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November 1st, 2009:

Enthusiasm, or lack of same

The Chron provides some decent anecdotal evidence to support the theory that voters aren’t all that engaged in this election.

The deciding factor varied widely for many, according to interviews with more than 40 voters across the city during the last two days of early voting. While the interviews are not statistically significant enough to provide a meaningful idea of how the election will play out Tuesday, they do provide a voter’s view of an unusual mayoral race.

Experience ranked high among those who favored City Controller Annise Parker. Endorsements were cited repeatedly by backers of former city attorney Gene Locke. Supporters — and opponents — of Brown said they had been motivated by his dominance of their television sets and mailboxes, either appreciating his “blueprint” for Houston or feeling put off by a candidate who spent more than $3 million to get his message out.

Those who chose Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales said they did so because of his conservative bona fides, something the other three candidates — all lifelong Democrats — lacked.

Many expressed lukewarm preferences overall, calling their choice simply the “lesser evil” of the four.

There’s plenty of passion among those who are closest to the campaigns, but that didn’t spill out very far, for reasons we’re all familiar with by now. I don’t quite get the “lesser evil” sentiment, since that’s the sort of thing I associate with candidates that have significant flaws, and that’s not how I see the top three here. Maybe the lack of sharp policy distinction, which leads to more of a focus on personalities, is the cause of that, I don’t know. If that’s what you think now, just wait till the runoff.

Weekend link dump for November 1

Happy Dia de los Muertos!

I personally think Carl Hiassen’s books are the best political novels out there. But your mileage may vary.

What do you suppose are the odds that he has any idea that this song is an allegory about Canada’s relationship with the United States?

It was probably something like this that inspired this.

If you’re a parent of young children, Disney may owe you money.

What the Halloween booty you gave out said about you.

Who cares about parochial local issues, anyway?

The Phillies took the SUPERTRAIN to Yankee Stadium.

Meet the iPhone mom.

Want proof that Fox News isn’t news? Here you go.

This is easily the best thing that’s ever happened in Newt Gingrich’s name.

Lend a hand if you can to the Aurora Picture Show.

Health care reform is good for Texas.

A modern twist on the whole “infinite number of monkeys producing all the works of Shakespeare” thing.

Those South Carolina Republicans really are something, aren’t they?

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails talks about ticket scalping.

Are we finished smacking down the “Freakonomics” guys for their not-so-good sequel? No, we are not.

Here’s some good advice for helping older family members or friends use modern technology.

You tell him, Sen. Harkin!

One of these ought to liven up your next budget presentation.

Hope you had a happy Halloween. Even if you don’t like candy corn.

More on that KHOU poll

If you say so.

Once considered a front-runner, support for Houston City Council member Peter Brown appears to be slipping in independent polling data released to 11 News.

Rice University professor Bob Stein, who conducted earlier polls for KHOU-TV and KUHF Radio, used an “interactive voice response” system this week to re-interview many of the likely voters who took part in the first rounds of polling, which KHOU and KUHF released this week. Stein also used the IVR system to question new groups of registered Houston voters who described themselves as likely to vote in the mayoral election.

“There is a closing of the gap between all of the candidates,” Stein said. “It’s still very wide open.”

11 News is not releasing specific numbers or candidate rankings based on the IVR poll, because it is not considered part of our official polling package. Stein said the data indicate that support for controller Annise Parker and former city attorney Gene Locke has surged over the last two weeks, often at the expense of Brown, who has spent millions of dollars on a sustained television advertising campaign.

I don’t even know what there is to say about this. The original poll was based on a sample that I find questionable, especially given the low turnout projections. I’m not sure what there is to learn by asking followup questions of people who were – to my mind, anyway – unlikely to vote in the first place. Without being able to see the data itself, I’m even more dubious. I can certainly believe that Brown’s support is soft, I just don’t think this is telling me something I didn’t already know.

Bikers for Roy

Mere words cannot adequately express the awesomeness of this:

So you better vote for Roy, unless you want bikers to invade your neighborhood and point their fingers at you in a vaguely menacing fashion. Or something like that. Many thanks to David Ortez for the catch.

