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November 2nd, 2016:

Sid and Donald, BFFs

Birds of a feather.

Sid Miller

At a rally Sunday in Las Vegas, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump paused his usual meditation on the latest polls to direct his crowd’s attention to a “great guy on television today.”

“His name was Sid Miller from Texas,” Trump said, drawing a round of cheers as he invoked the state’s agriculture commissioner, known for his cowboy hats and — like Trump — political incorrectness.

“Oh, they know Sid Miller,” Trump continued, sounding somewhat surprised. “We create yet another star.”

In the home stretch of a zany presidential race, Miller’s star has no doubt risen, at least among the many Trump supporters skeptical of the notion that their candidate is headed for defeat. In recent days, Miller has become Trump’s go-to guy when it comes to arguing the presidential race in Texas and elsewhere is not exactly what polls say it is, an on-message ally in Trump’s pursuit to convince Americans it ain’t over ’till it’s over.

“He said, ‘Trump is going to win by massive numbers, bigger than anyone’s ever seen,'” Trump said at the Las Vegas rally, paraphrasing Miller’s remarks earlier in the day on Fox News. “And he said, ‘So I don’t know what you people are talking about on television, where they’re saying the vote in Texas is going to be very close.’ He said, ‘I don’t know what you people are talking about. You must be talking about a different Texas than the one I’m from.'”

Miller, who sits on Trump’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, appears to be reveling in the moment, committing to more media appearances and flooding his social media accounts with pro-Trump messages. And he seems to have seriously caught the attention of the nominee, who has not only shouted him out at multiple rallies but also personally sent him an email thanking him for his help.

“Sid Miller has become Donald Trump’s biggest cheerleader and champion in the state of Texas,” said Todd Smith, a spokesman for the agriculture commissioner. “Sid thinks it’s vitally important for not only our nation, but for farmers and ranchers and agricultural producers, to really fight hard this week on behalf of our nominee, and he’s doing that.”

Have two politicians ever been more made for each other than Sid Miller and Donald Trump? It’s hard to imagine. My goal is to do what I can to make sure people remember this two years from now.

And hey, it looks like ol’ Sid will do his best to provide reminders as well.

A since-deleted tweet sent from Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s account on Tuesday used an obscene term to describe Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

After initially claiming he was hacked, Miller said the tweet came from a staffer who did not realize the full extent of what he or she was sharing. The agriculture commissioner, a vocal Trump supporter, said he had been working all day and had instructed campaign staff to use his Twitter account to broadcast pro-Trump messages.

“I said, ‘Why don’t y’all just do some retweets?'” Miller told The Texas Tribune. “They didn’t notice it had a derogatory term in it and they tweeted it out.”

The episode instantly plunged the outspoken Miller into controversy. He earned a stern rebuke from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who said, “No true Texas gentleman would ever talk this way.”

So, misogyny, inattention to detail, and blaming others for one’s own actions. It’s like they were separated at birth. The Chron, BOR, the Current, TM Daily Post, and Juanita have more.

Chron overview of Heights dry referendum

For an issue that directly affects a few thousand people, this sure had gotten a lot of attention.

[Bill] Baldwin is part of the “Keep the Heights Dry” movement, a group of individuals urging residents who live in the dry part of the Heights to vote against the city of Houston proposition that would allow the legal sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption.

If the proposition passes on Nov. 8, retailers like convenience and grocery stores would be able to sell beer and wine in a part of the Heights that has been dry since 1904. The change would not affect restaurants, which are able to sell alcohol by forming private clubs that their customers can join by providing their driver’s licenses.

Baldwin’s group is going up against the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition, a political action committee formed earlier this year to push the reversal of the dry law.

Largely at stake is the proposed development of a new H-E-B on a former Fiesta site at 2300 N. Shepherd.

H-E-B wants to buy the property but said it needs to be able to sell wine and beer in order for the store to be economically feasible.

“From a business proposition, if I spend $25 or $30 million building a store I also need to make sure it can earn a fair return,” said Scott McClelland, Houston division president for H-E-B.

