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Yolanda Navarro Flores

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.

You can’t stop Dave Wilson

You can only hope to restrain him.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

The battle over whether Dave Wilson is actually a Houston Community College trustee could come to a head on Thursday when the 67-year-old tries to take the seat behind the District II placard on the board’s dais.

“I’m going to represent the citizens of my district,” Wilson said Friday after a hearing on his residency. “I’m going to sit up front, vote and do the whole thing. I might even lobby to become chair.”

Wilson, a small-business owner and anti-gay activist, spoke after an hourlong hearing about the procedural machinations of a lawsuit the Harris County Attorney’s Office filed last month.

County Attorney Vince Ryan is alleging that Wilson was not legally elected to the board in November because he is not a resident of the district in which he ran.

A temporary restraining order issued in December prohibited Wilson from taking the oath of office, but Wilson filed notarized paperwork last week with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office showing he was sworn in on Jan. 1.

State District Judge Mike Englehart on Friday asked lawyers for Wilson and the county to file additional arguments about whether Wilson can take office while the lawsuit is being litigated, among other issues.

[…]

First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said the restraining order prohibits Wilson from taking the oath of office, so he is not a legal office holder.

“In my view, it would be like any citizen walking up there and sitting down,” Soard said. “It would be up to the HCC board to decide what they would do in that situation.”

Whatever else Dave Wilson may think of himself, he’s not the decider here. If Judge Engelhart puts a restraining order in place, he doesn’t get to take his seat, and that’s all there is to it. As I said before, HCC would be wise to have lawyers and security present in the event Wilson is legally barred from taking office at that time. They should explain the status of the court case to him, and for whoever else is present, and be prepared to usher him out the door if he refuses to back down. Until and unless he’s legally cleared to be sworn in by someone other than himself, he’s just another member of the public, and he should be treated as such. Obviously, if Judge Engelhart rules in Wilson’s favor then he gets to be sworn in as normal, but if not he needs to abide by that. The law applies to Dave Wilson, too.

Since it comes up in the comments every time I write about Dave Wilson, let’s be clear that I don’t fear him taking office for a minute. If he actually has evidence of current trustees or contractors or whoever else acting unethically, or if he has some hot ideas for how to improve ethics on the HCC board, great. Bring it on. But until he actually produces such evidence, or an ethics proposal, I see no reason to take him at his word. For a guy who claims to be a paragon of transparency and ethical behavior, he’s shown a remarkable willingness to push the boundaries of the law, to act deceptively for his own gain, and to be closed-mouth about his own personal information. His support of the deeply unethical Yolanda Navarro Flores at the very least calls into question his judgment about what ethical behavior is. I searched election results going back through 2001 and this is the first time he’s even run for an HCC position in that time, so it’s not like he’s some longtime crusader for this job who finally prevailed. He could prove me wrong – anything can happen – and if he does, great. More ethics is a good thing. I just see no reason to have any expectation of this outcome. I see him as a provocateur, and he managed to catch lightning in a bottle. What he does with it if he gets the chance remains to be seen, but my expectations are decidedly low.

Runoff results: Rough day for incumbents

I have no complaint about the results.

Brenda Stardig

Brenda Stardig

With all precincts reporting, controversial first-term council incumbents Helena Brown, in northwest Houston’s District A, and Andrew C. Burks Jr., in At-Large Position 2, fell to their challengers, as did HCC trustees Yolanda Navarro Flores and Herlinda Garcia.

Brown lost her rematch with Brenda Stardig, the incumbent she defeated to gain the seat two years ago.

“We’re very proud of the work we’ve done on our campaign and we wanted to get back out there and support our community,” Stardig said. “We’ve had the support of police and fire and so many in our community.”

[…]

Burks fell to challenger David W. Robinson, a civic leader and former city planning commissioner. Robinson raised far more campaign cash than did Burks, who had run unsuccessfully numerous times before winning his seat two years ago. Both men were among the 10 candidates who sought the post when it was an open seat two years ago.

[…]

In the At-Large 3 runoff, bail bondsman and civic activist Michael Kubosh, best known for leading the charge against Houston’s red-light cameras, topped former Harris County Department of Education trustee and former mayoral candidate Roy Morales.

“I appreciate all the people who have supported me and all of my staff that’s worked so hard through the last few months,” Kubosh said. “I’m looking very forward to working on City Council and getting things done.”

[…]

In south Houston’s District D, lobbyist Dwight Boykins bested businesswoman Georgia D. Provost. Boykins had thumped the 11 other candidates in fundraising heading into November. Term-limited District D Councilwoman Wanda Adams was elected to the Houston ISD board.

In a very low-turnout race in the East End’s District I, Harris County jailer and civic activist Robert Gallegos beat Graci Garcés, who is chief of staff for the term-limited James Rodriguez.

So I was three for four in my prognostications. I can’t say I’m unhappy to have been wrong about District A. I am curious about one thing, however, and that’s whether or not Brenda Stardig is eligible under the term limits amendment to run for election again in 2015. If you consider her situation to be analogous to that of former CM Jolanda Jones, and you go by the interpretation given by City Attorney David Feldman, the answer would seem to be No. I made an inquiry about this with the City Attorney’s office several weeks ago, but they have never gotten back to me. Guess I need to try again. Anyway, congratulations to CMs-elect Stardig, Boykins, Gallegos, Robinson, and Kubosh.

The results I’m really happy about are these:

In the Houston Community College contests, District 1 incumbent Flores lost to challenger Zeph Capo, a vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. In District 3, Adriana Tamez, an education consultant, beat incumbent Garcia, who was appointed to the post after the resignation of the prior trustee. In the runoff for the open District 5 seat, businessman Robert Glaser topped commercial real estate agent Phil Kunetka.

Capo over Flores is a huge step up, and Tamez is an upgrade as well. Both Flores and Herlinda Garcia were palling around with Dave Wilson, so having them both lose makes the HCC Board of Trustees a better place. Major congrats to Zeph Capo, Adriana Tamez, and Robert Glaser.

Here are the unofficial Harris County results. There were an additional 308 votes cast in Fort Bend, so the final turnout is right at 37,000. Here’s an update to that table I published Friday:

Year Absent Early E-Day Total Absent% Early% E-Day% ============================================================ 2005 5,350 8,722 24,215 38,287 13.97% 22.78% 62.25% 2007s 5,464 7,420 11,981 24,865 21.97% 29.84% 48.18% 2007 4,456 6,921 13,313 24,690 18.05% 28.03% 53.92% 2011 8,700 15,698 31,688 56,086 15.51% 27.99% 56.50% 2013 9,883 10,143 13,517 36,123 27.36% 28.08% 37.42%

See, that’s the kind of pattern I was expecting for the November election. I guess the turnout was too high for it. Gotta tip your hat to whichever candidate’s mail program generated all those votes. It’s good to be surprised sometimes.

HCC runoff overview

A cursory look at the invisible races.

Zeph Capo

Zeph Capo

In District 1, incumbent and former state representative Yolanda Navarro Flores faces political newcomer Zeph Capo.

Capo, a 41-year-old former science educator, is a vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. He wants to help K-12 students and their families understand how a community college education can lead to “good, decent jobs.”

He said his opponent has been focused on “politics” instead of education and he hopes to “put a stronger firewall between trustees and the contracting process.”

Adriana Tamez

[…]

The District 3 showdown features incumbent Herlinda Garcia against educational consultant Adriana Tamez.

Tamez, 50, cited her background as an HISD teacher and principal as well as a former deputy executive director with the Texas Education Agency as reasons why she is the best candidate.

“A big piece for me is working to make sure we regain the trust of the community, that we’re going to do what’s right and always keep students, the college and the city of Houston at the forefront,” she said.

Neither Yolanda Navarro Flores nor Herlinda Garcia – the two incumbents, mind you – could be reach for comment for the story. Way to be accountable, y’all. You should of course be supporting Zeph Capo, and if I were in District 3 I’d vote for Adriana Tamez. I haven’t followed District 5 as closely, but if you’re into partisan affiliation Robert Glaser is the Democrat in the race, and he collected most of the endorsements, including the Chron‘s, in November. If you want more information, my colleague Texas Leftist did candidate Q&As with Glaser, Tamez, and Capo, and my interview with Capo is here. Remember to vote in these elections, and please vote wisely.

Early voting begins today for Council and HCC runoffs

EarlyVoting

Here’s the map. Note that only City of Houston locations are open, since the only runoffs are for City Council and HCC Trustee. Early voting runs from today through next Tuesday, December 10, from 7 AM to 7 PM each day except for Sunday the 8th, when it is from 1 to 6 PM. Odds are pretty good you won’t encounter any lines whenever you go to vote. Remember that precinct locations are likely to be heavily consolidated on Runoff Day itself, December 14, so voting early will avoid confusion for you.

All City of Houston voters will have at least two races on their ballot, the two At Large runoffs. There are also runoffs in Districts A, D, and I, plus the three HCC Trustee runoffs, in HCC 1, 3, and 5. I will say again, if you live in HCC 1 I strongly urge you to vote for Zeph Capo. Let’s limit the number of friends Dave Wilson has on the board.

Here are the interviews I conducted with the various runoff candidates:

At Large #2
CM Andrew Burks
David Robinson

At Large #3
Michael Kubosh
Roy Morales

District A
CM Helena Brown
Brenda Stardig

District D
Dwight Boykins
Georgia Provost

District I
Robert Gallegos
Graci Garces

HCC 1
Zeph Capo

Get out there and vote, y’all. A press release from the Harris County Clerk is beneath the fold, and Hair Balls has more.

(more…)

Precinct analysis: Two quick takes

I had wondered if partisan affiliation might be a factor in the HISD 7 race between Republican incumbent Harvin Moore and Democratic challenger Anne Sung. Like Houston races, HISD Trustee races are officially non-partisan, but also like Houston races, people tend to know what team everyone plays for. What did the precinct data tell us?

Dist Moore Sung ==================== C 1,278 2,046 F 148 223 G 4,921 3,126 J 240 358

That’s pretty strong evidence right there. Sung got 61.6% in Democratic district C, Moore got 61.2% in Republican G. District G was the bigger part of HISD 7, so Moore won. For a Democratic challenger like Sung to win a race like this in the future, she’d either need to at least double the turnout in the District C part of the district, or she’d need to win a decent number of crossovers, or both. So now we know.

Since I’ve been advocating that people who didn’t like Dave Wilson’s election to the HCC Board of Trustees need to take their frustration over it out in the runoff for HCC 1, it’s fair to ask what Zeph Capo‘s path to victory is, since Yolanda Navarro Flores got about 48% of the vote in November. Precinct data suggests what that path is:

Dist Flores Capo Hoffman ============================== B 103 18 34 C 3,516 2,561 1,956 G 245 175 197 H 1,851 431 610 J 201 50 105

Basically, Zeph Capo needs to win the District C part of the district. That’s the biggest part of the district in terms of turnout, but it needs to be maximized, and Capo needs to get Kevin Hoffman’s voters to come to the polls for him. Kevin Hoffman confirmed for me via email that he has endorsed Capo in the runoff – he also shared this open letter he sent to the Board with his hopes for their direction going forward – so if you supported Kevin Hoffman in Round One, you have no reason not to support Zeph Capo in Round 2. Capo has a lot of ground to make up, but he also has a lot of potential supporters available if he can reach them.