The NYT on Parker and the Mayor’s race

Our Mayor’s race is getting some national attention, as the New York Times gives it a writeup, with a primary focus on Annise Parker. Greg goes over the basics, so I’ll leave that to him, and I’ll just make note of this:

In a televised debate on Oct. 25, for instance, [Parker] was asked if she would push for a referendum to give benefits to the same-sex partners of city workers. A similar measure was soundly defeated in the past.

Ms. Parker has lived with her partner for 19 years and has two adopted children, so she has a personal stake in the question, but she replied that, while she supported the idea, she had “no current plan to offer that for a referendum.”

“Personally it’s very important,” she said, “but, as mayor of Houston, do I want to engage resources in fighting that battle, or do I want to tackle the budget? Do I want to tackle drainage? Do I want to try to put more police officers on the street? It’s the difference between the personal and what this city needs.”

I understand that position, and I agree with her priorities, but I do hope that once the budget has been tamed and the other issues get addressed that she will come back to this. It’s a stain on the city that needs to be cleansed. I feel confident that it will pass the next time it gets brought to a vote, so it’s just a matter of when it happens. I have the same hope for Peter Brown and Gene Locke should one of them win the election. It’s time for Houston’s charter to catch up with the rest of the city.

Comparing Controller’s races

In 2009, we have a Controller’s race that features an At Large Council member, a Council member from a high-turnout, mostly white district, and Council member from a low-turnout, mostly non-white district. In 2003, we had a Controller’s race that featured an At Large Council member, a Council member from a high-turnout, mostly white district, and Council member from a low-turnout, mostly non-white district. I thought it might be interesting, if not necessarily instructive, to compare the races and see if we can learn anything. Here’s the data:

Year Candidate Votes Pct ================================= 1997 Tatro 6,449 23.19 1997 Parker 47,841 20.25 97 Runoff Tatro 15,739 56.25 97 Runoff Parker 139,787 57.45 1999 Tatro 12,349 57.64 1999 Parker 112,470 63.23 1999 Vasquez 5,418 36.70 99 Runoff Vasquez 4,055 60.59 2001 Tatro 15,811 56.52 2001 Parker 112,153 50.66 2001 Vasquez 11,248 100.00 2003 Tatro 52,258 20.40 2003 Parker 106,441 41.54 2003 Vasquez 30,319 11.83 2003 Holm 11,172 35.37 2003 Khan 4,096 37.55 2003 Green 53,163 31.20 03 Runoff Holm 18,411 50.04 03 Runoff Khan 6,889 53.31 03 Runoff Green 98,464 52.21 2005 Holm 22,500 100.00 2005 Khan 7,019 69.22 2005 Green 123,254 100.00 2007 Holm 14,733 100.00 2007 Khan 4,662 100.00 2007 Green 82,417 100.00

Couple points of interest. The 2009 Controller’s race has just the three term-limited Council members in it. The 2003 race had three other candidates – Gabe Vasquez, who as you can see was not term-limited that year, actually finished fourth, behind Mark Lee. Both Ronald Green and Annise Parker finished second in their initial races, then went on to win in the runoff. Parker had two opponents in 2001.

As for what it all means, well, the parallels are obvious, but I would not draw too much from them. Parker had a fair amount of money in 2003, more than Green has now, and she had three competitive elections going into her Controller’s race, where Green had only the first one. Tatro had money in 2003, but Holm and Khan have more. They’ve run aggressive campaigns, while Green has, um, not. Green and his tax issues have also presented a large target for his opponents, at which Pam Holm has gleefully aimed, with mailers, press releases, challenges to appear on the radio with her, and so forth. I don’t know who’s behind that robocall that trashes Green over this, but I’ve heard from a lot of people that have received it. And MJ Khan is out there, too, spending over $300K on TV, which is something Gabe Vasquez never did. This is just a very different race. I could try to come up with some mathematical relationship between all the numbers involved, beyond what you can plainly see, but I wouldn’t believe any of it. Consider them for entertainment purposes only.