Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Roy Morales

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.


Where the line is

Me, July 17:

I disagree that anyone who might think about challenging the Mayor will wait two years before taking action. They’ll simply wait to see how Parker does in November. Like all three of her predecessors in the term-limits era, Parker is running against non-entities for her first re-election. Two of those prior Mayors, Lanier and Bill White, cruised easily with around 90% of the vote, and had a similarly smooth ride for their second re-election. Brown, on the other hand, received only 67% of the vote against his two no-name foes, and was immediately seen as vulnerable for 2001; serious opposition, from Council Members Orlando Sanchez and Chris Bell, subsequently ensued.

So I believe that Parker’s 2013 opposition will be based, at least in part, on how she is perceived to have done this year by that standard. If the conventional wisdom says that she beat expectations, she’s less likely to face a real opponent in 2013. If not, you can expect someone, quite possibly more than one someone, to start campaigning against her fairly quickly.

What is the threshold she must achieve in order to meet or exceed expectations? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. That will be determined by the local political hive mind after the election. It’s going to be a function of gut reaction more than anything else, so there’s no point trying to assign a number to it.

Robert Miller, August 8:

As of today, Mayor Parker has no politically credible opposition and will be reelected in November. Since the advent of term limits in Houston, every Mayor has served the maximum six years allowed — Bob Lanier (1992 – 97); Lee Brown (1998 – 2003); and Bill White (2004 – 09). Only Mayor Lee Brown was seriously contested after his first election. Mayor Lanier won his second term with 90.80% and his third term with 82.66%. Mayor White won his second term with 91.03% and his third term with 86.48%.

The race Mayor Parker is really running this fall is to be unopposed by credible opposition for her third and final term in the November 2013 election. Mayor Brown only won his second term with 67.29% against two non-credible candidates, Jack Terrence and Outlaw Josey Wales, IV. Brown was then perceived as vulnerable, and in his final election drew two strong opponents — Orlando Sanchez and Chris Bell — and was forced into a runoff squeaking by with 51.67% of the vote.

In my judgment, Mayor Parker needs to break 70% in her reelection on November 8 or the 2013 Mayoral election will immediately begin.

Despite my previous reluctance to assign a number to the threshold Mayor Parker must clear, I don’t have any quarrel with this analysis. I would just add two points. One is that there really isn’t any difference between, say, a 69.81% showing and a 70.23% showing. This is about perception, not metrics. Whatever total the Mayor gets, if enough people say to themselves “Geez, I thought she’d have done better than that”, then she will be seen as vulnerable and the wannabes will start emerging from the woodwork. If that’s not the reaction most people have, they won’t. Maybe assigning a number now will affix it in the consciousness of the arbiters of these things, but I still think we won’t know for sure what the consensus will be until after the election.

And two, there’s another factor that could make this line move around a bit, and that’s the credibility of Parker’s opposition. I’m not talking about a late entry from one of the campaign peacocks that have been flitting about, I’m talking about whether or not the local GOP decides to get behind Fernando Herrera the way they belatedly got behind Roy Morales in 2009. Right now, Herrera’s a no-name, with no obvious means of support, who can fairly be compared to Lee Brown’s 1999 opposition. But if the HCRP and maybe the Texas Conservative Review get behind him, that changes. He still wouldn’t be anything remotely formidable, but he’ll be taken much more seriously, by the Parker campaign and by those who cover the Parker campaign. If the perception of the race changes from “Parker versus nobody” to “Parker versus somebody with real institutional backing”, then the perception of the result changes, too. Now getting 70%, against a somebody who isn’t a nobody, looks much more impressive. Getting 60% looks pretty good, in fact. She might still be seen as vulnerable after that, but if so it won’t be because she couldn’t run up the score against an overmatched opponent. It will be because she didn’t have an overmatched opponent in the first place.

David Rosen for HCDE Trustee

Via Facebook, we have our first announcement of a countywide candidacy for 2012, as David Rosen declares his candidacy for the Harris County Department of Education Board of Trustees. Here’s a video of the announcement that was posted:

Rosen will be running for the At Large #3 position, currently held by the infamous Michael Wolfe, whom Rosen says is running for re-election. Needless to say, the HCDE Board will be a much better place if Rosen succeeds in knocking him off. As for the other available spot on the Board, the Precinct 1 seat currently held by Roy Morales, I’ve heard rumors of various people being interested in it but have not heard of a committed candidate yet. Perhaps once county redistricting is done, we’ll get a clear indication from someone. Anyway, with Rosen’s announcement that’s one countywide position accounted for, with two others – District Attorney and Tax Assessor – to go.

So will we have a Mayor’s race or not?

We’re now more than a month into the city election fundraising season, and as of this week the only person to file a declaration of Treasurer for the office of Mayor is the incumbent, Annise Parker. As of this time two years ago, all four major candidates had not only filed Treasurer’s reports but had already made formal announcements of their candidacies. Anyone who may be interested in challenging Mayor Parker now has one less month in which to raise money for their campaign.

At this point, I can’t even say there’s much happening in the rumor mill. I’d heard some chatter about two weeks ago that Council Member C.O. Bradford was going to be meeting with “advisors” about a possible entry into the race, but nothing since then. I’ve not heard a peep about Paul Bettencourt since his profile in the Chron was published nearly two months ago. Bradford as we know is not exactly flush with cash, and isn’t known as a prodigious fundraiser. Bettencourt, who likely can raise some bucks but would be starting out at zero, has never run in a non-partisan city election before, and has never really run in a race where his party wasn’t expected to make up a majority of the voters. The clock is ticking, for them and for anyone else out there who might be thinking about it.

It’s still early, and Mayor Parker is neither as popular as Bill White was six years ago nor in as favorable a climate, so it’s still the case that anything can happen. But the longer we go without anyone taking a concrete step towards a candidacy, the less likely it is that anything of consequence will happen.

A very early look at 2011 fundraising

A couple of weeks ago I took an early look at the 2011 city elections, but there was a key ingredient missing in that analysis: Money. The fundraising season for city candidates, which has been closed since last January, will open again on February 1. Let’s take a look at where various cast members stand now, before all the fun gets underway again.

Name Office Cash on hand ========================================= Annise Parker Mayor 1,050,253 Ronald Green Controller 15,677

One of the nice things about being elected Mayor is that you can hold a late-train fundraiser or two before the year-long moratorium sets in, and people with checks will attend them. Keep that number above in mind when discussing other potential Mayoral candidates. Sure, some of them would be able to raise big bucks as well, but 1) that takes time; 2) a lot of people who might otherwise like them will already be on the Mayor’s team; and 3) you can be sure she’ll have a couple of events lined up for as soon as the curtain is lifted, making the hole they start out in that much deeper. It’s a big factor, and when you hear someone say they’re “exploring” a race, what they mean is they’re calling around to see if there are enough people out there willing to write them enough big checks to make it worth their time. Waiting for term limits to do their thing is almost always the wiser course.

As for Controller Green, he defeated two better-funded opponents in 2009, so his lack of scratch is no big deal. Better yet, as you will see there’s no one out there with the kind of moolah MJ Khan and Pam Holm had to begin with. I’ll say again, it’s my opinion that Green is a lock for re-election.

The returning City Council members:

Name Office Cash on hand ========================================= Stephen Costello CCAL#1 28,938 Melissa Noriega CCAL#3 1,681 C.O. Bradford CCAL#4 4,238 Jolanda Jones CCAL#5 22,304 Brenda Stardig Dist A 21,892 Wanda Adams Dist D 342 Mike Sullivan Dist E 162 Al Hoang Dist F Oliver Pennington Dist G 64,223 Ed Gonzalez Dist H 19,975 James Rodriguez Dist I 45,923

CM Hoang’s report was not available as of this posting. There were numerous issues with his finance reports in 2009. So far, 2011 isn’t starting off so well for him on that front.

You can see why I’ve been skeptical of the rumors about CM Bradford’s potential candidacy for Mayor. He has not demonstrated big fundraising abilities in two different campaigns, and he starts out with very little. Again, I’m not saying he (or anyone else) couldn’t do it, but the track record isn’t there, and the piggy bank isn’t overflowing.

After winning a squeaker of a runoff in 2009, it’s good to see CM Jones with a few bucks on hand. While I believe she won’t be any easier to beat this time around, she will undoubtedly continue to be in the news, so she may as well be forearmed.

CM Pennington raised a boatload of money in 2009 and won without a runoff, so I’m not surprised he starts out with a decent pile. CMs Rodriguez and Gonzalez were unopposed in 2009, and given that they may have very different diatricts this year, I’m sure they’re happy to have the head start. I’d guess CMs Adams and Sullivan will be hitting the fundraising circuit sooner rather than later.

The departing incumbents:

Name Office Cash on hand ========================================= Sue Lovell CCAL #2 98,935 Jarvis Johnson Dist B 0 Anne Clutterbuck Dist C 89,534

Hard to know what the future holds for CM Johnson, but another candidacy doesn’t appear to be in the cards right now. The same can probably be said about CM Lovell, who had once wanted to run for County Clerk. That ship has sailed, and I don’t see there being much of a Lovell bandwagon these days. I won’t be surprised to see her disburse some of her funds to other candidates in the future, however.

I do feel that we’ll see CM Clutterbuck run for something again. No, not Mayor – at least, not this year. There was a time when I thought she’d be a big threat to win HD134, but unless Sarah Davis (whom Clutterbuck supported last year) stumbles badly, that seems unlikely now. She could possibly be groomed to take over for her former boss Rep. John Culberson. I’d hate to see that if it meant she’d morph into a Washington Republican – she’s far too sensible for that, I hope. Actually, what I wouldn’t mind seeing is for the redistricting fairy to move her into Jerry Eversole’s precinct (this map doesn’t quite do that, but it’s close), because she’d be an excellent choice for Ed Emmett to make in the event Eversole does get forced out before 2012. Just a thought.

