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Dwight Jefferson

Precinct analysis: Controller

Moving on to the office that is both second in prominence and last in ballot placement, the City Controller:


Dist  Khan   Brown  Frazer   Boney Jefferson Robinson
=====================================================
A    2,749   3,406   6,588     798       602    1,573
B    1,836   4,042   1,047   4,275     1,057    5,154
C    6,143  12,574  12,181   1,194       838    2,387
D    2,338   5,139   2,180   6,242     1,547    5,358
E    4,595   4,121  13,436     659       653    1,895
F    2,485   2,118   2,493     670       497    1,246
G    5,105   6,416  17,965     596       666    1,615
H    2,514   4,304   2,094   1,047       525    2,220
I    2,082   3,452   1,685   1,098       573    2,087
J    1,885   1,478   1,925     483       273      782
K    2,941   4,508   3,276   3,028       855    3,309
						
A   17.49%  21.67%  41.92%   5.08%     3.83%   10.01%
B   10.55%  23.22%   6.01%  24.55%     6.07%   29.60%
C   17.39%  35.60%  34.49%   3.38%     2.37%    6.76%
D   10.25%  22.54%   9.56%  27.37%     6.78%   23.50%
E   18.12%  16.25%  52.98%   2.60%     2.58%    7.47%
F   26.13%  22.27%  26.22%   7.05%     5.23%   13.10%
G   15.77%  19.83%  55.51%   1.84%     2.06%    4.99%
H   19.79%  33.88%  16.48%   8.24%     4.13%   17.47%
I   18.97%  31.45%  15.35%  10.00%     5.22%   19.01%
J   27.62%  21.65%  28.20%   7.08%     4.00%   11.46%
K   16.41%  25.61%  18.28%  16.90%     4.77%   18.47%
Bill Frazer

Bill Frazer

Remember how I said earlier that if you combined Lane Lewis, Tom McCasland, and Jenifer Pool in the At Large #1 race you’d have a leading candidate going into the runoff? The same can be said here for Jew Don Boney, Carroll Robinson, and Dwight Jefferson; just the first two together would be enough. Robinson was in the race first and had a more visible campaign, but Boney received some late-breaking endorsements from groups that likely moved a few votes. However you want to look at it, they basically canceled each other out.

MJ Khan got something for his party-like-it’s-2009 campaign strategy, just not nearly enough. He nudges ahead of Frazer in his old Council district once you add in Fort Bend, but then falls behind Chris Brown there. (Insert sad trombone sound effect.) The good news is that his timelessly generic TV ad that blanketed the airwaves over the past few weeks could easily be hauled out and reused in 2019 and/or 2023 as needed. He could be the model for campaigning in the Andrew Burks/Griff Griffin style with an actual budget to spend.

Here’s my three-point plan for Chris Brown to win next month:

Chris Brown

Chris Brown

1. Make sure Democrats know who he is and that he’s the only Dem in the race. Bill Frazer did about eight points better in District C than Bill King did. Putting it another, and more alarming way, Frazer plus Khan was almost 52% of the vote in C, while King plus Costello was 37%; even counting Ben Hall as a Republican only gets you to 43%. I can’t see a path to victory for Brown that doesn’t include a strong showing in C. The HCDP sent out an email on Monday saying that they would make recommendations now in races that have a single Dem in them, which will help a little, but I’d plan a blitz of mail targeting Democratic likely voters making sure they know which team each candidate in this race is playing for.

2. Deploy surrogates. First and foremost, do whatever is needed to get Brown’s soon-to-be-former boss Ronald Green to cut a radio ad or two for heavy rotation on KCOH and Majic 102 and so forth. Get Peter Brown to star in a mailer or two to voters who were known to like him from 2009 and his days on Council, and also from his days now advocating for sustainable urbanism. Chris Brown’s wife Divya is Indian-American; she and their baby daughter were in a standard family photo in Brown’s November mailings. I’d consider sending some mail to voters in F and J (where there is a high proportion of Asian voters as well as two district Council runoffs) that featured her more prominently. If a few voters there wind up thinking she’s the one they’d be voting for in this race, that would not be a bad outcome.

3. Make sure the police and firefighters are invested in this runoff. Frazer’s campaign is in large part based on the need for drastic action on pensions; there’s not much space between him and King on this issue. The police and firefighters’ unions backed Sylvester Turner for Mayor, but (as far as I know) did not take a position in the Controller’s race. Brown seems like a much better fit for them in the runoff. They may be gearing up to act anyway, but I’d be sure to talk to them and try to get them involved.

As for Frazer, he’s the frontrunner and thus only needs two bullet points: Make sure Republicans know who he is, and otherwise keep on doing what he’s been doing, which is to focus on the issues as he defines them and his qualifications as a CPA. The bad news for Frazer is that the runoff electorate is likely to be more favorable for Democratic candidates. The good news is that there’s no guarantee that voters who supported Robinson or Boney will necessarily transfer for Brown – one possibility is that they vote for Turner and one or more of the African-American Council runoff candidates and then stop there; Robinson recently sent an email urging support for Georgia Provost, Amanda Edwards, and Sharon Moses, but didn’t mention the Controller’s race at all – but Khan voters ought to have a home with him. What he’s done so far, in 2013 and this year, has worked pretty well for him. Don’t overthink it, and don’t do anything stupid, that’s my advice.

8 day finance reports: Controller candidates

How about a look at the 8 day finance reports for Controller candidates? I figure if you’re reading this blog you won’t look at me funny when I say things like that, so here we go:


Candidate    Raised      Spent      Loans   On Hand
===================================================
Brown        46,375    151,848     30,000    12,067
Frazer       58,953    146,767     32,500    38,072
Khan         44,965    351,902    215,000    32,986
Robinson      6,375          0          0     1,151

Candidate    Advertising     Print/Mail
=======================================
Brown             99,600         34,600
Frazer            76,500         53,000
Khan             307,500         24,000

BagOfMoney

A few comments:

– Neither Dwight Jefferson nor Jew Don Boney have 8 day reports, or for that matter 30 day reports. I have no idea why this is the case. Carroll Robinson’s 8 day report does not list a total for expenses, and it has no itemization of contributions or expenses; there’s basically nothing after the initial cover page.

