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RIP, Carl Whitmarsh

This was certainly a shock.

Carl Whitmarsh

Carl Whitmarsh used to joke that when he died, there would be as many people ready to dance on his grave as to cry over his death. A towering figure in Harris County Democratic politics, Whitmarsh rarely held his punches against those he disagreed with, but was a loyal friend and supporter of those on his side.

Whitmarsh died over the weekend at 64. The cause was not immediately clear, but he had been in ill health for years. The Harris County Democratic Party announced Whitmarsh’s death in an email to members Sunday evening.

“He was a somewhat cantankerous and often polarizing figure, but his primary role was in keeping everybody honest,” said Lane Lewis, a close friend of Whitmarsh’s and chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party. “I suspect there are people sharpening their knives as we speak without him keeping them in check.”

Whitmarsh served as executive director of the county Democratic party; as an aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, the vice presidential pick on Michael Dukakis’ 1988 ticket; and most recently, as president of the Oak Forest Area Democrats, a group active in northwest Houston. Throughout his decades behind the scenes in politics, he helped hundreds of candidates get elected, said State Sen. John Whitmire, a close friend.

[…]

“Carl Whitmarsh was a dear friend,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement. “There was no greater supporter than Carl. And no greater defender of the little person, those who were discriminated against and those who had nothing but their dignity. Carl was a mighty force of nature when he went after those he believed were hurting others or just plain wrong-headed about issues. But when he was your friend, Carl would go to the ends of the earth to help you.”

If you were at all involved in Democratic politics around here, you knew Carl. And if you knew Carl, you were undoubtedly stunned by the news of his death, announced via email from the HCDP on Sunday afternoon. Carl was as busy and active as he had ever been in these past weeks, so the odds are you saw him or spoke to him recently. He was doing what he always did, what he loved to do, which was supporting good Democrats and exhorting us all to get involved. If you could ask him right now, I’m sure he’d say is that his one regret is not being able to cast a vote for President Hillary Clinton. Carl was a force of nature, a stubborn old cuss, a hell-raiser to the bone, and a strong and loyal friend. Like so many others, I can’t quite believe there will be no more emails or phone calls or Facebook posts from him. You will be missed, Carl. Rest in peace, my friend.

Once again with what we want from the next County Commissioner

Campos:

El Franco Lee

The Chron has a story today on County Commissioner Gene Locke changing his mind and now wanting to become the Dem nominee for Commissioner. It looks like a race between Gene and State Sen. Rodney Ellis. The Chron mentions a few others that may be interested though.

Here is from the story today that Commentary finds interesting:

Lane Lewis, Democratic Party county chair, said he does not know which candidate the roughly 150 precinct chairs lean toward. So far, he said, the chairs have expressed concern about two main issues when considering contenders: whether the nominee will invest more within Houston city limits, since city residents also pay county taxes, and whether the nominee will play a more active role in Democratic Party politics.

Get it in writing folks or at least on YouTube. Make the county commissioner candidates say that they will start spending more of our tax dollars on projects within the H-Town City limits. How much? How about proportionately?

On the second point, we all know that county commissioners can raise a ton of campaign funds. Get them to say that in general election years, they will spend ten percent of what they have in their campaign bank account on Dem GOTV efforts in Harris County or at least within their precinct. If they have a million in the bank, then they commit to spend $100,000. No more of this piling up funds in their campaign bank account and hoarding it while the Dem Party continues to hold bake sales.

Make them take the pledge, please. Don’t let this opportunity slip through your fingers.

I’ve already stated my agreement with the second item, though I didn’t specify a number, as well as some other things I’m looking for. I’m happy to include point 1 on my list. The story notes that there will be a forum in May, so perhaps we can get some answers to these and other questions. Clearly, I need to add some candidate interviews to my to-do list. What questions should we add to what we’ve already got?

By the way, as noted by Mainstream in this comment to Tuesday’s post, you can add County Criminal Court at Law #16 to the list of nominations we have to fill. I have no intel on that one at this time, but I’m sure I’ll hear some names sooner or later.

Chron story on Locke running for Commissioner

It’s officially official now.

Gene Locke

Gene Locke

Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Gene Locke, appointed to fill the unexpired term following the sudden death of longtime Commissioner El Franco Lee last month, said Tuesday he may seek the nomination for the powerful local office in the November election.

Locke said he has not made a final decision, but his statement signals a shift for the former city attorney, who previously said he intended to return to his job as a lawyer and spend time with his family after the end of the current term in December.

It also would conflict with County Judge Ed Emmett’s previously stated desire to appoint a caretaker commissioner who would not seek the job beyond Dec. 31

“It’s the number of people who I respect that are asking me to consider it,” Locke said Tuesday.

He declined to name those asking him to run and said he needs to talk to his family about it. He did not give a timetable for when he would make a decision.

[…]

After Lee’s death on Jan. 3, several people announced interest in the office, including Houston Councilmen Jerry Davis, Dwight Boykins and Larry Green. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said last month that he intends to run, sacrificing 25 years of legislative seniority.

“I have a lot of respect for Gene Locke and appreciate anyone who wants to serve the public,” Ellis said in a statement Tuesday.

Davis said the possibility of Locke seeking the nomination would not change anything for him.

“Right now, it’s just the opportunity to talk to different people and see what they want in the county commissioner,” he said.

Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis said Locke had not told him if he was interested in the nomination.

You heard it here first. I mean, look, there are 130 or so precinct chairs who will make this decision. Locke’s task, or any other challenger’s task, is to convince enough of them to make him their first or second choice. I don’t know how that’s going to go, but it will be a campaign and an election like nothing else we’ve seen anytime soon.

Gene Locke is reportedly seeking the Commissioners Court nomination

Please see update at the end of this post. There is new information at the bottom.

Remember this?

Gene Locke

Gene Locke

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett on Friday named Gene Locke, a former city attorney and mayoral candidate, to complete El Franco Lee’s term on Commissioners Court.

Locke, 68, a senior partner at the Andrews Kurth law firm, served as city attorney under the late Mayor Bob Lanier in the 1990s and ran for mayor in 2009, losing in a runoff to Annise Parker.

“I plan to be a hands-on, on the ground, let’s get with the program commissioner, which means that I will follow in El Franco’s footsteps,” Locke said.

He added: “This precinct belongs to El Franco Lee, and anything that I do over the next several months is dedicated to him.”

Asked if he intended to run for the post in November, Locke said, “My intention is to go back to the practice of law and enjoy my family.”

