Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

write-in candidate

Independent candidates’ day

Continuing with a theme, there are a lot of wannabe independent candidates for various offices, most of whom will never make it onto the ballot.

Dallas billionaire Ross Perot did it in 1992 and 1996. Satirist Kinky Friedman and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn did it in 2006. They each got on the ballot as independent candidates in the November general election—Perot twice for president, and Friedman and Strayhorn as candidates for governor. None won, but they were on the ballot and votes for them got counted. This year, “Will Rap 4 Weed” and sixty-nine other people have given notice to the Texas Secretary of State that they intend to run as independent candidates for state and federal office this November.

But getting on the ballot as an independent in Texas is no easy task. A want-to-be candidate can’t just buy a spot; they’ve got to collect signatures on a ballot petition. For governor this year, valid signatures are required from a number of people equal to one percent of the total vote in the 2014 gubernatorial election—47,183 signatures from qualified voters. To make it even more difficult, the petition drives can only occur between the end of the major party primaries for the office the independent is seeking and a deadline of 5 p.m. on June 21. And the individual signing the petition cannot have voted in a primary or signed a petition for another candidate running for the same office.

“Texas is the only state that requires independent candidates to file a declaration of candidacy virtually an entire year before the general election,” said Richard Winger, editor of a national election-focused newsletter, Ballot Access News. Federal courts struck down similar laws in South Carolina in 1990 and in West Virginia in 2016, he said, adding that the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1983 decision noted that independent candidates with substantial support usually only emerge after the voting public know the names of the Democratic and Republican nominees. But Texas required independent candidates to file their intent to run for the 2018 election by December 11, 2017. “If the federal judges in Texas were of higher caliber, the Texas December deadline would have been struck down long ago,” Winger told me.

Nevertheless, the law remains intact along with its petition requirement.

The issue of Texas’ statutory requirements for getting on the ballot as an independent have come up before, most recently in 2016, but that ship appears to have sailed. Author RG Ratcliffe kindly put together this compendium of no-label hopefuls, and believe it or not there are a couple of names I recognize. Lori Bartley, running in CD18, was the Republican candidate in my Congressional district in 2016. There must be something enticing about that prospect here, because there are two other indies seeking a spot on the ballot alongside her. Scott Cubbler, running in CD02, was one of thirteen write-in candidates for President
anyone can be written in, but one must register with the SOS to have those votes be officially counted – in 2016. A grand total of 314 people did so. He was also a classmate of mine in college, and I guess I may have to satisfy my curiosity and ask him what he thinks he’s getting out of this experience. Anyway, the list of potential indies is there if for some reason you need it. None of them are official till they turn in their petitions, and please note that if you choose to sign one of their petitions you cannot vote in a primary, lest you render your signature void. Happy trails, y’all.

Precinct analysis: None of the above

We have been told that this was a year where many people were unhappy with the two main choices they had for President. We looked at Presidential numbers in Harris County before, and now we’re going to look again, at write-in candidates and at undervotes.

Dist McMullen  All WI  McMullin%  All WI%
HD126     354     417      0.57%    0.67%
HD127     444     521      0.60%    0.70%
HD128     152     192      0.25%    0.32%
HD129     364     446      0.52%    0.64%
HD130     479     554      0.59%    0.68%
HD131      63      87      0.14%    0.19%
HD132     398     461      0.57%    0.67%
HD133     425     517      0.56%    0.68%
HD134     627     707      0.69%    0.78%
HD135     268     316      0.44%    0.52%
HD137      89     100      0.32%    0.36%
HD138     234     293      0.45%    0.57%
HD139     113     135      0.21%    0.26%
HD140      36      47      0.13%    0.17%
HD141      22      42      0.06%    0.11%
HD142     141     150      0.31%    0.33%
HD143      32      46      0.10%    0.14%
HD144      39      56      0.14%    0.20%
HD145      64      80      0.18%    0.21%
HD146     234     267      0.48%    0.54%
HD147     164     179      0.28%    0.31%
HD148     283     324      0.58%    0.66%
HD149     117     145      0.27%    0.33%
HD150     505     596      0.66%    0.78%

Dist     None   Total   None %
HD126   1,349  63,214    2.13%
HD127   1,480  75,620    1.96%
HD128     909  60,656    1.50%
HD129   1,307  71,355    1.83%
HD130   1,501  83,009    1.81%
HD131     899  47,459    1.89%
HD132   1,285  70,519    1.82%
HD133   1,914  78,173    2.45%
HD134   2,313  93,167    2.48%
HD135   1,111  61,619    1.80%
HD137     590  28,027    2.11%
HD138   1,049  52,787    1.99%
HD139   1,056  53,829    1.96%
HD140     637  28,652    2.22%
HD141     726  39,243    1.85%
HD142     819  46,243    1.77%
HD143     663  34,279    1.93%
HD144     601  28,120    2.14%
HD145     753  35,918    2.10%
HD146     936  50,081    1.87%
HD147   1,205  59,489    2.01%
HD148   1,083  49,819    2.17%
HD149     973  44,955    2.16%
HD150   1,463  78,180    1.87%

The first table documents the votes for Evan McMullin, who drew by far the most votes among the thirteen certified write-in candidates, which means the thirteen whose votes were actually counted. The second column is for all write-in votes for the given district. There were 6,510 total write-in votes, with McMullin receiving 5,647 of them. To put that in some perspective, Ralph Nader received 1,716 write-in votes in 2004, for 0.17% of the vote. McMullen had 0.43% of the vote, a hair less than half of Jill Stein’s 0.90% share.

