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District F

Chron overview of District F

Moving on from District B, here’s the Chron’s overview of District F. It’s really more of an overview of the incumbent Council Member Al Hoang, and I think it’s safe to say that it’s different from the rest of these stories.

Councilman Al Hoang pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in donations meant for the local Vietnamese community organization he headed prior to his election as District F councilman, a lawsuit by a group of Vietnamese civic activists claims.

Hoang denies the charges and has countersued the plaintiffs for what he considers libel.

The lawsuit is another step in what Hoang sees as a persistent campaign of harassment against him. Detractors have been so aggressive, he said, they once mailed him a photograph of themselves urinating on the graves of his parents.

He is a target not for any legal improprieties, he said, but for his maturing attitude toward Vietnam, one that has evolved from focusing on the regime’s violent overthrow to one of promoting change from within the country through trade and dialogue.

“They want me to use this seat as a base to overthrow the Communist government” of Vietnam, Hoang said.

Outside of court, Hoang is being challenged for re-election by Hoc Thai Nguyen, a businessman who claims Hoang’s sister-in-law threatened to poison his children, calls Hoang “the Gadhafi of Houston,” and says he fears for his life because he believes Hoang is capable of killing him. Nguyen is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Peter René, an information technology manager with no involvement in the internecine Vietnamese conflict, also is challenging Hoang.

I don’t even know what to say about any of that. Nguyen was a deadline day filer and I did not have the chance to interview him, but I did do interview with CM Hoang and with Peter René, who recently received the Chron’s endorsement in the race. I don’t know how much that or the controversies around CM Hoang will affect his re-election chances. Both of his opponents filed late, so neither is likely to be particularly well known, but on the other hand Hoang doesn’t have that much cash on hand, so perhaps they can catch up a bit. This is one to watch. What do you think?

30 day finance reports for City of Houston races

The 30 day campaign finance reports for City of Houston elections were due last week, and they are now mostly up on the city’s campaign finance report website, with a large number showing up today. Already I’m seeing questionable, curious, and interesting things in the reports. Some highlights so far:

  • Helena Brown, the late-filing candidate in District A, reported a quite respectable $15,848 raised, but she did not file a Schedule A report, so you can’t see who gave her how much.
  • Griff Griffin, who failed to file a report in July, did not include any totals on his report. I did the math and counted $2522 in contributions along with $6443 in expenditures. As he did not report any loans or expenditures from personal funds, there’s no way to reconcile these numbers in the absence of a cash on hand balance from an earlier report. Which Griff, who’s run for Council approximately three thousand times and very well may be carrying a balance from those prior efforts, really ought to know. Perhaps one of the consultants whom he lists as a payee could advise him on this.
  • Jack O’Connor, who switched from At Large #5 to the Mayor’s race just before the filing deadline, also failed to list totals on his report, even though he did so correctly in July. By my count, he raised $7866 and spent $11,195, of which $5295 came from raised funds and the remaining $5900 were personal expenditures.
  • Bo Fraga took in a very respectable $55K in the period. He also reported a $35K loan from Lupe Fraga of Tejas Office Products, which I am told may be a problem because loans are apparently subject to the same $5,000 limit as contributions. I’m not a lawyer and I haven’t read the ordinances myself so don’t take my word for this, but I will say that’s the biggest non-personal loan I can recall seeing offhand.
  • Both of CM Jolanda Jones’ challengers had decent reports. Laurie Robinson raised almost $81K, though a bit over $30K of that was in kind. Jack Christie took in $40K, and unlike last time he’s not loaning himself big bucks. Of interest is that former Council member and Mayoral candidate Peter Brown showed up as a contributor to each. CM Jones’ report is not up yet, so I can’t say yet if Brown went for the hat trick or not.
  • The only thing interesting on Brad Batteau‘s report, which showed no money raise or spent, is that he declared himself a candidate in At Large #3, not District B. There may come a day when I will quit harping on this, but that day is not here yet.
  • Ellen Cohen continues to be a fundraising machine, raking in over $92K for the period. I didn’t scroll through the whole thing, but at first glance she appeared to have quite a few small dollar donors as well. She also continues to be a one woman economic stimulus package, spending $104K since July 1. She still has nearly $93K on hand for the home stretch.
  • CM Al Hoang raised a surprisingly small $10,950, and has less than $14K on hand. Both of his opponents were deadline day filers, so I don’t expect either of them to have that much, but it wouldn’t be that hard to have outraised him. I’ll let you know when I see their reports.
  • CM Oliver Pennington raised a fairly modest $33K, but thanks to previous fundraising prowess and not spending a huge amount, he has $185K on hand. Other than Mayor Parker, no one is going to come close to that.
  • Finally, we have one report from a non-candidate, Jim Bigham, who was going to run in District J but had to drop out because his voter registration had been purged by the Tax Assessor and could not be restored in time. Let this be a lesson to all of us, kids: As long as it is the philosophy of the Tax Assessor that it is better to purge nine eligible voters in order to ensure one ineligible one is removed, no one should take their registration status for granted. Today at 5 PM was the deadline to be registered for this election. I hope none of my readers will find out that they have suffered a similar fate.

That’s enough for now, as this post is getting long. I will follow up with another review post tomorrow, to cover the later report ones and to report on additional oddities and other things that merit comment. I will also be adding all reports to the 2011 Election pageand you can visit this spreadsheet put together by my pal Erik Vidor to see everyone’s running totals so far.

Endorsement watch: René and Pennington

Today we learned that the Chron is apparently not endorsing in uncontested elections, as they skipped over CM Mike Sullivan in District E, and we got our first endorsement of a challenger over an incumbent.

After a series of controversies involving incumbent Al Hoang divided his Vietnamese-American base, Hoang indicated he would not stand for re-election. Though he later changed his mind, we think his initial decision was the right one. The district, which has demanding infrastructure and economic development needs, requires new, focused leadership at City Hall.

Fortunately, voters have the opportunity to elect such a person, businessman and community activist Peter “Lyn” René. Born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, René came to Houston in 1979 and graduated from Westbury High School and UH-Downtown.

[…]

René promises to be a strong voice at City Hall for street repair and district beautification. To counter budget cuts that have closed community centers and after-school programs, he says he would use his skills as a grant writer to solicit funds from corporations and foundations to continue vital municipal youth services.

With his technical skills and record of community service, René is, from our point of view, the best choice on the ballot to represent District F constituents.

I’m going to step out on a limb here and infer that the Chron is telegraphing its forthcoming endorsement in At Large #5 for Laurie Robinson. Who disagrees with me about that? In any event, you can listen to my interview with René, who was a deadline day filer, here.

The Chron stayed with incumbent CM Oliver Pennington in G.

Pennington is a retired lawyer who spent much of his career at Fulbright & Jaworski working on issues related to municipal governance. That familiarity with the ways of City Hall has allowed him to tackle complex issues with knowledge and experience that benefit his district and the city as a whole.

[…]

Pennington well understands the need for Houston officials to work with our state lawmakers to better manage employee pension expenses that threaten to bankrupt city coffers. There is no more pressing long-term fiscal issue.

Finally, Pennington also backs important quality-of-life difference-makers, such as preservation of our city’s architectural heritage and green spaces.

The Chronicle recommends that District G voters return Oliver Pennington to City Hall.

My interview with CM Pennington is here. Of note in that endorsement is the Chron’s complimentary mention of Pennington’s late-filing opponent, Clyde Bryan. As you’ve seen in earlier endorsements, they don’t usually bother to do that.

Interview with Peter Lyn René

Peter Lyn René

Another deadline day filer was Peter Lyn René, who is running for Council in District F. René is an IT project manager and mediator who mediates civil cases in the Harris County Justice Courts; he was the Democratic nominee for Justice of the Peace in Precinct 5, Place 1, in 2008. He is also the founder, Chair, and CEO of a non-profit arts foundation called the Singing from the Soul Foundation. Here’s what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

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

Interview with CM Al Hoang

CM Al Hoang

CM Al Hoang is serving his first term in District F. He was born in South Vietnam and emigrated to the US in 1975. An attorney by trade, Hoang is the first Vietnamese-American to serve on Council, and serves as the vice chair of the city’s International Business Initiatives committee. Since I had previously noted that there was an OIG investigation of him, I will now also note that he was cleared of the charges. Here’s our conversation:

Download the MP3 file

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

CM Hoang accused of forging names on petition signatures

This is just bizarre.

