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CD18 public forum at Rice

From the inbox:

Houston Enriches Rice Education (HERE)
Speaker: Robert Stein – Moderator
Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science
Rice University
District 18 Congressional Political Forum
Monday, February 22, 2010
6:00 PM  to 9:00 PM
Rice Memorial Chapel  RMC/Ley Student Center
Rice University
6100 Main St
Houston, Texas, USA
An open forum for 18th Congressional District candidates.

The Houston Enriches Rice Education (H.E.R.E.) Project is an innovative curricular and research initiative that advances Rice’s relationship to the larger Houston community and enhances faculty research and both undergraduate and graduate education. The H.E.R.E Speakers Series advances understanding of Houston’s impact on national issues of religiosity, social justice, political equality, etc, by inviting noteworthy figures to give public lectures on related topics.

A map of the campus, which has a “find a building” feature, is here. Events like this are great opportunities to hear what the candidates are saying, so check it out.

The Observer interviews White and Shami

If you’re looking for some more prep material in advance of tonight’s debate, the Texas Observer has a nice cover story on Bill White and Farouk Shami, with an interview with each candidate. For those of you who tune in tonight, leave a comment and let us know what your impressions were.

UPDATE: BOR and Martha did the liveblog thing for the debate. Anyone want to give their impressions?

Interview with Farouk Shami

Farouk Shami

Farouk Shami

You’ve probably seen a few of Farouk Shami‘s ads for Governor by now, and you know the basic story: Came to America with only a few dollars in his pocket, started a successful business, and is now running to be the Democratic nominee for Governor. The primary focus of his campaign has been jobs and economic growth, which he plans to achieve by leveraging his business acumen. You’ll be able to hear more from Shami tonight when he and Bill White debate on public TV, and while you’re waiting for that, you can listen to my interview with him:

Download the MP3 file

A full list of the interviews I have done is on the 2010 Election page. As always, your feedback is appreciated.

The GOP gubernatorial debate, simplified

About what one would expect, I daresay.

The Republican candidates for governor clashed in what is likely their final debate Friday, attacking one another’s records but offering little vision as to what they would do as governor over the next four years.

In their defense, no one who tuned in to watch expected them to talk about meaningless stuff like policy. Those who watched saw what they were expecting to see.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates to debate

As you know, I’m not much of the debate-watching type. But this is one I may tune in to.

Houston Mayor Bill White and millionaire businessman Farouk Shami have accepted an invitation from KERA and its media partners to debate on Monday February 8 at 7:00 p.m. The hour long debate will take place before a studio audience with questions coming from journalists, voters and social media. It will be broadcast statewide on television, radio and online.

For what it’s worth, the way my interview schedule is currently going, I’ll be running my conversation with Shami that same morning. Thanks to the Trib for the heads up.

That was the debate that was

I’m generally not the debate-watching type, so I managed to find some other way to spend my Thursday evening that did not involve the Perry/Hutchison/Median tete-a-tete-a-tete. Plenty of other people did, however, some because they were paid to do so and some because they derive (sheer perverse) enjoyment from it. Some of those folks include:

Burka, who thought Rick Perry sounded better than he looked.

Bob Moser, who thought Perry sounded awful.

Eileen Smith, who wanted to know “Is this the best we can do?” (Hint: No).

BOR, who liveblogged and provided a statement from Bill White.

PDiddie, who rounded up other coverage, including a statement from Farouk Shami.

George Nasser, who scored it for KBH and said “if this is what we have to look forward to in the Republican primary, political fact-checkers are on the gravy train.” He also did a liveblog.

Team coverage from the Trib: Liveblogging, video, more video, analysis – the headline is “Not exactly a game-changer”, and links to other reports.

You will no doubt be shocked to learn that McBlogger was not impressed by any of the debate participants.

On the Move corrects a claim that Medina and KBH made about TxDOT.

Perry Vs World thought KBH needed to make the most of her limited opportunities to strike back at the frontrunning Perry, but didn’t quite do it.

RickVsKay agrees that “Kay never landed a big upper cut.”

Come and Take It has an open thread on the debate, and wonders if Perry really was as “aloof” as some have said.

My apologies to anyone I missed.

The debate over Burka

I generally find debates between candidates who are already well known to be tedious, often mechanical affairs. So I’m glad for an event that provides a little interest outside of the usual aspects, which is apparently the case for an upcoming Perry versus Hutchison debate.

Paul Burka, the dean of Texas political writers, won’t be asking questions when the Republican gubernatorial candidates debate next month. He’s been banned.

“I didn’t like the idea of it,” says Terry Sullivan, campaign manager for candidate Kay Bailey Hutchison. “He’s got his mind made up on the race.”

Texas Monthly, where Burka works as executive editor, writer, and a popular blogger, was a sponsor of the debate. When the chief sponsor — KERA-TV in Dallas — told the magazine they were welcome to send any panelist except for Burka, the magazine not only declined to substitute someone but also pulled its name off the January 14 event. Other sponsors — KERA, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, KTVT-TV in Dallas, Univision, and the Texas Association of Broadcasters — remain.

“We were dismayed at what they decided to do, and surprised, given Paul Burka’s involvement in past debates,” says Jake Silverstein, the magazine’s editor. “We stand behind everything he does, and we consider his voice our voice on Texas politics.”

Silverstein tells his side of it here, while Burka himself weighs in here. I think KBH’s campaign overreacted and is being petulant. As commenter Stevie F said on Silverstein’s post, how could Burka write about this race and not say anything about what a hash KBH has made of it? This is bush league. Now I hope one of the moderators brings this up and asks KBH to counter Burka’s criticisms about her campaign. She’s made it an issue, let her defend it. Come and Take It has more.

A gubernatorial threefer

Debra Medina made her filing for Governor today as well, and she hopes to be allowed in the clubhouse when the big kids get together to play.

“Texans deserve a Governor who is more interested in the needs of Texans,” campaign manager Penny Langford Freeman said in a statement. “We are proud to have a candidate who is listening to the people and offering real solutions for the future of our state.”

