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November 20th, 2009:

He coulda been a contender

Poor Roy.

“I thought we were bullied, personally,” Roy Morales told me this morning.

The conservative mayoral candidate was describing a lunch-time meeting he attended Wednesday with Gene Locke’s campaign manager, Christian Archer, at the offices of political consultant Allen Blakemore. The meeting was an effort on Archer’s part to secure Morales’s endorsement.

“I was strongly asked to support Mr. Locke, and I was very clear that I wasn’t going to endorse anyone,” Morales said.

Just read the whole thing. I don’t think there’s anything I can add.

Friday random ten: To the moon!

So, I didn’t get around to the news about NASA finding water on the moon until after I’d published my Friday Random Ten for last week. But the great thing about Fridays is that there’s always another one coming. So here I present to you ten moon songs.

1. Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
2. Blue Moon – The Marcels
3. Fly Me To The Moon – Laurie Berkner
4. How High The Moon – Charlie Parker
5. Kiko And The Lavender Moon – Los Lobos
6. Lua De Sao Jorge (Moon Of St. George) – Susanna Sharpe and the Samba Police
7. Moon Over Bourbon Street – Sting
8. New Blue Moon – Traveling Wilburys
9. Shine On Harvest Moon – Asylum Street Spankers
10. There’s A Moon In The Sky (Called The Moon) – The B-52s

What’s mooning about on your iPod this week?

More on that KHOU/KUHF poll

Here’s the full polling data for that KHOU/KUHF poll. Of greatest interest to me is the bit where they note that they asked people whether they’d voted in the November election; about 75% of them said Yes. Given that turnout for this election was about 20%, I find it impossible to believe that so many respondents in a random sample would have actually done so. Hell, even if they thought the question referred to last November’s Presidential election, this would be too high. But even if you believed them completely, why wouldn’t you then say “thanks for your time” to the No respondents, hang up on them, and then go to the next name on the list till you find another self-reported voter? What possible value is there in asking these non-voters for whom they plan to vote in the runoff? I don’t get it.

Rant aside, the rest of the sample seems reasonable enough. In fact, the Anglo/African-American/Latino ratio is very close to that of the Parker poll, which surely sampled more-likely voters than this one did. I’d say that lends credence to the hypothesis that lower turnout benefits Parker, while higher turnout benefits Locke. Anyway, it’s all there, including the Controller and At Large Council races, so check it out. Link via Robert Dahnke.

UPDATE: As sure as mosquitoes follow the rain in Houston, campaign press releases about polls follow polls. The Locke campaign has sent one out touting the fact that two out of three recent polls – theirs and KHOU’s – show him trailing by a modest amount. Of course, they resorted to the old “statistical dead heat” silliness, about which I will direct you here and here. By my calculation, there is about a 77% probability that Parker is actually leading the race, given the KHOU poll. Given that three different polls have her in the lead, I’d say the odds are greater than that.

Third poll shows Parker leading

And we have our first poll from a source other than one of the campaigns, but like those two before it, this one shows Annise Parker in the lead.

The poll consisted of 500 telephone interviews with registered Houston voters who consider themselves likely to vote in the December 12 runoff election. Early voting begins November 30 and ends December 8. The Center for Civic Engagement at Rice University and the University of Houston Center for Public Policy Survey Research Institute conducted the poll for KHOU-TV and KUHF Radio.

According to the poll, 37 percent of likely voters plan to cast a ballot for Parker. Thirty-four percent say they will vote for Locke. Because the margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percent, the poll is a statistical tie. Twenty-one percent of likely voters still have not decided, and eight percent would not disclose their choice in our survey.

You already know how I feel about a poll in a race like this using self-identification as the criteria for voter likelihood. The previous KHOU poll, as well as the Chron poll, clearly illustrate the danger. The question as always is how many of these people really are likely to vote. My guess is that most if not all of the “don’t know” respondents are at best long shots to show up.