In the heart of Asia Town in southwest Houston, some homeowners in the Turtlewood Square subdivision say they’ve been robbed. They were not robbed of their belongings, but rather their good names.

“Definitely homeowners [are] scared, shocked, angry,” said Jenny Lu.

Sue Tsai, another neighbor, agreed.

“This is really underhanded,” she said.

“When I looked at my name, somebody forged it,” said Jody Pay.

The forgery feud involves an effort to change their street name from Turtlewood Drive, to Little Saigon Drive. One of the homeowners pushing for the name change is City of Houston Council Member Al Hoang.

The I-Team learned Hoang and five other homeowners are being sued by neighbors for allegedly forging signatures on a petition to change the street name. One way to officially file the petition according to city policy is for 75 percent of adjoining homeowners to sign their approval. The lawsuit claims such a petition, without enough signatures, was given to Council member Hoang. But when the politician later turned it into the City Planning and Development Department, it now had an extra 16 names on it, giving the document that needed 75 percent.

But plaintiffs claim those signatures were bogus.

“It kind of looks like my name, but it’s not, and I was very angered,” said Pay.

Go read the whole thing – the exchange between CM Hoang and the I-Team is a classic – and see what you think. The Chron story adds some extra details.

According to the plaintiffs, 13 petition signatures were forged. One neighbor, whose name initially was reported as forged, since has recanted her allegation, defense attorney Vy Nguyen said.

Nguyen said Hoang approached her clients about changing the street name in a bid to win votes for the upcoming city council election. She said they circulated the document around the street before one of her clients, Tam Pham, gave it to Hoang’s nanny to give to the councilman. She said the group did not authorize Hoang to submit it to the City’s Planning and Development Department.

“They stopped (getting signatures) at 24 when they got the first disapproval. They figured that they had gotten most of their people and that was all they could gather,” Nguyen said. “After that, they gave it to the nanny who would’ve gathered more signatures … I heard that it would be left at people’s homes. A lot of things could’ve happened to that petition.”

The defendants stand by Hoang’s nanny story, Nguyen said.

“My clients have not come to the conclusion that Al Hoang did it or that there was any foul play,” she said. “They want to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Plaintiffs attorney David Tang disputed the nanny theory.

“There are forged signatures there, and this petition passed through these five individuals’ hands with the most grievous one going to the city councilman’s office,” he said. “What’s really grievous about it is that the councilman had custody and control of that document before it went to the city planning department. … He has just interjected the nanny in there as a distraction. It’s a very convenient excuse. It’s worse than saying the dog ate my homework.”

I presume Ms. Nguyen is the attorney for some or all of CM Hoang’s codefendants in this suit. I’ll leave it to you to decide how likely it is that some cannot remember the name of their children’s nanny, and how likely it is that said unnamed nanny could come to have unsupervised possession of these petitions. A followup story from KHOU has a response from the city:

Mayor Parker pledged a thorough review of all petitions before any vote is taken to change Turtlewood to Little Saigon Drive.

“If there are any irregularities during that, we’ll investigate those, but we’ll have to get this sorted out,” Parker said.

The mayor also said, if she gets a formal complaint or formal request for investigation, she’ll have the City’s Office of Inspector General do just that.

The chair of the City Council’s Ethics and Council Governance Committee, Mike Sullivan, said he will not be launching an investigation at this point, and instead will take a wait-and-see approach.

Then I guess we’ll have to wait and see, too.

UPDATE: A correction from the Chron.

A story about a lawsuit accusing City Councilman Al Hoang of forging signatures on a petition that appeared on page B1 of the June 16 Houston Chronicle incorrectly attributed a statement to Hoang. It was the plaintiff’s lawsuit that claimed Hoang had said he did not know the name of his former nanny.

So noted.

Hoang’s agenda

Tomorrow is the public swearing-in ceremony for Mayor Annise Parker. After she retakes her oath of office, she will then administer the oath to all new and returning City Council members. One of them is the newly elected Member from District F, Al Hoang, whose official City Council webpage says the following:

While some of his opponents might advocate for gays and liberals’ rights, Al is defending Christian and family values.

He has some other right wing red meat on there as well, as Texas Cloverleaf notes, but this is what I want to focus on. Ironically, Hoang also claims to be “a longtime member of International Pen based in London advocating for human rights and freedom”. For some and not for all, I suppose.

Now I don’t know exactly what Hoang means by this. Maybe he’s just forgotten that the campaign is over and that it’s time to shift from candidate mode to public servant mode, even if all that means is to push stuff like this to the background. But one interpretation of this statement is that Hoang does not intend to try to represent every person in District F, only those who aren’t gay or liberal. (One wonders if you’ll have to pass a quiz or something when you contact his office in order to get a response.) Another is that as Hoang was the only winning candidate to proudly embrace the Hotze endorsement, he sees himself as a counterweight of some kind to Mayor Parker and that he intends to stand firm against the gay agenda. Again, I don’t know exactly what he has in mind by this, so let me ask publicly right here: What do you mean by this, Council Member Hoang? Do you intend to be a Council Member for all of District F, or only for the people you approve of? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email (kuff – at – offthekuff – dot – com) and I’ll be happy to print what you have to say for yourself. Oh, and if you think you’ll just deal with this by quietly editing the text of your page, please be aware that I’ve already got a screenshot of it. What say you, Council Member Hoang?

UPDATE: Stace and John join in.

UPDATE: Hoang’s page is now “under construction”. Good thing I got that screenshot as a memento. Looks like Maverick Welsh may have been the first person to write about this.

UPDATE: KHOU posted a report about this earlier today.

Daniel Santamaria, a spokesman for Hoang, said the biography was unauthorized and no one in Hoang’s office gave the city’s Webmaster permission to publish it.

Santamaria said he didn’t know where the text came from but an archived copy of Hoang’s campaign Web site showed the same languauge in a biography published there.

[…]

In a statement to 11News, Hoang said “District F is one of the most diverse districts in the City of Houston. “I’m proud and honored to represent the diverse values and views that make this Council District so great.”

“I’m looking forward to being a voice and representative for my entire constituency on Houston City Council,” he said.

I’m glad to hear that. If Hoang proves my concerns about him to be unfounded, I’ll be delighted. But I’m going to have to see him do it. It’s all up to him.

Chron raises questions about Al Hoang’s residency and campaign finance reports

The main question I have is why is this story just being published now, on Christmas Eve, and not before either of the elections?

Houston City Councilman-elect Al Hoang and his wife claimed homestead exemptions on two separate homes, according to public records that also raise questions about whether Hoang meets the city’s residency requirements.

[…]

In addition, Hoang’s campaign finance reports filed prior to the Nov. 3 election and Dec. 12 runoff fail to include certain required elements, including the dates of donations and the occupations of donors who gave more than $500 in a reporting period. The omissions are so numerous that it is impossible to determine whether donations were reported multiple times or exceeded legal limits.

I’ll point out that I noted various incongruities on Hoang’s finance reports, such as the lack of dates and the double-reporting of expenses as in kind donations, on November 2 and again on December 9. I didn’t go into a great deal of detail because I didn’t have the time or the resources to dig deeper. But surely these issues were known beforehand. And Greg brought up the matter of Hoang’s residency in a post dated December 11, though it was actually published on the 13th. So again I ask, why are we just now reading about this in the Chron? Isn’t this something that ought to have been aired before the election?

A city ordinance requires candidates for district council positions to live in the district for a year prior to the election. When he filed for office Aug. 18, Hoang listed his address as 4403 Bugle, in District F, and signed a notarized statement saying he had lived in the district for 13 months.

Harris County Appraisal District records show that Hoang purchased the home on March 3. Voter registration records show he was registered at an address in District G until September, and his registration at the Bugle address took effect Oct. 16 — less than three weeks before the election.

Hoang claims a homestead exemption for the house on Bugle, records show. Hoang’s wife, Hang Nguyen, also claims a homestead exemption on a house listed in her name in Pearland, according to Brazoria County Appraisal District records. Hoang and his wife owned the home jointly until March 5, 2008, when he transferred the deed to her, the records show.

