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Endorsement watch: Houston GLBT Political Caucus 2015

Congrats to all the endorsees.

A raucous municipal endorsement meeting brought mayoral candidate Sylvester Turner the coveted backing of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus on Saturday, positioning the 26-year state representative to broaden his coalition to include the city’s progressive voting bloc.

Caucus members voted 142-85 to endorse Turner after more than an hour of insult-laden discussion in which they rejected the recommendation of the group’s screening committee to endorse former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

Turner also beat out former Congressman Chris Bell, a longtime ally of the gay community who had been considered a likely pick for the group’s endorsement.

Once-shunned, the caucus’ supprt is now highly sought-after by candidates aiming to win over left-wing voters, known for reliably showing up at the polls.

“This is a major step to the finish line,” said Turner, seen as a frontrunner in the crowded mayor’s race. “This is a race about the future of the city versus its past, and this group represents a vital component of Houston’s family.”

[…]

Of the five mayoral candidates angling for caucus support, Turner, Garcia and City Councilman Stephen Costello received the highest ratings from the group’s four-member screening committee.

Committee members said concerns about Bell’s viability landed him a lower rank.

Bell closed out the first half of the year with less money in the bank than any of the other top-tier candidates.

“He’s in a tough position, because absent resources, financial resources, he would need key endorsements like this one to bolster his candidacy,” [consultant Keir] Murray said. “It just makes what was already a tough road even tougher.”

Bell, for his part, remained optimistic after the endorsement vote.

“Obviously not everyone participates in the caucus endorsement process,” Bell said. “I still think I am going to have tremendous support in the progressive voting bloc.”

See here for some background. I followed the action on Facebook and Twitter – it was spirited and lengthy, but everyone got a chance to make their case and to be heard. Here’s the full list of endorsed candidates:

Mayor – Sylvester Turner

City Council
District B – Jerry Davis
District C – Ellen Cohen
District F – Richard A. Nguyen
District H – Roland Chavez
District I – Robert Gallegos
District J – Mike Laster
District K – Larry Green
At Large 1 – Lane Lewis
At Large 2 – David Robinson
At Large 3 – Doug Peterson
At Large 4 – Amanda K. Edwards
At Large 5 – Phillipe Nassif

Controller – Chris Brown

HISD District 2 – Rhonda Skillern Jones
HISD District 3 – Ramiro Fonseca
HISD District 4 – Jolanda Jones
HISD District 8 – Juliet Katherine Stipeche

HCCS District 3 – Adriana Tamez
HCCS District 8 – Eva Loredo

None of these come as a surprise. Several could have gone another way, thanks to the presence of multiple qualified and viable candidates. I look forward to seeing this slate – and the near-misses – do very well in November.

January campaign finance reports – Council

CM Jerry Davis

CM Jerry Davis

Mayoral reports
Controller reports

Four Council members are term limited this year. Two, CMs Stephen Costello and Oliver Pennington, are running for Mayor. The other two, CMs CO Bradford and Ed Gonzales, do not have any announced plans at this time, though both were on the list of Mayoral possibilities at one time or another. While there are some known candidates for these offices, there are many more to come. No one who isn’t or wasn’t a candidate before this year has a finance report, and no one has any contributions to report, so the data we have is somewhat limited.

Brenda Stardig (SPAC)
Jerry Davis
Ellen Cohen
Dwight Boykins
Dave Martin
Richard Nguyen
Robert Gallegos
Mike Laster
Larry Green

David Robinson
Michael Kubosh

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Stardig 0 21,191 0 59,517 Davis 0 6,091 0 97,563 Cohen 0 23,304 0 63,769 Boykins 0 5,845 0 1,129 Martin 0 20,345 0 34,339 Nguyen 0 20,120 0 15,020 Gallegos 0 7,326 0 45,021 Laster 0 5,791 0 78,216 Green 0 45,671 0 55,983 Gonzales 0 35,987 0 29,603 Brown 0 3,858 0 34,900 Robinson 0 1,565 0 48,334 Kubosh 0 17,403 10,000 0 Bradford 0 12,282 0 20,088

I’ve included the totals for Helena Brown above, since rumor has it that she’s aiming for a rubber match against Brenda Stardig in A. Beyond that, the two numbers that stand out to me are Boykins’ and Nguyen’s. Boykins was the big dog in 2013, nearly winning a first round majority in a very crowded field. I presume he emptied his coffers in the runoff, I haven’t gone back to look at his last reports from 2013 and his January 2014 report to confirm that. He burned some bridges with his vote against the HERO last year, so it will be interesting to see how things develop from here. As for Nguyen, he came out of nowhere to knock off Al Hoang in F. He then made a courageous vote for the HERO and announced that he was a Democrat. All of these things would put a target on his back even if he had a big cash on hand balance. As for Kubosh, he did a lot of self-funding in 2013, and I’d expect at least some more of the same. It will be interesting to see how much of the usual suspect PAC money he gets. We’ll have to wait till July to find out.

Counting votes on the non-discrimination ordinance

From the Houston GLBT Political Caucus Facebook page:

Members have asked for the responses on our questionnaires to the questions below. The President of the Caucus, Maverick Welsh, has asked me to post the information. As the chair of the Screening Committee, I have reviewed the questionnaires from 2013 and below is the result:

Mayor–We asked:

Question: If elected, would you be willing to introduce a non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, and public accommodation, that provides reasonable exemptions for small businesses, religious organizations, and federally exempt residential property owners?

She answered:

Annise Parker: Yes

City Council–We asked:

If elected, would you publicly advocate for and vote in favor of a non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, and public accommodation, that provides reasonable exemptions for small businesses, religious organizations, and federally exempt residential property owners?

They answered:

Jerry Davis: Yes
Ellen Cohen: Yes
Dwight Boykins: Yes
Ed Gonzalez: Yes
Robert Gallegos: Yes
Mike Laster: Yes
Larry Green: Yes
Steve Costello: Yes
David Robinson: Yes
C.O. Bradford: Yes
Jack Christie: Yes

There’s been a lot of speculation about who may or may not support the ordinance that Mayor Parker has promised to bring before council. As yet, there is not a draft version of the ordinance, and that seems to be the key to understanding this. As CMs Bradford and Boykins mention to Lone Star Q, without at least a draft you don’t know what the specifics are. Maybe it’ll be weaker than you want it to be. Maybe it’ll be poorly worded and you will be concerned about potential litigation as a result. It’s not inconsistent for a Council member to say they support the principle and the idea of the ordinance, but they want to see what it actually says before they can confirm they’ll vote for it.

Nonetheless, everyone listed above is on record saying they would “vote in favor of a non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, and public accommodation”, and they will be expected to do exactly that. If they want to make arguments about making it stronger, that’s fine. That list above is more than enough to pass the ordinance, so there should be no waffling, no fretting about vote counts, and especially no fear of a backlash. When the time comes, everyone needs to keep their promises. Now would be an excellent time to call your Council members and let them know you look forward to seeing their vote for this NDO.

Runoff precinct analysis: At Large races

I finally got a draft canvass report from the Harris County Clerk for the December runoff elections. Let’s take a look at the two At Large runoffs and see what we can learn about them. Here’s At Large #2:

Dist Burks Robinson Burks % Rob % ===================================== A 2,145 2,331 47.92% 52.08% B 1,798 451 79.95% 20.05% C 1,464 4,286 25.46% 74.54% D 4,244 1,229 77.54% 22.46% E 1,086 1,347 44.64% 55.36% F 278 418 39.94% 60.06% G 1,280 2,980 30.05% 69.95% H 791 820 49.10% 50.90% I 1,425 1,459 49.41% 50.59% J 300 471 38.91% 61.09% K 1,292 1,006 56.22% 43.78%

Andrew Burks did pretty well where he needed to, in Districts B, D, and K – better than he did in the 2011 runoff, at least on a percentage basis. It seems likely to me that the lesser turnout this year hurt him. He had about a 5,000 vote lead in B and D in 2011, but only a 4,400 vote lead this year, a drop of 600 votes in a race he lost by 500 votes. I don’t mean to pile on Burks, but I have to think that a better candidate could have pulled this one out. Robinson did just enough in C and G to edge him. It’ll be interesting to see if he draws a serious challenger in 2015.

On to At Large #3:

Dist Morales Kubosh Mor % Kub % ===================================== A 2,108 2,755 43.35% 56.65% B 862 1,359 38.81% 61.19% C 2,784 2,821 49.67% 50.33% D 1,800 3,601 33.33% 66.67% E 1,347 1,271 51.45% 48.55% F 404 332 54.89% 45.11% G 2,155 2,280 48.59% 51.41% H 944 739 56.09% 43.91% I 1,962 1,156 62.92% 37.08% J 437 376 53.75% 46.25% K 954 1,345 41.50% 58.50%

Despite Michael Kubosh’s relatively substantial win, it looks to me like the conditions were there for Roy Morales to pull it out. He held his own in the Republican districts, and got a boost from the elevated turnout in the District I runoff. He lost in B, D, and K, where you would expect Kubosh to do well, but he didn’t get creamed. If he had had David Robinson’s numbers in District C, he would have won. Obviously, Mayor Parker did not get involved, and Kubosh did a decent job of presenting himself to Parker supporters, which enabled him to not only be competitive in C but to carry it. You have to tip your hat to that. Further, despite my speculation that there could be a significant undervote in this race, the undervote rate was less in AL3 than it was in AL2. As with Robinson, I look forward to seeing who, if anyone, decides to challenge Kubosh in two years. Both of them, but especially Kubosh, can affect that with their performance in office. I can’t wait to see how it goes when Mayor Parker gets on with the rest of her third term agenda.

I’ll have a look at the other races in a later entry. In the meantime, let me know what you think about these numbers.

Runoff results: Rough day for incumbents

I have no complaint about the results.

Brenda Stardig

Brenda Stardig

With all precincts reporting, controversial first-term council incumbents Helena Brown, in northwest Houston’s District A, and Andrew C. Burks Jr., in At-Large Position 2, fell to their challengers, as did HCC trustees Yolanda Navarro Flores and Herlinda Garcia.

Brown lost her rematch with Brenda Stardig, the incumbent she defeated to gain the seat two years ago.

“We’re very proud of the work we’ve done on our campaign and we wanted to get back out there and support our community,” Stardig said. “We’ve had the support of police and fire and so many in our community.”

[…]

Burks fell to challenger David W. Robinson, a civic leader and former city planning commissioner. Robinson raised far more campaign cash than did Burks, who had run unsuccessfully numerous times before winning his seat two years ago. Both men were among the 10 candidates who sought the post when it was an open seat two years ago.

[…]

In the At-Large 3 runoff, bail bondsman and civic activist Michael Kubosh, best known for leading the charge against Houston’s red-light cameras, topped former Harris County Department of Education trustee and former mayoral candidate Roy Morales.

“I appreciate all the people who have supported me and all of my staff that’s worked so hard through the last few months,” Kubosh said. “I’m looking very forward to working on City Council and getting things done.”

[…]

In south Houston’s District D, lobbyist Dwight Boykins bested businesswoman Georgia D. Provost. Boykins had thumped the 11 other candidates in fundraising heading into November. Term-limited District D Councilwoman Wanda Adams was elected to the Houston ISD board.

