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Ann Harris Bennett

Boundary screwup could affect HCDE race

This is just freakin’ great.

Because of a mix-up with the new district boundaries, not everyone who was qualified to vote in a school trustee race was able to and some voters who weren’t supposed to, were allowed to cast a ballot. And the implications of all this may be far reaching.

Erica Lee

There are a lot of lawyers looking at this problem and a lot of concerns about possible federal lawsuits by disenfranchised voters. We are just two weeks away from the runoff election between Democrats for county school trustee Position 6, and no one knows if it will count, or in fact, whether the primary counted in the first place.

When voters cast their ballots in two weeks in a number of run off races, one may still be in limbo. But while deciding the race between political newcomer Erica S. Lee and former city council member Jarvis Johnson for Harris County school trustee Position 6 is important, First Assistant County Attorney Terry O’Rourke is worried about something bigger.

“One person, one vote and it just didn’t happen,” he said.

Jarvis Johnson

O’Rourke and the office is now scrambling to find a solution to a big districting mistake. According to a letter by outgoing Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners, the Harris County Department of Education trustee district lines were not updated for the May primary. In fact, each precinct was about 100,000 people off. An analysis of the Lee-Johnson race, Sumners writes, shows almost 1,400 people did not vote who should have and 872 people did who should not have.

“It’s a big mess and we’re trying to figure out a way to solve it in the most simple, elegant way possible,” O’Rourke said.

Johnson missed winning outright by less than 200 votes (see page 21 here), so this absolutely could be a difference maker. Also affected was the Republican primary for Precinct 4, Position 3, but as that race wasn’t close (page 23 here) its outcome is not in question. I wondered if there might be other races that could have been affected but weren’t mentioned in this story, such as the Dem primaries for County Commissioner in Precinct 4 (Sean Hammerle won by 328 votes) and Constable in Precinct 1, where 1214 votes separated fourth place and first place. I asked Terry O’Rourke the question, and he said that both the Tax Assessor and the County Clerk assured the County Attorney’s office that only the HCDE races were affected. Good to know, but this is still a big honking problem. The HCDE itself is not happy about this.

John Sawyer, the appointed superintendent of the department, said he expects that a judge ultimately will void the elections. He said his agency, which provides educational services to local school districts, would contest the election if no one else does.

“I will tell you that ultimately we would contest them because I don’t think they (the boundaries) were legally drawn, and I’m not going to be responsible for swearing in candidates that may not be elected legally,” Sawyer said. “I just can’t do that.”

In response, the Harris County Attorney’s Office likely would file court papers asking a judge to provide guidance on how to fix the problem, said [Assistant County Attorney Doug] Ray.

The judge could toss out the results of the May primary and order that a new election for the two affected school trustee seats be held in November, with candidates from all parties participating, Ray speculated. A judge may also decide that the May election can stand and that the situation would be resolved simply by applying the correct boundaries for the one seat for which the election resulted in a runoff.

“It’s speculative at this point to determine whether the outcome would have been the same or not” if correct boundaries had been used, Ray said. “There are so many affected parties. The court’s going to have to be the one to decide it, I think.”

I agree it’s speculative, but if I’m Jarvis Johnson, I’m pretty pissed off about it. Erica Lee has every right to be unhappy, too. The board voted to authorize the superintendent and board president to initiate or participate in legal proceedings about the election error. We’ll see where it goes from here.

The best part about this is in the letter Sumners sent to the HCDE explaining the screwup, which you can see in that K12Zone link. He says that the HCDE “failed to advise the Tax Office” of the changes to their boundaries. Of course, since the HCDE precincts are identical to the County Commissioner precincts, which Sumners sheepishly admits in the next sentence, this should not have been an issue. Frankly, if no one noticed that unchanged districts were being used it says a lot about the lack of oversight under Sumners, which shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point. Roy Morales, the outgoing trustee in Precinct 1, Position 6, called for Sumners to resign over this. I don’t think he’s sufficiently capable of embarrassment, but I agree in principle. Campos has more, and a statement from Ann Harris Bennett, the Democratic candidate for Tax Assessor, is beneath the fold.

(more…)

Sullivan confirms he will step down in January

There will be one more election on the ballot this November.