This is the same basic situation that sunk Jack Christie’s candidacy in 2007. Like Christie, I presume Hoang will eventually have to fork over some dough to make up for the extra homestead exemption. I presume the DA will not bring charges, since that sort of prosecution never seems to happen. What I want to know is, if all this is true, how can he be sworn in as the District F Council Member? What’s the point of a residency statute if it can be so easily flouted? I’ve said before and I’ll say again, residency isn’t that big an issue for me. If people want to elect someone who doesn’t live where they do to represent them, that’s their choice. But that’s assuming they know that about the candidate in question, which may or may not be the case here, and given that we have a law about this, then surely we ought to draw a line somewhere. Is there a remedy in the ordinance for this, or is it simply a matter of Hoang paying up on his taxes? If the latter is all that there is, then what’s the point of the residency requirement?

UPDATE: Martha has more.

Precinct analysis, District Council races

In addition to the five citywide runoffs, there were two runoffs in district Council races, in A and F. In each case, they were run in territory that, judging by the citywide results, were modestly (F) or very (A) friendly to Republicans, and in each case the Republican candidate won. But that’s about where the similarities end.

Since there are a small number of precincts for each district, I’ve created this Google spreadsheet that has a mostly complete list of each precincts from them both. I say “mostly” because I filtered out the smallest precincts, in which generally fewer than 10 votes were cast. My comments on each:

Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Stardig 9,258 56.6 Lewis 7,103 43.4 Parker 11,199 63.5 Locke 6,439 36.5 Khan 10,171 61.8 Green 6,297 38.2 Christie 10,541 66.6 Jones 5,300 33.4

– In District A, the first thing you notice is that Brenda Stardig trailed the higher profile Republican candidates Jack Christie and MJ Khan, each of whom drew more votes and had a higher percentage than she did. By the same token, Lane Lewis outperformed Jolanda Jones and Ronald Green. Jones and Green each won six out of the 46 precincts in total, while Lewis won twelve. Lewis did at least as well as Jones in all but six precincts, and at least as well as Green in all but twelve. There were about as many votes cast in the District A runoff as there were in the Controller’s race, and Khan outscored Stardig by about as much as Lewis improved on Green, but in the At Large #5 runoff there were about 500 fewer votes cast, and as Jones trailed Lewis by a wider margin than Christie led Stardig, I’d guess that a sizable number of those who skipped this race might have otherwise been inclined to vote for a Democratic candidate. Consider that a success for Christie’s mail campaign, and keep it in mind as we move on. Anyway, the bottom line is that Lewis’ good precincts generally overlapped with Jones’ and Green’s, with the latter two winning only one that Lewis did not carry.

Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Hoang 4,662 52.9 Laster 4,161 47.1 Parker 4,612 51.3 Locke 4,383 48.7 Khan 4,870 59.8 Green 3,298 40.2 Christie 4,404 60.0 Jones 2,964 40.0

– Moving on to District F, it’s a very different story. The undervote rate was 5.96%, smaller than any race besides the Mayoral race. The dropoff in the Controller’s race – even though this was MJ Khan’s home district – and At Large #5 was considerable:

Mayor’s race, total votes = 8995
District F, total votes = 8823
Controller’s race, total votes = 8166
At Large #5, total votes = 7368

Unlike in A, there was almost no correlation between the precincts won by the Democratic candidate in the district, Mike Laster, and the Democratic citywide candidates who had Republican opponents. Laster won 13 of the 27 precincts I looked at. Of those 13 precincts, Jones won three, while Green won one. In the other 14 precincts, Jones won four and Green two. The margins of victory varied greatly as well. In the 14 precincts that Al Hoang won, he received at least 50 more votes than Jack Christie in eight of them, including five in which he topped Christie by at least 100 votes. But on the flip side, in the precincts Laster won, Hoang trailed Christie by at least 50 votes in five of them, trailing by at least 100 in two. I presume the differences were geographical, but I’ll leave the mapmaking the Greg. The point here is that I believe both Laster and Hoang had a base that supported them regardless of what they did – or even if they voted – in the other races. Lewis had this to a lesser extent, while Stardig basically rode the partisan tide, as far as I can tell. Hoang in the end had more support, perhaps due to the historic nature of the race – as Parker is our first gay Mayor, and Green is our first African American Controller, Hoang is our first Vietnamese American to serve on Council.

– One final observation is that the usual dynamic of early versus Election Day voting was flipped on its head in F. In A, Stardig won 70% of the absentee ballots, 56% of the votes cast on December 12, and 52% of the in person early votes. In other words, this race followed the partisan rhythm we’ve seen in every other race. In F, Laster actually won the absentee balloting, by a 428-337 margin, and won Election Day handily, with nearly 58%. But Hoang crushed him in early in person voting, scoring over 62% and running up an 1100 vote margin that was more than enough to compensate for Laster’s game day showing. This was a repeat of their pattern from November, except that Laster had a plurality then. Whatever Hoang did to get out his voters, it worked.

Last up, a look at HISD I tomorrow.

Initial thoughts on the runoffs

I’ll go through them one race at a time, with the unofficial vote totals minus Montgomery County for each. Once I have precinct results, I’ll go through those and do a more detailed analysis.

Mayor

Annise Parker – 81,971, 52.78%
Gene Locke – 73,331, 47.22%

This was perhaps a bit closer than one might have thought given the most recent poll. At a guess, given the Fort Bend County results, I’d say that African American voters broke more strongly to Locke than had been previously indicated, but that there just weren’t that many of them in the end. Certainly, all the predictions that turnout for the runoff would exceed that of the general were way off. There were about 87,000 votes cast Saturday in Harris County, far less than the 112,000 predicted by County Clerk Beverly Kaufman. In the end, 67,653 early votes were cast in the Mayoral race, or 43.8% of the final Harris County tally of 154,618. In other words, this runoff was just like the last three runoffs in terms of early vote share compared to that of the general. I called it right, and I’m going to gloat a little about that.

Parker’s election has made the national news, and she’s a trending topic on Twitter. Lots of people are going to be talking about this for a long time. I don’t think we fully realize yet the impact her election will have. I think this will make an awful lot of people take a second and third look at Houston, and may finally make some of my progressive colleagues outside of Texas realize that there’s more to the state than just Austin.

Oh, and Parker made history in more ways than one, too. Go Rice Owls!

Controller

Ronald Green – 74,262, 51.48%
MJ Khan – 69,991, 48.52%

Green won early in-person voting by a fairly wide margin, but trailed in absentee ballots and also in Harris on Election Day. This suggests to me that as was the case in November, the early electorate was much more Democratic than the Election Day electorate. That was the case in Harris County last November as well. I sure hope the local Democratic strategists are paying attention to that. Green carried Fort Bend by 2,016 votes but would have won anyway. Oddly, I was more nervous about his chances going into today than I was about Parker’s, but less so about them once the early results were in. I figured if there was an African American surge that could carry Locke to a win, it would bring Green in its wake as well.

City Council At Large #1

Stephen Costello – 67,842, 52.15%
Karen Derr – 62,249, 47.85%

I had no feel at all for this race. The only thing that would have surprised me was a not-close result. Derr led coming into Election Day, but Costello pulled it out. If I had to guess, I’d say his late TV blitz – after not seeing any of his ads in months, I saw it four times this week – was a factor. Surely having such a large financial advantage should mean something. Costello had a fair amount of crossover support, and while I’m sad to see Derr lose I think he’ll make a fine Council member.

City Council At Large #2

Sue Lovell – 68,676, 54.08%
Andrew Burks – 58,317, 45.92%

Lovell has the easiest win of the night in the race with the highest undervote. Make of that what you will.

City Council At Large #5

Jolanda Jones – 69,763, 50.61%
Jack Christie – 68,080, 49.39%

Let this be Exhibit A for how hard it is to unelect a sitting Council member in Houston. It’s hard for me to imagine conditions more favorable for Jack Christie going into Election Day. Ultimately, he could not overcome the Democratic tilt of the early vote. Jones won early in person voting by a 58-42 margin, easily the widest of any candidate, but Christie ran strongly on Saturday, capturing Harris by 53.5-46.5, which combined with the absentee vote put him over the top in this county. Unfortunately for him, Fort Bend was to Jones what it was to Lee Brown in 2001, and that was enough for her to hang on. I voted for Jones, I’m very glad she won, but I have nothing bad to say about Christie, who ran a clean and honorable race. I sincerely hope that Council Member Jones uses this experience to help her channel her considerable talent and smarts more productively.