Medina, the chair of the Republican Party of Wharton County, wears the “Tea Party” label proudly. According to her website, the central issues of her campaign include eliminating property tax, protecting gun ownership, securing our border, and restoring state sovereignty.

Medina does not have the funds or name recognition of her primary opponents, Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison, but she’s believes there’s more to a campaign than money. She recently told the Tribune, “If we could put a value on the shoe leather and elbow grease that has been applied to this campaign by the same activists that have been leading and attending the tea party and 9/12 events all over the state, we would look very competitive.”


As Medina heads into the fight, she says others — specifically Rick Pery — is running away. The Medina camp released a statement today saying that, when it comes to official debates, “each time we confirm, the governor cancels.”

“That’s just not true,” says Perry spokesman Mark Miner.

Hutchison spokesman Joe Pounder says, “We would welcome Medina’s involvement in the January debate.”

Of course KBH would like Medina to be in any debate. That’s two candidates bashing on Rick Perry instead of one. While I’m skeptical that Medina will have any real effect on this race, I’m sure KBH believes, not unreasonably, that most votes Medina gets will come out of Perry’s hide. There’s little downside for KBH in giving Medina some visibility.

She’ll need all the help she can get. Dubious polls about teabagger ID aside, most people don’t know who Medina is. And all due respect, but speaking from the perspective of the perpetually underfunded statewide party, the value of shoe leather and elbow grease ain’t what you hope it will be when up against money and name recognition.

Meanwhile, Farouk Shami, who shook up his campaign not too long after starting it, is one of those candidates with a spotty record of actually voting.

Shami voted in the 1996, 2002 and 2004 general elections, according to Montgomery County Elections Administrator Carol Gaultney, but skipped the 2006 and 2008 general elections, missing chances to vote for Independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman (to whom he donated $24,400) and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who Shami has called his inspiration. “That’s the man, that’s my man, that’s the man who did not let his strange name or an unconventional upbringing stand in his way,” Shami said of Obama at his November campaign announcement.

Shami’s primary election voting record is thinner. While the haircare billionaire is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next March, there’s no record of him voting as a Democrat in his home county at least as far back as 1996. He did, however, vote in the Republican primary in 2000.

The campaign is challenging some of the county’s data, saying Shami did indeed cast a ballot in the 2008 election. “He did go vote for Obama, but they can’t find any record of it, so we’ve talked with them about fixing it,” said Jamila Shami, the candidate’s niece and campaign aide.

As for the other skipped elections, Shami spokesperson Jessica Gutierrez says he was otherwise engaged.

“He was focusing on his company, and he had a billion dollar company at the time, and his business came first,” Gutierrez said. “He’s apologizing that he didn’t go vote, so that’s why he’s educating people that they should go vote.”

Okay, look. I’ve said before that a candidate’s previous voting history is not a make-or-break issue for me. It can be a deciding factor if all else is even, but it’s almost never a disqualifier. That said, please spare me the “I was too busy to vote” baloney. Most of the time, it takes just a few minutes to actually go to a polling place, wait your turn, and make your selections. Nowadays you have as many as ten days over which to do this. Nobody is too busy to do this, at least not year in and year out. If you’re one of those hardly-ever-voted-before candidates, don’t insult my intelligence like this. Just admit you should have done better before and then prove to me you mean it when you say you’ve learned your lesson.

Finally, Come and Take It notices that despite having endorsed Rick Perry in the primary, Sarah Palin never actually appeared with him while in the state promoting her book. Make of that what you will.

The last debate

I’m not much of a debate-watching person, and we had company yesterday afternoon, so I did not catch the last Mayoral debate. (Judging by David Ortez’s liveblogging, it would seem a lot of people weren’t watching.) I don’t think events like these tell you much about a candidate that you didn’t already know, though there is always the chance you’ll get to see a highly visible screwup. Which apparently didn’t happen. I’m not sure what there is left to convince people who weren’t sure for whom to vote which choice to make, but then I’m not an undecided voter. So let me ask: Who out there watched? Did it affect your opinion of either candidate? Leave a comment and let us know.

Liveblogging tonight’s Mayoral debate

No, not me. David Ortez, over at Hair Balls. It’s just getting underway now. I’m sure Twitter will be lighting up with commentary as well, so head over there or run for the hills, as the case may be.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story on the debate, which not surprisingly was rather heated. Of interest:

During a heated 10 or 15 minutes in which the two were allowed to ask each other questions, Locke accused Parker of making an attack she knew to be baseless. He said he pledged to resign his partnership at the law firm Andrews Kurth at a forum in which she was present eight months ago.

“I’m going to give up my law practice,” he said.

She has repeatedly called on him to pledge that he will not return to the firm after his time as mayor, a step he has not yet taken.

At another point, Locke claimed never to have been a lobbyist, a statement that appears to be inaccurate. According to Texas Ethics Commission records, he was registered in 1999 as a lobbyist for the sports authority. Houston Chronicle archives also show that Locke was retained along with a variety of consultants to help a company win a lucrative airport concession contract.

The TEC records are here; search for “Locke, Gene L.” and you’ll find him. Here’s a link to the Chron archive story mentioned, with the key graf:

The Hudson Group includes businessman and concessionaire Gerald Wilson; entrepreneur Art Lopez, who also operates golf courses for the city; engineer Bobby Singh; and Brooks & Brooks, a company co-owned by Harlan Brooks of Harlan’s Bar-B-Que. Lobbying on their behalf are Andrews & Kurth attorney Gene Locke and consultant Kathryn McNeil.

So there you have it. More comments on the debate are in Miya’s post, with more on related matters from Martha and Nancy Sims.

District A runoff overview

Now that we’re into the runoff season, it looks like the Chron will finally do a bit more in depth coverage of the races that are still unresolved. Yesterday, they ran this overview of District A and the remaining candidates Lane Lewis and Brenda Stardig.

Lewis, 42, a community college instructor and Democrat who lives in Oak Forest, was the runner-up in the seven-candidate Nov. 4 election.

Lewis proposes that the city buy the closed 227-acre Inwood Forest Country Club and turn it into a flood control basin and park. Then, he wants to give businesses tax incentives to locate on the park’s periphery.

