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Tom McCasland

City seeks more Harvey recovery funds

Good. Seek all you can.

The City of Houston is preparing to ask Congress for $2 billion more to help residents whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Harvey — a request likely to coincide with lawmakers’ consideration of aid to victims of hurricanes Florence and Michael, which devastated sections of North Carolina and Florida.

The city is basing its request on a new study that departs from the traditional method of calculating need. The difference boils down to who gets counted.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development looks at recipients of individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to determine how much additional aid is needed. Houston’s study includes many more people affected by Harvey’s flooding, whether or not they applied for aid from FEMA.

“We’re chronically undercounting the most vulnerable populations,” said Tom McCasland, director of the Houston Housing and Community Development Department. “That’s why it’s important not to start with FEMA.”

[…]

Houston based its analysis on flood modeling that uses data points such as drone imagery of the storm and flooding. The city’s Housing and Community Development Department now has maps of every lot and building in the city with blue shading representing areas that were likely submerged.

Houston’s analysis also considered factors such as the building’s size and the lot’s surface permeability to calculate the likely damage caused to the home and its contents.

The conclusion: Harvey inflicted $16 billion of residential damage on the city, $3.1 billion of which the city believes meets HUD’s criteria for unmet need. That’s about $2 billion more than the amount HUD is already sending for unmet housing needs in Houston.

HUD may or may not buy the city’s calculations, but there’s no harm in trying. As McCasland says in the piece, the data the city will generate from putting the request together will be beneficial in itself.

Runoff endorsement watch: New business

As I mentioned before, there are a couple of runoffs in which the Chron did not endorse a candidate who is still in the running. Those races are At Large #1, #4, and #5; I had forgotten about #4 when I recounted that. The Chron has now made their choices, while restating their preference in the other race.

Georgia Provost

Georgia Provost

At-Large 1: Georgia Provost

The runoff to succeed term-limited Councilman Steve Costello is a study in contrasts. Mike Knox, who led a crowded field in the general election with about 25 percent of the vote, is a former Houston police officer and the author of a book on gang and youth violence. His focus is on bringing the city budget under control by instituting what he calls “a confirmed revenue stream budget.”

His opponent, Georgia Provost, is a photographer and owner of a photography studio and public relations firm. A longtime community activist in the Third and Fifth wards, she is a fund-raiser for various charitable organizations supporting youth and law enforcement, a leader with the Texas Metropolitan Organization and executive director of the Texas Southern University Bayou Bend Alumni/Ex-Students Association Inc. This is the second council race for both candidates.

Knox is articulate and knowledgeable about the issues, but Provost brings grass-roots awareness and years of experience helping solve problems in her community. We believe those are qualifications that will prove valuable on the council. We’re confident she will speak up for Houstonians too often ignored by city government. We endorse Provost.

[…]

Amanda Edwards

Amanda Edwards

At-Large 4: Amanda Edwards

Candidates often like to run as symbols of a greater issue: the conservative candidate, the community representative, the education wonk. In this race to replace term-limited Councilman C.O. Bradford, Amanda Edwards has become a sign of Houston’s future – hard-working, engaged and passionate.

A municipal finance lawyer with Bracewell and Giuliani, Edwards has more on-the-ground experience than plenty of politicians twice her age (she’s 33). A graduate of Harvard Law School, she has spent years working for community development corporations and nonprofits across the country, from Atlanta (where she served as student body president at Emory University) to New Orleans (where she moved after Hurricane Katrina).

[…]

Jack Christie

Jack Christie

At-Large 5: Jack Christie

For the past four years, Jack Christie has proven to be one of the most confounding members on City Council. He’s collaborative, soft-spoken and effective at working behind the scenes. He’s also expressed a personal opposition to vaccinations and water fluoridation.

Still, to this day, you can count on one hand the number of times that Christie has raised these issues at City Council. There are also plenty of times when the incumbent proved himself to be a well-prepared workhorse.

Christie faces a challenge from Sharon Moses, a former City Council staffer. When she met with the Houston Chronicle editorial board, Moses said she wasn’t running to oust the incumbent. If there’s no reason to boot him from office, voters should re-elect Christie.

The Chron re-endorsed David Robinson in AL2. Edwards was an obvious choice – frankly, she is who they should have endorsed in the first place. Far as I know, they have never endorsed Roy Morales in any of the races he has been in; they were pretty dismissive of him when they endorsed Michael Kubosh over him in the 2013 AL3 runoff.