Houston City Council, District A

Brenda Stardig – 9,258, 56.59%
Lane Lewis – 7,103, 43.41%

Houston City Council, District F

Al Hoang – 4,681, 52.72%
Mike Laster – 4,180, 47.28%

The City of Houston proved its Democratic bona fides, but Districts A and F remained Republican. I’ll be interested to see how the citywide candidates did in each of these districts. Beyond that, my congratulations to the winners and my condolences to the losers. Oh, and in my favorite bit of trivia for the evening, Laster and Hoang split the Fort Bend vote evenly, with 19 ballots apiece.

HISD Trustee, District I

Anna Eastman – 4,959, 50.99%
Alma Lara – 4,766, 49.01%

HISD Trustee, District IX

Larry Marshall – 6,295, 51.15%
Adrian Collins – 6,012, 48.85%

A bad night for the Houston Federation of Teachers, as both of their candidates lost. Conversely, a good night for the HISD Parent Visionaries, who ultimately went three for three in the Trustee races. Lara had a slight early lead, which Eastman overcame, while Marshall led all along for yet another close escape. Again, my congratulations to the winners, and my condolences to the losers.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll have more when the precinct results are in. Chron coverage is here, here, here, and here. Let me know what your thoughts are about this election.

Eight days out finance reports, District Council candidates

To wrap up our tour of the finance reports for the city runoffs, here’s a look at the two District Council races. First, District A, in which Lane Lewis is up against Brenda Stardig:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Lewis 42,439 33,765 0 19,401 8,250 19.4 Stardig 41,495 41,638 0 40,264 18,800 45.3 Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field Other =========================================================== Lewis 0 0 19,600 0 0 852 Stardig 0 2,040 32,041* 0* 0 1,930

Pretty even in terms of how much was raised, though Lewis got a higher proportion from individuals than Stardig did. Stardig ran some ads on KSEV and spent more on mail. The asterisks are because one expense line item, for $19,069.08, has the explanation “Robo call to seniors, Senior mailer to 65 and older, Republican mailer, Early vote mailer to all of District A plus R women”. That means that she spent less than I indicated for mail, and something greater than zero for phones, but I can’t tell how much of one should be shifted to the other. And speaking of “Other”, this category refers to print ads. Lewis spent his money on an ad in the Leader News. Stardig had two such ads, worth $1238, and the rest was spent on an ad in Houston Community Newspapers, presumably one of the Examiner papers. Stardig also spent another $4466 on signs.

Here’s the who’s who among their donors:

Lewis – State Rep. Garnet Coleman (250), former Council Member Rob Todd (150), Galveston County Democratic Party Chair Lloyd Criss (25), Council Member Sue Lovell (500), State Sen. John Whitmire (1000)

Stardig – UH Board of Trustees Chair Welcome Wilson (250)

Rob Todd was the Council member in District E before Addie Wiseman. He now lives in District A. Whitmire is the Senator for that district. I did not see any donations from elected officials to Stardig, just from Welcome Wilson, whose name appeared on several reports.

And finally, District F:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Laster 40,553 39,648 500 46,901 23,308 57.5 Hoang Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field Other =========================================================== Laster 0 500 30,131 0 0 0 Hoang

Al Hoang’s campaign finance report was posted last night on the city’s webpage. As was the case with his previous reports, it is cumulative from the beginning, and there are no dates listed on any individual item, so you cannot tell by looking at it what has been done since the last reporting deadline. As it was not up when I began researching the reports, I emailed Hoang’s campaign advisor Eric Weinmann on Monday to inquire about this and was told they needed to file their report. He sent me a document that listed some donations, which I presume are those that came in since October 26. I’ve made it available as a Google doc for your perusal. He also forwarded an email that listed a few expenditures, from which I can determine $9950 was spent on three separate mailers, plus $1250 on an ad with KSEV. A couple other entries aren’t really clear to me as to their nature, but I can at least say that much.

As for Laster, he raised, spent, and retains a decent amount, with nothing that stood out as being unusual. Here’s who gave to his campaign:

Laster – Former At Large candidate Zaf Tahir (250), HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg (500), Coleman (250), State Rep. Scott Hochberg (1500)

Rep. Hochberg is the State Rep. for Sharpstown, where Laster lives. I’ve now gone through Hoang’s entire report, and there were no names that I recognized among them. I saw one small donation that appeared to be a PAC, and several mostly small donations that appeared to be from businesses. Again, it’s a bit hard to say for sure.

I hope you found this exercise useful. Let me know what you think.

District F runoff overview

Here’s the Chron story on the District F runoff.

The condensed version of Al Hoang’s vision for Sharps town’s shopping center echoes a Reagan-era foreign policy pronouncement: Tear down this mall.

Mike Laster’s recent work on Sharpstown Mall is more analogous to Vietnam War-era peace talks. Mall owners can use someone to help them decide the shape of the table before they sit down to hash out a revitalization plan.

Both point to the mall as a bellwether of southwest Houston’s economy, and each sees his approach to the mall problem as indicative that he will do more for District F if elected in the Dec. 12 runoff.

I don’t have any insight into this, so I’ll leave it to those who live in the district to comment about it if they’d like. What I will say is that I’ve known Mike Laster (interview here) for a few years, and I think he’d make an excellent Council member. I also know that Al Hoang has accepted Steven Hotze’s endorsement with open arms, so even if I knew nothing of Mike Laster, I’d be more than inclined to support him.

I didn’t mention this before, but I am also supporting Lane Lewis in District A. He’s a hard worker and has a solid grasp of the issues, and as is the case with Laster would make an excellent Council member. Meanwhile, his opponent Brenda Stardig missed that candidate forum on Monday night, and as with the Hotze endorsement story was unable to be reached for a comment about it. I can’t say I’m impressed by that. I don’t live in either of these districts, but if you do, Mike Laster and Lane Lewis are the guys I’d vote for.

Khan has an announcement

Council Member and candidate for Controller MJ Khan has an announcement to make tomorrow. From his press release:

Who: Councilman M.J. Khan, Candidate for Houston City Controller

What: Press Conference on a major announcement from the M.J. Khan for City Controller campaign.

When: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. (after City Council has adjourned)

Where: Steps of Houston City Hall
901 Babgy
Houston, TX 77002

Info: Natural light and sound

I suppose that last bit is for the TV folks. My guess is that he’ll be announcing Pam Holm’s endorsement. I can’t think of anything else offhand that’s likely to occur and would qualify as a “major” announcement. No, these things are not automatic – remember, Sylvester Turner never endorsed Bill White even though you might have thought that would be natural for him to do. I could be wrong – he could just be announcing some other Republican endorsements, which may or may not be truly press conference-worthy. Or he could surprise me and announce the support of some high-profile Democrat, or some other members of Council. But if I had to place a bet, it would be on a Holm endorsement. We’ll know soon enough.

Speaking of endorsements, the HCDP made its endorsements for the runoffs. From their Facebook page:

The Harris County Democratic Party is proud to announce that it has endorsed the following candidates in the City of Houston Runoff Election, which will be held on Saturday, December 12, 2009:

RONALD GREEN for Houston City Comptroller
KAREN DERR for Houston City Council Member, At Large Place 1
JOLANDA (“JO”) JONES for Houston City Council Member, At Large Place 5
LANE LEWIS for Houston City Council Member, District A
MIKE LASTER for Houston City Council Member, District F

In the interest of party unity, the Steering Committee of the Harris County Democratic Party has elected to refrain from making an endorsement in races where two Democrats are running against each other.

In the citywide races and in District F (which you may recall voted strongly Democratic in 2008) this makes a lot of sense; it’s less clear you want to partisanize things in District A, but you do want to make sure your voters get out, so there you have it. As you’ve seen in the Controller’s race and will see tomorrow in the At Large races, improving performance in the core Democratic districts will be key to winning for them.

Correction!

Now that everyone has had a chance to look over everyone else’s campaign finance reports, a number of candidates have made some corrections to their reports.

Former City Attorney Gene Locke and City Controller Annise Parker received money from donors who gave to their campaigns during “contractor blackout” periods. City ordinance prohibits donors from making contributions during the time a contract involving them is awarded or for 30 days afterward.

The Locke campaign returned $15,000 and Parker’s $7,900 after both were contacted by the Chronicle this week and last.

[…]

A review of contributions to the Locke, Parker and City Councilman Peter Brown, who also is running for mayor, showed nine donors over the $5,000 limit — five for Locke, two for Parker and and one for Brown.

[…]

Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales, who also is running for mayor and has raised a fraction of what his opponents have hauled in , did not appear to have violated any donation limits or regulations.

