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November 8th, 2009:

Bill White: Still running for Senate

The Texas Tribune stirs up a persistent rumor that likely won’t go away till after the filing deadline. Or, you know, proves to be true. The rumor is that Bill White is contemplating a jump into the Governor’s race.

The logic of that is that Hutchison’s decision to quit has been delayed to the point where it makes sense to look for other opportunities, and that the Democrats already in the race for governor have failed to lock down the sort of support — in terms of money or people — that it takes to win a statewide race.

White’s available. There’s a vacuum. Badabing, badaboom.

White advisor Michael Moore said Saturday evening it ain’t so. “He’s running for Senate,” he emailed.

White spokeswoman Katy Bacon followed with a more complete version: “Thanks for getting in touch. No, there’s nothing to the rumor. Bill’s running for Senate, period. Not going to switch.”

I’m hardly an objective observer of this, as I thought and hoped from the beginning that he’d run for Governor. As a charter member of the “I Don’t Believe KBH Will Actually Resign” club, the logic of this is irresistible to me. And let’s be honest, the odds of KBH being the Republican nominee for Governor, which was one reason why he chose the Senate race, aren’t as good as they once were. I feel confident Bill White has a plan, and that he’ll stick to it. Beyond that, we’ll just have to see.

I will say this: If as the story suggests this latest flareup of that rumor came from the Rick Perry camp as a bank shot against KBH, they ought to be careful what they wish for. If Bill White runs for Governor, Bill White will become Governor. I believe he can win the Senate race too, if that is where he runs, and I’ll be happy to support him in either case. But Rick Perry better hope these rumors really are just that. BOR has more.

Weekend link dump for November 8

Only 34 more shopping days till the runoff elections…

The map that changed the world. It’s been called “America’s birth certificate”. Don’t tell Lou Dobbs it was made in Germany.

The reason that I zap commercials is so that I can watch a one-hour program in about 45 minutes. I need every minute I can get.

How critics reviewed the Mac in 1984. The lack of a hard drive was a pain in the butt.

This Joe richly deserves the target he’s put on his back.

Too many Duggars, not enough channels. (Thanks, MeMo!)

Estate taxes should be increased, not decreased.

No, no, not sarcasm! Anything but that!

The Big XII wants a bowl bailout.

Why do we have all those feeder roads on our freeways, anyway?

An insiders look into the conversion of a former Planned Parenthood employee. And what about conversions that go the other way?

You think Peter Brown spent a lot of money running for Mayor? Mike Bloomberg makes him look like a panhandler.

I for one have no problem with a soda tax, and I say that as a Diet Coke junkie.

I’ll take bizarre love triangles for $200, Alex.

The science of SkyMall.

You will, I’m sure, be shocked to learn that the Republican “health care reform” “plan” really sucks.

TABOR fail.

There’s a War Going on in America, and The Stakes are Nothing Less than Glenn Beck’s Internal Organs.

Some thoughtful words about bigotry.

Isn’t it time we had affirmative action for conservative white Southern men? I mean, talk about an oppressed minority.

That’s one ancient spider web.

Has Eric Cantor apologized to Rush yet?

Let’s hear more from the candidates

Mustafa Tameez has a simple request for the two remaining Mayoral candidates.

In the immediate aftermath of this election, it’s a good time to look back and ask how much we’ve really learned about the candidates and how they propose to deal with the challenges ahead. Normally, it is considered the task of the campaigns to reach out to as many voters as possible — often to the point of annoying voters with negative ads. But given the lack of useful information provided by campaigns in this election, as well as the number of new avenues that allow for civic discourse online, it’s worth considering that we, the people, turn the tables by using those tools to reach the campaigns with our questions and concerns.

As it stands, if a voter sends an e-mail or a message via Facebook or Twitter, they can rest assured that a paid professional staffer will answer it in the best poll-tested language that has been approved by campaign consultants. I’d like to suggest that it might be a refreshing change of pace if voters knew that on at least one set day of the week, let’s say Mondays for the sake of argument, the candidates themselves would answer any and all questions sent via those media. Pick the times, announce the schedule and let’s all have the conversation that many of us feel has been lacking so far.

There have been some opportunities for the candidates to directly engage voters in this fashion – the Chron’s live chats with Annise Parker and Gene Locke are good examples. But I like this idea, and I think the first candidate to jump on it will earn some good free media for it. It would be simple to set something like this up on their websites, and they can put down whatever ground rules they want to make it manageable. I urge them to do it, and I note that there’s nothing stopping any of the other candidates that are still running for their offices to follow suit. What say you?

Precinct analysis: The Mayorals by Council district

I’ve got some preliminary precinct data from the County Clerk’s office, and have been doing my usual spreadsheet action on it to get a handle of how the vote went this past Tuesday. What follows below is a look at the Mayoral vote by City Council district. If you want a more visual analysis of the data, go see Greg‘s maps.