Both of the other two could have gone either way. The Chron had said some nice things about Knox when they endorsed Tom McCasland in Round One. They didn’t mention Provost at all in that, though they had some kind words for her in their 2013 District D runoff endorsement. I approve of this choice, and I’m guessing they overlooked Provost in November because she wasn’t running much of a campaign at that time. As for Christie, he has been endorsed twice by the Chron before, just not this year. They weren’t necessarily disenchanted with him, I think they just liked Philippe Nassif more. I’m sure they considered Sharon Moses, but for better or worse, in this case they were happy enough to come back to him.

Precinct analysis: At Large #1

This week I’m going to look at the five At Large Council races, beginning with At Large #1. Before I get into the district breakdown, here’s a number to consider: In Harris County, there were 76,675 undervotes in this race. The combined vote total for top two finishers Mike Knox (47,456) and Georgia Provost (28,402) was 75,858. In a very real sense, “none of the above” was the winner in At Large #1.

So with that out of the way, here’s what the vote looked like:


Dist  Griff   McCas    Pool  Provost  Oliver    Knox   Lewis  PGalv
====================================================================
A     2,465   1,415   1,138    1,303   1,113   5,560   1,300     575
B     1,314     927   1,799    5,861   3,183     919   1,817     568
C     5,201   7,154   2,530    1,758   1,863   7,375   6,170     799
D     1,509   1,395   1,623    8,152   4,425   1,657   1,867     606
E     3,040   2,346   1,770    1,395   1,774  10,861   1,247     868
F     1,144     959   1,194    1,093   1,114   2,051     699     472
G     5,242   4,910   1,610    1,287   2,002  12,040   1,748     400
H     1,287   1,463   1,414    1,606   1,472   1,451   1,654   1,739
I     1,250     889   1,113    1,619   1,476   1,258   1,176   1,644
J       719     797     682      750     717   1,601     613     318
K     1,555   1,922   1,536    3,573   2,775   2,678   1,773     553
								
A    16.58%   9.52%   7.65%    8.76%   7.49%  37.39%   8.74%   3.87%
B     8.02%   5.66%  10.98%   35.76%  19.42%   5.61%  11.09%   3.47%
C    15.83%  21.78%   7.70%    5.35%   5.67%  22.45%  18.78%   2.43%
D     7.11%   6.57%   7.64%   38.39%  20.84%   7.80%   8.79%   2.85%
E    13.05%  10.07%   7.60%    5.99%   7.61%  46.61%   5.35%   3.73%
F    13.11%  10.99%  13.68%   12.53%  12.77%  23.50%   8.01%   5.41%
G    17.93%  16.79%   5.51%    4.40%   6.85%  41.18%   5.98%   1.37%
H    10.65%  12.10%  11.70%   13.29%  12.18%  12.01%  13.69%  14.39%
I    11.99%   8.53%  10.68%   15.53%  14.16%  12.07%  11.28%  15.77%
J    11.60%  12.86%  11.01%   12.10%  11.57%  25.84%   9.89%   5.13%
K     9.50%  11.74%   9.39%   21.83%  16.96%  16.36%  10.83%   3.38%
Georgia Provost

Georgia Provost

I’ve previously discussed how if Lane Lewis, Tom McCasland, and Jenifer Pool had been a single candidate instead of three candidates splitting a subset of voters evenly, that candidate would have led the pack. In a slightly different universe, we could be saying the same thing about Georgia Provost and Chris Oliver. In this universe, Provost did sufficiently better than Oliver among their African-American base of voters to break free from the pack and make it to the December election. That gives her a path to build on for the runoff, and with the formal endorsement of the HCDP (sent out on Friday), she stands to inherit the Lewis/McCasland/Pool voters as well. She will need them to win – her base isn’t big enough if Anglo Dems skip this race next month. I didn’t do an interview with Provost for At Large #1 because it never looked like she was running much of a campaign – you can find the interview I did with her in 2013 for District D here – but since Election Day I’ve seen numerous people rallying around her candidacy on Facebook. I’ll be interested to see what her eight day runoff finance report looks like.

It should be noted that if Georgia Provost had split the vote more evenly with Chris Oliver in places like B and D, the immediate beneficiary would have been Griff Griffin. I know a lot of people who were disillusioned by some of the runoff choices they would be facing immediately after the election. Imagine how much worse that would be if the race here were between Griffin and Mike Knox. I have no idea why anyone would vote for Griff, but in a city this size where only a small minority of voters have any idea who the At Large candidates are, let alone have a chance to meet them and get to know them, it’s not surprising that a name the voters have seen every two years since Bill Clinton was President would draw some support. Along those same lines, note that James Partsch-Galvan was the leading vote-getter in Districts H and I. If you don’t know who you’re voting for, vote for a name that sounds familiar. There was a bit of chatter awhile back about eliminating the at large Council seats in favor of an all-district Council. I like the idea of having Council members that represent the whole city, but the data in At Large #1 is as strong an argument in favor of scrapping the at large system that you’ll see.