CM Mike Sullivan

Houston City Councilman Mike Sullivan confirmed Thursday that he will submit his resignation next month as a result of his victory in the Republican Party primary for county tax assessor-collector, keeping a promise he made before Tuesday’s election.

Sullivan said his resignation will be effective on Jan. 1. That is no earlier than he would have to resign to get sworn in as county tax assessor-collector should he win the November general election against Democrat Ann Harris Bennett. State law prohibits him from holding both offices.

Giving council six months’ advance notice of his intentions allows it time to place an election for Sullivan’s successor on the November ballot instead of holding a stand-alone election in District E that would cost taxpayers an estimated $150,000 to $200,000.

The risk Sullivan is taking is his pledge to resign whether he wins or loses in November. A general election loss would leave him without a city or county office. In addition, a resignation date of Jan. 1 would leave him just one day short of the five years of city service necessary to qualify for a municipal pension. Hitting the five-year mark would qualify Sullivan for an annual pension benefit of more than $5,000.

“That is a very real possibility,” Sullivan responded when asked by email if he was prepared to forgo the pension benefit. “I’ve always considered it a privilege to serve, and have never viewed it for public gain. If I resign prior to my anniversary date, I will have no regrets.”

See here for some background. Sullivan headed this off as a campaign issue for the primary and will presumably do so as well for the general. I admire him for standing on principle here. He doesn’t have to do it and there is a potential downside for him. Now let’s have a debate about the direction in which we want the Tax Assessor’s office to go.

Chron overview of the Tax Assessor primary

Having just reported on the vehicle registration problems at the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office, the Chron now writes about the GOP primary for that office.

A Houston Chronicle story Friday reported Sumners’ staff is working overtime to process a backlog of auto registrations so motorists are not ticketed for driving with expired decals. [Challenger Mike] Sullivan said current and former tax office workers have reached out to share concerns with its operations.

[Incumbent Don] Sumners blamed the backlog on a communication breakdown among staff and county budget cuts. Sumners fired seven managers after taking office, in part to save money, and laid off another 25 clerks after budget cuts came down a year ago.

“In effect, I could take their place because of the experience that I had and the education that I had,” Sumners said. “When asked about what he would do since he doesn’t have the experience, (Sullivan’s) response was, ‘I’d hire people that do.’ That’d be great if there was money in the budget.”

Sullivan said Sumners’ removal of those seven managers was not a benefit to taxpayers because it took out institutional knowledge that could have improved the office’s operations.

“The budget cut that has been imposed on the tax office now is not significant enough to justify the long lines that are there. I’ve worked at City Hall now for five years with decreasing budgets and more demand on services. We have done more with less,” Sullivan said. “After (former tax assessor) Paul (Bettencourt) left the office, there’s been a continual decline and degradation in service, and it’s got to be turned around.”

When you cut funding for a government service, you are arguing – implicitly or explicitly – one of two things: Either the same level of service can be provided with less funding, or the service cutbacks that will be necessitated are good things in and of themselves. By cutting staff, including all those managers whose work Sumners said he could do himself, Sumners is making the former argument. Clearly, however, it is not the case that the service is being provided at the same level as it had been. I continue to be fascinated by the extent to which Sumners is blaming other factors for this drop in service – a three percent increase in new car sales and title transactions (I base that calculation on the numbers cited by Sumners in the original Chron story; budget cuts that led to the staff reductions that Sumners himself implemented; “communications breakdowns”, whatever that means – but I have not seen in either of these stories a statement from him that he owns the problem and is working to fix it. I have a low opinion of Sumners so I can’t say I’m surprised at any of this, but it’s always nice to have one’s opinions validated by the facts.

Sullivan, for his part, lists on his Issues tab a desire to keep all 15 branch offices open and to “reduce long lines at branch offices”. One presumes that would require more staff, which in turn means more money for the Tax Assessor’s office. It’s not clear how he plans to accomplish that, though he does also say that he wants to “embrace new technology to improve services for constituents (i.e., kiosks that accept payments so people do not have to stand in line to make payments; use electronic delivery for tax bills to those who want them as opposed to mailing out physical tax bills)”. That’s all laudable and I’d support it, but it too will cost money up front. Again I wonder what Commissioners Court thinks of all this, since they are both the implicit target of Sumners’ whining about budget cuts as well as the source of any funding Sullivan would request to fix these problems. Sheriff Adrian Garcia eventually convinced the Court to let him hire more deputies to help reduce the amount he had to spend on overtime, so it can be done. We just don’t know yet what their default position is.