In a very low-turnout race in the East End’s District I, Harris County jailer and civic activist Robert Gallegos beat Graci Garcés, who is chief of staff for the term-limited James Rodriguez.

So I was three for four in my prognostications. I can’t say I’m unhappy to have been wrong about District A. I am curious about one thing, however, and that’s whether or not Brenda Stardig is eligible under the term limits amendment to run for election again in 2015. If you consider her situation to be analogous to that of former CM Jolanda Jones, and you go by the interpretation given by City Attorney David Feldman, the answer would seem to be No. I made an inquiry about this with the City Attorney’s office several weeks ago, but they have never gotten back to me. Guess I need to try again. Anyway, congratulations to CMs-elect Stardig, Boykins, Gallegos, Robinson, and Kubosh.

The results I’m really happy about are these:

In the Houston Community College contests, District 1 incumbent Flores lost to challenger Zeph Capo, a vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. In District 3, Adriana Tamez, an education consultant, beat incumbent Garcia, who was appointed to the post after the resignation of the prior trustee. In the runoff for the open District 5 seat, businessman Robert Glaser topped commercial real estate agent Phil Kunetka.

Capo over Flores is a huge step up, and Tamez is an upgrade as well. Both Flores and Herlinda Garcia were palling around with Dave Wilson, so having them both lose makes the HCC Board of Trustees a better place. Major congrats to Zeph Capo, Adriana Tamez, and Robert Glaser.

Here are the unofficial Harris County results. There were an additional 308 votes cast in Fort Bend, so the final turnout is right at 37,000. Here’s an update to that table I published Friday:

Year Absent Early E-Day Total Absent% Early% E-Day% ============================================================ 2005 5,350 8,722 24,215 38,287 13.97% 22.78% 62.25% 2007s 5,464 7,420 11,981 24,865 21.97% 29.84% 48.18% 2007 4,456 6,921 13,313 24,690 18.05% 28.03% 53.92% 2011 8,700 15,698 31,688 56,086 15.51% 27.99% 56.50% 2013 9,883 10,143 13,517 36,123 27.36% 28.08% 37.42%

See, that’s the kind of pattern I was expecting for the November election. I guess the turnout was too high for it. Gotta tip your hat to whichever candidate’s mail program generated all those votes. It’s good to be surprised sometimes.

At Large #2 runoff overview

One of these runoffs is not like the others.

CM Andrew Burks

CM Andrew Burks

On paper, the Houston City Council incumbent most at risk heading into Saturday’s runoff elections is first-termer Andrew Burks, in At-Large Position 2.

Challenger David Robinson had spent more than $201,000 as of last week, to Burks’ roughly $76,000. Robinson, who also earned more votes than Burks on Nov. 5, was the only challenger to out raise a council incumbent. Robinson also had about $73,500 on hand entering the campaign’s final week, more than three times what Burks had.

Burks, a preacher and small businessman, was a long shot in a 10-candidate field two years ago, having unsuccessfully sought public office numerous times. Political analysts, however, said he nonetheless will enjoy the advantage of incumbency against Robinson, an architect, Super Neighborhood Alliance past president and former member of the city Planning Commission. Robinson was among those who sought the At-Large 2 seat two years ago.

David Robinson

David Robinson

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said Burks may also be helped by a runoff in heavily black District D, which will drive turnout in areas likely to support him, whereas there are no district runoffs in Robinson’s best areas to drive turnout for him. Overall turnout is expected to be dismal.

“At-large races are tough because it’s citywide and it’s very difficult to reach voters,” Jones said.

Robinson’s cash edge will help him only if he spends it efficiently, said University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus.

“In a low-turnout election, more money is likely to trump ideology or the incumbency affect,” Rottinghaus said. “If they can adequately use those resources to get turnout in their direction, then it could be a very close race.”

As was the case with the November election and as is now the case with the runoff, Robinson has easily led in fundraising, with his finance reports looking like an incumbent’s. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything – Burks won on a shoestring two years ago, with Kristi Thibaut raking in the establishment cash in the runoff as Robinson has been doing all year. It’s a matter of who turns out.

One more thing:

Burks claimed Robinson has tried to fool black voters into thinking he is related to one of several past black council members named Robinson.

“By not showing up or putting his picture out in that community, he’s trying to get votes I normally would have because I am seen in the community,” Burks said.

Robinson rejected the charge, saying he has worked to raise his profile citywide, not obscure it.

Yeah, Dave Wilson will continue to be a pollutant in our elections for years to come. Some people may be confused by David Robinson‘s name, but unlike Wilson, Robinson is not running a stealth campaign. That means he’s doing things like showing up to candidate forums and having an actual photo of himself on his Facebook page. I don’t think I’d ever seen a picture of Dave Wilson before this November. If CM Burks is concerned that people may not have an accurate impression of David Robinson, there is nothing stopping him from working to correct that impression.

Runoff 8 Day Finance Reports

I did not get to looking at the 8 day finance reports for the November election – too many candidates, not enough time. But there was no reason I couldn’t take a gander at the 8 day reports for the runoff. Here’s the summary:

Candidate Office Raised Spent Loan On Hand ===================================================== Burks AL2 27,150 14,933 0 21,563 Robinson AL2 93,720 71,771 0 73,536 Kubosh AL3 60,045 59,221 15,000 13,192 Morales AL3 50,030 31,540 3,300 22,274 Brown Dist A 38,928 29,875 0 30,272 Stardig Dist A 35,909 15,102 0 45,321 Boykins Dist D 81,175 65,667 0 25,974 Provost Dist D 24,600 19,047 18,535 2,258 Garces Dist I 53,355 42,056 0 20,071 Gallegos Dist I 35,196 12,348 1,252 18,518

My comments, with links to the reports, is below.

BagOfMoney

Andrew Burks – Received $8,000 from Houston Fire Fighters Political Action Fund, $3,500 from Across The Track PAC, $1,000 from HAA Better Government Fund. He also got $375 from CM Bradford’s campaign, $250 from Justice of the Peace Zinetta Burney, and $250 from Jeri Brooks, who was the manager of Mayor Parker’s 2009 campaign and who is now working on behalf of the payday lenders. Burks’ wife Lillie contributed $1,500.

David Robinson – As has been the case all along, Robinson’s finance report reads as if he is the incumbent. He got $8,500 from TREPAC, $5,000 from Houston Council of Engineering Companies, $2,500 from HOME PAC, $2,500 from Houston Associated General Contractors PAC, $2,000 from HOME PAC, $1,500 from Allen Boone Humphries Robinson LLC, $1,000 from LAN PAC, $1,000 from Pipefitters’ Local Union No. 211 COPE Account, $500 from Bracewell & Giuliani Committee, $500 from Cobb Fendley PAC, $500 from HOUCON PAC, $500 from Houstonians For Responsible Growth-PAC, $500 from Amegy Bank of Texas PAC, and $250 each from Associated Builders & Contractors PAC, CDM Smith Inc. PAC Account, Houston Westside PAC, and Huitt Zollars Inc. Texas PAC. He also got $5,000 from Peter Brown, $1,000 from Locke Lord, which is Robert Miller’s firm, and $500 from Marcie Zlotnick, who I believe is CM Ellen Cohen’s daughter.

Michael Kubosh – $47,000 of the amount raised was his own contributions. He got $2,500 from the HPOU PAC, $1,000 from the IEC TX Gulf Coast PAC, $500 from the BOMA PAC, $1,000 from the Baker Botts Amicus Fund, and $1,000 from lobbyist/attorney/blogger Robert Miller, who is also currently working on behalf of the payday lenders.

Roy Morales – $5,000 from Houston Council of Engineering Companies Inc PAC, $1,000 from HVJ PAC, $2,300 from HOME PAC, $250 from Associated Builders & Contractors PAC, and $1,000 from himself. I did not see any contributions from Democratic-aligned PACs or prominent progressives on either his report or Kubosh’s. I’ll be very interested to see what the undervote rate is like in this race.

Helena Brown – $1,000 from IEC Texas Gulf Coast PAC, $500 from BAC-PAC, $250 from Seafarers PAC, $500 from Greater Houston Mobility PAC, $1,000 from Group 1 Automotive, Inc. PAC, $500 each from Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson LLP and Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP (Robert Miller’s firm), and $1,000 from TREPAC, which remember is the realtors. She also got $500 from Toni Lawrence’s campaign and $100 from Bruce Tatro, meaning that her predecessors that backed her in 2011 are backing her again after sitting out the regular election cycle. Finally, she too received $250 from Jeri Brooks. I think it’s fair to say the payday lenders are choosing sides in these races.

Brenda Stardig – $10,000 from HPOU PAC, $5,000 from Houston Fire Fighters Political Action Fund, $2,000 from Houston Council of Engineering Companies PAC, $500 from Houston Westside PAC, $500 from Amegy Bank of Texas PAC, $250 from Arcadis G&M, Inc. Texas PAC, $500 from Associated Builders & Contractors of Greater Houston PAC, $250 from CDM Smith, Inc PAC, and $250 from Huitt-Zollars, Inc. Texas PAC. She has about $2,800 listed as expenses for postcards plus $200 from radio ads, but I don’t see much else that looks like voter outreach. Once again I wonder why she’s sitting on so much cash.

Dwight Boykins – Another report that looks like it belongs to an incumbent. Boykins raked in (deep breath) $5,000 from Houston Council of Engineering Companies Inc. – PAC, $5,000 from TREPAC, $2,750 from HOME PAC, $2,000 from BEPC LLC, $1,500 from HOUCONPAC, $2,000 from HAA Better Government Fund, $500 from Fulbright & Jaworski LLP Texas Committee, $500 from Andrews & Kurth Texas PAC, $1,000 from Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, $250 from Houston Westside PAC, $1,000 from Pipefitters’ Local Union No. 211, $500 from Greenberg Taurig LLP Texas PAC, $250 from Cobb Fendley PAC, $500 from Bracewell & Giuliani Committee, $250 from CDM Smith Inc. PAC Account, $500 from LAN-PAC, $1,000 from Plumbers Local Union No. 68, $500 from Arcadis G & M, Inc. Texas PAC, $500 from Locke Lord (Robert Miller’s firm), $1,500 from Allen Boone Humphries Robinson, $1,000 from I.L.A. Local 26 P.A.C. Fund, $1,000 from Baker Botts Amicus Fund, $250 from Huitt-Zollars, Inc Texas PAC, $1,000 from HVJ Political Action Committee, $1,000 from Southwest Laborers District Council PAC, and $2,500 from HPCP Investments LLC. Whew! He also received $1,000 from CM Stephen Costello, and $500 from Anthony Robinson, who I guess did ultimately endorse in the runoff.

Georgia Provost – $1,000 from Woodpest Inc PAC was her only PAC contribution. She got $4,000 each from Alan and Renee Helfman; Alan Helfman is her campaign treasurer. She also received $1,500 from Peter Brown, and $250 from Anthony Robinson. Maybe Robinson didn’t pick a side in the runoff after all.