Lisa Falkenberg profiles Dave Wilson

I’m very glad to see some coverage of Dave Wilson that includes relevant information about who he is.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Narrow-minded bigot. Homophobic hate-meister. Political mischief-maker.

Given all the unkind labels Dave Wilson has incurred over the years, I wasn’t sure what kind of ghoul I’d encounter when I called Friday to talk about Wilson’s latest stunt: tricking voters in a predominantly black district into electing an old, bald, white guy to represent them on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees.

To my surprise, Wilson, the businessman, conservative activist and frequent candidate, was cordial, down-to-earth and, well, nice. Misguided, maybe. Obsessive, maybe. Prone to bomb-throwing, name-calling, and other fifth-grade pastimes, maybe. At times he seems kind of like a kid in a political control room, pushing all the buttons to see what works.

His goals are noble, though, for the troubled HCC board in desperate need of watchdog. Wilson wants to root out corruption and seek an independent audit of finances.

I want to believe he’d do what he says. Trickery aside, there’s something honest about him.

“My wife kind of refers to me a lot of times as Forrest Gump,” he told me. “And I am pretty simple, pretty straightforward. I’m not full of hate but I am passionate about my beliefs.”

[…]

Here’s where Wilson goes off the rails: Ultimately, he believes that [Mayor Annise] Parker and others who promote the “homosexual agenda” are “trying to convert and take people over.”

“I think they’re not satisfied until they completely have everybody indoctrinated and everybody’s homosexual,” he said.

You’d think someone with such farfetched ideals lived in a vacuum. But I was surprised when Wilson told me his wife, Connie, whose brother is gay, didn’t agree with his views: “We’ve had some issues at the family dinner table sometimes.”

Wilson also isn’t opposed to hiring gays or lesbians. Just ask 28-year-old truck driver Katherine Giadrosich who has nothing but good things to say about her new boss.

“If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew who he was, I would have never suspected it,” she told me when I visited the sign supply warehouse. “I’ve met homophobic people. And he doesn’t act that way, like I’m contagious, or they’re going to catch it or something. It’s not like that at all. They welcomed me with open arms when I started working here.”

Then there’s this – Wilson, the notorious warrior against “the homosexual agenda,” casually mentioned in our phone interview he’s considering proposing an anti-discrimination ordinance at HCC that would include protections for gays. It was a suggestion by his campaign adviser.

“That doesn’t mean that I agree with homosexual behavior. That means I agree that no one should be discriminated against,” he told me. “And I’m not including transgender.”

I was speechless. This is a guy who led the charge in 2001 to amend the City Charter to prohibit employees’ unmarried domestic partners – gay and straight – from receiving employment benefits.

Wilson seemed genuinely befuddled by my befuddlement: “Why is that so … You don’t know me, do you?”

No, actually. Not at all. And neither do most voters.

Kudos to Falkenberg for such an interesting and provocative piece. I have quite a few things to say about it.

1. It’s nice that Wilson behaves more tolerantly to people he’s connected to than to everybody else. It doesn’t change my basic impression of him, however.

2. Even if one could separate Wilson’s abhorrent views on LGBT folks from his other public policy beliefs, I’d have problems with him as HCC Trustee. From the Texas Observer:

Besides being non-representative of his district politically and racially, Wilson also joins the ranks of conservative neophytes elected to political bodies they openly despise. At a tea party event in October of last year, Wilson delivered a 76-slide presentation on why voters should reject the $425 million bond proposal to fund HCC, the gist of which was that enrollment was down and money is expensive. Despite his heroic PowerPoint, that bond passed. In 2011, Wilson sued the HCC trustees to prevent the purchase of land Wilson claimed was overpriced. The suit was summarily dismissed with prejudice and Wilson had to pay court costs.

That’s the first I’d heard of that particular lawsuit; clearly, there are still plenty of aspects of Wilson’s past actions to uncover. But if that paragraph where all I knew about Dave Wilson, I would know that I would not want him on the Board of Trustees.

3. Wilson’s claims about wanting to be a “watchdog” that roots out corruption on the HCC Board are completely undermined by his support of Yolanda Navarro Flores, the least ethical member of the current Board. If one truly wanted to clean up the HCC Board, one would have opposed Yolanda Navarro Flores in November, and one would now be supporting Zeph Capo in the runoff. But Wilson is incapable of doing that because he is so blinkered by his homophobia. This is a clear demonstration of how Wilson’s personal opinions can and will lead him astray on other matters as well.

4. Wilson may come across as honest in person, but that’s questionable as well. On this website run by Wilson – note that the mailing address given is the same one he uses on his voter registration card – Wilson’s campaign manager wrote this article with the following statement:

The first thing the campaign did was a radio spot, Carroll Robinson, sent his friend over to consult with Dave Wilson. Together they developed the radio spot that is immediately below.

I emailed Carroll Robinson about this claim. This was his response:

Lol. Why am I the person running everybody’s campaign? I have known Dave Wilson since my City Hall days like all of us who are politically active do. I did not “send” anyone to run his campaign.

I then responded to ask if he helped Wilson’s campaign in any way or if this claim was a lie. This was his response to that question:

Let me be clear I did not tell Dave Wilson to do any such thing. More importantly, how could a 24 year incumbent be so out of contact with his district that Dave Wilson of all people could beat him? I enjoy politics and talk to a lot of people like you do but I don’t control what they do with their campaign. I did not develop the radio spot and I did not develop any mail. I find it interesting that I am now advising everybody’s campaign. If I was advising Dave he would have won by more than 26 votes.

There’s a certain amount of wiggle room in Robinson’s statement, but at the least it suggests that Wilson’s unnamed campaign manager’s claim is overblown.

5. It also raises a question: Why is Wilson’s “consultant and strategist” unnamed in the article he wrote? If whoever he is did work for the Wilson campaign, it should be a matter of public record because Wilson would have to disclose it in his campaign finance reports, either as a payment to him or as an in-kind donation. The same would be true for any “friend of Carroll Robinson” that worked with him to develop a radio spot. Wilson’s finance reports do nothing to clarify this. His 30 Day report lists an expenditure to a “First Tuesday Campaign Group” in Jackson, MS, with the description “Radio”, but the only First Tuesday Campaign Group I can find in Google is based in Chicago and only lists Chicago-area clients. Googling the street address in Jackson suggests it is an apartment complex. He also listed an expenditure for Smart Consulting Firm in Houston, but the only relevant result I could find was for an engineering consulting firm. His eight day report yields no further clues. Again, for a guy who claims to be a champion of ethics and transparency, his finance reports are a mystery and he has an anonymous campaign consultant making claims about assistance from another HCC Trustee that that Trustee denies. All due respect here, but tell me again why I should put aside my animus towards him for his repellent views and give him a chance now that he’s finally managed to get himself elected to something?

(As far as I can tell, Wilson filed no finance reports for his 2012 campaign for Commissioners Court. His 30 Day report from 2011 lists several payments of about $400 each to various people for “Salaries/Wages/Contract Labor”, though I doubt any of them were doing campaign consultant work; his 8 day report from 2011 has two of the same names, but again no expenditures that say to me “campaign consultant”. Like I said, he’s a man of mystery on his reports.)

6. Let’s put aside all of the questions about Wilson’s honesty and ethics for a second. The bottom line is simply this: Can one overlook his history of homophobia and anti-gay activism and simply evaluate him on the policy merits as a candidate for HCC Trustee? Can one separate the public hater from the public official who might have some worthwhile policy positions for the job? Maybe you can, but I can’t, at least not without him acknowledging the harm that his longtime advocacy has caused and the wrongness of his beliefs about LGBT people. To do so, in my view, normalizes his hateful and retrogressive beliefs in the same way that formerly radical beliefs have become increasingly normalized in the Republican Party. Even if there were evidence to suggest he might be a competent Trustee, I would not accept him as legitimate in the absence of any renunciation of past beliefs. He hasn’t earned that and he doesn’t deserve it.

Three questions for the runoffs

There are eight runoff elections on the ballot in Houston – two At Large Council races, three District Council races, and three HCC Trustee races. As we transition into runoff mode, there are three questions on my mind for the races that will conclude in December.

1. Where will the vote come from?

November turnout is driven by Mayoral races. December turnout is also driven by Mayoral races. In runoffs where there isn’t a Mayoral race, turnout is driven by the district Council races, but at a much more modest level. You can go door to door in a District race as opposed to an At Large race, you don’t need as much money to get your message out, and people tend to think about district Council members as “their” Council member in a way they generally don’t about At Large members. District runoffs are in A, D, and I, with the bulk of the turnout likely to come from A and D. Turnout in D will benefit Michael Kubosh and CM Andrew Burks; turnout in A probably won’t strongly favor one candidate over another in either race; turnout in I will probably benefit Roy Morales. David Robinson’s base is deepest in District C – I’ll have the precinct analysis for the At Large races tomorrow – and it’s not clear where Morales will want to go to find his voters. I have a thought on that, which I will explore in item 2. I don’t expect the HCC runoffs to play a significant role in any of the Council races.

But the key is that runoff turnout will be lower, a lot lower than what we just saw. Turnout for the 2011 runoffs, which exceeded 50,000 thanks to the unusually high profile of the At Large #5 runoff. Thirty thousand votes would not be out of line for this year’s runoffs, so all of these races can be won with a very small number. Getting your voters out, whether or not there’s another race that might motivate them, is the goal.

2. Does Mayor Parker get involved?

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

With five Council runoffs, the December races could have a significant effect on the makeup of Council, and therefore of Mayor Parker’s third term ambitions. Incumbent officeholders are often reluctant to involve themselves in these races – not always, but often – and for good reason, since no one wants to voluntarily add to one’s enemies list. But Mayor Parker has a stake in the outcome of at least two races, arguably three races, and she will never appear on a City of Houston ballot again, though perhaps she will run for something else someday. Given the scope of her ambitions and the need for a Council that will work with her, I’d argue she can’t afford to sit out the runoffs. Let’s look more closely at the races she might want to get involved in.

– District A. This is practically a no-brainer. Mayor Parker helped out then-CM Brenda Stardig in the 2011 runoff, though it was too little too late, so there’s no argument that neutrality is the default position. Stardig would be an ally on Council. CM Helena Brown is not, and unless there are some detente talks going on that I haven’t heard of, she will continue to not be an ally whether Parker meddles in this race or not. Brown is one of Parker’s main problems on Council, and this is an opportunity to solve that problem. I don’t know why she wouldn’t try.

– At Large #2. CM Burks isn’t an antagonist like CM Brown is, but he’s not a reliable vote for the Mayor. He opposes her food trucks ordinance and while he stated support for a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance in his Texas Leftist candidate questionnaire, he was non-committal about repealing the 2001 charter amendment that forbids the city from offering domestic partner benefits in the interview he did with me. I don’t know where he would stand on new regulatory items like the wage theft or payday lending ordinances. Even if he is on board with these other parts of the Mayor’s agenda, David Robinson unquestionably would be an ally, and would not need to be worked for a vote. Robinson is an upgrade from Parker’s perspective, but the decision here is not as clear because Burks does vote with the Mayor more often than not, and if he survives the runoff he likely would become a stronger opponent of hers if she works against his re-election. It’s a calculated risk, and I could see going either way. For sure, unlike in A, the safe choice is to stay out of it.