Actually, if you read the Chron profile of Morales, you’d know that his report did contain at least one “minor error”. Which, as noted in the comments, he would still be held accountable for by the TEC if a complaint were to be filed. I’m just saying.

Meanwhile, the story notes some issues with C.O. Bradford’s report that had been blogged about before, such as the complaint with the TEC that was filed against him.

Others have raised questions about Bradford’s report because more than 60 percent of his total of $112,945 was in-kind rather than monetary donations. These included $7,200 in donations for the value of the use of donors’ property for placement of large political signs.

Several political professionals unaffiliated with Bradford’s or his opponents’ campaigns said they had never heard of this being reported as an in-kind contribution. They suggested it was an effort to create the appearance of greater support.

“He wanted to show the bottom-line funds on his report as higher than he had received in cash donations or checks,” said Nancy Sims, a longtime Houston political consultant who now works in public relations and is blogging about the mayor’s race. “He’s stretched a bit to beef those numbers up and make the race look competitive.”

I’d actually argue that the effect was to make the race look less competitive, as Bradford’s initially reported total far exceeded that of Noel Freeman. In any event, Bradford filed several correction affidavits on the 14th. You can see one of them here, which notes the lowered values of the in-kind donations. As far as I can see, however, looking at the updated report that went with it, the totals and individual contributions reported are still the same. I don’t know if the affidavit itself is sufficient, or if a report that reflects those revised amounts should have been filed as well. If it’s the latter, I believe he still has work to do.

And finally, there’s KA Khan and his clearly bogus non-electronic report, in which he swore in an affidavit that he hadn’t raised more than $20K, then reported that he’d raised $34K. He also didn’t account for the many mailers he’d sent by then. What’s up with that?

Khan said he filed the affidavit because he was unable to get a password to file his report electronically from the city secretary’s office on the day it was due. He said the mailing expenses were not reported because he had not been billed for them yet, although the law requires that expenses be reported when they are incurred.

Okay then. I’ll just note again that in the report Khan filed, it says “I swear or affirm that I have not accepted more than $20,000 in political contributions or made more than $20,000 in political expenditures in a calendar year.” I don’t think “my dog ate my password” is an acceptable excuse for not living up to that, but then you never know how the TEC might rule on a complaint, if one ever gets filed against him. I for one am looking forward to Khan’s eight days out report.

UPDATE: Greg adds on about Khan.

Endorsement watch: ABCDEFG

I’ve been hard on the Chron lately for being so lackadaisical about getting to some of their endorsements. In my opinion, they should all be done before Early Voting begins, or else their value erodes. So I’m pleased to see that they have made their endorsements for all contested District Council races today. This means they could get them all done in time, say with At Large races tomorrow, the Mayor’s race on Sunday, and HISD/HCC Trustee races on Monday. So kudos – tentatively, and conditionally on that schedule – to them for their punctuality. May it herald a new trend.

And here are the endorsements themselves. They skipped Districts H and I, where incumbent Council Members Ed Gonzalez and James Rodriguez are unopposed. In addition to recommending the incumbents who do have opponents – Jarvis Johnson in B, Anne Clutterbuck in C, Wanda Adams in D, and Mike Sullivan in E – they gave the following nods in the open seat races:

District A

• In the race to replace outgoing Councilwoman Toni Lawrence in this northwest Houston district beset with high crime and flooding concerns, the Chronicle endorses social worker and educator Lane Lewis.

Lewis has served as a mayoral appointee on police oversight committees and promises to concentrate on projects to revitalize blighted areas in the district. He is a proponent of the city acquiring an abandoned golf course in the Inwood Forest area and converting it to park space and retention ponds to help control area flooding. He believes it could become the nucleus of a redevelopment zone that would improve land values and decrease crime. “We would have a whole new area ripe for redevelopment,” says Lewis. “That is a solution that is affordable, accessible, and accountable to the needs of the people.”

District F

• In this open far Southwest district seat being vacated by term-limited incumbent and controller candidate M.J. Khan, the Chronicle endorses lawyer Mike Laster.

A former senior assistant city attorney, Laster has had extensive community involvement and serves as chairman of the Sharpstown TIRZ that provides more than $50 million for infrastructure and development in the area. If elected, Laster promises to make public safety, business and commercial development, and constituent services his primary focus. He has an impressive roster of endorsements, including firefighter and police groups, as well as labor and business associations.

District G

• In the five-candidate contest to replace outgoing incumbent and controller candidate Pam Holm, the Chronicle endorses attorney Oliver Pennington, a retired partner for Fulbright & Jaworski and a former chairman of the city’s Civil Service Commission.

Pennington cites his legal experience in municipal finance and law as an asset in being an effective member of council. “I’m accustomed to hard work, going to nightly meetings, getting engaged and getting things done,” says Pennington. “My record shows I can deliver.” If elected, Pennington promises to work to put more police patrols in the district while concentrating on improving infrastructure and drainage. A former board member of the Memorial Park Conservancy, he wants to encourage increased public-private sector support for parks and recreational areas.

All of these endorsements make sense to me. From where I sit, Lewis has worked the hardest in his race. He’s run an impressive campaign, he’s raised more money than anyone else, and he’s collected a ton of endorsements, including a bunch from nonpartisan groups. He’ll still have a hard time winning a runoff, but it won’t be for lack of effort.

It was hard to imagine the Chron picking anyone else in District F. Laster is the strongest candidate, and like Lewis has done very well with fundraising and group endorsements. He also has an easier path to winning, as District F is much more Democratic than A is, though you never know what can happen in a runoff.

District G could have gone a number of ways, though again the choice they made is not surprising to me. Basically, Pennington is the kind of candidate they like. He’s a Republican in a Republican district, and he’s more of a moderate, “let’s work together to get things done” type than Mills Worsham is. At least, that was the impression I got from their interviews. He too has had the most success in fundraising – yeah, that may be a pattern – and has gathered a lot of endorsements as well.

So there you have it. Anyone want to predict who they’ll go for in the At Large and Mayoral races? My guesses, and I’m totally pulling these out of my ear, are Costello, Lovell, Noriega (if they make an endorsement in the uncontested At Large #3), Freeman, and Jones for Council, and Parker for Mayor. Of those, I feel the least confident about At Large #1 and Mayor. What do you think?

UPDATE: Made some edits to shorten the original post.

34 > 20, and other campaign finance news

I’ve added two more candidate reports to my campaign finance report spreadsheet, Robert Kane and KA Khan, both in District F. Each of them had filed paper reports instead of electronic reports. You can see a list of such reports here, and you can see scanned PDF copies of their reports here: for Khan and for Kane.

If you look at these reports, you will note that on the cover page, each candidate signs an affidavit that includes the following: “I swear or affirm that I have not accepted more than $20,000 in political contributions or made more than $20,000 in political expenditures in a calendar year.” If you then take a look at KA Khan’s report, down at the bottom he lists his total contributions as $34,010. I realize math can be a tricky subject for some people, but I don’t think it’s too hard to grasp the concept that $34,010 is bigger than $20,000. Yet Khan signed the affidavit swearing he did not and would not collect more than $20,000 in contributions. Seems to me something is wrong here. And as Greg notes, among other things, Khan has spent a bunch of money sending out six mail pieces, yet those expenses are not accounted for on his report. I’m told a complaint is being filed against Khan. Should be easy enough to make a determination in this one.

Now as was noted in the comments to this entry when I complained about some other obviously erroneous reports, the City Secretary apparently doesn’t have the authority to reject them even if it’s clear at a glance that there’s problems. But I don’t see why the City Attorney, or some other agency acting as an ombudsman, couldn’t do a review of the forms as they come in and take some kind of action to respond to the ones that have glaring errors. If the City Attorney is going to disqualify candidates from the ballot for dumb yet basically harmless errors on the filing form, why isn’t there an equivalent level of vigor with campaign finance reports, in which the potential for deception and malfeasance is vastly greater? Right now we have a system that relies on third parties – often people acting on behalf of a rival candidate – to file complaints, which take however long to resolve, usually well after the election in question. There needs to be a better way. If this requires a legislative fix, then so be it. They’ve already got one issue from this election that needs their attention, may as well add one more item to the list.