Of course, if we really want a change at this position, it’s not the primary that matters but the November election and the candidacy of Ann Harris Bennett, who was one of the Democrats’ top votegetters as the County Clerk candidate in the 2010 debacle. Bennett is certainly qualified for the job, and while she’s not getting much attention now as she’s unopposed for the nomination, she’s one of the most important Democrats on the Harris County ballot this year. I guarantee you, we’ll have far fewer problems with voter registration if Bennett wins this fall. I feel pretty certain that if she can handle that – and she can – she can do a better job with auto registrations as well.

January finance reports: Harris County

January is a very busy month for campaign finance reports, since they are due for all levels of government. I’ve been busy updating the 2012 Primary Election pages for Harris County and elsewhere in Texas with reports as I can find them. Here’s an overview of some races of interest in Harris County. I’ll have similar reports for State Rep and Congressional races next week.

Let me preface this post by saying that I loathe the County Clerks’ Campaign Finance Reports page. You can’t search for an individual by name, you can only search for all candidates whose last name starts with a given letter. All of the reports are scanned PDFs, which means that most of them are handwritten, though even the ones that are electronically generated are then apparently printed and scanned. This has the effect of creating much larger files, which are then harder to navigate, and Adobe being what it is they managed to crash Chrome on my PC and IE9 on my laptop. They do open in the browser with a direct link, unlike the city’s reporting system which opens each report as an Acrobat file for download, which I then have to upload and share to make available on my page, so as long as your browser continues to function that’s nice. All I know is that when I am named Supreme Commander of the world, my first official action will be to outlaw paper filing of campaign finance reports. It’s 2012, for Pete’s sake.

OK, rant off. Here are the highlights:

District Attorney

Incumbent Pat Lykos starts the year in good shape, having raised $194K with $320K on hand; she spent $40K during the cycle. Primary opponent Mike Anderson reported no money raised or spent. He was a late entrant and likely hasn’t had any fundraisers yet. I’m sure he’ll have sufficient resources to wage a campaign. On the Democratic side, Zack Fertitta had an impressive haul, taking in $170K, with $141K on hand. I don’t know exactly when he named a treasurer, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t start raising money until a couple of months into the cycle. His primary opponent Lloyd Oliver, who is listed for some bizarre reason in the county financial reporting system as “Oliver Lloyd” – I only found his report by accident, looking for other L-named candidates – reported no money raised or spent.

Sheriff

Sheriff Adrian Garcia will have a tough race in November, and he starts the year well armed for it, having collected $187K and maintaining $302K. He has two primary opponents – Delores Jones has $1,038 on hand, while perennial contender Charles Massey El had no report visible; yes, I checked under M and under E. There are eight Republican hopefuls, but only four filed reports. Ruben Monzon raised $33K; Carl Pittman raised $13K and reported $24K in loans; Brian Steinacher claimed the princely total of $750 raised. The most interesting report belonged to Louis Guthrie, who claimed to raise $96K with $30K in loans. That caught my eye at first, but he only listed $21K on hand, which made me suspicious enough to read the whole report. The individual contributions he detailed added up to only $6450 in cash plus about $18K in kind for things like printing and food, which are usually considered expenses. Something is definitely off there, but even if you took him at his word, the four of them together raised less than Garcia did.

County Attorney

Not really on anyone’s radar since it’s a lower profile office and there are no contested primaries, but Democratic incumbent Vince Ryan raised $29K and has $126K on hand. Republican challenger and former State Rep. Robert Talton raised $14,650 and had $10,500 in loans, but spent $14,978 and was left with $10,367 on hand.

