April 09, 2008
Runoff wrapup

Most of this I covered last night, but just to be official and all, here are the results of races of interest.

- Pat Lykos won the DA runoff, and as soon as she did, the race for November began.

[Democratic candidate C.O.] Bradford ripped Lykos as soon as her victory was revealed.

"We need to end the good ol' boys and girls network that has mismanaged Harris County for so many years. Pat Lykos is a part of that network," he said in a written statement. "Lykos also has no management experience. As a judge, she clashed often with the DA's office and had a high number of cases overturned on appeal. Her personnel files reveal that her supervisors believed she had no leadership or team-building skills."

He said he has the experience, education and training "required to bring integrity and fairness" to the agency.

"I am very disappointed in Mr. Bradford," Lykos said. "I was hoping we could run an issue-oriented campaign."

Okay, first of all, management experience is an issue. Kelly Siegler raised it in the campaign, albeit without much success. Everything Bradford pointed out here is a documented fact, and all of it is objectively relevant to a race like this. Two, I don't know what DA runoff Lykos was watching, but I seem to recall her saying a negative thing or two about Siegler.

Responding to his allegation about management, Lykos said she has managed the probation status of thousands of defendants, chaired the judges' committee that oversaw the county criminal justice computer system and headed a statewide judges' group.

During the GOP campaign, Lykos, a former felony court judge, tried to portray Siegler and Rosenthal as an unethical matching set. She said only someone outside the agency could restore public confidence in the district attorney's office in the aftermath of scandal.

"The office is in disarray," Lykos said last month. "And it has been discredited nationally and worldwide."

By her definition of "issue-oriented", that would have been a "disappointing" thing to say. Let's be honest, this is going to be a negative campaign. That doesn't mean it can't be substantive, however. Both candidates have questions to answer about their background and experience, and the only way that's going to happen is if those questions get raised. Like it or not, here it comes.

And three, I'd been told that Bradford, whom I've criticized for being too quiet up till now, would come out of the gate as soon as his November opponent was known. I'm glad to see that happen.

One last thing:

Turnout for the runoff fell below 40,000 votes countywide, compared with the 140,695 votes cast in the race in the first round on March 4.

The runoff election returns report says "total number of voters" was 49,957, and "number of district voters" was 40,367. I'm not sure what the distinction is there, but with 477 undervotes and one overvote, that does give fewer than 40,000 total ballots cast in this race. Which is another thing I got wrong. Clearly, Lykos did a better job turning out the smaller-than-expected number of people who cared about this runoff.

- Moving on, Pete Olson had an easy victory over Shelley Sekula Gibbs.

Olson and his campaign aides credited strong grass-roots support for knocking off an opponent with a bigger bankroll and higher name recognition in the district. They also said Olson won key endorsements, and successfully undercut Sekula Gibbs with a contrast ad arguing that she changed her positions on abortion and illegal immigration -- key issues to Republican voters.

"There were significant policy differences between us," said the 45-year-old Olson. "Those were all factual. We thought it was important for the voters to know some of the differences."

Sekula Gibbs, who claimed 30 percent of the vote in the primary's first round to Olson's 21 percent, praised the hard work of her campaign staff and volunteers, but lamented it was not enough to overcome what she characterized as Olson's negative campaign.

"The positive message we put out of our campaign was not strong enough to overcome all of the negativity that came out of my opponent's campaign," she said at an election night party at Mamacita's Restaurant in Webster.

Yeah, it's always the other guy that fights dirty. Rep. Nick Lampson also got an early start on the November campaign by releasing the following statement last night:

"Congressman Lampson has promoted NASA while his opponent didn't know the name of the Johnson Space Center in a recent debate. He has worked on transportation issues while his opponent supports more toll roads and a big government land grab called the Trans-Texas Corridor. And he has worked for affordable health care while his opponent opposes the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Congressman Lampson is an independent voice for Texas. His opponent is a Washington insider with little or no knowledge of this district."

I'm sure Pat Lykos is disappointed by that as well.

- In other Republican races of interest, Ken Legler won by 101 votes over Fred Roberts in HD144, Angie Chen Button triumphed in HD112, and Odessa incumbent Buddy West was sent packing in HD81; the latter is a win for Tom Craddick.

- On the Democratic side, Mark Thompson scored a solid win over Dale Henry.

Thompson, 48, is an orientation and mobility teacher for the blind. He was a commissioned peace officer for eight years in the 1990s, serving two years as an Austin park police officer and then three years with the State Capitol police.

Henry, 76, had a career as a petroleum engineer, working in this country and the Middle East for oil-drilling and field-service companies. He also worked as a private contractor for the Texas Railroad Commission in plugging and filling abandoned wells.

