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November 8th, 2016:

Races I’ll be watching today, non-Legislative edition


This is my companion to yesterday’s piece.

1. SBOE district 5

I’ve discussed the SBOE races before. This particular race, between incumbent Ken Mercer and repeat challenger Rebecca Bell-Metereau, is the one that has the closest spread based on past performance, and thus is the most likely to flip. If it does flip, it would not only have a significant effect on the SBOE, which would go from 10-5 Republican to 9-6, with one of the more noxious members getting ousted, it would also cause a bit of a tremor in that this was not really on anyone’s radar going into 2016. Redistricting is supposed to be destiny, based on long-established voting patterns. If those patterns don’t hold any more, that’s a big effing deal.

2. Appeals courts

I’ve also talked about this. The five courts of interest are the First, Fourth, Fifth, 13th, and 14th Courts of Appeals, and there are multiple benches available to win. I honestly have no idea if having more Democrats on these benches will have a similar effect as having more Democrats on the various federal appellate benches, especially given that the Supreme Court and CCA will most likely remain more or less as they are – I would love to hear from the lawyers out there about this – but I do know that having more Dems on these benches means having more experienced and credible candidates available to run for the Supreme Court and CCA, and also having more such candidates available for elevation to federal benches. Building up the political bench is a big deal.

3. Edwards County Sheriff’s race

Jon Harris is an experienced Democratic lawman running for Sheriff against a wacko extremist in a very Republican county, though one with a small number of voters. This one is about sanity more than anything else.

4. Waller County Sheriff’s race

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have this one on my radar until I read this Trib story about the race, in which the recent death of Sandra Bland is a factor. Waller County went 53-46 for McCain over Obama in 2008, though the Sheriff’s race that featured a problematic Republican was a lot closer. It was 58-41 for Romney, which is close to what it was statewide. Democratic challenger Cedric Watson will have to outperfom the countywide base to defeat incumbent Glenn Smith, it’s mostly a matter of by how much he’ll have to outperform.

5. Harris County Department of Education, Precinct 2

There aren’t any at large HCDE Trustee positions up for election this year, so I haven’t paid much attention to them. This race is interesting for two reasons. One, the Democratic candidate is Sherrie Matula, who is exceptionally qualified and who ran a couple of honorable races for HD129 in 2008 and 2010. And two, this is Jack Morman’s Commissioner’s Court precinct. A win by Matula might serve as a catalyst for a strong candidate (*cough* *cough* Adrian Garcia *cough* *cough*) to run against Morman in 2018.

6. HISD District VII special election

You know this one. It’s Democrat Anne Sung versus two credible Republicans and one non-entity who hasn’t bothered to do anything other than have a few signs put up around town. One key to this race is that it’s the only one that will go to a runoff if no one reaches 50% plus one. Needless to say, the conditions for a December runoff would be very different than the conditions are today.

7. HISD recapture and Heights dry referenda

I don’t think any explanation is needed for these.

What non-legislative races are on your watch list for today?

The new voters

One more data point before we get the actual data.


A late surge of new voters helped Harris County achieve record early turnout and suggests that local registration drives paid off – although to which party’s benefit remains anyone’s guess until Tuesday night.

While partisan primary voters dominated the first week of early voting, new voters flocked to polls in the final days. These newcomers, who did not vote here in recent presidential election years, made up 22 percent of Harris County’s more than 977,000 early and mail voters, a Chronicle analysis of voter history shows.

By early voting’s end Friday, the share of voters who participated in at least one of the last three presidential primaries dwindled to 56 percent from 68 percent.

Democratic presidential primary voters outpaced Republicans by roughly 2 percentage points: 27.5 percent to 25.2 percent. Nearly 4 percent have mixed primary voting history, and 22 percent voted in recent general elections, but none of the last three presidential primaries.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said these figures give both parties reason for optimism.

“If you’re a glass-half-full Republican, you focus in on the general election voters turning out in predominantly Republican precincts at a higher rate than in Democratic precincts,” Jones said. “And if you’re a glass-half-full Democrat, you’re focusing on your ability to match Republicans in terms of the number of partisans who turn out.”


Brandon Rottinghaus, a UH political scientist, noted the geographic diversity of the county’s new voters, who include transplants to Harris County, newly registered voters and those who recently turned 18.

“New voters are increasing where the population is increasing, some in Republican-leaning areas but many in Democratic-leaning areas,” Rottinghaus said in an email, pointing to traditionally conservative neighborhoods like Katy and Kingwood, and to left-leaning neighborhoods immediately west of downtown. “As these voters go, so goes Harris County.”