Tax Assessor

In the battle of Guys Whose Surnames Both Start With The Letter S And Are Thus Convenient To Find In The Otherwise Wack Harris County Finance Reporting System, incumbent Don Sumners reported no cash raised and $3,911 on hand, while current Council Member Mike Sullivan made good use of his remaining Council campaign fund, which allowed him to report $53K on hand. He actually raised $8200 for this cycle, and had $15K in loans outstanding. Democratic challenger Ann Harris Bennett, who was listed under the Bs, raised no money and had $1,856 on hand, presumably left over from her 2010 race for County Clerk. Remind me to ask Clerk candidates in 2014 about how they propose to overhaul the finance reporting system.

Constable

I didn’t bother looking at a lot of these reports, as there are just so many Constable candidates. Among those I did look at were ones for the open Precinct 1 seat. Alan Rosen did the most, raising $43K with $37K on hand. Cindy Vara-Leija raised $22K and had $15K on hand; Grady Castleberry, who also had a July report, raised $2K but had $19K in loans and $23K on hand. Quincy Whitaker’s January report was not visible as of this publication; his July report claimed $5K raised and $18K spent but did not list any loans or cash on hand.

That’s your Harris County finance report. I’ll have state and federal candidates next week. The one other county race I’m watching is the Democratic primary for Travis County DA, featuring incumbent Rosemary Lehmberg and former judge Charlie Baird. The Statesman noted their totals, and I have their reports linked on the non-Harris page – here’s Lehmberg, and here’s Baird. Check that page and the Harris page for more reports as they come in. Greg has more.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that there is a “Friends of Mike Anderson” finance report, which I would have found if I could have searched by name and not by letter, and that this report shows contributions of $152K and cash on hand of $135K. That report lists his office sought as the 127th District Civil Court bench, but that’s neither here nor there.

Sullivan files against Sumners

I was writing a long candidate update for the weekend on Friday that’s pretty much junk now, but not every election is affected by the SCOTUS stay ruling. One such election is for Harris County Tax Assessor, where on Friday Houston City Council Member Mike Sullivan officially filed to take on Don Sumners in the GOP primary. This is going to be a fun one to watch, from my perspective at least.

Sumners questioned Sullivan’s integrity for filing for another office within a month of winning reelection to his current seat.

“He’s known since maybe last summer he was going to run for this and went on and ran for city council anyway,” Sumners said. “So now they’re going to have to have a special election and it’ll probably cost a half-million dollars or something — if he wins. Of course I’m going to do my best to make sure he doesn’t. It just doesn’t sit right with me, and a know a lot of other Republican voters that it doesn’t sit right with either.”

Sullivan said that view shows how “uninformed” Sumners is about the process. Having consulted with the city attorney about the matter, Sullivan said if he wins the primary he would announce his intention to resign in late July, allowing an election for his successor to be held in November, when everyone is going to the polls anyway. He would then step down in January 2013.

“We’re not going to run a campaign comparing the two of us. It’s going to be a very positive, issues-based campaign — we think there are issues to talk about,” Sullivan said. “I have a history both in the private sector and at city council of strong customer service. The tax office is in a customer-service business, selling license plates, renewing auto titles, registering voters. Those are things we can do very well and we think we can make a great impact on those particular departments within the tax office.”

Sumners said he, well, does plan to compare himself to his opponent.

“My phrase that I’m going to be using is, ‘Don Sumners is everything his opponent isn’t.’ Education, experience, competency, all those things. It’ll be hard hitting from the get-go,” Sumners said.

Bring on the Battle of the Grumpy Old Men! You can see Sullivan’s announcement here. His interest in the job has been known for some time, and he starts out with a decent amount of cash on hand. Given how this race has begun, I’m looking forward to the candidate forum. Ann Harris Bennett, who ran for County Clerk in 2010, has filed as a Democrat and is so far the only candidate on that side.

Endorsement watch: The remaining countywides

After making a normal and expected endorsement of County Judge Ed Emmett and an abnormal and unexpected endorsement of Orlando Sanchez, the Chron goes Democratic for the remaining three countywide offices.

District Clerk: The duties of this office include summoning jurors for the district and county criminal courts, maintaining court records, preparing daily court dockets and receiving child support payments.