– At Large #3. At first glance, it would not appear that there’s anything to be done here, as the runoff is between two Republicans, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Clearly, Michael Kubosh would stand in opposition to Mayor Parker. He’s been a vocal and active critic, fighting against the red light cameras and the homeless feeding ordinance. He endorsed Ben Hall this year, and has contributed financially to Helena Brown. Like CM Brown, I don’t think anything would change in his behavior or their relationship if Mayor Parker actively opposed him in December. Roy Morales ran against Parker in 2009, but then Peter Brown ran against her in 2009 and he was a supporter of hers this year. I certainly don’t see Morales as an ally, but there’s nothing to suggest he’s be an all-out opponent, either. He came across as a fairly mainstream right-of-center type in the interview I did with him. He would almost certainly be an upgrade over Kubosh from the Mayor’s perspective, perhaps a significant one. It can’t hurt for the Mayor to send an envoy to him and see what possibilities for cooperation might exist.

What it comes down to is this: Kubosh has campaigned as an opponent of the Mayor. His voters will have a reason to come out in December. Morales has a smaller base than Kubosh, and there’s not an obvious catalyst that would push his voters to the polls. That’s where Mayor Parker, who just won an election with 57% of the vote, can help him. Let her tell her supporters that a vote for Morales means a vote for supporting the Mayor, and this runoff gets a lot more interesting. There are no guarantees here – Parker would be trying to sell a guy that has held office and run for other offices as a Republican to a mostly Democratic group of voters, and they will have every reason to be skeptical of that – but a message that Morales would be better for the Mayor (assuming, of course, that he would be agreeable to this) than Kubosh is clear enough. This is all my thinking, I have no idea what the Mayor might make of this. But that’s how I see it.

Again, there are no guarantees. If the Mayor gets involved in any of these races and her candidates lose, that will start her third term off with a negative story line, that her support was unhelpful, possibly even hurtful. Some people, especially other officeholders, believe strongly that incumbents should avoid butting in on races like this, so even if she picks winners there will be some blowback. Surely CMs Brown and Burks have friends on Council, and they may not like the Mayor going after them. Playing in these races is a risk. It’s just a question of how the risk stacks up against the potential reward.

3. Will the HCC races finally get some attention?

As far as I can tell, the HCC Trustee races were not covered at all by the Chronicle before the election. No stories, not even a cursory one-paragraphs-about-each-candidate overview story of the five slots that were on the ballot, which is two more than usual thanks to the departures of Rep. Mary Ann Perez and Richard Schechter. Even after the election, with three runoffs and the victory by hatemonger Dave Wilson, there’s not much out there about these races. All things considered, I’m not that hopeful that we’ll get a more complete picture of the candidates that are running for these six-year-term offices.

As noted in item 2, one can make a case for Mayor Parker to get involved in some of the Council runoffs. I think there’s an even more compelling case for her to get involved with at least one of the HCC runoffs as well. Sure, they don’t directly intersect with city business, but this isn’t about that. It’s about Dave Wilson, who has been an opponent of equality in general, and of Annise Parker in particular, for many years now. We can’t do anything about Wilson’s election now, but something can be done to prevent him from having allies on the HCC Board of Trustees. We know he supported Yolanda Navarro Flores. There are now reports that Wilson supported Herlinda Garcia in HCC 3 as well. Given that, I can’t think of any good reason for Mayor Parker to sit on the sidelines. She needs to directly support the efforts of Zeph Capo, and if the reports in HCC 3 are true, of Adriana Tamez. The risks are the same as in the Council runoffs, but the case for action couldn’t be clearer. Let’s shine a nice, bright spotlight on these races and these candidates and who supports what, because letting these races go on under cover of darkness does us all no good.

How Dave Wilson campaigned

From KHOU:

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson chuckles as he talks about his unorthodox political campaign.

“I’d always said it was a long shot,” Wilson says. “No, I didn’t expect to win.”

Still, he figured he’d have fun running, because he was fed up with what he called “all the shenanigans” at the Houston Community College System. As a conservative white Republican running in a district whose voters are overwhelmingly black Democrats, the odds seemed overwhelmingly against him.

Then he came up with an idea, an advertising strategy that his opponent found “disgusting.” If a white guy didn’t have a chance in a mostly African-American district, Wilson would lead voters to think he’s black.

And it apparently worked. In one of the biggest political upsets in Houston politics this election season, Wilson — an anti-gay activist and former fringe candidate for mayor — emerged as the surprise winner over 24-year incumbent Bruce Austin. His razor thin margin of victory, only 26 votes, was almost certainly influenced by his racially tinged campaign.

“Every time a politician talks, he’s out there deceiving voters,” he says.

Wilson, a gleeful political troublemaker, printed direct mail pieces strongly implying that he’s black. His fliers were decorated with photographs of smiling African-American faces — which he readily admits he just lifted off websites — and captioned with the words “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.”

One of his mailers said he was “Endorsed by Ron Wilson,” which longtime Houston voters might easily interpret as a statement of support from a former state representative of the same name who’s also African-American. Fine print beneath the headline says “Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins,” a reference to one of Wilson’s relatives living in Iowa.

This is the story the Chron should have written but hasn’t. I can tell from my referral logs, which are showing links to that latter post from a variety of locales, that this story is going national. I want to stress that while Wilson’s campaign tactics were dishonest and cynical, they’re hardly unheard of, and they’re far from the worst things Dave Wilson has ever done. In the pantheon of campaign sins, they’re venial, not mortal. But pay attention to Wilson’s tone and the obvious pleasure he’s taking in having put one over on the voters. On top of his long history of hatred, that’s the kind of person we’re getting on the HCC Board of Trustees.

It’s easy to point a finger at the voters for being duped, but let’s be honest. Most people have no idea who their HCC Trustee is. Most of us have little reason to interact with our HCC Trustee, unlike our State Rep or our district Council member or school board trustee. It’s telling that Wilson was able to pull this off not while running for an open seat against some first-time candidate but against a 24-year incumbent, running for his fourth re-election. Bruce Austin did run a campaign, but it wasn’t enough, and he didn’t have sufficient name ID to overcome Wilson’s stealth attack. And so here we are.

The best defense against this – really, the only defense – is to be an informed voter. Don’t vote for someone unless you have at least some idea who they are. Better to skip a race than to accidentally cast a ballot for the likes of Dave Wilson. In the meantime, let’s shine a light on the other candidates that Wilson helped support and be sure to do what you can to get Zeph Capo elected in December It’s too late to stop Dave Wilson, but we can stop his friends. The Makeshift Academic and the Observer have more.

Why stealth campaigns can work

Here’s the Chron story about the HCC Trustee election results. See if you can spot what’s missing.

A total of 13 candidates, including the four incumbents, vied for the five open seats on the nine-member board. Many ran on a platform that called for more transparency, a stronger ethics policy and hiring a new chancellor who can move the institution forward.

The candidates agreed HCC is an asset to the community. As one of the nation’s largest community college systems with 75,000 students, HCC plays a critical role in producing skilled employees and degree holders who are prepared to enter the workforce, they said.

The HCC board has been dysfunctional, and some board members have engaged in unethical practices by awarding contracts to relatives, friends and political allies in recent years, damaging the community’s trust, said many candidates. They vowed to restore that trust.

In the District 1 race, incumbent Yolanda Navarro Flores was headed for a runoff against Zeph Capo, based on final unofficial results. Flores, who was censured by the board for unethical behavior in 2011, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

District 2 incumbent Bruce Austin, first elected in 1989, narrowly lost to small-business owner Dave Wilson. Austin, 60, had said the district has to work on ways to get students to graduate on time and to improve developmental education. Transparency is also an issue, he had said, noting that the board requires ethics training for board candidates.

So a 24-year incumbent gets ousted in a race decided by 26 votes, and what do we learn about his victorious opponent? Just that he’s a “small-business owner”. Not that he’s a notorious, longtime anti-gay activist who ran against Mayor Parker in 2011 and is currently embroiled in a legal battle against the Harris County Democratic Party over his attempts to run for County Commissioner while claiming his business address as his residence. Not the fact that he meddled in the HCC 1 race by sending one of his patented attack mailers, sliming Zeph Capo and Kevin Hoffman for being gay. Not the fact that the mail he sent on his own behalf would make you think he himself was African-American, which he is not. Just, you know, a “small-business owner”. Nothing to see here, folks.

Barring anything strange from the provisional and overseas ballots, we appear to be stuck with this asshole for the next six years. I call on all the other Trustees to do everything they can within the rules to marginalize him and prevent him from doing any damage to the HCC system or its students. I also remind everyone that while Wilson might have snuck into office, you can at least help oust the incumbent candidate he tried to help. If you live in HCC 1 – and if you’re not sure, check your voter registration card now or go to the Tax Assessor webpage to find out – be sure to show up in December and vote for Zeph Capo against Yolanda Navarro Flores. Because these races do matter, and bad things can happen when we’re not paying attention.

Election results: Houston

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker easily won re-election, collecting over 57% of the vote in Harris County to beat Ben Hall by nearly thirty points, and far exceeding the expectations of most observers going into Election Day. I personally thought she had a decent chance of avoiding a runoff, but I wasn’t willing to commit to more than that, and I figured 55% was her ceiling. Good on her for such a strong win, which not only ought to wipe out any lingering talk about her unimpressive win in 2011 but also reinforces my belief, which I have said here several times, that she would be tougher to beat this time around. I’ll do a deeper look at the race once I have precinct data, but a peek at the Fort Bend County results suggests one reason for Parker’s dominant win: She managed a respectable showing among African-American voters. Ben Hall took 62% of the vote in Fort Bend. By comparison, Ronald Green won 89% there, and Brad Bradford coasted with 92%.

Speaking of Ronald Green, he won a much closer race, with about 51.7% of the vote after Fort Bend is added in. This was in line with my expectations for the race – I figured Green would win, but it would be close. I don’t know what his thoughts are for 2015, but I think it’s safe to say he’s probably not the frontrunner for Mayor.

In the At Large races, Stephen Costello, Brad Bradford, and Jack Christie all won easily, while Andrew Burks trailed David Robinson as the two head for a runoff. Going back to the Fort Bend results, Burks managed only 54.5% of the vote there. He could be in real trouble in December. In At Large #3, Michael Kubosh led the field with 28% in Harris and a 42% plurality in Fort Bend. He will square off against Roy Morales, who snuck his way into the runoff ahead of Jenifer Pool and Rogene Calvert, who had about the same number of votes each. The four Democratic candidates combined for 54% of the vote in this race, but the distribution was sufficiently tight that it allowed the two Republicans to finish in the money, not unlike District C in 2005. It will be fascinating to see how this one plays out in December.

While there were some mild surprises among these results, there were two truly shocking finishes. One was in District F, where little known challenger Richard Nguyen knocked off two-term incumbent Al Hoang by a 52-48 margin. That one counts as an even bigger surprise than Helena Brown’s win in 2011. Speaking of CM Brown, she will be headed to a runoff rematch against Brenda Stardig, leading by a 38-29 margin with Mike Knox coming in third at a shade under 20%. For what it’s worth, Brown led Stardig 47-41 after the November vote two years ago. Jerry Davis won in B, Dwight Boykins collected over 40% in D and will face off against Georgia Provost, and Graci Garces led the field of four in District I, with Robert Gallegos clinging to a 20-vote lead on Ben Mendez for the second slot.

