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July 16th, 2015:

Finance reports come trickling in

As always, the Mayoral reports lead the story.

BagOfMoney

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia closed out the first half of the year with more than $1.3 million in the bank, eclipsing City Councilman Stephen Costello by a mere $7,423.

According to their campaign finance reports, Garcia raised $1.5 million and spent just over $122,000, while Costello raised about $30,000 less in contributions, was loaned $90,000 and spent $496,000.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner and former mayor of Kemah Bill King trailed in cash on hand, reporting $1.1 million and $544,000, respectively.

[…]

Costello’s campaign previously said his funds include a $250,000 personal contribution and a $262,000 transfer from his council account.

Among those with reports already in, King spent the most in the first half of the year, coughing up more than $680,000. He raised more than $755,000 and lent himself an additional $500,000.

Turner’s expenditures came in just under King’s, at $601,000, according to his report. However, his campaign noted that $125,000 of those expenditures were related to his state office, not his mayoral campaign.

After starting the race with about $900,000 in the bank from his legislative account, Turner raised an additional $763,000 in the nine days between when his state fundraising blackout period ended and the close of the reporting period.

See here for more. As previously noted, the reports are not in their usual place due to changes in state law and the reporting system. For now, you can see the reports that the city has posted here. I’ve linked to them on my Election 2015 page and will keep updating that as more of them appear. I’ll do a more in depth look at the reports once they’re all there, starting with the Mayorals, which were added to that page as of last night. Expect that for next week.

The Chron story has a spreadsheet embedded in it with totals for candidates who had turned in reports by publication time. Among the other Mayorals, Chris Bell had raised $381K and had $190K on hand; Ben Hall raised $94K and loaned himself $850K to have $812K on hand; and Mary McVey had raised $60K and loaned himself $1.075M to have $1.071M on hand. Forget the price of oil, this Mayoral campaign will be stimulating the local economy over the next few months.

So far, mayoral fundraising has far overshadowed that for Houston’s second-highest political post, city controller.

Deputy controller Chris Brown reported raising $270,000 and spending $22,000, leaving him with more than $222,000 in cash on hand.

Meanwhile, Bill Frazer, runner-up in the 2013 controller’s race, raised $129,000, received $32,000 in loans, spent $120,000 and closed out the first half of the year with more than $53,000 in the bank.

Former Metro board member Dwight Jefferson lagged behind with $11,000 raised $1,800 loaned and $9,000 spent. It was unclear how much cash he had on hand.

Carroll Robinson had raised $50K and had $5K on hand; Jew Don Boney did not have totals posted. Other hauls of note: Amanda Edwards dominated At Large #4 with $165K raised and $118K on hand. Laurie Robinson was the runnerup with $43K and $26K, respectively. In At Large #1, Tom McCasland ($141K raised, $98K on hand) and Lane Lewis ($104K raised, $62K on hand) were far out in front; Chris Oliver raised $37K and had $23K on hand, while Jenifer Pool had not yet reported. CM Michael Kubosh was the only one with any money in At Large #3, raising $63K and banking $44K. Philippe Nassif had a very respectable $73K raised in At Large #5, but only $12K of it remained, far less than CM Jack Christie’s $100K cash on $124K raised; Durrel Douglas had not yet reported.

For district races, CM Mike Laster had a big haul and an equally big financial lead in J, while CM Richard Nguyen had a decent total in F. His opponent, Steven Le, did not have a report up as of last night. There was surprisingly little money raised in the two-person District G race; Greg Travis led in cash on hand over Sandie Moger thanks to a $41K loan to himself. Roland Chavez had the most raised and the most on hand in H, with Karla Cisneros and Jason Cisneroz a notch back. Abel Davila raised a small amount but loaned himself $20K to be even in cash on hand with the other two.

That’s it for now. For the other races, HISD and HCC reports lag behind the city’s – HISD by a little, HCC by a lot – so I’ll keep an eye on those and update as needed. As always, fundraising is just one aspect of one’s candidacy, and is in no way predictive in many races. We only get a few chances a year to see who’s funding whom, and this is one of them. I’ll have more when I can.

Lawsuit filed over state refusal to issue birth certificates

I’m sure this won’t be contentious at all.

