October 31, 2008
Endorsement watch: The "We just realized there's only one day of early voting left" edition

I don't know if the Chronicle was motivated by the end of early voting today or if they just finally broke through a logjam, but we have a veritable cornucopia of endorsements in this edition. First, they go for Loren Jackson for District Clerk.

In the current contest to fill the unexpired term of Charles Bacarisse, who resigned to run for county judge, the Chronicle believes 30-year-old Democratic challenger Loren Jackson has the background and talent to direct the office in the coming years.

The Texas A&M and South Texas College of Law graduate has been a litigation attorney for five years, practicing in federal and district courts while specializing primarily in environmental and products liability law. Jackson contends that the District Clerk's Office is not moving fast enough to implement paperless records and e-filing systems, and should be tapping the expertise of groups like the Conference of Urban Counties for advanced filing technology.

He criticizes incumbent Theresa Chang for returning $700,000 to the county's general fund when salaries of office clerks are as low as $22,000 and the management structure remains top-heavy with supervisors. Jackson says he has met with some clerks in the office who rely on government assistance, including the Children's Health Insurance Program, and "that isn't right." He promises to upgrade pay and training in order to provide employees a living income and a career route to reward their hard work.

The Chronicle urges voters to support Jackson and his ideas for improving the District Clerk's Office.

The Chron mentioned all these things in an article they wrote about the editorial board interview they had with Jackson and Chang. Clearly, they were impressed with what Jackson had to say.

Next, they dispose of the one remaining legislative race by endorsing Kristi Thibaut in HD133.

Thibaut brings passion and well-thought out positions to her candidacy on two important issues -- electricity deregulation and public education.

We like her empathy for hard-pressed homeowners facing escalating electric bills. This is a painful symptom of a larger problem. Electricity deregulation is not working. In hindsight, it probably shouldn't be surprising that plans created in the heyday of Enron and other corporate scalawags have problems. The topic needs revisiting in Austin.

Thibaut favors re-regulating tuition at Texas colleges and universities to keep higher education affordable and accessible for more Texas families. She would freeze tuition costs for four years for entering freshmen to help families better plan and budget.

She also recognizes the importance of continued strong support for K-12 education, especially on matters such as dealing with the alarming dropout rate and the number of teachers leaving the profession.

If she is elected, we would encourage Thibaut to take a page from Murphy's playbook and work across party lines in the Texas House.

The atmosphere of intense partisanship under the troubling leadership of House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, needs changing. We believe Kristi Thibaut would be an effective change agent in Austin.

The Chron had endorsed Thibaut in 2006 based on a dislike of Murphy's stance on stem cells and abortion. The rationale is different this time, and I think it's the first time the Speaker's race has come up. Murphy is a loyal Craddickite, so a Thibaut victory would certainly be a big step in the direction of a different (and hopefully Democratic, whoever that may be, Speaker). I thought the Chron might stick with the incumbent this time around, so I was wrong about that. I also thought the Chron would not endorse both Thibaut and Sherrie Matula, so by virtue of being wrong about Matula as well, I was right about that.

Finally, the Chron makes the obvious choices in the HCDE Trustee races.

Debra Kerner for County School Trustee, Position 5, At Large: Kerner, a career speech/language pathologist, has devoted her professional life to special needs students both in private practice and at a private nonprofit school. She has been an instructor of speech pathology at the University of Houston, a former president of the Houston Association for Communication Disorders and a former vice president of the Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

She has always been devoted to public education, having sent her daughter to local public schools, and advocates proven innovations such as extended days and intensified teacher/parent engagement.

Jim Henley for County School Trustee, Position 7, At Large: Recently retired from two decades at Lanier Middle School, Henley was a revered teacher of history and debate. His power and originality as a debate coach led the Lanier debate team to win national championships five times between 2003 and 2007.

Henley shows the same dedication in his proposals for at-large Position 7. He pledges to expand programs and reduce waiting lists for early childhood education, scour the budget to ensure all county education tax dollars are well-used and insists on accountability from administrators, educators and families to stanch the county's devastating 40 percent dropout rate.

Professionals over ideologues. Sometimes it really is that simple.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 31, 2008 to Election 2008
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