The choice for voters in this contest is easy. Democratic incumbent Loren Jackson has done an excellent job upgrading the electronic capabilities of the office and making it more efficient and user-friendly. On his first day in office, Jackson created an express window lawyers had long sought so they could quickly file papers and return to the courts.

[…]

County Clerk: In this contest to replace retiring incumbent Beverly Kaufman, the Chronicle endorses Ann Harris Bennett, a veteran of more than 14 years’ service as a district court coordinator.

[…]

County Tax Assessor-Collector: In this contest to fill the unexpired term of Republican Paul Bettencourt, who resigned shortly after his election in 2008, the Chronicle endorses the Democrat who narrowly lost to him, Diane Trautman. The incumbent appointed by Commissioners Court, Leo Vasquez, lost to a challenger in the GOP primary.

The Chron had endorsed Trautman in 2008 as well. I feel quite confident saying that the Tax Assessor’s office would be subsumed in much less controversy today had she won back then or been appointed to replace Paul Bettencourt after he cut and ran.

I’ve got all the relevant candidate interviews on the 2010 Elections page. If you don’t feel like listening to them again, then go check out Mark Bennett’s review of an interview that Jackson’s unqualified challenger did with David Jennings of Big Jolly Politics. You already know how good a District Clerk Loren Jackson is, that will give you an appreciation of the contrast between him and his opponent. PDiddie has more.

Chron overview of the County Clerk race

Here’s the Chron overview story of the County Clerk race between Democrat Ann Harris Bennett and Republican Stan Stanart to replace the retiring Beverly Kaufman. This is the bit that interested me:

Where Bennett and Stanart diverge is their approach to the job. Bennett, as a former legal assistant, researcher and court coordinator, said she has a better feel for the customer-service aspects of the job. Stanart makes his pitch as the man with the technology background to make more of the county courts’ work paperless, and as a tax fighter who will bring his conservative background to controlling costs. His website warns, “Stop socialism.”

Kaufman breaks it down this way: “She has a stronger courts background. He has a stronger technical background.”

The Republican incumbent is not endorsing a candidate. She endorsed Stanart’s opponent in the Republican primary election, Kevin Mauzy, her chief deputy.

Yes, that’s what we really need in the County Clerk’s office, someone dedicated to stopping the forces of socialism from…well, it’s not clear what, exactly. I don’t suppose such details really matter to Stanart.

I note that Kaufman has not endorsed Stanart. This is the second time he’s run for a countywide office, and the second time he’s defeated a more mainstream, establishment Republican in the primary; in 2008, he and Mike “Mister Debbie” Riddle, with the backing of Michael Wolfe, knocked off incumbent Harris County Department of Education trustees in March. Thankfully, they lost in November. More to the point, they ran behind most other Republicans on the ballot:

Candidate Office Votes Pct ============================================== Ed Emmett County Judge 600,311 53.15 Paul Bennetcourt Tax Assessor 586,727 51.50 Pat Lykos District Atty 563,431 50.21 Theresa Chang District Clerk 540,992 48.94 Mike Stafford County Atty 538,486 48.61 Mike Riddle HCDE Trustee 523,138 47.49 Stan Stanart HCDE Trustee 520,778 47.42 Tommy Thomas Sheriff 495,246 43.72

The low score by any GOP judicial candidate was 523,551 votes, for 47.52%, by Georgia Akers running for an unexpired term on Probate Court #1. I think it’s safe to say that neither Stanart nor Riddle had much crossover support, and in fact probably lost more Republican support to their Democratic opponents than anyone not named Tommy Thomas. We’ll see how that goes this year. What I know is that Stanart ran for HCDE Trustee in 2008 not because he had any ideas about being an HCDE Trustee but because he wanted to get elected to something so he could fight his fight against socialism. He may have some ideas about being County Clerk, but really, he’s running for the same reason as in 2008. Ann Harris Bennett, whose interview you can listen to here, is running because she wants to be County Clerk and to do the job of County Clerk. That’s pretty much what this race comes down to.