Graci Garces – $8,000 from TREPAC, $2,000 from Texas Taxi PAC, $500 from Seafarers PAC, $1,000 from Wolpert Inc PAC, $500 from Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, $5,000 from Houston Fire Fighters Political Action Fund, $2,000 from HAA Better Government Fund, $2,500 from HPOU PAC, $2,000 from Across The Track PAC, and $2,500 from HOME PAC. She also got $500 from the James Rodriguez campaign – no surprise there – and $250 from One World Strategy, which is Jeri Brooks’ firm. In other business-pending-before-Council news, in addition to the Texas Taxi PAC money, Garces got $2,000 from Roman Martinez, the President of Texas Taxis, $1,000 from his wife Diana Davila Martinez (also Garces’ treasurer), and $1,000 each from Rick Barrett (VP of Texas Taxis), Duane Kamins (owner of Yellow Cab), and Ricky Kamins (owner of Liberty Cab). I’m thinking she might be a No vote on Uber.

Robert Gallegos – $4,539.72 in kind from TOP PAC, $1,500 from Teamsters Local $988, $1,000 from Plumbers Local Union No 68, $500 from LAN-PAC, $500 from Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP, $1,000 from Pipefitters Local 211, $2,500 from HPCP Investments LLC, and $1,500 from Houston Dock and Marine Council PAC Fund. He also received $4,400 from Peter Brown, and $225 in kind from Sen. Sylvia Garcia.

You may be wondering why I highlighted donations from people associated with the payday lenders. Isn’t that supposed to come up for a vote with this Council? Well, maybe and maybe not. And maybe the votes on Council will be according to the contributions, and maybe not. But at least now you know.

Early voting begins today for Council and HCC runoffs

EarlyVoting

Here’s the map. Note that only City of Houston locations are open, since the only runoffs are for City Council and HCC Trustee. Early voting runs from today through next Tuesday, December 10, from 7 AM to 7 PM each day except for Sunday the 8th, when it is from 1 to 6 PM. Odds are pretty good you won’t encounter any lines whenever you go to vote. Remember that precinct locations are likely to be heavily consolidated on Runoff Day itself, December 14, so voting early will avoid confusion for you.

All City of Houston voters will have at least two races on their ballot, the two At Large runoffs. There are also runoffs in Districts A, D, and I, plus the three HCC Trustee runoffs, in HCC 1, 3, and 5. I will say again, if you live in HCC 1 I strongly urge you to vote for Zeph Capo. Let’s limit the number of friends Dave Wilson has on the board.

Here are the interviews I conducted with the various runoff candidates:

At Large #2
CM Andrew Burks
David Robinson

At Large #3
Michael Kubosh
Roy Morales

District A
CM Helena Brown
Brenda Stardig

District D
Dwight Boykins
Georgia Provost

District I
Robert Gallegos
Graci Garces

HCC 1
Zeph Capo

Get out there and vote, y’all. A press release from the Harris County Clerk is beneath the fold, and Hair Balls has more.

(more…)

Re-endorsement watch: Three Council repeats

The Chron reiterates its endorsement in three Council races.

David Robinson:

In the run-off for At-large Council Position 2, there is an especially clear choice facing city voters. Architect David Robinson has the professional skills and lengthy experience as a civic leader to make significant contributions at the council table from Day One.

We endorse Robinson for the Position 2 seat.

Brenda Stardig:

Brenda Stardig has the experience to get things done and deserves voters’ support in the runoff. Stardig has worked her way up the community government ladder, serving as civic club president, head of a superneighborhood, member of the Memorial City TIRZ and the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Transportation Policy Council. That transportation policy experience will come in handy for her commuter-heavy constituents. For all her sound and fury, incumbent Helena Brown accomplishes little at City Hall. She has not pushed hard for her district, nor has she been an effective force for fiscal responsibility. In our strong mayor form of city government, a single renegade council member cannot hurt the mayor. She can only hurt her constituents.

Graci Garces:

District I promises to encompass some of Houston’s greatest growth over the next six years. Extending from downtown into the East End, the skyscrapers, landmarks and booming neighborhoods of District I make this city council race one of the most important of the election season. Graci Garces will be able to hit the ground running for both the district’s Hispanic families and its Fortune 500 corporations.

These were the easy ones, since the Chron had already endorsed Robinson, Stardig, and Garces in Round One. There are two more Council runoffs, and in those the Chron will need to pick someone else, as they had endorsed Anthony Robinson in D and Rogene Calvert in At Large #3, but neither made the runoff. I have no idea what they might do in these last two races.

Precinct analysis: At Large 2 and 3

Lots of action, and lots of candidates in the At Large races this year. Let’s look at the two races that are going to the runoffs, At Large #2 and 3. First is AL2, in which first term CM Andrew Burks trailed challenger David Robinson after Election Day.

Dist Robinson Rivera Burks Gordon =================================== A 3,644 1,475 3,533 883 B 3,419 840 6,239 332 C 12,038 2,808 5,024 1,127 D 4,294 1,228 9,250 729 E 4,647 3,339 3,761 932 F 2,263 981 1,649 438 G 8,313 1,826 6,072 1,592 H 2,484 2,593 1,836 333 I 2,111 2,655 1,963 396 J 1,813 725 1,269 283 K 4,520 1,285 4,818 575 Dist Robinson Rivera Burks Gordon ===================================== A 38.22% 15.47% 37.05% 9.26% B 31.57% 7.76% 57.61% 3.07% C 57.33% 13.37% 23.93% 5.37% D 27.70% 7.92% 59.67% 4.70% E 36.65% 26.33% 29.66% 7.35% F 42.45% 18.40% 30.93% 8.22% G 46.69% 10.26% 34.11% 8.94% H 34.28% 35.79% 25.34% 4.60% I 29.63% 37.26% 27.55% 5.56% J 44.33% 17.73% 31.03% 6.92% K 40.36% 11.48% 43.03% 5.13%

Though Robinson only led by a few points, he sure looks like he’s in good shape going into December. Robinson led in the Republican districts, dominated District C, and held his own in the African-American districts. In short, as Greg noted, he’s basically replicating Annise Parker’s coalition from 2009. His path to victory in the runoff is clear: more of the same, with maximal effort in C and a push for the Moe Rivera voters in H and I.

Andrew Burks also has a clear path to victory in the runoff: Maximize turnout in B and D, and hold his own in the Republican districts, which was his formula for victory in the 2011 runoff. Burks’ problem is that he’s never been good at maximizing turnout. The undervote in Burks’ At Large races is always higher than the undervote in the other At Large races. For example, this year the undervote in AL2 was 29.75%; in At Large #4, it was only 24.85%, and the next highest undervote after AL2 was in At Large #5, at 28.02%. In the 2011 runoff, the undervote rate was 8.63% in Burks’ race, 1.02% in the Jolanda Jones/Jack Christie race. In the 2009 runoff, the numbers were 19.47% and 12.63%. If Burks had approached Jolanda Jones’ numbers in B and D he would have won; in reality, he lost Harris County by nine points. If Burks can perform like Ronald Green or Brad Bradford in the runoff, he wins. If not, he loses. It’s as simple as that.

On to At Large #3:

Dist Batteau Chavez Calvert Kubosh Pool Morales ================================================= A 529 1,284 1,141 3,591 1,689 1,898 B 1,687 1,331 1,842 3,162 1,562 1,172 C 943 2,748 4,941 5,223 5,594 2,997 D 3,233 1,542 2,279 5,120 2,017 1,492 E 669 1,232 1,571 4,305 2,062 3,614 F 432 586 806 1,337 1,154 1,217 G 795 1,068 3,786 6,254 2,724 4,179 H 422 2,467 790 1,453 1,136 1,705 I 531 2,049 599 1,337 955 2,085 J 333 450 736 1,155 821 892 K 1,361 1,073 2,181 3,214 2,045 1,621 Dist Batteau Chavez Calvert Kubosh Pool Morales ==================================================== A 5.22% 12.67% 11.26% 35.44% 16.67% 18.73% B 15.68% 12.37% 17.13% 29.40% 14.52% 10.90% C 4.20% 12.24% 22.01% 23.27% 24.92% 13.35% D 20.61% 9.83% 14.53% 32.65% 12.86% 9.51% E 4.97% 9.16% 11.68% 32.00% 15.33% 26.86% F 7.81% 10.59% 14.57% 24.17% 20.86% 22.00% G 4.23% 5.68% 20.13% 33.26% 14.48% 22.22% H 5.29% 30.94% 9.91% 18.22% 14.25% 21.38% I 7.03% 27.12% 7.93% 17.69% 12.64% 27.59% J 7.59% 10.26% 16.78% 26.33% 18.71% 20.33% K 11.84% 9.33% 18.97% 27.96% 17.79% 14.10%

I’ve heard some grumbling from fellow Dems about how this race wound up as a runoff between two Republicans. I get the frustration, but I’m not sure what one would recommend doing about it. There were three good Democrats in this race, and they split the vote just evenly enough to keep themselves out of the top two slots. Short of going back in time and convincing one or more of them to not file or drop out, I don’t know what else there is to be done. Shrug it off as a fluke and put this one on the priority list for 2015.

I covered some of this ground yesterday, so let me just say again that I think Michael Kubosh has the advantage going into the runoff, and his path to victory is clear. Roy Morales needs help from the Annise Parker voters, which may or may not be there for him. It’s entirely possible we could see a sizable undervote in this race. It’ll be interesting to see whether more people skip this race or the one in At Large #2. I should add that while I’ve talked about Morales trying to convince the Parker voters to support him, there’s nothing stopping Kubosh from doing the same. He’s been cast as an adversary for the Mayor, but he can make a case that he was only opposing her on issues where he thought she was wrong and that on other things they’re reasonably in agreement. The field is open, and there’s plenty of room for either candidate to move to fill the space without having to move too far.

Anyway. This one can go a variety of directions. All I know for sure is that I have no idea yet how I will vote in that race. Houston Politics has more.

Three questions for the runoffs

There are eight runoff elections on the ballot in Houston – two At Large Council races, three District Council races, and three HCC Trustee races. As we transition into runoff mode, there are three questions on my mind for the races that will conclude in December.

1. Where will the vote come from?

November turnout is driven by Mayoral races. December turnout is also driven by Mayoral races. In runoffs where there isn’t a Mayoral race, turnout is driven by the district Council races, but at a much more modest level. You can go door to door in a District race as opposed to an At Large race, you don’t need as much money to get your message out, and people tend to think about district Council members as “their” Council member in a way they generally don’t about At Large members. District runoffs are in A, D, and I, with the bulk of the turnout likely to come from A and D. Turnout in D will benefit Michael Kubosh and CM Andrew Burks; turnout in A probably won’t strongly favor one candidate over another in either race; turnout in I will probably benefit Roy Morales. David Robinson’s base is deepest in District C – I’ll have the precinct analysis for the At Large races tomorrow – and it’s not clear where Morales will want to go to find his voters. I have a thought on that, which I will explore in item 2. I don’t expect the HCC runoffs to play a significant role in any of the Council races.

But the key is that runoff turnout will be lower, a lot lower than what we just saw. Turnout for the 2011 runoffs, which exceeded 50,000 thanks to the unusually high profile of the At Large #5 runoff. Thirty thousand votes would not be out of line for this year’s runoffs, so all of these races can be won with a very small number. Getting your voters out, whether or not there’s another race that might motivate them, is the goal.

