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Election 2009

Runoff EV report, Day 8

Before I get into today’s numbers, there was an incident at one of the early voting locations this morning.

Police say someone broke into the Hester House Community Center, an early-voting location in the Fifth Ward, overnight, but officials with the Harris County Clerk’s Office said the integrity of the vote was not compromised.

Still, some voters in the community said they can’t help but feel concerned.

“I want my vote to county fair and square,” said Evelyn Thacker, who showed up to vote at the Hester House Community Center just a few hours after the break-in was discovered.

Officials say the suspect or suspects smashed through a window and gained entry to the voting area. When election workers arrived early Monday morning, they discovered the place ransacked and saw that some electronic equipment had been taken.

“The vandals took a modem, two printers and a pair of computers used to store voter registration information,” according to the Harris County Clerk Chief Deputy Kevin Mauzy. “The voting machines were not touched. The seals were not tampered with and the locks were not broken.”

County Clerk Beverly Kaufman called it “an incident of random vandalism”, according to a statement. The computers were said to contain only information that is publicly accessible. I sure hope so.

And now for the early voting totals update. As you can see from the spreadsheet, today’s total of 7494 was the highest of the early voting period. Strictly speaking, though, it wasn’t as busy as it was during the first four days last week, when the EV hours were shorter. From Monday through Thursday, 23,199 in-person votes were cast over 36 hours, or about 642 per hour. Today, those 7494 votes over 12 hours represent a rate of 624 per hour. Counting absentee ballots, we’ve seen 52,400 votes for Houston plus West U, with one day to go. I’m going to guess we’ll get between 65,000 and 70,000 total early votes. Need I say again that I am skeptical of the projections that turnout for the runoff will exceed that of the general? I still am. We’ll see how we end up.

By the way, I’m happy to note that despite the problems at the Hester House, it had its best turnout day today, with 196 votes cast. Hopefully there will be no more problems.

Eight days out finance reports, Green and Khan

We’ve seen the eight days out finance reports for the Mayor’s race, now here’s the same thing for the Controller’s race. As before, the campaign finance spreadsheet has been updated with all of the raw data. Here’s how it breaks down for Ronald Green and MJ Khan:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Green 76,273 71,418 0 40,269 30,158 39.5% Khan 182,740 229,593 75,000 57,220 49,750 27.2% Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Green 0 2,000 45,117 1,930 2,200 Khan 70,264 625 96,588 0 16,619

Looking at this, you’d almost wonder how it is there’s any doubt about who ought to win. It still boggles my mind that Green has had such a weak fundraising track record, but there you have it. He has done a lot better this time around, with some help from various PACs, and more donations from current and former officeholders and candidates than I’ve seen for anyone else. Here are some of the people you know who have donated to Ronald Green:

Jarvis Johnson – $100
Pam Holm – $600 (in kind, radio ad)
Gerald Birnberg – $500
Garnet Coleman – $1000
Peter Brown – $3000
Peter Brown – $185.06 (in kind, food for breakfast)
Kristi Thibaut – $1000
Carol Alvarado – $500
Zinetta Burney – $50
David Mincberg – $500
Borris Miles – $1000
Morris Overstreet – $100

The Pam Holm in kind donation stems from an incident before the general election (the donation is dated October 30) in which Holm had a date to appear on KCOH and challenged Green to come on the air with her to discuss his tax issues. According to Keir Murray, with whom I inquired about this item, since Green repeatedly asked listeners to vote for him, and since Holm had paid for the radio time, they felt obligated to report it as an in kind donation. Sometimes, I really love politics. Anyway, I note that even though Holm endorsed Khan, she has not given him any money. Neither had any other elected official, as far as I could see. I don’t know that it matters, but I thought it was interesting.

Khan’s strategy appears to be what it was in the general, which is to boost his name recognition as much as possible. He’s also started attacking Green over his tax issues in the mail he’s sent out, according to what I’ve heard – I’ve not received one of Khan’s mailers myself. As noted before, he has a lot of paid field workers, too. He has to do all this because he’s not fighting on a level playing field. As we know, while Khan does very well among Republican voters, there are a lot more Democrats actually voting, and he needs to hold his losses there in order to win.

The flip side of that is Green’s strategy, which is largely to remind Democratic voters which candidate is on which team. I got a Green mailer last week that was mostly positive about him, but also had a bit that highlighted Khan’s GOP credentials. The message is pretty clear, and so is the need for it to work for Green. I still think he’s the favorite to win, but if you’d told me a year ago it was going to be this hard for him, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Next up, a peek at the Council reports. Let me know what you think.

The last debate

I’m not much of a debate-watching person, and we had company yesterday afternoon, so I did not catch the last Mayoral debate. (Judging by David Ortez’s liveblogging, it would seem a lot of people weren’t watching.) I don’t think events like these tell you much about a candidate that you didn’t already know, though there is always the chance you’ll get to see a highly visible screwup. Which apparently didn’t happen. I’m not sure what there is left to convince people who weren’t sure for whom to vote which choice to make, but then I’m not an undecided voter. So let me ask: Who out there watched? Did it affect your opinion of either candidate? Leave a comment and let us know.

At Large #1 runoff overview

I believe this will be the last of the runoff overview stories.

The runoff for an at-large City Council seat has devolved into a battle over the subtle connotations of the phrase “city contractor.”

One of the candidates for Position One, Stephen Costello, has worked as a drainage engineer for Houston, Harris County and numerous municipal utility districts. His opponent, Karen Derr, has said that government contractors like Costello and his supporters view Houston “as a big place to make money.”

“His support is heavily, heavily weighted with people who contract with the city of Houston,” said Derr, 50, who built a successful residential realty firm focused on the Heights area. She recently sold the company, but still has a real estate license. “My support is very broad-based with people who live in the city, regular folks, taxpayers.”

Costello acknowledged that his company, Costello Inc., has received about $3.5 million in Houston contracts over the past 18 years. But he called Derr’s attitude “offensive.”

“The people that back me are people who bring jobs to the city, who bring economic development to the city,” the 56-year-old said.

I get the impression that this race is the farthest beneath the radar among the runoffs. It hasn’t generated a whole lot of heat that I’ve seen. Each candidate has been endorsed by two of their former opponents, Herman Litt and Donald Cook for Derr, Rick Rodriguez and Lonnie Allsbrooks for Costello. For the record, I voted for Derr, but I don’t have anything bad to say about Costello. What do you think about this race?

Not-quite-an-endorsement-but-close-enough watch: Roy for Annise

As we know, Peter Brown endorsed Annise Parker for Mayor fairly soon after the November election. That left the question about what, if anything, Roy Morales would do. Via Big Jolly, we now know the answer. Apparently, Roy sent out a short questionnaire to Parker and to Gene Locke. Parker responded, Locke did not. So, Roy sent out this mailer, presumably to his supporters (Big Jolly did not indicate the size of the audience), which speaks for itself. Click and see what I mean. David Ortez has more.