Not surprisingly, McMullin drew most of his votes in heavily Republican districts. That’s no doubt because McMullin ran as a viable alternative for Republicans who were unhappy with Trump, and because there were more Republicans in those places. The two districts that stand out here are HDs 128, the only Republican district where McMullin finished below his countywide percentage, and 146, the only Democratic area where he outperformed the overall number. My guess for HD128 is that the voters there were just happier with Trump than voters elsewhere. As for HD146, I got nothing. Feel free to speculate about that in the comments.

The second table is for undervotes, which is to say the people who did not vote in the Presidential race. As you might imagine, that is usually the race that has the lowest undervote rate. This year, the undervote rate in the Presidential race was 1.99%; the next lowest rate was in the Tax Assessor’s race, where 3.47% skipped it. County judicial races were around five percent. Before I talk about the rates in each district, here’s how the Presidential undervote compared to other years:

Year   Undervote   Under%
2016      26,622    1.99%
2012      15,381    1.28%
2008      17,185    1.45%
2004      20,692    1.90%

Gotta say, I would not have expected 2004 to have had that many undervoters. I don’t see much of a pattern here. HD128 again demonstrated its satisfaction with the candidates by having the lowest undervote rate, but the districts that gave McMullin the most support did not necessarily have high undervote rates. Both Democratic and Republican districts above average and below average. Maybe you see something there, and maybe if I went down to the precinct level I’d see something, but right now I don’t. It just is what it is.

I’m going to take a crack at Fort Bend and Dallas Counties next week. As always, let me know what you think.

McMullin will “appear” on the ballot

To the extent that a write-in candidate “appears” on the ballot, anyway.

Will not be on the ballot

Will not be on the ballot

Texas voters will be able to vote for former CIA operative Evan McMullin for president in November.

The Texas secretary of state’s office on Friday certified McMullin, who is running as an independent, as a write-in candidate for the general election. McMullin, a former chief policy director of the House Republican Conference, said on Twitter that his campaign had “resolved the misunderstanding” with the state over his application.

As part of the approval process, McMullin was required to submit written statements of consent from 38 presidential elector candidates. But one of the electors originally submitted by McMullin was deemed ineligible. He was certified after submitting a replacement elector.

Raise your hand if you knew this was the process. Now put your hand back down, because I don’t believe you. At least we now have an answer to the question that no one was asking, namely “What do Evan McMullin and Robert Morrow have in common?” Also, too, I presume this means that McMullin is no longer pursuing a lawsuit to be allowed to get on the ballot as an independent. Google has no news about Souraya Faas, the candidate who actually did file such a lawsuit, then apparently lost interest in it. As such, I think it’s safe to say that the lineup is now set. I will note that there were over 13,000 write-in votes for President cast in 2008, with the vast bulk of them going to Ralph Nader and Chuck Baldwin. I will be very impressed if Evan McMullin can approach either of their totals.

Independent candidate lawsuit update

There’s already been a lawsuit filed by a wannabe independent candidate for President seeking to get on the ballot in Texas, but not by that guy you might have heard of.

Will not be on the ballot

Will not be on the ballot

It’s still up in the air whether Evan McMullin, a former CIA agent who declared his presidential candidacy this month, will make it on the ballot here.

The deadline to file to run as an independent in Texas, and turn in petitions signed by nearly 80,000 voters who didn’t vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary elections was in May. The deadline to file to run as a write-in candidate was earlier this month.

McMullin, of Salt Lake City — who has gotten his name on ballots in a handful of states including Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota and Utah — has indicated he may sue to get on the Texas ballot.

His political strategists have suggested that a legal challenge might find success in Texas, since the deadline to file as an independent this year fell before Democrats and Republicans knew who their general election candidate would be.

McMullin campaign staffers didn’t respond to requests for information about whether a court challenge in Texas is moving forward.

Texas election officials say they have not received a lawsuit from McMullin. But they did send him a letter letting him know he was not certified as a write-in candidate.

“Our office did not receive the required 38 presidential elector candidate forms from active voters,” according to the letter written by Keith Ingram, director of elections for the Texas secretary of state’s office. “Please be advised that your name will not be on the ballot.”

McMullin’s staff is still sending out emails to potential supporters saying, “It’s never too late to stand for what is right.”

Another lawsuit to get a presidential candidate on the Texas ballot is proceeding for now.

Souraya Faas of Florida sued Texas and Secretary of State Carlos Cascos in May claiming that state restrictions “on independent presidential candidacy and ballot access violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.”