2. Does Mayor Parker get involved?

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

With five Council runoffs, the December races could have a significant effect on the makeup of Council, and therefore of Mayor Parker’s third term ambitions. Incumbent officeholders are often reluctant to involve themselves in these races – not always, but often – and for good reason, since no one wants to voluntarily add to one’s enemies list. But Mayor Parker has a stake in the outcome of at least two races, arguably three races, and she will never appear on a City of Houston ballot again, though perhaps she will run for something else someday. Given the scope of her ambitions and the need for a Council that will work with her, I’d argue she can’t afford to sit out the runoffs. Let’s look more closely at the races she might want to get involved in.

– District A. This is practically a no-brainer. Mayor Parker helped out then-CM Brenda Stardig in the 2011 runoff, though it was too little too late, so there’s no argument that neutrality is the default position. Stardig would be an ally on Council. CM Helena Brown is not, and unless there are some detente talks going on that I haven’t heard of, she will continue to not be an ally whether Parker meddles in this race or not. Brown is one of Parker’s main problems on Council, and this is an opportunity to solve that problem. I don’t know why she wouldn’t try.

– At Large #2. CM Burks isn’t an antagonist like CM Brown is, but he’s not a reliable vote for the Mayor. He opposes her food trucks ordinance and while he stated support for a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance in his Texas Leftist candidate questionnaire, he was non-committal about repealing the 2001 charter amendment that forbids the city from offering domestic partner benefits in the interview he did with me. I don’t know where he would stand on new regulatory items like the wage theft or payday lending ordinances. Even if he is on board with these other parts of the Mayor’s agenda, David Robinson unquestionably would be an ally, and would not need to be worked for a vote. Robinson is an upgrade from Parker’s perspective, but the decision here is not as clear because Burks does vote with the Mayor more often than not, and if he survives the runoff he likely would become a stronger opponent of hers if she works against his re-election. It’s a calculated risk, and I could see going either way. For sure, unlike in A, the safe choice is to stay out of it.

– At Large #3. At first glance, it would not appear that there’s anything to be done here, as the runoff is between two Republicans, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Clearly, Michael Kubosh would stand in opposition to Mayor Parker. He’s been a vocal and active critic, fighting against the red light cameras and the homeless feeding ordinance. He endorsed Ben Hall this year, and has contributed financially to Helena Brown. Like CM Brown, I don’t think anything would change in his behavior or their relationship if Mayor Parker actively opposed him in December. Roy Morales ran against Parker in 2009, but then Peter Brown ran against her in 2009 and he was a supporter of hers this year. I certainly don’t see Morales as an ally, but there’s nothing to suggest he’s be an all-out opponent, either. He came across as a fairly mainstream right-of-center type in the interview I did with him. He would almost certainly be an upgrade over Kubosh from the Mayor’s perspective, perhaps a significant one. It can’t hurt for the Mayor to send an envoy to him and see what possibilities for cooperation might exist.

What it comes down to is this: Kubosh has campaigned as an opponent of the Mayor. His voters will have a reason to come out in December. Morales has a smaller base than Kubosh, and there’s not an obvious catalyst that would push his voters to the polls. That’s where Mayor Parker, who just won an election with 57% of the vote, can help him. Let her tell her supporters that a vote for Morales means a vote for supporting the Mayor, and this runoff gets a lot more interesting. There are no guarantees here – Parker would be trying to sell a guy that has held office and run for other offices as a Republican to a mostly Democratic group of voters, and they will have every reason to be skeptical of that – but a message that Morales would be better for the Mayor (assuming, of course, that he would be agreeable to this) than Kubosh is clear enough. This is all my thinking, I have no idea what the Mayor might make of this. But that’s how I see it.

Again, there are no guarantees. If the Mayor gets involved in any of these races and her candidates lose, that will start her third term off with a negative story line, that her support was unhelpful, possibly even hurtful. Some people, especially other officeholders, believe strongly that incumbents should avoid butting in on races like this, so even if she picks winners there will be some blowback. Surely CMs Brown and Burks have friends on Council, and they may not like the Mayor going after them. Playing in these races is a risk. It’s just a question of how the risk stacks up against the potential reward.

3. Will the HCC races finally get some attention?

As far as I can tell, the HCC Trustee races were not covered at all by the Chronicle before the election. No stories, not even a cursory one-paragraphs-about-each-candidate overview story of the five slots that were on the ballot, which is two more than usual thanks to the departures of Rep. Mary Ann Perez and Richard Schechter. Even after the election, with three runoffs and the victory by hatemonger Dave Wilson, there’s not much out there about these races. All things considered, I’m not that hopeful that we’ll get a more complete picture of the candidates that are running for these six-year-term offices.

As noted in item 2, one can make a case for Mayor Parker to get involved in some of the Council runoffs. I think there’s an even more compelling case for her to get involved with at least one of the HCC runoffs as well. Sure, they don’t directly intersect with city business, but this isn’t about that. It’s about Dave Wilson, who has been an opponent of equality in general, and of Annise Parker in particular, for many years now. We can’t do anything about Wilson’s election now, but something can be done to prevent him from having allies on the HCC Board of Trustees. We know he supported Yolanda Navarro Flores. There are now reports that Wilson supported Herlinda Garcia in HCC 3 as well. Given that, I can’t think of any good reason for Mayor Parker to sit on the sidelines. She needs to directly support the efforts of Zeph Capo, and if the reports in HCC 3 are true, of Adriana Tamez. The risks are the same as in the Council runoffs, but the case for action couldn’t be clearer. Let’s shine a nice, bright spotlight on these races and these candidates and who supports what, because letting these races go on under cover of darkness does us all no good.

Election results: Houston

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker easily won re-election, collecting over 57% of the vote in Harris County to beat Ben Hall by nearly thirty points, and far exceeding the expectations of most observers going into Election Day. I personally thought she had a decent chance of avoiding a runoff, but I wasn’t willing to commit to more than that, and I figured 55% was her ceiling. Good on her for such a strong win, which not only ought to wipe out any lingering talk about her unimpressive win in 2011 but also reinforces my belief, which I have said here several times, that she would be tougher to beat this time around. I’ll do a deeper look at the race once I have precinct data, but a peek at the Fort Bend County results suggests one reason for Parker’s dominant win: She managed a respectable showing among African-American voters. Ben Hall took 62% of the vote in Fort Bend. By comparison, Ronald Green won 89% there, and Brad Bradford coasted with 92%.

Speaking of Ronald Green, he won a much closer race, with about 51.7% of the vote after Fort Bend is added in. This was in line with my expectations for the race – I figured Green would win, but it would be close. I don’t know what his thoughts are for 2015, but I think it’s safe to say he’s probably not the frontrunner for Mayor.

In the At Large races, Stephen Costello, Brad Bradford, and Jack Christie all won easily, while Andrew Burks trailed David Robinson as the two head for a runoff. Going back to the Fort Bend results, Burks managed only 54.5% of the vote there. He could be in real trouble in December. In At Large #3, Michael Kubosh led the field with 28% in Harris and a 42% plurality in Fort Bend. He will square off against Roy Morales, who snuck his way into the runoff ahead of Jenifer Pool and Rogene Calvert, who had about the same number of votes each. The four Democratic candidates combined for 54% of the vote in this race, but the distribution was sufficiently tight that it allowed the two Republicans to finish in the money, not unlike District C in 2005. It will be fascinating to see how this one plays out in December.

While there were some mild surprises among these results, there were two truly shocking finishes. One was in District F, where little known challenger Richard Nguyen knocked off two-term incumbent Al Hoang by a 52-48 margin. That one counts as an even bigger surprise than Helena Brown’s win in 2011. Speaking of CM Brown, she will be headed to a runoff rematch against Brenda Stardig, leading by a 38-29 margin with Mike Knox coming in third at a shade under 20%. For what it’s worth, Brown led Stardig 47-41 after the November vote two years ago. Jerry Davis won in B, Dwight Boykins collected over 40% in D and will face off against Georgia Provost, and Graci Garces led the field of four in District I, with Robert Gallegos clinging to a 20-vote lead on Ben Mendez for the second slot.

The HISD races went according to script, with Anna Eastman and Wanda Adams winning big, with Harvin Moore claiming a closer victory. Unfortunately, the other shocker was in HCC 2, where hatemonger Dave Wilson was leading incumbent Bruce Austin by 26 votes. I can’t begin to say how catastrophically terrible that result is if it stands. Remember, HCC Trustees serve for six years. Dave Wilson is a terrible person who has no business being on any elected body, and he has zero qualifications for this job. He’s been running for various things lately just to be a pain in the ass, and it looks like this time in a low information, low turnout race, he managed to win. I’m so upset about this I’m almost unable to talk about it. I’m thoroughly disgusted by this election. Every time I’m asked to speak about elections, I talk about how HCC races are important but always overlooked. This is why.

In the other HCC races, Neeta Sane was re-elected in a squeaker. She lost Harris County by 300 votes but won Fort Bend by 900. All other races are headed to runoffs – Robert Glaser narrowly missed a majority vote in HCC 5 and will go up against Phil Kunetka; appointee Herlinda Garcia trailed Adriana Tamez in HCC 3; and Yolanda Navarro Flores, who benefited from Dave Wilson’s hatred, will face Zeph Capo. Please check and see if you live in HCC 1, because if you do you really need to show up in December and vote for Zeph.

One last word on the Houston races for now: Turnout was over 175,000 total votes, which approaches 2009 levels. Despite my oft-stated belief that this would be the year that the majority of the votes would be cast before Election Day, thus making odd-year elections more like the even-year elections, that didn’t happen – there were about 94,000 Election Day votes in Harris County, and about 80,000 early and absentee votes. A bigger slice was early, but not the lion’s share just yet.

I will write about results from other races in the next post.

Chron overview of At Large #2

The Chron looks at one of the most competitive races involving an incumbent on the ballot this year.

CM Andrew Burks

CM Andrew Burks

A minister, architect and city accountant are vying to unseat Councilman Andrew C. Burks Jr. from the Position 2 at-large seat on the Houston City Council, but Burks and his challengers differ on what the most important issue in the campaign should be.

Burks, 62, a minister and owner of AM-PM Telephone Service Inc., is seeking his second term, having won two years ago in his seventh attempt at a city council seat; overall, this is his 13th run for office. He is facing three challengers: David Robinson, 47, owner of Robinson Architectural Workshop; Trebor Gordon, 51, an associate pastor at Central Canaan Christian Church; and Modesto “Moe” Rivera, 58, an accounting supervisor for the city airport system.

The issues they see as key to the campaign are strikingly different, ranging from tax exemptions for senior citizens to the size of the city budget.

Worth reading the whole thing, especially if like me you’re one of those weird people that cares about issues and wants to know what priorities candidates have and what they plan to do about them. My interview with CM Burks is here and with David Robinson is here. I did not interview Trebor Gordon or Modesto Rivera-Colon, but you can see Texpatriate Q&As with them here and here, respectively; Rivera-Colon also did a Q&A with Texas Leftist here. The Chron endorsed Robinson. As I suggested earlier, I think CM Burks may be in some trouble, but we’ll see. Even after two sitting Council members were bounced in 2011, it has still been very difficult in the term limits era to oust an incumbent.

Where things stand going into early voting

A few impressions of the state of the races as we head into early voting.

