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November 9th, 2009:

Khan has an announcement

Council Member and candidate for Controller MJ Khan has an announcement to make tomorrow. From his press release:

Who: Councilman M.J. Khan, Candidate for Houston City Controller

What: Press Conference on a major announcement from the M.J. Khan for City Controller campaign.

When: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. (after City Council has adjourned)

Where: Steps of Houston City Hall
901 Babgy
Houston, TX 77002

Info: Natural light and sound

I suppose that last bit is for the TV folks. My guess is that he’ll be announcing Pam Holm’s endorsement. I can’t think of anything else offhand that’s likely to occur and would qualify as a “major” announcement. No, these things are not automatic – remember, Sylvester Turner never endorsed Bill White even though you might have thought that would be natural for him to do. I could be wrong – he could just be announcing some other Republican endorsements, which may or may not be truly press conference-worthy. Or he could surprise me and announce the support of some high-profile Democrat, or some other members of Council. But if I had to place a bet, it would be on a Holm endorsement. We’ll know soon enough.

Speaking of endorsements, the HCDP made its endorsements for the runoffs. From their Facebook page:

The Harris County Democratic Party is proud to announce that it has endorsed the following candidates in the City of Houston Runoff Election, which will be held on Saturday, December 12, 2009:

RONALD GREEN for Houston City Comptroller
KAREN DERR for Houston City Council Member, At Large Place 1
JOLANDA (“JO”) JONES for Houston City Council Member, At Large Place 5
LANE LEWIS for Houston City Council Member, District A
MIKE LASTER for Houston City Council Member, District F

In the interest of party unity, the Steering Committee of the Harris County Democratic Party has elected to refrain from making an endorsement in races where two Democrats are running against each other.

In the citywide races and in District F (which you may recall voted strongly Democratic in 2008) this makes a lot of sense; it’s less clear you want to partisanize things in District A, but you do want to make sure your voters get out, so there you have it. As you’ve seen in the Controller’s race and will see tomorrow in the At Large races, improving performance in the core Democratic districts will be key to winning for them.

Hampton for CCA

Some good news from Grits.

Keith Hampton, a veteran appellate lawyer and chair of the legislative committee for the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, has announced his candidacy for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, lining up to run against Michael Keasler. Here’s Hampton’s campaign website.

The CCA is a cesspool, and any decent Democrat that commits to running against one of its awful incumbents deserves to be vigorously supported. Remember the name Keith Hampton next year. We need more like him on the bench.

Precinct analysis: The City Controller race

Here are my numbers. As before, for maps, go see what Greg‘s got.

Dist Green Khan Holm ============================= A 4,685 6,750 7,125 B 7,483 3,329 1,362 C 7,356 7,494 6,332 D 13,410 4,673 3,047 E 5,133 7,684 6,633 F 2,403 4,171 1,975 G 4,908 8,446 16,733 H 4,879 4,236 2,973 I 3,725 2,708 1,510

One of the reasons why I thought Pam Holm would make it to a runoff, and why I thought MJ Khan had no chance to do so, is because there are so many more voters in District G than there are in District F. Indeed, Holm built up a huge lead in G, and had a small advantage in neighboring District A, but it wasn’t enough. She ran third in all six non-Republican districts, while Khan carried districts C and E in addition to his home district F, and ran second everywhere else, including in Fort Bend. I have to assume his TV advertising paid off for him; unlike the Mayor’s race, where Peter Brown’s air assault wasn’t enough to get him into the runoff, this race featured three far less known candidates, only one of which spent any significant amount on TV. The boost I presume he got in name recognition, with no countervailing forces from Holm and Green, propelled him forward. I don’t know why Holm didn’t spend more of her money on TV. She still had over $130K in her treasury as of the 8 days out report, and spent less than half of what Khan did ($380K to $160K) in the period. This strikes me as a critical mistake on her part.

As for Ronald Green, he did about as well as Gene Locke in District B, once you factor in the 15% undervote in the Controller’s race, and he did better in District D. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Khan’s first place showing in C, not to mention his strong second place finishes in H and I, should be a loud blaring klaxon that he needs to shore up his support among Anglo and Hispanic Democratic voters. With Holm’s support in the Republican districts likely to transfer to Khan, and with Khan’s strength in F (though I note he didn’t get a majority there), Green can’t take anything for granted. He needs to raise some money quickly, and to remind the Inner Loop folks that he’s their guy. I believe there will be another 8 days out report for the runoff, so we’ll have some idea if he’s doing that or not. If he continues to coast, I believe he will lose.

Next up: City Council At Large races.

Six answers for six questions

I asked six questions about how the runoff elections might go, and David Ortez took a crack at answering them. Go read what he has to say.

Ashby developers appeal to City Council

According to Nancy Sarnoff, the Buckhead folks have appealed to City Council to allow their original vision to go forward. They’ve already lost an appeal of that with the city’s General Appeals Board, and as it’s the Mayor who sets the Council’s agenda, I wouldn’t hold out a lot of hope for them. Never give up, never surrender, I suppose.

Streetcar-mania

Streetcars may be coming to a street near you in many cities.

What links Boise, Cincinnati and Charlotte — and Salt Lake City, Dallas, Atlanta and Kansas City, where streetcar tracks abandoned in 1953 still poke through the city’s weathered asphalt — is they’re among dozens of local governments hoping their modern street projects will benefit from federal grants, including $1.5 billion in stimulus funding due to be awarded by mid-February 2010.

In all, some 80 U.S. cities have streetcar proposals, the American Public Transportation Association says, a trend bolstered by President Barack Obama’s signal he’s more inclined to pump federal dollars into streetcars than was President Bush.

[…]

Foes, however, dismiss trolleys as “toy trains” that benefit special interests and promote profligate public spending. The rush for easy federal cash, they argue, is obscuring the reality that cities will eventually rely on taxpayers to subsidize lines; federal dollars go only for construction.

Yeah, well, foes of light rail here in Houston often called the Main Street line a “toy train”. It wasn’t a cogent criticism then, and it isn’t one now. To most of these guys, any spending, at least on stuff they don’t approve of, qualifies as “profligate”. My gas tax dollars help to subsidize plenty of highways that I never drive on. Either these things provide a useful service that’s worth paying for or they don’t. That’s how they should be judged, not whether or not public funding should be used on them. Do what makes sense.