“Souraya Faas seeks the presidency of the United States and to give the voters a choice to vote for her as an independent candidate in Texas,” the lawsuit states. “Since she announced her candidacy, the presidential campaigns within the major political parties have devolved into unprecedented rancor.

“The front-runners for the major party nominations are viewed as unpopular and undesirable by a not insignificant number of party partisans and independent voters.”

Now Faas is asking the court to declare unconstitutional parts of the Texas election code that “deny equal protection for independent presidential candidates.”

“Texas’ statutory scheme imposes a greater burden on the rights of voters and independent candidates than other states,” her lawsuit states.

The case could be thrown out soon if Faas doesn’t submit documents showing why the case shouldn’t be dismissed, according to court records filed in the Southern District of Texas Houston Division.

See here for more on Evan McMullin and his talk about suing to get on the ballot in Texas. I hesitate to be more definitive than that, as we are near the statutory deadline for printing overseas ballots and he still hasn’t done anything more than make vague statements about maybe doing something. As for Souraya Faas, she’s apparently been in the race for awhile. Here’s some information on her lawsuit, which was filed back in May. Why she would be successful where Ralph Nader wasn’t is unclear to me, and that’s before we contemplate her apparent lack of submitting documents for her case. My guess is that in another week or two we’ll not hear anything from or about either of these two again.

We won’t have Robert Morrow to kick around any longer

Valar morghulis, y’all.

Robert Morrow

Robert Morrow

The brief, zany tenure of Travis County GOP Chairman Robert Morrow came to an end Friday, as party officials made clear the conspiracy theorist abandoned his post by running for president and he accepted their conclusion without question.

Inside a nondescript office park in Austin, party officials convened reporters to lay out their case, saying Morrow’s application to be a write-in candidate for the White House, filed last week, “resulted in an immediate vacancy” at the top of the county party. Waiting in the lobby afterward was Morrow, wearing his trademark jester’s hat and carrying the “Trump is a Child Rapist” sign that had got him booted from a rally for the Republican presidential nominee Tuesday in Austin.

“I’m in complete agreement with them because I’m running for president,” Morrow said of party officials’ conclusion. “It’s clear: You can’t be the president of the United States of America, or even run for president, and be the chairman of a political party, and I’m fine with that.”

It marked a relatively noncontroversial finish to Morrow’s controversial tenure, which was sparked by his surprise victory over incumbent James Dickey in the March elections. Alarmed by Morrow’s conspiracy theory-fueled bombast and disinterest in actually running the organization, party officials created a steering committee in June that handled many of the duties typically reserved for the chairman.


The writing was on the wall Thursday, when word got out that the secretary of state’s office accepted Morrow as a write-in presidential candidate. By the end of the day, the county party was getting backup from the state party, whose chairman Tom Mechler issued a statement affirming that Morrow became ineligible to serve as county chairman upon filing for president.

On Friday, Morrow did not exactly say whether he knew that when he applied to be a write-in candidate he was effectively resigning from the county party. “I knew in the back of my mind,” Morrow told reporters, “it might cause a problem.”

That’s a slight change from what Morrow had been saying on Thursday, when word of this development first came to light.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, state GOP Chairman Tom Mechler said Morrow “became ineligible to hold the office of Travis County Republican Chair” upon filing Friday to be a write-in candidate. Morrow told The Texas Tribune earlier Thursday he could not be ousted.

“They don’t have the grounds to do that, and anybody who says so is probably lying,” Morrow said. “The case law on this is probably extremely thin.”


A party spokesman declined to elaborate on the announcement, but a person close to the party said the news conference will likely be about Morrow’s fate. It was not immediately clear how the process of Morrow stepping down would unfold, and at least one party official cautioned that the party was still conferring over the issue.

The county party nonetheless has the support of Mechler.

“There is absolutely no place for rhetoric as distasteful as Mr. Morrow’s in the Republican Party of Texas,” Mechler said in the statement. “We are excited to move forward with the Travis County GOP and the new incoming Chair as soon as an election is held to fill the position.”

The bombastic Morrow fired back on Twitter by asking Mechler to perform a sex act on him. Morrow remained defiant as speculation built Thursday afternoon that an effort was afoot to see him out as chairman.

“If other people attempt to pull a coup like this, there will be trouble,” Morrow added. “The bottom line is the Texas voters, the Republican Party, have spoken.”

It’s hard to know what might have happened between Thursday and Friday to facilitate Morrow’s change of mind, probably because as Dave Barry once said about Lyndon LaRouche, where you and I have a brain, Robert Morrow has a Whack-a-Mole game. Be that as it may, this is a terrible loss for people who need some cheap, tawdry laughs in their political news consumption, a group in which I include myself. Also, too, did you know it only took 38 signatures to “appear” on the ballot as a write-in candidate for President, by which I mean “have the write-in votes that are cast for you included in the official count by the Secretary of State”? And that Morrow met that threshold, but Evan McMullin did not? I can’t wait to see if Morrow manages to exceed 38 actual votes this November; the low total among 2012 Presidential write-ins was 87, so I’d say he has a decent shot at it. We may never see his like again, that’s for sure. The Austin Chronicle has more.