– Bill Frazer had $16,450 in in-kind contributions listed as “pro-rata share of mailer”, from the C Club and Houston Realty Business Coalition. $69,215 of his expenses were from personal funds, including $50,250 for advertising, $7,490 for “GOTV mailout printing”, and $9,747 for postage.

– 22 off MJ Khan’s 44 contributors gave non-Houston addresses. I think I’ve seen his circa-2009 ad and Chris Brown’s “high school swim team” ad more than any Mayoral candidate’s ads except for maybe Costello. Khan also spent $825 on Facebook ads, because why not?

I have not had the time or energy to do the same scrutiny on Council reports, but this Chron story provides a few highlights.

1. At-large 1: Candidates competing to replace term-limited Stephen Costello, who is running for mayor, dropped nearly $299,00 during the past month. The biggest spender was Tom McCasland, former CEO of the Harris County Housing Authority, whose political action committee dropped nearly $155,000. Mike Knox, who has positioned himself as the conservative candidate, spent $57,000 and Lane Lewis, chair of the Harris County Democratic Party, spent $44,000.

2. At-large 4: In another competitive at-large race, seven candidates combined spent $252,000. Amanda Edwards, a municipal finance lawyer, has significantly outpaced competitors in spending, dropping $208,000.

4. At-large 2: Incumbent David Robinson and four contenders spent a combined $147,000. Challenger Eric Dick, a lawyer and former mayoral candidate, shelled out the most, spending almost $75,000. Robinson spent more than $47,000.

Since they didn’t go into it, I will note that in At Large #3, CM Kubosh spent about $28K, while Doug Peterson and John LaRue combined to spend about $12K; in At Large #5, CM Christie spent $60K, while Philippe Nassif spent $13K. I know I’ve received some mail from Amanda Edwards (and also received a mailer yesterday from Chris Brown), as well as two robocalls from Eric Dick and – this is the strangest thing I’ve experienced this campaign – a robocall from “former Houston Rocket Robert Reid on behalf of [his] good friend Griff Griffin”. Who knew Griff even did campaigning? Not that this appeared anywhere on his finance report, as either an expense or an in-kind donation, of course. Let’s not go overboard, you know. Anyway, if you look at the 2015 Election page, you will see that as with the Controllers, several At Large candidates have not filed 8 day reports. James Partsch-Galvan and Joe McElligott have filed no reports; Moe Rivera and Jonathan Hansen have not filed 30 Day or 8 Day reports; Jenifer Pool filed an 8 day but not a 30 day; and Larry Blackmon and Brad Batteau filed 30 day reports but not 8 day reports. It’s possible some of these may turn up later, so I’ll keep looking for them. I’m working on the district reports as well and will list them as I can.

Interview with Dwight Jefferson

Dwight Jefferson

Dwight Jefferson

We come to the end of our week of interviews with candidates to succeed term limited City Controller Ronald Green. Dwight Jefferson was appointed to the 215th Civil District Court bench in 1995, and when he won a full term in 1996 he became the first African-American to be elected to a District Court in Harris County. He has worked with multiple law firms, including one he founded, as a litigation, arbitration, and mediation specialist, and has been called upon frequently to serve as an ad litem or special master in Harris County State Courts. He was appointed to the Metro board by Mayor Parker in 2010 and served until this year. He was co-captain of the UT Longhorn football team when he played as an offensive lineman. We had a lot to talk about:

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2015 Election page.

Endorsement watch: Our first twofer

My first clear misses, too.

Bill Frazer

Bill Frazer

For our next controller, voters should look for a candidate who can refocus the distracted office on the straight and narrow of Houston’s financial picture. In our current straits, we don’t have the luxury of electing a politician who wants to play public accountant. Controller has a specific job description and voters should limit their choices to the candidates who can boast an appropriate resume. This narrows the field of six candidates to two: Chris Brown and Bill Frazer.

We endorsed Frazer, 64, two years ago as a solid technician with impeccable qualifications. A retired accountant with 40-years experience as a certified public accountant, Frazer has worked as an auditor and as CFO for a series of oil industry companies. During his career he sat on the board of directors of the Texas Society of CPAs and served as president of the Houston CPA Society.

Chris Brown

Chris Brown

“The controller’s office should be one of credentials and one that has the ability to give the mayor and City Council clear and concise, understandable financial advice so they can make well-informed decisions and good decisions,” Frazer told the editorial board.

There’s little doubt that Frazer could do the job – he’s already done it for decades in the private sector.

Chris Brown, 40, currently serves as chief deputy controller under Green. He also served as chief of staff when Green was on council. While we’re wary of continuing Green’s tenure through his subordinates, Brown boasts a background in finance and experience in the controller’s office that would make him a fine fit for the job. Before he joined the ranks at City Hall, Brown worked as a trader for an investment bank and co-founded an equity trading firm, where he served as head of operations.

[…]

However, voters should avoid Carroll Robinson, a former city councilman and former Houston Community College trustee. When he served on the HCC board, Robinson was accused of redirecting a contract to an unqualified friend. In his current campaign, Robinson advocates for casino gambling – a policy far outside the purview of the controller’s office. And when he met with the editorial board, Robinson hinted at Ted Cruz-style obstructionism if elected by refusing to sign city checks.

I thought the Chron would go with Dwight Jefferson, so I whiffed on this one. In my defense, I did give Frazer and Brown some chances of being endorsed, and I predicted the diss on Carroll Robinson, so I do get partial credit. Judge me as you see fit. I will have interviews with all four candidates mentioned in this paragraph this week, so you can decide for yourself. As for the dual endorsement, this isn’t the first time the Chron has done this – remember the Parker/Locke twofer from 2009? – and to be fair, the Chron cites the certainty of a runoff (as they did in 2009) and the need to have the best choices in that race. Seeing this makes me wonder if they won’t do the same thing in this Mayor’s race as well. We’ll know soon enough. What do you think – is this feckless or a reasonable approach?