Dist Parker Locke Brown Morales ======================================= A 7,450 2,601 4,937 6,312 B 1,537 8,774 2,931 681 C 10,439 4,522 5,224 4,156 D 6,185 11,928 4,642 1,007 E 5,741 3,147 5,734 8,084 F 2,714 2,079 3,026 1,935 G 11,183 4,985 7,643 9,881 H 6,011 3,119 3,082 2,143 I 2,650 2,815 2,215 1,582

Breaking it down one candidate at a time:

Annise Parker turned in a solid performance pretty much everywhere. She finished first in Districts A, C, G, and H, came in second in D, E, F, and I, and third in B, which was her only poor showing. Whatever we might have believed about Locke’s pincer strategy or Peter Brown’s supposed Republican appeal, it was Parker who ran the best overall in the Republican districts. Now, there are still plenty of Democratic voters in those places, and I suspect Parker cleaned up with them to post these results. If so, and if she can entice some former Brown backers to come to her side next month, she’ll be in a very strong position to win.

Beyond the obvious fact that he did indeed make it to the runoff, I have to figure that Gene Locke isn’t too happy with his performance last week. He finished last in as many districts (three – A, E, and G) as he did first (B, D, and I, just barely), and finished third in two others (C and F; he finished second in H). It’s less obvious what his path to victory in the runoff is, though clearly he will need to get the Brown voters from B and D into his column, and to try to convince African-American voters who sat it out in the first round to come out next month. I guess he can try to appeal to Republican voters, but given his dismal showing with them plus the possibility of pushing more Anglo Dems into Parker’s camp, I have my doubts about that. Maybe he can make some headway with Latinos for Locke, but they didn’t exactly turn out in droves last week, and Parker did pretty well with them besides. There are possibilities for him, I’m just not sure he can make enough of them work for him. But we’ll see.

Peter Brown was Mister Consistency. Outside of D (-3.12%) and F (+5.87%), he finished within three points of his overall 22.55% total in every district. He finished first in F, second in B and C, and third everywhere else. I have to assume his 21% showing in B damaged Locke, though it’s unclear to me how much his attacks on Locke actually helped him. Whoever his voters are, they can have a huge effect in the runoff if they come back out.

Ah, Roy Morales. What can you say? He did do well in the Republican areas, finishing first in E by carrying Clear Lake and Kingwood, and second in A and G. Everywhere else, he finished last. If that’s what the full force of the Harris County GOP can do for you, I would expect more of the same for Roy if and when he runs again citywide. Greg noted that Roy did reasonably well in some Hispanic boxes. All I can add to that is that it’s not apparent from his overall performance in H and I.

Finally, for the morbidly curious, the three fringe candidates had their best combined showing in District F, garnering a total of 1.95% of the total. Amada Ulman received 1.16% in F, which was the only time any of them broke the one percent barrier. Their worst combined showing was in D, where they finished with 0.55% of the vote. I know you’re glad to know that.

Here’s the Chron analysis of the race. I’ll be taking a look at the City Controller and City Council races next. Let me know what you think about this.

UPDATE: Forgot to mention that this is Harris County data only, so the small pieces of Districts D and F that are in Fort Bend, and the even smaller piece of E that is in Montgomery are not included.

Bradley speaks

John Bradley, the hang-em-high Williamson County District Attorney who was appointed to chair the Texas Forensic Science Commission by Governor Perry in August, tries to reassure us that there will be no Perry-saving monkey business on the Commission. He has the opposite effect.

The commission wants to reassure you that the Cameron Todd Willingham case, involving a study of the application of the forensic science of arson, will be completed. However, pending the release of a final report by the commission, you should be skeptical of media reports, personal pronouncements and editorials on that case. Those with agendas separate from the advancement of forensic science have made exaggerated claims and drawn premature conclusions about the case. The commission can only ask that the public be patient and permit the commission to apply a disciplined, scientific approach to the investigation. That kind of hard work takes time and careful deliberation, and is not likely to result in a simplistic report.

You also need to know that the commission was created to determine only whether there was negligence or misconduct by an accredited laboratory conducting forensic analyses of certain kinds of evidence in specific cases. The commission does not decide whether persons are guilty or innocent of criminal offenses. The commission also is not a forum for the debate of social issues, such as the appropriateness of the death penalty. Such discussions are better suited for our court system and the legislative process.

In other words, lower your expectations and don’t hold your breath waiting for that Willingham report to come out, because we’ll be in no hurry. If you don’t read all that into what he says here, perhaps some more of Bradley’s words, taken from this Texas Lawyer article and summarized by Grits, will help you see it.