“We see this race as very much a toss-up,” said Rice University professor Bob Stein, who conducted the poll. “The good news for Gene Locke is that we see some room for improvement for him. He needs to get more familiar with African-American voters, and he needs to turn out more of them. When they do vote, they vote decidedly for Locke. The good news for Annise Parker is that her vote is solid.”

The poll showed that 97 percent of the people who voted for Parker in the November 3 general election plan to vote for her again on December 12. For Locke, the figure was 87 percent.

“It appears this is race is one in which Gene Locke is still not very well known to voters,” Stein said. “Our numbers show that if this is a low-turnout runoff, then Parker wins it by five points. But if turnout is higher, then we find it is almost dead even.”

That conforms to the conventional wisdom as I’ve been hearing it. I don’t know how KHOU modeled that, though I presume it involves a higher relative level of African-American turnout. There are no crosstabs that I can see, but there is some demographic breakdown given, some of which you can see in pictures. Note to whoever created those slides: The margin of error for a subsample is larger than the MOE for the sample as a whole. Just FYI.

One more thing:

Among voters who say they supported Peter Brown in the general election, 38 percent say they will vote for Locke in the runoff, and 46 percent plan to vote for Parker. Brown has endorsed Parker in the runoff, and is actively campaigning for her. Among people who say they voted for Roy Morales, 31 percent say they will vote for Locke, and 16 percent will support Parker. Forty-nine percent of Morales voters told pollsters they have not decided who, if anyone, to support.

Well, Locke is certainly working for the Roy vote. We’ll see how that goes from here.

As the story notes, this poll was a joint venture with KUHF. The main thing we learn from the KUHF story is that other races were polled as well.

Councilmembers Ronald Green and MJ Khan are in the run-off to become Houston’s next controller, essentially the chief financial officer for the city. The KUHF-11News survey shows Green has a slight lead with 25 percent of people saying they’ll vote for him, compared to Khan’s 22 percent.

But Rice University Political Scientist Bob Stein, who authored the survey, says 46 percent of respondents don’t even know who they’ll vote for on December 12th.

[…]

According to our survey, two incumbents, Sue Lovell and Jolanda Jones, hold slim leads over their challengers. And the race between Stephen Costello and Karen Derr, which Costello leads by four points, is practically unheard of outside political circles. As many as 65 percent of likely voters say they’re undecided in those races.

My qualms about the voter likelihood screen aside, it sure would be nice to see these results in more detail.

UPDATE: Martha brings the snark.

UPDATE: Oh, and speaking of Locke’s pursuit of Roy’s voters.

Allen Blakemore thinks he knows where the finger lands. The Republican campaign consultant says that if you voted for Morales in October, you’re going to love – sorry, strike that – you’re going to vote for Gene Locke in December.

“It’s not an easy sell for Gene, and it’s not an easy decision for those voters to come to,” Blakemore told me. In the end, though, Locke has two things going for him when you, the right-of-center voter, step into the voting booth: 1) He doesn’t have a voting record and Annise Parker does, particularly on taxes; 2) Parker’s “lifestyle” still gives you pause.

A Locke-Morales pas de deux in the works? More to come shortly.

I for one cannot wait to hear more about this. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the man, here are two prime examples of Blakemore’s work. Fills you up with a warm feeling inside, doesn’t it?

State sales tax revenues way down

The 2011 legislative session is going to be so much fun.

Sales tax revenues have taken double-digit dives for five months running; in each of those months, the state’s income from those taxes has been more than 10 percent lower than in the same month the year before. In a state where a steady rise in sales tax money has become almost a rule, the intake for the last 12 months is down more than 5 percent. And budgeteers assumed not only that they’d match the old numbers, but that they would exceed them.

Budgeteers used one-time federal stimulus money for ongoing expenses in the current budget — in Medicaid, for instance — that create holes to fill next time they write a budget. The programs will still be there even though the stimulus money probably won’t.

And an ongoing “structural deficit” — the kind of term that seems designed to scare people away from a conversation about money — creates an ongoing problem. In 2006, in an effort to lower property tax burdens, the state agreed to spend more on public education. Lawmakers created a new business tax, but it raises less than they agreed to spend on the property tax fix. The gap has to be filled every time they write a budget. Last time, the feds showed up like leprechauns with pots of stimulus money and kept Texas from choosing to use its Rainy Day Fund, raise taxes or make spending cuts. Next time, the stimulus money won’t be there, but the hole will be.

