April 29, 2007
Possibly the only Chron story you'll see about the May 12 election

Given the headline "Race to replace Sekula-Gibbs a blip on the radar" and the fact that it was buried inside the Metro section today, I'll be surprised if we see another article on the May 12 City Council election. Barring some kind of "scandal" or publicity stunt by a candidate, of course.

Couple things to add to the piece, which didn't mention any actual candidates by name (there's a companion piece underneath, which I didn't see at first glance online, which contains a teeny bio and a brief statement by each contender):

"I don't think there is anything driving anyone to the May 12 ballot at the moment," said David Beirne, a spokesman for Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman, whose office administers elections.

Kaufman's office expects a turnout of 8 percent.

That would put it on par with the May, 2004, city charter amendment election, which made changes to pension benefits for city employees. Frankly, I think Beirne's estimate is too high. There was a lot more noise about that election than there has been about this one. I'd put the over/under line at five percent turnout.

It would be foolish for candidates to spend resources campaigning to the entire city, political consultant Allen Blakemore said. Instead, they should focus on a small group of voters who are likely to show up at the polls, he said.

"A low-turnout election is not the place for TV, radio and billboard advertising. This is the time for direct mail, phone banks and grass-roots, door-to-door (campaigning)," Blakemore said. "None of these campaigns have a lot of money. They are limited in their ability to gin up interest."

Well, of course, one candidate has raised more money than all other candidates combined, and has more cash on hand than any two candidates has raised. In other words, one candidate is a lot less limited in her ability to gin up interest than the others are. Blakemore is a well-known Republican consultant, so it's not exactly surprising that he didn't care to name names here. But don't be fooled by his misleading statement.

"No one knows there is a special election," political consultant Marc Campos said. "This is going to be the hard core of the hard core who shows up."

Campos, who is not working for any of the candidates, said endorsements will mean more than usual in this race. Voters will look for cues from civic groups, police and firefighter unions, corporate organizations and other elected officials.

And Campos has given his endorsement to the one candidate who has garnered the support of the Houston Police Officers' Union PAC, the Houston Police Retired Officers Association PAC, the Houston Professional Firefighters Association Local #341, and a raft of organizations and elected officials.

Because of the crowded field, a runoff in the race to replace Sekula-Gibbs is expected.

"These races are difficult to handicap," Blakemore said. "The more candidates and the lower the turnout, the less predictable it becomes. It's something of a crapshoot."

Yes, races like this are difficult to handicap. But that doesn't mean there isn't a frontrunner.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 29, 2007 to Election 2007