Runoff EV report, Day 7

We’ve had one full week of early voting, with two twelve-hour days to go. As you can see on the spreadsheet, today was the slowest day, with 2,600 voters showing up, giving a total of 43,989 votes. I’ve been remiss in noting the fact that some of these votes are not city of Houston. According to the Johnston report, 96% of the votes were actually Houston votes through the first five days. Assuming the same rate for the weekend, 42,229 of those votes are the ones we care about. So take these figures and adjust accordingly.

Parker leads in another poll

It’s a Zogby poll, so don’t get too excited, but that’s still four out of four since Election Day.

While the race for Houston mayor remains too close to call, Parker’s 5.5 percentage point lead stems from advantages among several demographics, including women, whites, Hispanics and self-identified independent voters.

Parker leads with 41.9 percent of the vote, followed by Locke’s 36.4 percent, according to the poll conducted last week by Zogby International. Nearly 18 percent of likely voters remain undecided in the contest, a sign of how fluid the race remains just days before the campaign will come to an end.

“There’s a huge pool of undecided voters and the real question now is which way they split or whether they vote at all,” said John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International, which conducted the poll last week for the Chronicle.

[…]

The results are drawn from a survey of 601 likely Houston voters selected randomly from purchased telephone lists of registered voters. The margin of error is 4.1 percentage points.

OK, here’s the thing. By this point, we have a pretty strong idea about who is actually participating in this election, and who is not. According to the analysis Kyle Johnston has done, 92% of the people who had voted through the first five days of early voting were people who had voted in at least two of the last three general elections. As such, any sample that doesn’t match this just isn’t going to be accurate. I seriously doubt there are that many undecideds among those who really are going to vote.

Now, I don’t know which candidate would benefit from a truer sample of likely voters, though I’m sure both of the campaigns themselves do. It may be that it all comes out in the wash. But I just don’t get the reluctance, if that’s what it is, of pollsters like Zogby to pre-screen in a more realistic manner. I mean, it’s not like this runoff is out of line with others in terms of who is voting in it. Even if I’m wrong about it not exceeding the general election turnout, we’re still talking something like 20% participation. Why wouldn’t you try to be more selective in who you poll? I just don’t get it.

The crosstabs for this poll are here. As it happens, again going by the Johnston numbers, Zogby is reasonably accurate with some subgroups, less so with others. He’s got about the right number of Republicans and African-Americans, for example, but he’s oversampled Hispanics and Independents, and undersampled Democrats and Anglos. Again, I can’t really say how that might affect this result, but I do think it’s skewed the other race they polled:

In the city controller’s race, City Councilman M.J. Khan leads with 35.4 percent of the vote to his fellow Councilman Ronald Green’s 29.5 percent, with 34.5 percent of voters still undecided.

Khan dominates among Republicans, Green is somewhat less dominant but still strong among Dems, and Khan has a tiny lead among indies. Having more Dems and fewer indies would make this race appear closer, perhaps putting Green in a slight lead. Zogby has it at 43.5D/35.5R/21.0I, when in reality 57% of early voters have a Democratic primary voting history, 32% have a GOP primary voting history, and 11% have no primary voting history. It may be that the runoff is like the general, in that a greater share of Republicans turn out on Election Day than they did during early voting. But I think that was caused in part by the late push from the Harris County GOP for Roy Morales, which I believe turned a number of undecided voters who may have otherwise stayed home into Morales supporters. I say that because of Roy’s third place finish on Election Day itself, where he surpassed Peter Brown. Without a Republican candidate in the Mayor’s race, will there be a similar surge for the runoff? Maybe, but it seems doubtful.

The effect on this in the Mayor’s race is more nebulous. Locke actually led by a tiny amount among Dems, due to his strong lead among African-Americans. Parker led among Anglos, Hispanics, Republicans, and Independents. Replacing some indies and Hispanics with Anglo Dems would likely leave her in about the same position. Hard to say for certain, though.

Anyway. The poll that really matters is going on right now, and we’ll know soon enough whether or not Zogby did any better guessing this outcome than he did the one in November. Martha and Erik have more.

Eight days out finance reports, Parker and Locke

Among other things, Friday was the eight days out campaign finance reporting deadline for the city runoffs. The Chron reports on the Mayoral candidates.

Both sides aggressively asked for volunteers and donors before the Wednesday deadline. Election rules allowed Parker and Locke to go back to donors who gave the $5,000 maximum in the general election for another round, and both did, according to their reports.

[…]

Locke went back to many of the same donors that have fueled his candidacy from the outset, including a who’s who of Houston’s political and business elite. Major donors included former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, METRO Chairman David Wolff, restaurant magnate Tilman Fertitta, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair and ex-Kemah Mayor Bill King.

Employees and the political action committee of the law firm Andrews Kurth, where Locke is a senior partner, donated more than $45,000 to his runoff campaign, and three METRO board members contributed $10,200. Locke had a total of about 800 donors.

Numerous supporters of City Councilman Peter Brown, who endorsed Parker shortly after placing third behind her and Locke on election day, contributed the maximum to the controller.

Her fundraising strength came from more than 3,000 donors, including Continental Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek, philanthropost Nancy Kinder, the Annie’s List political action committee and the Service Employees International Union.

Several major law firms gave the maximum or close to both candidates, a sign they believed the race was too close to call and wanted to hedge their bets, analysts said.

The reports were available as of late Friday evening. Parker’s was 990 pages long, thanks to a huge number of donors, and Locke’s was 312, so my hat is off to Olson for wading through the contributor lists. I didn’t have the fortitude for that, so I concentrated on how they spent their money. I have updated my campaign finance report spreadsheet to include a new tab for the runoff, and this time I tracked loans and various expenditure types on it. Here’s the basic summary for each, followed by how the money was spent:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash ================================================= Parker 1,580,014 1,228,648 30,000 358,449 Locke 1,185,096 1,282,385 0 350,735 Candidate TV Radio Mail Polling Phone Field ================================================================== Parker 692,053 2,855 189,648 36,488 10,000 91,919 Locke 423,709 14,492 121,297 72,068 18,451 223,268

Speaking generally, since I’ll be doing this for all of the runoff campaigns, “TV” includes anything listed as “Media”, which usually indicates a purchase made through a consulting firm. Both it and “Radio” include any listed costs of production. “Mail” does not include separate listings for postage or printing, as I did not assume they necessarily went to a direct mail piece; if they went through a consulting firm, all that is rolled up into the final cost anyway. It does include any expense listed for the Harris County GOP or the Texas Conservative Review, as what’s being bought in those cases is an ad in a mailer they send out. “Polling” is my best guess as to what was paid to a polling firm; it also includes anything that looks like opposition research, since that often gets used in polls. “Phone” is for phonebanking and/or robocalling; it does not include anything that’s obviously landline or cell costs for the campaign. “Field” is very nebulous. Some candidates – Locke and MJ Khan in particular – have extensive field campaigns that includes a lot of paid canvassers. Locke had dozens and dozens of entries for “Field/Payroll” or the like. I did not include those in these tabulations, I just added up the consulting, management, and associated costs like rent and printed materials where it seemed appropriate.