The HISD races went according to script, with Anna Eastman and Wanda Adams winning big, with Harvin Moore claiming a closer victory. Unfortunately, the other shocker was in HCC 2, where hatemonger Dave Wilson was leading incumbent Bruce Austin by 26 votes. I can’t begin to say how catastrophically terrible that result is if it stands. Remember, HCC Trustees serve for six years. Dave Wilson is a terrible person who has no business being on any elected body, and he has zero qualifications for this job. He’s been running for various things lately just to be a pain in the ass, and it looks like this time in a low information, low turnout race, he managed to win. I’m so upset about this I’m almost unable to talk about it. I’m thoroughly disgusted by this election. Every time I’m asked to speak about elections, I talk about how HCC races are important but always overlooked. This is why.

In the other HCC races, Neeta Sane was re-elected in a squeaker. She lost Harris County by 300 votes but won Fort Bend by 900. All other races are headed to runoffs – Robert Glaser narrowly missed a majority vote in HCC 5 and will go up against Phil Kunetka; appointee Herlinda Garcia trailed Adriana Tamez in HCC 3; and Yolanda Navarro Flores, who benefited from Dave Wilson’s hatred, will face Zeph Capo. Please check and see if you live in HCC 1, because if you do you really need to show up in December and vote for Zeph.

One last word on the Houston races for now: Turnout was over 175,000 total votes, which approaches 2009 levels. Despite my oft-stated belief that this would be the year that the majority of the votes would be cast before Election Day, thus making odd-year elections more like the even-year elections, that didn’t happen – there were about 94,000 Election Day votes in Harris County, and about 80,000 early and absentee votes. A bigger slice was early, but not the lion’s share just yet.

I will write about results from other races in the next post.

Response from Carroll Robinson

A few days ago, I noted that notorious gay-hater Dave Wilson was up to his usual tricks in the HCC 1 race, even though he himself was running in HCC 2. Wilson sent out an attack mailer against Zeph Capo and Kevin Hoffman, and then incumbent Yolanda Navarro Flores sent out some of her own mail that emphasized her “traditional” marriage, and a second mailer listing her prominent supporters. I wanted to know if those supporters knew what else was going on in that campaign and if they had anything to say about it. Last night, I got this letter from HCC Trustee Carroll Robinson, addressing the questions I asked in my post. I appreciate the response, and I hope the others on that list follow suit.

Dave Wilson is up to his usual tricks

Yolanda Navarro Flores

As you know, Dave Wilson is running against incumbent HCC Trustee Bruce Austin in HCC District 2. I wasn’t sure at first if it was that Dave Wilson or not, but it unquestionably is. The fact that he’s running in HCC 2 isn’t stopping him from meddling in his usual slimy way in the HCC 1 race, where Zeph Capo and Kevin Hoffman are challenging scandal-prone incumbent Yolanda Navarro Flores. Here are front and back scans of a mailer Wilson has sent to voters in HCC 1:

Wilson mailer 1

Wilson mailer 2

Like fleas on a rat, Dave Wilson continues to cling to the body politic. Yolanda Navarro Flores then followed the path Wilson blazed:

Flores mailer 1

Flores mailer 2

She has also sent out a mailer touting the endorsement of some current and former elected officials:

Flored endorsement mailer

I wonder if these folks have any idea what else is being said on behalf of Yolanda Navarro Flores. Since she herself has (as far as I know) not asked Dave Wilson to stop saying hateful things about her opponents, perhaps her supporters might. So let me ask the following people:

HCC Trustees Carroll Robinson and Eva Loredo, whom I might add is my Trustee
Constables May Walker and Ruben Davis
CM Andrew Burks
Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel
Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez

Do you have anything to say about what Dave Wilson is doing in support of Yolanda Navarro Flores? Leave a comment, send me an email, post it on Facebook, just let me know one way or another and I’ll be happy to echo your sentiments. To be clear, I’m not calling on anyone to rescind their endorsement of Navarro Flores. I have no problem with anyone supporting her for whatever the reason. I am saying that I hope these folks would want to distance themselves from the Dave Wilson campaign playbook from which Navarro Flores is drawing. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to say that this kind of campaign rhetoric, like what HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez employed two years ago against Ramiro Fonseca, has no place in decent society. I especially don’t think it’s too much for Navarro Flores’ Democratic supporters, most especially those that will be on my ballot at some point in the future, to denounce such tactics. (Democratic voters in HCC 2 that have not cast their ballots yet might also note Navarro Flores’ support from the Texas Conservative Review. I’m just saying.) I look forward to hearing from you.

The 2013 lineup

So many candidates.

He’s baaaaaaack…

More than 60 candidates have filed to run for city of Houston elective office this fall, many of them rushing in before the 5 p.m. Monday deadline.

[…]

Atop the ballot, [Mayor Annise] Parker is challenged by wealthy attorney Ben Hall, conservative Eric Dick, repeat Green Party candidate Don Cook, and six others. City Controller Ron Green is opposed by accountant Bill Frazer.

The ballot’s most crowded council race, with 11 contenders, will be for District D, the south Houston seat held by term-limited Wanda Adams, who has filed to run for a seat on the Houston ISD board.

Looking to succeed Adams are several candidates who have sought the seat or other council posts before, including Dwight Boykins, Larry McKinzie, Lana Edwards and Keith Caldwell. First-time contenders include Anthony Robinson, a businessman and lawyer who was exonerated after serving 10 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, and Houston Housing Authority vice-chair Assata-Nicole Richards, who briefly was homeless and went on to earn a doctorate in sociology.

[…]

Other notable filings include Issa Dadoush, who formerly ran the facilities department for the city, then HISD. He will challenge incumbent Councilman C.O. Bradford. Perennial candidate Michael “Griff” Griffin – who said his 10th failed bid for City Council in 2011 would be his last – also filed, against At-Large 1 incumbent Councilman Stephen Costello.

So we will have Griff to kick around again. Whoop-de-doo. No, I will not be interviewing him. My to-do list is a little longer now, but it doesn’t include Griff. Life is too short.

I’m still working on my 2013 Election page, since there are some names that remain unknown to me. I’ll wait and see what the final list of candidates on the City Secretary page looks like before I declare the page finalized. Some races are no different – At Large #2, Districts A, C, and I. Apparently, neither Chris Carmona nor Al Edwards filed in At Large #3, leaving that field a bit smaller than I’d have expected. The Bradford/Dadoush race in At Large #4 is potentially interesting. I know of at least one more candidate in At Large #5, James “father of Noah” Horwitz. And my God, could we possibly have more Mayoral candidates?

The big non-city-race news is the retirement of HISD Trustee Larry Marshall.

Marshall, who turned 81 in June, first was elected to the board of the Houston Independent School District in 1997. He could not be reached for comment Monday.

The other four incumbents up for re-election are running, and two face opponents.

A civil lawsuit filed by a construction contractor in late 2010 put Marshall under intense scrutiny, accusing him of a bribery and kickback scheme with his political campaign treasurer to help certain construction firms land HISD contracts.

The Houston Chronicle also has reported that the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office had launched a criminal investigation tied to the lawsuit.

[…]

The candidates running for Marshall’s seat are: W. Clyde Lemon, who served on the board in the mid-1990s; City Councilwoman Wanda Adams; Anthony Madry, a former HISD assistant principal; and Coretta Mallet-Fontenot.

I need to update the District IX race on the 2013 Election page, but I have the other races right – Anna Eastman versus Hugo Mojica in I, Harvin Moore versus Anne Sung in VII, and nobody versus Mike Lunceford in V and Greg Meyers in VIII. At least these races are straightforward.

Not mentioned as far as I can tell are the HCC Trustee races. Five trustees are up for election, thanks to the two appointments. Two incumbents, Neeta Sane and Bruce Austin, have no opponents that I am aware of. Yolanda Navarro Flores, who in 2011 lost a defamation lawsuit against her colleagues, is opposed by educator Zeph Capo and civic activist Kevin Hoffman, who narrowly lost to Navarro Flores in 2007. Herlinda Garcia, a former trustee who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by State Rep. Mary Ann Perez in HCC 3, is opposed by Adriana Tamez and Dane Cook. Leila Feldman, appointed to replace Richard Schechter after he resigned, is opposed by Phil Kunetka. Among other things, this means that the tail end of my interviewing schedule will be fuller than I originally thought it would be. As I said, these are the races I’m aware of. If I’ve missed anything, let me know. Stace and Campos have more.

Midyear 2013 election update

Back in January, I took an early look at the 2013 elections in Houston. At the request of the folks at the Burnt Orange Report, who also printed my initial overview, here’s an update on the races in the city of Houston in 2013.

Mayor

Back in January, Mayor Parker had no declared opponents, though everyone expected former City Attorney Ben Hall to jump in, and there were whispers of other potential entrants. Hall made his candidacy official about two weeks after my initial report, and formally launched his campaign in March, though things have been fairly low key so far. Mayor Parker, who just kicked off her own campaign a couple of weeks ago, has been busy touting her achievements, of which there have been many in recent months, and pointing out all the glowing praise Houston is getting in the national media for its food scene, arts, employment opportunities, and affordable housing. Hall has been introducing himself to voters – he was the featured speaker at a recent event at HCDP headquarters; Mayor Parker will get her turn for that later in June – though thus far he has stuck to general themes and not presented much in the way of specific policy initiatives. He suffered some bad press a month ago when news of his frequent delinquency when paying property taxes surfaced. That subject, and the fact that Hall lived outside Houston in the tony suburb of Piney Point until last year – he was ineligible to vote in the 2009 city election – will likely come up again as the campaigns begin to engage with each other.

Two other candidates have joined the race as well. One is Green Party perennial Don Cook, who ran for an At Large Council seat in 2009 and 2011, for County Clerk in 2010, and for CD22 in 2012. The other is 2011 At Large #2 candidate Eric Dick, and you can keep the jokes to yourself, he’s way ahead of you on that. Besides his name, Dick is best known for covering the city with bandit campaign signs two years ago; the signs and the controversy that accompanied them did wonders for his name recognition and no doubt his law firm’s bottom line. It’s not clear if he intends to run a more serious campaign this time or if it’s just going to be another round of nailing things to utility poles and denying all knowledge of how they got there, but Dick’s emphasizing that he’s the “Republican” candidate in this nominally non-partisan race suggests that at least one person is thinking about the old pincer strategy.

We’ll have a better idea of where things stand when the campaign finance reports come out in six weeks. Hall has made much noise about his willingness to self-finance his campaign, but nothing says “broad-based support”, or the lack of it, than one’s list of small-dollar donors. It will also be interesting to see where the establishment goes, and if there are any defections from Parker 09 to Hall or Gene Locke 09 to Parker. Finally, on the subject of Republicans, it’s well known among insiders but not at all outside that circle that Hall has a couple of Republican operatives on his campaign payroll. I feel confident saying that fact will gain prominence after the July 15 reports begin to emerge. Until then, there’s the parody Ben Hall Twitter feed to keep those of you who are into that sort of thing amused.