As noted at the beginning of this post, I found campaign finance reports for the two more candidates, which I added to my spreadsheet. That still leaves a bunch of candidates for whom I can find no report. The same thing happened in July, where a number of reports did not show up until more than a week after the reporting deadline. One candidate to whom this happened in July, and whose report isn’t visible today, is Alex Wathen in District A. Wathen has confirmed to me that he did submit his report on time – you can see a PDF of his receipt here – but that the City Secretary’s office has had trouble reading his file, as they had in July. Mills Worsham in G has also confirmed to me that he submitted his report and that the City Secretary’s office said they were having trouble with it, too. Interestingly, I called the City Secretary’s office yesterday to inquire about a few of the missing reports, and the person I spoke to told me they didn’t have one from Worsham, or from Roger Bowden (District B), Otis Jordan (District D), Lewis Cook (District F), or Peter Acquaro (District F). I don’t know exactly what’s going on here, but given the issues we saw in July that are affecting Wathen and Worsham now, this really needs to be investigated to get to the bottom of it. Technical issues should not be a barrier to the public’s access to this information.

Corrections, clarifications, and conundrums

This is a followup to my post from this morning about the 30 days out reports. I’m sure there will be more of this stuff to come, from plenty of folks, but this is what I’ve got as of now.

– First, please be sure to see the updates I made to that post. In particular, be sure to read Martha‘s posts about the reports filed by C.O. Bradford and Roy Morales, and see my update about Phillip Garrison’s report. More generally, David Ortez has some observations about the reports as well.

– I doubt I’ll have the time to closely examine every report in detail, but I took a closer look at a couple that had oddities in them that I wanted to examine. One of them is the report of perennial candidate Michael “Griff” Griffin. Griff, who I can only speculate must really like seeing his name on a ballot, reported no contributions in either July or October, and loaned himself $1000 in April, yet he reports expenditures totaling over $3000 since the beginning of the year. He spent about $2200 before July 1 and a bit more than $800 since then. Needless to say, that doesn’t add up. I don’t know if the expenses above the $1000 loan that he declared should be considered subsequent loans to himself or if there’s something else going on, but regardless it seems to me this is the sort of thing that should be spelled out in a campaign finance report. I realize this is small potatoes, but by the same token, how hard could it be to do that?

– Along similar lines, I note that District F candidate Joe Chow reported exactly zero dollars on hand in both July and October. Yet his October report, which includes a $5000 loan to himself from June, shows that he took in less money than he spent. Now, he listed one single expenditure for the period ending June 30, a printing fee of $120, though he added some more pre-July expenditures in the October report, and given that he raised $5510 in the first six months, I’m sure he has some cash on hand, whether the loan amount is accounted for as cash on hand or not. But you can’t easily tell how much cash he has from what he reported.

– As I said, Griff’s report is small potatoes, though in the context of District F Chow’s totals are much more substantial. I’m pointing them out because they seem like such obvious red flags that I don’t quite understand why the forms weren’t simply rejected out of hand by the City Secretary. How can you leave the boxes for the totals blank, as Griff did? Davetta Daniels in At Large #5 did the same thing. At least in her case the contributions she listed outweighed the expenses, but the bottom line remains that you can’t tell at a glance what her cash on hand position is. Nor can you tell for Chow, who like Daniels appears to have several thousand dollars at his disposal. So I ask again: How is it that a form where certain required values are left blank can get accepted? If this were a web form, they wouldn’t have been allowed to submit it till those boxes were filled in. Shouldn’t the City Secretary do the same?

– Meanwhile, several candidates’ reports are still not available online. Among them are Alex Wathen and Bob Schoelkopf in District A (there’s no July form for Schoelkopf, either); Roger Bowden in B; Otis Jordan and Larry McKinzie in D; Lewis Cook, Peter Acquaro, and Robert Kane in F (no July forms for Cook or Kane, either); and Mills Worsham in G. Bear in mind that quite a few reports didn’t appear until many days after July 15, despite the fact that they had been submitted. I’m just noting this for the record, and will continue to look for them and update the spreadsheet as I find them.

– What is now available are the HISD Trustee candidates’ reports. Ericka Mellon summarizes them for us.

– One other report that isn’t there is for CM Noriega in At Large #3. I am told that unopposed candidates are not required to file a 30 days out report, or an 8 days out report, so that’s the reason for that.

– Finally, on a tangential note, Karen Derr also writes in to say that she has been producing campaign videos as well. I appreciate the update, and invite anyone else that I’ve omitted to correct me on this point.

Interview with Mike Laster

Mike LasterMoving back to District F, today’s interview subject is Mike Laster. Mike is an attorney specializing in real estate, and was for six years a Senior Assistant City Attorney in the Real Estate Division of the City Attorney’s Office. Mike is a resident of Sharpstown, where he is Secretary and founding Board Member of the Greater Sharpstown Management District, and past President of the Sharpstown Civic Association.

Download the MP3 file.

PREVIOUSLY:

Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A
Herman Litt, At Large #1
Natasha Kamrani, HISD Trustee in District I, not running for re-election
Alex Wathen, District A
Robert Kane, District F
Council Member Melissa Noriega, At Large #3
Jeff Downing, District A

Interview with Robert Kane

Robert KaneMoving to a new part of town, today’s interview subject is Robert Kane, who is running for City Council in District F. Kane is a relative newcomer to Houston, living here for four years after living in various parts of the country and traveling around the world. He works in hotel management and he is a resident of Sharpstown.

Download the MP3 file

PREVIOUSLY:

Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A
Herman Litt, At Large #1
Natasha Kamrani, HISD Trustee in District I, not running for re-election
Alex Wathen, District A

City campaign finance reports followup

A few things to add to last night’s post.

– Ronald Green’s numbers for City Controller are now in – my spreadsheet has been updated to reflect that. He took in $48,515 and has $32,700 on hand. Which is to say, about 10% of what each of his opponents has. You can do the math from there.

– Here’s the Chron story about the fundraising totals, which is all about the Mayor’s race. I agree with Professor Murray that the city’s Republican voters are largely up for grabs. I think even with his non-existent fundraising, Roy Morales will get his share of them – he’s basically the “none of the above” choice for these voters. I also agree with Greg that a lot of these folks may simply not turn out, though with interesting races in Districts A and G, plus a challenge to incumbent Mike Sullivan in E, I don’t think their turnout will be too dampened. It’ll be interesting to see if the Mayor’s race gets fewer votes than the Council races in those districts, however. And who knows what the effect of runoffs in A and G might have on the eventual Mayoral runoff. That may be an even bigger factor down the line.

– I’ve added in all Council incumbents to the spreadsheet, which I didn’t have time to do last night. No real surprises among the reports that were present. Anne Clutterbuck has the most cash on hand so far, while Ed Gonzalez, who was only elected a month ago, has the least. He did report over $50K raised, which I presume is since his previous report on June 5, and I am unaware of anyone currently planning to run against him, so he’s in good shape.

– Clutterbuck, who has Green Party candidate Alfred Molison (no report yet) running against her, and Sullivan are the only district Council incumbents to have opponents so far. Sullivan raised $75,550 and has $83,900 in the bank. His opponent, Phillip Garrison, raised $24,190 and has $21,085 on hand. That would make him a contender in some other races, but he trails the money race by a decent margin here.

– The At Large races are still up in the air. I’m a bit surprised at how little has been raised in At Large #4. Like Greg, I think there may be an opening in that race. I’ve said before that it was awfully late for someone to jump into a race by now, but as neither candidate has piled up a lot of cash, a late entrant would not start out as far behind. A potentially more likely scenario is for one of the #1 candidates to switch over. Neither Karen Derr nor Herman Litt, who clearly has some high profile supporters behind him, have reported yet. Given Steve Costello’s impressive haul, it would not be ridiculous for one of them to think this race has gotten a little crowded, and to contemplate other options.

– Likewise, I’m surprised at the relative lack of cash in District A. I have to assume that will pick up in the next few months. I’ll reserve judgment on F and G until I see some more reports.

– Finally, I think I’ve identified all the candidates in my spreadsheet, though of course we won’t know for sure till the filing deadline. I actually found another candidate in A while searching through the reports, a fellow named Darrell Rodriguez. If I’m missing anyone you know of, please leave a comment and tell me who it is. Thanks!

UPDATE: I’ve made a correction to the earlier post to note tha MJ Khan’s cash on hand is $353K, not $312K.

City campaign finance reports come rolling in

As the campaign finance reports for City of Houston races come online, I’ve been collecting all the reports and putting them together into an easier-to-read format. I’ve also received a bunch of press releases, which I’ll be reproducing beneath the fold. Here are some quick hits.