As for Mike Knox (whose 2013 interview for District A is here), his task is basically that of Bill King, Bill Frazer, and Jack Christie: Run up the score in the Republican boxes, and not do too badly everywhere else. He collected the most endorsements among the late-entry anti-HERO candidates, he had the best overall performance, and he’s run a Council campaign before. I doubt he’ll have much crossover appeal, but his floor is high enough to win if Provost can’t put it together.

Initial day-after-election thoughts

– We now have two cycles’ worth of data to suggest that having more good candidates in a Council race does not necessarily lead to better outcomes. Following in the footsteps of At Large #3 in 2013, a handful of Democratic candidates in At Large #1 split the vote with sufficient closeness to keep them all out of the runoff. The votes were there, they just went too many places. Lane Lewis + Tom McCasland = candidate in the runoff, pretty close to Mike Knox in total. Lane Lewis + Tom McCasland + Jenifer Pool = leading candidate going into the runoff. I have no idea what, if anything, there is to be done about this. There is no secret cabal that meets in a back room to decide who does and doesn’t get to file for a race, and we wouldn’t want there to be one if there were. I’ll just put this out there for candidates who are already looking at 2019, when the terms will be double and the stakes will be concurrently higher: If there’s already a candidate in a race – especially an open seat race – that would would be happy to vote for in a runoff scenario, then maybe supporting them in November rather than throwing your own hat in the ring is the better choice. I realize that framing the choice this way turns this decision-making process into a multi-level Prisoner’s Dilemma, but one can’t help but wonder What Might Have Been.

– On the plus side, the runoffs have given us some clarity:

Mayor – Turner
Controller – Brown

At Large 2 – Robinson
At Large 4 – Edwards

In AL 4, Amanda Edwards faces Roy Morales, who caught and passed Laurie Robinson by less than 900 votes by the end of the evening. As for ALs 1 and 5, I’m still deciding. I said “some” clarity, not complete clarity.

– Speaking of CM Christie, if he loses then there will be no open citywide offices in the next election, which is now 2019. That won’t stop challengers from running in some or all of the other AL races, but it would change the dynamics.

– In District Council runoffs, it’s Cisneros versus Cisneroz in District H, which is going to make that race hard to talk about. Roland Chavez finished 202 votes behind Jason Cisneroz, who got a boost from late-reporting precincts; he had been leading Chavez by less than 40 votes much of the evening. Jim Bigham finished all of 28 votes ahead of Manny Barrera for the right to face CM Mike Laster in December, while CM Richard Nguyen trailed challenger Steve Le but will get another shot in five weeks. I’m concerned about Laster and Nguyen, but at least their opponents pass my minimum standards test for a Council member. That would not have been the case if either third-place finisher (Barrera and Kendall Baker) had made the cut.

– Moving to HISD, if I had a vote it would go to Rhonda Skillern-Jones in II. I would not vote for Manuel Rodriguez in III, but I’d need to get to know Jose Leal better before I could recommend a vote for him.

– Your “Every Vote Matters” reminder for this cycle:


Aldine I.S.D., Trustee, Position 1
=======================================
Tony Diaz                  5,813 49.98%
Patricia "Pat" Bourgeois   5,818 50.02%

Yep, five votes. There were 3,742 undervotes in this race. I have since been forwarded a press release from the Diaz campaign noting that provisional and overseas ballots have not yet been counted, and hinting at a request for a recount down the line. I’d certainly be preparing to ask for one.

– Speaking of undervoting, one prediction I made came true. Here are the undervote rates in At Large Council elections:

AL1 = 28.56%
AL2 = 31.02%
AL3 = 33.09%
AL4 = 28.35%
AL5 = 32.34%

That’s a lot of no-voting. Contrast with the contested district Council races, where the (still high) undervote rates ranged from 15.97% to 22.49%. See here for a comparison to past years.

– Meanwhile, over in San Antonio:

In a stunning outcome, Republican John Lujan and Democrat Tomás Uresti were leading a six-candidate field for Texas House District 118 in nearly complete results late Tuesday.

In his second run for the office, Lujan, 53, showed strength in a district long held by Democrats, narrowly outpolling members of two prominent political families.

“I’m still on pins and needles. It’s not a done deal,” Lujan said with many votes still uncounted.

In his low-key campaign, the retired firefighter, who works in sales for a tech company, emphasized tech training to prepare students for the workforce. His backers included some firefighters and Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC.