Thompson has been urging the commission to be more aggressive in forcing natural gas companies to replace aging compression couplings whose failure has caused gas explosions in homes. He also has focused attention on oil-well waste being pumped into the ground with injection wells.

Henry focused on the need to clean up environmental problems caused by oil drilling and abandoned wells. His special concern is oil-field pollution of groundwater.

The Observer's Cody Garrett has more:

In the statewide contest, Texas Democrats continued to support a political newcomer. Voters favored Mark Thompson over Dale Henry 59 percent to 40 percent. Thompson is a therapist for blind children and former Austin Capitol and Park Police officer -- who had spent (as of April 4) only $200 on his entire campaign.

I wrote about Thompson's inexplicable Mar. 4 victory and have spoken with him on several occasions. He says he is running a campaign on issues and he says he will not take any money from oil and gas interests.

Thompson told me Tuesday that he intends to court those voters who supported his opponents and to raise money for the general campaign. He has consistently refused to "go negative." He even neglected to mount a campaign to debunk the allegation that he hadn't voted since 1996 (a charge floated by the Henry campaign). In fact, he did vote in Austin in 2005 and 2006.

Thompson's victory shows Texas Democrats don't always follow the leads of bloggers -- since most of the progressive blogging community had piled on Henry's bandwagon. Thompson even beat Henry in Travis County, 51-49.

True enough, though if you look at the county by county results, Thompson ran strongest in rural and South Texas areas, where I daresay our readership is pretty small. But he did also run slightly ahead in the big urban counties, so that only goes so far. There was also precious little mainstream news coverage of this race, going back to the March primary, and Dale Henry didn't have a whole lot of money to get his message out, either. I still don't know why, and may never know why, people picked Thompson; at this point I guess he qualified as the better-known candidate from having led in Round One, despite Henry's candidacy in 2006. One commenter in a previous post mentioned Thompson's opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor as a factor. Maybe that helped him - the TTC wasn't specifically mentioned on Henry's issues page - but that again assumes people knew enough about him to be aware of it, and I'm skeptical of that. Whatever the case, he's who we've got. If he's sincere about courting those who opposed him, I'll be glad to hear what he has to say.

- In Austin, Rosemary Lehmberg will succeed Ronnie Earle as DA.

Addressing supporters at Joe's Bar and Grill on Tuesday night, Lehmberg said she would get to work soon on issues that came up during the campaign, including how best to deal with drug offenders and environmental crimes. She thanked supporters, including Earle.

"Ronnie, you've been my friend and my mentor, my boss," she said, looking at Earle and then turning to the crowd. "He gave me the greatest gift of all: He gave me his good name."

During the campaign, Lehmberg said that, like Earle, she would rarely seek the death penalty.

Lehmberg repeatedly said that she was the best candidate to run the independent public integrity unit, the state-funded arm of the office that investigates those accused of wrongdoing at the Texas Capitol. During the runoff campaign, Lehmberg criticized Montford for taking money from Capitol lobbyists and wealthy businesspeople from outside Austin, saying the donations would cloud her judgment in public integrity unit investigations.

"Negative campaigning works," Montford said Tuesday night. She said she did not know whether she would work for Lehmberg.

See what I mean about the other guy? Amazing how often that happens, isn't it? But maybe there was just a little bit more this time:

Montford outraised Lehmberg $564,371 to $337,750 through March 29, the most recent required reporting date. Much of her money came from connections that her father, AT&T lobbyist John T. Montford, developed in past jobs as a Texas senator from Lubbock and as chancellor of Texas Tech University.

Montford received 6 percent of her campaign contributions from lobbyists, not including her father. Her largest donor was former Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe, a Uvalde rancher, who gave her $170,000.

"It just makes me wonder: Why would they care about our race?" said voter Margot Marshall, 63, as she left the polls Tuesday at Travis Heights Elementary School. "I assume influence."

Well, yeah. There is that. Nice to see that even lobbyists can sometimes fail to sway an electorate, just like us bloggers.

- And finally, Larry Weiman won the 80th District Judge nomination in Harris County, Richard Morrison won the Commissioner's Court runoff in Fort Bend (and the Republican incumbent, Tom Stavinoha, got knocked off in his runoff), and Eric Roberson won in CD32. That's all I've got, but there's plenty more out there:

Greg Wythe
Mark Bennett
Half Empty
Miya Shay
Elise Hu
Muse and Muse again
Walker Report
Houston Politics
Eye on Williamson


Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 09, 2008 to Election 2008

I'm just upset we won't have SSG to kick around any more. I saw one of her TV commercials last week; it said something about her fighting for conservative values while in Congress. Sheer comedy gold.

Posted by: Kenneth Fair on April 9, 2008 4:21 PM
Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)