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September 12th, 2022:

Interview with Chuck Crews

Chuck Crews

This week I have two interviews with candidates for State Representative. Chuck Crews knows that he’s running in one of the reddest districts in Harris County in HD128, but he’s also running against one of the worst people in the Legislature. I’m talking about Briscoe Cain, avid election denier and forced-birth fanatic whose stated priorities for the next session are to punish everyone who has ever had anything to do with abortion. You couldn’t find a better contrast in Crews, a chemical engineer who has also worked in the insurance business before joining the Beto for Senate campaign in 2018 and becoming a fulltime activist, and who has both a deep understanding of issues as well as actual compassion and empathy. He has a tough challenge ahead of him but he’s facing it head on. You can hear us talk about it all here:

PREVIOUSLY:

All interviews and Q&As through the primary runoffs
Michelle Palmer – SBOE6

As always, everything you could want to know about the Democratic candidates can be found at the Erik Manning spreadsheet.

Judicial Q&A: Judge Jerry Simoneaux

(Note: As I have done in past elections, I am running a series of Q&As for Democratic judicial candidates. This is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to my readers. This year it’s mostly incumbents running for re-election, so it’s an opportunity to hear that talk about what they have accomplished. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. For more information about these and other Democratic candidates, including links to interviews and Q&As from the primary and runoff, see the Erik Manning spreadsheet.)

Judge Jerry Simoneaux

1. Who are you and in which court do you preside?

I am Jerry Simoneaux and I preside over Harris County Probate Court 1

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

Probate Courts help families coping with death and disability. People come to probate court to appoint an executor for a deceased loved one in order to pay final bills and distribute their assets. People also come to probate court to appoint a guardian for loved ones with diminished capacity, such as dementia or intellectual disabilities. Sometimes, people fight over estates and we hear those contested matters, too.

3. What have been your main accomplishments during your time on this bench?

I have done more to fundamentally improve our courts and the practice of probate law than any other judge of this court before me. I took a court with 1990’s technology, accessed $400,000 of non-taxpayer money, and fully upgraded the four probate courts in Harris County. Now, the probate courts are the most technologically advanced courts in the county. That means we can offer remote and in-person hearings simultaneously and seamlessly. I have made it very easy for people with mobility impediments (and busy schedules) to appear in court. Many more of my accomplishments are listed on my website at www.judgejerry1.com

4. What do you hope to accomplish in your courtroom going forward?

I am working to increase the availability of pro bono attorneys to help families who cannot afford one. I have been on the board of the Houston Volunteer Lawyers since 2019 and we are constantly finding ways to bring new volunteer attorneys into probate court. I am also working with the County Commissioners Court and the State Legislature to form a new Probate Court 5 to help ease the strain on the four existing courts. We have not had a new court created in over 25 years and the population has nearly doubled since then.

5. Why is this race important?

Because death and disability are indiscriminate, we see people from all walks of life. That is different from any other court, so it is essential to have a judge who is welcoming to everyone and who will provide as safe space for all. As a trilingual, openly LGBTQ judge, I know how important it is to have representation on the bench who also reaches out to all communities to ensure suitable inclusion.

6. Why should people vote for you in November?

I have received the highest rating of any elected judge from the Houston Bar Association (Judicial Evaluation Poll 2019 and 2021) and the LGBTQ Caucus. I am an innovator who has completely transformed the courts by giving greater access to the public and creating efficiencies for attorneys who practice here. And, I have lots more plans for the next four years to continue to improve our courts.

Let’s not go overboard about these voter registration numbers

Sure it’s nice to see, but a little perspective is in order.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

In Texas, it’s not just women who are fired up about access to abortion and registering to vote in large numbers following this summer’s historic Supreme Court decision striking down Roe v. Wade.

A new analysis from political data and polling firm TargetSmart found that while Texas’ new voter registrants are evenly split between men and women, they are younger and more Democratic than before the June ruling.

“It’s not that we’re not seeing a surge from women but that in Texas, we’re somewhat uniquely also seeing a surge from men, particularly younger, more progressive men, who are matching the surge from women,” said CEO Tom Bonier, whose firm works with Democratic and progressive candidates.

“I would expect to see that trend develop more in other states as we get closer to the election, but it was interesting to see Texas as first in that sense.”

According to TargetSmart, Democrats now have a 10-percentage point advantage among new registrants since the high court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, making up 42 percent to Republicans’ 32 percent. Prior to Dobbs, Republicans had a five-point advantage.

