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August 14th, 2006:

Bentzin drops out in HD48

Win some, lose some: Republicans, who will get a chance later this week to add a candidate to a swing district race, have just lost one in another swing district as Ben Bentzin has announced his withdrawal from the HD48 campaign.

Bentzin, a former executive at Dell, Inc., cited new business opportunities and the negative tone in his earlier race for the seat as reasons for dropping out. He is not moving out of the district.

His move appears to leave Democrat Rep. Donna Howard without a Republican opponent in the November election.

Earlier this year, Howard defeated Bentzin in a special election to fill the unexpired term of Todd Baxter, an Austin Republican who had resigned to work as a lobbyist.

“Donna Howard and her local Democratic partisan cohorts ran an extraordinarily negative campaign this past spring. That was very difficult for my family, very difficult for myself,” Bentzin told the Statesman today.

He also said he believed there was “an imbalance in terms of (press) coverage” of the campaign.

At issue in the campaign was Bentzin’s hiring of Republican operative John Colyandro to help with his unsuccessful run for state Senate in 2002. Colyandro has since been indicted for his role in helping other GOP groups that year.

Bentzin was never accused of wrongdoing by prosecutors.

Bentzin was linked closely to Tom DeLay and TRMPAC via Colyandro in the earlier race. I hope you’ll forgive me if I fail to empathize with his plight. As Phillip wrote at the time, Donna Howard ran a smart, aggressive campaign in which she clearly distinguished herself from Bentzin, and in doing so overcame his substantial monetary advantage. She nearly won the crowded special election outright, then walloped Bentzin (who had compared himself to Vince Young after his underwhelming performance) by a 15 point margin in the runoff.

Bentzin’s withdrawal leaves Howard without a major party opponent in November (Libertarian Ben Easton is also on the ballot). The difference between Bentzin’s withdrawal and Vilma Luna’s is that when Luna withdrew, there was nobody left on the ballot in HD33, not even a Libertarian. State law allows for a replacement in such a case. Not so in HD48, which leaves Travis County Democrats free to concentrate on re-electing Mark Strama in HD50 and taking over the open HD47 with Valinda Bolton.

UPDATE: For the definitive wrapup of Ben Bentzin’s short political career, I refer you to the blog that should be his official biographer, PinkDome.

Ortiz chosen to run in HD33

Solomon Ortiz, Jr, son of Democratic Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz, has been named the Democratic nominee to replace Vilma Luna in HD33.

Ortiz emerged the party’s nominee for the seat by three votes Sunday, defeating longtime educator Danny Noyola Sr. in a campaign to be placed on the November ballot that came down to the minute.

The party’s 44 precinct chairs from the district seemed split up until the vote Sunday afternoon, with a final decision of 23-20 in favor of Ortiz.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Ortiz said after learning he’d earned the party’s nod.

Republicans will choose their nominee at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Nueces County Republican Party Headquarters, 4458 S. Staples St.

Noyola, 53, and Ortiz, 29, announced they would seek the Democratic nomination the same day state Rep. Vilma Luna, D-Corpus Christi, resigned last month. Luna, who had been in office since 1993, announced her resignation July 5 and later took a lobbying job.

As noted before, Luna’s resignation gave the Republicans a second chance to field a candidate in this fairly purple district. If I were a Sabato wannabe, I’d rate this as Lean Democratic, but if there are lingering bad feelings from the replacement selection process, it might drop to Tossup.

Nueces County Democratic Party chairman Alex Garcia came to the front of the room wearing a bulletproof vest, a semi-joking reference to the division created within the party with two candidates with deep roots in its history.

When Garcia called for the standing vote, there was silence.

Precinct 113 chairman Rowland Andrade abstained from voting after a phone survey of his constituents revealed they were split between Noyola and Ortiz.

“Regardless of where I wanted to lean, the first thing I have to do was look at where my precinct was,” he said.


After supporters of both congratulated Ortiz and consoled Noyola, they each took the podium.

Noyola bemoaned the politics of “hate radio and chisme blogs,” and thanked all his supporters for helping his family get through negative aspects of the short campaign.

“I told all those supporting me to turn the other cheek,” he said.

Chisme blogs, eh? There’s a term I’ll bet hasn’t made too many appearances in the mainstream media before today. For what it’s worth, South Texas Chisme was happy with Ortiz’s selection.

After the vote, supporters of both men were concerned that it will be difficult to heal the rift that developed in the Democratic Party over the nomination.

“It has been very divisive,” said Precinct 118 chair and Ortiz supporter Buck Sosa. “There are some sour grapes from Noyola’s supporters now. But we have to come together or the Republicans will smell blood and beat us at the polls.”

Indeed. Keep an eye on this one.

What the Democrats should do in CDs 22 and 23

Last week, I gave my advice to the Republicans about their options in CD22. They don’t appear to be listening to me, but that hasn’t stopped me from giving my advice to the Democrats about CDs 22 and 23. Will I go two for two? Most likely. Click over and see what you think.