Not all of these expenses are relevant to the runoff. These reports cover the period starting October 26, so a lot of November election expenses can be and are included here. All of Locke’s phone expenses, half of his mail, and one of the three polls he listed were dated November 3 or earlier. Parker had some pre-Election Day expenses listed as well, but it was more noticeable for Locke.

There were other types of expenses as well, which I didn’t list here. That includes things like print and web advertising – Locke had some of each, mostly in community newspapers and on Facebook – and campaign signs; again, Locke had those listed, Parker did not. Most other campaigns did not list any expenditures on signs – in general, all that was done before the November election – but as you might have noticed, a bunch of Locke signs have appeared on overpasses and other public rights-of-way, so there was new spending on that. About $44,000 worth on signs, in fact, plus another $48,000 or so on flyers and other printed campaign materials, which I did not include in the Field total.

Anyway, there you have it. I believe the next finance reporting deadline is January 15, so if you want to know how Parker and Locke (and the rest) spent their remaining cash, you’ll have to wait till then. Erik Vidor has more.

Runoff EV report, Day 6

Today was a beautiful day following yesterday’s snow and ice, there were twelve full hours of early voting, and there were a total of 6,072 in-person ballots cast (no mail ballots today), which is almost indistinguishable from the first four days. Here’s the spreadsheet, for your edification. I expect tomorrow to be slow, as the Sunday of early voting usually is, with the last two days being busier than the first four. How busy is the question. So far, there have been 41,389 votes. A total of 62,641 Mayoral ballots were cast early in Round One. Here’s how many early votes you need given different levels of EV proportion to equal the November Mayoral turnout of 178,777 (counting undervotes):

EV % EVs needed To Go ========================= 30 53,633 12,244 35 62,572 21,183 40 71,511 30,122 45 80,450 39,061 50 89,388 47,999

I think 30,000 votes by the end of Tuesday is possible. There were about 26,000 votes cast on the last two days of early voting in November, though that was for all of Harris County; the Houston-only total would have been a bit more than 20,000. Given that I expect forty percent or more of the votes to have been cast by the end of early voting, you can see why I remain pessimistic about the chances of this election’s turnout exceeding that of the November election. We’ll have a much better feel for it on Tuesday night.

More on the early voting turnout so far

The Chron writes about the early voting turnout so far.

After four days, nearly 10,000 more Houstonians voted early than in the general election, a trend Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman said she predicted.

“Voters just weren’t engaged back in November,” she said. “Now that the race has narrowed to two candidates, there’s much more interest.”

After four days of early voting in October, only 3,773 ballots had been mailed to Kaufman’s office, compared to 8,193 this week.

Voters showing up at polling places in October totaled 14,805, compared to 23,199 this time.

I’ll say again, I remain unconvinced that the larger early vote turnout so far indicates a greater turnout overall, as Kaufman and Prof. Murray suggest. I think the trend is towards more early voting than we’ve seen in previous elections. That was the case for the November election, in which 31% of votes were cast early, compared to 25% early voting in the three previous elections. Yet the early vote percentage in the 2003 runoff was 36%, a considerable increase over the November proportion. Because I believe what we’re seeing is more a shift in behavior than anything else, I’m skeptical of the more optimistic turnout projections. Obviously, I could be wrong – as Keir Murray noted in the comments of my previous post, the number of runoff voters who did not participate in November is inching up, and is now 13% of the total. Maybe that will compensate, I don’t know. For now, I’m still taking the under.

One more thing:

Kyle Johnson of Johnson Campaigns has found that early voters in the runoff are: 28 percent black, 7 percent Hispanic, 4 percent Asian and 61 percent white or other. Women outnumber men 55 percent to 45 percent; older voters, 65 and up, accounted for 57 percent of early voters to date.

That would be Kyle Johnston, not Johnson. Murray made the same typo in his blog post. I’ve seen his figures as well, and the reason why so many voters so far are over 65 is because 96% of the absentee ballots have come from folks in that age group. Their share of in-person early votes is still the biggest, but it’s only 44% of that. I suspect that will decline more as we go along, but will probably still be the plurality.

Ministers speak out against homophobia

More like this, please.

A group of Houston clergy members has signed a letter objecting to recent anti-gay sentiment “espoused by those who co-opt religion as a cover for hatred.”

The letter reads as follows:

We the undersigned religious leaders have gathered our names here to make clear our strong objection to the recent swell in anti-gay sentiment espoused by those who co-opt religion as a cover for hatred. Our diverse traditions are unified in their care and concern for all persons and we firmly believe that our respective religious traditions are weakened by the hate-filled language touted by some as the word of God.

As religious leaders we recognize and respect the dignity and worth of all persons regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation. Therefore, we strongly rebuke those who insist on misusing religious texts and traditions to vilify those whose differences have made them most vulnerable. As a diverse group of religious leaders we are unified in our objection to the slander of any one of God’s creation.

We the undersigned state here our belief that those who manipulate tenets of faith to support secular, political discrimination against those who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or transgender in the name of sacred faith weaken the very faith they claim to bolster. Religion is weakened by the hypocrisy that lies at the core of homophobia.

Our religions champion the dignity of all persons and we are compelled to set the record straight: our houses of worship, schools, and meeting rooms are inhabited by the diversity that is human kind. While our faiths take differing positions on what human sexuality means before God, we are united in our belief that anti-gay rhetoric in the name of the God for secular, political purposes undermines faith and weakens the bonds between people that make communal life and faith meaningful. Fear and hatred of some diminishes the freedom of all. We deplore the assumption played out in public statements that says that to be religious means to be intolerant.

Religiously based bigotry against gays and lesbians does not represent the core beliefs of our respective faiths. Inflammatory and hateful remarks do not reflect the feelings of most individuals who fill our houses of worship and affiliate with our movements. The language of faith is not the language of fear and hatred. The language of faith is love and respect for all people.