Finally, a few others of note:

Name Office Cash on hand ========================================= Gene Locke Mayor 20,645 Roy Morales Mayor 5 MJ Khan Controller 1,657 Michael Berry CCAL #5 88,122 Jack Christie CCAL #5 0 Eric Dick CCAL #2 4,036 Mark Lee Dist C 1,287 Robert Glaser Dist C 301

If it’s an election year, you can be sure ol’ Roy will be running for something. Doesn’t really matter what – this is Roy we’re talking about. I’m sure he’ll let us know what soon.

Who knew Most Influential Houstonian of 2010 Michael Berry had so much cash left in his account? I seriously doubt he’d run for anything – he’s got a much cushier, not to mention higher-paying, gig now – but I suppose he could decide to throw a few bucks at someone. Hey, Roy, you got Berry’s phone number?

I have no idea if Jack Christie will take another crack at At Large #5. As I said above, I don’t think CM Jones will be any more vulnerable this time around, but who knows? It does seem likely she’ll draw a fringe opponent or two – Griff Griffin needs a race now that Lovell is termed out – so hoping for a runoff and better luck in same isn’t unreasonable. My advice, for what it’s worth, would be to start fundraising early, and not shoot your wad all in the last few days.

Mark Lee ran for District C in 2005, and for Controller in 2003. He’s reportedly looking at C again, but like Ellen Cohen will have to wait to see what the mapmakers produce. Robert Glaser ran against Clutterbuck in 2007 and 2009. Eric Dick, who as far as I know has not been a candidate before, will be running for the open At Large #2 seat; the cash on hand listed for him is the result of a loan.

There were a handful of other names listed among the reports, but none that are likely to be candidates this cycle. We’ll have a much better idea where things stand after the June 15 reporting date.

The single easiest pickup opportunity Democrats will have in 2012

I trust you are familiar with Roy Morales. He’s run for City Council, he’s run for Mayor, this year he ran for Congress (he lost to Rep. Gene Green), and I presume he’ll run for something in 2011. And in 2012, he will (again, I presume) run for re-election to the office he now holds, which is Harris County Department of Education Trustee. Morales was elected to this office in 2006. He ran unopposed.

I knew his term of office was coming up in the next cycle (as is that of one-man clown car Michael Wolfe), so I went back to check some data. The first thing I realized was that Morales did not run countywide. Of the seven HCDE Trustees, three are at large – i.e., elected countywide – and four are not. The next thing I noticed was that the undervote rate in his race was ridiculous – nearly 70% of the people voting in his race did not cast a ballot. (See page 30.) So I went back to the precinct data, where I discovered that the number of straight-ticket Democratic votes in the precincts where he was on the ballot far exceeded Morales’ vote total, 59,809 to 41,231. In other words, anyone with a heartbeat running as a Democrat would have defeated him. And I said to myself “WTF?”

That made me want to find out just what exactly the district was that he ran in, where it was and what it looked like. This led me to the HCDE Trustees page, where I noticed they’re not called “districts”, they’re called “precincts”. There are four of them, with Morales being in Precinct 1. And that’s when it hit me…

Roy Morales ran unopposed as a Republican in El Franco Lee’s precinct.

Let me say that again.

Roy Morales ran UNOPPOSED AS A REPUBLICAN in El Franco Lee’s precinct.

To give that a bit more perspective, Fred Head, our useless candidate for Comptroller that year who got 41.85% overall in Harris County, received 68.30% of the vote in Precinct 1.

Now, I’m pretty sure I didn’t know that the HCDE existed as a political entity in 2006. I didn’t really pay attention to it till 2008 when Democratic candidates Jim Henley and Debra Kerner got elected to at large positions. Prior to that point, everyone on the board was a Republican. As we can see, that should not have been the case, but there you have it. In 2012, there’s absolutely no excuse for there not to be a Democrat challenging Morales for that seat. Whoever does is as sure a bet as you’ll find to win. You know that old expression about how 90% of success is showing up? It’s even higher than that here.

Someone should also challenge the ludicrous Michael Wolfe as well; if 2012 is anything like 2008, both seats will go Democratic. But one pickup is virtually guaranteed as long as someone with a pulse pays the filing fee.

Election results: Harris County

It was a bad day to be the establishment candidate for Harris County Clerk, let me tell you. Ann Harris Bennett crushed Sue Schechter for the Democratic nomination, winning with 63% of the vote. On the Republican side, wingnut Stan Stanart, who lost a 2008 race for the HCDE Board of Trustees after taking out a mainstream incumbent in that primary, won over 60% of the vote against Beverly Kaufmann’s hand-picked successor, Kevin Mauzy. Look for some scrambling to occur in both parties. I confess, I did not get to know Ms. Bennett, and did not see her victory coming. My bad on that one.

Meanwhile, Harris County Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez suffered the same fate as Victor Carrillo.

Don Sumners won the Republican nomination for county tax assessor-collector Tuesday, ousting incumbent Leo Vasquez on his promises to continue the anti-tax crusade that characterized his tenure as county treasurer in the 1990s.

Sumners campaigned on a slogan of “I was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.”

As treasurer, he publicly criticized Commissioners Court for increasing the tax rate and was an outspoken opponent of a bond measure that approved hotel and car rental taxes to fund football, basketball and baseball stadiums.

Summers will face Diane Trautman. Let’s just say that these are two races I’d really like for the Democrats to win. Elsewhere, Gordon Quan won a convincing victory in the Democratic primary for County Judge, and Republican Chris Daniel won the nomination for District Clerk for the right to face extremely well-qualified Democratic incumbent Loren Jackson.

I’ll try to sort out the judicial races later. The other big result in Harris County was Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee winning easily in her primary.

As of late Tuesday, the veteran lawmaker had about 68 percent of the vote, fending off a challenge by [City Council Member Jarvis] Johnson that featured claims that Jackson Lee’s showboating style had impaired her ability to deliver for her hard-pressed inner city district.

Jackson Lee also defeated a political newcomer, Houston attorney Sean Roberts. Votes counted as of 10:30 p.m, showed she likely would face GOP challenger John Faulk, an accountant, in the predominantly Democratic district.

“The job is not finished. We promise you a fight in Washington to bring good health care to this district and to preserve NASA and the jobs that are ours,” Jackson Lee told supporters Tuesday night.

Faulk does appear to be the GOP winner. For purposes of comparison, there were 9,105 total votes cast in the GOP primary for CD18. Johnson collected 9,073 by himself in getting 28.33% against SJL.

In other Congressional news, we will have Roy Morales to kick around for a few more months, as the man who never met an election he didn’t like won the nomination in CD29 in a five-person field. He gets to be stomped by Rep. Gene Green in November before he decides what city race to pick for 2011.

Finally, Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill is in a runoff with Ed Hubbard. That’ll be fun to watch.

January City of Houston campaign finance reports

In addition to state and federal officeholders/candidates, January 15 was also the deadline for City of Houston folks to file their campaign finance reports as well. As there are no elections coming up any time soon, I will not be going into obsessive levels of detail about them, but here are some highlights:

– Annise Parker had $66,249.27 in the bank as of 12/31, after raising $448,973.52 and spending $804,587.59 in December. Gene Locke maintained $82,853.40 after raising $520,810.76 and spending $757,361.19.

– Some people who filed reports are now running for other offices. Bill White, for example. As it happens, his account showed no money and no activity. I didn’t go looking, but my recollection is that he had already transferred his funds to his Senate campaign.

– As for the others who are now seeking greener pastures: Jarvis Johnson had $18,960.51 in his account. I did not see any transfer to his Congressional campaign, but he filed for that after December 31, so if he does move some money around, we’ll have to look for it elsewhere. Similarly, Roy Morales made no transfers to his Congressional account, either, but he only had $305.02 on hand, so it’s not like it matters. Finally, former Council Member Gordon Quan transferred $6,205.79 to his campaign for Harris County Judge. He had a few other small expenditures in there, and that should basically close out his city account.

– Al Hoang still hasn’t figured out how to submit a proper campaign finance report. It’s still done cumulatively instead of from the date of the previous report. The same questionable entries are still there. The Chron had a brief story about CM Hoang’s updated finance report yesterday:

Among the problems first raised by a blogger, who also questioned Hoang’s most recent report, was a lack of information about donors who gave Hoang contributions totaling more than $100,000. In his previous reports, there were no dates, occupations or employers listed for the donors, as required by city ordinance. In the latest report, posted last week, that information is included for all but a few donors.

Hoang acknowledged that several donations incorrectly listed as expenditures will be corrected in an amended report. He said his campaign treasurer is planning to meet with a campaign finance expert to ensure his future reports are in compliance.

This is too generous to Hoang. Yes, there are now dates listed for his campaign contributions, but that information is still meaningless. Only four dates are given, with all donations being listed for one of them – 57 donations on October 1, 216 donations on October 25, 82 donations on December 5, and 38 donations on January 7. These aren’t the actual dates those contributions were made, they’re the dates the last four reports were due. In addition, his cash on hand is given as zero, of which I am dubious. Slampo, who is the blogger referenced in the story but certainly not the only one that’s been pointing out Hoang’s amateurish finance reports, found a few more flaws with this one as well. This is ridiculous. Al Hoang is an elected official now. There are no excuses for not doing a better job.

– Hoang may claim no cash on hand, but he’s alone in that distinction. Here are the cash on hand figures for all current members of city government not listed above:

Ronald Green – $17,307.49

Stephen Costello – $1,700.00, plus $15,000 outstanding loan
Sue Lovell – $77,909.30
Melissa Noriega – $30,455.32, plus $15,000 outstanding loan
C.O. Bradford – $7,818.79
Jolanda Jones – $16,015.44

Brenda Stardig – $10,446.67
Anne Clutterbuck – $119,277.23
Wanda Adams – $11,013.48
Mike Sullivan – $801.60, plus $10,000 outstanding loan
Oliver Pennington – $17,459.49
Ed Gonzalez – $8,966.67
James Rodriguez – $52,974.00

Clutterbuck and Lovell are in their final terms, barring any dispensation from the term limits review crew, while Rodriguez can run for re-election one more time. They have enough cash on hand to merit keeping an eye on for whatever future plans they may have. Everyone else, I expect, will be busy replenishing the coffers.