Uresti, 55, a legal assistant, is vice chairman of the Harlandale Independent School District. With 35 years of community involvement as a coach, mentor and tutor, Uresti capitalized on his network of friends and family name — his brothers are state Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio and Tax Assessor-Collector Albert Uresti.

“Democrats are going to pull together again to win this one,” Tomás Uresti said of the impending runoff.

A runoff between Lujan and Uresti would be Jan. 19.

Gabe Farias, son of outgoing Rep. Joe Farias, came in third, less than 300 votes behind Uresti. Three Democratic candidates combined for 53.3% of the vote, so I see no reason to panic. Even if Lujan winds up winning the runoff, he’d only have the seat through the end of next year – the real election, which may produce an entirely different set of candidates, is next year, and Democrats should have a clear advantage. Nonetheless, one should never take anything for granted.

– Waller County goes wet:

Waller County voters overwhelmingly passed a proposition Tuesday to legalize the sale of all alcoholic beverages, including mixed drinks.

Though Waller County is not dry everywhere to all types of alcohol, various parts of it have operated under distinct alcohol policies passed in the decades following Prohibition. The change will apply to unincorporated areas of the county.

“I’m ecstatic with the numbers,” said Waller County Judge Carbett “Trey” Duhon III, who had publicly supported the proposition. “… It’s a good result for the county and for all the citizens here.”

Supporters like Duhon have said the measure was needed to smooth over confusing, overlapping rules and to help attract restaurants to a county poised to benefit from Houston’s sprawling growth.

See here for more details. And drink ’em if you got ’em.

– I’m still processing the HERO referendum, and will be sure to dive into precinct data when I get it. (I have a very early subset of precinct data for just the Mayor’s race and the two propositions. I may do some preliminaries with it, but this data is incomplete so I may wait till the official canvass comes out.) One clear lesson to take from this campaign is that lying is a very effective tactic. It also helps when lies are reported uncritically, as if it was just another he said/she said situation. Blaming the media is the world’s oldest trick, and I’m not going to claim that lazy reporting was a deciding factor, but for a group of people that considers itself to be objective truth-seekers, they sure can be trusting and unprepared for for being lied to. As with item 1 above, I don’t know what if anything can be done about this.

– Bond elections and miscellaneous other things are noted elsewhere. Have I missed anything you wanted to see me discuss?

8 day finance reports: Controller candidates

How about a look at the 8 day finance reports for Controller candidates? I figure if you’re reading this blog you won’t look at me funny when I say things like that, so here we go:


Candidate    Raised      Spent      Loans   On Hand
===================================================
Brown        46,375    151,848     30,000    12,067
Frazer       58,953    146,767     32,500    38,072
Khan         44,965    351,902    215,000    32,986
Robinson      6,375          0          0     1,151

Candidate    Advertising     Print/Mail
=======================================
Brown             99,600         34,600
Frazer            76,500         53,000
Khan             307,500         24,000

BagOfMoney

A few comments:

– Neither Dwight Jefferson nor Jew Don Boney have 8 day reports, or for that matter 30 day reports. I have no idea why this is the case. Carroll Robinson’s 8 day report does not list a total for expenses, and it has no itemization of contributions or expenses; there’s basically nothing after the initial cover page.

– Bill Frazer had $16,450 in in-kind contributions listed as “pro-rata share of mailer”, from the C Club and Houston Realty Business Coalition. $69,215 of his expenses were from personal funds, including $50,250 for advertising, $7,490 for “GOTV mailout printing”, and $9,747 for postage.

– 22 off MJ Khan’s 44 contributors gave non-Houston addresses. I think I’ve seen his circa-2009 ad and Chris Brown’s “high school swim team” ad more than any Mayoral candidate’s ads except for maybe Costello. Khan also spent $825 on Facebook ads, because why not?

I have not had the time or energy to do the same scrutiny on Council reports, but this Chron story provides a few highlights.

1. At-large 1: Candidates competing to replace term-limited Stephen Costello, who is running for mayor, dropped nearly $299,00 during the past month. The biggest spender was Tom McCasland, former CEO of the Harris County Housing Authority, whose political action committee dropped nearly $155,000. Mike Knox, who has positioned himself as the conservative candidate, spent $57,000 and Lane Lewis, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, spent $44,000.

2. At-large 4: In another competitive at-large race, seven candidates combined spent $252,000. Amanda Edwards, a municipal finance lawyer, has significantly outpaced competitors in spending, dropping $208,000.

4. At-large 2: Incumbent David Robinson and four contenders spent a combined $147,000. Challenger Eric Dick, a lawyer and former mayoral candidate, shelled out the most, spending almost $75,000. Robinson spent more than $47,000.