“I think we have the opportunity to go into our blighted areas and create opportunities for growth,” Lewis said.

Stardig, 47, a real estate broker and Republican who lives in Shadow Oaks, was the top vote-getter with nearly 32 percent of ballots cast.

Stardig said she has specific flood control projects in mind, but did not want to speak publicly about them out of a fear of hurting property values. Instead, she emphasizes that she already is trying to recruit businesses to the district the same way she sells homes, by selling the virtues of District A.

“This is a huge opportunity, because nowhere else in the city like District A or northwest is there a greater return on investment,” she said.

You can listen to my interview with Lewis here and my interview with Stardig here. There will also be a candidate forum for the two of them, apparently the first such one they’ve both engaged in, this coming Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 7:00 PM. It will be held at Woodview Elementary School in SBISD, 9749 Cedardale, (near the intersection of Bunker Hill and Westview), Houston, Texas 77055. Here’s a map to the location if you need it.

2009 Runoff Candidate Meet and Greet

Want to meet the candidates who are in the December 12 runoff? Here’s your chance:

You are invited to attend …

2009 Runoff Candidate Meet and Greet

DECEMBER 3, 2009 – 6:30 PM – The Upper Kirby Building
(details below)

CNU-HoustonHouston TomorrowEmerging Green Builders, and Citizens’ Transportation Coalition are proud to host a Meet and Greet event for the 2009 Houston Runoff Election Candidates.

We’ve invited the following candidates to come to this social event where they can get to know our organization members and friends:

Mayor: Annise Parker, Gene Locke
Controller: Ron Green, MJ Khan
District A: Brenda Stardig, Lane Lewis
District F: Mike Laster, Al Hoang
At-large 1: Stephen Costello, Karen Derr
At-large 2: Sue Lovell, Andrew Burks
At-large 5: Jack Christie, Jolanda Jones

Not only will this event be an excellent chance for us to get to know the runoff candidates, this will be a great opportunity for the members of these organizations to get to know each other better as well. We’re really looking forward to this unique event, and we hope that you’ll join us!

Please let us know you’re coming, this helps us plan our space and refreshment needs!Attend Event

For more information about the sponsoring organizations, follow the links below:

Houston Tomorrow
Emerging Green Builders
Citizens’ Transportation Coalition
Event Details:
Thursday, December 3, 2009 from 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Here’s a Google map of the location if you need it. Hope you can make it.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, the At Large 5 candidates were inadvertently left out. This has now been corrected. See here or here for more.

Election tidbits for 10/15

Just a few quickies…

Super Neighborhood 22 will be holding a candidate forum for At Large positions 2 and 5 this coming Monday:

SN 22 candidate forum

SN 22 candidate forum

According to the email I got on this, CM Melissa Noriega will also be present.

– CM Jolanda Jones has had some issues with the Houston Professional Firefighters Association, but as Mary Benton notes, not all firefighters’ groups are against her.

The Houston Black Firefighters Association has endorsed City Council Member Jolanda “Jo” Jones in her campaign for re-election to Houston City Council, At-Large Position 5.

“Firefighters are my heroes,” said Jones. “I’ve ridden with them for 24-hour shifts, and understand more than most, that they have a grueling unrelenting job that goes way beyond the heroic task of rescuing us from fires. And that’s just one of the reasons why I am working so hard to implement solutions that will end discrimination and improve working conditions for all firefighters – because their jobs are hard enough.

“I am extremely grateful for this endorsement and the support I have received from firefighters throughout Houston. I hope Houston is always blessed to have these brave men and women keeping us safe.”

– The Latino Labor Council released some new endorsements as well. From their email:

This week’s meeting allowed our membership to endorse a couple more positions.


Previous endorsements:

MARY ANN PEREZ – Houston Community College DISTRICT 3 trustee

– A little farther out, State Rep. Dora Olivo, who represents HD27 in Fort Bend, announced the backing of several of her colleagues:

Endorsing Olivo for re-election are State Senator Mario Gallegos and State Representatives

Alma A. Allen, Carol Alvarado, Ellen Cohen, Garnet F. Coleman, Harold V. Dutton, Jr., Jessica Farrar, Ana E. Hernandez, Scott Hochberg, Kristi Thibaut, Senfronia Thompson, Sylvester Turner, Hubert Vo and Armando Walle.

Olivo will have a contested primary for the third straight cycle, so that’s where this is coming from.

– I noted recently that Bill White had received several more endorsements from State Reps in his bid for the Senate. I mentioned that he had the support of all of the Harris County Democratic reps except for Senfronia Thompson, Al Edwards, and Kristi Thibaut. In the comments to that post, Keir Murray said that Rep. Thibaut has in fact endorsed White. Note to Team Bill: Update your list.

– Meanwhile, John Sharp collected endorsements from State Reps. Allen Vaught and Kirk England, both from the Dallas area. I don’t know exactly how many such endorsements Sharp has received, but I’d bet White has a decent lead in that department.

– And speaking of scoreboards, BOR has a more detailed look at White’s fundraising and cash-on-hand numbers. I can’t wait to see what Sharp did this quarter – it has to be better than the last quarter, but that ain’t saying much. BOR also has a peek at numbers from CD10, where Jack McDonald is going strong in his bid to unseat Rep. Mike McCaul; CD21, where, um, not much is happening; and CD17, where Rep. Chet Edwards has the usual target on his back and the usual stellar fundraising report. Check ’em out.

– And finally, one last endorsement: Constable Ruben Davis gives his seal of approval to At Large #1 candidate Stephen Costello:

“I have looked at Stephen’s record and it’s obvious he’s the best candidate for the job,” Davis said. “I know Stephen will put an emphasis on crime and public safety and that’s an issue important to folks in my community.”

“Public safety is the number one issue for Houstonians,” said Costello. “Everything begins with you feeling safe in your home, school and business. I appreciate Constable Davis’ endorsement. When I am on City Council, I pledge to work with him and other law enforcement agencies to fight crime in Houston.”