Bradley suggests:

  • Making investigations secret and meetings about them closed.
  • Re-education of commissioners: “Bradley says that when people act as investigators and judges, they typically should have some background in that work. Most members of the commission don’t do investigative work and need training, he says.”
  • Lengthening terms for commissioners. (No word why the governor couldn’t just reappoint if continuity is so important.)
  • Creating new rules and procedures for the commission (no detail).
  • “Clarifying” whether the commission has authority to investigate the Willingham case. (He seems unwilling to take his former boss Sen. John Whitmire’s word for it.)

Hardly anyone attends FSC meetings – at the last one in Houston not a single media member showed up, including this blogger – so the secrecy request can only be a reaction the Willingham uproar, which was raised to a national issue with Bradley’s abrupt appointment by Governor Perry to chair the FSC and his subsequent decision to cancel all commission activities. What’s more, Bradley thinks the public shouldn’t get to know what taxpayers bought for $30K from the expert hired to advise the commission – a proposition that seems like a really big stretch, to me, anyway.

All I can say is that I hope Sen. Whitmire, whose committee hearing to inquire with Bradley about the state of the Commission will be this coming Tuesday, November 10, reads this article as well and has a few questions about it. EoW has more.

Raise a glass to Luling and Friendswood

The ballot proposition to allow alcohol sales in Luling passed easily.

The measure passed with 340 votes in favor and 118 against, with two ballots yet to be certified.

The referendum was added to the ballot after a petition was submitted by Stuart Carter, leader of Luling Citizens for Economic Growth. Carter said he hopes the new law will attract chain restaurants and hotels to the city’s Interstate 10 corridor and provide jobs for residents.

[…]

Carter, who was having a small party at his house on Election Night, said he wanted to get a 95 percent mandate, but he is happy with 74 percent.

“The voters indicated they are ready for economic growth,” he said. “I’m drinking one beer, but I might drink two tonight. I might break my one-beer rule.”

Party on, dude. And when you’ve sobered up, hop in your car and drive over to Friendswood.

Breaking a 46-year dry spell, voters Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the sale of alcohol at restaurants and grocery stores in the city’s downtown.

Proposition 1, which would allow convenience stores and wine shops to sell beer and wine for off-premise consumption, passed with 2,505 votes — 68 percent — for, compared to 1,163 — 32 percent — against, according to complete, unofficial returns.

Proposition 2, which would allow restaurants to sell mixed beverages, passed with 2,648 votes — 72 percent — for, compared to 1,021 — 28 percent — against.

Both propositions allow alcohol sales in a corridor along FM 518 between FM 528 and FM 2351.

A good day all ’round for those who enjoy a wee dram now and again.

Who you calling “Democrat”?

Kinky Friedman wants us to believe he’s one of us.

Friedman, who is running in the 2010 Democratic primary after finishing fourth out of four major candidates in the 2006 governor’s race with a little more than 12 percent of the vote, said the fight between Perry and Hutchison will benefit the Democrats.

“This is going to deliver a lot of heat and very little light and leave the Republican Party very divided and no time to heal,” Friedman said. “It’s going to offer the Democrats a great opportunity.”

And the former singer for Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys hopes that his black cowboy hat wearing, cigar-toting image is just the thing to rise to the top of the “coat and tie” Democratic establishment that hasn’t won a statewide race since 1994.

“They’re a very small group, but they are the ones who have presided over the party the last 17 years,” Friedman said.

But he says he doesn’t mean that as a slight against the other Democrats in the race, which right now includes rancher Hank Gilbert and Tom Schieffer, a former ambassador to Japan and partner in the Texas Rangers baseball team.

“I don’t know these guys, most of ‘em, but I believe any of ‘em would be better than Rick or Kay,” said Friedman, who said he’s been a Democrat all his life except for the 2006 race and when he ran for justice of the peace in Kerrville in 1986.

Yeah, except for that time when I ran for office as a Republican, and that time I ran for office as an independent and spent the better part of three years trashing the two-party system, I’m a lifelong Democrat. Oh, and please also overlook my votes for Lamar Smith and Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2006 as well. Hey, at least I voted that year, which is something I almost never did before then.

Yeah. You know, I’m willing to overlook the occasional Republican primary vote around here – certainly, a number of lawyers in Harris County who wanted to affect a given judicial race had little choice but to do that in a number of years – or the occasional support of a friend who happens to be a Republican candidate. I’m more than happy to welcome converts and party-switchers, especially those who demonstrate their newfound love of the Democratic Party by helping other Democrats win elections. Far as I can tell, the only Democratic candidate Kinky Friedman has ever actually cared about is himself. With this history, it’s going to take a little more than just him telling me he’s a Democrat to be even remotely convincing.