The Reverend Douglas Anders, Conference Minister, South Central Conference of the United Church of Christ

Mr. Burton Bagby-Grose, American Baptist Churches, USA Licensed Minister

The Reverend Carissa Baldwin, Assistant Rector, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church

The Reverend Ginny Brown, Daniel Plymouth United Church

The Reverend Dr. Becky Edmiston-Lange and The Reverend Mark Edmiston-Lange Emerson, Unitarian Universalist Church, A “Welcoming Congregation”

Mr. Mark Eggleston, Director of Outreach Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church

The Reverend Dr. Millard F. Eiland Member, Covenant Baptist Church, an ecumenical liberal Baptist congregation, former board member of Alliance of Baptists

The Reverend Rick Elliott, Presbyterian minister

The Reverend Elder Darlene Garner Regional Elder for Southern Texas Region of Metropolitan Community Churches

The Reverend Lura N. Groen, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church

Minister Freedom K.D. Gulley, Th.M., Senior Pastor of Progressive Open Door Christian Center-A Fellowship Church

The Reverend Teddy Hardy, St. John United Church of Christ, Campus Minister at Houston Community College Central

The Reverend Lisa Hunt, Rector, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church

Rev. Lori Keaton, United Church of Christ Houston Association

The Reverend Dr. David Keyes. Senior Minister, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston

The Rev. Kristen Klein-Cechettini, Director of Life Development, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church

The Reverend Ralph Lasher, United Church of Christ, Ordained Minister

Rabbi David A. Lyon, Congregation Beth Israel

The Reverend Timothy Marquez, Clergy-Office Manager, South Central Conference of the United Church of Christ

The Reverend Laura Mayo, Covenant Church: an ecumenical, liberal, Baptist congregation (American Baptist Churches/Alliance of Baptists)

Rabbi Mark J. Miller, Congregation Beth Israel

The Reverend David Pantermuehl, Grace United Church of Christ

The Reverend Adam J. Robinson, Affiliate Minister, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston

The Reverend Jeremy Rutledge, Covenant Church: an ecumenical, liberal, Baptist congregation, (American Baptist Churches/Alliance of Baptists)

The Rev Seido, head priest, St. Nichiren Buddhist Temple

Rabbi Laura Sheinkopf, Houston

Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, Director of Field Education and Supervised Ministry, Brite Divinity School

The Reverend Les Switzer, Acting Minister for Christian Education, First Congregational Church of Houston

The Reverend Ernie Turney, Senior Pastor, Bering Memorial United Methodist Church

The Reverend Timothy B. Tutt, Senior Pastor, United Christian Church Austin

Rabbi Roy A. Walter, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Emanu El

Rabbi Kenny Weiss, Houston

As Martha says, these ministers speak for me.

Runoff EV report, Day 5

Today’s inclement weather may not have closed the polls down, but they did reduce the number of voters by a considerable amount. Only 3287 hardy souls made it out to an EV location, some of which saw fewer than 20 people all day. After five days of early voting, a total of 35,317 in-person and mail ballots have been cast. The 8,911 mail ballots are almost as many as there were in the first round all together, which suggests to me that one or both campaigns ramped up their efforts in that regard. We’ll see what happens with turnout tomorrow, given that weather conditions will be similar to today’s. Too much more like this and it could have a dampening effect on the final total.

UPDATE: Prof. Murray reiterates his belief that the runoff may have higher turnout than Round One did. I believe that what we are seeing is mostly more voters voting early, not necessarily an indicator of higher turnout. In Round One, 35% of all ballots were cast before Election Day. I believe that total will be more like 50% in the runoff. If I’m right, then Murray is wrong, and vice versa. We shall see.

You can still vote today

From the County Clerk’s office:

Early voting locations for the Joint Runoff Election will remain open as scheduled

Houston, TX- Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman, the chief elections officer of the County, announced this afternoon that all early voting locations for the on-going Joint Runoff Election will remain open today until 5:00 p.m.; and, all early voting locations will remain open as scheduled until the end of the Early Voting Period for this election cycle.

“Voters may vote early today as scheduled. And voters who may not be able to go to a polling location today because of the inclement weather should be aware that they still have this weekend and Monday and Tuesday of next week to get their votes in early”, asserted Clerk Kaufman.

Early Voting Hours of Operation

November 30th – December 4th, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
December 5th, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
December 6th, 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
December 7th – December 8th, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

For more election information voters may visit www.harrisvotes.com. Voters may also call 713.755.6965, Harris County’s automated election information line.

So if you’re still out and about, and want to vote, you can do so. Just please, drive safely.

HISD Trustee runoff overview

Here’s the Chron story on the two runoffs for HISD Trustee. It echoes a theme from that Examiner story we saw yesterday.

The outcome of the races could reshape several board debates — particularly over wages for construction workers, efforts to hold weak teachers more accountable and the role of magnet schools. Early voting runs through Tuesday, and Election Day is Dec. 12.

Both Lara and Collins support paying contractors higher wages based on standard federal rates. They argue that bigger paychecks will draw more-qualified workers and prevent shoddy construction.

The Harris County AFL-CIO, which endorsed Lara and Collins, pushed the board to adopt the wages this year. Marshall, who has had crucial support from unions in past campaigns, agreed with the majority of the board in rejecting the idea as too costly.

“This is insulting in a way, that as hard as times are that any organization could even make this an issue,” said Marshall, who estimated that paying the federal rates for the 2007 bond projects would cost an extra $75 million.

Lots riding on the line for several organizations in these races. I noticed that of the four runoff candidates, the Chron did not say where Anna Eastman stood on the issue of prevailing wages. So I sent her a Facebook message to ask, and this is the answer she sent me:

Thanks for asking me about this issue. It never came up in my interview with [Chron reporter Ericka Mellon]. My understanding of the recent argument between the AFL-CIO and the Board of Trustees is tied to some promises that were made by the former superintendent and HISD school bond program administrator Dick Lindsey during the 2007 bond campaign, but not agreed upon by the board.

As a board member I would hope that any negotiations of this sort would involve all parties. I believe when we are spending public dollars there should be accountability on both sides and we should be hiring licensed workers at a fair wage and insure that we are following policy guidelines for inclusion of minority contractors.

Our dollars should be spent to effectively serve and benefit the most children possible, not to fund adult interests. As a board member of a public institution charged with educating children, my decisions will be guided first and foremost by what benefits children and their education.

So there you have it.

Runoff EV report, Day 4

Consistency, thy name is early voting runoff turnout. Here are the in-person totals for each of the days so far:

Monday = 5,834
Tuesday = 5,726
Wednesday = 5,787
Thursday = 5,772

Flat as Houston itself. It’ll be interesting to see how things are tomorrow given the weather forecast. I’m glad I voted today, that’s for sure. How many of you have voted yet?

District F runoff overview

Here’s the Chron story on the District F runoff.

The condensed version of Al Hoang’s vision for Sharps town’s shopping center echoes a Reagan-era foreign policy pronouncement: Tear down this mall.

Mike Laster’s recent work on Sharpstown Mall is more analogous to Vietnam War-era peace talks. Mall owners can use someone to help them decide the shape of the table before they sit down to hash out a revitalization plan.