As Carl Whitmarsh first noted on Friday, and others confirmed to me at the Saturday HCDP County Executive Committee meeting, Locke is now seeking to be named as El Franco Lee’s replacement on the ballot in December, thus allowing him to run for a full four-year term. I don’t know what may have changed his thinking – the obvious answer is that being County Commissioner is an amazingly sweet gig, and who wouldn’t want to keep doing it? – but something did. One of the tidbits I learned at that CEC meeting on Saturday is that there are about 130 Democratic precinct chairs in Commissioners Precinct 1, so that’s the target electorate he needs to work to get that job. Getting a headline about using county resources to help fix some city streets (*) is a nice thing that would no doubt help with March and November voters, but the pool to fish in is quite a bit smaller than that. We’ll see how he approaches it.

Meanwhile, Rodney Ellis and Dwight Boykins, who were both at that CEC meeting, remain the most visible-to-me contestants for that job. According to the discussion thread on Whitmarsh’s Facebook post, former City Council candidate Georgia Provost, and SD13 committee chair Nat West are also throwing their hats in the ring. Another thing I learned at the CEC meeting is that in order to be considered for the replacement nomination, one of those 130 or so precinct chairs needs to make a motion to nominate you. So we won’t really know who is and isn’t in play until June 25, the day the Precinct Executive Committee meets. Stay tuned.

(*) – Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that a story about Commissioner whose precinct is almost entirely within the city of Houston proposing to use some of his infrastructure funds on city streets (among other things) is newsworthy? What else do these funds get spent on if city streets aren’t normally included? It’s all still Harris County, isn’t it?

UPDATE: Commissioner Locke called me to say that while he has been asked to consider seeking the nomination, he has not made any decisions. He is considering it, and he said that being Commissioner offers him a platform on which he can do a lot of good, but he also reiterated what he said in that earlier story about having grandchildren he loves spending time with. The bottom line is that he said he has not made any decisions about seeking the nomination.

Selecting a successor for El Franco Lee: Process and questions

From the inbox, sent by Carroll Robinson.

El Franco Lee

The Issue

During the past few days, there has been a great deal of speculation about the legal process for selecting someone to replace the late Commissioner El Franco Lee on the November 2016 General Election ballot. (Texas Election Code, Subchapter C. Sections 172.057, 172.058 and 172.054 (1).)

The Primary Ballot – No Options

Under the state election code, Commissioner Lee’s name cannot be removed from the March Democratic Party Primary Election ballot, and the deadline for extending the filing deadline to allow other people to add their name to the primary ballot has passed. (Texas Election Code, Subchapter C, Section 172.058(b) and Subchapter B, Sections 145.035 and 145.036.)

General Election Ballot

Under the Texas Election Code, once the March Primary Election and Run-Off has concluded, the Democratic Precinct Judges in Commissioners Court Precinct 1 will meet to select a replacement candidate to appear on the November ballot for a full four-year term.

Under the law, there is no option of a Special Election for selecting a replacement candidate for the November General Election ballot.

Sitting Elected Officials

Under the law, a person’s name cannot appear on the ballot for two positions.  This means that currently elected officials up for re-election this year cannot be listed on the ballot for both Commissioner and re-election to their current office.

If A State Legislator Is Selected As The Replacement

In the event a state legislator is selected as the ballot replacement for the Precinct 1 position, his/her legislative office position on the November ballot would become available. To fill that position, a separate appointment process would occur, with the precinct judges of that specific jurisdiction selecting a replacement in the event no other candidate is on the primary ballot for that position. There is some confusion over the eligibility of current officeholders whose existing term would overlap in part or totally. Specifically, the eligibility of a municipal elected official to be appointed to a state legislative position.  Under current law, any potential replacement would have to resign from office prior to selection to be considered because of the State holdover provision based on an existing Texas Supreme Court decision to possibly be eligible to succeed the legislator. (Wentworth v. Meyer, 839 S.W. 2nd 766 (Tex. 1992) and Texas Attorney General Letter Opinion No. 95-069 (November 7, 1995).)

The Court’s decision raises a number of questions and does not give full clarity on a state constitutional provision that had historically prohibited sitting elected officials from being elected to the legislature if their term of office would overlap with the term of office of the legislative seat they were planning to seek.  (Texas Attorney General Letter Opinion No.95-069 (November 7, 1995).)

Questions Still To Be Answered
We are still researching answers to the following questions.

  • How will the meeting of the Precinct Judges to select the replacement be conducted?
  • Who will Chair the meeting and how will the Chair be selected?
  • What will be the process for individuals to be considered to be the replacement?
  • Can the Precinct Judges retain counsel to advise them on the questions involved in selecting the replacement?

 
Summary

1. Commissioner Lee’s name will be the only one on the Democratic Party Primary Ballot.

2. In June, the Democratic Party Precinct Judges, residing in Commissioner Precinct 1, elected in the March primary, will select a replacement candidate to appear on the November General Election ballot. The replacement candidate cannot be selected by Special Election.

We’ve covered some of this before, but it’s nice to have it in a concise summary like this. I would add the question of which precinct judges get to select a replacement if we wind up naming a sitting legislator to be the November nominee. My guess is that it would be simply the precinct judges from that legislative district, but it would be nice for that to be clarified. Note as well that there could be a third step involved if the legislator in question is 1) a Senator or Congressperson, and 2) the nominee chosen for that office is also a legislator, presumably a State Rep. I don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole here, so let’s just say that this could get involved, and could wind up being a long meeting.

If the new nominee is someone who currently holds office but is not on the ballot this November – a Houston City Council member or HISD/HCC Trustee, for instance – that person would clearly have to resign once sworn in as Commissioner, but not necessarily before then, unless they held an office that required them to resign to run for something else. I would prefer such a person to resign anyway, as there would be enough time for a special election, to be held in November along with everything else, to fill that person’s unexpired term. Which leads to another question I can’t answer: How many full terms in office would a Council member who won a November 2016 special election get to serve? Under the old system, they’d still get three full two-year terms, as folks like Ed Gonzalez and Melissa Noriega did; Dave Martin will get the full two-year term he won in 2013 plus the two four-year terms (if he runs and wins again in 2019) that others elected in 2013 can get. My guess is such a person could run twice more, in 2019 and 2023, giving them up to 11 years in total. Maybe we ought to have the City Attorney standing by, just in case.