Time to guess the Chronicle’s endorsements

vote-button

We are a bit more than a month out from the start of early voting, and as such we are getting close to the start of Chronicle endorsement season. I know from doing candidate interviews that the Chron has been holding screenings in recent days, so it shouldn’t be long now. So while we wait for that, why not take a crack at guessing what their endorsements will be?

I want to stress up front that these are not my endorsements. I’m not making any endorsements, here or elsewhere. Nor are these necessarily the candidates I think the Chronicle should endorse. I’m not making any value judgments. These are my best guesses at who the Chron will endorse, based on past history and my read on what they are looking for this year.

What are they looking for this year? I don’t think that’s any mystery. They’re looking for candidates who support HERO and who are sufficiently “serious” about pension reform. That doesn’t mean these are their only criteria, nor does it mean that they can’t or won’t endorse a candidate who doesn’t agree with them on one or both of them. I’m not there in the screenings, I don’t know what else might be on their minds. I’m just making what I hope are reasonable guesses. None of this should be taken seriously. Consider this the political nerd’s equivalent of Sean Pendergast predicting the Texans’ season, with fewer references to the WWE and Game of Thrones.

So with all of that said, let’s begin.

Mayor

At first glance, you’d think this would be a tough one to guess, but looking back at what I wrote above, it jumps right out at you: I believe the Chron will endorse Steve Costello. He checks all their boxes, and he has the most experience in city government to boot. King and Hall are both anti-HERO. McVey is an extreme longshot. I think they will be too critical of the recent issues with the jail to go with Garcia. Bell and Turner are possible, I guess, but I don’t think the Chron would consider them “serious” enough on pensions; the Chron did not care for the agreement that Turner helped broker with the firefighters earlier this year. The more I think about it, the clearer it seems. I’ll be surprised if it’s not Costello.

Controller

This one is murkier. Chris Brown is possible, but I think they will ding him for being Ronald Green’s second in command, and it’s not like they were ever big fans of his father. They endorsed Bill Frazer in 2013 and could endorse him again, but I think that was at least partly about Green’s baggage. I also think that if I’m right about Costello, they may be reluctant to endorse two Anglo Republicans for the top offices of a city that is not particularly Anglo nor Republican. I believe they will view Carroll Robinson’s tenure with the HCC Board as a negative. Honestly, I think the favorite at this point is Dwight Jefferson, who was part of the best Metro board in recent memory and who has no obvious negatives about him. I’ll say Jefferson 60%, Frazer 25%, Brown 15%.

At Large incumbents

With incumbents there’s an extra factor to consider, namely whether the incumbent in question has done anything to disqualify himself or herself. There are no Helena Browns this year, so the main question is how big a strike against someone is a vote against HERO? I’ll get to that in a minute. In At Large #2, I think David Robinson is an easy call. He checks the boxes, and none of his opponents are anyone I’d expect the Chron to consider seriously. Kubosh and Christie are the tougher ones to guess. How much will their opposition to HERO be held against them? My guess is “some”, but unless the screening goes badly for them or I’ve underestimated the commitment the Chron has to HERO, I figure they’re both favorites. I’ll make it 80% for Kubosh and 65% for Christie, with the difference being that Christie made some goofy statements about vaccines in his first term, and Philippe Nassif is compelling enough that the Chron might take a flyer on him as a “breath of fresh air” candidate.

At Large open seats

I’m going to go with Tom McCasland in AL1 and Amanda Edwards in AL4. Edwards feels like the safer choice. It would have been a harder call if Laurie Robinson hadn’t flipflopped on HERO, but if my conviction about this means anything, it means it in this race. In AL1, I could see the Chron supporting Lane Lewis or Jenifer Pool – as with Carroll Robinson, I think the Chron will not consider Chris Oliver’s time with HCC to be a positive – but I think McCasland’s resume will carry the day. Let’s say 60% McCasland, 30% Lewis, 10% Pool.

District seats

All district incumbents will be endorsed. This is easy, as there are no disqualifiers and outside of F and J no challengers that are likely to be considered. The cases worth examining are the open seats in G and H. G is a two-candidate race, and you can make an argument for or against either – both candidates are sufficiently qualified, and both are against HERO in a district where that would be expected. The main negative for Sandie Mullins Moger is being on the HCC board – yeah, there’s a theme here – and the main negative for Greg Travis is that he recently announced an endorsement by Helena Brown. I make it 55-45 for Travis. As for H, I can see any of Jason Cisneroz, Roland Chavez, and Karla Cisneros getting the nod. For no reason I can easily explain, I think Karla Cisneros is a slight favorite – let’s say 40-30-30. Have I mentioned that I’m guessing?

HISD and HCC

For HISD, they’ll stick with incumbents Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Juliet Stipeche, and they’ll reverse themselves from 2011 and go with Ramiro Fonseca over Manuel Rodriguez. In the open District 4 seat, I don’t seem the picking Jolanda Jones, so I’ll say they’ll endorse Ann McCoy. The only contested races in HCC involve the two incumbents running for re-election, Adriana Tamez and Eva Loredo. I’ll be surprised if they don’t endorse those two.

Referenda

Obviously, they’ll endorse HERO. I think they’ll be as “meh” on the term limits item as I am, and will either give it a lukewarm thumbs up or they’ll advocate a No. Same for the Harris County bond issue, with a slightly better chance of a Yes. I have no idea on the state constitutional amendments, if they bother with them. There were none that excited me one way or the other, though there are a few I’m likely to vote against.

So that’s how I see it. Go ahead and tell me where I’m wrong in the comments. I’ll check back in a few weeks and see how good a job I did trying to read their mind.

A closer look at Controller finance reports

Last week I took a closer look at the campaign finance reports for Mayoral candidates. Let’s do the same for the Controller candidates.