This region is not alone in seeing an uptick of new voters toward the end of early voting.

An analysis of early turnout in 20 Texas counties by Austin-based Republican consultant Derek Ryan shows an average of 15 percent of early voters were new, through the second-to-last day of early voting. That compares with 12 percent of those who turned out during the first week.

“We’ve moved from the people that always vote to the people that are voting in this election, for the most part,” said local political consultant Robert Jara, who is working for two Democratic state House candidates. “They may not have a history of voting, but they are engaged this particular election.”

I tend to find articles like this to be disappointing, because they don’t do what I would do, which is try to find a basis for comparison with the past. I regret that I was never able to complete the task of comparing the 2008 and 2012 vote rosters to get a handle for how many new voters there were in 2012 – that is, how many 2012 voters there were that had not voted in 2008 – because that would better enable me to make sense of the numbers that are provided here. How many 2012 and 2008 voters had partisan voting histories, how many had only general election histories, and how many were brand new? How many of those voters were early voters and how many were Election Day voters? The data is all easily available, but unfortunately it’s too big for Excel so I never did an analysis on it. I wish the Chron had done so, it would have told me a lot more than this story did. Not that this story didn’t have value – the maps are cool, if you’re into maps – it just wasn’t the story I wanted to read. So be it.

I will be at the KTRK studio this evening, where if past experience is any guide I will spend several hours glued to my laptop with occasional interruptions to be asked questions by one of their reporters. So if you happen to be watching Channel 13 (or possibly its HD digital station), you might see my mug on your teevee. You have been warned. I don’t know exactly what my publication schedule will be for the next 24-48 hours, but I’ll put stuff up as I can, assuming I haven’t turned to stocking up canned goods and precious metals full-time.

Today is Election Day

From the inbox:


Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart urges voters to prepare before heading to vote on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. “Harris County Voters can find their Election Day polling location and review the list of acceptable forms of identification required to vote by visiting”

Unlike Early Voting, on Election Day, voters are required to vote at their designated polling location for their precinct. Election Day polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. All voters in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to cast their ballot.

“All voters should make sure they have an acceptable form of identification. New to this election are options for voters who do not possess one of the acceptable photo IDs,” reminded Stanart, the chief election officer of the County. According to state guidelines,

A voter must show an acceptable photo identification at the polling location before the voter may be accepted for voting, unless the voter has a reasonable impediment to obtaining one of these forms of acceptable photo identification or the voter qualifies for one of the other exemptions. The forms of acceptable photo identification include:

• Texas Driver’s License issued by the Department of Public Safety (“DPS”)
• Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS;
• Texas Personal Identification Card issued by DPS;
• Texas Handgun License issued by DPS;
• United States Military Identification Card containing the person’s photograph;
• United States Citizenship Certificate containing the person’s photograph; or
• United States Passport.

With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than 4 years before being presented for voter qualification at the polling place.

If a voter does not possess one of the forms of acceptable photo identification listed above, and the voter cannot reasonably obtain such identification, the voter has the right to execute a Reasonable Impediment Declaration and present one of the following supporting documents: Valid voter registration certificate; Certified birth certificate (must be an original); Copy of or original current utility bill; Copy of or original bank statement; Copy of or original government check; Copy of or original paycheck; or Copy of or original other government document that displays your name and an address (though an original is required if it contains a photograph).

“For voters with disabilities, look for the greeter wearing the bright lime vest. They are there to ensure your access to the voting process,” concluded Stanart. “The election officials at the polls are there to ensure every voter has a great election experience. I encourage every registered voter to join us at the polls.”

To review a list of acceptable credentials to vote at the polling location, find a list of the Election Day polling locations, view a personal sample ballot and other election information, voters may visit the Harris County Clerk’s website at or call 713.755.6965.

You can find your polling place here – remember, unlike early voting, there is only one place you can go if you vote today. Metro is offering a free ride to the polls if you need it. For all of the chatter about early voting turnout, it remains to be seen how many people there are left to vote today. I think that just on sheer population increase, we’re going to see a decent bump in turnout over 2012, both in Harris County and statewide. Whether the turnout rate climbs above 62-63% locally or above 60% statewide, that’s the real question. Have you voted yet> You have till 7 PM.

Texas blog roundup for the week of November 7

The Texas Progressive Alliance is happy this election is over as it brings you this week’s roundup.