Evan McMullin to sue for ballot access in Texas

You know, that guy who recently turned up as the latest NeverTrump dreamboat? He wants on the ballot in Texas.

Will not be on the ballot

Will not be on the ballot

Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, an ex-CIA officer and congressional policy wonk who launched his campaign last week to offer “Never Trump” Republicans a conservative option, faces a steep political challenge gaining enough support to affect the November election.

And by jumping into the race so late, McMullin will need to clear significant legal hurdles, as well. Filing deadlines for independent candidates in more than half of the states have already passed, and several more deadlines are fast approaching.

That will mean going to court — including in Texas, where an independent had to gather nearly 80,000 signatures by May.

“Our intention in Texas is to file a legal challenge, and we think that the great people of Texas will agree with us that there shouldn’t be artificial boundaries on the kinds of people that can run for president,” said Joel Searby, the campaign’s chief strategist.

Noting that Texas’ May 9 petition deadline — by far the earliest in the country — fell long before the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions, Searby argues that prospective independent candidates were unable to take into consideration the choices of the two major parties before deciding whether to run.

“There’s just so many restrictions on ballot access in Texas, and Texas is generally a very open and independent and free-thinking kind of place,” Searby said. “So we don’t think the people of Texas are going to want to keep that law.”

A general counsel is coordinating the campaign’s ballot access efforts across multiple states, Searby said, and the campaign has also been in touch with Texas lawyers. Garland attorney Matthew Sawyer, who worked on Texas business magnate Ross Perot’s Reform Party presidential run in 1996, has reportedly been involved with the effort. Reached by phone last week, Sawyer directed all questions to the campaign.

Ballot access experts are split on McMullin’s chances of winning a federal lawsuit. To Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News and a longtime activist on the issue, McMullin’s case is a slam dunk, particularly in Texas.

“Texas is in a class by itself. The Texas deadline is impossible to defend,” Winger said. Pointing to the later deadline for independent candidates running for offices in Texas other than president, Winger contends there is “powerful evidence that the presidential deadline is unconstitutional, and that’s all he needs to show.”

But prominent Texas election attorney Buck Wood, who has represented several state-level candidates challenging independent ballot restrictions in the past, sees it exactly the other way.

“I don’t see any possibility of him getting on the ballot in Texas,” Wood said. “Just because you made your decision too late is not an excuse. You have to go back and say, even had we made the decision back then, it still would have been so onerous as to have been unconstitutional, and the chances of that are nil.”

The story recounts the process for getting on the ballot as an independent in Texas, and also notes that Ralph Nader tried and failed to sue his way onto the ballot in 2004 after coming up short in the signature-collecting process. My money’s with Buck Wood on this one, but I don’t really care one way or another. Nobody knows who Evan McMullin is – he basically got zero percent in that PPP poll – and he’s extremely unlikely to raise the kind of dough to become any better known to Texas voters. If I had to guess, I’d say that any votes he does get will come primarily at the expense of Gary Johnson, who is already an alternative for some NeverTrumpers who can’t bring themselves to vote for Hillary Clinton. McMullin could do what Nader ultimately did in Texas and file a declaration to be counted as a write-in candidate, but the deadline for that is Monday, and he doesn’t have a running mate yet as required. So, you know, tick tock tick tock. I’ll keep an eye on this because that’s what I do, but I don’t expect anything interesting to come of it. Link via Burkablog.

No indies

Not in Texas and not for President, anyway.

Will not be on the ballot

Will not be on the ballot

[Last] Monday was the deadline for independent candidates for president to get on the ballot in Texas.

Nobody showed up.

The Texas Secretary of State’s office, which administers elections, closed its doors Monday afternoon with no applications. And they would have noticed, too: Independent candidates have to submit their names along with petitions from 79,939 registered voters who, like the candidates themselves, did not take part in either the Republican or Democratic primaries.

That’s a pile of paper.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s imminent nomination as the Republican Party’s candidate for president, there has been some chatter in conservative ranks about a third-party candidate more palatable to the GOP establishment.

It’s getting late for that. The general election is in six months, and state deadlines for filing are starting to come up on the calendar.

As the story notes, a would-be independent candidate could possibly sue to get on Texas’ ballot, following the example of John Anderson in 1980. That presumes that such a candidate exists and has the wherewithal to file and successfully argue a lawsuit. And that presumes that such a candidate would want to be on the ballot in Texas, which if one is aiming to be the “not Trump alternative that unhappy conservatives can support” one probably does. (Mark Cuban has already declined to be that candidate.) Time’s a-wastin’, that’s all I’m saying. One can also file as an official write-in candidate, which is to say a write-in candidate whose votes actually get counted, but one should keep one’s expectations low if one chooses that path. The high-water mark for a write-in candidate in any Presidential race going back to 1992 is 9,159 votes in 2004 by Ralph Nader, and it’s fair to say he was better known than your average write-in would be. It was also worth 0.12% of the vote, so just a little bit short of a majority. But hey, dream big.