Candidate Raised In Kind Spent Loans On Hand ========================================================== Robinson 46,170 3,908 33,908 0 5,033 Brown 267,750 3,547 20,818 0 222,858 Frazer 128,097 1,009 120,956 32,500 53,973 Jefferson 8,653 2,943 9,255 1,860 5,521 Boney 8,390 0 5,487 0 2,902 Candidate PAC Max Non-Hou PAC % Max % Non-Hou % ================================================================== Robinson 8,500 10,000 17,000 18.4% 21.7% 36.8% Brown 2,500 140,000 42,450 0.9% 52.3% 15.6% Frazer 10,350 15,000 7,400 8.1% 11.7% 5.8% Jefferson 1,000 0 2,100 11.6% 0.0% 24.3% Boney 1,500 0 3,795 17.9% 0.0% 45.2% Candidate Overhead Outreach =============================== Robinson 1,750 28,889 Brown 10,535 1,923 Frazer 86,040 7,028 Jefferson 5,910 1,682 Boney 1,200 254

BagOfMoney

As always, all reports can be seen here. To review, PAC money is anything given by a PAC or business – basically, donations not from individuals – “Max” is the sum of donations from people who gave $5K and PACs who gave $10K (I didn’t see any of the latter on these reports), and “Non-Hou” sums up the contributions given from people who don’t have a “Houston TX” address. That was a bit more challenging in the case of Carroll Robinson, since he annoyingly only listed the state and ZIP code for his donors, but I managed. On the spending side, “Overhead” was initially intended to be the sum of money paid for items listed as “Consulting”, “Salaries/Wages/Contract labor” and payroll taxes, but as is often the case with these reports things got a little messy. Frazer had a bunch of payments to Mammoth Marketing Group that including things like Consulting Expense, Solicitation/Fundraising Expense, and Office Overhead/Rental Expense, which was for website design and maintenance. I included all of that, but listed expenses for Printing under Outreach, which is intended for advertising, mailers, yard signs, and the like. Frazer was also the only candidate to list rent for office space as an expense, so I included that under Overhead as well. Like I said, it got a bit messy.

The topline dollar figures speak for themselves. The spending is of more interest to me. Here’s a look at some of the items that caught my eye for each candidate.

Carroll Robinson – $29,200 of the money he spent went to Patriot Strategies Group, for the following items:

$1,000 for consulting fees
$8,500 for Auto Calls
$2,200 for Internet or Online Ads
$4,500 for Mailing
$9,500 for Auto Calls & Mail
$2,000 for Video Production & E-Blast
$1,000 for Social Media & Video Production
$500 for Social Media

Everything above is listed as Outreach except for the first charge. I don’t know why Auto Calls and Mail are lumped together on one item when they are separate on others, but like I said, this can get messy. $8,500 plus sounds a lot to me for robocalls, especially this early in a campaign.

Chris Brown didn’t actually spent that much – I expect that will come later – but one of his larger expenditures was $4,489 to Piryx for “online donation fees”. Piryx handles a lot of this sort of transaction = you’ll see their name on a lot of finance reports – but usually you see charges in the one to two dollar range. I have no explanation for this, unless maybe they take a cut of each donation and a bunch of those max contributions were made online.

Bill Frazer spent $22,825 from personal funds, with $6,077 in “unpaid incurred obligations”. As with Bill King, I think that burn rate could come back to haunt him.

Dwight Jefferson – All $2,963 in kind was from Coats Rose PAC for an Event Expense. On a somewhat odd note, the Andrews & Kurth PAC gave $1,500 to every candidate in this race except Jefferson, who got $1,000. I think if I were Dwight Jefferson, I’d ask them to make it up to me.

Jew Don Boney had a lot of food-related expenses listed as Solicitation/Fundraising Expense. There’s not much more of interest than that.

So that’s the Controller reports. I’ll try to see about doing the same with the Council reports.

Controller philosophies

Here’s a Chron story from a candidate forum for Controller candidates at which the main subject was the relationship that Controllers have with Mayors.

City Controller Ronald Green

City Controller Ronald Green

“It’s the second-highest elected official in city government, and it needs to be independent to provide a check and balance on the office in power,” said former City Councilman Jew Don Boney, who went on to say the controller must not be an ally or lapdog to the mayor.

The city’s chief financial officer is tasked with performing audits, preparing financial statements and managing Houston’s investments and debt, though the office holder has no vote on City Council.

Still, Boney stressed the controller ought not approach the role bureaucratically.

“This is not an election for the chief bookkeeper of Houston,” Boney said. “We hire CPAs.”

Bill Frazer, 2013 controller runner-up, who touts himself as the only certified public accountant in the race, was not in attendance. Former Houston Community College board member Carroll Robinson also missed the bulk of the forum, walking in during closing remarks.

Meanwhile, deputy controller Chris Brown edged closer to the idea of a controller at odds with the mayor, albeit more gingerly.

Brown said the relationship between mayor and controller should depend on the state of the city’s fiscal affairs.

“In times of great surplus, where there’s a lot of money, I think the mayor and the controller should be adversaries, because that’s the time when the mayor’s gonna say, ‘Hey, we’ve got tons of money. Let’s just go spend it,’ ” Brown said.

“But,” he added, “I think in the times when we have difficult financial problems, there needs to be more of a concerted effort to work together to solve the financial problems in the city.”

Controller is kind of a strange office, as it has no authority to set agenda items or vote on Council. One can certainly argue that it should have more authority, as a counterbalance to the Mayor – this is a question I have asked before in interviews with Controller candidates, and will ask again – but as the story suggests, the Controller can always be a semi-official pain in the rear to the Mayor as needed. I personally think the Controller should focus more energy on audits and thinking up creative ways to save money. Beyond that, we’ll see what they have to say for themselves when I talk to them. For what is the second-most important office in the city, it sure doesn’t get a lot of attention.

Finance reports come trickling in

As always, the Mayoral reports lead the story.

BagOfMoney

Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia closed out the first half of the year with more than $1.3 million in the bank, eclipsing City Councilman Stephen Costello by a mere $7,423.