Word I’m hearing is that we should expect a bunch of Chron endorsements soon. Well, early voting is about to start, so I guess that’s normal. Anyone want to take a guess at who they’ll back for Mayor?super n

KTRK Mayoral forum

Anyone catch the KTRK Mayoral forum?

The four major candidates vying to be Houston’s next mayor took some of the first steps toward engaging each other directly in a live televised debate on KTRK Wednesday evening.

With just four weeks remaining in a contest that has been slow to pick up steam, City Councilman Peter Brown, City Controller Annise Parker, former City Attorney Gene Locke and Harris County Education Trustee Roy Morales made some of the most pronounced attempts in the campaign season to distinguish themselves from one another. On many issues, their policy ideas have been markedly similar, but a television viewer connecting with the race for the first time might not have known it.

Much of the conflict among the four revolved around fiscal issues as the city finds itself in one of the most dire financial straits in recent memory.

Locke, who spoke forcefully but did not look directly at the camera in the one-hour event, struck first by highlighting the discrepancies between Mayor Bill White’s characterization of a fiscal shortfall and that of Parker’s office.

“It’s unfortunate that the citizens don’t know what the real deal is,” he said, noting that Brown and Parker have been as “quiet as a church mouse” in their roles at City Hall.

Brown, who also did not make eye contact with the camera, responded that he has worked closely with White in his nearly four years on City Council.

Parker, who engaged with the medium and even offered up a few jokes, shot back directly.

“I can’t help the fact that my opponents are confused” about the budget, she said, noting that she had tried to avoid engaging with White over “whether the glass is half empty or half full” to instead deal more directly with the problem.

My interviews with Locke, Brown, and Parker will run next week. If you missed this you can still catch the airing of the forum at Discovery Green on Sunday. I’d love to know how many people tuned in or will tune in to these showings, and (say it with me now) I’d love to see some more polling data so we can get an idea whether or not they’ve helped engage voters or move any undecideds. If you watched, what was your impression?

The Mayoral forum at Discovery Green

In case you didn’t make it to the Mayoral forum at Discovery Green on Sunday, you’ll have another chance to see what happened later this week.

The four candidates vying to become Houston’s next mayor emerged from the first major debate of the campaign Sunday evening unscathed from any attacks or gaffes, choosing instead a style that may not have cost or won them any votes.

While they did not attack each other, they criticized the Metropolitan Transit Authority for lacking transparency and asserted that the city’s housing department made poor use of federal funding.

The fiscal challenges that will confront the race’s winner dominated most of the one-hour affair, as questions about crime, transportation, immigration and affordable housing led almost inevitably to the financial constraints that will likely shackle new ideas or policy initiatives.

The issues discussed and promises made by City Controller Annise Parker, Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales, former City Attorney Gene Locke and City Councilman Peter Brown differed little from the past few months on the campaign trail, but the event had a far more serious feel.

The four did not engage each other, which contributed to a civil, yet occasionally slow, tone before a packed upper room at The Grove restaurant near Discovery Green Park. The debate, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and moderated by KPRC, is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. Saturday.

All I can say is that I hope a lot of questions were asked about “how are you going to pay for that”. If you can’t wait till Friday to see what the candidates have to say for themselves, check out David Ortez’s liveblogging, or musings’ commentary. On a related note, the Chron will be hosting chat sessions with the three major Mayoral candidates; apparently, Roy hasn’t gotten back to them yet. The first one, a conversation with Peter Brown, is here, Annise Parker participated today, and Gene Locke is up on Wednesday at noon. Check ’em out.

Updated list of all interviews to date

Just a reminder that you can click on the 2009 Election tab at the top right of the index page to get a complete up-to-date list of all the interviews I’ve done for the November cycle. There’s a total of 40 interviews so far, with six more to come – three each in the Controller’s race, which will be next week, and the Mayor’s race, which will be the week after that. After that I’ll get a short break before starting up again with interviews and judicial questionnaires for the 2010 Democratic primaries. There’s so many judicial candidates out there I feel like I’m already behind, but that’s something I’ll just have to worry about later. For now, all of the interviews for this cycle are in one convenient location, so check them out if you haven’t already.

And if you can tear yourself away from football today (this is why God gave us DVRs, right?), there’s a candidate rally/forum at Discovery Green today:

Candidate rally at Discovery Green

Candidate rally at Discovery Green

There may not be all that much coverage in the paper, but there are still plenty of opportunities to learn about the candidates on the ballot this November if you want to do so.

UPDATE: Due to inclement weather, the rally and forum have been moved indoors. The following is from an email sent to the candidates:

We have reluctantly decided to hold the Rally on the Green Candidate Reception under cover due to the threat of thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon. It seemed the most sensible approach to take. While we won’t have the wonderful “Rally on the Green” we’d hoped for we will have wonderful opportunity to meet and share ideas with citizens who decide to join us. Remember, Houstonians are used to a little rain so we have hopes that many will still decide to come to the Rally on the Green tomorrow afternoon.

We have changed the location and the schedule. The changes are:

Location: NEW The Vista Room and Tree House Deck of the Grove Restaurant at Discovery Green, 1611 Lamar St.

Date: Unchanged – October 4th, 2009

Candidate Reception 2p.m – 3p.m.
Controller Candidate Forum 3p.m. – 4p.m.
Mayoral Candidate Forum 4:15p.m. – 5:15 p.m.

The Rally will be held on the second floor of the Grove Restaurant, 1611 Lamar. The Candidate Reception will be on the Tree House deck and in the Vista Room. Controller and Mayoral Candidate Forums will be held in the Vista Room.

Thanks to Robert Kane for passing that along.

All forumed out

The three main Mayoral candidates are cutting back on the number of candidate forums they’re doing.

Having logged more than 40 so far with just about every interest group or neighborhood imaginable, the campaigns of City Controller Annise Parker, City Councilman Peter Brown and former city attorney Gene Locke apparently have decided that enough is enough, sending out joint letters via e-mail notifying some groups that their forums or “debates” are no more.

The reason, according to some politicos, is that the candidates have such similar views that their ideas for fixing Houston’s problems may not resonate in these civic settings.