Anyway. This is the process, and these are the questions that occur to me. I’m sure there will be more. I plan to lay out my criteria for what I am looking for in a new Commissioner in a separate post, as this one is long enough. What questions do you have about the process that I haven’t addressed here?

Filing deadline highlights

I’m taking a look at interesting bits from the state and Harris County Democratic Party filings. You can see the latter here; there isn’t a page dedicated to this on the TDP webpage (why?) but via this press release we find the SOS candidate filing report, which once filtered for Dem only gives us what we want, albeit in a not-so-pretty package. We soldier on nonetheless. Here are the things that caught my eye.

Federal

– In addition to the three candidates with whom you may be familiar, your choices for President in Texas include Calvis L. Hawes, Keith Judd, Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, Star Locke, and Willie L. Wilson. Hawes, Judd, and Locke are themselves from Texas.

– Democratic candidates filed for 30 of the 36 Congressional seats, the exceptions being 8, 11, 13, 19, 32, and 36. Of those, only 32 could be considered on the horizon of competitive, so no great loss. Incumbent Democrats facing primary challengers are Beto O’Rourke (CD16), Henry Cuellar (CD28), Eddie Berniece Johnson (CD30), and of course Gene Green (CD29), who like Johnson has two opponents, both named Garcia (Adrian and Dominique). There are seven candidates for the open CD15. Former Rep. Pete Gallego, trying to take back CD23, has a primary opponent to overcome first. Frequent candidate A.R. Hassan is one of two hopefuls for CD22. And hey, remember Ray Madrigal, the guy who ran against Wendy Davis in the gubernatorial primary in 2014? He’s a candidate for CD27, along with two other folks.

Statewide

– Your candidates for Railroad Commissioner are former State Rep. Lon Burnam, 2014 Senate candidate Grady Yarbrough, and Cody Garrett.

– All of the statewide judicial offices have candidates: Mike Westergren, Dori Contreras Garza, and Savannah Robinson, for places 3, 5, and 9 on the Supreme Court; incumbent Judge Larry Meyers (remember he switched parties last year), Betsy Johnson, and Robert Burns, for places 2, 5, and 6 on the Court of Criminal Appeals. I think you have to go back to 2002 to find the last time we had all such slots filled.

SBOE

– I guess first-term SBOE member Martha Dominguez decided not to run for re-election, because she didn’t file for it. Dominguez was more than a little flaky about running after her surprise win in the 2012 primary (why she was in the primary if she was reluctant to run for November remains a mystery), so no great loss here. Three candidates – Georgia Perez, Joe Fierro, Jr., and Lynn Oliver – are on the ballot to replace her.

– Two familiar names are back, Rebecca Bell-Metereau in SBOE5, and Judy Jennings in SBOE10. Both good candidates (you can search my archives for the interviews I did with them in 2010 if you are so inclined), with perhaps better chances of winning this time.

– There are three candidates for SBOE6 in Harris County – Jasmine Jenkins, Dakota Carter, and Michael Jordan. I know nothing about any of them at this time.

District appeals courts

– We seem to have these covered for Harris and the other counties in our two appellate districts:

Chief Justice, 1st Court of Appeals – Jim Peacock.
Justice, 1st Court of Appeals District, Place 4 – Barbara Gardner.
Justice, 14th Court of Appeals District, Place 2 – Candance White and Jim Sharp. Yes, that Jim Sharp.
Justice, 14th Court of Appeals District, Place 9 – Peter M. Kelly.

That appears to be a full slate, unless there are any unexpired terms I’m not aware of. DA candidate Morris Overstreet ran for Chief Justice of the 1st Court in 2010. Peter Kelly is a neighbor of mine, so that’s cool.

– There’s a contested primary for Justice, 13th Court of Appeals District, Place 3, in South Texas, which had been held by 2008 Supreme Court candidate Linda Yanez; she lost it in a heartbreaker in the 2010 debacle. One of the candidates is Leticia Hinojosa, whom those with long memories may remember as Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s primary opponent for the re-redistricted CD25 in 2004. Everything old is new again.

State Senate

– You know about the TMF-Menendez rematch in SD26. Another “rematch” is in SD19, where Sen. Carlos Uresti faces Helen Madla, widow of former Sen. Frank Madla, whom Uresti ousted in 2006. Let me just say that as much as I love the city of San Antonio, I’m glad I’m not living there this primary season.

– Sen. Eddie Lucio also has a primary opponent, O. Rodriguez Haro III.

– Virginia “Jennie Lou” Leeder is running for SD24, the seat vacated by Troy Fraser. She won’t win, but at least someone is running. No one filed for the other open Senate seat, Kevin Eltife’s SD01.

State House

– By my rough count, Dems fielded candidates in 90 of the 150 State House districts, which I believe means they are challenging 38 Republican incumbents. Offhand I don’t know how that compares to other years. Some districts where I would have liked to have seen a challenger include 17, 32, 45, 132, and 138. Easier said than done, I know. The Dallas County Democratic Party put out a release touting the fact that all of their districts have a Dem running in them. Good on them for that.

– Incumbents with primary challengers, according to the SOS: Toni Rose (HD110), Ina Minjarez (HD124; she won a special election late in the session, so no shock here), Alma Allen (HD131), Gene Wu (HD137), Ron Reynolds (HD27; he has three opponents), Sergio Munoz (HD36), and Mary Gonzalez (HD75; she is facing former Rep. Chente Quintanilla). According to the HCDP page, you can add Jessica Farrar (HD148) and Hubert Vo (HD149) to that list, with both of their opponents being hot messes. Farrar faces Dave Wilson – yes, that Dave Wilson – while Vo draws minor Mayoral candidate Demetria Smith. Pass the Advil.

– Open seat report: Three candidates in HD116 (vacated by TMF in his Senate quest), two in HD118 (Joe Farias; son Gabe won the special election to fill out his term), six in HD120 (Ruth Jones McClendon), three in HD139 (Sylvester Turner), seven in HD49 (Elliott Naishtat), and two in HD77 (Marissa Marquez).

– Other contested races: HD117 (Philip Cortez tries to win back the seat he won in 2012 and lost in 2014; he faces San Carlos Antonio), and HD144 (Mary Ann Perez tries to do the same but first faces Cody Ray Wheeler and Bernie Aldape). Also of note, Lloyd Criss (father of former Judge and 2014 candidate Susan Criss) tries his luck in HD23, which he once represented some years back.