Interview with Eva Loredo

Eva Loredo

Eva Loredo

Of all the downballot races in odd numbered years, HCC Trustee elections have the greatest disparity between their importance and the amount of attention paid to them. The farce of Dave Wilson getting elected in 2013 is the lesson we all need to learn about that. There are two contested HCC races this year, both of which involve incumbents. Eva Loredo is my HCC Trustee, in District 8. A retired teacher and principal, Loredo won the strangest local election in my memory as an unopposed write-in candidate. See here, here, and here for the details of how that came to be. She’s running for re-election – officially on the ballot this time – against the person who would have been gifted the seat back in 2009. Here’s our conversation:

(Note: This interview took place before the most recent contretemps involving Dave Wilson.)

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

January campaign finance reports – HCC Trustees

There are nine trustees on the HCC board. With them serving six-year terms, in a normal year three trustees are up for re-election; 2013 was an abnormal year, with two extra races to fill out unexpired terms. We are back to normal this time, so we have three races. As with HISD, at this time all incumbents that are up are currently expected to run for re-election, and no opponents have emerged at this early date. Here are the incumbents in question.

Adriana Tamez, District III

Dr. Tamez won one of those two special elections from 2013, to fill out the term of Mary Ann Perez, who stepped down after winning in HD144 in 2012. The candidate she defeated in the runoff was one of two supported by Dave Wilson, so that was extra sweet. (Speaking of Wilson, he nominated himself for Board President at the start of this year, but had to withdraw after no one seconded him. Then, to add insult to injury, Zeph Capo, who defeated Wilson’s buddy Yolanda Navarro Flores in 2013, was elected Board President. Sucks to be you, Dave.) Tamez was elected Board Secretary for this year.

Sandie Mullins, District VI

Sandie Mullins, formerly Meyers, is serving her first term on the Board. She was elected in 2009 without facing an opponent to fill the seat formerly held by now-State Rep. Jim Murphy. (Mills Worsham was named to replace Murphy in 2007 after his initial election in HD133, then Worsham ran for Council in 2009 instead of a full term on HCC.) Like Murphy and her ex-husband, HISD Trustee Greg Meyers, Mullins is a Republican, one of two on the board along with you-know-who. She is herself an alumna of HCC, and serves or has served on a number of other boards.

Eva Loredo, District VIII

Under normal circumstances, Eva Loredo would not be on the HCC Board. She didn’t file for the race in 2009, against incumbent Abel Davila. No one did, and on filing deadline day Davila was expected to run unopposed for re-election. Except that he decided at the last minute not to run, and instead his brother-in-law Art Aguilar filed. That led to a medium-sized crap storm, which led to Aguilar’s withdrawal. Loredo had by then submitted paperwork to be a write-in candidate, with some assistance from the late Sen. Mario Gallegos, and with no other candidate on the ballot, she won. She would be on the ballot this time.

As for finance reports, you may recall that as recently as 2011 it was damn near impossible to lay one’s hands on HCC Trustee finance reports. I claim a small measure of the credit for changing that situation. Be that as it may, the fact that these reports are now available online at this link doesn’t mean that they’re available in a timely fashion. Despite the fact that the city, the county, the school board, and the state all had theirs up within a day or so of the January 15 deadline, HCC still had nothing more recent than last July’s as of yesterday. So those are the totals I will include, pending them getting off their butts and updating this information.

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Tamez 7,150 15,392 7,000 610 Mullins 0 1,878 0 18,400 Loredo 0 492 0 2,004 Oliver 8,225 6,060 0 2,165

So there you have it. I’ve included the totals for Chris Oliver as well, since he is now running for Council. I’ll update all this in July, and ought to have my Election 2015 page up by then as well.

Endorsement watch: Congress

Nothing to see here. Six contested Congressional races in Harris County – the 7th CD, in which there is a write-in candidate but no Democrat on the ballot, is not included – six recommendations for the incumbents. Had there been a credible Democratic challenger in CD07, it would have been interesting to see what the Chron would have done, given that they endorsed the challenger in 2008 after giving a decidedly un-ringing endorsement to the incumbent in 2006. (They do seem to like telling certain candidates to change who they are.) But we’ll have to wait till 2012 for that.

Endorsement watch: HCC trustees

The Chron endorses in the HCC Trustee races, which even I had forgotten they hadn’t yet done.

In the westside District VI, Sandie Meyers is unopposed as the replacement for incumbent Robert Mills Worsham.

In District III, which stretches from near southeast Houston to Beltway 8, the Chronicle endorses one-term incumbent Diane Olmos Guzman , a public relations specialist and small business owner with a B.A. in journalism from the University of Houston.

I confess, I know exactly nothing about the District III race. I don’t recall seeing any endorsements being made in this one contested race by most of the usual endorsing organizations. Which, when you recall that these are for six-year terms that have no resign-to-run requirement, is a shame. Anyone have any thoughts about this one?