Locke backers funded Hotze


The finance chairman and a finance committee member of Gene Locke’s mayoral campaign helped bankroll the conservative political action committee that sent out an anti-gay mailer targeting City Controller Annise Parker and other municipal candidates earlier this month, according to Texas Ethics Commission documents.


Locke has been dogged by Parker, her supporters and some uncommitted Democrats for seeking the endorsement of conservative activist Steven Hotze, who has a long history of opposing gay candidates and causes. A mail piece Hotze sent out last week urged voters not to choose Parker and several others seeking municipal offices because they were “endorsed by gay lesbian political action committee,” a reference to Houston’s Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Political Caucus. It labeled others as “radical liberals” and supported some candidates based on a record of fiscal conservatism.

According to financial documents, Hotze’s political action committee received a $20,000 donation about a week before the mail pieces went out from Ned Holmes, finance chairman of Locke’s campaign, and $20,000 from James Dannenbaum, who is on Locke’s finance committee.

Hotze’s PAC, Conservative Republicans of Harris County, lists $56,000 in donations between Oct. 25 and Dec. 2. Only two other donors, who contributed a total of $16,000, are listed.

Martha has scans of the Hotze mailer, while Erik has the finance report for Hotze’s GPAC, which shows the contributions. Surely no one thinks the timing of the donations is a coincidence, right? Maybe Hotze could have found some other sugar daddies to help him peddle his bigotry, but he didn’t. It’s now clear why Locke never denounced Hotze.

As for the countercharges from Locke’s campaign that Annise Parker helped pay for the Roy Morales mailer, well, that’s true. You can see the disclaimer on the mailer that it was paid for by his campaign and hers. Roy’s a twit, but he’s no Hotze. Team Locke complains in the story that Roy demanded an unreasonably large fee, which they claim and he denies would have gone towards Roy’s campaign debt, to be included in the mailer. Maybe that’s true, I don’t know. If their objection was the price, they’re not claiming a parallel to Hotze. The answers Parker gave on Roy’s mailer are consistent with what she’s been saying on those issues all along, so I’m not sure what the problem is. Stace and John have more.

Not-quite-an-endorsement-but-close-enough watch: Roy for Annise

As we know, Peter Brown endorsed Annise Parker for Mayor fairly soon after the November election. That left the question about what, if anything, Roy Morales would do. Via Big Jolly, we now know the answer. Apparently, Roy sent out a short questionnaire to Parker and to Gene Locke. Parker responded, Locke did not. So, Roy sent out this mailer, presumably to his supporters (Big Jolly did not indicate the size of the audience), which speaks for itself. Click and see what I mean. David Ortez has more.

Parker leads in another poll

It’s a Zogby poll, so don’t get too excited, but that’s still four out of four since Election Day.

While the race for Houston mayor remains too close to call, Parker’s 5.5 percentage point lead stems from advantages among several demographics, including women, whites, Hispanics and self-identified independent voters.

Parker leads with 41.9 percent of the vote, followed by Locke’s 36.4 percent, according to the poll conducted last week by Zogby International. Nearly 18 percent of likely voters remain undecided in the contest, a sign of how fluid the race remains just days before the campaign will come to an end.

“There’s a huge pool of undecided voters and the real question now is which way they split or whether they vote at all,” said John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International, which conducted the poll last week for the Chronicle.


The results are drawn from a survey of 601 likely Houston voters selected randomly from purchased telephone lists of registered voters. The margin of error is 4.1 percentage points.

OK, here’s the thing. By this point, we have a pretty strong idea about who is actually participating in this election, and who is not. According to the analysis Kyle Johnston has done, 92% of the people who had voted through the first five days of early voting were people who had voted in at least two of the last three general elections. As such, any sample that doesn’t match this just isn’t going to be accurate. I seriously doubt there are that many undecideds among those who really are going to vote.

Now, I don’t know which candidate would benefit from a truer sample of likely voters, though I’m sure both of the campaigns themselves do. It may be that it all comes out in the wash. But I just don’t get the reluctance, if that’s what it is, of pollsters like Zogby to pre-screen in a more realistic manner. I mean, it’s not like this runoff is out of line with others in terms of who is voting in it. Even if I’m wrong about it not exceeding the general election turnout, we’re still talking something like 20% participation. Why wouldn’t you try to be more selective in who you poll? I just don’t get it.

The crosstabs for this poll are here. As it happens, again going by the Johnston numbers, Zogby is reasonably accurate with some subgroups, less so with others. He’s got about the right number of Republicans and African-Americans, for example, but he’s oversampled Hispanics and Independents, and undersampled Democrats and Anglos. Again, I can’t really say how that might affect this result, but I do think it’s skewed the other race they polled:

In the city controller’s race, City Councilman M.J. Khan leads with 35.4 percent of the vote to his fellow Councilman Ronald Green’s 29.5 percent, with 34.5 percent of voters still undecided.

Khan dominates among Republicans, Green is somewhat less dominant but still strong among Dems, and Khan has a tiny lead among indies. Having more Dems and fewer indies would make this race appear closer, perhaps putting Green in a slight lead. Zogby has it at 43.5D/35.5R/21.0I, when in reality 57% of early voters have a Democratic primary voting history, 32% have a GOP primary voting history, and 11% have no primary voting history. It may be that the runoff is like the general, in that a greater share of Republicans turn out on Election Day than they did during early voting. But I think that was caused in part by the late push from the Harris County GOP for Roy Morales, which I believe turned a number of undecided voters who may have otherwise stayed home into Morales supporters. I say that because of Roy’s third place finish on Election Day itself, where he surpassed Peter Brown. Without a Republican candidate in the Mayor’s race, will there be a similar surge for the runoff? Maybe, but it seems doubtful.

The effect on this in the Mayor’s race is more nebulous. Locke actually led by a tiny amount among Dems, due to his strong lead among African-Americans. Parker led among Anglos, Hispanics, Republicans, and Independents. Replacing some indies and Hispanics with Anglo Dems would likely leave her in about the same position. Hard to say for certain, though.

Anyway. The poll that really matters is going on right now, and we’ll know soon enough whether or not Zogby did any better guessing this outcome than he did the one in November. Martha and Erik have more.

He coulda been a contender

Poor Roy.

“I thought we were bullied, personally,” Roy Morales told me this morning.

The conservative mayoral candidate was describing a lunch-time meeting he attended Wednesday with Gene Locke’s campaign manager, Christian Archer, at the offices of political consultant Allen Blakemore. The meeting was an effort on Archer’s part to secure Morales’s endorsement.

“I was strongly asked to support Mr. Locke, and I was very clear that I wasn’t going to endorse anyone,” Morales said.

Just read the whole thing. I don’t think there’s anything I can add.

Third poll shows Parker leading

And we have our first poll from a source other than one of the campaigns, but like those two before it, this one shows Annise Parker in the lead.

The poll consisted of 500 telephone interviews with registered Houston voters who consider themselves likely to vote in the December 12 runoff election. Early voting begins November 30 and ends December 8. The Center for Civic Engagement at Rice University and the University of Houston Center for Public Policy Survey Research Institute conducted the poll for KHOU-TV and KUHF Radio.

According to the poll, 37 percent of likely voters plan to cast a ballot for Parker. Thirty-four percent say they will vote for Locke. Because the margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percent, the poll is a statistical tie. Twenty-one percent of likely voters still have not decided, and eight percent would not disclose their choice in our survey.

You already know how I feel about a poll in a race like this using self-identification as the criteria for voter likelihood. The previous KHOU poll, as well as the Chron poll, clearly illustrate the danger. The question as always is how many of these people really are likely to vote. My guess is that most if not all of the “don’t know” respondents are at best long shots to show up.

“We see this race as very much a toss-up,” said Rice University professor Bob Stein, who conducted the poll. “The good news for Gene Locke is that we see some room for improvement for him. He needs to get more familiar with African-American voters, and he needs to turn out more of them. When they do vote, they vote decidedly for Locke. The good news for Annise Parker is that her vote is solid.”

The poll showed that 97 percent of the people who voted for Parker in the November 3 general election plan to vote for her again on December 12. For Locke, the figure was 87 percent.

“It appears this is race is one in which Gene Locke is still not very well known to voters,” Stein said. “Our numbers show that if this is a low-turnout runoff, then Parker wins it by five points. But if turnout is higher, then we find it is almost dead even.”

That conforms to the conventional wisdom as I’ve been hearing it. I don’t know how KHOU modeled that, though I presume it involves a higher relative level of African-American turnout. There are no crosstabs that I can see, but there is some demographic breakdown given, some of which you can see in pictures. Note to whoever created those slides: The margin of error for a subsample is larger than the MOE for the sample as a whole. Just FYI.

One more thing:

Among voters who say they supported Peter Brown in the general election, 38 percent say they will vote for Locke in the runoff, and 46 percent plan to vote for Parker. Brown has endorsed Parker in the runoff, and is actively campaigning for her. Among people who say they voted for Roy Morales, 31 percent say they will vote for Locke, and 16 percent will support Parker. Forty-nine percent of Morales voters told pollsters they have not decided who, if anyone, to support.

Well, Locke is certainly working for the Roy vote. We’ll see how that goes from here.

As the story notes, this poll was a joint venture with KUHF. The main thing we learn from the KUHF story is that other races were polled as well.

Councilmembers Ronald Green and MJ Khan are in the run-off to become Houston’s next controller, essentially the chief financial officer for the city. The KUHF-11News survey shows Green has a slight lead with 25 percent of people saying they’ll vote for him, compared to Khan’s 22 percent.