Both point to the mall as a bellwether of southwest Houston’s economy, and each sees his approach to the mall problem as indicative that he will do more for District F if elected in the Dec. 12 runoff.

I don’t have any insight into this, so I’ll leave it to those who live in the district to comment about it if they’d like. What I will say is that I’ve known Mike Laster (interview here) for a few years, and I think he’d make an excellent Council member. I also know that Al Hoang has accepted Steven Hotze’s endorsement with open arms, so even if I knew nothing of Mike Laster, I’d be more than inclined to support him.

I didn’t mention this before, but I am also supporting Lane Lewis in District A. He’s a hard worker and has a solid grasp of the issues, and as is the case with Laster would make an excellent Council member. Meanwhile, his opponent Brenda Stardig missed that candidate forum on Monday night, and as with the Hotze endorsement story was unable to be reached for a comment about it. I can’t say I’m impressed by that. I don’t live in either of these districts, but if you do, Mike Laster and Lane Lewis are the guys I’d vote for.

Meet the HISD Parent Visionaries

I’ve mentioned the group HISD Parent Visionaries a couple of times in this space. Here’s an article about them from the Examiner.

Parent Visionaries was spawned after HISD’s former superintendent, Dr. Abelardo Saavedra, voiced an interest in eliminating or reducing magnet school transportation. The parent group, largely from District V, became vocal in opposition and since, has spread support to parents in other districts in HISD.

“Our goal is to have memberships from all districts,” says Mary Nesbitt, one of the group’s driving forces.

Parent Visionaries now claims a list of about 350 members who communicate in person and online.

As noted in the story, HISD Parent Visionaries was active in the Trustee elections, with two of their three endorsed candidates – Mike Lunceford in V and Anna Eastman in I – either winning or making it to the runoffl. They have now endorsed Trustee Larry Marshall in his race in IX, and in each case – Marshall versus Adrian Collins, Eastman versus Alma Lara – they are opposed by candidates who are backed by the Houston Federation of Teachers. It’ll be very interesting to see who wins this particular fight.

Locke sorta kinda explains the Hotze endorsement

Here it is, for what it’s worth, which isn’t much. I guess if you can truly convince yourself that Hotze’s endorsement wasn’t about Annise Parker’s sexuality, you can believe it’s okay to accept it. I don’t know what there is to say about this that hasn’t already been said, so let me just refer you to a press release from State Rep. Garnet Coleman that calls on Locke to repudiate Hotze and leave it at that. Click on to read it.

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Runoff EV report, Day 3

Here’s the spreadsheet. Basically, three near-identical days for in person voting. At this rate, about 75,000 ballots will be cast before Election Day. I think it will be higher than that, but I don’t think by much.

For comparison, here’s Bradley Olson’s spreadsheet with the daily EV totals from the 2003 runoff, which doesn’t quite compare since there were two full weeks of early voting then, and here’s a spreadsheet from the County Clerk’s office that shows the three-day totals from each of the locations that are in each election. Early voting is up across the board from the November election, which may portend an increase in turnout, or it may just be a reflection of the compressed schedule and reduction in locations. I’ll be looking to see if there’s a sharp increase in the last two days of early voting, when the hours are extended, as is usually the case when there’s five such fuller days. What do you think?

Liveblogging tonight’s Mayoral debate

No, not me. David Ortez, over at Hair Balls. It’s just getting underway now. I’m sure Twitter will be lighting up with commentary as well, so head over there or run for the hills, as the case may be.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story on the debate, which not surprisingly was rather heated. Of interest:

During a heated 10 or 15 minutes in which the two were allowed to ask each other questions, Locke accused Parker of making an attack she knew to be baseless. He said he pledged to resign his partnership at the law firm Andrews Kurth at a forum in which she was present eight months ago.

“I’m going to give up my law practice,” he said.

She has repeatedly called on him to pledge that he will not return to the firm after his time as mayor, a step he has not yet taken.

At another point, Locke claimed never to have been a lobbyist, a statement that appears to be inaccurate. According to Texas Ethics Commission records, he was registered in 1999 as a lobbyist for the sports authority. Houston Chronicle archives also show that Locke was retained along with a variety of consultants to help a company win a lucrative airport concession contract.

The TEC records are here; search for “Locke, Gene L.” and you’ll find him. Here’s a link to the Chron archive story mentioned, with the key graf:

The Hudson Group includes businessman and concessionaire Gerald Wilson; entrepreneur Art Lopez, who also operates golf courses for the city; engineer Bobby Singh; and Brooks & Brooks, a company co-owned by Harlan Brooks of Harlan’s Bar-B-Que. Lobbying on their behalf are Andrews & Kurth attorney Gene Locke and consultant Kathryn McNeil.

So there you have it. More comments on the debate are in Miya’s post, with more on related matters from Martha and Nancy Sims.

Runoff EV report, Day Two

The early vote spreadsheet has now been updated to include Day Two. Short story, about the same number of in person votes, fewer mail ballots returned, two day total of 17,480. Again, not too shabby considering the crappy weather. Maybe folks just want to get it done. For comparison to 2003, here’s Bradley Olson’s spreadsheet, which has the day by day totals. For whatever the reason, there were two full weeks of early voting in 2003, compared to only nine days this year, and the mail ballots returned look wonky, so a direct comparison isn’t possible. But at least now you know.

UPDATE: More from Olson and KUHF.

What the others are saying about Hotze’s endorsement

So here’s the Chron coverage of the Hotze endorsement. Of the many things I find unfathomable about this, here’s the item at the top of the list.

Kris Banks, president of Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus, which has endorsed Parker, questioned why Locke did not distance himself from Hotze.

“He came to us seeking our endorsements, saying he thinks same-sex couples should have legal recognition and the city should have domestic partnerships,” Banks said in a statement to the Chronicle. “I cannot believe he has not repudiated this piece yet. It’s very disappointing and makes us question his ability to treat all Houstonians with respect.”

Martha has examined Locke’s earnestly pro-gay rights answers on candidate questionnaires before. What I want to know is, when Locke met with Hotze and asked for his endorsement, did Hotze know or care about any of that? Or was the fact that Locke wasn’t the gay candidate good enough for him? I know, I know, I cannot understand the logic of a madman like Hotze. But I’d like to understand Locke’s logic. How could he think this was okay? I don’t get it, I just don’t get it.

Anyway. How about the other “beneficiaries” of Hotze’s curse blessing? We already know about Stephen Costello, who quickly rejected Hotze’s endorsement. I’ve seen some of my compatriots be cynical of that, and while I understand that sentiment, I don’t share it. I give Costello full marks for doing the right thing.

Councilman M.J. Khan, who faces fellow councilman Ronald Green in a runoff for City Controller, said he had never been interviewed or screened by anyone associated with Hotze. Khan said he wants the support of all Houstonians, but rejects intolerance and wants to be judged solely on his record and qualifications.