Interview with Ann Harris Bennett

Ann Harris Bennett

Ann Harris Bennett is the Democratic nominee to succeed retiring Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman. Bennett is a 14-year employee of the county, having worked as the Court Coordinator for the 55th and 152nd District Courts. As we know, there’s a lot going on with the County Clerk’s office right now, and there will be even more after the election when all those eSlate machines need to be permanently replaced. These were some of the things we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

Casey and the Chron on an elections administrator

Rick Casey sums up the recent proposal by County Judge Ed Emmett to consider adopting a non-partisan elections administrator for Harris County:

While Dallas and Tarrant counties have found it a source of electoral confidence and stability, Bexar County went through a dark period when one administrator was convicted of stealing about $50,000 in state funds, and another one, though clearly incompetent and lazy, couldn’t be fired because state law requires a 4⁄5 vote of the board, and unrelated politics kept the Republican county clerk from following the lead of the Republican county judge.

The commissioners court responded by abolishing the office and returning, for a time, to the old arrangement before it re-established the election administration office.

They agreed with Commissioner Lee: The leadership is more important than the structure.

Which is more or less how I feel about it, though I have a preference for it to be an elected office, because at least then the method of removing a poor administrator is well understood and doesn’t depend on any political oddities. As I said before, you can never truly eliminate the politics from something like this, which is why having these positions be elected is as good as anything.

I didn’t discuss the specific politics of Judge Emmett’s proposal when I wrote about this before because I just wanted to explore the idea itself. Yesterday’s Chron editorial did a good job of highlighting that aspect of it.

All too often it seems that Commissioners Court is making decisions that should be made by Harris County voters.

That’s why we are suspicious of the motives of Emmett and [County Clerk Beverly] Kaufman in pushing for the creation of an election czar who would be appointed by Commissioners Court and be overseen by a board that includes the judge, the county clerk, the tax assessor and representatives of both political parties.

In GOP party primaries this spring incumbent Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez, who Emmett helped appoint, was defeated by former County Treasurer Don Sumners, a tea party advocate who has criticized GOP commissioners in the past and would probably be a bigger nuisance for them than a Democrat. In the county clerk contest Kaufman supported her longtime chief deputy, Kevin Mauzy, but he lost to computer technician Stan Stanart. We wonder whether Emmett and Kaufman would be pushing for re-aligning election duties if their favorites were still in line to exercise those responsibilities.

It’s pretty hard to avoid the conclusion that no, we would not be talking about this at all if Vasquez and Mauzy were on the ballot. Which ought to be a good reason for you to vote for Ann Harris Bennett and Diane Trautman for County Clerk and Tax Assessor, respectively. I mean, if even Emmett and Kaufman think the Republican nominees aren’t up to the job, why should you? I’ll still be willing to discuss various ideas for changing how we do elections in Harris County, from combining voter registration and elections administration in one office to making all of those duties part of a non-partisan appointed office, after the election. But let’s see how the election goes first, if only to see if there’s still a sense of urgency about it.

The effect of ballot order on the judicial races

I’m going to have something tomorrow about how the different endorsing groups did in the various Democratic judicial primaries, but before we get too deep into the weeds, let’s pause to consider the effect of ballot position. Two candidates filed a lawsuit after the HCDP mistakenly listed them second, so it is certainly perceived to have an effect on races. Did being listed first on the ballot in a judicial race correlate with winning?

The results can be seen here, and the short answer is Yes and No, and the determining factor appears to be what kind of bench you were pursuing. In the District Court races – Criminal, Civil, Family, and Juvenile – it was actually a distinct disadvantage to go first. Of the 18 such races, by my count the first candidate won four times, lost twelve, and made it to a runoff twice. Frankly, that result shocked me at first, but I think what it points out is that in these races, other factors were more important. For one thing, the District Court races appeared fairly early in the ballot, presumably before most people’s attention spans started to wane. For another, this was where the money was. I don’t know about you, but I got a blizzard of mail from District Court candidates and from endorsing groups on their behalf. I even saw a TV ad towards the end for one candidate, Shawn Thierry. As such, I think these races were sufficiently high profile that people were mostly choosing names with which they had some familiarity, and because of that the ballot position factor was minimized.