Mayor – The thing that I will be looking for as initial results get posted at 7 PM on November 5 is how the gaggle of non-competitive candidates is doing. The thing about having nine candidates in a race, even if only two of them have any realistic hope of winning, is that it doesn’t take much support for the long tail to make a runoff a near-certainty. Basically, the amount that the seven stragglers get is the amount Mayor Parker must lead Ben Hall by in order to win the election in November. If the group of seven gets 10%, then Parker needs to lead Hall by at least ten points – 50 to 40 to 10 – in order to win outright. If they collect 20%, Parker needs to lead by 20 – 50 to 30 to 20.

There are no good parallels to this year’s race, but for what it’s worth the three bit players in 2009 got 1.01% of the vote; in 2003 six no-names for 0.65%; in 2001 there were four minor candidates collecting 0.45%; and in 1997, the bottom five candidates got 11.94%. That last one, which may be the closest analogue to this year, comes with an asterisk since two of those five candidates were term-limited Council members, Gracie Saenz and Helen Huey, and they combined for 10.46% of that total. One reason why the past doesn’t offer a good guide for this year is that in all of these races there were at least three viable candidates. Everyone else, save for Saenz and Huey in 1997, was truly marginal. None of Eric Dick, Keryl Douglass, or Don Cook can be considered viable, but they all ought to have a slightly larger base than the perennials and no-names in these earlier races. How much larger is the key question, because however large it is, that’s how big Mayor Parker’s lead over Ben Hall will need to be for her to avoid overtime.

Controller – This race has been Ronald Green’s to lose from the get go, and it remains so. I don’t think his position is any stronger than it was nine months ago, but at least he hasn’t had any bad publicity recently, either. He’s largely held onto the endorsements he’s gotten in the past, though losing the Chron had to sting a little. He’s still an underwhelming fundraiser, but while Bill Frazer has done well in this department he hasn’t done enough to make himself a recognizable name, and that’s to Green’s advantage. Green probably needs Ben Hall to make a decent showing, because while Green did reasonably well in Republican areas in 2009, he will probably lose some of that support this time, and as such he may need a boost from African-American turnout. If Green loses he can certainly kiss any Mayoral ambitions he may have goodbye. If he squeaks by, I can already envision the postmortem stories that will talk about his close call and how that might affect his Mayoral plans. If he were to run for Mayor in 2015, I guarantee that narrative will follow him closely all the way through, just as Mayor Parker’s close shave in 2011 has followed her in this cycle.

At Large Council – I feel confident saying that CMs Costello, Bradford, and Christie will win, though Christie will have the closest call and could conceivably be forced into a runoff. His two opponents have picked up a decent assortment of endorsements between them given their late entries and fairly low profiles. One wonders how things might have gone if someone had jumped into this race early on, as I suggested many moons ago.

I think CM Andrew Burks could be in trouble. He’s done a reasonable job collecting endorsements, but he hasn’t done as well on that score as a typical incumbent does. Like Ronald Green, he needs Ben Hall to have some coattails in the African-American districts, but remember that Burks has not done as well in those boxes as other African-American candidates. But it’s fundraising where you really see the red flags. Combining his three reports for this year, Burks has hauled in about $57K total. His main challenger, David Robinson, reported raising over $66K just on his 30 Day form. Robinson took in another $82K on the July report. He also has over $73K on hand for the late push, while Burks has just $8K. Money isn’t destiny, but these numbers are the exact reverse of what you’d usually see with an incumbent and a challenger.

As for At Large #3, it is as it has been all along, basically wide open with each of the five viable candidates having a plausible case for making the runoff. Bob Stein pegs Michael Kubosh as basically already having a ticket punched for the runoff, but I’ll wait and see. He probably has the best name ID of the group, but that doesn’t mean he’s terribly well known. I just don’t know enough about this one to hazard a guess.

District Council races – A year ago at this time, I’d have marked first term CM Helena Brown as an underdog for re-election. Now I’m not so sure. She’s done well at fundraising, she’s garnered some endorsements – getting the HAR endorsement was both a finger in the eye for Brenda Stardig and a nice bit of establishment sheen for herself – and she hasn’t generated any embarrassing headlines in months. I believe she’s still going to be in a runoff, most likely with Stardig but not necessarily with her, but I think runoff scenarios that don’t include Brown are unlikely at this time. I might bet a token amount on her being un-elected, but I wouldn’t bet any real money on it.

Brown’s freshman colleague Jerry Davis looks to be in better shape. There’s still resentment to him in some quarters, mostly from former CM Carol Mims Galloway and her supporters, but Davis has good support on his side, and he’s gotten the large majority of campaign contributions. Kathy Daniels is a good candidate and she’ll make some noise – a runoff isn’t out of the question – but I see Davis as the clear favorite.

Districts D and I are anyone’s guess. Dwight Boykins has the edge in D, but it’s a strong field, and if Boykins doesn’t clearly separate himself from the rest of the pack he could be vulnerable in December if the bulk of the runnersup back his opponent. Anything could happen in I, where none of the four candidates seems to have a clear advantage over the others. It won’t shock me if it’s a close finish among the four, with a small number of votes separating the runoff contestants from the other two. Some runoff scenarios are preferable to others, but all scenarios are possible.

HISD and HCC – No surprises in HISD. I believe Anna Eastman gets re-elected, Harvin Moore gets re-elected though Anne Sung will have put herself on the map, and Wanda Adams wins in IX. Zeph Capo has run a strong race in HCC1 – this is one of those times where a string of endorsements will mean something – and I believe he wins there. I think Bruce Austin and Neeta Sane get re-elected, but I don’t know about Herlinda Garcia, and I have no clue who will win in the open District 5 seat.

Everything else – I think the two Harris County propositions, for the Astrodome and for the joint processing center, will pass. I think the constitutional amendments will pass, though one or more may fail for some goofy and unforeseeable reason. I do think Prop 6, the water infrastructure fund, passes. The one non-Houston race I’m keenly interested in is the Pasadena redistricting referendum. I have no idea how that is going, but obviously I’m rooting for it to go down.

Endorsement watch: Twofer number two

Another pair of endorsements from the Chron, again one obvious and one that required more thought. First, the easy one.

CM Al Hoang

CM Al Hoang

Centered along the Westpark Tollway toward the city’s far west edges, District F is Houston’s international district.

When people from around the world immigrate to Houston, that Houston is often in District F. Home to large parts of Asia Town, especially Vietnamese communities, the district’s diversity also includes a growing Hispanic base. It is almost like the Alief and Westside neighborhoods are the setting for Houston’s own West Side Story – parents seeking the American dream, kids breaking cultural barriers and, unfortunately, gang violence. You may even find choreographed musical numbers at karaoke bars.

Incumbent Council Member Al Hoang’s first term was marred by controversy, but he’s spent the second delivering for his district. Voters should give him a third.

The Chron endorsed his opponent in 2011, but unlike that year CM Hoang drew only a no-name challenger, and as the Chron notes he did have a better term this time around. I’m not exactly the world’s biggest fan of CM Hoang, but the choice this year was clear.

The more interesting choice was in At Large #2, and for the third time so far the Chron recommended a vote for a challenger to an incumbent.

David Robinson

David Robinson

The task of Houston’s five city council members at-large is to see the proverbial big picture while being well-briefed on the needs of City’s Council’s diverse 11 single-member districts. Only the mayor and city controller have similarly broad, citywide duties.

In At-large Position 2, the vision needs to be more expansive than that shown during the two-year incumbency of Andrew C. Burks, whose performance has not met acceptable standards.

Reports of the sitting councilman’s less than courteous behavior toward constituents coming before council on several occasions are especially concerning.

Burks has drawn three capable opponents in this November’s race. From this group, we recommend the candidacy of David Robinson, a challenger to Burks in the 2011 race for the seat formerly held by three-term Council member Sue Lovell.

Robinson, 47, holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Yale and a master’s in architecture from Rice University. He is a practicing architect and planner with strong, informed views on how Houston’s future should be shaped.

Robinson’s previous service to the city is extensive. He was appointed to the city Planning Commission by Mayor Bill White and reappointed by Mayor Annise Parker.

His direct involvement with the city’s neighborhoods runs equally as deep. Robinson’s eight years as an officer of the Neartown Association included two terms as president. He currently serves as president of the citywide Super Neighborhood Alliance.

The Chron endorsed Kristi Thibaut in the open seat race last time. I’ve said plenty about this race, so I’ll just point you to my interviews from this cycle with Robinson and Burks. What are your thoughts on this endorsement?

Interview with David Robinson

David Robinson

David Robinson

Running against CM Burks in At Large #2 is David Robinson, which makes this a rematch of sorts from 2011, as both men ran in AL2 that year, though Robinson did not make the runoff. I had suggested a long time ago that a challenge to a first-term At Large member might offer a better chance at victory than a multi-candidate open seat race. Perhaps we’ll find out. Robinson is an architect and neighborhood activist, having been President of the Neartown Association and the citywide Super Neighborhood Alliance. He has also served on the City of Houston Planning Commission under Mayors Bill White and Annise Parker. Here’s what we talked about:

David Robinson interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

July finance reports for At Large candidates

Still plowing my way through all the July finance reports. July and January are very busy months, since everybody has finance reports to do. After I’m done with the city candidates, I’ll be looking at HISD and HCC candidates, then Harris County officeholders and area legislators. Thank $deity the special sessions are finally over.

I’m going to split the At Large candidates into three groups – the three (so far) unchallenged incumbents, the At Large #2 candidates, and the open At Large #3 candidates. Here’s a summary of everyone’s finance reports so far:

Race Candidate Raised Spent On Hand Loan ------------------------------------------------------- AL1 Costello 155,590 42,389 161,646 15,000 AL2 Burks 40,910 17,867 18,042 0 AL2 Robinson 82,454 7,664 52,746 0 AL2 Gordon 1,540 100 1,078 0 AL2 Shabazz AL3 Kubosh 109,057 38,223 85,833 15,000 AL3 Calvert 83,906 18,587 75,318 10,000 AL3 Morales 37,625 2,413 35,211 0 AL3 Chavez 27,255 4,728 23,658 160 AL3 Pool 33,695 28,503 5,192 10,000 AL3 Carmona 0 0 0 0 AL3 Edwards AL4 Bradford 54,225 6,750 51,746 0 AL5 Christie 94,980 36,777 61,588 0

Unchallenged incumbents

Costello report
Bradford report
Christie report

All three are strong fundraisers, though clearly CM Costello is in a class by himself. If the rumblings I have heard about his future Mayoral ambitions are true, he’ll be very well placed in two years’ time. In addition to all of the usual PACs and big name players, with more donations of $1000+ than I’ve seen anywhere else save for perhaps Mayor Parker, the most interesting donation he got might have been the $40 he got from Stuart Rosenberg, who happens to be Mayor Parker’s campaign manager. I haven’t noticed Rosenberg’s name on any other report so far. Since I talked about consultant expenses in my post on Controller finance reports, I will note that Costello spent $36,500 on consultant fees, all of which were recurring expenses for his regular campaign operative. If you’re raising $150K+, that’s a sustainable amount.

CM Bradford, the other sitting Member with rumored Mayoral visions, raised about the same amount as he did in the same period in 2011. Thirty-six hundred of his total was in kind, for use of his personal vehicle and for office space. He had basically no expenses – that was the case for July 2011 as well – so I’m not sure why his cash on hand total isn’t higher. He didn’t file a January report as far as I can tell, and his January 2012 report showed a cash balance of $20K. I presume he had some expenses between then and January 2013, but I couldn’t tell you what they were. I can tell you that his July report showed no expenditures made on consultant services.