“I saw a picture of the three of them at one of these events recently, and they honestly just looked dead bored,” said Marc Campos, an unaffiliated political consultant who was scheduled to ask questions at a recently canceled event. “They haven’t distinguished themselves. Everybody pretty much knows where they’re at on all these issues. They’ve been asked the same questions over and over and over, and they’ve all stuck to their own party line, so it’s a little bit of, this is too much.”

In the form letters, which were sent to eight or nine groups, including some to which the candidates already had committed, the campaign managers explained that there were just too many forums. More than 20 are scheduled this month, including five this week.

“While our candidates will be accessible to all Houstonians, the rigors of a campaign and the time constraints on our candidates’ schedule, do not allow us to participate in every request we receive,” the letter says. “After having done nearly 40 forums to date, there are simply too many joint appearances to accept all.”

My recollection from 2003 is that there weren’t as many such events that year as there have been this year. I could be wrong about that, I wasn’t paying as close attention back then as I am now, but it sure seems to me like there have been a ton of these. I do feel bad for the groups whose forums were canceled – the Montrose Area Democrats, whose email to Carl Whitmarsh announcing their event’s termination appears to be the spark for this story, had clearly done a lot of work in preparation for their now-defunct forum – but I have sympathy for the candidates as well. By the way, there is a forum tonight at TSU, and the Houston Press would like you to know that they one they’re involved in, at UH-Downtown on September 30, is still on. Miya has more, while Nancy Sims reports from – you guessed it – a Mayoral forum from earlier this week.

It’s all about the runoff

Professor Murray also comments on the Marc Campos post that assessed the state of the Mayoral race, and he hits on a lot of the same points that I did, with some more detail. And just in time, as it turns out that Peter Brown is fixing to go on the air next week. I’m sure there’ll be YouTube versions floating around soon enough. We’ll see what he’s got in the works.

Mayoral forum focusing on non-profits

There are plenty of Mayoral forums going on. Here’s one that will cover some ground I haven’t seen trod before.

Houston Area Table Mayoral Forum

What role will non-profits and community based organizations play in the new mayor’s administration?

Apearing in person:

Annise Parker

Gene Locke

Roy Morales

A representative from the Peter Brown campaign will also be present.

August 18th, Noon- 1:30 PM

Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church

1900 Bering Dr., Houston, TX, 77057

For more information call: 713-782-8833

I’ve attended a number of HAT events, and they’re always well done, so make plans to go if you can. And if you have time this weekend, please consider giving Texans Together, which is the organization behind Houston Area Table, some assistance with their voter registration drive.

Two Ways That You Can Make a Difference!

This weekend, we need help registering voters at the following locations:

Saturday, August 15

  • Wal-Mart 2700 South Kirkwood 10am-12pm, 12pm-2pm, 2pm-4 pm
  • International Flea Market 8315 Long point 10am-12pm, 12pm-2pm, 2pm-4 pm
  • Kroger 8610 Gulfton 10am-12pm, 12pm-2pm, 2pm-4 pm
  • We will also be registering at the soccer field across from Kroger on Gulfton between 8-10am, 10-12pm

Sunday, August 16

  • Wal-Mart 2700 South Kirkwood 10am-12pm, 12pm-2pm, 2pm-4 pm
  • International Flea Market 8315 Long point 10am-12pm, 12pm-2pm, 2pm-4 pm
  • Wal-Mart 290 and Tidwell 11-1pm, 1-2pm

Learn About Another Way to Get Involved!

Place boxes with registration cards at community hot-spots. Placing and routinely stocking boxes will ensure that voter registration cards are accessible to the public and serve as an ongoing reminder to vote. Contact our office for boxes, cards and location ideas.

Houston votes is a non-profit, non-partisan 501 c3; our organization does not endorse any candidate or political party. Volunteers must remain non-partisan while registering voters. You must be deputized to register new voters and update addresses, you do not have to be deputized to place boxes in your community. Call Dee at (713)-782-8833 or e mail [email protected]

Thanks very much.

Controller’s debate

In case you missed it from Friday, here’s the Houston City Controller debate as hosted by Red, White, and Blue on KUHT.

I was out of town this week and didn’t get a chance to set the TiVo on Friday, but it reruns tonight at 5:30, so I plan to catch it then. In the meantime, here it is for your viewing pleasure. Greg did tune in on Friday and gives his review there. There’s a ton of Mayoral candidate forums going on, but not nearly as much for the second-most important elected office in Houston, so check this one out.

City or county?

Like Nancy Sims, I was at the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce candidate forum yesterday morning. And like Nancy, I thought this bit was one of the more interesting parts of the debate.

Several questions focused on city finances and how each candidate would face financial challenges. Gene Locke stated that he would close the city jail and contract with Harris County to process Houston prisoners. Annise Parker also indicated that she supported closing the jail. Peter Brown indicated that he believes the city jail should remain open.

If you are new to the city jail debate, it is important to note that most people arrested by HPD may be processed at the city jail and then transferred to the county. Anything more than a Class C Misdemeanor offense goes straight to the county. The topic has been discussed for years.

It was interesting to see some disagreement among this group, even if it was just over the city jail.

Locke’s argument, seconded by Parker, was that it would cost less to contract this job to the county. Brown disputed the claim there would be any savings in this, and also pointed out that the county jail has its share of problems, while Parker expressed her confidence in the new Sheriff to fix things.

On point one, it should be pretty simple to see who’s right. Put it out for a bid, and see what the county says it’d cost the city for this service. Either it’s a net savings or it’s not.

On point two, while Brown is correct to note that the Harris County jails are under federal review and have been for several years now, the fact is that Sheriff Garcia is working to fix those problems, and by the time a new Mayor is sworn in we ought to have a good picture of how much progress he’s made on that front. I think it’s sensible to not count on being able to do this in the near term, but going forward the problems of the jail not meeting state and federal standards should be reduced and eventually eliminated.

Of course a point that no one brought up is that the Harris County jail may not have the capacity to handle the city’s inmates. Sheriff Garcia has a plan to address the overcrowding issue, but I don’t see that as being a short term fix, at least not without a firm commitment from the judiciary and the District Attorney to play their part. If and when the county gets a handle on that, then this plan will be more feasible.