According to their campaign finance reports, Garcia raised $1.5 million and spent just over $122,000, while Costello raised about $30,000 less in contributions, was loaned $90,000 and spent $496,000.

State Rep. Sylvester Turner and former mayor of Kemah Bill King trailed in cash on hand, reporting $1.1 million and $544,000, respectively.

[…]

Costello’s campaign previously said his funds include a $250,000 personal contribution and a $262,000 transfer from his council account.

Among those with reports already in, King spent the most in the first half of the year, coughing up more than $680,000. He raised more than $755,000 and lent himself an additional $500,000.

Turner’s expenditures came in just under King’s, at $601,000, according to his report. However, his campaign noted that $125,000 of those expenditures were related to his state office, not his mayoral campaign.

After starting the race with about $900,000 in the bank from his legislative account, Turner raised an additional $763,000 in the nine days between when his state fundraising blackout period ended and the close of the reporting period.

See here for more. As previously noted, the reports are not in their usual place due to changes in state law and the reporting system. For now, you can see the reports that the city has posted here. I’ve linked to them on my Election 2015 page and will keep updating that as more of them appear. I’ll do a more in depth look at the reports once they’re all there, starting with the Mayorals, which were added to that page as of last night. Expect that for next week.

The Chron story has a spreadsheet embedded in it with totals for candidates who had turned in reports by publication time. Among the other Mayorals, Chris Bell had raised $381K and had $190K on hand; Ben Hall raised $94K and loaned himself $850K to have $812K on hand; and Mary McVey had raised $60K and loaned himself $1.075M to have $1.071M on hand. Forget the price of oil, this Mayoral campaign will be stimulating the local economy over the next few months.

So far, mayoral fundraising has far overshadowed that for Houston’s second-highest political post, city controller.

Deputy controller Chris Brown reported raising $270,000 and spending $22,000, leaving him with more than $222,000 in cash on hand.

Meanwhile, Bill Frazer, runner-up in the 2013 controller’s race, raised $129,000, received $32,000 in loans, spent $120,000 and closed out the first half of the year with more than $53,000 in the bank.

Former Metro board member Dwight Jefferson lagged behind with $11,000 raised $1,800 loaned and $9,000 spent. It was unclear how much cash he had on hand.

Carroll Robinson had raised $50K and had $5K on hand; Jew Don Boney did not have totals posted. Other hauls of note: Amanda Edwards dominated At Large #4 with $165K raised and $118K on hand. Laurie Robinson was the runnerup with $43K and $26K, respectively. In At Large #1, Tom McCasland ($141K raised, $98K on hand) and Lane Lewis ($104K raised, $62K on hand) were far out in front; Chris Oliver raised $37K and had $23K on hand, while Jenifer Pool had not yet reported. CM Michael Kubosh was the only one with any money in At Large #3, raising $63K and banking $44K. Philippe Nassif had a very respectable $73K raised in At Large #5, but only $12K of it remained, far less than CM Jack Christie’s $100K cash on $124K raised; Durrel Douglas had not yet reported.

For district races, CM Mike Laster had a big haul and an equally big financial lead in J, while CM Richard Nguyen had a decent total in F. His opponent, Steven Le, did not have a report up as of last night. There was surprisingly little money raised in the two-person District G race; Greg Travis led in cash on hand over Sandie Moger thanks to a $41K loan to himself. Roland Chavez had the most raised and the most on hand in H, with Karla Cisneros and Jason Cisneroz a notch back. Abel Davila raised a small amount but loaned himself $20K to be even in cash on hand with the other two.

That’s it for now. For the other races, HISD and HCC reports lag behind the city’s – HISD by a little, HCC by a lot – so I’ll keep an eye on those and update as needed. As always, fundraising is just one aspect of one’s candidacy, and is in no way predictive in many races. We only get a few chances a year to see who’s funding whom, and this is one of them. I’ll have more when I can.

Early look at the Controller’s race

We have our first race overview story of the season, with a focus on the Comptroller and whether the successor to Ronald Green will be more visible and possibly antagonistic towards the new Mayor, or more of the same lower-key style as the incumbent.

City Controller Ronald Green

City Controller Ronald Green

And the five candidates – Chris Brown, Jew Don Boney, Bill Frazer, Dwight Jefferson and Carroll Robinson – sound more inclined to follow Green’s example than try to use it as a springboard for higher office.

They all said they have no mayoral aspirations, not yet anyway, and most said they hope to depart from the archetype of the controller as an outspoken mayoral critic.

“Historically, people have had the view that the controller and mayor are supposed to be antagonists,” said Robinson, a former Houston city councilman and former Houston Community College board member, who said he would prioritize making discussions of city finances more public. “But in my view, I think that’s the wrong approach.”

Bill Frazer, runner-up in the 2013 controller’s race, agreed.

“I will not be an activist controller,” Frazer said, emphasizing his financial management experience as a certified public accountant. However, he added, “I do believe the controller can have a large bully pulpit to help keep the mayor and city council from making some of the terrible financial decisions that we’ve made in the past, and steer us in a better direction.”

Boney, a former city councilman, spoke at length about the need for political leadership in Houston, particularly on pension reform, calling the controller’s office one of the most important from which policy discussions can emerge.

“The city is facing some real fiscal choices and challenges,” he said.

Jefferson, a former METRO board member, discussed the need for transparency and fiscal conservatism, describing the controller’s job as primarily ministerial, with the officeholder presenting the mayor and city council facts on which to act.

Meanwhile, Brown, a deputy controller under Green, underscored his experience as the incumbent’s number two.

“We need someone, given the economic challenges, that can come into the office Day One and lead and start implementing some of these changes and working with the stakeholders,” said Brown, who noted that the city likely will have to tighten its fiscal belt again given the decline in oil prices.