CM Christie also had a solid report, and like CM Bradford the last report I show for him is January 2012, when he had only $3K on hand after his bruising runoff win. He made numerous, mostly modest, contributions to various Republican groups, but I didn’t see any Republican officials among his donors. He spent $18K on consultant services, which represents six monthly payments to his primary person.

At Large #2

Burks report
Robinson report
Gordon report

There is a fourth candidate, Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, according to Campos‘ scouting of the filings with the City Secretary’s office. She did not have a report filed as of this publication. Note that Campos lists a Brent Gordon for At Large #2, and his political page has a Trebor Gordon in At Large #3. I think these are the same person, and he filed a second designation of treasurer to reflect that he switched races. But I’m just guessing.

CM Burks is in his first term after finally winning a race in 2011. This will be the first time he’s had to run as a serious candidate rather than as a gadfly. As you can see, compared to some others his report isn’t that impressive. He did get $17,500 in PAC donations ($5K each from HPD and HFD), which feels like it’s on the low end to me, but I didn’t do the math on the other candidates, so I could be wrong about that. I didn’t see any consultant fees, but he did list an expense of $1,250.65 for “placement of 4X8 signs around Houston”. You’ve probably seen a few of them adorning various hurricane fences around town.

David Robinson’s report is more like what you’d expect from an incumbent. You may recall that Robinson finished just out of the money in At Large #2 in 2011, and he made the calculation that I thought someone would that a rematch against now-CM Burks offered better odds than a multi-candidate pileup on AL3. He received contributions from numerous interesting people, including $3000 from Peter Brown, $500 from Anne Clutterbuck, $200 from Kristi Thibaut, and $100 from Sue Lovell, but none stood out to me more than the $1000 he got from chef/entrepreneur Bobby Heugel. I’m going to step out on a limb here and guess that Robinson will be a food truck supporter.

Gordon’s report omitted $8,610 worth of in kind donations, and $10K in pledged donations in its totals. There are always a few candidates who get confused about how to fill in these forms.

At Large #3

Kubosh report
Calvert report
Morales report
Chavez report
Pool report
Carmona report

Al Edwards and Trebor Gordon, if he is a distinct person from Brent Gordon, did not file reports as of publication.

At Large #3 is the one open At Large seat, and it has drawn a large crowd of candidates that can plausibly claim a path to victory. There’s quite a bit of variation in the finance reports, however.

Michael Kubosh

Michael Kubosh

Greg pointed out that Michael Kubosh’s report contained a $72,000 donation from “Felix M. Kubosh”, which would be illegal if it were a contribution from another person. (“Felix M. Kubosh” also made three more contributions, for another $24K, or $96K in total.) This drew a disdainful response from Big Jolly, because everybody knows that “Felix M. Kubosh” and “Michael Kubosh” are the same person. I mean, duh, right? So obvi.

Greg then fessed up to his sad lack of Kubosh family knowledge. I will simply note two things. One is that as far as I can tell, the name “Felix” is not to be found on the Kubosh for Council webpage. Similarly, a Google search for “Felix M Kubosh” does not display the name “Michael” on the first two result pages, though “Michael Felix” does appear on page 3. Suggestive, but hardly conclusive, since for all we know “Felix” is Michael Kubosh’s middle name, and the “M” in “Felix M Kubosh” could stand for Mark or Milton or Madagascar for all we know.

The other thing is that if you do a search on the name “Kubosh” at the Tax Assessor’s website, you will find not only a registration for Felix Michael Kubosh but also a registration for Christopher Michael Kubosh. Perhaps Big Jolly knows how to tell at a glance who is the One True Michael Kubosh, but I’m afraid that knowledge eludes a mere mortal such as myself. Thank goodness we have Big Jolly around to show us the way.

Be that as it may, the fact that Felix M. “Michael” Kubosh contributed $96K of his $109 total means he got $13K from everyone else, and if you subtract out the $5K he got from his brother Paul, he raised only $8K from people not named Kubosh. That casts his report in a rather different light. As to why he contributed to himself rather than loaning it to himself, or paying for things from personal funds with the intent to seek repayment later, since one can only repay a maximum of $15K on a loan to oneself for an At Large seat, I don’t know. I do know that Kubosh spent $19,500 on consultants, so perhaps they can explain the different options for self-funding to him. Kubosh also paid $3975 to one of those consultants for advertising and signage, and donated $5K to the Spring Branch Republicans.

That leaves Rogene Calvert with the strongest report among AL3 contenders. Like David Robinson, she had some interesting donors as well – $5K from Andrea White, $1K from Gordon Quan, and $100 from former County Clerk Beverly Kaufmann. Her expenses were fairly modest as well, so she should be in good position going forward. Remember, no one should ever overestimate their name ID in a race like this. Spend your money making sure the voters have at least heard of you.

One person that might be reasonably well known to the voters is former HCDE Trustee Roy Morales, who ran for At Large #3 twice in 2007, and for Mayor in 2011. He needed only 35 donors to generate that $37K in cash, for an average contribution by my calculation of $1077 per person.

Former Houston firefighter Roland Chavez received $10K from the HPFFA, which is the kind of support you’d expect them to show him, but it means they can’t give him any more unless he makes it to a runoff. He also got $200 from Sue Lovell and $100 from Bill White’s former chief of staff Michael Moore.

Jenifer Pool is one of two candidates in this race to have run for an At Large seat in 2011; Chris Carmona, who filed a report claiming no money raised or spent and who ran against AL3 incumbent Melissa Noriega last time, is the other. Pool’s contributions included $5K in kind. Though she spent a fair bit of money, she had no large single expenditures – I think I saw maybe one or two expenses that exceeded $1000. She had many small listings for consulting services that amounted to things like field work, social media, field supplies, and phone calls.

Al Edwards did not have a report filed as of this posting. I still don’t know what to make of his candidacy.

On a side note, PDiddie complains about the emphasis on finance reports as a proxy for candidate viability. He and I disagree on this point, which is fine and I don’t want to rehash any of that. I will simply note that finance reports are public information that candidates are required to disclose. I believe that information deserves to be reviewed and examined, so that anything questionable can be brought up. How else can we know if the candidates are doing what they’re supposed to do? You can assign any value you want to the contents of the report, I see this as an exercise in transparency.

That’s it for the citywide candidates. I’ll wrap up the Houston elections next with a look at the district races. Any questions or requests, let me know.

Midyear 2013 election update

Back in January, I took an early look at the 2013 elections in Houston. At the request of the folks at the Burnt Orange Report, who also printed my initial overview, here’s an update on the races in the city of Houston in 2013.

Mayor

Back in January, Mayor Parker had no declared opponents, though everyone expected former City Attorney Ben Hall to jump in, and there were whispers of other potential entrants. Hall made his candidacy official about two weeks after my initial report, and formally launched his campaign in March, though things have been fairly low key so far. Mayor Parker, who just kicked off her own campaign a couple of weeks ago, has been busy touting her achievements, of which there have been many in recent months, and pointing out all the glowing praise Houston is getting in the national media for its food scene, arts, employment opportunities, and affordable housing. Hall has been introducing himself to voters – he was the featured speaker at a recent event at HCDP headquarters; Mayor Parker will get her turn for that later in June – though thus far he has stuck to general themes and not presented much in the way of specific policy initiatives. He suffered some bad press a month ago when news of his frequent delinquency when paying property taxes surfaced. That subject, and the fact that Hall lived outside Houston in the tony suburb of Piney Point until last year – he was ineligible to vote in the 2009 city election – will likely come up again as the campaigns begin to engage with each other.

Two other candidates have joined the race as well. One is Green Party perennial Don Cook, who ran for an At Large Council seat in 2009 and 2011, for County Clerk in 2010, and for CD22 in 2012. The other is 2011 At Large #2 candidate Eric Dick, and you can keep the jokes to yourself, he’s way ahead of you on that. Besides his name, Dick is best known for covering the city with bandit campaign signs two years ago; the signs and the controversy that accompanied them did wonders for his name recognition and no doubt his law firm’s bottom line. It’s not clear if he intends to run a more serious campaign this time or if it’s just going to be another round of nailing things to utility poles and denying all knowledge of how they got there, but Dick’s emphasizing that he’s the “Republican” candidate in this nominally non-partisan race suggests that at least one person is thinking about the old pincer strategy.

We’ll have a better idea of where things stand when the campaign finance reports come out in six weeks. Hall has made much noise about his willingness to self-finance his campaign, but nothing says “broad-based support”, or the lack of it, than one’s list of small-dollar donors. It will also be interesting to see where the establishment goes, and if there are any defections from Parker 09 to Hall or Gene Locke 09 to Parker. Finally, on the subject of Republicans, it’s well known among insiders but not at all outside that circle that Hall has a couple of Republican operatives on his campaign payroll. I feel confident saying that fact will gain prominence after the July 15 reports begin to emerge. Until then, there’s the parody Ben Hall Twitter feed to keep those of you who are into that sort of thing amused.

City Controller

Incumbent Ronald Green, who like Mayor Parker is running for a third term, also now has an opponent, a Republican accountant by the name of Bill Frazer. Frazer now has a Facebook page for his campaign, but still no webpage that I can find. As noted before, Green has had some bad press, and he has never been a dynamic fundraiser or campaigner. He didn’t have a lot of cash on hand in January, and I don’t recall much activity there since then. He could conceivably be vulnerable to the right candidate and some bad luck. I don’t think Frazer is that candidate, and as far as luck goes all Green really needs is no more dirt to come out about him before November. Outside of open seat years, we really don’t have a history of Controller races in Houston. The office tends to get a lot less attention than Council does.

City Council At Large

I took an early look at At Large #3, the one open At Large seat, back in April, and nothing much has changed since then. It’s an interesting field, to say the least, with three candidates that have run citywide in the past, and the three that haven’t can credibly claim to have a base of support. There is no clear frontrunner, though the lack of a prominent African American candidate in the race is a factor that could ultimately affect its trajectory. I continue to believe that’s a void that will eventually be filled. Again, the campaign finance reports will bring a bit of focus to the picture, but most likely there will be not that much to see just yet. Generally speaking, the usual powers that be steer clear of these multi-candidate pileups until the runoff.

I noted before that there might be more opportunity in a head-to-head matchup against one of the two freshmen At Large Council members than in the wide open At Large #3 scramble. David Robinson, who finished fourth in the open At Large #2 race in 2011, has apparently taken that to heart and is challenging CM Andrew Burks for that seat. Burks has not particularly distinguished himself in his first term, but he is generally well liked and remains well known due to his many previous candidacies. So far, no one has emerged to take on Burks’ fellow freshman, CM Jack Christie, and the two members running for their third terms, CMs Stephen Costello and Brad Bradford, are also unopposed. Both Costello and Bradford are known to have future Mayoral ambitions, so the tea leaf readers will have some material to work with after the election. Actually, they’ll have some before it as well, since Bradford is listed as a Hall supporter, while Costello, along with CMs Ed Gonzalez and Al Hoang, are Parker supporters.

