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May 9th, 2009:

Ed and Maverick in District H

All the votes are in, and it’s Ed Gonzalez and Maverick Welsh in the runoff for District H.

With all 13 precincts reporting and nearly 4,200 ballots cast in a district of more than 93,000 registered voters, Gonzalez had 31.4 percent of the vote and Welsh had 26.9 percent.

They were followed by attorney Yolanda Navarro Flores, HPD officer Rick Rodriguez and pastor Larry Williams. Lupe Garcia, Gonzalo Camacho, Hugo Mojica and James Partsch-Galvan took in less than 3 percent each.

The strikingly low turnout did not surprise political handicappers or any of the campaigns, many of which knocked doors and placed volunteers at the district’s polling places to do last-minute electioneering. Their efforts had a slightly blunted impact, as nearly half of the votes counted came from absentee and early voting.

Gonzalez had a huge lead in the early totals, coming in at least 10 points ahead of the nearest candidate, but Welch won election day voting by about an eight-point margin. Both campaigns said they planned to continue frenzied efforts to reach voters for another month, when the runoff election most likely will be scheduled. A City Council vote will be required to set the exact date.

Here are the cumulative totals. The final turnout was 4,141 votes, which was a bit short of my projection. About 45% of the vote was cast early.

I’ll have some more thoughts on this later. For now, my congratulations to both campaigns. As you know, I think Maverick Welsh ran a strong race, and worked hard to get into this position. I expect to see more of the same in the runoff.

Elsewhere, Julian Castro won going away to become San Antonio’s next Mayor without a runoff, while Lee Leffingwell led the field in Austin. He’ll face Brewster McCracken in overtime, as the Carole Keeton Strayhorn show comes once again to an end.

Vote today

Today is Election Day for many places in Texas. They’re electing new Mayors in Austin and San Antonio, along with the regularly scheduled municipal elections in those cities and others. Here in Houston, it’s showtime for the District H special election. I’ve cast my vote already, since I prefer early voting. If you haven’t done so, the polling places are here, and if you don’t know what precinct you’re in, go here. And when you’re done, go to the Art Car Parade as your reward. Happy voting!

KBH will do whatever KBH will do

You can take what Bill White said about what Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison might have said about resigning her Senate seat to run for Governor, or what her spokesperson is saying now, however you want. I still believe she will not resign in time for a 2010 election. I say that because I think she wants to appoint her replacement herself and not let Rick Perry do it, and because I firmly believe in the principle that nobody knows what the hell KBH is going to do. I could, of course, be wrong, but that’s how I see it. Actions speak louder than words, so I’ll believe her when I see the resignation letter.

Post-mortem on UH-Downtown name change

It’s safe to say that UH-Downtown will remain UH-Downtown for at least two more years, since there’s no time to get a name change bill through the Lege at this point. The Chron takes a look at how the attempt to change it this year went down the tubes.

One possibility, Houston Metropolitan University, was rejected by faculty as too cheesy. Another, University of South Texas, prompted a letter warning of possible trademark infringement from South Texas College of Law President James Alfini.

Now, it’s back to the drawing board. The school is soliciting proposals from companies to suggest new names.

Maybe that will have a better outcome. It seems clear to me that a lack of trust about the process, as well as a belief that UH-D doesn’t get the respect it deserves from the rest of the UH system were the main factors. If this is going to be pursued further, a process that involves students, faculty, and alumni will be essential to getting any kind of buy-in. I don’t know if they need to do this or not, but they do need to get everyone on the same page.

Updates on some criminal justice bills

As Grits notes, this is the time of the session in which bills die because there’s no longer the time for them to make it through the process. Fortunately, as he writes in that post, many of the bills related to innocence and exoneration are in a position to be debated and voted by both chambers before the close of business on the session. Hopefully, they will have a clear path to the finish line.

Meanwhile, remember Tehena, the town where the cops steal your stuff as a matter of budget policy? SB1529, by Whitmire, is getting set to put an end to that sleazy practice. Grits has the details on that one as well.

Vince reports that HB3148, which would allow judges to exempt teens and young adults who engage in consensual sex from being required to register as sex offenders, passed out of the House on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it looks like HB3564, the “Romeo and Juliet Fair Defense Act”, which would extend the defense of “indecency with a child” for age-appropriate dating by straight kids to gay and lesbian teenagers, is not going to make it out of committee. That would be a shame.

Finally, it’s not strictly speaking a criminal justice bill, but since I linked to Equality Texas in the preceeding paragraph, I thought I’d mention that HB1323, the anti-bullying bill, will be on the House calendar Monday. You can learn more about that bill, which Equality Texas helped to draft, here. You can help by contacting your Rep and asking him or her to vote for this bill when it comes to the floor. Thanks very much.