[…]

[Jack] Christie, who is challenging Councilwoman Jolanda Jones for the council’s at-large 5 seat, said that when he found out about Hotze’s intentions to send an endorsement mailer, he called Bruce Hotze, Steven’s brother, and told him he did not want to be included.

I give Christie an A, too. Khan’s response is weaker, but if he really never did meet with Hotze then it’s still better than Locke’s. See how easy this is if you never dance with the devil in the first place?

Al Hoang, who is locked in a runoff for District F with Mike Laster, said he was proud to have Hotze’s endorsement. Andrew C. Burks, who is running against Councilwoman Sue Lovell, said he welcomed anyone’s endorsement in the race.

I was always supporting Mike Laster, who’s a great guy and someone I’ve been acquainted with for years, but in case you needed a reason, there you have it. As for Burks, all I can say is that this is exactly the kind of response I’d expect from a perennial candidate. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Brenda Stardig, who is running for an open seat in District A against Lane Lewis and also was endorsed by Hotze, could not be reached for comment.

Maybe she has a secret plan to deal with it. I kid, but apparently Stardig will be a no-show at the candidate forum this evening, so she’s not making herself very visible right now.

Controller’s runoff overview

Here’s the Chron overview of the Controller’s runoff. Two points of interest to note. One is what presence, if any, the two candidates will have on the airwaves.

Tactically, both campaigns said they intend to focus on direct-mail, block-walking and other field operations and will produce TV ads if they raise enough money to do so. Campaign finance reports show that [Ronald] Green had raised about $128,000 and had about $38,000 on hand as of late October; [MJ] Khan had raised about $139,000 and had $31,000 on hand.

We’ll get to see the eight days out reports on Friday, so we ought to have an idea then if either one’s hope to get on TV is realistic. I believe Khan’s TV advertising, and the fact that he was the only one of the Controller candidates to really do any TV advertising, was a big factor in getting him into the runoff. I don’t know if any of that will carry over in the absence of further ads or if a new round will be needed.

Khan’s wife owns a 10,000-square-foot house in Piney Point Village, a small Memorial area municipality, with a market value estimated at almost $3.8 million by the Harris County Appraisal District. Khan and his wife jointly own a southwest Houston condominium valued at $77,000, which Khan says is his residence.

Yeah, I’d totally live by myself in the dinky condo instead of with my wife in the multimillion dollar mansion, too. As you know, I don’t consider residency issues too greatly when it comes to evaluating candidates. Khan’s setup certainly meets the legal requirements. But when you put it this way it really does look ridiculous.

Runoff EV report, Day One

I’ve updated my early vote spreadsheet from the first round to include the early vote totals for the runoff. Note that this is almost entirely City of Houston – there are a few Bellaire voters in there, and maybe a stray HISD Trustee vote or two from outside the city limits, but for the most part, it’s all municipal. Note also the smaller number of locations. Overall, that’s a pretty good total for Day One, especially given the crappy weather. I don’t know if that will continue, but it’s a good start. Do bear in mind that I believe a substantial number of voters will vote early, so don’t make too much of these totals just yet.

It’s interesting to note the Mayoral candidates’ positions on turnout, as expressed by them on a KHOU story during the five o’clock news. I can’t find the link, but basically Parker talks about turning out her voters, while Locke says that turnout “may surprise you”. In other words, they both seem to agree with the conventional wisdom that lower turnout benefits Parker, while higher turnout benefits Locke.

There was also a story about Locke’s current attack ad on Parker, and Parker’s promise to respond in kind. Honestly, I don’t feel like getting into any of that. I don’t know that too many minds are going to be changed by such tactics; it’s more a matter of who you can spur to turn out, and who you can discourage from doing so. Of more interest to me is this.

Locke said he is refraining from “divisive campaigning,” adding, “I am not going to go into issues of race, issues of sexuality.” He said he is asking his supporters to follow his lead in their own public statements because these topics are distractions from important issues such as public safety and creating new jobs in Houston.

When I pressed Locke about whether he would accept or reject Hotze’s endorsement, he repeated the statement. My colleague Bradley Olson reported Nov. 13 that Locke had met with Hotze and sought his endorsement.

Pretty much what I expected. How can you reject something you actively sought out? I’m going to echo the comment John left, which sums up my feelings quite well.

When this race began, I looked at Brown, Locke, and Parker and saw it as a can’t-lose situation for the city. Although I supported Parker from the start, I thought that if she didn’t lose, we’d have a good mayor anyway. But I must say that I have lost enormous amounts of respect for Mr. Locke as this has played out.

Does he think that a Hotze endorsement is what will get him over the finish line? I think that’s a foolish idea, and all he’s doing it raising doubts among those of us who never had those doubts before. And that makes me wonder about his judgment in general.

I think he’s just handling it terribly… and his record is good enough that it’s painful to watch.

It’s a sad thing watching a good man do such bad things to win an election. But he did them, and he owns them. I hope he thinks it was worth it. PDiddie, Stace, and Nancy Sims have more.

Hotze endorses Locke

It’s what we’ve all been waiting for, and now it’s on its way to a mailbox near you, as local hatemeister Steven Hotze has endorsed candidates in all six City of Houston runoffs and sent a mail piece out touting his preferred slate. Martha has all of the scans of the mailers. Pay particular attention to these two images, which capture the case Hotze makes for and against each candidate. He uses the phrase “radical liberal” six times – interestingly, the one candidate he doesn’t affix that label to is Annise Parker, though he does say she’s “supported by liberal Chicago labor union interests”, whatever that means – and he makes a point of noting that all seven candidates he opposes have been endorsed by the “Gay Lesbian political action committee”. I don’t think you need an advanced degree in literature to be able to read the subtext here.

The question now is whether Gene Locke will live up to his previous statement that he “rejects any association” with this style of campaigning and repudiates Hotze’s endorsement. If he does, he’ll follow the example set by At Large #1 candidate Steven Costello, who to his great credit sent out the following statement:

Today, some people received a mail piece from Steven Hotze with his endorsements in the upcoming city runoff elections. I did not seek this endorsement and I specifically asked not be endorsed by Mr. Hotze. I am running to represent all Houstonians and my door at City Hall will be open to everyone.

Now that’s how you do it. Note that Costello is a member of the Republican Leadership Council, according to the local GOP. Rejecting Hotze like this, when he’s sending mail to people who would have been inclined to support Costello anyway, took real courage, and I salute him for that. Of course, the problem for Locke is that he did in fact seek out Hotze’s endorsement, so this mailer represents him getting what he wanted. This is why Democrats – and that includes Andrew Burks – need to stay the hell away from Steven Hotze and all that he represents. No good can come from associating with him. So what are you going to do about it now, Gene?