Harry Potter and the Intellectual Property Conundrum

I found this story about the band “Harry and the Potters” to be fascinating on many levels.

Brothers Paul and Joe DeGeorge each portray Harry, the former as Harry in his Seventh Year, the latter as Harry in his Fourth Year.

They now have a total of three garage-pop/indie rock full-length CDs out — a self-titled one from 2003, 2004’s Voldemort Can’t Stop the Rock, and this year’s Harry Potter and the Power of Love. And yes, all of their songs are about Harry Potter; indeed, they are written as if by the young Gryffindor seeker. (Sample titles: “Cornelius Fudge Is an Ass,” “In Which Draco Malfoy Cries Like a Baby,” “My Teacher Is a Werewolf”.)

I confess, I’m a little amazed that in this day of extra zealous guardianship of intellectual property that such a thing as “Harry and the Potters” can exist. I mean, what do you think the life expectancy of a “Buzz and the Lightyears” would be? Maybe they’ve been sufficiently below the radar these past three years, but still.

Having said that, I think this exactly the sort of thing where a property owner is reasonably well served by a little benign neglect. I see this band as basically a fan fiction habit that got out of control. They’re not hurting JK Rowling’s brand, and they’re not adversely affecting her bottom line – if anything, they’re likely to help it by converting a few non-fans into fans and some casual fans into rabid ones. If and when this group comes to her attention and her attorneys get involved, I hope some sort of very low cost licensing deal can be worked out.

Oh, and from the interview with the brothers who comprise “Harry and the Potters”, I found this highly amusing:

HP: I see that you’re on the road with Draco and the Malfoys. What’s it like touring with your archnemesis?

PD: There’s been sort of a surge in Harry Potter-related bands…With the Malfoys, they’re from Rhode Island and they saw us on the Internet and they invited us to come play at a house party. So we went down there and everybody had a good time, and then they wanted to have us back to do a Harry Potter-themed show, so they put together that band pretty much as a one-off, it was like “We’ll be Draco and the Malfoys and we’ll make fun of Harry and the Potters.” And their set was riddled with curse words and stuff, ’cause it was a house party. But we thought it was hilarious, so we got them to clean up a few of their words and started having them play with us around Boston. And one of them is a fantastic drummer, so he sits in with us after the Malfoys set.

HP: Do you all interact in character?

PD: Yeah, we do. We boo them while they play, and if something goes wrong with their drum machine or something, we’ll say things like, “Who you got drumming for you? Some squibb?”

That’s just too funny. I wonder what some of the other Harry Potter-related bands are like.

Anyway. I linked to this partly so I could also link to Lance Mannion’s analysis of who is and isn’t likely to die at the end of the seventh book. Check it out.

Rice Village, past and future

Interesting article about the Rice Village and its existential future as more retail development encroaches on the area.

After decades of being an exception to the retail rule in Houston, the casual small-town-like Rice Village is facing major redevelopment. That has some of its admirers wondering whether the place eventually will lose its nostalgic appeal.

The cozy Village got a big jolt in the 1990s when Weingarten Realty developed Village Arcade on University Boulevard. Stretching two blocks, the Arcade brought in national tenants including the Gap and Banana Republic.

The immense brick center – which some say looks more like it belongs in the suburbs than in a quaint neighborhood shopping district – also changed the look of the Village with its small, low-slung buildings.

More big development is coming. The Piazza, a major upscale retail-residential project on Bolsover, is on the drawing boards.

Its developer, La Mesa Properties, says the Piazza will complement the mom and pops by creating a greater critical mass of shoppers. Others in the community, however, are concerned that higher land values will make it harder for family-owned businesses to survive.

The Village, with its 350 stores, is unique in Houston: a major shopping district that isn’t along a freeway and has no anchor store. It’s surrounded by charming homes and near the idyllic Rice University campus.


The proposed seven-story Piazza will feature six stories of residential space, retail, a public plaza at street level and underground parking.

La Mesa plans to break ground in early 2007. The Piazza will be bound by Bolsover, Morningside, Dunstan and Kelvin. Many retail spaces on the block already have been vacated. Tysor said she is working to put Thai restaurant Nit Noi and Walgreens in the Piazza and helping other tenants relocate.

I wonder what will finish first, the Piazza or the Kirby Drive Storm Sewer Relief Project. If it’s the former, they may be in for a rough first year or so.

The Rice Village is indeed unique in Houston, and as with the threats to other historic and special places in town, if it dies I’ll be sad. Right now, though, I’m more concerned with pressure this construction project will put on Kirby from a traffic perspective. Even without the imminent street upheaval, Kirby is already a mess to drive through, and there really isn’t a good alternate route. Has anyone given any thought to this? I’d really like to know.