But Rice University Political Scientist Bob Stein, who authored the survey, says 46 percent of respondents don’t even know who they’ll vote for on December 12th.


According to our survey, two incumbents, Sue Lovell and Jolanda Jones, hold slim leads over their challengers. And the race between Stephen Costello and Karen Derr, which Costello leads by four points, is practically unheard of outside political circles. As many as 65 percent of likely voters say they’re undecided in those races.

My qualms about the voter likelihood screen aside, it sure would be nice to see these results in more detail.

UPDATE: Martha brings the snark.

UPDATE: Oh, and speaking of Locke’s pursuit of Roy’s voters.

Allen Blakemore thinks he knows where the finger lands. The Republican campaign consultant says that if you voted for Morales in October, you’re going to love – sorry, strike that – you’re going to vote for Gene Locke in December.

“It’s not an easy sell for Gene, and it’s not an easy decision for those voters to come to,” Blakemore told me. In the end, though, Locke has two things going for him when you, the right-of-center voter, step into the voting booth: 1) He doesn’t have a voting record and Annise Parker does, particularly on taxes; 2) Parker’s “lifestyle” still gives you pause.

A Locke-Morales pas de deux in the works? More to come shortly.

I for one cannot wait to hear more about this. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the man, here are two prime examples of Blakemore’s work. Fills you up with a warm feeling inside, doesn’t it?

The HCRP view of the candidates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Precinct analysis: The top 50

Martha has a nice look at the 50 precincts inside the city of Houston in which the most votes were cast, and how each of the four contenders for Mayor did in them. I’ve copied the data into this Google spreadsheet so that I could add in total and percentages. Here’s how that breaks down:

Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Parker 17,162 36.93 Morales 12,322 26.52 Brown 10,139 21.82 Locke 5,633 12.12

So in these 50 precincts, which make up about 25% of the total vote, Parker led Locke by a 3-1 margin. You have to be a little careful about drawing any broad conclusions here, since this is a heterogeneous set of precincts, in which Parker or Morales were the top votegetters in all but two, but that looks like an impressive performance to me.

Now of course, with a finite data set like this, for Parker to do better than her overall performance here she must have done not as well as her overall performance elsewhere, with the same being true in reverse for Locke. Here’s how it looks for the remaining 700+ precincts:

Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Locke 38,341 29.98 Parker 36,757 28.74 Brown 29,317 22.92 Morales 23,480 18.36

Locke edges ahead here, as Parker’s margin over him in the other precincts was larger than her total margin over him. There’s a lot more voters here than there are in the top 50, so he doesn’t have to do as well percentage-wise to move ahead. By my calculation, if you redistribute the votes in these precincts so Locke got 35% and Parker 24%, he’d have finished ahead of her. Having said that, I’d rather depend on a smaller number of big boxes than a larger number of small ones to hit my target. That just seems like the simpler task to me.

Precinct analysis: The Mayorals by Council district

I’ve got some preliminary precinct data from the County Clerk’s office, and have been doing my usual spreadsheet action on it to get a handle of how the vote went this past Tuesday. What follows below is a look at the Mayoral vote by City Council district. If you want a more visual analysis of the data, go see Greg‘s maps.

Dist Parker Locke Brown Morales ======================================= A 7,450 2,601 4,937 6,312 B 1,537 8,774 2,931 681 C 10,439 4,522 5,224 4,156 D 6,185 11,928 4,642 1,007 E 5,741 3,147 5,734 8,084 F 2,714 2,079 3,026 1,935 G 11,183 4,985 7,643 9,881 H 6,011 3,119 3,082 2,143 I 2,650 2,815 2,215 1,582

Breaking it down one candidate at a time:

Annise Parker turned in a solid performance pretty much everywhere. She finished first in Districts A, C, G, and H, came in second in D, E, F, and I, and third in B, which was her only poor showing. Whatever we might have believed about Locke’s pincer strategy or Peter Brown’s supposed Republican appeal, it was Parker who ran the best overall in the Republican districts. Now, there are still plenty of Democratic voters in those places, and I suspect Parker cleaned up with them to post these results. If so, and if she can entice some former Brown backers to come to her side next month, she’ll be in a very strong position to win.

Beyond the obvious fact that he did indeed make it to the runoff, I have to figure that Gene Locke isn’t too happy with his performance last week. He finished last in as many districts (three – A, E, and G) as he did first (B, D, and I, just barely), and finished third in two others (C and F; he finished second in H). It’s less obvious what his path to victory in the runoff is, though clearly he will need to get the Brown voters from B and D into his column, and to try to convince African-American voters who sat it out in the first round to come out next month. I guess he can try to appeal to Republican voters, but given his dismal showing with them plus the possibility of pushing more Anglo Dems into Parker’s camp, I have my doubts about that. Maybe he can make some headway with Latinos for Locke, but they didn’t exactly turn out in droves last week, and Parker did pretty well with them besides. There are possibilities for him, I’m just not sure he can make enough of them work for him. But we’ll see.

Peter Brown was Mister Consistency. Outside of D (-3.12%) and F (+5.87%), he finished within three points of his overall 22.55% total in every district. He finished first in F, second in B and C, and third everywhere else. I have to assume his 21% showing in B damaged Locke, though it’s unclear to me how much his attacks on Locke actually helped him. Whoever his voters are, they can have a huge effect in the runoff if they come back out.

Ah, Roy Morales. What can you say? He did do well in the Republican areas, finishing first in E by carrying Clear Lake and Kingwood, and second in A and G. Everywhere else, he finished last. If that’s what the full force of the Harris County GOP can do for you, I would expect more of the same for Roy if and when he runs again citywide. Greg noted that Roy did reasonably well in some Hispanic boxes. All I can add to that is that it’s not apparent from his overall performance in H and I.

Finally, for the morbidly curious, the three fringe candidates had their best combined showing in District F, garnering a total of 1.95% of the total. Amada Ulman received 1.16% in F, which was the only time any of them broke the one percent barrier. Their worst combined showing was in D, where they finished with 0.55% of the vote. I know you’re glad to know that.

Here’s the Chron analysis of the race. I’ll be taking a look at the City Controller and City Council races next. Let me know what you think about this.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that this is Harris County data only, so the small pieces of Districts D and F that are in Fort Bend, and the even smaller piece of E that is in Montgomery are not included.

It’s all about Roy

This article is supposedly about how Annise Parker and Gene Locke have started to get their campaigns back on track for the runoff, but the vast majority of it is about Roy Morales, who is apparently the most famous fourth-place finisher ever.

Annise Parker and Gene Locke, contenders in a Dec. 12 runoff, were favorites from the beginning, while Roy Morales, the only Republican in the race, had little money, minuscule name recognition and single-digit poll numbers just a few days before the election. In the end, though, the retired Air Force lieutenant colonel placed only a few percentage points behind Peter Brown, a city councilman who blanketed the airwaves with his “blueprint” for Houston and poured nearly $4 million of his family fortune into the race. The Morales surge probably knocked Brown out of the runoff.

“I didn’t take votes from Brown,” Morales said in an interview Wednesday. “I recaptured my votes from him. Mr. Brown was trying to portray himself as a conservative. Peter is a liberal.”

Analysts said Morales took advantage of media opportunities that put him on the same stage as his opponents to send a clear message.

In every campaign appearance — and there were more than 40 with all four major candidates — Morales beat the drum of Republican Party orthodoxy. His message was a one-note sonata: I’m conservative, these other people aren’t. I’ll cut your taxes, these other people won’t.

I’ll stipulate that this was Roy’s vote-maximizing strategy, and that he got a good bang for his buck. And in the end, that strategy was good for 20% of the vote and a fourth-place finish. Doesn’t seem like a productive path towards actually winning an election and doing all that tax-cutting you want to do, but maybe I just don’t understand the nature of conservative victory.

Putting this another way, this strategy netted Roy 35,802 votes. In 2007, with an electorate that was 2/3 the size of this one, Roy got 34,235 votes. At this rate, he’ll be poised to break through in 2035 or so. Run, Roy, run!

Anyway. Martha deals with the extremely spurious claim that GOP volunteers made 200,000 calls on Roy’s behalf on Election Day. (Did anyone get one of these? Seems to me if they did do all that dialing, a fair number of my readers were probably on the receiving end. Leave a comment and let me know.) Let’s take them at their word for a minute, and assume that had there not been this massive GOTV effort on Roy’s part, he’d have done as well on Election Day as he had in early voting. He got 15.37% of the early vote, compared to 22.86% on Tuesday. Plug the numbers in, and he’d have gotten 17,499 votes instead of the 26,030 he did get, for a difference of 8,531. That’s actually a pretty decent return – in fact, if you add another 8,531 votes to Roy’s final total, he’d have edged past Gene Locke and would be in the runoff with Annise Parker. Kind of makes you wonder why they weren’t doing all this for him from the beginning, doesn’t it? If you believe they really did it for him in the end, that is.

Where was I? Oh, yes, what the headline of this story says it’s about, which is the restart of the Parker and Locke campaigns.

Parker and Locke jumped right back into campaign mode Wednesday. After an early TV appearance, Parker went to City Hall to present her monthly financial report to City Council. Locke also was on early-morning TV.

Both worked the phones to woo potential newcomers to their campaigns, thank supporters and raise money for what many expect will be a hard-fought contest.

In an e-mail to supporters, Parker was blunt about her financial requirements.

“I need to raise more than one million dollars in the next four weeks to compete with the projected spending of my opponent,” she said.

As noted, Annie’s List is already beating the drum for Parker, and there’s a fundraiser hosted by Roland Garcia, who resigned from the Sports Authority to back Parker, on Tuesday. I’m sure Locke will have similar stuff going on, though word of it has not hit my Inbox as yet. Much more to come, I’m sure.

Six questions for the runoffs

Six questions that I can think of, anyway.