Harris County

– There are twelve contested judicial races. These are mostly for Republican-held benches, but incumbent Elaine Palmer drew two challengers. Guess I better start sending out those judicial Q&As.

– Those 12 judicial races are for district and county courts. There are also four contested JP races. Incumbent Richard Vara (Precinct 6, Place 1) has an opponent, and incumbent Hillary Green (Precinct 7, Place 1; she is the estranged wife of outgoing Controller Ronald Green) has seven (!) opponents, including 2012 HCDP Chair candidate and 2013 Mayoral candidate Keryl Douglas.

– There are 26 people running for 8 Constable positions. Incumbents Alan Rosen (Precinct 1) has two opponents; Chris Diaz (Precinct 2) has three; Henry Martinez (Precinct 6) has four; and May Walker (Precinct 7) has one.

– Sherrie Matula, who had a couple of good runs for State Rep in HD129 prior to the 2011 redistricting, is a candidate for HCDE in Precinct 2, while Marilyn Burgess is running in Precinct 4. There are no At Large HCDE spots on the ballot this year.

– Commissioner El Franco Lee is unopposed, while former Council candidate Jenifer Rene Pool and Eric Hassan square off for the right to challenge Steve Radack in Precinct 3.

…And I do believe that’s a wrap. There may be some late additions or corrections – the SOS page may not have full information from the county parties, for instance – but this is a decent overview. There are a few names on the ballot that I wouldn’t mind seeing disappear, and trying to make sense of all these races and candidates will be a monumental task with not a whole lot of time to accomplish it, but overall this is a good thing. Much better to have a plethora of candidates than a dearth in a democracy.

Endorsement watch: Bell for King

As the headline notes, this came as a surprise to many.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell

Former Congressman Chris Bell publicly backed fiscal conservative Bill King in the Houston mayoral runoff Tuesday, a move that could bolster King’s efforts to make inroads with progressive voters.

Bell’s endorsement came as a surprise to many political insiders expecting the progressive former mayoral candidate to support King’s rival, Democrat Sylvester Turner.

Bell cited King’s focus on pension reform, public safety, road repair and flooding as reasons for his endorsement, as well as the businessman’s thoughtful approach to policy issues.

“It might come as a surprise to some because of my political persuasion, but it really shouldn’t,” Bell said alongside King in Meyerland. “Truth be told, we agree much more than we disagree. As far as the major principles of his campaign, we’re in complete agreement.”

If you say so, Chris. From my perspective, the main area of overlap between the two campaigns was an enthusiasm for bashing Adrian Garcia. On a number of issues I can think of, from HERO to the revenue cap to ReBuild Houston to (yes) pensions, there seemed to be little in common. It’s easier for me to see agreement between Steve Costello and Sylvester Turner than it is for me to see concurrence between Bell and King. Perhaps it’s in the eye of the beholder, I don’t know. But really, on a broader level, it’s that Bell positioned himself quite purposefully to Sylvester Turner’s left, with his greater purity on LGBT equality being a main point of differentiation. Though he missed out on getting the Houston GLBT Political Caucus’ endorsement – amid a fair amount of grumbling about Turner buying the recommendation via a slew of last-minute memberships – Bell had a lot of support in the LGBT community; a couple of his fervent supporters courted my vote at the West Gray Multi-Service Center by reminding me of an old Turner legislative vote against same sex foster parenting. This is why it’s hard to believe his claims about there being so much in common between him and King, and why this announcement was met with such an explosion of outrage and cries of betrayal. It’s not a partisan matter so much as it is a strong suspicion that either the prior assertions about being the real champion of equality were lies or that this endorsement had to come with a prize. If Chris Bell honestly believes that Bill King will be the best Mayor, that’s his right and his choice. But no one should be surprised by the reaction to it.

Does this help King? Well, he needs to get some Anglo Dem support to win, and that was Bell’s base. Of course, speaking as someone in that demographic, I’ve seen very little evidence that any of his erstwhile supporters were impressed by this. Quite the reverse, as noted above. I guess it can’t hurt, I just wouldn’t expect it to do much.

In the meantime, various organizations have been issuing new and updated endorsements for the runoffs. A few highlights:

– As previously noted, the HCDP endorsed all Democratic candidates with Republican opponents. That means Sylvester Turner for Mayor, Chris Brown for Controller, Georgia Provost, David Robinson, Amanda Edwards, Sharon Moses, Richard Nguyen, and Mike Laster for Council, and Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Jose Leal for HISD Trustee.

– The Houston GLBT Political Caucus added Georgia Provost and Karla Cisneros to their list of endorsed candidates. Turner, Brown, Edwards, and the incumbents were already on there. They did not take action on Moses and Leal.

– The Meyerland Democrats made their first endorsements in a city election: Turner, Brown, Provost, Robinson, Edwards, Nguyen, and Laster.

– Controller candidate Chris Brown sent out another email touting endorsements, this time from five previous Controllers – Ronald Green, Annise Parker, Sylvia Garcia, George Greanias, and Kathy Whitmire. As you know, I’m glad to see Green support him.

– As noted here, the Harris County GOP Executive Committee endorsed Willie Davis in AL2, though it wasn’t exactly unanimous.

– The Log Cabin Republicans transferred their endorsements to Bill King and Mike Knox, and reiterated their support for David Robinson, Jack Christie, and Steve Le. Guess being staunchly anti-HERO has its drawbacks.

– A group called the Texas Conservative View endorsed the candidates you’d expect them to – King, Frazer, Knox, Davis, Roy Morales, Christie, Steve Le, Jim Bigham – and one I didn’t, Jason Cisneroz. All of them were repeats from November except for Morales; they had previously endorsed Jonathan Hansen.

– Finally, the Houston Association of Realtors gave Bill King an endorsement that does mean something and makes sense, along with Amanda Edwards.

I think that catches me up. I’m sure there will be more to come – in particular, the Chron has a few races to revisit. They need to pick a finalist between Brown and Frazer, and make a new choice in AL1 and AL5. I’ll let you know when they do.

UPDATE: The line I deleted above about “being staunchly anti-HERO” was a reference to Willie Davis not getting the LCR endorsement in At Large #2. It made sense in my head when I wrote it, but I can see now that I didn’t make that clear at all. And given that the LCRs endorsed David Robinson in November, it doesn’t make sense even when I clarify who I intended that to be about. So, I take it back. Sorry for the confusion.

GOP versus Hall

Pass the popcorn.

RedEquality

The Harris County Republican Party released a flyer Monday attacking Houston mayoral candidate Ben Hall for his Democratic ties and previous support for a nondiscrimination ordinance.