City Controller

Incumbent Ronald Green, who like Mayor Parker is running for a third term, also now has an opponent, a Republican accountant by the name of Bill Frazer. Frazer now has a Facebook page for his campaign, but still no webpage that I can find. As noted before, Green has had some bad press, and he has never been a dynamic fundraiser or campaigner. He didn’t have a lot of cash on hand in January, and I don’t recall much activity there since then. He could conceivably be vulnerable to the right candidate and some bad luck. I don’t think Frazer is that candidate, and as far as luck goes all Green really needs is no more dirt to come out about him before November. Outside of open seat years, we really don’t have a history of Controller races in Houston. The office tends to get a lot less attention than Council does.

City Council At Large

I took an early look at At Large #3, the one open At Large seat, back in April, and nothing much has changed since then. It’s an interesting field, to say the least, with three candidates that have run citywide in the past, and the three that haven’t can credibly claim to have a base of support. There is no clear frontrunner, though the lack of a prominent African American candidate in the race is a factor that could ultimately affect its trajectory. I continue to believe that’s a void that will eventually be filled. Again, the campaign finance reports will bring a bit of focus to the picture, but most likely there will be not that much to see just yet. Generally speaking, the usual powers that be steer clear of these multi-candidate pileups until the runoff.

I noted before that there might be more opportunity in a head-to-head matchup against one of the two freshmen At Large Council members than in the wide open At Large #3 scramble. David Robinson, who finished fourth in the open At Large #2 race in 2011, has apparently taken that to heart and is challenging CM Andrew Burks for that seat. Burks has not particularly distinguished himself in his first term, but he is generally well liked and remains well known due to his many previous candidacies. So far, no one has emerged to take on Burks’ fellow freshman, CM Jack Christie, and the two members running for their third terms, CMs Stephen Costello and Brad Bradford, are also unopposed. Both Costello and Bradford are known to have future Mayoral ambitions, so the tea leaf readers will have some material to work with after the election. Actually, they’ll have some before it as well, since Bradford is listed as a Hall supporter, while Costello, along with CMs Ed Gonzalez and Al Hoang, are Parker supporters.

District City Council

There are only two open district Council seats thanks to the resignation of now-Harris County Tax Assessor Mike Sullivan, who was succeeded by CM Dave Martin last November. Martin will likely draw a challenger or two as the newbie on Council, but so far all of the action is elsewhere. I am aware of four candidates for the District D seat now held by CM Wanda Adams: businessman and former ReBuild Houston oversight board member Dwight Boykins, who had previously run for At Large #5 in 2003, losing to Michael Berry; Houston Housing Authority board member Assata Richards; photojournalist and businesswoman Georgia Provost; and community advocate Keith Caldwell, who ran for D in 2007 and finished fifth in the field of seven. There had been some buzz about former At Large #5 CM Jolanda Jones throwing her hat in and forcing a legal decision to clarify Houston’s term limits ordinance, but I haven’t heard anything about that in months and have no idea if it is still a possibility.

District I has proven to be the liveliest race so far, as candidates Graci Garces and Ben Mendez have already gotten into the kind of spat that one only sees in election years. Garces is the Chief of Staff to current District I member James Rodriguez, who in turn was Chief of Staff to State Rep. Carol Alvarado when she held that seat; Garces was also on Alvarado’s staff. Mendez is a businessman. They are joined in the race by community activist and Sheriff’s Department employee Robert Gallegos, and Leticia Ablaza. Ablaza is the former Chief of Staff to District A CM Helena Brown, who resigned from that position along with Deputy Chief of Staff RW Bray after less than five months on the job, and she challenged CM Rodriguez in 2011, finishing with 35% of the vote. To say the least, her presence in this race makes it one to watch.

Speaking of CM Helena Brown, the field for District A is big enough to make you think it was an open seat as well. In addition to the incumbent, candidates include former CM Brenda Stardig, who assured me on the phone a few weeks ago that she’s going to run a much more organized and focused campaign than she did in 2011 when Brown ousted her; Amy Peck, the District Director for Sen. Dan Patrick who finished third in District A in 2009; and Mike Knox, who has been an HPD officer, Board Member of the Houston Police Patrolmen’s Union, and Director of Community Service for the Spring Branch Management District. All three have good establishment Republican credentials, and I suspect the strategy for all three is to get into a runoff with Brown and hope to consolidate enough support against her to win. As always, the July finance report will tell an interesting tale, and this is one time where I think the usual suspects will not be on the sidelines early but will already be backing one horse or another.

HISD and HCC

There is one update to report on HISD races. District I Board Member and current Board President Anna Eastman is now opposed by community activist Hugo Mojica, who ran in the special election for City Council District H in May 2009 to succeed Sheriff Adrian Garcia and finished eighth in the field of nine. District I is my district, and while I think Hugo is a perfectly nice person, I think Anna Eastman is an outstanding Trustee, and I’ll be voting for her in the fall. There are no other active races I’m aware of, but the impending takeover of North Forest ISD will necessitate a redraw of Trustee districts that could force a special election in Districts II and VIII, where Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Juliet Stipeche now serve. Neither would be on the ballot in 2013 otherwise. I don’t know what all of the ramifications of this will be, but that’s a possibility to watch out for. Finally, while no one has yet announced a campaign against him, District IX Trustee Larry Marshall continues to provide ammunition for whoever does take the plunge.

Lastly, there are two developments in HCC. There is now a second special election on the ballot, as former Board President Richard Schechter stepped down in January after successfully leading the push for HCC’s bond referendum in November. The board appointed attorney and former General Counsel for HCC Leila Feldman to succeed Schechter. Feldman is also the daughter-in-law of Houston City Attorney David Feldman and is married to Cris Feldman, whom aficionados of all things Tom DeLay will recognize as a key player in bringing about his demise. In any event, she will be on the ballot in November along with appointee Herlinda Garcia, who succeeded State Rep. Mary Perez, and incumbents Bruce Austin, Neeta Sane, and Yolanda Navarro Flores. In the second development, Navarro has drawn two opponents, Zeph Capo, the vice-president and legislative director for the Houston Federation of Teachers, and community and Democratic activist Kevin Hoffman, who lost to Navarro Flores in 2007. HCC Trustee races never get much attention, but this one will be as high profile as these races get.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll be taking a close look at the finance reports when they come out.

UPDATE: Whenever I write one of these posts, I’m going by what I’ve seen and heard. Until the July finance reports come out, there’s no easy way to compile a list of candidate names, unless you drop in on the City Secretary and ask to see the dead tree document of people who have filed designation of campaign treasurer forms. As such, I’m going to miss some people, and I inevitably hear about them after I publish.

Three such names have come to my attention since I posted this. One is former State Rep. Al Edwards, who apparently is actively campaigning for At Large #3. The second is Clyde Lemon, who according to Burt Levine is going to run against HISD Trustee Larry Marshall. Neither has a webpage or a campaign Facebook page that I can find, and Google told me nothing about their efforts, so make of that what you will.

The third candidate I’ve heard of since posting is Ron Hale, who is running in the increasingly large District A field. Hale left a bizarre comment on Levine’s Facebook page, saying that I’m “another blogger trying to keep [his] name out of the article as if it hurts my campaign” and “one person in the district A race is a contributor to off the cuff (sic)”. I have no idea what he’s talking about – I am of course the only “contributor” to Off the Kuff – but whatever. Ron Hale is also running for District A, and now you know.

A first look at the 2013 elections

It is 2013, right? So while we have the SD06 special election and the new legislative session to worry about, it’s not too early to start talking about the 2013 elections. Let’s start with a peek at the campaign finance reports from last July of the Houston officeholders who will be on the ballot this November:

Dist Name Cash on hand ================================= Myr Parker 1,281,657 Ctrl R Green 9,983 AL 1 Costello 57,345 AL 2 Burks 3,160 AL 4 Bradford 20,590 AL 5 Christie 14,535 A Brown 22,641 B Davis 64,211 C Cohen 45,597 F Hoang 6,429 G Pennington 119,951 H Gonzalez 57,899 J Laster 31,816 K L Green 9,107

I omitted the three Council members who are term-limited out (Melissa Noriega, Wanda Adams, and James Rodriguez), as well as newly-elected Dave Martin, since his July report would not be relevant. Normally there would have been five open seats this year, but with Mike Sullivan stepping down due to his successful candidacy for Tax Assessor and Jolanda Jones losing in 2011, there are only three vacancies, and as such there will likely be a stampede for those seats. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s take a closer look at where the non-term limited incumbents are.

Mayor

As we know, Mayor Parker will probably by challenged by former City Attorney Ben Hall, will possibly be challenged by her former Housing Director James Noteware, may possibly be challenged by some yet unknown candidate or candidates, and will certainly have a few fringe challengers as well. It could be quite the crowded race at the top of the ticket. While Hall would certainly be a more serious opponent in terms of money, resume, and presumed base of support than the 2011 hopefuls were, with Noteware and the others also possibly having more juice, I have believed for some time now that Parker starts out in a stronger position this year than she was in two years ago. The much-improved economy and real estate market mean that the city’s budget is far healthier than it was, which means the Mayor can do positive things rather than negative things like layoffs and service reductions. Distractions like red light cameras and Renew Houston are in the past, while the overwhelming passage of the city’s bond referenda gives the Mayor some wind at her back and a nice accomplishment with which to begin the year. Anything can happen, and we’ll see who if anyone else emerges to run against her, but I believe we will look back and say that 2011 was the better chance to beat her.

How would one go about defeating Mayor Parker if one were inclined to do so? The conventional wisdom is to aim to replicate the 1991 campaign, in which State Rep. Sylvester Turner and eventual winner Bob Lanier squeezed then-Mayor Kathy Whitmire into a third place finish. This is the vaunted “pincer strategy”, combining African-Americans and Republicans to shrink the remaining voter pool for the white Democratic lady Mayor. I’m skeptical of this. For one thing, Whitmire – who garnered an incredibly low 20% of the vote in that election – was running for her sixth term in those pre-term limits days, at a time when the term limits movement was gaining steam. There was a strong case for change, or at least there was a more restless electorate that was going through an economic downturn that year. Whitmire was also coming off a bruising defeat, as her $1.2 billion monorail proposal was killed by Metro’s board chairman, who was none other than Bob Lanier. Lanier promised to spend that money on roads, which was much more popular. There isn’t an issue right now that could be used as a cudgel against Parker, which makes the argument to fire her that much more challenging.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t issues to be used against Parker, but they’re not issues that I think are likely to be used effectively by an establishment insider like Hall, or any Republican who may file. Given that Hall is who he is, I think a more potent strategy would be to pair him with an outspoken liberal, who can compete with Parker’s base voters in District C by attacking her for things like the homeless feeding ordinance, the lack of any effort to advance equality in Houston, and the Metro referendum if one believes the University Line is mortally wounded. Quantifying the irony of Whitmire losing for promoting a rail plan, and Parker losing for being perceived as insufficiently supportive of rail, is left as an exercise for the reader.