In 2007, that gap was filled by surplus general revenue funds. More surplus funds were put aside that year to pay for the shortfall in 2009. Needless to say, no such surplus will be available in 2011. The Rainy Day Fund, assuming the votes are there to use it, might be able to cover both the revenue shortage and this structural gap, but I wouldn’t be too optimistic about that. But sooner or later, which is to say this session or the following one, that great big unaffordable property tax cut is going to have to be dealt with. The only thing that sustains me when I contemplate the possibility of another term for Rick Perry is the knowledge that this reckoning would have to happen on his watch.

Of course, I’m sure he’ll defend the property tax cut to his last dying breath, and if he has to provoke a budgetary crisis or two to do that, he will. But his options may be limited this time around.

It’s been just a few years since Texas lawmakers, facing a court order, undertook a massive overhaul of the school funding system. But booming enrollment, higher costs on such necessities as utility bills and a public reluctance to pay higher taxes have left many districts in a fix.

“It looks like the state may be walking itself right into another lawsuit,” said David Hinojosa, an attorney for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which was part of the most recent school finance lawsuit against the state that resulted in the 2006 changes.

[…]

“It’s going to be a significant issue for the next governor. I just don’t see any way it can’t be,” said Richard Kouri, a lobbyist for the Texas State Teachers Association.

“It’s moving into the crisis phase.”

The good news is that the solution is obvious and staring everybody in the face. It’s getting enough of them to admit it that will be the challenge. Oh yeah, 2011 is going to be heaps of fun.

You sure you’re married?

Maybe you are, and maybe you’re not.

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, says that a 22-word clause in a 2005 constitutional amendment designed to ban gay marriages erroneously endangers the legal status of all marriages in the state.

The amendment, approved by the Texas Legislature and overwhelmingly ratified by Texas voters, declares that “marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.” But the trouble-making phrase, as Radnofsky sees it, is Subsection B, which declares:

“This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.”

Architects of the amendment included the clause to ban same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships.

But Radnofsky, who was a member of the powerhouse Vinson & Elkins law firm in Houston for 27 years until retiring in 2006, says the wording of Subsection B effectively “eliminates marriage in Texas,” including common-law marriages.

She calls it a “massive mistake” and blames the current attorney general, Republican Greg Abbott, for allowing the language to become part of the Texas Constitution. Radnofsky called on Abbott to acknowledge the wording as an error and consider an apology. She also said that another constitutional amendment may be necessary to reverse the problem.

“You do not have to have a fancy law degree to read this and understand what it plainly says,” said Radnofsky[.]

This argument was made in 2005 when that referendum passed, and as it is now it was pooh-poohed then by those who pushed it. I’m not a lawyer and can’t give a lawyer’s opinion of this, but I certainly do remember having the same misgivings, and my archives will show that I wrote about them at the time. I suppose it’s all theoretical until someone files a lawsuit, but now that we’ve had the gay divorce ruling in Dallas, who knows what could happen. The best course of action, on many levels, would be to repeal this petty little piece of bigotry. That, sadly, isn’t going to happen, and I doubt the proponents of this amendment will see any need to modify the verbiage, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if it ever gets challenged. Hair Balls has more.

Who’s your referee?

I don’t follow high school sports at all, but this Chron story about a battle between the University Interscholastic League (UIL) and the Texas Association of Sports Officials (TASO), about who has control over the officials at high school athletic events, was fascinating to me. I don’t have any points to make about the story, which I recommend you read, but I am curious about something. I find that it’s rare for a big change like this to take place without some kind of precipitating event, but the story doesn’t go into that. So does anyone who does follow high school sports know, was this something that was a long time coming and the stars finally lined up, was it the result of some controversy or scandal (I doubt that, as surely that would have been mentioned in the article), or was it really about money, as one of the TASO officials claims? Leave a comment and let me know.