September 07, 2006
The race to replace Shelley

KHOU fills in the blanks that I alluded to regarding the potential contenders for Shelley Sekula-Gibbs' likely-to-be-abandoned City Council seat.

[T]he prospect of a special election for city council has politicos salivating.

Among the candidates talked about on the political grapevine are former state reps Melissa Noriega and Diana Davila-Martinez, former council candidate Jay Aiyer, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce head Richard Torres, a councilmember’s wife, Nandy Berry and district councilmember M.J. Khan, who could run for a citywide seat and build a citywide political base.

For the record, all three of the names I had in mind are on this list: Melissa Noriega, Jay Aiyer, and Nandy Berry. MJ Khan is not a surprise, and Diana Davila Martinez (as I recall, she's no hyphenated) made a close but unsuccessful run for the District H race (my Council district) in 2003. Note that this is all grapevine talk at this point. As of today, that list is very likely to have some names missing and some other names that don't belong there. Until Shelley's seat actually becomes available and a filing deadline is set, take it all with an appropriate dose of salt.

The story notes that a special election would probably cost the city $2 million, and would also probably be the only election going on for that day (this would not necessarily be true if the Mayor's Prop 2 alteration fails, as it would give the anti-immigrationists a second shot at the ballot before 2008). Such an election would likely be won with a relatively tiny number of votes. Consider the following turnouts for recent city elections:

November 2003, in which Bill White and Orlando Sanchez advanced to a runoff for Mayor: 293,974 votes cast.

December 2003 runoff, White defeating Sanchez for Mayor: 214,525 votes cast.

November 2005, in which Bill White runs more or less unopposed for re-election: 178,628 votes cast.

May 2004, city referendum on the pension plan: 85,929 votes cast.

December 2005 runoff for At Large City Council #2 between Jay Aiyer and Sue Lovell: 35,922 votes cast.

I'd expect that 50,000 votes would be enough to win this race outright, as I would expect this election to have similar turnout as the May 2004 referendum. Thirty thousand might get you into a runoff, and would likely win a runoff if there were one, which would not be unexpected given the high probability of a crowded field. (If there were an obvious way to get a plain-text version of the precinct data, so that I could import it into Excel, I'd try to analyze where the votes come from. Maybe another time.) Whoever wins and thus gets to call him or herself the incumbent next November will wind up spending a lot of dollars per vote.

Lots to think about, and we don't even know for sure that the seat will be open (though I'd say it's a pretty safe bet), let alone who'll be running for it. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Houtopia thinks that two Berrys on City Council are not better than one, while Greg comments on a name that's not in the KHOU list.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 07, 2006 to Local politics | TrackBack