1. What will Peter do?

Will Peter Brown endorse someone in the runoff? If so, how vigorously does he support that person? He’s in a position to have an effect on the outcome if he chooses to do so. What will he do?

His won’t be the only endorsement that will be sought out and may make a difference. As you know, I don’t think Roy’s voters will be inclined to come back out in December, but I could be wrong about that. It is worth wondering what, if anything, Roy will do at this point. Beyond that, will Pam Holm pick a side in the Controller’s runoff? So far she hasn’t, but that could certainly change. Will the Democrats who sided with Herman Litt or Rick Rodriguez reposition themselves in At Large #1? Will Linda Toyota back a candidate in HISD I? Not all endorsements matter, and of those that do, some count for more than others. I believe these count for something, and I expect there’s a lot of inter-campaign conversation going on right now.

2. Where’s the money?

Gene Locke reported $391,969.75 on hand in his eight days out report. Parker had $83,229.73. I strongly suspect both of them are running lower than that now, and needless to say neither can write their own check. How much fundraising can they do over the next (say) three weeks, and which one can get back on the air first? What’s their plan to get their voters out if they can’t afford airtime?

3. What about the Republicans?

I estimate Roy won something like 55-60% of the Republican vote in this election, based on the fact that folks with a Republican primary history made up about 31% of early voters, and that Roy did better on Election Day (22.86%) than he did in early voting (15.37%). That’s a significant bloc if they decide they have a preference for one or the other remaining candidates. It doesn’t come without risk, however – there are still way more Democratic voters in this city, and a high-profile embrace of Roy might turn some of them off. There have been rumors for a couple of weeks that the likes of Steven Hotze and Dan Patrick will stump for Locke. I have no idea if there’s any truth to that, but it would very much be a double-edged sword for him. I can’t think of a better way to fire up Parker’s supporters than that.

Republicans may aim a little lower and try to win the Controller’s office, while knocking off incumbent Council member Jolanda Jones. Both are doable, though I don’t think either will be easy. They may also work to hold MJ Khan’s District F seat by supporting Al Hoang against Mike Laster. I consider Brenda Stardig the favorite to win against Lane Lewis in District A, but if there’s little Republican interest at the top of the ticket, Lewis may get some coattails from the dual Democratic Mayoral campaigns.

4. How negative are things going to get?

Hard to say. While all of the Mayoral candidates attacked each other, the main image I have of negativity is Brown’s ad campaign against Locke. You figure Parker and Locke have to attack each other, it’s just a question of how and how much. I will say this, since several people have asked me about it: I don’t expect Parker’s sexuality to be any more of an issue in the runoff than it was in the general. For one, that’s not who Gene Locke is, and for two, I don’t think it would be a successful strategy.

Similarly in the Controller’s race, the main source of attack ads is now out. Does Khan pick up the theme from Holm, or does he decide she didn’t gain anything from it and stick to his “I’m the most qualified” theme? For that matter, does Green bring up the residency issue against Khan? I think if the one happens then the other does, but it’s not clear if the one happens, or which campaign shoots first.

I definitely expect some negativity in the Council races, where a last minute attack on Sue Lovell may have helped keep her below 50%. If Jack Christie, or someone on his behalf, doesn’t send out at least one mailer attacking Jolanda Jones, I’ll be shocked.

Finally, remember that negativity doesn’t mean lower turnout. If this election doesn’t drive a stake in the heart of the notion that voters are turned off by negative campaigns and prefer nice, quiet, issues-oriented ones, I don’t know what would.

5. Who will the Chron endorse?

Time to get off the fence, fellas. Who’s it gonna be, Parker or Locke, and how long will you make us wait? Will any other endorsing entity that declined to pick a side in the first go-round commit to one candidate or the other in overtime? My guess on the latter question is No, but surely the Chron won’t weasel out again. Or maybe they will, if their editorial board is sufficiently divided. I can’t wait to see what they do.

6. What will early voting look like?

As noted, 31% of all votes in Houston were cast early, which is a significant uptick from previous city elections. My guess is that an increasing number of the more habitual voters, who needless to say were the bulk of this electorate, have shifted their habits towards early voting. I would guess that a similar share of the runoff vote, perhaps more, will vote early.

Those are my questions. Prof. Murray has a few as well. What are yours?

UPDATE: I get some answers to one of my questions via press release from Karen Derr:

Candidate Karen Derr for Houston City Council At-Large Position 1 has received mounting support from a broad base of organizations and elected officials. Karen Derr has gained the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, Democracy for Houston, and the Houston AFL-CIO. In addition, Karen Derr has also received the endorsements from State Representatives Garnet Coleman and Ana Hernandez.

The HGLBT Political Caucus endorsed Herman Litt in the first go-round; I’m not sure about the other groups offhand. But this is a pretty clear sign to me that much of Litt’s support will transfer to Derr.

Enthusiasm, or lack of same

The Chron provides some decent anecdotal evidence to support the theory that voters aren’t all that engaged in this election.

The deciding factor varied widely for many, according to interviews with more than 40 voters across the city during the last two days of early voting. While the interviews are not statistically significant enough to provide a meaningful idea of how the election will play out Tuesday, they do provide a voter’s view of an unusual mayoral race.

Experience ranked high among those who favored City Controller Annise Parker. Endorsements were cited repeatedly by backers of former city attorney Gene Locke. Supporters — and opponents — of Brown said they had been motivated by his dominance of their television sets and mailboxes, either appreciating his “blueprint” for Houston or feeling put off by a candidate who spent more than $3 million to get his message out.

Those who chose Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales said they did so because of his conservative bona fides, something the other three candidates — all lifelong Democrats — lacked.

Many expressed lukewarm preferences overall, calling their choice simply the “lesser evil” of the four.

There’s plenty of passion among those who are closest to the campaigns, but that didn’t spill out very far, for reasons we’re all familiar with by now. I don’t quite get the “lesser evil” sentiment, since that’s the sort of thing I associate with candidates that have significant flaws, and that’s not how I see the top three here. Maybe the lack of sharp policy distinction, which leads to more of a focus on personalities, is the cause of that, I don’t know. If that’s what you think now, just wait till the runoff.

Bikers for Roy

Mere words cannot adequately express the awesomeness of this:

So you better vote for Roy, unless you want bikers to invade your neighborhood and point their fingers at you in a vaguely menacing fashion. Or something like that. Many thanks to David Ortez for the catch.

Spending on voter outreach: The Mayorals

I didn’t take a look at the Mayoral candidates’ expenditures on voter outreach in the 30 days out reports, as this exercise is rather time consuming, but I figured I’d have a look at the 8 day reports, just to see what we’ve got going into the home stretch.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Annise Parker 9,365.91 Research (Celinda Lake) Annise Parker 500.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 175,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 75,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 60,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 3,000.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Annise Parker 60,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 1,750.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 3,000.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 780.30 Ad (KCOH) Annise Parker 1,789.25 Ad (KROI & KMQJ) Annise Parker 40,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller)

Parker reported a bit over $500K in spending on this form, after having reported $738K spent on the 30 days form. $410K of this spending, more than 80%, is on TV. I saw two media buys from Rindy Miller in the 30 days form, worth $500K; there may have been more, but that form was 414 pages long, and I just did a search on “Rindy” to spot-check it. I assume the “Research” entry is for her recent poll. Those radio buys are small compared to Locke and Brown, but since she’s not engaged in an authenticity contest as they are, perhaps they’ll have a greater effect. Parker was one of many candidates who placed an ad in Gary Polland’s Texas Conservative Review; my understanding is that this is for a printed document that will be mailed to some number of households. As all of the others I’ve seen so far with this expense have been Republicans, I presume Parker will tout her fiscal conservative credentials and leave it at that.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Gene Locke 28.89 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 25,000.00 Media production (Dixon/Davis) Gene Locke 2,000.00 Media production (Ttweak) Gene Locke 225.75 Ad (Houston Forward Times) Gene Locke 677.25 Ad (Houston Forward Times) Gene Locke 1,102.50 Ad (Houston Defender) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 20,319.00 Printing Gene Locke 2,281.68 Robocalls Gene Locke 6,000.00 Video production (Ttweak) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Gene Locke 4,300.00 Ad (Houston Style Magazine) Gene Locke 50,160.00 Field consulting/management Gene Locke 95,670.00 Field consulting/management Gene Locke 54,862.50 Media/cable (Adelante) Gene Locke 10,649.50 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 13,584.05 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 15,747.20 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 165,770.25 Media/TV (Adelante) Gene Locke 6,300.00 Media/newspaper (Adelante) Gene Locke 250.00 Ad (Linda Lorelle scholarship fund) Gene Locke 100.00 Ad (KEW Learning Academy) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 1,500.00 Ad (The Houston Sun) Gene Locke 903.00 Ad (Houston Forward Times) Gene Locke 1,102.50 Ad (Houston Defender) Gene Locke 1,755.00 Ad (African-American News & Issues) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 36,641.50 Media/cable (Adelante) Gene Locke 22,858.65 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 139,953.00 Media/TV (Adelante) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 27,005.00 Door hangers Gene Locke 17,721.40 Printing Gene Locke 2,295.30 Robocalls Gene Locke 5,177.10 Research (Stanford Campaigns) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 38,251.50 Media/cable (Adelante) Gene Locke 2,625.00 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 14,474.98 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 162,966.00 Media/TV (Adelante) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 11,853.40 Printing Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 49.00 Ad ( Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 17,799.00 Media production (Dixon/Davis) Gene Locke 2,749.80 Robocalls Gene Locke 34.37 Web ad (Domino's Pizza) Gene Locke 23,500.00 Polling Gene Locke 2,205.00 Ad (Houston Defender) Gene Locke 46,800.00 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 5,725.56 Door hangers Gene Locke 16,235.00 Door hangers Gene Locke 36,120.80 Printing Gene Locke 800.00 Ad (NAACP - Houston) Gene Locke 125.00 Ad (South Wesley AMEC)