Since they didn’t go into it, I will note that in At Large #3, CM Kubosh spent about $28K, while Doug Peterson and John LaRue combined to spend about $12K; in At Large #5, CM Christie spent $60K, while Philippe Nassif spent $13K. I know I’ve received some mail from Amanda Edwards (and also received a mailer yesterday from Chris Brown), as well as two robocalls from Eric Dick and – this is the strangest thing I’ve experienced this campaign – a robocall from “former Houston Rocket Robert Reid on behalf of [his] good friend Griff Griffin”. Who knew Griff even did campaigning? Not that this appeared anywhere on his finance report, as either an expense or an in-kind donation, of course. Let’s not go overboard, you know. Anyway, if you look at the 2015 Election page, you will see that as with the Controllers, several At Large candidates have not filed 8 day reports. James Partsch-Galvan and Joe McElligott have filed no reports; Moe Rivera and Jonathan Hansen have not filed 30 Day or 8 Day reports; Jenifer Pool filed an 8 day but not a 30 day; and Larry Blackmon and Brad Batteau filed 30 day reports but not 8 day reports. It’s possible some of these may turn up later, so I’ll keep looking for them. I’m working on the district reports as well and will list them as I can.

Chron race overview: At Large #1

Here’s the Chron overview of the race to succeed term limited Council Member (now Mayoral candidate) Steve Costello in At Large #1.

CM Stephen Costello

CM Stephen Costello

M. “Griff” Griffin

A perennial candidate in Houston politics, Griffin is running for the council for the 11th time, 22 years after first competing for a spot in 1993. The former owner of Griff’s, a sports bar in the Montrose area that he opened in 1965, Griffin is now a private investigator.

“As an investigator on the City Council, I can do a little more checking out,” Griffin said.

[…]

Mike Knox

Knox, a second-time candidate, positions himself as the conservative the council needs.

“I’m the conservative candidate running to bring conservative financial responsibility to our city’s issues,” Knox said.

[…]

Lane Lewis

Seen by many as the front-runner, Lewis is chair of the Harris County Democratic Party.

An education consultant and former teacher, Lewis ran for the council’s District A seat in 2009 and lost in a runoff. His priorities include infrastructure, transportation and attracting middle-class jobs to Houston to improve the city’s quality of life, but his pitch for office centers on his deep connections in local politics.

[…]

Tom McCasland

McCasland is a first-time candidate for City Hall, but he’s not new to local government. The former CEO of the Harris County Housing Authority, McCasland resigned in August to focus on his campaign.

“I plan to be a full-time city councilperson. I’m the only candidate committed to that,” McCasland said.

[…]

Chris Oliver

Houston Community College trustee Oliver is running for the City Council 15 years after his first attempt in 2000. With his slogan, “An Even Better Houston, An Even Better Tomorrow,” Oliver is looking to address the city’s infrastructure, economic development, safety and fiscal responsibility issues.

“I think we’re facing serious challenges, and now is the time to see whether or not we can start addressing these issues,” Oliver said. “I can serve as a voice to address some other issues we face, from infrastructure to community development.”

[…]

Jenifer Rene Pool

Pool is an activist and owner of a Houston construction company. Pool is running for the City Council for the third time since 2011.

Pool has been an appointee to several city commissions and is a former president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.

“I work hard to represent those who don’t have a voice and I use what influence I have to make everyone’s life a little better,” Pool said.

[…]

Georgia Provost

Photographer and philanthropist Georgia Provost is making her second run for the City Council. A volunteer for many causes, including the Houston Area Urban League, injured law enforcement officers, and fundraising for her alma mater, Texas Southern University, Provost is looking to bring those skills to the City Council.

In addition to addressing infrastructure and economic development, Provost wants to re-evaluate Houston’s city charter to allow council members to more easily add items to the agenda.

There’s also perennial candidate James Partsch-Galvan, who hails from the planet Murgatroid. I have interviews with Lewis, McCasland, Pool, and Oliver and links to Q&As elsewhere for them and others on my Election 2015 page, and interviews with Knox and Provost from the last cycle on my Election 2013 page. McCasland is the Chron candidate, Knox is the Hotze candidate, and Lewis has most of the other endorsements. Here are the totals from their 30 day finance reports, also available on the Election 2015 page:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans On Hand =================================================== Griffin 1,000 1,600 0 895 Knox 22,940 11,370 0 9,349 Lewis 40,164 64,479 100 48,803 McCasland 60,978 33,222 0 112,443 Oliver 9,400 7,840 0 25,230 PartschGalvan Pool Provost 1,956 6,841 0 543

Neither Pool nor Partsch-Galvan have reports available as yet. Griff’s one contribution was from himself, and the two expenditures I saw listed were for less than $1,000 combined, so I have no idea what his numbers mean. I’ve received one mailer from McCasland, and have seen sponsored Facebook posts from him, Lewis, Oliver, and Pool. I tend to agree with the consensus that Lewis is in a good position to make the runoff, but beyond that I have no idea. Who are you supporting in this race?