For nearly 150 years, the United States, under the 14th Amendment, has recognized people born here as citizens, regardless of whether their parents were citizens.

But Texas has other plans. In the last year, the state has refused to issue birth certificates to children who were born in Texas to undocumented parents. In May, four women filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Texas Department of State Health Services alleging constitutional discrimination and interference in the federal government’s authority over immigration.

Jennifer Harbury, a lawyer with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, who is representing the women, said the deluge of birth certificate refusals began last winter. “I’ve never seen such a large number of women with this problem,” she says. “In the past someone might be turned away, but it was always resolved. This is something altogether new.”

According to the lawsuit, the women who requested birth certificates for their children at the state’s vital statistics offices in Cameron and Hidalgo counties were turned away because of insufficient proof of their identities. State law allows the use of a foreign ID if the mother lacks a Texas driver’s license or a U.S. passport.

But employees at the offices, which are run by the Texas Department of State Health Services, told the women they would no longer accept either the matricula consular, which is a photo ID issued by the Mexican Consulate to Mexican nationals living in the U.S., or a foreign passport without a current U.S. visa. Undocumented Central American women are also being turned away because they only have a passport without a U.S. visa. “They are locking out a huge chunk of the undocumented immigrant community,” says Harbury.

[…]

James Harrington, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, is also representing the undocumented families. The legal team is seeking a court order to reinstate the use of the matricula consular and foreign passports as valid proof of identity for undocumented mothers.

“Even in the darkest hours of Texas’ history of discrimination, officials never denied birth certificates to Hispanic children of immigrants,” said Harrington in a written statement. “Everyone born in the United States is entitled to the full rights of citizenship.”

Here’s the Express-News story from May that the Observer post references; it has some more detail so read it as well. Just as a reminder, the 14th Amendment grants birthright citizenship, so I have no idea on what ground the Department of State Health Services thinks it has to stand. Here’s a bit from a press release from MALC that expands on that:

Recently, several parents were denied birth certificates for their U.S. born children by employees at offices administered by the Department of State Health Services, after administrators declined to accept their foreign government forms of identification. This is a major departure from prior practice, as parents had been able to obtain a copy of their child’s birth certificate by providing their passport or a consular ID from their country of national origin in lieu of a US-issued ID.

“The legal standing for this prerequisite is questionable. No section under Texas’s Health and Safety Code mandates that the Department require verification of immigrant status or national original before the issuance of a birth certificate to the parents of an American-born child. This practice also runs counter to the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which grants citizenship to all children born in the United States, regardless of whether their parents are citizens.

The full statement is here. I’d hope this would spur a quick reversal, but I know better than to expect it. We’ll see what the courts have to say. TPM has more.

Montgomery County “voter fraud” case update

Glad to hear this. The whole case is ridiculous.

A self-described “egghead,” Jim Jenkins accomplished his dream by founding his own microsystems company. He also takes satisfaction in being a Christian conservative who is unabashedly proud of his 11 grandchildren.

At the same time, the 64-year-old Woodlands resident acknowledges being “bullheaded” and willing to risk it all in a court battle that he says is about voting rights. But state prosecutors contend its about illegal voting.

The stakes are high: If Jenkins loses the fight, he could go to prison for three years.

The story began five years ago when Jenkins and others became concerned that the Woodlands Road Utility District was spending millions of dollars on road improvements without “any voter oversight.” So he led a voter revolt to take over the district’s board and then dismantle the organization. But since he and nine cohorts did not live within the district’s boundaries, they changed their voting addresses to a motel that was inside the district. Their plan ended with Jenkins and some of the others being convicted in 2013 for the felony of illegal voting.

Yet now Jenkins has scored his own legal victory, as the 14th Court of Appeals reversed his conviction and sent his case back to be retried.

“At the start I was offered probation, but I wouldn’t take it because I’m not guilty,” said Jenkins, a father of three who holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Rice University. “My motto is, ‘If you’re right, you fight.’ ”

Jenkins’ case reflects the strong opinions over roads and taxes in the politically conservative Woodlands, as well as uncertainty over the residency requirements of Texas’ election laws.

He is one of only a dozen people in the past decade to be prosecuted by the Texas attorney general for illegal voting and to receive a prison sentence, with most of those sentences amounting to days – not years, records show. Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott tweeted of Jenkins’ sentencing by a jury: “Another Voter Fraud Conviction leads to prison.”