There isn’t a story about this in the Chron yet; hopefully, they will fill in some blanks, such as how many pieces Hotze intends to mail. I don’t know if he’s required to fill out a finance report for a city election – I see some SPAC filings among the city campaign finance reports of recent years, but I’m not sure if he falls under that rubric or not. We may not know for sure what he’s up to unless he brags to a newsie about it. If you receive this mailer, please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks very much.

Lovell v. Burks

And here’s the Chron story on the At Large #2 runoff, featuring Council Member Sue Lovell and Andrew Burks. Unlike Jones v. Christie, my opinion that CM Lovell will retain her seat is much more common. Burks does have a base of support in the African-American community, where he’s picked up several endorsements, but I don’t believe he has enough support beyond that to put together a majority. He’s tried to appeal to Republican voters, but that didn’t work too well for him in Round One. The bottom line for me is that I believe CM Lovell has been a very good Council member, and she deserves to be re-elected. My interview with her is here; I did not conduct an interview with Burks.

One point to comment on:

Burks, a minister and owner of a telecommunications company who has run and lost in four previous City Council races

By my count, and by combing through the city election archives, this is Burks’ sixth run for a Council office, not his fifth. He ran for District E in 1995, finishing second by eleven votes over Gregg Stephens and 20 votes over Danny Perkins; he then lost in the runoff to Rob Todd. He ran for At Large #3 in three straight cycles, from 1997 through 2001, twice losing to incumbent Orlando Sanchez, then losing in a runoff for the open seat to Shelley Sekula Gibbs. Finally, he ran for the open At Large #1 in 2003, finishing second as Mark Ellis won without the need for a runoff. He also ran for Congress in District 29 in 1992, finishing last in a field of five, and ran for Harris County Department of Education Trustee in 2006 against Roy Morales. According to Carl Whitmarsh, Burks also ran for State Rep in 1990 and chair of the HCDP at some point, but the state election archives only go back as far as 1992, and I can’t find a record of the latter race. Suffice it to say that Burks is a familiar presence on the ballot.

Jones v. Christie

And here’s the Chron overview of the At Large #5 runoff between Council Member Jolanda Jones and former SBOE member Jack Christie. I’ve said before that I like CM Jones, and I plan to vote for her in the runoff. I believe she is the favorite to win in the runoff, though not by much. From what I can tell by talking to people, I may be the most optimistic person I know about her chances. It seems to me that Christie may have the strongest level of Republican support among all of the remaining citywide candidates. MJ Khan has never been that popular in Republican circles, Stephen Costello has two Democratic consultants on his campaign staff and downplayed his Republican ties in Round One, and of course both Mayoral candidate are Democrats who will likely split the Republican vote in their race. It wouldn’t shock me if there are more undervotes in the other races than there are in At Large #5 in some parts of town, like out on the west side.

Anyway. My interview with CM Jones is here, and my interview with Christie is here. Both candidates have picked up a couple more endorsements for the runoff, with Jones getting Democracy for America and Christie getting the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, who had originally backed Davetta Daniels. I’d like to know what you think about this race, so please leave a comment and let me know.

District A runoff overview

Now that we’re into the runoff season, it looks like the Chron will finally do a bit more in depth coverage of the races that are still unresolved. Yesterday, they ran this overview of District A and the remaining candidates Lane Lewis and Brenda Stardig.

Lewis, 42, a community college instructor and Democrat who lives in Oak Forest, was the runner-up in the seven-candidate Nov. 4 election.

Lewis proposes that the city buy the closed 227-acre Inwood Forest Country Club and turn it into a flood control basin and park. Then, he wants to give businesses tax incentives to locate on the park’s periphery.

“I think we have the opportunity to go into our blighted areas and create opportunities for growth,” Lewis said.

Stardig, 47, a real estate broker and Republican who lives in Shadow Oaks, was the top vote-getter with nearly 32 percent of ballots cast.

Stardig said she has specific flood control projects in mind, but did not want to speak publicly about them out of a fear of hurting property values. Instead, she emphasizes that she already is trying to recruit businesses to the district the same way she sells homes, by selling the virtues of District A.

“This is a huge opportunity, because nowhere else in the city like District A or northwest is there a greater return on investment,” she said.

You can listen to my interview with Lewis here and my interview with Stardig here. There will also be a candidate forum for the two of them, apparently the first such one they’ve both engaged in, this coming Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 7:00 PM. It will be held at Woodview Elementary School in SBISD, 9749 Cedardale, (near the intersection of Bunker Hill and Westview), Houston, Texas 77055. Here’s a map to the location if you need it.

Locke releases his tax returns

On Wednesday, Mayoral candidate Gene Locke released his tax returns, about two weeks after Annise Parker released hers. I’m not sure what took him so long, since apparently there’s nothing particularly remarkable about them, but that’s neither here nor there at this point. He released them, and good for him for doing so.

Council turnover

One underappreciated aspect of this year’s election is that we may wind up with more than two new At Large City Council members. We started with two open seats, and with incumbents Sue Lovell and Jolanda Jones in runoffs, the possibility exists that we could have as many as four freshman members in January. This would be a first for Houston, at least in the term limits era. Since 1997, here are all of the newly-elected Council members for that year:

1997 – Annise Parker (1), Carroll Robinson (5)
1999 – Gordon Quan (2)
2001 – Shelley Sekula Rodriguez/Gibbs (3), Michael Berry (4)
2003 – Mark Ellis (1), Ronald Green (4)
2005 – Peter Brown (1), Sue Lovell (2)
2007 – Melissa Noriega (3), Jolanda Jones (5)

There actually was a third new Council member in 1997, but not in November. John Peavy won a special election in January of 1995 to replace Sheila Jackson Lee in At Large #4 after she was elected to Congress. After he won re-election that November, he announced in 1996 that he was stepping down. Chris Bell then won a special election in January, and won election to a full term that November. His seat came open in 2001 when he ran for Mayor (Orlando Sanchez, who had been the incumbent in At Large #3, was first elected in 1995 and thus was term limited out that year.) Michael Berry, who won #4 in 2001, briefly ran for Mayor in 2003, and when he pulled back from that he filed instead for At Large #5; I forget what the reasoning behind that was. As such, there were technically three open seats in 2003, but only because of Berry’s seat shifting. Besides, Mark Ellis had been a two-term incumbent in District F before winning a final term in Council as the At Large #1 member, so even if one of Berry or Shelley Sekula now-Gibbs, who nipped Peter Brown in a runoff for her first re-election, had been beaten, there still would have been only two truly new At Large members.

This year, we will have new At Large members CO Bradford and the winner of the Stephen Costello/Karen Derr runoff. I think Sue Lovell will win easily enough in #2, but Jolanda Jones has a tough race on her hands, and may well lose. If either one does lose, then we’ll have the unprecedented situation of three or more new At Large members, and in a year with a new Mayor and a new Controller. I’m thinking the first few Council meetings would be a lot of fun under those conditions.