I personally would like to see the next Controller spend some time on audits, and also promoting Bank on Houston. I don’t think there’s much to be done in refinancing debt, though if there are any opportunities they should be taken, and I think we have enough people yelling about pension funds. I don’t think it’s necessary for a Controller to be deliberately confrontational with a Mayor, but I do think it’s fine for them to call BS if they think the Mayor is trying to get away with something. As far as this crop of Controller candidates goes, I have no favorite at this time. I’ll see what I think after I do some interviews. Who are you leaning towards, if you have a preference in this race?

Robinson resigns from HCC Board

Yeah, it’s campaign season.

Carroll Robinson

Carroll Robinson

Carroll Robinson, who has served as a Houston Community College trustee since 2012, will leave the college board to focus on his run for city controller, he announced Friday.

In a letter announcing his resignation, Robinson counted among his accomplishments helping with the creation of a sixth-grade pre-admission program, pushing to increase funding for scholarships and his involvement in establishing the Texas Academic Scholarship Day.

“All these things have helped bring a greater focus to improving the graduation rate and job placement rates for HCC students,” Robinson said. “The policies I implemented at HCC are a part of my broader commitment to ensuring that all Houstonians — our families, children, entrepreneurs and businesses — have An Opportunity To Do Better.”

There’s a full field for Controller, including Bill Frazer, Jew Don Boney, Dwight Jefferson, and Chris Brown, so one can understand the reason behind the resignation. As the story notes, Robinson’s brief tenure on the HCC Board has not been without some controversy. Robinson;s departure means that the Board will appoint a replacement Trustee, who (I believe) will be on the November ballot. That makes four Trustee elections on tap; as noted in January, fellow Trustees Adriana Tamez (who won a special election in 2013 to complete the unfinished term of now-former State Rep. Mary Ann Perez), Eva Loredo, and Sandie Mullins Moger (formerly Meyers), are up for re-election. Moger, however, is now confirmed to be running for City Council District G, so someone else will run for that position. Chris Oliver, who is not up for re-election, is as we know running for Council At Large #1, so there may be another vacancy to fill next year. And finally, as long as I’m mentioning At Large #1, this seems like as good a place as any to note that candidate Tom McCasland, who had announced his intention to run without specifying an office, has now officially declared AL1 to be his target. So there you have it.

Two challengers emerge in At Large #5

After Jan Clark bowed out in At Large #5, incumbent CM Jack Christie was left with no opponents after he announced his intent to run for re-election. That lasted until yesterday. Early in the morning, this email hit my inbox.

Philippe Nassif

Philippe Nassif

Philippe Nassif is proud to announce his candidacy for Houston City Council At-Large Position 5. This seat is currently held by a council member whose out of touch policies and outdated ideas do not reflect the entrepreneurial spirit of Houston.

“Houstonians deserves an elected official that will represent the changing demographics of the city, and who can accurately represent their needs and vision for Houston’s success.” Philippe said.

Philippe is a proud Houstonian, non-profit leader, and community organizer. As the son of two successful immigrant parents—a Mexican mother and a Lebanese father—he believes strongly in the power of this city’s economy. His story is Houston’s story. This city has provided unparalleled opportunity for both newcomers and Houstonians that go back generations. He is running for City Council to tap into the potential of all of Houston’s communities and help lead the city into the future.

Philippe is the first of his family to be born in America–his parents moved to Houston because of the opportunities the energy industry offered them. The opportunities Houston has afforded Philippe drove him to give back through public service– which includes a career working for Mayor Annise Parker’s administration, The White House, President Barack Obama’s campaign, and now at a women’s empowerment organization where he lead advocacy efforts across 14 states to improve women’s rights around the world.

He holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Thomas and a Masters degree from St. Mary’s University, and currently lives in The Heights neighborhood. He is building his campaign the grassroots way — from the ground up.

“My campaign will focus on addressing our traffic crisis, pushing our city further to welcome startups and new businesses, fairness in policing, and ensuring equality for all Houstonians.” For more information visit www.NassifForHouston.com.

Nassif had previously been a candidate for At Large #1. He had previously criticized Lane Lewis for remaining on as HCDP Chair while running for that position. My guess is that Lewis has sucked some of the oxygen out of that race for other Democrats, as many people thought might happen, and Nassif decided to take his chances elsewhere.

And for a brief while, Nassif was the only Democrat and the only challenger in the AL5 race against CM Christie. Then later in the day, this email arrived.

Durrel Douglas

Durrel Douglas

I’m running for Houston City Council, At-Large Position 5. Visit www.douglasforhouston.com and save the date for our campaign kick-off:

Sunday, April 12th
5:30-7:30 PM
The Ensemble Theater
3535 Main
Houston, Texas 77002

I’m running because I’ve seen the amazing strides we make as a city when we work together, and, what happens when our elected officials ignore the voices of the people they serve. As your city councilman, I’ll continue to fight for hard-working families and together we’ll build a better Houston.

I grew up in Houston’s South Park on Selinsky street. After High School I went to college online majoring in Social Science at Western Governors University and worked full time for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as a correctional officer–eventually moving up the ranks to sergeant and lieutenant. After five years, I decided to leave the prison system and instead work to improve the communities that led so many people from neighborhoods like mine to prison. After resigning, I worked for the Harris County Democratic Party before moving to Austin to work for a Democrat in the Texas House of Representatives. After the 2011 legislative session, I eventually moved back to Houston with the goal of empowering communities here. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting amazing Houstonians while working to make our city a better place.

For the past five years, I’ve worked as a community organizer standing shoulder to shoulder with Houstonians. From the fight for the HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) to recent wins with justice reform through the grass-roots organization I co-founded, I’ve seen great things happen.

In 2011, I met Debra Walker and Betty Gregory who were among those leading fighting for IKE repair funding.

In 2012, when our city considered expanding Hobby Airport, I worked with community leaders like Pat Gonzalez to include community members in the decision making process.

CLICK HERE FOR HOBBY AIRPORT NEWSCLIP

In 2013, we came together at city hall to pass the #DownWithWageTheft Ordinance which ensures an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. That same year we challenged HCAD to make wealthy downtown commercial building owners to pay their fair share of property taxes into the revenue stream. CLICK HERE FOR HCAD ARTICLE. We can address our city’s looming budget problems if we work with other government entities to close loopholes like this one.