On a related note, the question about the city’s participation in the 287(g) program came up as well. All four of the candidates agreed that having HPD ask people for their immigration status was a bad idea and a misuse of resources. All four also agreed that checking immigration status on people who were in custody was sensible, and that violent criminals who are undocumented should be subject to deportation. Nobody addressed the question of whether those who are convicted of misdemeanors should be subject to it as well, which is a source of concern among Latino activists. Stace said at the Latino Summit forum on Saturday that the candidates needed to realize this and come up with a new line on 287(g), but it appears that hasn’t happened as yet.

The immigration question in the Mayor’s race

Man, we need comprehensive immigration reform we can all live with.

The city’s plans to step up cooperation with federal authorities in efforts to deport illegal immigrants is garnering new debate in the 2009 mayoral contest.

Latino advocates have pressed candidates to distance themselves from Mayor Bill White’s request that Houston be allowed to participate in two federal programs that, at least within the confines of the city’s jails, would put police officers in the immigration enforcement business.

While each of the four major candidates generally opposes diverting too many resources to immigration enforcement, they all support the thrust of the city’s new effort to screen jail inmates and turn over suspected illegal immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Those positions could upset Latino activists in light of a recent Houston Chronicle story showing that only a small percentage of illegal immigrants processed for deportation in a similar Harris County program had committed serious felony crimes. The divide could be on display at a mayoral forum today.

“This has an impact on cooperation with law enforcement, reporting of crime, and folks participating in the census,” said Marc Campos, a political consultant who, with City Councilman James Rodriguez, helped organize the Houston Area Latino Summit Mayoral Debate. “I don’t think anybody has demonstrated that doing this is going to have a significant reduction in … crime. If you let them implement this, what’s next? What other kind of policy will creep in?”

Stace, who provided a detailed liveblog of the summit and who has been a persistent critic of the 287(g) program, summed up the discontent as follows:

I am not enamored by the current 287(g) talk of the candidates. I do not support any 287(g) type of program unless it is clear-cut. As it stands, as long as court entities want to spend the money to convict jay walkers and speeders, then the Feds will deport the very ones that these candidates were saying they do not want to target. No Mayoral policy or order will stop local police from targeting the undocumented by pursuing flimsy and/or petty charges. So, it is time for these candidates to realize this fact and come up with a new line on 287(g).

On its surface, the 287(g) program sounds reasonable. Why not deport undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of a crime? Unfortunately, the program has not been effective, and the cost – societal as well as financial – of targeting those who were convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors is high. I agree with Stace: This program needs improvement, and it needs clearer guidelines on how and when it is to be used. David Ortez and John Coby have more from the debate, in which Locke was declared the winner by a panel of undecided Latino voters.

UPDATE: Muse has a writeup as well.

Who should represent District H?

That’s the question, isn’t it?

It took only a few minutes at the District H candidate forum Thursday morning for discussion to turn to the elephant in the room.

“District H is supposed to be a Hispanic district,” said Edgar Colon, chairman of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Political Action Committee, reading a question on behalf of an audience member. “Should it be represented by a Hispanic?”

In what is shaping up as a hard-fought runoff campaign between Houston police officer Ed Gonzalez and former public high school teacher Maverick Welsh to fill the City Council seat vacated by Adrian Garcia, that question looms as large as any other in a district originally drawn to elect a Latino.

Stace gives a nice answer to that.

I’ll be the first one to say it. No! It doesn’t have to be represented by an Hispanic. But when you have a highly qualified, progressive-minded product of the district, why not?

As a highly-educated Chicano myself, I’ve been proud to click on a Anglo candidate running against a brown person, especially when the brown person is not a progressive (cough-cough, Roy and/or Danny More-or-Less Mexicano). So, no, it’s not about race, or in this case, ethnicity. As a voter, I’m interested in having a highly qualified candidate with whom I can identify, whether it by that candidate’s story, or something else.

Stace supports Ed Gonzalez. As you know, I broke the tie in favor of Maverick Welsh. You can’t really go wrong either way. I was at that forum, and I thought both candidates answered the question deftly, without getting trapped by it. The right answer to me is that this district, like all of the others, should be represented by someone who can serve the needs of everyone in it. One could just as easily ask the question should District G be represented by an Anglo? Who should represent the city, in which no racial or ethnic group comprises a majority? I say the answer is the same across the board. In this particular case, we have two candidates who I think would fit the bill nicely. It’s up to all of us to ensure that whoever wins lives up to that.

Currently, District I Councilman James Rodriguez is the only Latino among 14 council members, in a city where Hispanics make up nearly 42 percent of the population.

The Department of Justice helped create District H when it forced the city to undertake redistricting in 1979, part of an effort to correct historic voting inequities in Houston and ensure more minority representation on the council. But the district, which includes the Heights, much of the old Second Ward just east of downtown and a wide swath that extends midway between the inner and outer loops around Interstate 45, has undergone dramatic changes since then.

Here’s something you may not know. I didn’t know it until I went looking through the historical election returns on the City Secretary’s webpage. The first election for District H in 1979 was won by Dale Gorczynski, who is now a Justice of the Peace in JP Precinct 1. Here are the returns from that election:

James M. Goins 1,181 Willie D. Hatchett 1,719 Herman Lauhoff 3,977 Russel Stanley 305 Anne Wheeler 2,824 Dale M. Gorczynski 3,274

Gorczynski won the runoff, then held the seat through the 1991 election, after which he did not run again. The first time that a Hispanic candidate won the District H seat was as far as I could tell the first time that a candidate with a recognizably Hispanic surname ran for it, in the open seat contest of 1993 in which Felix Fraga emerged victorious. I knew Gorczynski had been the District H member before Fraga, but I hadn’t realized he was the original Council member.

You can make of all that what you will. I found it interesting that this district that was drawn to be represented by a Hispanic has only recently been actually represented by a Hispanic for a majority of its existence. David Ortez has some tangential thoughts.