District City Council

There are only two open district Council seats thanks to the resignation of now-Harris County Tax Assessor Mike Sullivan, who was succeeded by CM Dave Martin last November. Martin will likely draw a challenger or two as the newbie on Council, but so far all of the action is elsewhere. I am aware of four candidates for the District D seat now held by CM Wanda Adams: businessman and former ReBuild Houston oversight board member Dwight Boykins, who had previously run for At Large #5 in 2003, losing to Michael Berry; Houston Housing Authority board member Assata Richards; photojournalist and businesswoman Georgia Provost; and community advocate Keith Caldwell, who ran for D in 2007 and finished fifth in the field of seven. There had been some buzz about former At Large #5 CM Jolanda Jones throwing her hat in and forcing a legal decision to clarify Houston’s term limits ordinance, but I haven’t heard anything about that in months and have no idea if it is still a possibility.

District I has proven to be the liveliest race so far, as candidates Graci Garces and Ben Mendez have already gotten into the kind of spat that one only sees in election years. Garces is the Chief of Staff to current District I member James Rodriguez, who in turn was Chief of Staff to State Rep. Carol Alvarado when she held that seat; Garces was also on Alvarado’s staff. Mendez is a businessman. They are joined in the race by community activist and Sheriff’s Department employee Robert Gallegos, and Leticia Ablaza. Ablaza is the former Chief of Staff to District A CM Helena Brown, who resigned from that position along with Deputy Chief of Staff RW Bray after less than five months on the job, and she challenged CM Rodriguez in 2011, finishing with 35% of the vote. To say the least, her presence in this race makes it one to watch.

Speaking of CM Helena Brown, the field for District A is big enough to make you think it was an open seat as well. In addition to the incumbent, candidates include former CM Brenda Stardig, who assured me on the phone a few weeks ago that she’s going to run a much more organized and focused campaign than she did in 2011 when Brown ousted her; Amy Peck, the District Director for Sen. Dan Patrick who finished third in District A in 2009; and Mike Knox, who has been an HPD officer, Board Member of the Houston Police Patrolmen’s Union, and Director of Community Service for the Spring Branch Management District. All three have good establishment Republican credentials, and I suspect the strategy for all three is to get into a runoff with Brown and hope to consolidate enough support against her to win. As always, the July finance report will tell an interesting tale, and this is one time where I think the usual suspects will not be on the sidelines early but will already be backing one horse or another.

HISD and HCC

There is one update to report on HISD races. District I Board Member and current Board President Anna Eastman is now opposed by community activist Hugo Mojica, who ran in the special election for City Council District H in May 2009 to succeed Sheriff Adrian Garcia and finished eighth in the field of nine. District I is my district, and while I think Hugo is a perfectly nice person, I think Anna Eastman is an outstanding Trustee, and I’ll be voting for her in the fall. There are no other active races I’m aware of, but the impending takeover of North Forest ISD will necessitate a redraw of Trustee districts that could force a special election in Districts II and VIII, where Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Juliet Stipeche now serve. Neither would be on the ballot in 2013 otherwise. I don’t know what all of the ramifications of this will be, but that’s a possibility to watch out for. Finally, while no one has yet announced a campaign against him, District IX Trustee Larry Marshall continues to provide ammunition for whoever does take the plunge.

Lastly, there are two developments in HCC. There is now a second special election on the ballot, as former Board President Richard Schechter stepped down in January after successfully leading the push for HCC’s bond referendum in November. The board appointed attorney and former General Counsel for HCC Leila Feldman to succeed Schechter. Feldman is also the daughter-in-law of Houston City Attorney David Feldman and is married to Cris Feldman, whom aficionados of all things Tom DeLay will recognize as a key player in bringing about his demise. In any event, she will be on the ballot in November along with appointee Herlinda Garcia, who succeeded State Rep. Mary Perez, and incumbents Bruce Austin, Neeta Sane, and Yolanda Navarro Flores. In the second development, Navarro has drawn two opponents, Zeph Capo, the vice-president and legislative director for the Houston Federation of Teachers, and community and Democratic activist Kevin Hoffman, who lost to Navarro Flores in 2007. HCC Trustee races never get much attention, but this one will be as high profile as these races get.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll be taking a close look at the finance reports when they come out.

UPDATE: Whenever I write one of these posts, I’m going by what I’ve seen and heard. Until the July finance reports come out, there’s no easy way to compile a list of candidate names, unless you drop in on the City Secretary and ask to see the dead tree document of people who have filed designation of campaign treasurer forms. As such, I’m going to miss some people, and I inevitably hear about them after I publish.

Three such names have come to my attention since I posted this. One is former State Rep. Al Edwards, who apparently is actively campaigning for At Large #3. The second is Clyde Lemon, who according to Burt Levine is going to run against HISD Trustee Larry Marshall. Neither has a webpage or a campaign Facebook page that I can find, and Google told me nothing about their efforts, so make of that what you will.

The third candidate I’ve heard of since posting is Ron Hale, who is running in the increasingly large District A field. Hale left a bizarre comment on Levine’s Facebook page, saying that I’m “another blogger trying to keep [his] name out of the article as if it hurts my campaign” and “one person in the district A race is a contributor to off the cuff (sic)”. I have no idea what he’s talking about – I am of course the only “contributor” to Off the Kuff – but whatever. Ron Hale is also running for District A, and now you know.

The townhomes are indeed coming

I have three things to say about this Lisa Gray column.

The dark side of density

“So the bad stuff we’re going to see today,” I asked, “it’ll be a cautionary tale for the suburbs?” I was driving west from downtown on what I thought of, privately, as the Terror o’ Townhouses Tour, a sort of scared-straight exhibit for suburbanites like me, who haven’t realized what a boring-sounding change to city development rules may be about to unleash on our outside-the-Loop neighborhoods.

David Robinson and Jane Cahill West were my guides. As neighborhood activists, they’d both seen firsthand how, 14 years ago, a similar change to Chapter 42 of the city of Houston ordinances made high-density development possible inside Loop 610, transforming entire neighborhoods lot by lot. One-story houses with yards gave way to townhouses so quickly that it became disconcerting to drive down a street you hadn’t seen in a while.

“Yeah,” Robinson said from my Hyundai’s back seat. “We’re interested in how the city is going to educate the suburbs.” (Robinson, an architect, is one of those civic activists who seem to be everywhere: head of the Neartown Association, former president of the Super Neighborhood Association, former member of the planning commission, a candidate for City Council, veteran of a bazillion stakeholders’ committees.)

“Just getting the word out is a problem,” said West in the front seat. (Her résumé is as overstuffed as his: vice president and resident expert on development for the Super Neighborhood Alliance, recent president of Washington Ave/Memorial Park Super Neighborhood Council, a former board chair of the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone for the Old Sixth Ward, and on and on.) “It’s a tough subject to cover.”

“They’re getting hit by a tidal wave,” said Robinson.

1. Some neighborhoods have had it worse under the previous tweaking of Chapter 42 than others. The West End/Rice Military area had the worst of all possible worlds – narrow streets, drainage ditches with no sidewalks, lax or nonexistent deed restrictions, small lot sizes, and initially affordable property values that made it so alluring to developers that wanted to cram as much living space onto the land as they could. Montrose at least generally had sidewalks, and the Heights generally had either sidewalks or deed restrictions, sometimes both. Nobody really knows what will happen to the parts of Houston that will now be subject to the same density rules as the Inner Loop, but if you live in a decent neighborhood in Houston but outside the Loop and are worried about the possible consequences in your area, I’d advise looking at your deed restrictions pronto. You may be protected from some of the rapaciousness that so changed the landscape in the inner core, but it’s best not to make assumptions about that.

2. The problem isn’t so much density as it is density plus car dependence. Montrose was always supposed to be a walkable neighborhood, and to a large extent it still is, which helps it remain as desirable a place to live as it is. Where it all goes wrong is not when you have more residences on a block than before but more cars that need to be parked than the block can handle. Houston has taken a lot of strides towards being less car dependent, at least in the areas most affected by the increased density, since the last revision of Chapter 42, with things like light rail and a vastly expanded bike infrastructure, but as long as every residence with multiple inhabitants of driving age has at least one car for everyone of driving age in it, these problems become intractable. Housing and transportation are two sides of the same coin, and we can’t solve one without the other.

3. For all of the problems that increased density have brought to these historic neighborhoods, we shouldn’t overlook all of the good that has happened in them. I lived in Montrose from 1989 to 1997. When I first went hunting for rental housing with two friends who would be my roommates back in 1989, there were plenty of cheap options to pick from. Unfortunately, they were cheap because they were mostly rundown old houses in sketchy neighborhoods – burglar bars were a prime feature on many of the places we looked at. The Heights was a place that single women were told to avoid because it was too dangerous. I don’t know about you, but on the whole I’d much rather have the Inner Loop of today than the Inner Loop of 25 years ago. I’d much rather have growth than decay. We absolutely need to learn the lessons of the past changes to Chapter 42, and work to fix the things that have gone wrong while working to avoid making the same mistakes elsewhere. But for all the issues, Houston is a much better place economically, culturally, and politically if it’s a place that people want to live in and can afford to live in. That above all is what we need to work towards.

Whither the University Line?

Is the University Line in doubt? Some people think so.

Over the last decade, METRO spent $71 million of your dollars to build a rail line. But the agency recently took that project off the table for at least another decade and no work has been done.

So where did all that money go?

Ten years ago, METRO promised to build a light rail line starting out on Hillcroft through Montrose, downtown, out past TSU, UH and stopping just east of 45.

Ten years later, nothing’s been built on the University Line and nothing will be built until at least 2025 if METRO gets its way.

“It think this is a sad day for Houston,” said David Robinson with the Neartown Houston Association.

Robinson lives along the route in Neartown. He patiently waited, even supported METRO’s plan to wait. But now he feels duped.

“We don’t understand how we were sold out,” Robinson said.

[…]

“We’re trying to close the gap,” METRO Board Chairman Gilbert Garcia said.

METRO says they simply don’t have the money to do this now and won’t for more than a decade. But METRO’s already spent $71 million on the project, even as recently as last year.

“We believe that every dollar of taxpayer money, whether it comes from the fare box, tax money or federal money, we need to spend it as wisely as possible,” METRO CEO George Grenias said.

In fact, if METRO hadn’t spent the money on studies and land and lawyers and meetings and newspaper ads, they could’ve taken $71 million bills and laid them down along the route, paving it from curb to curb and then some with your money.

“It’s an enormous amount of money,” Garcia said.

The agency spent $14 million studying on environmental studies that will soon be out of date. METRO spent another $2.5 million on land appraisals, and they’re no good anymore. So that’s $16.5 million gone. And METRO spent $54 million studying possible routes and picking the final one, only some of which may be useful in 10 years, but who knows.

“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” Grenias said.

I have appointments to do interviews with Metro Chair Gilbert Garcia and with Houston Tomorrow‘s David Crossley to discuss the upcoming Metro referendum, and I can assure you that the subject of the University Line will be thoroughly covered. But aren’t we overlooking something in this story? Metro cannot build the University Line without federal funding, which has not been appropriated yet. The money that it has spent so far on environmental studies and whatnot is money that it is required to spend in order to qualify for FTA grant money. In 2010, Metro received a Record of Decision from the FTA, which is the final approval of those environmental studies and which allows Metro to move forward with utility work and the like. This is the last step needed to be able to receive federal funding, but as we all know, resistance from Congress has made that extra difficult, and recent maneuvering by sworn University Line opponent John Culberson threatens that funding for the foreseeable future. Why is there no mention of this in the story?