Among top-tier mayoral candidates, Hall, a Democrat, is the most ardent critic of the city’s equal rights ordinance, known as HERO. The law is set to appear on November’s ballot.

“Ben Hall says yes to HERO ordinance in 2013,” the GOP flyer reads, citing a 2013 Harris County Democratic Party questionnaire on which Hall said he would support a nondiscrimination ordinance.

The ad also labels Hall a “current Democratic Party sustaining member” and claims he contributed more than $100,000 to Democrats, including President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry, citing campaign finance reports.

Hall responded in a statement Tuesday afternoon saying he has been “crystal clear” on HERO.

“Ben Hall is the only candidate, Democrat or Republican, who has been opposed to the HERO ordinance from the very beginning, long before the campaign began for Houston Mayor, long before the court put it on the November ballot,” he said.

The full Chron story is here, and here’s the interview I did with Hall in 2013. I have no desire to go back and listen to it, but my recollection is that he said No when I asked if he would support an equal rights ordinance. He wasn’t a firebrand about it, just matter-of-fact. I also recall being surprised by that, as to my knowledge he hadn’t been opposed it before. I can’t swear to that latter part, I can just say what I remember thinking at the time. Whether Hall is virgin pure on hating HERO since the dawn of time or he cynically came to oppose it as a matter of political expediency somewhere along the line is irrelevant to me, and should be irrelevant to any decent person. He’s a hater now, he’s loud and proud about it, and that’s what matters.

Not that I really care, but I am a little curious as to why the Harris County GOP decided to pick this fight. I get their objections, I just think this is an odd hill to engage on. Hall’s HERO history was no problem for uber hater Steven Hotze, who endorsed Hall, among others. It’s fine by me if the antis spread their votes around in the Mayor’s race; better odds for good candidates making it to the runoff that way.

Anyway. I’ve seen some people asking about which candidates support what things – HERO and otherwise. You can listen to my interviews, of course, or do something crazy like check out the candidates’ websites and attend candidate forums and things like that. If you’re looking for a shortcut, both the local GOP and the HCDP have candidate guides that may help answer your questions. And at some point, one presumes, the candidates – the Mayoral candidates in particular – will start flooding our mailboxes and the airwaves. Greg has more.

Should Lane Lewis resign as HCDP Chair to run for Council?

That’s the question some people are asking.

Lane Lewis

Lane Lewis

“What I want is someone who is going to be, at least in the political world, dedicated 100 percent to the mission of advancing the ideals of the Democratic Party,” said John Gorczynski, a local Democratic staffer and head of the Young Democrats of Texas. “If someone’s going to be running a campaign, I can’t imagine what that would look like.”

Lewis’ fundraiser next month will be hosted at the home of Bill Baldwin, the former county Democratic finance chair who resigned a few weeks ago to raise money for Lewis’ bid, a move intended to make the line between the party and the campaign clear. Some are calling for Lewis to follow Baldwin’s example and resign.

Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said Lewis should consider that, adding there would be a potential conflict of interest between Lewis trying to neutrally advance the Democratic Party – which includes several members running against him for council – while “competing in the trenches” himself.

“When you serve as party chair, you at least leave some of your political ambition at the door,” Jones said.

Lewis faces Houston Community College trustee Chris Oliver, local Democratic activists Jenifer Rene Pool and Philippe Nassif, Republican activist Trebor Gordon, and possibly Harris County Housing Authority chief Tom McCasland in the non-partisan race to succeed term-limited city councilman Stephen Costello in the At Large 1 council seat.

[…]

The county Democratic and Republican parties typically stay out of endorsing candidates in non-partisan municipal races, but Jones said that some Democratic elected officials and campaign staff may be pressured away from backing any of Lewis’ opponents.

Oliver and some Democratic activists also charge that Lewis could improperly use the party’s email list – though Lewis said the campaign email list was culled from his phone’s contacts, not the party’s -and that his time spent preparing the party for 2016 would now be split between his personal campaign and the party’s.

“That person should be focusing on Democratic Party politics, not city council politics,” said Oliver, a Democrat.

Lewis is not required to resign, as some but not all elected office holders are. My opinion is that we’re early enough in the cycle that being Chair and being a candidate are not inherently in conflict. Any candidate running a full-fledged campaign is likely to find as time goes on that it doesn’t leave much room in his or her life for other things. Lewis may eventually decide he should resign just to ensure he has enough hours in the day to do all the things he needs to do. Alternately, he may find that more and more Democratic activists, the kind of people whose vote he will want in November, are grumbling that the duties of HCDP Chair are being neglected and someone else needs to take over to ensure there isn’t a mess to clean up going into 2016. Or maybe he’ll be able to handle it all, and the complaints will be limited to his opponents and their supporters. As I say, I think it’s too early to know. But he should be prepared to resign at the first sign of the juggling act being too much. Lane Lewis has done a good job as HCDP Chair, but no one is irreplaceable. If leaving will be necessary, better to do so a little too early than a little too late. A statement from candidate Philippe Nassif is here, and Campos has more.

Lane Lewis announces for At Large #1

Interesting.

Lane Lewis

Lane Lewis

Harris County Democratic Party chair Lane Lewis will run for an at-large city council position, he told Democratic activists Wednesday evening.

Lewis, who has led the county’s party operation since 2011, is running to succeed Stephen Costello in At-Large Position 1, one of two open-seat at-large races next year. Lewis will remain party chair during his campaign.

Several other candidates already have appointed campaign treasurers in advance of runs for at-large positions, though only Philippe Nassif, a local Democratic activist, has specified that he will run for Position 1.

As does Texpatriate, I like Chairman Lewis. Also like Texpatriate, I’m not sure why there’s so much more focus on At Large #1 right now than on any other position. Jenifer Pool may not have officially specified what position she’s running for, but she has been telling people it’s AL1, and her business cards identify her as a candidate for that office. At Large 4, currently held by CM Bradford, will also be open, though no one has yet indicated they will run for it. At Large 5 may be open as well if CM Christie runs for Mayor, and even if he doesn’t I believe he has a glass jaw. I will be more than a little surprised if no one files to run against CM Kubosh in At Large 3. It’s early days and we should expect a lot of activity to begin in a few weeks, but as things stand right now I don’t look forward to the choice I’ll have to make in At Large #1. Stace has more.