Brown and Locke spar over education

At a Mayoral forum on Thursday, Gene Locke and Peter Brown get into it over the school system.

Gene Locke, the former city attorney, targeted Councilman Peter Brown’s recent statement to the Chronicle that Houstonians should consider forming an urban school district heavily influenced by the mayor through board appointments.

“I think that’s an awful idea,” Locke said. “It’s going to be hard enough to make sure this city is safe, to make sure the business development grows.”

Brown retorted, “We cannot punt on education like my colleague said.”

Several independent school districts, overseen by elected school boards, operate inside the city limits. Brown said Thursday he does not favor having city government take over the Houston school district in the way that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has suggested for urban areas.

Here’s an earlier Chron story with more on Brown’s position, with which Annise Parker, Roy Morales, and current Mayor Bill White say they disagree.

City Councilman Brown is pitching the formation of a new “urban school district,” perhaps spanning from downtown past the 610 Loop, that would fall under the mayor’s power.

“I would favor the creation of this urban school district that is controlled by the mayor, that has a board that is largely appointed by the mayor, so there’s accountability,” he said.

Brown added that a task force should study several ideas, including breaking the 200,000-student Houston ISD into smaller districts.

“I wouldn’t want to say, ‘I’m elected mayor, and the second week I’m elected mayor we’re going to dismantle HISD,’ ” he said.

I actually think that’s an interesting idea and would like to hear more about it. I don’t know what I think about it yet, but that’s what these debates are for, to hash stuff like this out and let the competing visions actually compete. Brown and Locke metaphorically took it outside after the event by sending out press releases touting their positions and attacking the other’s; I’ve reproduced one of each beneath the fold. If this is a sign that the heat level has been turned up a notch in the race, as you know I think that’s just fine. As long as it’s about issues and not trivialities, I say keep it up, y’all. Stace has more on this, as well as a candidate forum in Kingwood at which immigration was the hot topic.

One more thing:

Morales asserted that when he served on a grand jury, “50 percent of Hispanics who came across our court were illegals and 90 percent of them were committing crimes against their children and other children.” The figures could not be confirmed late Thursday.

Most of the candidates dodged a question about whether they would propose no annual spending increases in the city government budget. Morales, however, said he would cut the budget and that police and firefighters have told him billions of dollars are wasted in their departments. He did not cite specifics.

Sure, Roy. Whatever you say. We believe you.


More candidates

I was just saying to someone the other day that while I thought the fields for the upcoming city races were largely set, there would certainly be a few more candidates appearing between now and the filing deadline. Lo and behold, here are three of which I’m recently aware. Two of them are running for At Large #4: Jay Green, president of the Shady Acres Civic Club, and Sandra Dahlke, whose “Issues” and “Supporters” links open in a new window and give you a 404 error. Probably better to get that sort of thing ironed out before you go live, but there you have it.

Also on the scene is a new Mayoral candidate, TJ Huntley (warning: auto-starting video), who got a mention on the Chron’s Houston Politics blog.

“Like Bill White, I am good in business,” he told us.

But unlike White, Lanier and this year’s crop of better known candidates, Huntley lacks a college degree and says he has never been to a City Council meeting. His real estate business, which he frequently manages via laptop computer from various Starbucks stores in Houston, is in Missouri, he says. He has lived here for about 8 years, he says, because he likes the place. He does not own a home in Houston.

Yeah, I’m thinking that might not go over so well.

Huntley’s entry into the race was too late to get an invitation to the Mayoral forum on the arts on Tuesday; more on that is here. Which, honestly, is fine by me. I’d rather these events were limited to the candidates who have some remote hope of winning. Your mileage may vary.

Finally, this seems as good a place as any to pass along the information that there will be another Mayoral forum, this one hosted by the Texas Business Alliance and focusing on small business development, on Thursday, May 21, at 6 PM at Texas Southern University. A press release from the TBA with details is beneath the fold.

UPDATE: I’ve received some feedback that despite her campaign website, Sandra Dahlke is no longer a candidate for Council.


More candidates

I was just saying to someone the other day that while I thought the fields for the upcoming city races were largely set, there would certainly be a few more candidates appearing between now and the filing deadline. Lo and behold, here are three of which I’m recently aware. Two of them are running for At Large #4: Jay Green, president of the Shady Acres Civic Club, and Sandra Dahlke, whose “Issues” and “Supporters” links open in a new window and give you a 404 error. Probably better to get that sort of thing ironed out before you go live, but there you have it.

Also on the scene is a new Mayoral candidate, TJ Huntley (warning: auto-starting video), who got a mention on the Chron’s Houston Politics blog.

“Like Bill White, I am good in business,” he told us.

But unlike White, Lanier and this year’s crop of better known candidates, Huntley lacks a college degree and says he has never been to a City Council meeting. His real estate business, which he frequently manages via laptop computer from various Starbucks stores in Houston, is in Missouri, he says. He has lived here for about 8 years, he says, because he likes the place. He does not own a home in Houston.

Yeah, I’m thinking that might not go over so well.

Huntley’s entry into the race was too late to get an invitation to the Mayoral forum on the arts on Tuesday; more on that is here. Which, honestly, is fine by me. I’d rather these events were limited to the candidates who have some remote hope of winning. Your mileage may vary.

Finally, this seems as good a place as any to pass along the information that there will be another Mayoral forum, this one hosted by the Texas Business Alliance and focusing on small business development, on Thursday, May 21, at 6 PM at Texas Southern University. A press release from the TBA with details is beneath the fold.

UPDATE: I’ve received some feedback that despite her campaign website, Sandra Dahlke is no longer a candidate for Council.


Last candidate forums for District H

Just a reminder about tonight’s candidate forum sponsored by the Woodland Heights Civic Association. 7:30 PM at the Zion Lutheran Church on Pecore at Beauchamp. Here’s the map, the street address is 3606 Beauchamp.

I am aware of one more candidate forum for this election, to be held on Friday, April 24, which is the last weekday before early voting begins. Via email from Patrick McIlvain:

Event Host: Super Neighborhood 22 and 63 Houston Area League of Women Voters and Ripley House

Event: Joint SN District H Special Election Candidates Forum

Date: April 24, 2009 (Early Voting starts on 04-28)

Location: 4410 Navigation Blvd. at Ripley House.

