October 31, 2003
Endorsements and a mini-scandal

I went and voted this morning, so all you candidates out there can stop calling and mailing me, at least until the runoffs begin. My slate of candidates is remarkably similar to Greg Wythe's. Here's how I voted:

Mayor: Bill White
Controller: Annise Parker
At Large #1: Brian Wozniak
At Large #2: Gordon Quan
At Large #3: Peter Brown
At Large #4: Sue Lovell
At Large #5: Beulah Shepard
District H: Adrian Garcia
Metro: Yes
Collective bargaining for firefighters: Yes

Like Greg, I was torn on At Large #1. What eventually tipped it for me was that Brian Wozniak had an actual web page that I could read and get a feel for his positions, while Andrew Burks didn't. As for Beulah Shepard, I kinda went with the heart over the head on this one, but she's got a pretty strong resume, too.

District H was another tough call. In my opinion, there are two excellent candidates. The rules say I can only pick one, and it was Adrian Garcia by a nose. I should note that my next-door neighbors are in a sense the mirror image of Greg on this one - they broke the tie in favor of Diana Davila Martinez because they know and like her husband. In any event, I can endorse a vote for either, and I will put a sign in my yard for whichever one ends up in a runoff against Hector Longoria.

Speaking of District H: There's some buzz in my neighborhood over a campaign flyer that was received in the mail yesterday by many Heights residents. The flyer, which purports to be from a group called "Citizens for a Better America", is a straight-on hatchet job on Adrian Garcia, including grainy photos, three context-free quotes (none of which, in my opinion, were particularly damning) from the Chron, the Statesman, and the Express-News going back as far as 1991, and an exhortation to "call Adrian Garcia at 713 xxx xxxx and tell him to stop messing with our neighborhoods" or words to that effect. I've been mailed a copy of the flyer in PDF format from a neighbor, but it's 2MB in size so I haven't FTPed it to the site. I may put it up over the weekend if there's interest in seeing it.

Anyway, the only contact info on the flyer is the name "Citizens for a Better America" and a return address. It turns out there is such a group, and they're a traditional-values organization in the Moral Majority mold. If you actually click on that link, you'll note that they have specifically denied any involvement in the mailer. From their "Open Letter to the Citizens of Houston":


Citizens For A Better America has not sent out any mailings or spent any money to influence the Nov. 4, 2003 election in Houston, Texas. Any use of our name is unauthorized and is identify theft and will be treated as such.

Citizens For A Better America is a registered trademark with the United States Patents and Trademarks office, Registration Number: 2500525. Any search of the name Citizens For A Better America on the internet brings up our website at http://www.cfaba.org. We have been an organization, using our name, since October 15, 1992. We are on file with the Federal Election Commission our number is C00278333. We have a very high national visibility and we do not consider the unauthorized use of our name to be accidental.

We take it very seriously when someone(s) uses our name without our permission. If you have any information about the individual or individuals who are using our name please contact us by either e-mail, regular mail or phone.


In other words, whoever did this is a criminal in the minds of the actual CFABA folks. The Woodland Heights has a chat board, where this flyer has been discussed at length. (Some of the info and links for this post came from the message thread on the board about this.) According to the board, the return address on the flyer can be traced to a non-Texas based public affairs group with ties to the Republican Party and which does direct mail. Since I have no idea if they were involved or not - after all, if someone can use CFABA's name without authorization, they can fake a return address - I won't give any further information about them. I do know that several people, myself included, have contacted reporters about this (I called Tim Fleck at the Houston Press), so maybe we'll find out.

The better question is who in Houston is responsible. George Strong thinks it could be Longoria.


Could it be that the Chair of the Harris County Republican Party, Jared Woodfill, whose law partner is running against Garcia got that group involved the that race? Hector Longoria is that candidate and his jumping into the District H race at the last minute has been of some concern. Longoria claimed he made his switch from At-Large 5 to District H the day of the filing deadline, on Monday September 22. In Thursday's mail, that same week, voters in District H got a very specific Longoria mailer, clearly not something that was created & mailed in 3 days. Longoria's next mailer, that came a few days later, claimed endorsements that have actually gone to other District H candidates, but which Longoria had when he was in his first race, for At-large 5. It including the Houston Police Officer Union, HPOU, which later went to its member a fellow police officer, Adrian Garcia. The Gossips are told that Bob Perry of Perry Homes is the largest contributor to Hector. Perry has lots of Condos in the Heights and apparently wants to build more.

Strong says that CFABA was behind some earlier attack ads on radio about Bill White. For what it's worth, I searched CFABA's website and found no mention at all of Bill White and no recent mention of Houston. Strong wrote his post before the CFABA founder disavowed the anti-Garcia mailer, so perhaps the "identity theft" they speak of has been going on longer than anyone thought, or perhaps Strong is just confused. I don't know.

Finally, at least two other candidates in District H have specifically denied any knowledge about this mailer. I myself got to ask Diana Davila Martinez about it, last night at a happy hour for the Houston Democratic Forum, and she said she knew nothing about it. She has since replied to an email from a WH message board poster, which he replicated on the board, again saying that "neither I nor my campaign had any knowledge of this effort". Gonzalo Camacho was also contacted via email by a member and gave a similar denial. Hector Longoria was emailed as well but as of this writing had not replied. I will keep an eye on that and will post an update here if I see a reply from him.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 31, 2003 to Election 2003 | TrackBack
Comments

There have indeed been anti-Bill White ads by a group calling themselves "Citizens for a Better America" on KSEV. They criticize him for advocating expanding toll roads and for helping Lee Brown prepare a budget, if memory serves. The group sounds fishy.

Having been on a campaign on the receiving end of made up charges passed around on anonymous flyers, I know the feeling. But, it goes with the territory.

Posted by: Rob Booth (Slightly Rough) on October 31, 2003 6:50 PM

There have indeed been anti-Bill White ads by a group calling themselves "Citizens for a Better America" on KSEV. They criticize him for advocating expanding toll roads and for helping Lee Brown prepare a budget, if memory serves. The group sounds fishy.

At least those are legitimate grounds for criticism. The anti-Garcia mailer was essentially content-free. Maybe someone ought to check with the CFABA folks about those ads as well.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on October 31, 2003 9:37 PM