I get that people are frustrated and tired of waiting for this. I am, too. I understand that critics of the upcoming referendum believe that anything but a complete removal of the GMP payments will leave Metro with insufficient funds to build the University, Uptown, and other planned light rail lines. I’m not sure I agree with that view, but it’s a valid concern. Metro’s ability to receive federal funds for the University Line are also contingent on its ability to handle its debt load, which Metro CEO George Greanias called a “heavy lift” when he first came on board. There are a lot of moving parts here, and Metro is responsible for its past decisions as well as its current ones and the effect they may have on the promises they made a decade ago. There’s a lot more to this than what the story covers. For a related discussion of the Metro referendum, see Nancy Sims.

Precinct analysis: 2011 At Large #2

What can you say about a ten-candidate pileup? Let’s start by seeing what the district numbers look like:

Dist Thibaut Perez Burks Goss Fraga Dick Pool Griff Robinson Shorter ==================================================================================== A 15.69% 17.99% 13.94% 3.03% 6.93% 11.67% 6.41% 11.35% 9.75% 3.25% B 8.93% 6.65% 31.58% 1.83% 4.70% 4.43% 5.48% 3.93% 18.52% 13.94% C 18.49% 10.79% 7.76% 1.41% 10.92% 9.49% 14.37% 11.63% 12.93% 2.20% D 7.24% 6.22% 35.65% 1.38% 4.64% 3.36% 4.45% 4.22% 13.85% 18.98% E 15.70% 23.72% 15.98% 2.69% 7.03% 9.61% 5.19% 9.44% 8.27% 2.38% F 28.18% 16.73% 11.24% 2.67% 5.41% 7.79% 5.23% 7.60% 9.72% 5.41% G 25.08% 15.87% 14.93% 1.64% 7.85% 9.80% 4.16% 9.95% 9.07% 1.65% H 9.93% 20.35% 9.70% 1.50% 24.90% 6.49% 7.73% 6.96% 8.31% 4.13% I 8.56% 24.54% 9.54% 1.82% 27.29% 4.11% 4.95% 4.74% 8.12% 6.34% J 20.07% 16.78% 11.47% 2.52% 8.47% 7.12% 7.14% 9.64% 11.79% 4.99% K 15.34% 11.16% 19.45% 1.92% 5.68% 4.69% 6.89% 7.52% 15.72% 11.62%

Starting from the top:

– Andrew Burks obviously and expectedly did well in the African-American areas. I had thought that Rozzy Shorter might shave a few points off his totals, and I daresay she did, but it wasn’t enough to knock him out. He also did pretty well everywhere else, no doubt in part to the decent name ID gained by being a seven time candidate for a Council seat, even if he himself can only remember five of them. I guess at some point it’s hard to keep track of them all.

– Kristi Thibaut did well in District C, but it was her advantage in the west/southwest part of town that carried her into the runoff. She led the field in Districts F and G, and had a strong showing in K as well, all of which was enough to overcome third-place finisher Elizabeth Perez’s advantages elsewhere (more on that in a second). Also good news for Thibaut is that three of the four candidates that finished behind her in C – Jenifer Pool, David Robinson, and Bo Fraga, who combined with her for almost 57% of the vote in C – have endorsed her for the runoff. She will need big margins in places like C to counter Burks’ numbers in B, D, and K.

– Perez won the Election Day vote and didn’t miss the runoff by much. She did well in the Republican districts as you’d expect, but both Thibaut and Burks were able to keep close enough to her to prevent her from passing them. Where she really did well was – say it with me now – in Districts H and I, where she outdistanced Thibaut by enough to wipe out her margin in District C. Unfortunately for her, she shared the ballot with Fraga, who did better than she did, thus again keeping her from making a real run at the top. While this looks on the surface a bit like a missed opportunity for the Republicans – Perez wasn’t exactly raking in the contributions – it’s a bit hard to see where she could have drummed up more support.

– The retiring Griff finished fourth in his old stomping grounds of District C, just ahead of Bo Fraga, and fourth in District E, just ahead of Eric Dick. I guess that means something, but compared to his performance in 2009 it’s hard to say what other than another step in the random walk. His single best shot at a win post-1993 was in 2007, if only he’d cared enough to do more than just show up.

– Speaking of Dick, well, there’s really not much to say, is there? He finished fourth in his home District A. He barely got half as many votes as Perez did for considerably more money. But a lot of people know his name now, so mission accomplished, I guess.

– David Robinson finished second in B, third in D, and second in K. I’m going to take a wild guess here and posit that his name was advantageous to him.

That’s about all I’ve got for now. Last but not least will be At Large #5, coming up next.

Eight day finance reports, part II

Finishing what I started…

Fernando Herrera‘s report appeared on Tuesday. He raised $15,835, spent $27,185, and has $242.87 on hand. There were several expenditures on signs and a couple for “Advertising” that didn’t give me much of a clue about what kind of advertising they may be – there were two items totaling $4060 to Concepts In Advertising, $500 to St. Julien Communications, and $2500 to Van TV 55.2, whatever the heck that is. He also spent $500 on the Baptist Ministers Association of Houston and Vicinity for printing and poll workers.

– In addition to the airplane ad, Jack O’Connor spent $4K on yard signs. I’ve seen numerous Herrera yard signs around my neighborhood, but offhand I’m not sure I’ve seen any O’Connor signs, at least not in any actual yards. Maybe one, I’m not sure. But it’s a big city, and I only see a little piece of it in a normal day. Is there some hotbed of O’Connor support out there somewhere?

– Hatemeister/vanity candidate Dave Wilson spent $33K after loaning himself $35K in the 30 Day report. He dropped $4200 on signs, $14,400 on printing expenses, which I presume means direct mail, and $10,605 on advertising – $5965 at Clear Channel, $4640 at KSEV. This would be a good time to plug your iPod in while driving.

Kevin Simms spent $2000 on online ads, and $350 on phone banking. Good luck with that.

– As for the Mayor herself, her buys are a bit bigger. $686K on TV ads, $26K on radio ads, and $132K on direct mail. And she remains with $1.5 million in the bank, which any story that gets written after the election about potential challengers will have to mention as a barrier.

– District K candidate Larry Green used quite a bit of the green he’d been accumulating, spending $52K. That included three direct mail pieces, for a total of $15K, and three listings for radio ads, totaling $5850. His opponent Pat Frazier didn’t raise much, but between her 30 Day and her 8 Day she listed $25K in loans, borrowing $5K each from four individuals as well as giving herself another $5K. She bought $2K worth of radio ads, and most of the rest of her expenditures were for signs, door hangers, and card pushers.

– I don’t know if it’ll help me get a handle on who if anyone may have an edge in the At Large #2 scramble, but here’s a look at how those candidates are spending money on voter contact, according to their 8 day reports:

Bo Fraga – $9,039 on field, $5,350 on door hangers, $1,277 on signs.

Jenifer Pool – $6,775 on field, $1,455 on signs, and $150 on a print ad.

Kristi Thibaut – $34,599 on direct mail.

David Robinson – $6500 on print ads, $6000 of which went to the Texas Conservative Review, and $31K on “media”, which I know includes TV advertising. Far as I know, it’s him, CM Costello, and Mayor Parker on the tube. He also spent about five grand on postage, but I did not see any expenditures for direct mail, including in his 30 day report. I have no idea what all those stamps are being used for.

Griff Griffin – $1200 for signs, and a bunch of ad buys in neighborhood newspapers, including $633 for the Northwest Leader, $150 for Guidry’s, and $669 for the Bay Area Citizen. Oh, and $720 to the Sacred Heart Society for wine, which is my nominee for best expense report item so far. He’s still too dumb or lazy to list totals, however.

Andrew Burks – Five paid poll workers at $480 apiece plus another $850 for canvassers, and $800 for radio ads on KCOH. Burks had reported a $20K loan from his wife in July, which turns out to be a no-no, but an easily fixed one. He also has over $12K left unspent, which appears to be par for the course for him.

Eric Dick – Another $1700 to Ron the Sign Man, plus $187 on Facebook ads. Spend enough early on making the city your bulletin board, and you don’t have to spend much late. He also paid back a $15K loan to himself, and failed to give any totals on his form.

As of this publication, I do not see 8 day reports for Rozzy Shorter, Elizabeth Perez, or Gordon Goss.

– In At Large #1, Scott Boates spent $8500 on direct mail, $750 on phone banking, and $12K on radio ads, running on KSEV, all from personal funds.

– Finally, in At Large #5, Jolanda Jones spent $61K in all, including $23K on two direct mail pieces, $8K on radio ads, and $7K on polling. I’d kill to see that polling memo. Jack Christie spent almost $63K, $24,500 of which (for a direct mail piece) came from personal funds. He spent another $27,700 on mailers, and $6K on a Texas Conservative Review ad. I have not seen a finance report for Laurie Robinson or Bob Ryan as yet.

I think that does it for me with finance reports. I will post the list of non-filers tomorrow, to give everyone one last day.

Interview with David Robinson

David Robinson

We continue our tour of At Large #2 with David Robinson, who is an architect and neighborhood activist. Robinson has served on the Houston Planning Commission and is currently an Advisory Board Member on the Hermann Park Conservancy. He is a former President of Super Neighborhood 24, and is the current President of the Super Neighborhood Alliance. Neighborhood issues were among the things we discussed:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.

Two more for At Large #2

Open Council seats always draw a crowd, and when there’s only one of them for the At Large positions, it’s usually a big crowd. There were already several entrants in the At Large #2 sweepstakes, and as of today there are a couple more.

First, over the weekend Montrose activist David Robinson jumped in. From his press release:

David W. Robinson is a longtime community leader who has served as president of several civic organizations including: the Park Civic Association, Neartown/Montrose Super Neighborhood #24, the Super Neighborhood Alliance, and as a member of the Houston Planning Commission.

Robinson is a small business owner who has run his own architectural firm for the past twelve years. He is an active father, jointly raising his 11-year old daughter, Elissa with his ex-wife.

As a council member Robinson wants to focus on public safety, infrastructure, neighborhood resources and city finances.

A website is coming very soon as well as details about David W. Robinson’s Campaign Launch Party. Stay tuned!

You can see his Facebook page here. I don’t recall having met Robinson, so that’s all I know about him.

Today, former State Rep. Kristi Thibaut joined him in that race. From Hair Balls:

“The city of Houston, like virtually all government entities today, faces challenging financial circumstances,” she said in her announcement. “If elected, I will work constructively with Mayor Parker and my City Council colleagues to meet our current fiscal challenges without sacrificing core services, and to continue moving Houston forward as a great city to work, live and raise a family.”

Rumors that she would be entering the race began to surface recently when a prominent fund-raising group announced it was dropping Jenifer Rene Pool as its candidate in the at-large District 2 race.

Thibaut is someone I do know; you can listen to the interview I did with her for her campaign last year here. If you want to see who else is out there, Noel Freeman has a very helpful spreadsheet of municipal treasurer appointments, which are required in order to raise money for a city office, and a discussion of who’s in and who’s rumored to be in on Facebook. Nothing is final until the filing deadline, of course, but there’s already a lot of names out there.