[…]

Since the district’s creation in 1991, it has widened most of The Woodlands’ major arteries, added turn lanes, constructed bridges and improved signalization, said Mike Page, the road district’s attorney.

But Jenkins is disgusted by the district’s “spider web” boundaries that run and skip along thoroughfares to take in 2,475 acres of commercial properties. This includes entities such as Anadarko, Chevron Phillips and The Woodlands Mall while excluding all residential areas.

Jenkins contends that such gerrymandering is “disenfranchising” the public because residents have no vote or say on how the roads are developed. Although the commercial entities pay the property tax – 35 cents per $100 of assessed value – Jenkins believes that many of the costs associated with the projects eventually get passed onto residents.

To rectify the problem, Jenkins and nine cohorts decided to try to win a majority of seats on the road district board, which then had five members whom they believed had become too cozy with the community’s developers.

They then would pay off the debt, turn off the lights and shut the district down.

However, the road district’s elections are not typical by any measure.

Commercial business owners and their employees cannot vote. And although those filing to run as a board member do not have to reside inside the district, only those who claim a residence within its boundaries can cast ballots. And the district has virtually no residential areas.

“Last time I checked, the district had only four registered voters,” said Page, the attorney for the road district. “There’s a man, his wife and daughter living in an apartment attached to a building that’s inside the district. That homeowner, Dirk Laukien, was granted special permission for a residence in a commercial zone. He travels a lot. Then the fourth voter is the manager of Marriott’s Residence Inn who lives on the premises.”

Read the whole thing, it’s good stuff. I’ve noted this case before, and had a couple of conversations with Jenkins’ co-defendant, Adrian Heath. We’ve basically established that there’s no enforceable standard of residency for candidates, so it’s really unclear why the book was thrown at these guys. In searching for an image to use with this post, I came across this site that was put up in support of Jenkins et al. The base domain name and some of the links don’t work any more, but click around, there’s a lot of useful background on this case, which to my mind is more about Greg Abbott claiming a “vote fraud” scalp that didn’t involve Democrats of color than anything else. See also the Texas Election Law Blog, whose proprietor is a supporting player in this drama. I’m glad that Jenkins got a new trial, and I wish him and his co-defendants the best of luck in beating the rap.

Texas blog roundup for the week of July 13

The Texas Progressive Alliance does not put peas in guacamole as it brings you this week’s roundup.

(more…)

Lone Star Veterans Association benefit event

From the inbox:

To celebrate the upcoming football season, and to benefit the Lone Star Veterans Association (LSVA), the Houston Texans Grille at CITY CENTRE will host a “Pay What You Want” Day on Monday, July 20th. All of the proceeds will be donated to the Lone Star Veterans Association.

During this all day event, patrons may select one food item from the full menu, and pay any amount they are able to as a donation. And 100% of the proceeds raised from food sales will benefit the Lone Star Veterans Association!

Event is free and open to the public.

The Lone Star Veterans Association is a Houston-based non-profit organization dedicated to making Houston and Texas the best place for Post 9/11 veterans and their families by providing free career transitions, peer support and family services. LSVA’s office is open Monday through Friday 8am – 5pm, at 170 Heights Blvd. Houston, TX

To learn more about the Lone Star Veterans Association please visit lonestarveterans.org. To view Houston Texans Grille menu visit texansgrille.g3restaurants.com.

Who: Houston Texans Grille at CITY CENTRE
What: Pay What You Want pricing on one item from full menu
When: Monday, July 20th from 11:00am – 10:00pm
Where: Houston Texans Grille at CITY CENTRE, (I-10 W & Beltway 8), 12848 Queensbury Way, Houston, TX. 77024. (713) 461-2002

• Limited to Dine-In orders only (no Take-Out or To-Go orders)
• Maximum of one (1) entrée per guest under “Pay What You Want” pricing
• Guests may only dine-in one (1) time during the day to ensure all customers are served
• Any appetizer, entrée, or dessert on the menu will count as one (1) “entrée”
• “Pay What You Want” pricing offer excludes all alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages

See here for more. It’s a good cause and there’s food involved, so check it out if you can.