And as long as I’m giving out advice, my suggestion to Team Annise is to work on building its ground game and seeking to increase turnout. There were 160K ballots cast in the 2009 runoff, but only 123K in 2011. Neither of these are particularly high totals for a city election – indeed, the 2011 total failed to reach the puny 125K ballots cast in the sleepy 2007 election. There are plenty of people who have voted in city elections, certainly as recently as 2003, but haven’t done so in the past few cycles. I rather doubt that Parker versus Hall et al is likely on its own to draw any more voters than Parker/Locke/Brown/Morales did in 2009 (181K, in case you’re curious), but there’s no reason Parker shouldn’t be working to identify and bring out voters who have a less consistent history of voting in city elections. I think that offers a better path to 50% plus one than another dreary exercise in talking to only the same old hardcore voters. You know, like me. She has plenty of money, she’ll have plenty more after the curtain comes up on fundraising season. Target a bigger universe, I say.

Controller

I’m wondering if Ronald Green has a typo in his finance report. He reported $46K on hand last January, then his July report showed that he raised $26K and spent $13K, so I have no idea he could have had only $9,983 on hand. I guess we’ll see what this January’s report says. Beyond that, not much to see here. He’s still not a big fundraiser, and he still has no credible announced opposition despite his recent negative press.

Council At Large

Is it just me, or are those some anemic cash on hand totals? Six out of eight district Council members have larger campaign treasuries than three of the four At Large members. Bradford often reports a lot of in kind contributions – he has listed some things we might normally think of as expenditures as in kind contributions – which tends to reduce his COH figure. Burks, who raised $35K but had $34K in expenses, paid off a number of debts, including the $10K loan from his wife and two items dating from the 2009 campaign that totaled $4650. Christie also spent nearly as much as he raised – $66K raised, $63K in expenditures. This included $45K for “printing”, which I presume was a deferred expense from his runoff campaign.

As was the case in 2011, there’s only one open At Large seat, At Large #3, so once again I expect a cattle call in that race. I know Jenifer Pool, who ran in At Large #2 in 2011, is in for AL3 this year, and other names will surely emerge in the next few weeks. I have to think that it would be worthwhile for a Council wannabe who might be concerned about getting lost in that shuffle to consider taking on one of the incumbents instead, specifically Burks or Christie. Burks’ winning campaign in 2011 after however many previous tries was, to put it gently, atypical. The only policy item I can recall that he originated last year was a proposal to revamp Houston’s term limits ordinance, which never made it out of committee. He also drew scorn for suggesting that the propane tanks used by food trucks might potentially be used as weapons by terrorists. He doesn’t have much money, doesn’t have a history of fundraising, has generally run do-it-yourself campaigns, and his main asset is the name recognition that a dozen or more previous campaigns has earned him. You can make a similar case for Christie, who made an interesting proposal relating to shelters for homeless people that as far as I know went nowhere and who also said silly things during the food truck debate. Unlike Burks, Christie has been and should continue to be a good fundraiser, but also unlike Burks he has no natural constituency – he’s a moderate Republican who isn’t beloved by county GOP insiders. His win in 2011 could also reasonably be described as out of the ordinary. I’m not saying either would be easy to beat this year, I’m not even saying someone should run against them. I’m just suggesting that a multi-candidate open seat race where getting to the runoff is more crapshoot than anything else doesn’t necessarily offer the best odds of being sworn in next January.

District Council

Just so you know, former Council Member Brenda Stardig reported $26,574 on hand in July. If she aims for a rematch with Helena Brown, she starts out at parity in the money department. I’m not sure what’s up with CMs Hoang and Green, but I don’t expect either of them to have much difficulty this year. Everyone will be watching District A, probably even more than the two open seats, but I’d keep an eye on Jerry Davis in District B as well. Davis has worked hard, but doesn’t appear to have won over the insiders in the district, being a new resident of B himself. It would not shock me if he gets a serious opponent. Beyond that, Dwight Boykins appears to be in for the open seat in District D, and while other names will soon emerge we may have to get a judge’s opinion about whether Jolanda Jones can be among them. There are already two candidates for District I; if history holds, there likely won’t be too many more.

HISD and HCC

It’s a bit confusing because the County Clerk webpage doesn’t track uncontested Trustee races, but I’m pretty sure that the following people are up for election:

For HISD Trustee: Mike Lunceford, Anna Eastman, Greg Meyers, Lawrence Marshall, and Harvin Moore. Lunceford and Eastman are finishing their first terms; Moore and Meyers were unopposed in 2009; Marshall won in a runoff. I have not heard anything so far to indicate that any of them are not running for re-election. If Anna Eastman runs for and wins re-election she will be the first Trustee in District I to do so since at least 1997 – I can’t check any farther back than that. Gabe Vasquez was elected that year, followed by Karla Cisneros in 2001, Natasha Kamrani in 2005, and Eastman in 2009.

For HCC Trustee: Mary Ann Perez’s election to the Lege in HD144 means there will be a vacancy in HCC Trustee District III. The Board has appointed former Trustee Herlinda Garcia to replace her. Garcia, about whom you can learn more here, will need to run in a special election to be able to serve the remainder of Perez’s term, which expires in 2015. The three Trustees whose terms are up this year are Bruce Austin, Neeta Sane, whose district includes a piece of Fort Bend County, and Yolanda Navarro Flores. It’s fair to say that Trustee Navarro Flores’ current term in office has been rather eventful. She won a close race last time, and if she runs again I would expect her to get a strong challenger. Sane is completing her first term, while Austin, the longest-serving Trustee, was first elected in 1989. I am pleased to note that this year the Trustee candidates’ campaign finance statements are now available online. Sometimes, a little bitching and moaning goes a long way.

That’s all I’ve got for now. January finance reports are due next week, and a few will probably trickle in early. I’ll keep an eye out and will post a report when they’re all up, or at least at some point after they’re all supposed to be when I’ve run out of patience waiting for them. I’ll throw in the reports for County officeholders who are up in 2014 as well, just because. Please add your own speculation and rumormongering about who is or isn’t running for what in the comments.

So who’s in for the SD06 special election?

As noted, yesterday was the official filing deadline for the SD06 special election. I didn’t have the chance to call the Secretary of State’s office to ask what filings they had received, and as of last night I had not seen any news accounts of who was in and who was not. In addition to the three candidates that were known to have filed before Christmas – Sylvia Garcia, Carol Alvarado, and Dorothy Olmos, two other names did emerge yesterday. One, via Carl Whitmarsh, is Rodolfo Reyes:

Rodolfo M. Reyes was elected to the League City Council in 1994 and was the first Hispanic Mayor pro tem, and the second Hispanic to serve on the City Council. During his three year term, he worked with his council brethrens to realize the League City Sport Complex; revitalized the Economic Development Corporation; he challenged the City Planning Commission to streamline procedures for dealing with new developers coming into the city; and rolled-back the property tax rate.

He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Harris County Educational Foundation; Member-at-large of the Amateur Athletic Association committee; Vice-President of the Community Housing Resources Board; Member of the Board of the Clear Lake Area Economic Development Foundation; and, worked with the Mentor Program at Bonner Elementary School.

The other, via Stace, is Joaquin Martinez.

Joaquin Martinez, father to Joaquin Edward Martinez, is a native Houstonian and has been a silent community leader in the East End. Joaquin has worked for one of Houston’s oldest and largest non-profits, Neighborhood Centers, for over 10 years within the Community Based Initiatives department. Joaquin’s continued perseverance and personal values have allowed him to continue his education at the University of Houston – Downtown as he pursues a B.A. in Political Science.

Joaquin’s previous role as a Youth Manager has been to build youth programs in the East End, Sunnyside, Independence Heights, Pasadena and La Porte communities in order to build upon the skills of the youth in these communities.He also took on the role of Program Coordinator in the Pasadena and La Porte communities, where civic engagement and education were fundamental in creating a community environment. Joaquin has seen many youths become successful; he continually challenges parents to remain involved their children’s lives. He also worked as Staff under Council Member John Castillo, in which he visited several civic club meetings and was committed to assure that community member’s needs were met.

I assume both have filed, but as yet I have no confirmation of this. Others who previously said they were running but had not filed as of Wednesday include RW Bray, whose campaign Facebook page was last updated on December 21, and Maria Selva, who has an under construction webpage that incorrectly lists the date of the special election as January 22. Oops. As for HCC Trustee Yolanda Navarro Flores, she doesn’t appear to have a Facebook page and I’ve seen nothing in my email or via Google. Now you know what I know. If you know more than this, please leave a comment.

UPDATE: Via Stace and PDiddie, we now know there are eight candidates total in this race. What we don’t know is why there was no one at the Chron or the Trib that bothered to find this out, leaving it instead to a bunch of unpaid bloggers. Be that as it may, I’ll have a post with more information tomorrow.

Trib overview of SD06 special election

For all the delays in getting this called, the special election in SD06 is one month from today. The Trib takes a look.

Sylvia Garcia

State Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat and former Harris County commissioner, are vying to replace state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston. Gallegos, the first Hispanic senator to represent Harris County, died Oct. 16 of complications associated with a 2007 liver transplant. Also in the race is R.W. Bray, a Republican who was defeated by Gallegos during the general election.

[…]

Alvarado said her experience in the House should sway voters.

Rep. Carol Alvarado

“I can talk about specifics because I have had two sessions,” she said.

Garcia, the former president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, also served as the comptroller for the city of Houston. She said that if legislative experience were essential to serving in the Senate, it would be required.

“If you’re trying to suggest that I don’t have experience because I am not a House member, well neither did Sens. Dan Patrick, Joan Huffman and a couple of others,” she said. “Neither did Barbara Jordan, but does that mean they weren’t qualified to be in the state Senate? Of course not.”

Alvarado, a two-term Texas House member and former member of the Houston city council, has the support of Gallegos’ family and of state House Black Caucus lawmakers, including Representatives Harold Dutton, Borris L. Miles and Senfronia Thompson. Senators Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, have also backed Alvarado.

Garcia’s support comes from key Hispanic Democrats in the Houston delegation, including Rep. Jessica Farrar, the House Democratic Caucus leader, and Reps. Ana Hernandez Luna and Armando Walle.

Note to story author Julian Aguilar and the Texas Trib editors: It’s Houston Controller, not comptroller. I don’t know what the difference is, either, but it’s there.

The filing deadline for this race is tomorrow at 5 PM. While the story says that RW Bray is in, as he has previously said he would be, as of Monday morning he had not yet filed. According to the Garcia campaign, the only candidates who had filed as of then are Garcia, Alvarado, and perennial candidate Dorothy Olmos. Other potential candidates besides Bray whose names I have heard include HCC Trustee Yolanda Navarro Flores, who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Gallegos in the 2004 primary; Maria Selva, the Green Party candidate in CD29 this year; an unnamed Libertarian; and Susan Delgado, Gallegos’ former mistress, who ran against him as a write-in in 2004 and a Libertarian in 2008. Wouldn’t that be special?

As of this publication, the 30 day finance reports are not up, so we don’t know yet how the two main competitors are doing on that front. I was unaware that Alvarado had secured the endorsements listed above for her – Garcia got a big splash early on when Reps. Farrar, Hernandez Luna, and Walle endorsed her. Basically, this is a Democratic primary, with all of the usual drama and family feuding that entails. I have interviews with Garcia and Alvarado that will be published the week of January 7, which is when early voting begins. If this remains a three-candidate race we could get a clear winner on January 26. The more candidates that do file, the more likely that this will go into overtime. We’ll know the answer to the first part of that soon enough.

