg has more.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that there is a “Friends of Mike Anderson” finance report, which I would have found if I could have searched by name and not by letter, and that this report shows contributions of $152K and cash on hand of $135K. That report lists his office sought as the 127th District Civil Court bench, but that’s neither here nor there.

A little perspective about redistricting

So now we wait for the full Supreme Court’s ruling on AG Abbott’s requests to stay the 2012 elections, which by the way would only apply to the elections affected by the disputed redistricting maps. Other primary elections for things like the SBOE, statewide and county offices, would proceed as usual in March while the Lege, the State Senate, and Congress would be pushed back till May if Abbott gets his wish. Yes, we’d have two separate primaries next year under this scenario. How big an unfunded mandate to the counties do you think that would be? Talk about “irreparable harm”.

Anyway. For all of the piteous wailing and gnashing of teeth that Republicans are doing about those big bad activist judges, let’s keep something in perspective: The court-drawn State House map, under a set of reasonably optimistic assumptions, produces a 2013 Lege with 90 Rs and 60 Ds. That’s a 60% Republican chamber, with two more Rs than what they had in 2003 under what was at the time the map of their dreams. Can anyone seriously say that this is unfair to the Republicans? Go back through all of the elections this past decade, and outside of the 2010 anomaly, only three Rs won statewide with 60% of the vote or more: Carole Keeton Rylander in 2002 against the hapless Marty Akin; George W. Bush in 2004; and Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2006, back when she was still popular among her fellow Republicans. And remember, 60 is far from guaranteed for the Dems. It requires them to recruit well, to defend the increasingly vulnerable Craig Eiland while retaining Pete Gallego’s open seat, and to defeat several R incumbents in favorable but not overwhelming turf. It assumes conditions are at least comparable to 2008, which initial polling says is likely to be true but which can change at any time. It assumes that there’s no great effect from the voter ID law, if it ever gets precleared, and that the usual suppressive efforts like what we see from the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office and the like are no more successful than usual. That’s a lot of assumptions, and if one or more of them turns out to be untrue we could be looking at 95-55, or a 63% Republican House. This isn’t enough for them?

Now let’s consider what I would consider a wildly optimistic outcome for the Dems, in which they capture 65 seats total. That’s still a 57% Republican advantage. No Republican got as much as 57% in 2008 – John McCain’s 55.45% was the best showing – and under these conditions, clearly none would get that much in 2012. Indeed, for the Dems to win 65 seats next year I’d expect some statwide Republicans to fail to get 50% of the vote. My point is that this map still tilts pretty heavily in the Republicans’ favor. Whereas the map drawn by the Republicans in 2001 came close to having a Democratic majority with Republicans still winning everything statewide, I can imagine Democrats sweeping all statewide offices but not getting a legislative majority under this oh-so-unfair judge-drawn map.

And that’s just the House we’re talking about. The best case scenario for the State Senate is for the Dems to maintain the 12 seats they have now, which requires Wendy Davis to hang on in a majority R district. That means Dems maintain 39% of that body, which is to say a lower percentage than in the House. If Davis loses, the Rs control 65% of the Senate. The wildly optimistic view has the Dems eventually winning SD09, giving them 13 out of 31, or 42% of the Senate. Tell me again how unfair this is to the Republicans?

And finally we have Congress, where the if-all-goes-about-as-well-as-we-hope scenario is 13 Dems out of 36, or 64% Republican. The low end for Dems is 12, or 67% Republican, while the high end for now is probably 16 – the 13 we’re all pointing to, plus CDs 06, 10, and 14. That’s still 56% Republican. Say it with me now – How is this unfair to the Republicans?

Now I’m not so naive as to think there’s anything “fair” about redistricting. Even under a system that everyone could agree was “fair”, for some value of that word, the end result of any given election is likely to favor one side or the other for any number of reasons. Fairness is not a legal requirement, either. The Republicans probably could have drawn a slightly less egregious map that pegged the Democratic ceiling in the House at 55-57 for this election and maybe 65 for the foreseeable future that would have had a chance at preclearance. They got greedy, they got caught, and now they’re screaming like stuck pigs even though the maps that were imposed on them will likely leave them in the majority for the rest of the decade without having to increase their appeal to Latino voters and even as their statewide hegemony crumbles. We should all have problems like that.

Be all that as it may, candidate filings began yesterday, under the assumption that the elections calendar will proceed as originally planned. Various entities are keeping track of who has filed for what so far. Houston Politics has Harris County information, of which the most interesting tidbit is that former State Rep. Robert Talton has filed for County Attorney against Vince Ryan; PoliTex has Tarrant County filings – Fort Worth City Council Member Kathleen Hicks was first out of the gate for the new CD33; Greg’s Texas Political Almanac has a running tally; and the TDP is tweeting filings from its Austin headquarters – follow @TxDemParty or search the hashtag #TXD2012 for more. Finally, one candidate I want to highlight even though I doubt he has a chance to win is Jack Ternan, running for the open SD08 that had been Sen. Florence Shapiro’s seat. My reason for noting and approving of his candidacy comes from his bio:

After completing school, I joined the law firm of Bickel & Brewer where I practice complex commercial litigation. The firm has provided me an opportunity to seek justice for those affected by the City of Farmers Branch’s anti-immigrant ordinances, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and an anti-competitive deal between Southwest and American airlines.

Anyone who’s been working to bring justice to Farmers Branch is all right in my book.

Rick Molina campaign kickoff

There was a lot of good news for Democrats in Harris County in 2008, but one place we fell short was in HD144, which had been left open by Robert Talton’s decision to try to be the Republican nominee in CD22. There will be another effort to win that seat this year as Rick Molina takes on freshman Rep. Ken Legler. Molina, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, will officially kick off his campaign tomorrow night at 6 PM in Pasadena. You can get the details here. If you’re in the area or you just want to support a good Democrat, check it out.