SCOTUS declines to intervene on voter ID

Unfortunate.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

The Supreme Court said Saturday that Texas can use its controversial new voter identification law for the November election.

A majority of the justices rejected an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit the state from requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots. Three justices dissented.

The law was struck down by a federal judge last week, but a federal appeals court had put that ruling on hold. The judge found that roughly 600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at the polls because they lack acceptable identification. Early voting in Texas begins Monday.

The Supreme Court’s order was unsigned, as it typically is in these situations. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left the district court decision in place.

“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” Ginsburg wrote in dissent.

[…]

The court had intervened in three other disputes in recent weeks over Republican-inspired restrictions on voting access. In Wisconsin, the justices blocked a voter ID law from being used in November. In North Carolina and Ohio, the justices allowed limits on same-day registration, early voting and provisional ballots to take or remain in effect.

Ginsburg said the Texas case was different from the clashes in North Carolina and Ohio because a federal judge held a full trial on the Texas election procedures and developed “an extensive record” finding the process discriminated against ballot access.

The order came out early Saturday morning, which makes SCOTUSBlog‘s analysis of it, published at 5:32 AM, all the more impressive. Look, this sucks, but let’s not fall into despair over it. We hadn’t expected there to be a ruling on voter ID before the election, which is why the good guys have been preparing for it to be in place. Neither the Fifth Circuit ruling nor the SCOTUS ruling has anything to do with the merits of Judge Ramos’ opinion. That will come later, as well as a ruling on whether or not Texas should be put back under preclearance via Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. Feel angry all you want about this, but please don’t feel depressed. That just plays into the suppressionists’ hands. PDiddie, Nonsequiteuse, the Texas Election Law Blog, and Newsdesk have more.

What effect will this actually have? It’s hard to say, and no, the earlier elections we had, with turnouts less than ten percent and involving the hardest of the hardcore voters, don’t suggest anything. It would be nice to have some objective data, and we may get it this time around.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro requested Friday that the Government Accountability Office analyze voter turnout in Texas this year to determine if the state’s voter identification law – which earlier this week was reinstated by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals – disproportionately impacts the voter turnout of minorities.

In his letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, the San Antonio Democrat asked the GAO to compare voter turnout in Texas to other states; analyze the cost and prevalence of various forms of identification; examine voter outreach; and determine the pervasiveness of in-person voter fraud.

“Regardless of political posturing, the essence of democracy rests in the right to vote – when that right is threatened so is our democracy and freedom,” Castro wrote in his letter.

[…]

The Government Accountability Office said it did receive Castro’s letter but would not make a decision for a few weeks on whether to investigate.

We’ll see what happens. I doubt actual data will sway proponents’ opinions, but it would still be nice to have. Regardless, bring your ID when you vote, and remember that only by voting in sufficient numbers can we prevent terrible laws like that from being passed. Early voting hours and locations for Harris County are here. For those of you in my neck of the woods, please note that the Moody Park location is open again after having been closed for the past two elections due to construction. I’ll be keeping track of the daily totals as they get posted. On the absentee ballot front, there have been 32,128 mail ballots returned so far, with the analysis showing that Democrats in Harris County have the lead. As we have discussed before, that’s a testament to the HCDP’s mail ballot program. I’ll be very interested to see what those numbers look like when they get posted at 7 PM on November 4.

Mail ballots

Campos:

AbsenteeBallots

I put out this yesterday and it got some buzz:

In 2010, here in Harris County, 54,625 folks voted by mail. 24,231 went straight GOP and 11,448 went straight Dem. 31,101 voted for Governor Perry and 22,875 for Bill White.

In 2012, 75,177 voted by mail with 28,608 going straight GOP and 19,557 going Dem. 43,270 voted for Mitt Romney and 31,414 voting for the President.

As of yesterday here in Harris County, 80,641 mail ballot applications have been submitted. 36,910 of the applications have been generated by the Democratic Party or Democratic candidate campaigns and 34,381 by the GOP and GOP candidate campaigns.

Here are the new numbers:

As of yesterday (Oct. 8) here in Harris County, 82,129 mail ballot applications have been submitted. 37,250 of the applications have been generated by the Democratic Party or Democratic candidate campaigns and 35,230 by the GOP and GOP candidate campaigns.

Now what I didn’t say because I didn’t know until I checked was in 2012, the Harris County Clerk mailed out a little over 92,000 mail ballots and 76,000 were returned. That means 16,000 or so never made it back and didn’t get counted. I am figuring the Dems know this and are following up if you know what I mean. Dems are not going to let the mail ballots sit at home. Regardless, this looks like a pretty impressive effort. Just to approach the 2012 figure is A-Okay. Nice work! Keep following up!

I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago. I had some questions at the time about how these voters were being targeted, which have been addressed. This looks like it will be very effective. As of yesterday, about 12,000 of these ballots had already been returned. According to Kyle Johnston’s analysis of the roster, about 54% of the ballots were returned by people that could be classified as Democrats, 37% by Republicans, and the rest undetermined. That’s not a bad start, and there are still two weeks in which one can request a mail ballot.

Well, assuming those ballots make it in to be counted.

Hundreds of mail-in ballots that are being mistakenly held for days at a downtown post office will now be delivered to the Harris County Clerks Office.

The downtown post office was holding the ballots for insufficient postage, something they are not supposed to do.

“We found a glitch. And we’re going to expose this,” said Harris County Democratic Chairman Lane Lewis.

Lewis found out about the ballots and offered to pay for the postage shortage. Almost all the ballots were short on postage by just pennies.

“These votes whether Republican or Democrat, I don’t know, but they need to be counted,” said Lewis.

A postal worker told Eyewitness News the shortage was about $57.

[…]

Eyewitness News learned Stanart made his own mistake. The return ballot states the postage is 69 cents. But it should have been 70 cents. Some ballots were being held for just a penny. Stanart said he didn’t know about the change in postage.

“I personally didn’t. I would have to talk to my office if they do know that,” said Stanart.

That’s your Houston Chronicle-endorsed County Clerk Stan Stanart right there, ladies and gentlemen. Isn’t he something?

Anyway. This is a Harris County program, and Lane Lewis and the HCDP get the credit for it. There are other mail programs going on around the state, though I doubt any will be as big as the HCDP’s will. While I know a decent number of the people targeted by Lewis and the HCDP are Presidential year voters, surely a fair number of these ballots are coming from people that would have turned out anyway. This isn’t a silver bullet, because there aren’t any, it’s just one of a lot of small, medium, and large things that need to be done to try to close the gap. It’s in addition to the voter registration numbers, for which there’s more good news and a bit of national attention. You have to feel good about it.