The state’s young voters — defined as those under age 25 — are also leaning more blue, the analysis found. Democrats now make up 47 percent of young Texas voters, up from 34 percent. The Republican share has remained the same at just under 30 percent.

That’s in line with what TargetSmart is seeing in 25 states that report party registration. In Texas, the firm uses a variety of data, including past primary participation and consumer demographic data, to identify likely Democratic and Republican voters.

Whether the registration trend will translate to high turnout of young voters is still yet to be seen. The group had tended to turn out at low rates compared to other age groups, but that trend started to turn around nationally and in Texas in 2018.

That midterm election year, with the rise in popularity of Democrat Beto O’Rourke amid his campaign for U.S. Senate, turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds more than tripled from about 8 percent in 2014 to about 26 percent.

“No one knows if that’ll be the case in 2022,” Bonier said. “But there is reason to be optimistic that these younger voters are much more highly energized than they have been in past.”

Bonier added that new voter registrants tend to have a higher turnout rate than those already registered.

I believe this story is based on this recent tweet thread from Bonier; there’s a link to an earlier Chron story about voter registration as well. It’s a cardinal rule to me that anytime you see a story about numbers that are solely expressed in percentages, you have to think about what the actual numbers are. Big percentages of small numbers are still small numbers, and vice versa. Here, the main thing we don’t know is how many voter registrations we’re talking about. We won’t have official numbers on that until October, after the registration deadline. Here’s what the registration figures since November of 2020 look like – you can find the state data here:

November 2020 – 15,279,870
January 2021 – 15,757,825
November 2021 – 16,007,280
January 2022 – 16,150,258
March 2022 – 15,944,184

This is a reminder that voter registration does not always go up. As we well know, voters also get removed from the rolls, sometimes for legitimate reasons like death or moving out of state, sometimes not. Whatever the case, we were just under 16 million in March. We’ve probably added a couple hundred thousand since then, so maybe we’re up around 16.2 or 16.3 million or so; I’m just guessing.

Now go back and look at what Tom Bonier said. Before the Dobbs ruling in June, Republican-profiled people were leading the new registrants. We don’t know how far back that goes, my guess is to March but who knows. Point being, we don’t know how many net new presumed Republicans this represents. We also don’t know how many new registrants there have been since June, when Dems showed the advantage. Maybe that’s enough to overcome the earlier deficit. I couldn’t tell you from the information I have available to me.

Let’s just focus on the post-Dobbs voters. Let’s say we get 100K new voters from then until October. If Dems have a ten-point lead in voter registrations during this time, that’s a net 10K potential voters for them. That number will be less than that in the end, as not everyone votes, so maybe it’s a 6K or 7K advantage. Not nothing, to be sure, but very likely not enough to tip any election.

I don’t say all this to be a bummer. It’s great that we’re doing well with voter registration! Keep it coming! I’m just saying it’s not going to magically carry us to victory. There are a lot more pieces to the puzzle than that. Don’t get distracted by the shiny object.

MLB to recognize MLBPA representation of minor leaguers

Wow.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association on Saturday finalized a card-check agreement expected to formalize the league recognizing the union as the bargaining representative for a unit of minor league players in excess of 5,000 members, sources told ESPN.

The agreement, in which the MLBPA will present union-authorization cards Wednesday to be counted by a neutral arbiter, is the latest step in the rapid unionization of minor league players and sets up the parties to negotiate a collective-bargaining agreement.

The parties plan to begin negotiations in the offseason in hopes of striking an agreement before the 2023 minor league season.

By voluntarily recognizing minor leaguers’ desire to unionize with the MLBPA, which was first announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Friday, the league is hastening what people on both sides saw as inevitable: the MLBPA representing a wide swath of minor league players, including all who play in the four domestic levels as well as those at team complexes in Arizona and Florida.

[…]

Absent the recognition, the MLBPA would have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board and earned status as the bargaining representative with a vote of more than 50% of players who returned ballots. With the MLBPA saying that more than 50% of the potential unit has returned cards indicating they want to join the union, the league chose to recognize the unionization of minor leaguers under the MLBPA umbrella.

See here for the background. I had assumed MLB would fight this, as they are not at all known for being labor-friendly, but it would seem that the numbers are such that it didn’t make sense to draw it all out. The next step would be a collective bargaining agreement with the minor leaguers, and that will among other things provide for the league more opportunities to gain some leverage over the major league players. This is a historic agreement and a great start for the union, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.