Clearly, Locke is leaving no stone unturned. Everything from Facebook to African-American newspapers (no doubt to boost his standing in the community) to TV and radio. Bear in mind that some of that money spent on TV was for ads that ran much earlier in the month; we knew about them before the 30 day reports came out, but the expenditure wasn’t listed in that report. As such, while Locke outspent Parker on TV in this report, she has spent more than him overall. Adelante, which I believe is campaign manager Christian Archer’s outfit, is big on field work/GOTV, which is how one can wind up buying nearly $50,000 worth of door hangers. There were many, many entries relating to paid field workers, which I skipped to maintain my sanity and stave off carpal tunnel syndrome for another day. Other candidates up and down the ballot have similar entries, though not nearly as many; Parker is a notable exception to this, as she’s putting her money into media and is relying on an extensive volunteer network for GOTV activities. We knew Locke was doing polls, even if we never get see any of them. Oh, and Ttweak, of course, are the folks that brought us Houston, It’s Worth It. I give Team Locke style points for hiring them in whatever capacity.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Peter Brown 1,214.17 Printed materials Peter Brown 36,675.00 Media buy (Foston International) Peter Brown 43,601.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 251,027.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 888.99 Printed materials Peter Brown 1,742.82 Printed materials Peter Brown 75,120.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 5,800.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 82,225.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 449,527.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 9,949.43 Production (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 27,438.89 Media buy (Foston International) Peter Brown 500.00 Text messaging service Peter Brown 59,213.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 449,682.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 9,125.99 Production (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 42,338.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 2,553.00 Printed materials Peter Brown 5,000.00 Media buy (Neuman & Co) Peter Brown 126,485.92 Consulting (Neuman & Co) Peter Brown 4,558.60 Media buy (Foston International) Peter Brown 451,527.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 117,964.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 5,953.75 Printed materials

Behold the Peter Brown media empire. The man has a fortune at his disposal, and by God he used it. The disclosure form listed over $2.4 million in expenses, which is to say nearly five times what Parker spent and a bit less than double what Locke spent. Of that, as you can see, over $1.7 million was spent on media buys, which I presume all means television. I could be wrong – I don’t know what the difference is between Foston and Buying Time, though one possibility is “cable” versus “broadcast”, and another is “radio” versus “TV”. I’m guessing that the $5K and $126K expenditures to Neuman should be reversed, but since all of his direct mail expenditures – all $350K+ of it – were listed as “Consulting”, I could be wrong about that. And in the midst of all this airtime, it’s nice to know they didn’t forget about more modern forms of voter outreach. I’ll bet $500 buys a lot of text messages.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Roy Morales 1,976.25 Radio ads (KSEV) Roy Morales 8,650.32 Mailer deposit Roy Morales 3,000.00 Mailer deposit Roy Morales 378.88 Printing Roy Morales 2,500.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Roy Morales 1,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Roy Morales 500.00 Mailer deposit Roy Morales 5,000.00 Mailer balance Roy Morales 1,500.00 Commercial purchase

Roy didn’t have much to spend, and what he did have he mostly spent on mail. Kind of piddly compared to what Brown spent, but then most things are. I’m not actually sure what Locke spent on mail, since all I saw were those “printing” charges, which could be many things. Parker didn’t spend anything on mail, but she’s been featured in several third party mailers I’ve received, including one from the HGLBT Political Caucus, one from Annie’s List, and one from the Houston Turnout Project. With friends like those, you can concentrate on other things. Oh, and let’s not forget the Texas Conservative Review, too. I bet it’ll chafe Roy to realize that Parker will have a bigger ad in Polland’s piece than he will. I’m just now realizing that neither Locke nor Brown had an expense for that, which strikes me as odd. Roy also got a $3000 in-kind donation for video production on his ad, and that $1500 commercial purchase, which I presume landed his ad somewhere, was an addendum to his original report. Anyone want to guess what show Roy’s ad interrupted was? Just a hunch here, but I’m thinking it was a one-off.

I’ve got similar reports in the works for the At Large and district Council races. Hope you found this useful.

Eight day out finances

Here’s the Chron story about the eight days out finance reports, which is all about the Mayor’s race.

City Councilman Peter Brown, who polls show leading the pack, poured an additional $801,000 of his family fortune into the race, pushing his self-funded total to $3.2 million. In the one-month period covered by the report, he spent $2.42 million and has a war chest of $418,000.

Former City Attorney Gene Locke has spent $1.34 million and has $391,000 on hand, while City Controller Annise Parker spent just $506,000 with $83,000 remaining. Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales’ report was not available before deadline Monday; he has reported raising only a fraction of that of his opponents in previous periods.

Roy’s report is available – it was Locke’s report I couldn’t find. Be that as it may, he raised $35,106.43, spent $28,826.80, and has $7,333.43 on hand; he also listed a loan of $5,927.86. I’ve updated my Google spreadsheet to show the results that have been posted so far. (I haven’t been able to get to any of the district Council races as yet, and the site has been crashing all day today, so don’t read anything into the absence of most of those races.) Note that Roy’s showing since the 30 day report is better than he had in either previous report, and indeed is nearly as much as he’d raised all year to that point.

As for Brown’s lead, and the dueling commentaries among various unaffiliated campaign types, what we’ve got is two polls of registered voters that show him in the lead, and one poll that does some pre-screening based on recent voting history that shows Parker in the lead. I agree with Greg that Peter gets the benefit of the doubt, but I really do have my doubts about those two polls. Which is not to say that Parker’s poll is the gold standard – even if it were, it’s still just one data point, and that poll’s assumptions may be too restrictive or otherwise skewed in some fashion – but I am more comfortable with it, at least in terms of the voter pool it’s drawing from. That said, if Brown’s ad blitz has genuinely raised his profile among otherwise undecided voters, it wouldn’t take too much of a bump in turnout among voters I’ve been considering unlikely to make a difference for him. I just have no way of knowing about this.

What we need to really get a handle on this is at least one poll of truly likely voters by an independent pollster. I mean, for all we know, Annise’s poll oversampled women, or Democrats, or some other group that might be favorable to her. I haven’t seen her poll’s crosstabs, so I can’t judge that. Failing that, a poll from another campaign, one that also does a likely-voter pre-screen, would be instructive. As Martha suggests, surely Gene Locke has commissioned such a poll. Of course, if said poll gives him a lousy result, he has no reason to release it. Draw whatever inferences you want from the lack of a poll release from his campaign.

Brown leads in KHOU poll

Another good poll result for Peter Brown.

According to [an 11 News / KUHF Houston Public Radio] poll, 24 percent of likely voters in the Houston mayoral race plan to vote for Brown. This is up sharply from the five percent of likely voters who said they would vote for him in an 11 News poll conducted in August, before Brown had launched a massive advertising campaign and spent more than $2.4 million of his own money to promote his candidacy.

Brown’s nearest challenger is comptroller Annise Parker, who holds the support of 16 percent of likely voters in the current poll. Former city attorney Gene Locke has 14 percent support, and Harris County Department of Education trustee Roy Morales has 5 percent support. Forty-one percent of likely voters told pollsters that they have not yet settled on a candidate. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percent, which means it is difficult to determine whether Locke or Parker has more support than the other.

“It seems very likely that if this trend holds up, that Peter Brown will be in the runoff,” said 11 News political expert Bob Stein, who conducted the poll with the Center for Civic Engagement at Rice University. “The most likely opponent will be Annise Parker, but that is still very much up in the air,” he said.

Stein said he did not expect to see such a high percentage of likely voters who said they still do not know who to vote for. When Bill White was first elected on 2003, Stein said, a similar poll conducted at the same time showed an “undecided” figure of 12 percent.

I don’t see a link to crosstabs, or any discussion of what “likely” means here. Is it the case that the screen was done by asking people if they were likely to vote, as appears to be the case with the Chron poll, or was there a pre-screen based on recent voter history, as was the case with the Parker internal poll? If it’s the former, and I kind of think that it is, then I have the same issues I did with the Chron poll. I mean, through the first four days of early voting, 75% of all early voters had voted in all three of the last three city elections, according to the analysis done by Kyle Johnston. These are the hardest of hardcore voters. Only 2% of early voters had not voted in any of the last three city elections. I’m sorry, but unless someone has a demonstrated history of actually voting in odd-numbered years, I’m not taking their word for it when they say they’re “likely” to vote.

I also think that the high number of undecideds in this poll, which compares to a 24% “undecided” rate in the Parker poll, is evidence that this poll isn’t really sampling “likely” voters. I believe that among those who really are going to vote, there aren’t that many who don’t have a good idea of whom they prefer. To be sure, there are still folks who are wavering, but I don’t believe it’s that high.

Having said all that, this is now two good polls for Brown, and they have definitely changed the perception of the race. He’s run a good race, he’s got a good message about which he’s been very consistent, and he’s been able to get that message out. That’s got to be having an effect. I’m just still not sure how big that effect has been.

UPDATE: Here’s the KUHF story. The key bits:

Rice University Professor and Political Scientist Bob Stein conducted the survey of 545 registered voters over the last week and a half. He asked people how strong their support was for each candidate.

“Peter Brown’s support is interestingly weak. Tepid would be the right word. Gene Locke and Annise Parker, 3-1 voters who tell us they’re voting for Gene Locke and Annise Parker are strong supporters — 75 percent. In Peter Brown’s case it barely breaks 58-59 percent. I think what Peter Brown has got is a broad base of support. He’s got support in every community. The problem for Peter will be probably that support is not very deep and may not take very much to, how shall I say, peel it away.”

Again, this strongly suggests what we have here is a self-screen for likelihood of voting. I am not surprised.

Roy on the air

Behold the power of Roy:

Just as a reminder, Barack Obama got 61% of the vote in Houston last year. I don’t know how effective a boogeyman he’ll make, though I suppose that depends on where the ad airs. Roy’s eight days out report gives no hint of that, and all we know for sure is “it’s on cable”. If you see this on your TV, please leave a comment and let me know. Houston Politics, Martha, Mary Benton, and Greg have more.