One other thing to consider in the event we do have three or four new At Large members is that there would not be an open seat until 2013, when Melissa Noriega gets term limited. I would think that a Council Member Andrew Burks or a Council Member Jack Christie would be wise to prepare for a strong challenge from somebody in 2011, for two reasons. One is that those with ambitions for Council aren’t going to want to wait that long. The pent-up demand for an open Council seat by then would surely lead to a ginormous field, in which even a good candidate’s chances would be a pure crapshoot. Seems to me you’d get better odds taking on a freshman incumbent in 2011, in what could be a straight up two-person race. And two, the political establishment might well view Burks and/or Christie as flukes whose victories said more about their opponents than themselves. I believe the likelihood of that is greater if the turnout for the runoff is low. The same could happen to Bradford or Costello/Derr, of course, but I’d expect Burks or Christie to be a more inviting target.

Anyway. Just something I’ve been thinking about. What do you think?

UPDATE: Forgot to include Jolanda Jones as a new Member in 2007. Whether she wins or loses, the only seat that would be open in 2011 is Sue Lovell’s seat, assuming Lovell wins. If Lovell wins and Jones loses, we have one open seat in 2011 and one in 2013, then three in 2015. If Lovell loses and Jones wins, we have no open seats in 2011, two in 2013, and three in 2015. If both lose, no open seats in 2011, one in 2013, and four in 2015. I should have been more clear about that. Also, as noted by Jennifer in the comments, we will have two new District Council seats in 2011, which may provide an outlet for some of those who would otherwise run At Large if there’s a paucity of those seats available.

Trustee Marshall endorsed by former opponents

In the runoff for HISD Trustee in District IX, incumbent Trustee Larry Marshall received the endorsement of the third and fourth-place finishers, George Davis and Michael Williams. I find that a little odd, since one presumes when they ran to unseat Marshall they thought a change was needed, but I guess they decided they didn’t want Adrian Collins to be that change. Marshall has also been endorsed by the HISD Parent Visionaries group, who backed Trustee-elect Mike Lunceford and runoff candidate Anna Eastman. You can read their runoff analysis and recommendation here. Note the difference between Marshall and Collins’ positions on paying prevailing wages for capital improvement projects in HISD. Labor unions are upset with Marshall for breaking promises made to them about prevailing wages in return for their support of the 2007 bond referendum, which is why they are strongly backing Collins. We’ll see if that can be a difference-maker here.

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Early voting locations set for runoff

Via press release from the County Clerk’s office, some dates to mark on the calendar:

IMPORTANT DECEMBER 12, 2009 JOINT RUNOFF ELECTION DATES

First Day of Early Voting – Monday, November 30, 2009
Last Day to Apply for Ballot by Mail (received not Postmarked) – Friday, December 4, 2009
Last Day of Early Voting – Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Election Day – Saturday, December 12, 2009

Early voting locations and hours are here (PDF). Note that there are only nine days of early voting, not twelve, and that voting locations outside the city of Houston are not open, as there’s nothing for most folks outside of Houston to be voting for; the main exceptions that come to my mind are the West University Place and Bellaire runoffs, and maybe the HISD Trustee runoffs, if either of Districts I and IX have non-Houston territory in them.

Endorsement watch: For Annise

As noted yesterday, the Chronicle endorsed Annise Parker for Mayor in the runoff election.

With city tax revenues eroded by the continuing recession, the next occupant of the office must be a prudent fiscal manager as well as a leader who can make hard decisions on spending priorities. That will require a detailed knowledge of the city departments that deliver services to citizens in order to wisely prioritize cuts and stretch available revenues to the maximum.

At the same time, the new mayor must also be a visionary focused not just on how things are in Houston but how they should be in the coming decades. Despite a hostile economy, the incoming administration will have to continue improving the quality of life in our increasingly urbanized metropolis. That will entail strengthening public safety, reducing air and water pollution, completing an area-wide mass transit system including light rail, and guiding land development to protect the character of long-established residential neighborhoods.

In the general election the Chronicle endorsed both Parker and former city attorney and public agency lawyer Gene Locke, her opponent in the run-off. As we noted then, they each “offer deep roots in the city and a dazzling range of life experiences and public service.” And our endorsement of Parker should not be taken as a diminution of the skills and qualifications of Locke, whose back story as a civil rights activist, steelworker and successful major law firm attorney offers a compelling narrative.

Houstonians are lucky to face such a difficult choice. But Parker’s background and experience offer a better fit for the mayor’s office at this point in time.

Obviously, I agree with all of that. As Nancy Sims points out, the Chron isn’t alone in coming to this conclusion for the runoff. If there is such a thing as campaign momentum, I believe she has it.

On a related note, you probably missed Friday night’s showing of Red, White, and Blue on KUHT channel 8. It was intended to be a straight up debate between Annise Parker and Gene Locke, except that Locke did not attend. So instead, it was a one-on-one conversation between hosts David Jones and Gary Polland and Parker about the issues of importance. It will be rerun tonight at 5:30, or you can watch the YouTube videos below:

Coby and Greg have more.

2009 Runoff Candidate Meet and Greet

Want to meet the candidates who are in the December 12 runoff? Here’s your chance:

You are invited to attend …

2009 Runoff Candidate Meet and Greet

DECEMBER 3, 2009 – 6:30 PM – The Upper Kirby Building
(details below)

CNU-HoustonHouston TomorrowEmerging Green Builders, and Citizens’ Transportation Coalition are proud to host a Meet and Greet event for the 2009 Houston Runoff Election Candidates.

We’ve invited the following candidates to come to this social event where they can get to know our organization members and friends:

Mayor: Annise Parker, Gene Locke
Controller: Ron Green, MJ Khan
District A: Brenda Stardig, Lane Lewis
District F: Mike Laster, Al Hoang
At-large 1: Stephen Costello, Karen Derr
At-large 2: Sue Lovell, Andrew Burks
At-large 5: Jack Christie, Jolanda Jones

Not only will this event be an excellent chance for us to get to know the runoff candidates, this will be a great opportunity for the members of these organizations to get to know each other better as well. We’re really looking forward to this unique event, and we hope that you’ll join us!

Please let us know you’re coming, this helps us plan our space and refreshment needs!Attend Event

For more information about the sponsoring organizations, follow the links below:

CNU-Houston
Houston Tomorrow
Emerging Green Builders
Citizens’ Transportation Coalition
Event Details:
Thursday, December 3, 2009 from 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Here’s a Google map of the location if you need it. Hope you can make it.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, the At Large 5 candidates were inadvertently left out. This has now been corrected. See here or here for more.