Lawsuit against HCC Board of Trustees dismissed

A good outcome for eight of the nine members of the HCC Board of Trustees.

Houston Community College trustee Yolanda Navarro Flores must pay the school $35,700 to cover attorneys’ fees after a judge Friday dismissed the defamation lawsuit she filed against her colleagues.

[…]

Flores, reached Friday afternoon, said she did not know about state District Judge Al Bennett’s order siding with HCC and directing her to pay the college’s attorneys’ fees.

“Wow. I think it’s something I have to look into,” said Flores, an attorney who represented herself.

See here for some background. The suit was dismissed under a new law called the Texas Citizen Participation Act, which the story says is meant to “curb lawsuits that try to stifle speech on public issues,” by “[speeding] up the process for judges to toss out frivolous claims”. I’m always leery of legislation in this state meant to curb lawsuits, but I can’t argue with the result here. In case you’re curious, Flores will be on the ballot in 2013, if she runs again.

HCC Trustee sues HCC Board

Back in April, the HCC Board of Trustees censured Board member Yolanda Navarro Flores after an investigation reported that she had engaged in unethical behavior. Here’s the Chron story from the time, which I did not blog about:

The Houston Community College board on Thursday censured trustee Yolanda Navarro Flores after a yearlong investigation found she used her influence to direct work to her son’s construction company and to obtain free consulting from a vendor.

The investigation – which also found troubling behavior by Trustee Chris Oliver and former board members Abel Dávila and Diane Olmos Guzman – called into question the business practices at one of the nation’s largest community college systems.

HCC Board Chairman Richard Schechter pledged a review of the college district’s policies.

“This board has zero tolerance for this kind of conduct,” he said.

Schechter said the investigation portrayed Flores and Dávila as the most egregious offenders, with the two appearing “to have been engaged in a relentless pattern and practice of conduct designed to enrich at a minimum their family and friends.”

Flores, who was not present for the 7-0 censure vote, told trustees afterward that she was unaware her son did work for HCC.

Dávila and Guzman have denied wrongdoing, and Oliver apologized for making an “honest mistake” by voting on a contract for a company with connections to his construction cleaning firm. Oliver, the report said, had filed the required disclosure paperwork.

Trustee Navarro Flores has now filed a lawsuit against her colleagues over that report.

In court papers filed Thursday, Yolanda Navarro Flores accuses the defendants of subjecting her to “character defamation, libel and slander” under the pretext of investigating possible inappropriate actions by HCC trustees and her potential conflict of interest with an HCC contractor.

“Specifically, defendants conducted a program of attack upon plaintiff’s character, reputation and integrity through malicious action based on false information that defendants knew was false or should have known was …false had their investigation been conducted in a prudent, fair and unbiased manner,” the suit claims.

[…]

Named in the lawsuit are HCC Chancellor Mary Spangler, HCC Deputy Chancellor Arthur Tyler, HCC Board of Trustees legal counsel Jarvis Hollingsworth, HCC general counsel Renee Byas as well as trustees Oliver, Richard Schechter, Michael Williams, Bruce Austin, Mary Ann Perez, Sandie Mullins, Neeta Sane and Eva Loredo.

The suit has been filed in the 61st Civil District Court. I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me that one way or another, someone is going to be embarrassed by the outcome of this lawsuit. Beyond that, all I can say is that I’m looking forward to doing HCC candidate interviews even more now.

Endorsement watch: Yolanda backs Maverick

Yolanda Navarro Flores, who finished third in the District H special election on May 9, has endorsed Maverick Welsh for the runoff. From the email the Welsh campaign sent out:

“Maverick Welsh will be a great city council member. He is sensitive to our Latino needs and issues…his door will be open to black, brown, and white. Maverick will not put the personal political agenda of others before the interests of the people.”

Yolanda is a distinguished resident of District H, serving on the HCC Board and having served in the Texas House of Representatives. She and her family have a proud history of standing for the people of our community.

“Today, I offer my endorsement to Maverick Welsh,” Yolanda said Tuesday. “My endorsement is for change and responsiveness for our District, not the same politics of the “patron/patrona” hand-picking the candidate for the people. No more status quo politics. My endorsement is for Maverick Welsh–he represents hope for a new and better future for all people in District H and our great city.”

That seems like a big deal to me. The question for the runoff, as noted by folks like Miya and Greg, is whether the Hispanic majority in the district will turn out in enough numbers for Ed Gonzalez to overcome Welsh’s advantage in the Heights. If Flores’ endorsement gets some of her supporters to vote for Welsh, that could be the difference-maker. I’m going to guess that Gonzalez will counter with a push from the elected officials that support him. We’ll see how it goes.

Having said this, it’s not that big a surprise that Flores would back Welsh. We know that there’s no love lost between Flores and Gonzalez. For her to endorse him would have been the bigger surprise.

The runoff is scheduled for Saturday, June 13. Early voting begins on Monday, June 1, and runs through Tuesday, June 9, at the same locations as for the May election. You can see the times and places here (PDF). If you voted in the May 9 election, expect to have your door knocked sometime between now and then.

Even fewer voters are expected at the polls for the runoff than the initial contest, when about 4,200 out of 93,000 cast ballots among nine candidates. That, political analysts say, and the already slim 183-vote difference between Welsh and Gonzalez, is expected to transform the next three weeks into a campaign blitz between two highly-motivated candidates with vocal and ardent supporters.

“It’s all about turnout and who has the organization and can deliver their voters to the polls,” said Robert Stein, a political science professor at Rice University.

Anyone want to take a guess at the turnout figure for this race? In 2007, Melissa Noriega and Roy Morales combined for 22,306 votes in the first go-round, out of 34,274 ballots cast (65.1% of the total), and 24,954 votes in the runoff. Here, Gonzalez and Welsh accounted for 2,413 votes out of 4,141 cast (58.3% of the total). I’ll place my chips on 2,000 to 2,500 total ballots on June 13. What do you think?

Chron District H overview

Early voting for the District H special election begins tomorrow. Here’s the Chron’s usual overview story on the race, in which each candidate gets a paragraph of biography and a paragraph of quotation. Dunno if that’ll help you make up your mind if you’re still undecided, but there it is anyway.

As a reminder, the Harris County Clerk has posted the early voting schedule and locations (PDF) for this election. Briefly summarized, it is as follows:

For the week of Monday, April 27 to Friday, May 1: 8 AM to 5 PM
For Saturday, May 2: 7 AM to 7 PM
For Sunday, May 3: 1 PM to 6 PM
For Monday, May 4 and Tuesday, May 5: 7 AM to 7 PM

There are three locations:

The Harris County Administrative Building, 1001 Preston St downtown, first floor.

Moody Park Recreation Center, 3725 Fulton Street, which I believe is in Lindale.

Ripley House Neighborhood Center, 4410 Navigation Blvd, in the East End.

And if you’d like some more in-depth information about the candidates, you can review the interviews I did with them:

Rick Rodriguez
Yolanda Navarro Flores
Lupe Garcia
Gonzalo Camacho
Maverick Welsh
Hugo Mojica
Ed Gonzalez

I assume tomorrow we’ll get the Chron’s endorsement for the race. At least, I hope so.

Time to throw out the first attack mailer of the season

So we got a weird little piece of mail Saturday. Addressed to both of us, in a plain envelope with no return address was a one-page letter that attacked Carl Whitmarsh, best know for his prodigious Democratic email list, and consultant Marc Campos. Using questionable grammar and a lot of underlining, it basically accused Carl and Marc of being in cahoots, specifically that Marc bankrolls Carl’s email operations, while Carl plugs Marc’s clients to his list. I don’t have a scanner, so I can’t show you the letter just yet, but I can tell you it contained the following closing, reprinted exactly as it appears:

Paid political news brought to you by Don Carpenter & M. Rodriguez – Owners Investigations Inc. Houston, Texas — Marc & Carl your gig is up, the truth is out now.

If this really was a paid piece, I have a feeling it didn’t exactly fulfill state disclosure requirements, but never mind that for now. It was also as plain as can be – nothing but black type, all one font, on ordinary white paper. Printing an email looks fancier than this. If someone was paid to produce this, he or she didn’t waste any effort on production values, that’s for sure. Whatever the case, the letter promises more to come, for which I can hardly wait. Crankery is usually entertaining, and that’s what this looks like. I seriously doubt they can back up their claims.

I don’t know who these guys are – Google searches on “Investigations Inc Houston” and on “Don Carpenter investigations Houston” yielded nothing useful – and I don’t know what their beef is or what interest they may have in the District H race. I assume this has something to do with that since the one clue as to their motivation comes from the following paragraph, again reprinted exactly as it appears:

Marc bashes good Democrats (via Carl’s list) like Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee & Senator Mario Gallegos just to name a couple of recent ones via Carl’s list. Why? Marc did this cause the Senator kicked Marc’s & Carl’s client Yolanda’s arse before. They want a client candidate to run at Sheila & Mario in order for them to make some $.

You know about the Jackson Lee kerfuffle. The other reference is to this Daily Commentary entry from March 12.

The proponents of bi-annual Lone Star State legislative sessions usually don’t have to go far for ammo. Check out what an astute legislative observer sent Commentary yesterday:

“Wanted you to know, because someone may ask, Mario (Gallegos) filed legislation (SB 1895) today that would require any member of HISD or HCC board to resign if they were to become a candidate for a municipal, state or federal office.

He did it last session, and it’s clearly a personal attack bill, but of course it’s not going anywhere. Just a heads up should someone get a hold of it.”

This bill is clearly aimed at HCC Trustee Yolanda Navarro Flores who is running in the H-Town City Council District H Special Election that is scheduled for May 9. I don’t know why anyone up in the legislature would want to weigh in on a local council race. This isn’t exactly a major public policy crisis that needs addressing. If Gallegos was to ever have a hearing on the bill, I sure would love to see the witness list and their talking points. There are quite a few of Gallegos’ constituents that are supporting Yolanda. I wonder what they think. All this bill does is energize Yolanda’s family, friends, and supporters. It sounds like Gallegos has a case of the insecurities if you ask me. Commentary would have a little respect for this if Gallegos had included H-Town city officials. Of course, that would have meant calling out the Mayor. This is clearly one of the silliest bills of this session.

He doesn’t mention it here (though I believe he has done so in previous Commentaries), but Campos is Yolanda Navarro Flores’ campaign consultant for the District H race. That entry drew a long response, which Carl duly forwarded to his list, from Lillian Villarreal, who is Sen. Gallegos’ sister and who said Campos took advantage of the fact that Carl forwards his commentaries to distribute a “political piece” that touted his paid client. Campos responded to that here.

Anyway. I can only presume this has something to do with that. Assuming there is a coherent motive behind all that, that is – as I said, this looks like the work of a crank who is just trying to stir up trouble. Whether there will be more than this, or whether the identity and motivations of the senders comes out, I don’t know either. Heck, I don’t even know how widespread this was – the last time there was this kind of mail related to a District H race, back in the 2003 election, other people who’d gotten the mail emailed me to inquire about it. So far, I’ve heard from one other recipient, so at least I know they didn’t just send it to me. I’ll try to find a scanner this week so I can post the whole thing for your perusal. In the meantime, if anyone else got this, please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks.