The reverse was true in the County Court and Probate Court races. Of those twelve contests, the winner was the first candidate nine times. Further, of those nine winners, six exceeded 60% of the vote, with three topping 70%; two of the remaining three scored over 59%, while the last one was winning a three-candidate race. None of the three winning candidates who were listed second got as much as 52% of the vote. Among them was Dennis Slate, who was one of the plaintiffs against HCDP. These races were farther down on the ballot – after all of the District Court races, in particular – and had much less money in them. I think I may have gotten a mailer or two from these candidates, but it certainly wasn’t much; being listed in an endorsing organization’s slate was probably the most exposure a lot of them got. If ballot order can have an effect, these are the races where you would expect it to happen, and based on these results, it’s hard to argue with the idea. I’ll say it again: We really need the next generation of eSlate machines to be able to randomize ballot order. It’s just wrong that such a silly thing could affect the outcome of an election, but it sure seems like it did.

Speaking of such things, the race immediately after all of these judicial contests was the County Clerk race. Sure enough, Ann Harris Bennett was listed first, and sure enough, she cruised to an easy win. I’ve heard it suggested that Bennett, who is African-American, won on the strength of turnout in the African-American State Rep districts. Having analyzed the draft canvass data, I can tell you that she did in fact do very well in those districts, but that wasn’t determinative. If you simply remove HDs 131, 139, 141, 142, 146, and 147, Bennett still defeated Sue Schechter by about 5,000 votes, and that’s with Schechter piling up a 2,800-vote margin in her old stomping grounds of HD134. If people thought Schechter’s name was enough for her to win, they were wrong. Besides HD134, the only districts she won were HDs 136, 138, and 148 – basically, all Inner Loop areas, where she was best known. Let this be a lesson for us all.

Election results: Harris County

It was a bad day to be the establishment candidate for Harris County Clerk, let me tell you. Ann Harris Bennett crushed Sue Schechter for the Democratic nomination, winning with 63% of the vote. On the Republican side, wingnut Stan Stanart, who lost a 2008 race for the HCDE Board of Trustees after taking out a mainstream incumbent in that primary, won over 60% of the vote against Beverly Kaufmann’s hand-picked successor, Kevin Mauzy. Look for some scrambling to occur in both parties. I confess, I did not get to know Ms. Bennett, and did not see her victory coming. My bad on that one.

Meanwhile, Harris County Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez suffered the same fate as Victor Carrillo.

Don Sumners won the Republican nomination for county tax assessor-collector Tuesday, ousting incumbent Leo Vasquez on his promises to continue the anti-tax crusade that characterized his tenure as county treasurer in the 1990s.

Sumners campaigned on a slogan of “I was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.”

As treasurer, he publicly criticized Commissioners Court for increasing the tax rate and was an outspoken opponent of a bond measure that approved hotel and car rental taxes to fund football, basketball and baseball stadiums.

Summers will face Diane Trautman. Let’s just say that these are two races I’d really like for the Democrats to win. Elsewhere, Gordon Quan won a convincing victory in the Democratic primary for County Judge, and Republican Chris Daniel won the nomination for District Clerk for the right to face extremely well-qualified Democratic incumbent Loren Jackson.

I’ll try to sort out the judicial races later. The other big result in Harris County was Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee winning easily in her primary.

As of late Tuesday, the veteran lawmaker had about 68 percent of the vote, fending off a challenge by [City Council Member Jarvis] Johnson that featured claims that Jackson Lee’s showboating style had impaired her ability to deliver for her hard-pressed inner city district.

Jackson Lee also defeated a political newcomer, Houston attorney Sean Roberts. Votes counted as of 10:30 p.m, showed she likely would face GOP challenger John Faulk, an accountant, in the predominantly Democratic district.

“The job is not finished. We promise you a fight in Washington to bring good health care to this district and to preserve NASA and the jobs that are ours,” Jackson Lee told supporters Tuesday night.

Faulk does appear to be the GOP winner. For purposes of comparison, there were 9,105 total votes cast in the GOP primary for CD18. Johnson collected 9,073 by himself in getting 28.33% against SJL.

In other Congressional news, we will have Roy Morales to kick around for a few more months, as the man who never met an election he didn’t like won the nomination in CD29 in a five-person field. He gets to be stomped by Rep. Gene Green in November before he decides what city race to pick for 2011.

Finally, Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill is in a runoff with Ed Hubbard. That’ll be fun to watch.