In 2014, I met Houstonians like Fran Watson and Kristopher Sharp who worked together to pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) protecting every Houstonian from discrimination. That same year we fought school closures and launched a grass-roots organization to address local criminal justice reform CLICK HERE FOR LINK.

In 2015, we’re running for city council. Together.

I ask not only for your support during our campaign and vote in November, but for your ideas for our campaign and our great city. I’m inviting Houstonians to add their thoughts and ideas to our campaign platform titled “#OneHouston.” Sending suggestions via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, our platform will be of the people, by the people, for the people. With our fresh, bold ideas we’ll build a better Houston. Feel free to email [email protected] or give me a call/text at 832.857.5737.

Not too long ago, my opponent Jack Christie voted to give Valero a projected $17 Million tax break. CLICK HERE FOR LINK. With our crumbling roads, infrastructure and pension gaps, we don’t need elected officials who make decisions like this one. The men and women who work for the city (like my father who’s worked 29 years for the City of Houston) shouldn’t have to take a furlow day or cut in benefits at the expense of elected officials like my opponent who’d prefer to balance our budget on the backs of hard working families.

We have two choices. We can either sit back and allow others to continue making decisions on our behalf, or, we can seize this opportunity to change the way Houston does business. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, transgendered or cisgendered, all of us deserve an equal seat at the table.

Let’s build a better Houston.

To say the least, the race for At Large #5 just got a lot more interesting. I know both Phillippe and Durrel – I noted that Chron story he linked above about the new generation of black leaders in Houston – and they’re both exciting candidates. Between them and Atlas Kerr in AL3, they are also among the youngest candidates we’ve seen for city office recently. If they can succeed in boosting the participation rate among younger voters this November – it wouldn’t take much to do that – they could have a big effect on the composition of the electorate, and maybe on the issues that get discussed. I look forward to seeing how they campaign.

Finally, on a tangential note, Metro Board member Dwight Jefferson announced his intention to resign from the Board and run for City Controller. Jefferson had been considering a run for some time, so this will make it official. He joins a crowded field that includes HCC Trustee Carroll Robinson, 2013 Controller candidate Bill Frazer, former Council member Jew Don Boney, and Deputy Controller Chris Brown.

Two city race updates

Item one: We have another candidate for Comptroller.

Jew Don Boney

Jew Don Boney

Jew Don Boney, who sat on City Council for three terms in the 1990′s, will run for City Controller, he told the Chronicle Wednesday.

Boney joins Houston Community College trustee Carroll Robinson and 2013 candidate Bill Frazer in the race for the city’s top financial officer. Two other candidates, current Deputy Controller Chris Brown and METRO board member Dwight Jefferson, are seriously considering joining the race, but have not yet done so.

Currently an administrator at Texas Southern University, Boney served as mayor pro-tem under Mayor Lee Brown and represented District D, a predominantly African-American district. Boney lost to Robinson in a testy election for the seat on HCC’s board in 2011.

Here’s the interview I did with Boney for that 2011 HCC Trustee race. He was my Council member for about two years when I lived in Montrose. I liked him them and am glad to see him get in this race. This is the first time I’ve seen the name Chris Brown listed as a possible candidate. I’d heard his name mentioned before but had confused him with former Council Member and Mayoral candidate Peter Brown. Let there be a big field for this race. It would be nice to have a spirited debate about the Controller’s office and duties.

Item two: Chris Bell fires another shot in his campaign finance battle.

Mayoral candidate Chris Bell filed a formal complaint to the Houston Ethics Commission on Wednesday charging that former City Attorney David Feldman overstepped his authority when he granted permission to Rep. Sylvester Turner to raise money for his mayoral bid when other candidates couldn’t.

In a six-page complaint, Bell’s attorney, Geoffrey Berg, argued that the City Attorney is only allowed to advise city officeholders, which Turner is not. That was a key point of contention in court last month: Feldman replied that since he advised the Houston Ethics Commission — a board that Berg said should interpret campaign finance law for mayoral candidates — he effectively could advise Turner directly.

“I received a simple email from Sylvester Turner,” Feldman said as he defended himself in court last month. “I responded with an answer. We do serve our citizens, whether they happen to be state representatives or not.”

[…]

In Wednesday’s complaint, Berg reiterates much of the case he has made in court for months, arguing that the legislative history of the city’s campaign finance law makes clear that Turner’s strategy violates it. Berg also responds to the City’s argument, central to its case, that a January federal court decision that declared Houston’s blackout period unconstitutional renders Bell’s grievance obsolete.

“Mr. Feldman is wrong. The contribution cap reflected in the Ordinance is in no way dependent on the constitutionality of the blackout period,” Berg wrote.

See here, here, and here for the background. Another lawsuit from Bell on this issue remains a possibility. I don’t have anything else to add to this.

From the “Good problems to have” department

Metro will have a few million dollars left over when it is done building the remaining light rail lines.

After more than three years of construction, Metro officials estimate $39.9 million of the $900 million awarded by the Federal Transit Administration is left over and unlikely to be spent as work wraps up. Contingencies for cost overruns often are built into financial estimates for large transportation projects, notably rail. Metro’s costs have stayed largely in line with estimates of $1.58 billion for the two lines.

None of the federal money applies to the Green Line, which was locally funded. Both the Green Line to the East End and the Purple Line to the southeast are scheduled to open in April.

[…]

Most of the leftover money, $24.9 million, is dedicated to the northern segment of the Red Line light rail route, which opened in December 2013. Another $14.5 million is available along the Purple Line, between downtown and the Palm Center Transit Center south of MacGregor Park in southeast Houston.

If the money from the October 2011 agreement isn’t spent, it would go back to federal coffers.

The money can be used only for those two lines, and only for projects related to developing the rail routes, though that does give Metro officials leeway.

Officials on Thursday outlined for a Metro committee some projects they are considering, though more talks are likely as the list is winnowed.