You won’t see this on TV, but At Large #1 candidate Lonnie Allsbrooks sent me a link to the following campaign video on YouTube:

I confess, I’m not exactly sure what the message is that’s being conveyed, but there you have it.

Finally, because some things just need to be linked to, I give you this. I knew this was coming, and yet I was unprepared for it.

Parker polls and claims a lead

The Annise Parker campaign has released an internal poll (PDF) that shows her in the lead of the Mayoral race.

A recent Lake Research Partners’ survey of likely voters in Houston’s upcoming mayoral contest shows that City Controller Annise Parker continues to hold the lead. Peter Brown, Gene Locke, and Roy Morales trail behind and are still in a race to see who can make the run-off with Parker. Late deciding voters will also make a difference.

Given the projected low turnout, we sampled voters who are the most likely to vote, i.e. those with previous participation in past city elections. Among these likely voters Controller Annise Parker leads the race with 27 percent (18 percent strong). Brown holds second place with 21 percent (12 percent strong). Locke trails with 17 percent (12 percent strong). Morales brings in 11 percent support (8 percent strong). A quarter of voters (24 percent) remains undecided.

According to the footnote, “The survey was conducted among 400 registered voters in Houston with previous vote participation in municipal elections and who are likely to vote this November.” Assuming this means they did a pre-screen to draw their sample from folks with a history of voting in recent city elections, this strikes me as far more sound than the Chron poll. It was also conducted between October 15-18, so it takes into account the recent TV advertising that Brown and Locke have done. It is an internal poll, and we don’t have the crosstabs or exact wording of the questions, so there’s always room to debate the result. But one thing you can be sure of is that the other campaigns have been doing their own polls. If they’re getting significantly different numbers, especially ones that favor their preferred candidate, we’ll be hearing of them.

Endorsement watch: Republicans (very quietly) for Roy

The Saturday edition of the Chron the past couple of weeks has had a feature in the City & State section called Campaign Watch, which is a blog-like collection of short items relating to the 2009 elections. For some odd reason, none of this stuff is apparently available on the website. Anyway, one of the stories today is headlined “County Republican Party Makes Pick”, and says that even though they basically did nothing else for him in terms of financial help or voter outreach, the Harris County Republican Party officially announced its endorsement of Roy Morales for Mayor on Friday, after only a week of early voting.

Which is nice for Roy, I suppose – it’s not like he’s exactly overwhelmed with support – but you’d think the least they could do is mention it somewhere prominent. It’s not, for example, on the front page of the HCRP website, where you’d think at least a link to such a big announcement might be. It is there – if you go to HCRP 2009 Elections page and click the link on Roy’s name, you’ll see it. I nearly missed it the first time I went looking, but it is there. They haven’t used social media to spread the word, either – it’s not on their Facebook page, it’s not on the Harris County GOP Facebook group page, and it’s not on the HCRP Twitter feed. Oh, and if you take a close look at that last link, you’ll note that the whole “doing it in the Facebook with the Twittering” thing still needs a little work.

Now you may say, they just announced this yesterday, give them a little time to get their stuff together. Well, except that the story says that the actual endorsement was made at their Executive Committee meeting on Monday the 19th. Roy himself announced the endorsement on his webpage on Tuesday the 20th. The HCRP didn’t bother to announce it till Friday, and this is all they’ve done with it in the meantime. Boy, with friends like these, huh?

Those up-for-grabs conservative voters

The Chron gets one more story from the crosstabs of their poll.

A Houston Chronicle poll conducted last week shows that [Peter] Brown, who has saturated the city with TV, radio and mail advertising, has a commanding lead among self-identified Republicans. Meanwhile, [Gene] Locke’s strategy to build a winning coalition that includes many conservative voters appears to be foundering.

[Roy] Morales is statistically neck and neck with City Controller Annise Parker.

Of 213 Republicans surveyed last week, 27.8 percent said they favor Brown, followed by 12.6 percent who support Morales, 11.3 percent who back Parker and 6.5 percent who are behind Locke. The poll of likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 7 percentage points.

Pet peeve alert – Putting aside the issues of drawing any firm conclusions from a subsample of a poll that may or may not be full of unlikely voters, I still cringe whenever I see the term “statistical tie” used to describe someone who is leading but within the margin of error. I refer you once again to that nifty Excel spreadsheet that Kevin Drum provided back in 2004, which shows that given the percentages and sample sizes involved here, the probability that Parker actually leads Morales among these voters is over 95%.

Not that it really matters, since Morales isn’t competitive in the race. And so far, at least, the number of Republicans who have actually voted is fairly small. According to an analysis I received via email from Kyle Johnston of the first two days of early voting, 62% of the people who have cast ballots so far have voted in at least one Democratic primary, while only 25% have voted in a Republican primary. That may change before we’re done, but in the end, the City of Houston votes Democratic. There are Republican votes out there, and especially in a close race they’re worth pursuing, but there’s only so many of them.

One more thing:

After Brown’s appearance, J.D. Joyce, the Pachyderm Club president, said he did not know why Brown has surged among conservatives.

“I don’t understand what the draw is, quite frankly,” he said.

Not to be indelicate, but he’s an older white guy. That’s a pretty good nickel description of your modern Republican Party these days. For a more in-depth explanation, see Martha.


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Greg adds on about Khan.

Roy gets his moment in the sun

Here’s the Chron overview of Roy Morales, which like the Locke and Brown stories was done with a bit of gauze over the lens. Well, except for the bit where they quoted those mean ol’ bloggers.

Political observers and bloggers have been dismissive of his candidacy, for reasons other than a somewhat awkward public demeanor. One blogger made fun of him for minor errors in filling out state-required expense reports. Another slammed him for putting up an unusually weak Web site. A third labeled him clueless. Veteran blog pundit Charles Kuffner concluded that Morales’ ignorance on a matter related to Metro, revealed at a meeting with journalists, showed “there’s a reason why he doesn’t get to sit at the grown-ups’ table … Poor Roy.”

Hmm. I’m pretty sure Blogger #1 is Martha. Blogger #2 is probably David Ortez. As for Blogger #3, let’s be honest – that could be just about anybody. At least Nancy Sims was nice to him.

KTRK Mayoral forum

Anyone catch the KTRK Mayoral forum?

The four major candidates vying to be Houston’s next mayor took some of the first steps toward engaging each other directly in a live televised debate on KTRK Wednesday evening.

With just four weeks remaining in a contest that has been slow to pick up steam, City Councilman Peter Brown, City Controller Annise Parker, former City Attorney Gene Locke and Harris County Education Trustee Roy Morales made some of the most pronounced attempts in the campaign season to distinguish themselves from one another. On many issues, their policy ideas have been markedly similar, but a television viewer connecting with the race for the first time might not have known it.

Much of the conflict among the four revolved around fiscal issues as the city finds itself in one of the most dire financial straits in recent memory.

Locke, who spoke forcefully but did not look directly at the camera in the one-hour event, struck first by highlighting the discrepancies between Mayor Bill White’s characterization of a fiscal shortfall and that of Parker’s office.

“It’s unfortunate that the citizens don’t know what the real deal is,” he said, noting that Brown and Parker have been as “quiet as a church mouse” in their roles at City Hall.

Brown, who also did not make eye contact with the camera, responded that he has worked closely with White in his nearly four years on City Council.

Parker, who engaged with the medium and even offered up a few jokes, shot back directly.

“I can’t help the fact that my opponents are confused” about the budget, she said, noting that she had tried to avoid engaging with White over “whether the glass is half empty or half full” to instead deal more directly with the problem.

My interviews with Locke, Brown, and Parker will run next week. If you missed this you can still catch the airing of the forum at Discovery Green on Sunday. I’d love to know how many people tuned in or will tune in to these showings, and (say it with me now) I’d love to see some more polling data so we can get an idea whether or not they’ve helped engage voters or move any undecideds. If you watched, what was your impression?

Corrections, clarifications, and conundrums

This is a followup to my post from this morning about the 30 days out reports. I’m sure there will be more of this stuff to come, from plenty of folks, but this is what I’ve got as of now.

– First, please be sure to see the updates I made to that post. In particular, be sure to read Martha‘s posts about the reports filed by C.O. Bradford and Roy Morales, and see my update about Phillip Garrison’s report. More generally, David Ortez has some observations about the reports as well.

– I doubt I’ll have the time to closely examine every report in detail, but I took a closer look at a couple that had oddities in them that I wanted to examine. One of them is the report of perennial candidate Michael “Griff” Griffin. Griff, who I can only speculate must really like seeing his name on a ballot, reported no contributions in either July or October, and loaned himself $1000 in April, yet he reports expenditures totaling over $3000 since the beginning of the year. He spent about $2200 before July 1 and a bit more than $800 since then. Needless to say, that doesn’t add up. I don’t know if the expenses above the $1000 loan that he declared should be considered subsequent loans to himself or if there’s something else going on, but regardless it seems to me this is the sort of thing that should be spelled out in a campaign finance report. I realize this is small potatoes, but by the same token, how hard could it be to do that?

– Along similar lines, I note that District F candidate Joe Chow reported exactly zero dollars on hand in both July and October. Yet his October report, which includes a $5000 loan to himself from June, shows that he took in less money than he spent. Now, he listed one single expenditure for the period ending June 30, a printing fee of $120, though he added some more pre-July expenditures in the October report, and given that he raised $5510 in the first six months, I’m sure he has some cash on hand, whether the loan amount is accounted for as cash on hand or not. But you can’t easily tell how much cash he has from what he reported.