Outgoing District VIII incumbent Abel Davila embarrassed himself and HCC by leading constituents to think he was running for re-election to the central and eastside district, only to be a no-show at the filing deadline. His brother-in-law, Arturo Aguilar, filed instead but then dropped out of the race two days later.

Luckily, retired educator and community activist Eva Loredo had the foresight to register as a write-in candidate and is in position to pick up the pieces left by Davila and provide District VIII with a qualified representative.

That’s my district, which I hadn’t really realized till I got a mailer from Loredo over the weekend; I’ll have a scan of it up shortly. Your HCC Trustee district isn’t printed on your voter registration card – you need to find your registration online to see what district you’re in. She’s the first write-in candidate I’ve ever voted for, and may I say that’s a pain in the rear to do on the eSlate machine. Better than having to pay for a special election because there were no candidates on the ballot, though. I can’t wait to see how many votes she actually gets.

Interview with Progressive Coalition candidates

(l-r) Donald Cook, Deb Shafto, Alfred Molison

(l-r) Donald Cook, Deb Shafto, Alfred Molison

I know I said I was finished with Council candidate interviews, but I wound up with one more, and will have two more HISD Trustee interviews to run next week as well. Today’s interview is a bit of a departure, in that it is with three candidates at once. They are Donald Cook, Deborah Shafto, and Alfred Molison, and they are running as the Progressive Coalition for Houston City Council. Cook is a candidate for At Large #1, Shafto for At Large #4, and Molison is running as a write-in candidate in District C. Their platform and priorities are a little different than the other candidates I’ve spoken to, so it was a very interesting change of pace. Give them a listen and see what you think.

Download the MP3 file.


Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A
Herman Litt, At Large #1
Natasha Kamrani, HISD Trustee in District I, not running for re-election
Alex Wathen, District A
Robert Kane, District F
Council Member Melissa Noriega, At Large #3
Jeff Downing, District A
Mike Laster, District F
Council Member Jolanda Jones, At Large #5
Mills Worsham, District G
Rick Rodriguez, At Large #1
Council Member Sue Lovell, At Large #2
Carlos Obando, At Large #5
Richard Sedita, District G
Jack Christie, At Large #5
Dexter Handy, District G
George Foulard, District G
Alma Lara, HISD Trustee District I
Anna Eastman, HISD Trustee District I
Linda Toyota, HISD Trustee District I
Council Member Ed Gonzalez, District H
Council Member Wanda Adams, District D
Council Member Anne Clutterbuck, District C

What happens now in HCC District 8?

As we know, after the filing-deadline shenanigans in the HCC Trustee District 8 race, brother-in-law candidate Arturo Aguilar said he was withdrawing from the ballot. As I noted at the time, that meant there were no other candidates who had filed before the deadline for that office. The question is what happens in that race?

First, are we sure that Aguilar can withdraw? If this were an even-numbered year and a partisan race, the answer would be No, as that deadline would be 74 days before the election. However, in this kind of race, Section 145.092 of the Elections Code applies:

Sec. 145.092. DEADLINE FOR WITHDRAWAL. (a) Except as otherwise provided by this section, a candidate may not withdraw from an election after 5 p.m. of the second day before the beginning of early voting by personal appearance.

(b) A candidate in an election for which the filing deadline for an application for a place on the ballot is not later than 5 p.m. of the 62nd day before election day may not withdraw from the election after 5 p.m. of the 53rd day before election day.

That makes the deadline to withdraw this Friday, September 11. Let’s assume Aguilar does so, if he hasn’t already.

Now again, if this were a general election for state or county office, and given that Aguilar’s was the only name on the ballot, there would be a prescribed procedure for replacing him; basically, the chairs of the county Republican and Democratic Parties would choose a replacement nominee by whatever internal process they have. Note that this only applies in the event of an otherwise uncontested race – had there been more than one candidate, then no replacements are chosen and whoever else was nominated from the other parties would duke it out. This was the Tom DeLay story in 2006.

But this isn’t that kind of an election. Here’s what the law says about Aguilar’s withdrawal, in Section 145.094:

Sec. 145.094. WITHDRAWN, DECEASED, OR INELIGIBLE CANDIDATE’S NAME OMITTED FROM BALLOT. (a) The name of a candidate shall be omitted from the ballot if the candidate:

(1) dies before the second day before the date of the deadline for filing the candidate’s application for a place on the ballot;

(2) withdraws or is declared ineligible before 5 p.m. of the second day before the beginning of early voting by personal appearance, in an election subject to Section 145.092(a);

(3) withdraws or is declared ineligible before 5 p.m. of the 53rd day before election day, in an election subject to Section 145.092(b); or

(4) withdraws or is declared ineligible before 5 p.m. of the 67th day before election day, in an election subject to Section 145.092(f).