Two of the most significant projects are at the ends of the rail lines, near Northline Commons along the Red Line and at Palm Center Transit Center where the Purple Line terminates.

Metro has a bus transit center near the Red Line terminus, a few steps from the tracks on land owned by Houston Community College. Officials said tying the bus center and rail line together with an elevated walkway would improve conditions for riders.

Metro’s lease for the bus center land expires in 2021, and the agency is working with HCC on a long-term plan for the area incorporating the campus and the transit connection.

Lambert said a rail-bus terminal at the location would be years in the making but would be more affordable if included in the long-term, federally backed rail development.

Additional parking spaces at Palm Center Transit Center would serve a similar purpose, giving more potential riders a way to park at a rail station.

Board members Thursday said it was vital the money be used in ways that benefit riders and residents near the rail lines.

“I think we should be looking at projects that increase ridership,” Christof Spieler said, noting rail use can often be affected by how people arrive at the station. “I absolutely want to look at bus stops.”

Board member Dwight Jefferson said more stations closer to where people live could be beneficial.

“You have the station at Elgin and you do not have another station until a mile down on the other side of the freeway,” Jefferson said. “You have a whole huge stretch of neighborhood that is totally not served on the rail line.”

Remember how the I-10 widening was originally supposed to cost $1 billion, then wound up costing about $2.7 billion? I love having another excuse to bring that up. As far as this goes, I’m with Spieler – projects that would help boost ridership should take priority. That leaves a lot of possibilities, and I hope Metro takes the time to brainstorm and get public input for more suggestions. This is a great opportunity, so let’s make the most of it.

January campaign finance reports – Controller wannabes

CarrollRobinson

Like the Mayoral race, the 2015 race for City Controller is wide open, as incumbent Ronald Green is term-limited. There are three candidates of which I am aware so far – HCC Trustee and former At Large city Council member Carroll Robinson, who formally announced his entry last November; 2013 Controller candidate Bill Frazer, who hasn’t made a formal announcement of which I am aware, but whose campaign website is still live; and Metro Board member Dwight Jefferson, who was kind enough to publicly acknowledge his interest in the office yesterday. I have heard other names bandied about for this office as well – former Council member and Mayoral candidate Peter Brown has come up in conversation, and I have heard rumors that Some People are trying to get Council Member Stephen Costello to switch races to this one – and I’m sure there are other possibilities.

As far as finance reports go, the only ones to reference are for Robinson and Frazer. Robinson has to file biannual reports as an HCC Trustee. They don’t have their January reports posted yet on the HCC Trustees website, so the best I can do for now is his July 2014 report. Frazer still has a city account from 2013, so he has a report on the city’s website.

Carroll Robinson
Bill Frazer

Name Raised Spent Loans On Hand ==================================================== Robinson 1,820 3,700 25,000 21,637 Frazer 0 3,503 0 160 Green 0 14,402 0 28,563

Incumbent Ronald Green’s totals are included as well for comparison. Not a whole lot to see here. Robinson was first out of the gate with a fundraising email on January 13, right after the injunction against the city’s blackout ordinance was handed down, but that wouldn’t have affected his January report anyway. Frazer ran a solid campaign in 2013 and gained a fair amount of traction against incumbent Green, who had some baggage to carry, but it’s not clear how much of that will stick in an open seat race. Controller races are often low-key, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the many Mayoral hopefuls makes the strategic decision to shift into this race, which if nothing else might provide a nice head start on the 2021 Mayoral campaign. And yes, my soul just died a little by the act of me typing that sentence. Anyway, this is what we have for now.

Carroll Robinson announces for City Controller

Not a surprise.

Carroll Robinson

Carroll Robinson

City Controller Race – I Am In – Carroll Robinson

Dear Friends,

As we begin to prepare for another holiday season, I wanted to personally let you know that, after much deliberation and prayer, I will run for City Controller in 2015.

I will officially launch my campaign in March 2015 at my annual Women for Robinson (WFR 2015) Meet, Greet and Network Reception.

Next year, the WFR Reception will be open to all who want to join me in my commitment to: 1) empowering the women of our community; 2) ensuring that all the young people in our city have “An Opportunity To Do Better”, and 3) Making Houston Greater.

[…]

I helped pass the city’s spending “Rev Cap” City Charter Amendment and I still support it. It forces fiscal discipline on City Hall and it is why the City Council Fiscal Affairs Committee is now engaged in the process of defining what “core” city services are and how they should be fully funded.

I support asking city voters to allow the city to keep excess revenue above the “Rev Cap” to speed up paying down the General Fund Debts and fully funding Public Safety Services.

I opposed establishing a city garbage fee when I was a City Council Member and I am still opposed.

I support Early Matters – the Greater Houston Partnership’s Early Childhood Education/Pre-K Initiative; creating the South Main Innovation Zone and putting all existing public infrastructure plans and city building permits into one common 3D GIS Database so that city, neighborhood and business leaders can all see the cumulative impact of what the city, Metro, TxDOT, H-GAC, Gulf Coast Rail District, TIRZs, MUDs and Water Districts are planning to build over the next five (5) to fifty (50) years so we can mitigate traffic congestion, storm water run-off, air pollution and avoid duplication, conflicts and wasting taxpayers money.

The Controller’s office doesn’t really get involved with most of these policy issues, but that’s neither here nor there. What I know and have said before and will keep saying is that I do not plan to support anyone who supports the revenue cap. Carroll Robinson is a smart guy with some good ideas, and I appreciate that he sees some things differently than I do, but the rev cap is a deal breaker for me. I’m sure we’ll have a spirited discussion about it when I do an interview with Carroll down the line. You can hear the interview I did with him for HCC here if you’re interested. Texpatriate, from who I got that Forward Times link, lists Metro board member Dwight Jefferson and 2013 Controller candidate Bill Frazer (candidate interview here) as other possibilities. I for one would like to see CM Ed Gonzalez give this race a try. It’s still very early, so don’t chisel anything into stone just yet. Houston Politics has more.