The San Antonio-based grocer has put more than $60,000 into the coalition, according to finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Baldwin, who lives in the Heights but outside the dry area, said the election is not about being against H-E-B but preserving the character of the neighborhood.

His group has been urging residents of the dry area to consider the issue apart from H-E-B.

He said more service stations and convenience stores could diminish property values of the homes around them.

“This election is not about H-E-B, it’s about changing the fabric about my community,” Baldwin said.

Honestly, there’s nothing here that you couldn’t learn from reading the dueling op-eds or listening to the interviews that I did with Baldwin and Reilley. The story did remind me that there used to a a tiny HEB – it was called an “HEB Pantry store” back in the day – in the Heights that no one went to because it didn’t have much in it. This whole debate is a little nuts because people in the greater Heights area have been begging to get a real HEB like the one in Montrose in the neighborhood, and if it weren’t for this oddball quirk of history, the announcement that there would be an HEB built on the site of the old Fiesta would be greeted with handsprings and huzzahs. But because we’re held hostage to the way some people viewed the demon rum a century ago, we’re stuck with this silly debate. Everyone in America is ready for the Presidential race to be over, I’m ready for this referendum to be settled.

Chron overview of HD135

One more look at a local legislative race.

Rep. Gary Elkins

Rep. Gary Elkins

Novice political candidate Jesse A. Ybañez believes his focus on the people of the increasingly diverse Texas House District 135 makes him a better choice than longtime state Rep. Gary Elkins.

Ybañez, 70, is the Democratic candidate in the Nov. 8 general election challenging the incumbent to represent parts of northwest Harris County, including Jersey Village and subdivisions near the intersections of U.S. 290 with Texas 6 and Beltway 8.

The retiree said he was urged to run because of his experience as a volunteer in political organizations and community causes.

“We need to fix a lot of things in Austin,” Ybañez said. “If I win, I can be the voice of the people.”

[…]

Jesse Ybanez

Jesse Ybanez

Ybañez named education, health care, immigration, the environment and human trafficking as his priorities, if elected.

He said he would fight to restore some of the $5 billion in education funding cut during the 2011 legislative session and try to override the Republican firewall that has rejected calls to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Ybañez said the 287(g) program, in which local jailers identify inmates in this country illegally for transfer to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “criminalizes immigrants” who are “doing work that people from the United States don’t want to do.”

Ybañez, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, also would advocate for tougher regulations on industrial plants and support efforts to help people trapped in modern-day slavery or the forced sex trade.

Texas 135 is a district where voters chose Republican candidates in federal, statewide and local races two-to-one in 2014. They have sent Elkins back to Austin every two years for the last two decades.

Still, the first-time politician thinks a Democrat can claim the seat, depending on turnout among more diverse voters.

“When I first got here, this was pretty much a Republican area. We’ve had a lot of people come in from New York and California and Florida and we have a lot of African-Americans and Latinos who are more likely to vote Democrat,” said Ybañez, who has been block-walking since June. “I think I have a reasonable chance of winning.”

There are two reasons why I’m interested in this particular race. One is because incumbent Rep. Gary Elkins is so bad, beginning with but hardly being limited to his unwavering defense of payday lenders, a group to which he himself belongs. Some legislators recuse themselves from debates and votes on bills that directly affect them. Gary Elkins is not one of those legislators.

The other reason is that HD135 is one of two Harris County districts that were won by Republicans in 2012 that were less Republican that year than they were in 2008 (HD132 is the other, but sadly no Democrat is running there this year). John McCain beat Barack Obama there 60.6% to 38.7% in 2008, but Mitt Romney only carried it 58.8% to 39.8% in 2012. I’ve been waiting to see what would happen there this year ever since. Even with the Trump effect I don’t think we can quite call this district competitive, but it’s definitely the case that it’s more so than before. No matter what happens this year, HD135 needs to be on the radar going forward.