Endorsement watch: Off to a good start, predictions-wise

First Chron endorsement of the season, and it’s one I called.

Tom McCasland

Tom McCasland

When government is broken, who do you hire to fix it? For the Harris County Housing Authority, the answer was Tom McCasland. Plenty of candidates can tout their ideas for repairing Houston’s problems, but only McCasland has a record of working within government to cut fat, root out corruption and balance budgets. In the race to replace a term-limited Steven Costello for the City Council At-Large 1 seat, voters should send McCasland to City Hall so he can put his skills to work.

McCasland, 42, has a biography that reads like a Horatio Alger story. The child of missionaries, he grew up next to a Navajo reservation in a home that he shared with his nine siblings – no electricity and no running water. From these modest beginnings he ascended to Baylor University for a master’s degree in philosophy, Yale Law School and a job at Vinson & Elkins. McCasland stepped into the public eye, however, when he was appointed to head up the troubled county housing authority after a Chronicle investigation revealed that the agency had wasted millions of dollars on unnecessary expenditures, including statues, parties and executive pay.

As CEO, McCasland cut the operations budget while increasing services to the needy and even giving his lowest-paid employees a much-needed raise. Essentially, he took a slush-fund and successfully rededicated it to its true purpose: helping the poor and homeless find safe places to live. This focus on core services is a philosophy that voters should want to see in City Hall.

[…]

In this field of seven candidates, former police officer Mike Knox and Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lane Lewis also stand out. However, voters should be wary of Chris Oliver, a Houston Community College trustee, who voted for a contract with a major vendor without disclosing it had hired his own company as a subcontractor. He has since apologized for what he calls an “honest mistake,” but there’s little room for mistakes in this crowded race for At-Large 1.

Among all those candidates, McCasland has a proven record of going above and beyond the call of duty in office and deserves voters’ support in this election.

Let’s review. I made McCasland the favorite to get this endorsement, though I thought Lane Lewis had a shot at it. I also suggested the Chron would not be favorable to Chris Oliver. Not too shabby so far. The mention of Mike Knox is a tad bit worrisome, since Knox is an anti-HERO candidate, but he ran a pretty respectable race for District A in 2013, so that probably helped him. As noted, this is the first Chron endorsement, but there are lots more to come. I’ll be keeping an eye on them and updating the 2015 Election page as we go.

Time to guess the Chronicle’s endorsements

vote-button

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

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

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

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

Mayor

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

Controller

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

At Large incumbents

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

At Large open seats

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

District seats

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

HISD and HCC

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

Referenda

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

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

Interview with Tom McCasland

Tom McCasland

Tom McCasland

We continue with the deep field of candidates to succeed term-limited CM Steve Costello in At Large #1. Up next is Tom McCasland, making his first run for public office. He does have campaign experience, however, having worked on Bill White’s team. An attorney and the son of missionaries, McCasland has worked with the Houston Parks Board, helping them get the federal grants that have been instrumental in building out the bayou hike and bike trails. Most recently, he has overseen the previously scandal-plagued Harris County Housing Authority, and has gotten that body back on its feet and serving its purpose. Here’s the interview:

(Note: This interview took place before the Supreme Court ruling that required a repeal or referendum on HERO.)

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

Finance reports come trickling in

As always, the Mayoral reports lead the story.

BagOfMoney

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia closed out the first half of the year with more than $1.3 million in the bank, eclipsing City Councilman Stephen Costello by a mere $7,423.

According to their campaign finance reports, Garcia raised $1.5 million and spent just over $122,000, while Costello raised about $30,000 less in contributions, was loaned $90,000 and spent $496,000.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner and former mayor of Kemah Bill King trailed in cash on hand, reporting $1.1 million and $544,000, respectively.

[…]

Costello’s campaign previously said his funds include a $250,000 personal contribution and a $262,000 transfer from his council account.

Among those with reports already in, King spent the most in the first half of the year, coughing up more than $680,000. He raised more than $755,000 and lent himself an additional $500,000.

Turner’s expenditures came in just under King’s, at $601,000, according to his report. However, his campaign noted that $125,000 of those expenditures were related to his state office, not his mayoral campaign.

After starting the race with about $900,000 in the bank from his legislative account, Turner raised an additional $763,000 in the nine days between when his state fundraising blackout period ended and the close of the reporting period.