– According to his press release, Houston Mayoral candidate Gene Locke raised $1.15 million for the six-month reporting period that just ended. That’s about $200K more than Annise Parker raised, and is a very strong showing, especially for a first time candidate.

Peter Brown‘s press release reports $477,000 raised and over $1.7 million cash on hand. He also reported a loan of $765,000. Even without that, he’d have a sizable lead in COH, as Locke has $574K and Parker $602K.

– All of the Mayoral candidates can claim success, and indeed all of them have – Parker put out another release later in the day today comparing her achievements with those of Locke and Brown. I think they all did pretty well in a tough environment, and I feel confident you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot from all three of them starting real soon.

– By the way, in case you’re curious, Roy Morales raised $18,720 and has a smidge under $10K on hand. He’s not going to be a factor. I could not find a report for TJ Huntley as yet.

– On the Controller side, Pam Holm raised $292K, with $348K on hand; MJ Khan raised $87,350 and has $312K $353K on hand. Ronald Green had not yet filed a report. As I said before, he’s got his work cut out for him.

(UPDATE: Fixed MJ Khan’s cash on hand number. My thanks to Andre Castro from his campaign for the correction.)

– For the At Large races, there are several reports missing. The biggest money-raiser so far is Stephen Costello in #1, who hauled in a fairly impressive $156K, with $106K on hand. The only other report I’ve seen so far is for Rick Rodriguez, who raised very little. In At Large #4, Noel Freeman sent out a release claiming $35,985.75 from nearly 175 donors, which edged out Brad Bradford’s $31,285.

– At Large incumbents Sue Lovell and Melissa Noriega each raised over $100K, with Jolanda Jones pulling in $64K. Roslyn Shorter, who is an announced candidate against Lovell, raised no money; Carlos Obando, running against Jones, had not yet filed his report.

– Finally, among the open district seats, the leading fundraisers were Lane Lewis in District A with $34,858 raised and $13,066 cash on hand; Mike Laster in F with $38,629 raised and $31,608 on hand; and Oliver Pennington in G with an impressive $182K raised and $101K on hand. Not everyone in those races has reported yet, so there could wind up being a reshuffling. I’ve put what I’ve got so far in this Google spreadsheet, so check that for further updates.

Beneath the fold are all of the press releases I got. If I get any more, I’ll add them as well. Let me know what you think about how the candidates have done.

UPDATE: Nancy Sims and Greg Wythe weigh in.

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Turner not running for Mayor

The Mayoral field for this November should now be set.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner announced today he would not attempt a run for mayor of Houston.

The 11-term Democrat representative’s announcement comes a little more than three weeks after he publicly acknowledged he was weighing a third run for mayor. Turner said he was considering a campaign after being asked by community supporters to get in the race.

“Although I believe the race is eminently winnable, a late entry into the campaign would have required that I drop every other project in which I am involved, community endeavors such as the Houston Astros Urban Youth Baseball Academy in Acres Homes and continuing my work in the Texas Legislature, to which I am deeply committed and thoroughly enjoy,” Turner said in a statement issued this morning.

Had he opted to run, Turner would have joined an already crowded field. Announced candidates include former city attorney Gene Locke, Councilman Peter Brown, City Controller Annise Parker, Harris County Department of Education Trustee Roy Morales and businessman T.J. Huntley. The filing deadline is in late September.

Earlier this month, Turner said he promised potential supporters he would consider a run after the legislative session concluded earlier this month.

I’ve got Turner’s full statement beneath the fold. I’d heard a couple of weeks ago that he was making calls to potential campaign contributors, as nobody serious gets into a race like this without some assurance that the resources needed to run a campaign will be there. Maybe he wasn’t getting the response he thought he’d need, or maybe he really just didn’t think he could commit to the race. I was somewhat skeptical that he’d jump in, so I can’t say that this surprises me. Greg has more, including some possible candidates in other races:

African Americans Rozy Shorter and Andrew Burks are considering contesting Sue Lovell for at large 2.

Green Party gay activist Alfred Molison has filed his treasurer designation to oppose District C City Council Member Anne Clutterbuck.

African American former assistant Texas Attorney General Lewis Cook has designated his treasurer to run for the District F seat MJ Khan is leaving and Richard Sedita has designated his treasurer for District G, the seat Pam Holm is leaving.

Shorter has been out there for awhile. Burks is a perennial candidate; his last race was for HCDE Trustee against Roy Morales in 2006. Molison ran twice in 2007, once in the May special election for At Large #3, where he finished tenth, and again in November where he was one of two candidates who ran against Clutterbuck, getting a shade under 6% of the vote. Cook has been in the race for awhile, but I don’t know much about him. Sedita makes five in District G, joining Mills Worsham, Oliver Pennington, Dexter Handy, and George Foulard.

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Precinct analysis: The City Council districts

I’d been wondering for a long time how the 2008 vote broke down by City Council districts, as well as for the city of Houston versus non-Houston Harris County. I finally did something about it awhile ago and made a call to Hector de Leon at the Harris County Clerk’s office to ask him if precinct data was available from the 2007 election that could help me answer these questions. He very kindly provided me with a spreadsheet that gave all the 2007 results by precinct, and I was off to the races. Here’s what I found out.

There’s one key point that needs to be understood before I get into this: Precinct boundaries do not conform to City of Houston boundaries. In other words, a given precinct may have voters who live inside the City of Houston, and voters who do not. The effect of this on my analysis, since my data is only granular to the precinct level, is that about half again as many votes were counted as “City of Houston” than they were as “Harris County”. That’s because if a precinct had votes in it for the 2007 election in a city race, it was counted in its entirity towards the City of Houston total in 2008. Had this not been the case, I would have expected a roughly equal amount of votes inside and out of Houston in Harris County. I just don’t have any way to make a distinction within a precinct, so we have to live with that.

That raises the interesting question of whether or not this skews the numbers I generated, and if so by how much? Precincts are geographically small, so these Houston/not Houston voters in the same precinct are basically neighbors for the most part. What’s the bigger factor in determining their voting behavior: proximity or city limits? There’s probably a master’s thesis in that. In any event, my rough guess is that the results I’ve generated probably underestimate the Democratic-ness of the city of Houston and overstate it for its complement, but not by very much.

I note here I’m still using draft canvass numbers from 2008, which is basically all of the non-provisional votes. I don’t think this makes much difference, either, but I wanted to mention it just to be clear. And so, without further ado…

District Obama Noriega Garcia Judicials ============================================ Houston 58.5 59.3 63.5 58.4 Harris 39.0 40.1 45.3 39.3 A 39.5 40.2 46.3 39.0 B 86.8 87.7 89.4 87.8 C 60.6 59.9 64.5 58.5 D 87.7 87.1 88.7 87.0 E 41.3 43.2 48.1 41.8 F 63.6 65.1 68.7 65.0 G 42.3 40.7 45.6 39.2 H 68.8 72.4 77.6 70.9 I 72.7 79.0 81.6 76.5

The numbers given are percentages of the vote, for Barack Obama, Rick Noriega, Adrian Garcia, and the county Democratic judicial candidates. A few thoughts:

– I had previously thought that District A would be amenable to electing a Democrat this year to replace the term-limited Toni Lawrence. That doesn’t appear to be the case here. I was surprised to see that A was the most GOP of the districts – I’d have guessed it would have been E or G. It may be that the precincts that encompass District A also happen to include some strongly Republican non-Houston turf, more so than E or G, I can’t say. But it does put a bit of a damper on my hopes for Jeff Downing and Lane Lewis.

– I expected Districts C and F to skew Democratic, but I was surprised by how much they did. Given that C’s precincts likely include some pieces of West U and Bellaire, that’s even more impressive. Democrats – and as that stands right now, that means Mike Laster – ought to win F this year, and I’d give good odds on winning C in 2011 when Anne Clutterbuck terms out.

– In the meantime, despite their inability to compete citywide, Republicans have overperformed a bit in winning district Council races, as they have five seats but are only a majority in three. As noted, I think that’s a temporary situation, and given Adrian Garcia’s showing in those three red districts, they shouldn’t be taken for granted by anyone, either.

– Of course, the electorate for a historic Presidential race and the electorate for city races, even one with a wide-open Mayoral campaign, are two very different things. All things considered, that probably gives a more Republican tilt overall, one which is more pronounced in the years that don’t have a Mayoral melee at the top of the ticket. How big an effect that is, and how much it’s being counteracted by demographic trends, I couldn’t say.