Early voting, Day Nine: A brief comparison

Here’s a comparison of where the voters who cast their ballots through the first eight days of early voting came from in 2012 and in 2016:


Dist  12 Day 8  12 Total   Day 8%  16 Day 8  % of 2012
======================================================
HD126   24,461    38,858    62.9%    30,042      77.3%
HD127   27,664    46,356    59.7%    37,466      80.8%
HD128   24,540    38,539    63.7%    30,218      78.4%
HD129   24,022    40,173    59.8%    31,459      76.4%
HD130   31,658    50,117    63.2%    40,489      80.8%
HD131   18,050    30,150    59.9%    21,769      72.2%
HD132   19,486    34,015    57.3%    35,551     104.5%
HD133   30,125    49,388    61.0%    36,808      74.5%
HD134   28,780    49,937    57.6%    40,526      81.2%
HD135   21,132    35,525    59.5%    29,417      82.8%
HD137    8,664    15,217    56.9%    11,986      78.8%
HD138   18,082    30,183    59.9%    24,785      82.1%
HD139   20,538    33,573    61.1%    26,085      78.7%
HD140    7,505    12,855    58.4%    10,804      84.0%
HD141   16,920    27,299    62.0%    18,567      68.1%
HD142   18,000    28,988    62.1%    21,619      74.6%
HD143   11,911    19,442    61.3%    15,257      78.5%
HD144    8,349    13,296    62.8%    11,394      85.7%
HD145    9,972    17,047    58.5%    14,805      86.8%
HD146   20,064    33,386    61.0%    23,299      69.8%
HD147   20,363    34,582    58.9%    26,205      77.7%
HD148   12,776    22,402    57.0%    22,267      99.4%
HD149   17,014    28,937    58.8%    20,410      70.5%
HD150   27,602    44,374    62.2%    38,426      86.6%

EarlyVoting

Note that the numbers represent not where people voted – that is, which early voting location – but where the voters themselves are registered. That data comes from the daily vote rosters, and it was provided to me. “12 Day 8” represents the number of voters from the given State Rep district who had voted by Day 8 of the EV period in 2012, while “16 Day 8” is the same number for this year. “12 Total” is the total number of ballots cast during the entire 2012 early voting period, including both mail ballots and in person ballots. “Day 8%” is the share of all early votes from 2012 that were cast in the first eight days, and “% of 2012” is the share of early votes cast this year to the total number of 2012 early votes. The idea here is to see where the early vote has increased the most, and where it has increased the least.

With me so far? Okay, so the first two districts that leap out at you are HDs 132 and 148. In HD132, which is out around Katy, more people have voted early so far in 2016 than voted early in all of 2012. I’m going to step out on a limb here and predict that the total vote in HD132 is going to wind up being considerably more than it was four years ago. HD148, which covers places like Garden Oaks and part of the Heights, is only a few votes shy of matching its 2012 early vote total. These two districts are the frontrunners in the overall boost to turnout so far.

The next thing to note is that three of the districts in the next tier down, with turnout shares in the 85% range, arethe heavily Latino districts HD 143, 144, and 145. That jibes with the general enthusiasm level being exhibited by Latino voters elsewhere in the country. It’s also an example of the Texas Organizing Project turnout effort.

At the bottom of the scale are two African-American districts, HDs 141 and 146. I don’t know what may be happening in those districts, but one possibility is that this is more about total population than anything else. HD141, in the northeastern part of the county, is an area that has been steadily losing population over the past thirty years. It would not shock me if there are fewer registered voters in HD141 this year than in 2012, despite the overall strong growth in voter registration. I don’t think the same would be true for HD146, but there may be other things going on. In any event, it’s important to remember that we do still have more voting to go.

So that’s where we are with three more days of early voting to go, including the two that are likely to be the heaviest, even given what we’ve seen so far. Day eight was also a good day for the Democrats, who have not had a bad day yet in Harris County. Bear in mind that while Dems piled up a big early voting lead in 2008, Republicans won Election Day and caught up in several races, as Dems had run out of voters. The Rs winning Election Day has to be a distinct possibility this year as well. The Day 9 EV report is here; I did not get to updating the tracker spreadsheet before going to bed. I may have been paying too much attention to the World Series game to have gotten to that. It will be done today, be assured of that.