See here for more. As previously noted, the reports are not in their usual place due to changes in state law and the reporting system. For now, you can see the reports that the city has posted here. I’ve linked to them on my Election 2015 page and will keep updating that as more of them appear. I’ll do a more in depth look at the reports once they’re all there, starting with the Mayorals, which were added to that page as of last night. Expect that for next week.

The Chron story has a spreadsheet embedded in it with totals for candidates who had turned in reports by publication time. Among the other Mayorals, Chris Bell had raised $381K and had $190K on hand; Ben Hall raised $94K and loaned himself $850K to have $812K on hand; and Mary McVey had raised $60K and loaned himself $1.075M to have $1.071M on hand. Forget the price of oil, this Mayoral campaign will be stimulating the local economy over the next few months.

So far, mayoral fundraising has far overshadowed that for Houston’s second-highest political post, city controller.

Deputy controller Chris Brown reported raising $270,000 and spending $22,000, leaving him with more than $222,000 in cash on hand.

Meanwhile, Bill Frazer, runner-up in the 2013 controller’s race, raised $129,000, received $32,000 in loans, spent $120,000 and closed out the first half of the year with more than $53,000 in the bank.

Former Metro board member Dwight Jefferson lagged behind with $11,000 raised $1,800 loaned and $9,000 spent. It was unclear how much cash he had on hand.

Carroll Robinson had raised $50K and had $5K on hand; Jew Don Boney did not have totals posted. Other hauls of note: Amanda Edwards dominated At Large #4 with $165K raised and $118K on hand. Laurie Robinson was the runnerup with $43K and $26K, respectively. In At Large #1, Tom McCasland ($141K raised, $98K on hand) and Lane Lewis ($104K raised, $62K on hand) were far out in front; Chris Oliver raised $37K and had $23K on hand, while Jenifer Pool had not yet reported. CM Michael Kubosh was the only one with any money in At Large #3, raising $63K and banking $44K. Philippe Nassif had a very respectable $73K raised in At Large #5, but only $12K of it remained, far less than CM Jack Christie’s $100K cash on $124K raised; Durrel Douglas had not yet reported.

For district races, CM Mike Laster had a big haul and an equally big financial lead in J, while CM Richard Nguyen had a decent total in F. His opponent, Steven Le, did not have a report up as of last night. There was surprisingly little money raised in the two-person District G race; Greg Travis led in cash on hand over Sandie Moger thanks to a $41K loan to himself. Roland Chavez had the most raised and the most on hand in H, with Karla Cisneros and Jason Cisneroz a notch back. Abel Davila raised a small amount but loaned himself $20K to be even in cash on hand with the other two.

That’s it for now. For the other races, HISD and HCC reports lag behind the city’s – HISD by a little, HCC by a lot – so I’ll keep an eye on those and update as needed. As always, fundraising is just one aspect of one’s candidacy, and is in no way predictive in many races. We only get a few chances a year to see who’s funding whom, and this is one of them. I’ll have more when I can.

Robinson resigns from HCC Board

Yeah, it’s campaign season.

Carroll Robinson

Carroll Robinson

Carroll Robinson, who has served as a Houston Community College trustee since 2012, will leave the college board to focus on his run for city controller, he announced Friday.

In a letter announcing his resignation, Robinson counted among his accomplishments helping with the creation of a sixth-grade pre-admission program, pushing to increase funding for scholarships and his involvement in establishing the Texas Academic Scholarship Day.

“All these things have helped bring a greater focus to improving the graduation rate and job placement rates for HCC students,” Robinson said. “The policies I implemented at HCC are a part of my broader commitment to ensuring that all Houstonians — our families, children, entrepreneurs and businesses — have An Opportunity To Do Better.”

There’s a full field for Controller, including Bill Frazer, Jew Don Boney, Dwight Jefferson, and Chris Brown, so one can understand the reason behind the resignation. As the story notes, Robinson’s brief tenure on the HCC Board has not been without some controversy. Robinson;s departure means that the Board will appoint a replacement Trustee, who (I believe) will be on the November ballot. That makes four Trustee elections on tap; as noted in January, fellow Trustees Adriana Tamez (who won a special election in 2013 to complete the unfinished term of now-former State Rep. Mary Ann Perez), Eva Loredo, and Sandie Mullins Moger (formerly Meyers), are up for re-election. Moger, however, is now confirmed to be running for City Council District G, so someone else will run for that position. Chris Oliver, who is not up for re-election, is as we know running for Council At Large #1, so there may be another vacancy to fill next year. And finally, as long as I’m mentioning At Large #1, this seems like as good a place as any to note that candidate Tom McCasland, who had announced his intention to run without specifying an office, has now officially declared AL1 to be his target. So there you have it.