Again, it’s still too early to draw any conclusions, and even if everything is going exactly according to plan there’s still a ginormous gap that needs to be closed. Like I keep saying, even a really big step forward can fall well short. But what this election feels like to me is a dogfight. We’ve got Abbott and Patrick running attack ads even as the narrative was that frontrunners don’t do that. We’ve got the voter ID ruling, which came down late yesterday and for which I’ll have more tomorrow. It’s game on. Get out there and make something happen.

Wilson sued over residency for HCC

Dave Wilson and lawsuits go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Dave Wilson

Dave Wilson

The Harris County attorney sued Houston Community College trustee-elect Dave Wilson on Thursday, alleging the small business owner and anti-gay activist was not a resident of District II when he was elected to the post last month.

“We think there is a reasonable doubt as to whether he lives within the district, and it needs to be clarified,” said First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard.

The three-page civil suit petition, filed in the 151st District Court, does not say where Wilson lives, but Soard said the grounds for the lawsuit are “similar” to ones raised by the defense in a still-pending lawsuit that Wilson, a perennial candidate, brought against the Harris County Democratic Party chairman in 2010, when he was kept off the ballot after filing to run for Precinct 4 Harris County commissioner.

That year, then-Chairman Gerry Birnberg argued that Wilson was ineligible to run because he had listed an address on his application that was not his residential address, as required by election code. Wilson’s wife, Connie, still lists a property at 7370 Lake Lane, which is in the Lone Star Community College System district, as her residential homestead, according to the Harris County Appraisal District website.

Wilson, who ousted HCC Chairman Bruce Austin in the Nov. 5 election by 26 votes, contends that he lives in “a 1,140-square-foot apartment upstairs” at his office, located at 5600 W. 34th St. in the college system’s District II.

The building there is an 11,340-square-foot commercial metal warehouse, according to county records.

Asked Thursday if he was living separately from his wife, Wilson said, “That’s a personal matter, and it’s none of yours or the Chronicle’s business.”

“I think that county records still show that we’re married. That’s all I’ll say,” Wilson said.

So to review, Wilson was removed from the ballot in 2010 by then-HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg on the grounds that he did not live in County Commissioner Precinct 4. Wilson then filed a lawsuit against the HCDP to be reinstated on the ballot, but he lost. He subsequently also filed a federal lawsuit against a larger list of plaintiffs alleging that his civil rights were violated by being denied a spot on the ballot. The suit was dismissed by a federal district court, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted his petition for a rehearing in 2012. I don’t know where that now stands.

In any event, in looking at these old posts, three things stand out to me. One is that the address Wilson was using to get on the ballot in 2010 was 1512 W. 34th Street, not 5600 W. 34th Street as he apparently used for his HCC filing. He was still using the 1512 address in his 2011 filing for Mayor. Does he have more than one warehouse that he claims to be his residency when he needs it, or did he move between then and now? A little fooling around on Google Maps tells me the two addresses are 2.8 miles apart. Not very far, but it’s not impossible that one might cross a political boundary or two in the journey. That would be another reason why it would ne nice to know when he started using the 5600 address. Second, while Wilson is playing coy with his marital status now, in 2010 he stated he that he was in fact separated from his wife. Finally, the one constant in all this is the 7370 Lake Lane address where Connie Wilson lives. Make of this what you will.

So what this means is that we ought to get a fuller airing of the facts this time. In 2010 he was booted at Gerry Birnberg’s discretion, and the courts declined to give Wilson relief. Here it’s Harris County that’s taking action after the fact, and I very much look forward to seeing the case play out. The HCC Board itself says it wasn’t their job to vet the candidate filing. That’s a question Rep. Harold Dutton brought up to them, and I have a sneaking suspicion Rep. Dutton will attempt to deal with that in the next legislative session. Wilson ran again for County Commissioner in Precinct 4 in 2012. That time, his application was accepted, and he wound up losing in the primary to Sean Hemmerle. I don’t know which address he used for that application, but clearly someone should find that out. If he was still using 1512 W. 34th Street, then he needs to be pinned down on when he moved.

Anyway. The saga continues, as they often do. No indication in the story when there will be a hearing on this, but one presumes it will be after the holidays. One also presumes the question of whether or not the County Attorney has standing to file such a suit will arise. Like I said, I very much look forward to seeing how this plays out.

Why stealth campaigns can work

Here’s the Chron story about the HCC Trustee election results. See if you can spot what’s missing.

A total of 13 candidates, including the four incumbents, vied for the five open seats on the nine-member board. Many ran on a platform that called for more transparency, a stronger ethics policy and hiring a new chancellor who can move the institution forward.

The candidates agreed HCC is an asset to the community. As one of the nation’s largest community college systems with 75,000 students, HCC plays a critical role in producing skilled employees and degree holders who are prepared to enter the workforce, they said.

The HCC board has been dysfunctional, and some board members have engaged in unethical practices by awarding contracts to relatives, friends and political allies in recent years, damaging the community’s trust, said many candidates. They vowed to restore that trust.

In the District 1 race, incumbent Yolanda Navarro Flores was headed for a runoff against Zeph Capo, based on final unofficial results. Flores, who was censured by the board for unethical behavior in 2011, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

District 2 incumbent Bruce Austin, first elected in 1989, narrowly lost to small-business owner Dave Wilson. Austin, 60, had said the district has to work on ways to get students to graduate on time and to improve developmental education. Transparency is also an issue, he had said, noting that the board requires ethics training for board candidates.

So a 24-year incumbent gets ousted in a race decided by 26 votes, and what do we learn about his victorious opponent? Just that he’s a “small-business owner”. Not that he’s a notorious, longtime anti-gay activist who ran against Mayor Parker in 2011 and is currently embroiled in a legal battle against the Harris County Democratic Party over his attempts to run for County Commissioner while claiming his business address as his residence. Not the fact that he meddled in the HCC 1 race by sending one of his patented attack mailers, sliming Zeph Capo and Kevin Hoffman for being gay. Not the fact that the mail he sent on his own behalf would make you think he himself was African-American, which he is not. Just, you know, a “small-business owner”. Nothing to see here, folks.