– As I said, Griff’s report is small potatoes, though in the context of District F Chow’s totals are much more substantial. I’m pointing them out because they seem like such obvious red flags that I don’t quite understand why the forms weren’t simply rejected out of hand by the City Secretary. How can you leave the boxes for the totals blank, as Griff did? Davetta Daniels in At Large #5 did the same thing. At least in her case the contributions she listed outweighed the expenses, but the bottom line remains that you can’t tell at a glance what her cash on hand position is. Nor can you tell for Chow, who like Daniels appears to have several thousand dollars at his disposal. So I ask again: How is it that a form where certain required values are left blank can get accepted? If this were a web form, they wouldn’t have been allowed to submit it till those boxes were filled in. Shouldn’t the City Secretary do the same?

– Meanwhile, several candidates’ reports are still not available online. Among them are Alex Wathen and Bob Schoelkopf in District A (there’s no July form for Schoelkopf, either); Roger Bowden in B; Otis Jordan and Larry McKinzie in D; Lewis Cook, Peter Acquaro, and Robert Kane in F (no July forms for Cook or Kane, either); and Mills Worsham in G. Bear in mind that quite a few reports didn’t appear until many days after July 15, despite the fact that they had been submitted. I’m just noting this for the record, and will continue to look for them and update the spreadsheet as I find them.

– What is now available are the HISD Trustee candidates’ reports. Ericka Mellon summarizes them for us.

– One other report that isn’t there is for CM Noriega in At Large #3. I am told that unopposed candidates are not required to file a 30 days out report, or an 8 days out report, so that’s the reason for that.

– Finally, on a tangential note, Karen Derr also writes in to say that she has been producing campaign videos as well. I appreciate the update, and invite anyone else that I’ve omitted to correct me on this point.

More on the 30 days out report

Here’s the Chron story on the 30 days out finance reports. It discusses the disparity in cash on hand totals between Annise Parker, Peter Brown, and Gene Locke.

“[Parker’s] got a challenge to compete on the airwaves down the home stretch,” said Keir Murray, a Houston political consultant. “It just puts you in a position to scramble as a campaign if your opponents are on television and you can’t match them. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard.”

Murray, who worked for Brown in a 2005 City Council race, is unaffiliated in this contest.

Parker Campaign Manager Adam Harris insisted she will have enough money to continue running a robust campaign effort that will include television advertising through election day, Nov. 3.

“We are right on target with what our plan has been the entire campaign,” he said. “I feel very good about where we are with fundraising now.”

Harris noted that their numbers are artificially low because the $738,000 of expenditures listed in the report include $500,000 for advertising, not all of which has been spent. But rival campaigns tracking the ad expenses using publicly available information said that as of Oct. 12, Parker will have spent $405,000, leaving little remaining after the advertising production costs.

No one will ever admit they missed their fundraising target, so make of this what you will. I have heard of an internal poll taken by the Locke campaign about two weeks ago that showed Parker in the lead, so her position is still fairly strong. I also expect there to be a lot of money raised and spent during the runoff. The main question at this point is whether Locke and Brown’s financial advantages today can enable them to make up ground with the still sizable number of undecided voters.

Political consultant Marc Campos noted that Locke only began introducing himself to voters through TV ads on Monday and his campaign report showed little to nothing in expenditures for direct mail or radio advertising.

“It should be good news for Gene Locke and his supporters, but today is the first day voters in general get to see who he is,” said Campos, who is unaffiliated in the race. “They can beat on their chest all they want, but they’re still in uncharted waters.”

Say it with me now: More poll numbers would be nice to have. Until then, we’re all just guessing.

I’ve added more totals to my Google spreadsheet since I published last night, as new reports have continued to appear. Despite what it says in the sidebar of this story, Roy Morales has in fact filed his report. He raised $23K, which is actually better than he did in the first six months, and has about $4600 on hand. In other words, he’s still a footnote. Outside of the Mayor and Controller races, most incumbent Council members who have opponents are in good shape. Sue Lovell has $165K on hand, while her opponents have less than $10K combined. Jolanda Jones was actually outraised by Davetta Daniels, $19K to $7K, but Jones has $50K on hand; I guesstimated Daniels’ COH total at about $14K because she didn’t give totals, so I added up her expenditures and subtracted from the contributions (which I also added up myself). Anne Clutterbuck has $149K and Mike Sullivan has $103K; Sullivan’s opponent Phillip Garrison raised a quite respectable $30K but has only $16K on hand. I can’t quite judge the state of the races in B and D, as Jarvis Johnson (raised $15K, has $41K on hand) and Wanda Adams (raised $16K, has $29K on hand) raised modest amounts but none of their opponents (Roger Bowden in B, Otis Jordan and Larry McKinzie in D, all of whom announced after the July reporting deadline) have visible reports.

Among open office contenders, C.O. Bradford in At Large #4 had the strongest period, bringing in $113K with $41K on hand; Noel Freeman had $21K and $11K. Stephen Costello in At Large #1 and Oliver Pennington in District G did well again, with $79K and $72K, respectively. Karen Derr raised $47K, which was more than any other contender and more than all incumbents other than Lovell, but she reported only $9475 on hand. Costello ($119K) and Pennington ($102K) dominate that number, as they are the only ones with over $100K on hand; Bradford, George Foulard in G ($29K raised, $47K on hand), and Mike Laster in F ($18K raised, $29K on hand) are the runnersup. I should note that I do not see reports yet for Mills Worsham in G or for several contenders in F, so this may get revised later.

Finally, on a side note, I had said previously that only a couple of Council candidates had been putting out campaign videos. I overlooked Noel Freeman, whose YouTube channel has multiple vids. If I’ve missed any other examples, please let me know.

UPDATE: What I’ve done so far is just look at the totals. Martha has started digging into the detailed reports, and she found that while Bradford did raise a decent amount of cash, more than 60% of what he took in was in-kind donations, including some that appear to have exceeded the individual contribution limits. Take a look and see what she reports, and also look at her closer peek at Roy Morales’ report as well.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that Phillip Garrison, the challenger in District E, reported all of his contributions received since the beginning of the year in his total, instead of just the amount raised between July 1 and September 24. I went through the individual contributions, and $24,190 of it was raised on or before June 30, meaning his actual amount raised (cash and in-kind) for the reporting period was $6,135. Also by my calculation, he’s spent $11,603.90 since July 1, which is consistent with his July report, so I believe his cash on hand amount is accurate.

The Mayorals on mobility

Carolyn Feibel discusses the Mayoral candidates’ plans for transportation and mobility.

Two candidates, City Controller Annise Parker and Councilman Peter Brown, disagree on what Metro’s main focus should be. While supporting light rail, Parker said buses should remain the “heart” of the transit system.

“I have been increasingly concerned that in their efforts to build out the light-rail lines, which I support, that they are neglecting the current bus system,” Parker said. “When we cut back our routes, when we run the fares up, we’re hurting people that have no other choice.”

Brown said, “You can’t serve a low-density city like Houston with a bus system.” He did not specify what he wants Metro to focus on instead, but called for the bus and rail systems to be “integrated.”

“We’ve got to have a rationalized plan for rail, and bus to feed the rail,” Brown said. “We’ve got to encourage people to live closer to where they work.”

Former city attorney Gene Locke knows Metro well. Until January, he worked as special outside counsel for the agency, defending it from litigation and consulting on a number of projects. He helped draft the language of the 2003 voter referendum to build new light-rail routes.Locke said Metro should expand express bus service along major corridors and consider putting a circulating trolley or bus through downtown and retail areas like the Galleria. He also proposed a pilot program to eliminate fares at special times, such as during sporting events or festivals.

Acknowledging that finding money for new services could be a problem during a recession, Locke said Metro will need to “consider programs in the context of budget.”

All three candidates — Brown, Locke and Parker — said they would work closely with city engineers to make sure the rail construction goes smoothly as city streets are torn up and repaved.

Brown, who says he’ll give the Metro board a complete makeover, and Locke have detailed plans on their websites; Parker does not have an Issues page specific to this. I’ve asked every candidate I’ve interviewed about Metro and where they should go from here, and you’ll hear more about that from the Mayoral candidates in my interviews with them next week.

As for poor ol’ Roy Morales, there’s a reason why he doesn’t get to sit at the grownups’ table:

Morales also distinguished himself from the other three candidates by not knowing the answer to the question “What is the Transportation Policy Council?” Houston’s mayor gets two appointments to the 24-member regional body, which decides how to spend millions in federal transportation funds throughout the eight-county metropolitan area.

Pop quiz: Who are those two representatives from the city of Houston on the TPC? Answer here, if you don’t already know. Poor Roy.

The Mayoral forum at Discovery Green

In case you didn’t make it to the Mayoral forum at Discovery Green on Sunday, you’ll have another chance to see what happened later this week.

The four candidates vying to become Houston’s next mayor emerged from the first major debate of the campaign Sunday evening unscathed from any attacks or gaffes, choosing instead a style that may not have cost or won them any votes.

While they did not attack each other, they criticized the Metropolitan Transit Authority for lacking transparency and asserted that the city’s housing department made poor use of federal funding.

The fiscal challenges that will confront the race’s winner dominated most of the one-hour affair, as questions about crime, transportation, immigration and affordable housing led almost inevitably to the financial constraints that will likely shackle new ideas or policy initiatives.

The issues discussed and promises made by City Controller Annise Parker, Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales, former City Attorney Gene Locke and City Councilman Peter Brown differed little from the past few months on the campaign trail, but the event had a far more serious feel.

The four did not engage each other, which contributed to a civil, yet occasionally slow, tone before a packed upper room at The Grove restaurant near Discovery Green Park. The debate, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and moderated by KPRC, is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. Saturday.

All I can say is that I hope a lot of questions were asked about “how are you going to pay for that”. If you can’t wait till Friday to see what the candidates have to say for themselves, check out David Ortez’s liveblogging, or musings’ commentary. On a related note, the Chron will be hosting chat sessions with the three major Mayoral candidates; apparently, Roy hasn’t gotten back to them yet. The first one, a conversation with Peter Brown, is here, Annise Parker participated today, and Gene Locke is up on Wednesday at noon. Check ’em out.