Should Lane Lewis resign as HCDP Chair to run for Council?

That’s the question some people are asking.

Lane Lewis

Lane Lewis

“What I want is someone who is going to be, at least in the political world, dedicated 100 percent to the mission of advancing the ideals of the Democratic Party,” said John Gorczynski, a local Democratic staffer and head of the Young Democrats of Texas. “If someone’s going to be running a campaign, I can’t imagine what that would look like.”

Lewis’ fundraiser next month will be hosted at the home of Bill Baldwin, the former county Democratic finance chair who resigned a few weeks ago to raise money for Lewis’ bid, a move intended to make the line between the party and the campaign clear. Some are calling for Lewis to follow Baldwin’s example and resign.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said Lewis should consider that, adding there would be a potential conflict of interest between Lewis trying to neutrally advance the Democratic Party – which includes several members running against him for council – while “competing in the trenches” himself.

“When you serve as party chair, you at least leave some of your political ambition at the door,” Jones said.

Lewis faces Houston Community College trustee Chris Oliver, local Democratic activists Jenifer Rene Pool and Philippe Nassif, Republican activist Trebor Gordon, and possibly Harris County Housing Authority chief Tom McCasland in the non-partisan race to succeed term-limited city councilman Stephen Costello in the At Large 1 council seat.

[…]

The county Democratic and Republican parties typically stay out of endorsing candidates in non-partisan municipal races, but Jones said that some Democratic elected officials and campaign staff may be pressured away from backing any of Lewis’ opponents.

Oliver and some Democratic activists also charge that Lewis could improperly use the party’s email list – though Lewis said the campaign email list was culled from his phone’s contacts, not the party’s -and that his time spent preparing the party for 2016 would now be split between his personal campaign and the party’s.

“That person should be focusing on Democratic Party politics, not city council politics,” said Oliver, a Democrat.

Lewis is not required to resign, as some but not all elected office holders are. My opinion is that we’re early enough in the cycle that being Chair and being a candidate are not inherently in conflict. Any candidate running a full-fledged campaign is likely to find as time goes on that it doesn’t leave much room in his or her life for other things. Lewis may eventually decide he should resign just to ensure he has enough hours in the day to do all the things he needs to do. Alternately, he may find that more and more Democratic activists, the kind of people whose vote he will want in November, are grumbling that the duties of HCDP Chair are being neglected and someone else needs to take over to ensure there isn’t a mess to clean up going into 2016. Or maybe he’ll be able to handle it all, and the complaints will be limited to his opponents and their supporters. As I say, I think it’s too early to know. But he should be prepared to resign at the first sign of the juggling act being too much. Lane Lewis has done a good job as HCDP Chair, but no one is irreplaceable. If leaving will be necessary, better to do so a little too early than a little too late. A statement from candidate Philippe Nassif is here, and Campos has more.

More candidate updates

Another Council hopeful tosses his hat into the ring, though we don’t know exactly which office he intends to seek just yet.

Tom McCasland

Tom McCasland, who took over the Harris County Housing Authority after it suffered in scandal, will run for an at-large city council seat this year, according to a campaign treasurer designation.

McCasland told the Chronicle Thursday that he has not yet decided which of the five at-large seats to seek, but that he plans to make a decision over the next month-and-a-half. Incumbents are term-limited in at-large positions 1 and 4, and those vacancies have drawn most of the candidates over the past six months.

“I’m taking a look at all the options,” he said.

The HCHA director designated a treasurer for a campaign committee and a separate specific-purpose political action committee to support his campaign this week. He said he currently is assembling a campaign team and raising money.

See this Chron story for some background on McCasland, and this story for a brief refresher on the mess he inherited at HCHA. The Houston Politics post also mentions that McCasland worked on Bill White’s 2010 campaign for Governor. Far as I can recall I’ve never met him and don’t know anything about him beyond what I’ve noted here. Sometimes, people who say they’re running for “something” but don’t specify what wind up not running for anything. We’ll see what happens here.

Meanwhile, two other candidates who had previously been reported to be running for something have confirmed their candidacies. The first announcement to hit my inbox this past week came from Amanda Edwards, who is now officially a candidate for At Large #4. You can read her press release here.

The other candidate to confirm what we had expected to be true is Bill Frazer, who sent out a media advisory saying that he will formally announce his candidacy for Controller on February 17. Frazer is one of three sure candidates, with two others still on the periphery. February is prime candidate-announcing time, so expect this sort of thing to continue for the next few weeks at least.