145.092(b) is what applies here, so Aguilar’s name will not appear on the ballot. So far, so good, but that’s only half of the question. I do not see any statute that specifies a replacement procedure in the event that a candidate’s withdrawal leaves nobody on the ballot. So, given that Aguilar was the only candidate that filed on time, what happens if he withdraws? I can think of two possible explanations, assuming my interpretation of the law is correct up to this point:

1. There is no election for HCC Trustee in District 8, because there are no candidates on the ballot. In this case, I presume that once Abel Davila’s term expires, a vacancy will then be declared and a special election will be set, presumably for the next uniform election date in May of 2010. Which, given the possibility a special election to fill KBH’s Senate seat at the same time, could make that one of the more interesting special elections for an otherwise obscure office ever held. You know that I think that possibility is highly unlikely, but it could happen, so I mention it here.

2. The election takes place with no candidates appearing on the ballot, but with the option to write in a candidate’s name. According to Section 146.054, the deadline to file a declaration of write-in candidacy is “not later than 5 p.m. of the fifth day after the date an application for a place on the ballot is required to be filed”. I asked Hector DeLeon in the County Clerk’s office about this, and he confirmed my assumption that this means the fifth business day, and not fifth calendar day (which would have made the deadline 5 PM on Labor Day), in which case the deadline is 5 PM tomorrow, September 10. I presume Eva Loredo has filed her declaration of intent; I wonder if anyone else has.

I strongly suspect that option #2 is what will actually happen. I have a call in to the Secretary of State’s office to inquire about it. I’ll post an update when I get a response. Frankly, I don’t find either of these alternatives to be particularly appealing. The former allows for a real election, at the cost of up to six months’ vacancy of the office plus the financial cost of running the election, while the latter is basically a freak occurrence that will allow someone to be elected with a tiny minority of the total votes cast, but at least fills the seat in a timely fashion and saves the expense of a special election. Note here that since the deadline to file a declaration of intent to run as a write-in is Thursday, and the deadline to withdraw is Friday, we could theoretically wind up with a situation where there’s no candidate on the ballot and no write-in option. The only way out of that, as far as I can see, is scenario #1 above. There has to be a better way. Clearly, when Sen. Gallegos and his colleagues return to Austin in 2011, they’ll need to address this situation as well when they tweak the law to allow for an extension of the filing deadline when a to-be-unopposed candidate decides on the last day to not run.

So that’s my reading of this situation. If I’m incorrect about any of this, I hope someone will leave a comment and set me straight. As I said, when I hear back from the SOS, I’ll post an update.

Aguilar drops out of HCC Trustee race

I’m guessing the backlash for being a last minute candidate who also happens to be the brother-in-law of the suddenly-stepping-down incumbent must have been pretty strong, because Arturo Aguilar has decided to withdraw from the HCC Trustee race in District 8.

For all everyone knew, Abel Davila was planning to run for re-election to the Houston Community College Board of Trustees, which he serves as chairman.

That’s what he had told supporters and fellow officeholders, and that seemed to explain why he paid $30,000 for five prominent billboards featuring a photo of him and his wife, a Houston ISD trustee, along with the slogan “Partnering for Success.”

He had more than $50,000 in his campaign account as of the latest July accounting — a significant amount for a non-partisan, down-ballot race — and he had the support of other elected and community leaders.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot. Davila never signed up. So when the deadline passed on Wednesday afternoon, the only candidate in the race for the District 8 spot was Arturo Aguilar, who submitted his ballot application 19 minutes before the cutoff.

Aguilar is the brother of Diana Davila, Abel’s wife. But Friday afternoon, the 34-year-old police officer said he is going to withdraw from the race. He did not explain why.

“It’s not in my best interest for me to run,” Aguilar said. “I don’t really want to say more than that. I will leave it as an open seat for those who are more interested.”

Oh, I think we know why Aguilar changed his mind. The rest of the story is quotes from State Sen. Mario Gallegos and the revelation of Eva Loredo as a write-in candidate, both of which I reported yesterday. What is not answered in this story is 1) does this mean Aguilar will not appear on the ballot; and 2) if so, can someone else be added, and under what procedures? I presume that if Aguilar’s name cannot be removed from the ballot that he intends to not take office, in which case there would be a special election to fill the seat. Perhaps some of Abel Davila’s no-longer-needed campaign funds can be used to help pay for that special election if that happens. Does anybody know what the relevant law is regarding who can be on the ballot for this situation?

The lineup, slightly revised

Here is the slightly revised final lineup for the City of Houston ballot this November. Note that a couple of candidates dropped off, including Donald Cook in At Large #1 and Alfred Molison in District C. I do not know what happened with Cook, but I have been told that Molison filed by petition rather than filing fee, and did not have the required number of petition signatures. Which was 65, by the way, not exactly an insurmountable task. Martha has more names of those who filed but didn’t qualify.

Beyond that, I’ll be very interested to see what happens in the HCC Trustee District 8 situation – in particular, if Eva Loredo get any traction as a write-in, which will require a visible and sustained push by elected officials and other leaders. I’m also wondering what will happen when Diana Davila is next up for re-election in HISD in 2011.