One last thing: The reason I’m blogging about this is that I dislike anonymous attack pieces, and I think it’s best to shine light on them. This one had names attached to it, but so far those names don’t tell me anything, so it may as well have been anonymous. I also don’t care for the way this piece went about making its charges but merely teasing about proof. If you’re going to accuse someone of something, show me the evidence. Don’t just claim you’ve got it then say you’ll get back to me. Put up or shut up, and give the people you’re accusing a chance to respond. In the meantime, I say it’s the senders who look bad. If and when I get more on this, I’ll let you know and we’ll go from there.

Candidate interview: Yolanda Navarro Flores

Next up in the District H special election interview series is Yolanda Navarro Flores. As far as I know, she is the only candidate to have been elected to public office before – she served one term in the Lege in HD148 from 1993-95 (she then ran for the open SD06 seat in the Democratic primary in 1994 and lost in a runoff to Sen. Mario Gallegos); she is also the HCC Trustee from District I and Vice Chair of the Board, a position to which she was first elected in 2001. Flores is a resident of Lindale. My interview with her is here. As always, please let me know what you think.

On a side note, please be aware that the location for tomorrow night’s candidate forum has been changed to the HCDP headquarters, 1445 North Loop West, Suite 110, which is just east of Ella. Hope you can make it to this event.

PREVIOUSLY:

Rick Rodriguez

Derr misses filing deadline

Yesterday was the filing deadline for the District H special election. Usually, that brings a last-minute surprise in the form of an unexpected candidate. This time, it brought a different kind of surprise.

As one of the first people to declare her candidacy to replace Adrian Garcia in the District H City Council seat, Karen Derr seemed to have lined up all her ducks in a row.

Until today.

The Realtor and potential candidate apparently forgot to file her papers with the City Secretary by yesterday’s deadline.

Oops.

Officially filing the paperwork in candidacy 101. Derr had done everything else by the book. She started a website (which was just taken down), appointed her husband treasurer, and had a high name ID thanks to her real estate business. The City Secretary’s list does not show Derr, and that is a major break for Maverick Welsh, the former Chief of Staff for Council Member Peter Brown.

That’s a shame, and I feel bad for Karen. She’d certainly been an active campaigner – there’s a ton of her yard signs in my neighborhood, and we’ve been contacted twice by her team, once on the phone and once at the door. Nobody else has done that yet. I hadn’t made up my mind who was going to get my vote in this election, but she was certainly on the list of possibilities. Her departure makes my decision a little easier, but it’s still a shame.

KHOU has more.

Derr tells 11 News that she thought the city’s deadline matched a state deadline for special elections, which is not until later this month.

“To tell you the truth, we’ve been out with a very grassroots campaign on the trail and going to three and four meetings a day,” she said. “We dropped the ball, evidently.”

“You dust yourself off, and you try again,” she said.

She added that supporters are urging her to either mount a write-in campaign or run for an At-Large seat in November. Derr says she has not yet made a decision, nor is she ready to endorse another candidate.

I doubt she’ll do the write-in thing. There’s just no percentage in it. I do have a feeling she’ll be getting a bunch of calls from other candidates, as an endorsement from her ought to carry some weight. I’ve got a statement from Derr beneath the fold.

So with Derr out, who’s left? It’s still a long list.

The order on the ballot, which was determined by a drawing according to a longstanding tradition set up by the city secretary, is as follows: Edward “Ed” Gonzalez, Lupe Garcia, Gonzalo Camacho, Hugo Mojica, Larry Williams, Maverick Welsh, James Partsch-Galvan, Yolanda Navarro Flores and Rick Rodriguez.

Williams ran against Adrian Garcia in 2005 and got 22% of the vote. Partsch-Galvan has run in multiple elections before, including in 2005 against Shelley Sekula Gibbs, getting 27%. The other candidates had all been actively running for awhile and had participated in the first candidate forum.

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Council campaign miscellania

Just some notes and news about various Council campaign activities, collected and collated into one convenient location for you…

Karen Derr will have an “old fashioned patriotic grand opening” of her campaign headquarters, which happens to be her house in the Heights. The event is this Saturday, February 28, from 2 to 4, at 448 Columbia (map). For more information, call Lance Marshall at 281-702-6367. Derr also has a podcast up on her site, for those of you who want to hear from her and can’t wait for my interview.

Also this Saturday, from 2 to 5, is a house party for Maverick Welsh, at the home of Shannon Bishop and Kevin Jeffries, at 829 Allston (map).

If you’re looking for something before then, there will be a fundraiser for Yolanda Navarro Flores this Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:00 at Rico’s Triangle Cafe, 4002 North Main (map). There’s a Facebook event for it, or contact Marisol with Campos Communications, 713 861 2244, marisol@camposcommunications.com.

Finally for District H, while I missed posting the info about a fundraiser for Ed Gonzalez that took place this past Friday, you can help him with blockwalking any weekend from 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Show up at the headquarters on 415 Fairbanks St (map) or call Jason Cisneroz at 832 368 2042 for more info. We got our door knocked by the Derr campaign yesterday; I’m curious to see which others come by between now and May.

And in news from other districts, Carl Whitmarsh sent out word that there is another Democratic contender for District A, a fellow named Lane Lewis, who is an educator and resident of Oak Forest. That’s all I know about him at this point.

That’s what I know at this time. What are you hearing?

Shady Acres candidate forum report

I attended the District H candidate forum that was presented by the Shady Acres Civic Club last night. Eight candidates were in attendance: Gonzalo Camacho, Karen Derr, Yolanda Navarro Flores, Lupe Garcia, Ed Gonzalez, Hugo Mojica, Rick Rodriguez, and Maverick Welsh. That makes the logistics a bit unwieldy, but the Shady Acres folks and moderator Nancy Wilcox did a good job of keeping things on track and moving. You can see photos of all the participants here along with a list of questions they were all asked; the questions were sent to them in advance, and some of them have submitted written answers as well – there are links on the sidebar to those answers.

I’m just going to give general impressions here. I thought the candidates generally came off pretty well. Nobody made me cringe or wonder what they were doing up there, as was the case with a couple of non-entity candidates (neither of whom was ultimately on the ballot) at a Mayoral forum our neighborhood association hosted back in 2003. There was a lot of agreement among them as they answered the questions that were posed to them. This was partly an artifact of the limited time they had to answer the questions (90 seconds each), and partly because the candidates are not too far apart in outlook and ideology. There is a broad range of backgrounds and experiences among them – the candidates include cops, lawyers, teachers, realtors, civil engineers, and business owners – and it’s clear they have different priorities and approaches. But at this stage of the game, there wasn’t that much dissonance among them. I assume that will change for the runoff, at least to some extent, but for now things were very civil and pleasant.

We’re about ten weeks out from the start of early voting. This is going to be a low-turnout affair, so it’s really important to try and get to know these folks, because with such a big field and with many of them having some base of support to begin with, it’s impossible to say who might make the runoff. There are at least two more candidate forums coming up that I know of, one of which will be held by the Greater Heights Democratic Club in March. I really urge everyone in H to make an effort to attend some event or meeting or whatever where these candidates will be and ask them whatever questions you may have. The odds are good they have been or will be at your neighborhood association’s meetings. The difference between making the runoff and not will likely be measured in something like a few dozen votes, so make sure your voice gets heard.

I will be conducting interviews with all these candidates starting next month. I still have to figure out who I’ll be voting for. In the meantime, take a look at the Shady Acres page and the candidates’ answers that they have so far and get acquainted with them. It’ll be time to vote before you know it.

Ed Gonzalez kickoff event

Ed Gonzalez will have a campaign kickoff event for District H next Wednesday, February 11, at Irma’s Restaurant downtown from 5:30 to 7 PM. You can get all the details here (PDF).

We’re rapidly approaching the filing deadline for the May special election, and from there it’s going to be an absolute sprint to the finish line – well, the first finish line – in May. As we know, there are seven declared candidates so far, with two more in the wings. That can all change, but for sure this is going to be a crowded field, and everyone in the running is going to be hard-pressed to get their message out. I’ll do whatever I can to pass along event announcements and other news, and of course I’ll be working on doing interviews with everyone. If you’re a candidate or associated with one, and haven’t contacted me, please do so I can make sure I get your information as well.

Along those lines, the Greater Heights Democratic Club is planning a District H candidate forum for March 19 at 7 PM, location to be determined. They do not have current contact information for Lupe Garcia, Rick Rodriguez, Yolanda Navarro Flores, or Diana Davila Martinez. If you are one of these people or know how to contact one of them, please drop me a note with an email address and/or cell number so Kevin Hoffman and the GHDC folks can get in touch with you. Thanks very much

Finally, I note that Gonzalez was at that Heights crime prevention townhall meeting, and posted a report about it on his blog. So there you have it.

A list of who has actually filed treasurer’s reports so far

Noel Freeman did us all the public service of trooping over to the City Secretary’s office and compiling a list of people who had filed treasurer’s reports as of Monday for election to a municipal office in 2009. As I discovered last week, they don’t give that information out over the phone, so this is the only way to know for sure who’s in and who’s not, at least for now. Here’s what Noel was able to find:

Mayor

Annise Parker
Gene Locke
Roy Morales
Peter Brown
Ben Hall

At-Large 4

Noel Freeman

District A

Alex Wathen
Jeff Downing
Brenda Stardig
Bert Schoelkopf

District E

Wayne Garrison

District F

Mike Laster

District G
Oliver Pennington
Mills Worsham

District H
Lupe Garcia
Rick Rodriguez
Ed Gonzales
Maverick Welsh
Karen Derr
Hugo Mojica
Yolanda Navarro Flores
Diana Davila Martinez
Gonzalo Camacho

The names in italics are folks who are at least rumored to be running but who have not yet filed. Nobody has made a move towards At Large #1 yet, currently held by Peter Brown. I figure no one will do so until he does his formalities for the Mayor’s race. I see freshman Member Mike Sullivan has an opponent – he’s the only incumbent so far to get one, though he surely won’t be the last. Lupe Garcia in District H is a new name to me – I’ve just stumbled across a Facebook group in support of his candidacy, but the man himself doesn’t appear to have a profile. Does anyone know anything about this person? Yolanda Navarro Flores had not filed as of Monday, but yesterday afternoon a press release announcing her candidacy (reproduced beneath the fold) appeared in my inbox. I also got a release for Mike Laster, who had filed but hadn’t made a formal announcement yet; that release is beneath the fold as well. Finally, there’s a release from Noel Freeman about a Facebook fundraising campaign he’s got going on. Miya and Greg have more. Anybody hearing anything else they’d like to add?

I’ll say again, I do not know why this information is not available on the web. I cannot think of a single good reason why it shouldn’t be. From the conversation I had with someone in the City Secretary’s office, I get the impression that this is extra work to them, which is probably why it’s not any kind of priority for them. It seems to me that the right answer is for the city to hire someone for whom handling elections and election-related activities like campaign finance reports is their primary duty. It was kind of amusing that the city didn’t get around to posting campaign finance reports online until 2007. It’s deeply embarassing that we can’t even get a list of candidates who have filed a simple report, not to mention a peek at those reports themselves, in 2009. What century are we in again? Let’s get with the program already.

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