Time: 6:00PM – Meet & Greet Forum at 6:40PM as sharp as possible. Over at 8:30PM. Candidates will meet one on one with interested voters afterward. Doors closed and locked 9PM.

Ripley House is one of the early voting locations for this election. Here’s the map to find it.

Finally, if you don’t live in District H but feel the need to attend a candidate forum anyway, the Hispanic Organizations’ Mayoral Candidate Forum is tonight at 7 PM at the City Hall conference room, 901 Bagby. Stace has the details.

Reminder: GHDC District H candidate forum

The Greater Heights Democratic Club is holding a candidate forum for District H this Thursday.

Please join the Greater Heights Democratic Club for a

Candidate Forum for the upcoming City of Houston, District H, Special Election.

Place: Reagan High School HCDP headquarters, 1445 North Loop West, Suite 110 (just East of Ella).
Date: March 19
Doors open: 6:30pm
Time: 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Mr. Jerry W. Simoneaux, Jr – Moderator

Special election is Saturday, May 9
Early Voting begins April 27

I will have all my interviews with District H candidates completed this week. As noted yesterday, they will run two per week over the next few weeks. One way or another, if you live in District H you have opportunities to see and hear these candidates. Please take advantage of them and make an informed choice in May.

UPDATE: Please note the location change for this event.

ULI Mayoral candidate forum report

As I am not a member of the Urban Land Institute of Houston, I did not get an invitation to their members-only Mayoral candidate forum on Thursday, which got a brief mention in the Chron on Friday. Fortunately, Andrew Burleson is a member, and he was there. He’s got a detailed report of the proceedings, which I highly recommend. Check it out.

Shady Acres candidate forum report

I attended the District H candidate forum that was presented by the Shady Acres Civic Club last night. Eight candidates were in attendance: Gonzalo Camacho, Karen Derr, Yolanda Navarro Flores, Lupe Garcia, Ed Gonzalez, Hugo Mojica, Rick Rodriguez, and Maverick Welsh. That makes the logistics a bit unwieldy, but the Shady Acres folks and moderator Nancy Wilcox did a good job of keeping things on track and moving. You can see photos of all the participants here along with a list of questions they were all asked; the questions were sent to them in advance, and some of them have submitted written answers as well – there are links on the sidebar to those answers.

I’m just going to give general impressions here. I thought the candidates generally came off pretty well. Nobody made me cringe or wonder what they were doing up there, as was the case with a couple of non-entity candidates (neither of whom was ultimately on the ballot) at a Mayoral forum our neighborhood association hosted back in 2003. There was a lot of agreement among them as they answered the questions that were posed to them. This was partly an artifact of the limited time they had to answer the questions (90 seconds each), and partly because the candidates are not too far apart in outlook and ideology. There is a broad range of backgrounds and experiences among them – the candidates include cops, lawyers, teachers, realtors, civil engineers, and business owners – and it’s clear they have different priorities and approaches. But at this stage of the game, there wasn’t that much dissonance among them. I assume that will change for the runoff, at least to some extent, but for now things were very civil and pleasant.

We’re about ten weeks out from the start of early voting. This is going to be a low-turnout affair, so it’s really important to try and get to know these folks, because with such a big field and with many of them having some base of support to begin with, it’s impossible to say who might make the runoff. There are at least two more candidate forums coming up that I know of, one of which will be held by the Greater Heights Democratic Club in March. I really urge everyone in H to make an effort to attend some event or meeting or whatever where these candidates will be and ask them whatever questions you may have. The odds are good they have been or will be at your neighborhood association’s meetings. The difference between making the runoff and not will likely be measured in something like a few dozen votes, so make sure your voice gets heard.

I will be conducting interviews with all these candidates starting next month. I still have to figure out who I’ll be voting for. In the meantime, take a look at the Shady Acres page and the candidates’ answers that they have so far and get acquainted with them. It’ll be time to vote before you know it.

District H candidate forum in Shady Acres

The following came to me via Facebook:

The Shady Acres Civic Club is hosting a Candidate Forum for District H. We would like to have an opportunity for community members to meet and hear candidates\’ vision for our neighborhood. We will also have specific questions that we will ask candidates to address as well an opportunity for them to give us an overview of their position. The Shady Acres Civic Club is inviting the Greater Heights and the press.

February 17 from 7 to 8 pm
at the SPJST Lodge Annex 1435 Beall Street
(At W. 15th Street )

Sam Jow
SACC Web/Secretary

Details and a map can be found here. Five candidates have confirmed their attendance as of this writing: Gonzalo Camacho, Karen Derr, Ed Gonzalez, Hugo Mojica, and Maverick Welsh. I’m going to try to be there as well.

Ed Gonzalez kickoff event

Ed Gonzalez will have a campaign kickoff event for District H next Wednesday, February 11, at Irma’s Restaurant downtown from 5:30 to 7 PM. You can get all the details here (PDF).

We’re rapidly approaching the filing deadline for the May special election, and from there it’s going to be an absolute sprint to the finish line – well, the first finish line – in May. As we know, there are seven declared candidates so far, with two more in the wings. That can all change, but for sure this is going to be a crowded field, and everyone in the running is going to be hard-pressed to get their message out. I’ll do whatever I can to pass along event announcements and other news, and of course I’ll be working on doing interviews with everyone. If you’re a candidate or associated with one, and haven’t contacted me, please do so I can make sure I get your information as well.

Along those lines, the Greater Heights Democratic Club is planning a District H candidate forum for March 19 at 7 PM, location to be determined. They do not have current contact information for Lupe Garcia, Rick Rodriguez, Yolanda Navarro Flores, or Diana Davila Martinez. If you are one of these people or know how to contact one of them, please drop me a note with an email address and/or cell number so Kevin Hoffman and the GHDC folks can get in touch with you. Thanks very much

Finally, I note that Gonzalez was at that Heights crime prevention townhall meeting, and posted a report about it on his blog. So there you have it.