Finally, in case you haven’t seen it, take a look at Martha’s open letter to Isiah Carey of Fox 26 News. Carey copied Martha’s ballot list report from Wednesday night, right down to the formatting and introduction, without any attribution, thus passing it off as his work when it most clearly was not. John Coby and I called him out on this – I did so in Carey’s comments, first simply pointing out Martha’s post, then noting that the proper word for what he’d done is “plagiarism” after he’d decided that we were making a big deal out of nothing – but for whatever the reason, it’s clear he doesn’t get it, doesn’t care, or both. He even (before he deleted the post and tried to pretend it all never happened) claimed he’d actually gotten the information from Carl Whitmarsh’s list, conveniently overlooking the fact that 1) Whitmarsh had specifically credited Martha in the email he sent, and 2) it’s still stealing someone else’s work. I don’t know what he’s thinking, but I do know it was a lousy thing to do. All he had to do was say “Thanks to Muse Musings for the information” and provide a link. How damn hard is that? Coby has more.

All in the family, HCC-style

I noted last night and this morning that the HCC Trustee seat in District 8, which was left open at the last minute by Abel Davila, will be filled by his brother-in-law Arturo Aguilar. (Davila is married to HISD Trustee Diana Davila.) It turns out that Aguilar is not the only family member of an elected official who will be inheriting an open HCC Trustee seat. The candidate in District 6 is Sandra Meyers. Like Aguilar, a Google search for her yields basically nothing, but when I looked at her name this morning, I realized it rang a bell. Turns out, if you check the “About” page of HISD Trustee Greg Meyers, his wife’s name is “Sandie”. I have since confirmed that Sandie-wife-of-Greg Meyers and Sandra-soon-to-be-HCC-Trustee Meyers are one and the same. (Campos notes this as well; I figured this out before I saw his post.) And so she, like Aguilar, will walk into an elected position that has a six year term without being vetted by the public. Neither Meyers nor Aguilar has a campaign website I could find, and the Chronicle story that mentioned them was devoid of information beyond their names.

I’m sorry, but this stinks. Meyers, at least, was known to be a candidate before deadline day, and the seat she will occupy was known to be open for longer than that. I don’t know why no one else filed, but at least someone else had the chance. Aguilar got in under the wire when Davila pulled his last-minute retirement act. I have a problem with uncontested open seats, never mind ones that will be handed to the family members of current elected officials. That doesn’t serve democracy, or the interests of the constituents of those districts. And let’s not forget, the position of HCC Trustee has often been a stepping stone to candidacy for other offices. City Council candidates Mills Worsham (whose seat Meyers is getting) and Herman Litt are or were HCC Trustees. Yolanda Navarros Flores, who ran in the special election for District H, is a trustee. Jay Aiyer was a trustee before running for Council in 2005. Jim Murphy, who was succeeded on the Board by Worsham, won election as State Representative in 2006. With a six-year term and no resign-to-run requirement (something that State Sen. Mario Gallegos attempted to address this year), HCC Trustees get numerous opportunities to run for other offices without having to give up their existing gig.

I had a chat with Sen. Gallegos about this today. He was the one I’d heard talking about what had happened in District 8 last night, and to say the least he wasn’t happy about it. To sum up what Sen. Gallegos told me, he said he thought Davila had deceived his constituents and denied them the right to choose the trustee for themselves. He informed me he had no idea who Aguilar was – “I wouldn’t recognize him if he walked into my office right now, or anyone else’s,” he told me – even if Aguilar was Diana Davila’s brother (he is, I learned from another source) or Abel Davila’s sister’s husband. He noted that at least two other people had expressed an interest in filing for the seat, but decided not to run because everyone was supporting Davila. That support is now gone, and I can report that one of those people, a retired HISD principal and lifelong resident of Magnolia Park by the name of Eva Loredo, will file to run as a write-in candidate. I confirmed this with Ms. Loredo, so at least the people who are aware of her will have an option besides skipping the race. It’s better than nothing.

Finally, Campos and commenter JJMB in my earlier post note that something similar happened in HD132 back in 1992, when then-Rep. Paul Colbert stepped down on the day of the filing deadline, and now-Rep. Scott Hochberg, who worked for Colbert, filed in his stead. That was wrong, too, though at least Colbert and Hochberg weren’t related to each other, and the voters had to wait only two years to rectify the situation if they thought it warranted it. Hochberg, of course, is an outstanding State Rep, so the outcome was a good one. Maybe that’ll happen here, who knows? It just would have been nice for the voters to have a say in it, that’s all.

UPDATE: Just got a call from State Sen. Gallegos, who added that he has had a conversation with State Sen. Rodney Ellis, who is equally upset about what happened, and that the two of them plan to prefile legislation next November to allow for an automatic 24 to 48 hour extension of the filing deadline in the case of a non-partisan/non-primary election where an incumbent drops out or announces his or her retirement within 24 hours of the deadline. In other words, the next time this happens, filing for the office would be kept open for another day to allow other candidates to enter. He said a law like this already existed for primaries (Greg alluded to it in response to JJMB’s comment), and this would simply extend the concept to other elections. He said State Sen. John Whitmire was in Austin but he and Sen. Ellis would consult with him and get him on board as well. I think this is a great idea, and support its passage in the next legislative session.

UPDATE: Sandra Meyers’ website is