– Finally, I thought I’d add one more table, showing how many votes were cast in each Council district in the Presidential race, again bearing in mind all the caveats from above:

District Votes ================== A 118,019 B 72,743 C 73,627 D 81,009 E 113,438 F 43,704 G 99,061 H 47,409 I 35,492

Even if you assume some districts are more bolstered by precincts with non-Houston voters than others, there are still some pretty huge differences there. Let’s just say I foresee large challenges for those who are tasked with redrawing City Council districts, whenever that may be.

Shorter to challenge Lovell

Isiah Carey reports.

The Insite had a brief conversation with Houstonian Rozzy ‘Roz’ Shorter. She’s not quite given up on her political career. You may remember Shorter as the local woman chosen by the Barack Obama camp to get the Houston audience hyped when then Seantor Obama made a campaign stop in the Bayou City. Shorter now says she’s already to take on sitting Houston City Council Member Sue Lovell. Shorter says At-Large Position 2 is perfect for what she wants to do and she’s willing to do serious battle with Lovell to take the spot. Shorter says she will make an official announcement in the weeks to come.

After Council Member Lovell’s close win in 2007, I figured she might get a serious challenger this time around. I don’t know Ms. Shorter, so I can’t say for sure if she’ll qualify as such, but at the very least she isn’t Griff Griffin. I’m happy with CM Lovell and see no reason not to vote for her, but this will be worth keeping an eye on, if only to see who among the electeds sides with Shorter.

By the way, if things break just right, Houston could end up with a Mayor, a Controller, and three out of five At Large City Council members who are all African-American, and that’s without there being such a candidate running for Peter Brown’s At Large #1 seat as yet. With CMs Jarvis Johnson in District B and Wanda Adams in District D, that could mean seven or even eight of the 16 members of city government are African-American. That would really be something.

On a side note, Mike Laster has his campaign website up and running for District F. He’s still the only candidate I’ve heard anything about in that race.

Green to announce for City Controller

I think everybody knew that term-limited City Council Member Ron Green, who currently serves on At Large #4, was planning to run for the to-be-open position of City Controller. But if you didn’t, or if you were wondering what was up with that, here’s a link to the invitation (PDF) for his campaign kickoff party, which will be on March 17. No word yet from any potential opponents, which at last report included at least two of his term-limited colleagues, Council Member MJ Khan in District F, and CM Pam Holm in District G. Green hasn’t had an opponent since he defeated former Council Member Bert Keller in 2003. Since I doubt he’ll be as fortunate this time around, it’ll be interesting to see how this campaign plays out. In any event, the Controller’s race is now officially underway.

A list of who has actually filed treasurer’s reports so far

Noel Freeman did us all the public service of trooping over to the City Secretary’s office and compiling a list of people who had filed treasurer’s reports as of Monday for election to a municipal office in 2009. As I discovered last week, they don’t give that information out over the phone, so this is the only way to know for sure who’s in and who’s not, at least for now. Here’s what Noel was able to find:

Mayor

Annise Parker
Gene Locke
Roy Morales
Peter Brown
Ben Hall

At-Large 4

Noel Freeman

District A

Alex Wathen
Jeff Downing
Brenda Stardig
Bert Schoelkopf

District E

Wayne Garrison

District F

Mike Laster

District G
Oliver Pennington
Mills Worsham

District H
Lupe Garcia
Rick Rodriguez
Ed Gonzales
Maverick Welsh
Karen Derr
Hugo Mojica
Yolanda Navarro Flores
Diana Davila Martinez
Gonzalo Camacho

The names in italics are folks who are at least rumored to be running but who have not yet filed. Nobody has made a move towards At Large #1 yet, currently held by Peter Brown. I figure no one will do so until he does his formalities for the Mayor’s race. I see freshman Member Mike Sullivan has an opponent – he’s the only incumbent so far to get one, though he surely won’t be the last. Lupe Garcia in District H is a new name to me – I’ve just stumbled across a Facebook group in support of his candidacy, but the man himself doesn’t appear to have a profile. Does anyone know anything about this person? Yolanda Navarro Flores had not filed as of Monday, but yesterday afternoon a press release announcing her candidacy (reproduced beneath the fold) appeared in my inbox. I also got a release for Mike Laster, who had filed but hadn’t made a formal announcement yet; that release is beneath the fold as well. Finally, there’s a release from Noel Freeman about a Facebook fundraising campaign he’s got going on. Miya and Greg have more. Anybody hearing anything else they’d like to add?

I’ll say again, I do not know why this information is not available on the web. I cannot think of a single good reason why it shouldn’t be. From the conversation I had with someone in the City Secretary’s office, I get the impression that this is extra work to them, which is probably why it’s not any kind of priority for them. It seems to me that the right answer is for the city to hire someone for whom handling elections and election-related activities like campaign finance reports is their primary duty. It was kind of amusing that the city didn’t get around to posting campaign finance reports online until 2007. It’s deeply embarassing that we can’t even get a list of candidates who have filed a simple report, not to mention a peek at those reports themselves, in 2009. What century are we in again? Let’s get with the program already.

(more…)

City Council lineup update

Via Carl Whitmarsh, we have a third potential candidate for the to-be-open Council seat in District A, attorney Alex Wathen. Wathen joins Bob Schoelkopf and Jeffrey Downing in eyeing that seat. Wathen has been a candidate for City Council before – he ran for At Large #2 in 1999, finishing last in a field of 11 that was eventually won by Gordon Quan. He also ran for Justice of the Peace in 2002 against Justice David Patronella, garnering 33.66% of the vote and causing a bit of a stir as a local Republican wingnut put out a robocall urging other Republicans not to vote for Wathen on the grounds that Wathen is gay. (Shocking, I know.) A press release from the Log Cabin Republicans, of which Wathen was a local leader, noted the attack against him while mistakenly stating he’d won the election anyway.

Anyway. Here to the best of my recollection is an up-to-date list of declared and potential candidates for various city elections this year. Please chime in and let me know where I’ve missed something.

Mayor: The lineup is pretty stable at this point, with City Controller Annise Parker, At Large #1 City Council Member Peter Brown, and former City Attorneys Gene Locke and Benjamin Hall in the mix. Former Kemah Mayor Bill King has apparently dropped out, and former Governor Mark White was in there for a minute, but hasn’t been heard from in a few months.

City Controller: Not very much chatter about this one so far, but three of the remaining term-limited City Council members – Ronald Green in At Large #4, MJ Khan in District F, and Pam Holm in District G – have been mentioned as potential candidates.

City Council At Large: For sure, At Large #4 will be open. Noel Freeman is a declared candidate, while Terence Fontaine, the Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Bill White, and former candidates for District C George Hittner and Brian Cweren have all expressed interest in the past. More recently, former HPD Chief and District Attorney candidate CO Bradford has said he’s considering a run.

At Large #1 will be open unless Peter Brown makes like Michael Berry in 2003 and decides to run for re-election rather than pursue his Mayoral ambitions. Former State Rep. and Harris County Democratic Party chair Sue Schecter has said she’d be interested in running here. Bill King has apparently turned his attention towards an At Large Council race and may wind up here. HCDE Trustee and former At Large Council candidate Roy Morales has also expressed some interest in another Council run.

Finally, in At Large #5, freshman Member Jolanda Jones has drawn the attention of former State Rep. candidate Carlos Obando. And though I have not heard any names recently, there was definitely talk after the 2007 election that two-term Member Sue Lovell could draw a real challenger in At Large #2 after she won a surprisingly close race against perennial gadfly Griff Griffin. As yet, no word of an opponent for At Large #3 member Melissa Noriega.

District A: Covered above. For purposes of comparison, there were five candidates for the open seat race in 2003, which Toni Lawrence won outright after two unsuccessful attempts to unseat Bruce Tatro.

District F: Mike Laster is the only name I’ve heard so far. There were four candidates for this seat in 2003.

District G: Nada. If anyone is out there looking at this one, I’ve not heard about it yet. There were seven candidates in 2003.

District H: Karen Derr, Maverick Welsh, Ed Gonzalez, and Hugo Mojica are in. Gonzalo Camacho and Rick Rodriguez are reportedly in, while Yolanda Navarro Flores and Diana Davila Martinez are reportedly mulling it over, but I don’t have direct confirmation of their interest. There were six candidates in 2003, including Martinez and Camacho.

So that’s what I know about who is or may be running for a given city office this year. Who am I missing?