Barring anything strange from the provisional and overseas ballots, we appear to be stuck with this asshole for the next six years. I call on all the other Trustees to do everything they can within the rules to marginalize him and prevent him from doing any damage to the HCC system or its students. I also remind everyone that while Wilson might have snuck into office, you can at least help oust the incumbent candidate he tried to help. If you live in HCC 1 – and if you’re not sure, check your voter registration card now or go to the Tax Assessor webpage to find out – be sure to show up in December and vote for Zeph Capo against Yolanda Navarro Flores. Because these races do matter, and bad things can happen when we’re not paying attention.

How city candidates have voted in past primaries

This is great to see.

The Harris County Democratic Party does not endorse candidates in the non-partisan City of Houston elections; however, in an effort to keep you informed as to which candidates are Democrats and which are not, we are providing this information page.

Candidates and elected officials who are current Sustaining Members of the Harris County Democratic Party are marked with a sustaining member badge on their photos. We have also included information regarding how each candidate voted in the last 3 (2012, 2010, 2008) Primary elections. Those noted with a “D” indicate that they voted in the Democratic Primary, those noted with “R” indicate that they voted in the Republican Primary. When “N/A” appears, the individual had no voting history for that year’s Primary.

You can click on the candidate’s photo to be taken to their website so you can learn their positions on the issues that matter to you and make an informed choice at the ballot box in November.

Thanks to Stace for highlighting this. I called for something exactly like this two years ago when the process of electing a successor to then-HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg had begun, so I am delighted to see it happen. As I noted then, this is something the Harris County GOP has been doing all along – you can see their page for the 2013 elections, which I think isn’t nearly as snappy as the Dems’ page. The Dem page does need to be updated to reflect the final, post-filing-deadline lineups in the HISD and HCC races – the GOP page is up to date on that, though they’re missing primary information for a lot of the school district and HCC candidates – and it would be nice if they included candidates for school districts other than just HISD. The fact that that did this at all, and in such a nicely presented way, is a big step forward. Kudos to all for the effort.

Mayoral multitude

Campos has an update on who’s running for what.

Keryl Douglas

Keryl Douglas

Commentary dropped by the City Secretary Office a couple of days ago to check out the latest campaign treasurer designations.

Here is who I will add to my political page later on today:

For Mayor: Keryl Douglas, Eric Dick, Michael Fitzsimmons, and Victoria Lane.

For At-Large 2: David Robinson, Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, and Brent Gordon.

For At-Large 3: As reported yesterday, Al Edwards.

For District B: Joe Joseph.

For District C: Pete Sosa.

For District D: Lana Edwards, Larry McKenzie, and Anthony Robinson.

For District G: Ben Taef.

Of course, these folks still have to plunk down the filing fee when the time comes.

Yes, former HCDP Chair candidate Keryl Douglas is running for Mayor. I’d heard about this from two different people before Campos did his digging at the City Secretary’s office. I have no idea why Keryl Douglas thinks she can be elected Mayor, but then the same can be said for everyone not named Annise Parker and Ben Hall. Speaking of whom, you have to figure Hall is not happy about this. Douglas will be competing with him directly for African-American voters. I’m sure he’d prefer to not have that competition.

You can see Campos’ list of candidates who have filed designation of treasurer papers here. This week is when campaign finance reports for the period ending June 30 will be appearing on the city’s reporting website. That will give a good indication about who’s running for what as well. I’ll be keeping an eye on those and will write about what I find. First order of business will be to see what Parker and Hall’s reports look like. Stay tuned.

Carl Whitmarsh

From the inbox:

Here’s the donation link. I sent a check, because I’m just old-fashioned. Carl has done a lot for Democrats in Harris County for a long time, and he deserves our support in his time of need. Please help if you can. Thanks very much.

And now a word from the HCDP

Note: The following is a guest post written by Michael Kolenc

A week has come and gone since the election, and while we still wait for the provisional ballots to be counted, we can say that the 2012 elections gave Harris County Democrats a reason for celebration. We won elections from the top to the bottom of the ticket; we expanded the capacity of the HCDP; and we moved out of our comfort zone to change the organizing culture of our local party.

HCDP Chair Lane Lewis has been making the case to everyone that will listen: Investing in the HCDP, so that it is a stronger and sustaining operation, will help us all achieve our goals. This past year demonstrates that commitment.

With the election now a week behind us, it is important for us to take a careful inventory of our work and how it contributed to electing Democrats. No one at the HCDP Campaign will claim to have re-created the rubric for how to run campaigns, but they will claim to having been focused on the goal of talking to a universe of targeted voters. It was this – with the help of some amazing candidates, elected officials, donors, staff and nearly 1,000 unique volunteers – that enabled the HCDP Campaign to be effective and deliver results.

Through the HCDP’s program over 36,000 doors were knocked, some 890,000 calls made from nine offices county-wide, and, for the first time, a vote by mail program was instituted making us competitive with the Republican’s program. These are not things that happen by accident or in a vacuum. Programs like these require planning, resources, and a commitment from stakeholders that this is the new way to operate. It requires a belief that organizing does not end on Election Day, but rather is a year-long process despite even or odd numbered years.

The work of the party has just started. 2013 municipal elections and the 2014 contests are here and require planning. In order to build upon the success we had this year – VMB program, voter contact numbers, and vastly increasing straight party ticket voting – we need to invest in our party.

Candidates, elected officials, donors, and party activists should want to see a HCDP that is focused the entire year on electing Democrats and not just in the six months before the election. As we approach the end to our first year with Chair Lewis at the helm, know that he will make the case once again about the importance of us all having a little skin in the game.

Michael Kolenc is a political advisor to Chair Lewis.

===============================================================

This is me speaking again. I now have my hands on a draft canvass and am happily crunching away to see what I can learn from it. I hope to get some empirical idea of how turnout, Latino voting, and other things went. I am encouraged by talk of involvement in the city elections, and we definitely need to be thinking about 2014 already. My thanks to Michael for his report on the HCDP’s activities for this past election.

Oliver to remain on the ballot

Can’t say I’m surprised.

The Lloyd Oliver Tree

Attorneys representing Harris County Democratic Chairman Lane Lewis and the state Democratic Party argued that perennial candidate [Lloyd] Oliver should be kept off the ballot because he violated a party rule prohibiting a complimentary remark he made about defeated District Attorney Pat Lykos, a Republican, but District Judge Bill Burke ruled that Oliver was not bound by that rule.

Burke also rejected the argument that the party, as a private association, has the right to determine who should be on the ballot, regardless of election results.

[…]

“I don’t think that what happened amounted to a rule violation under party rules,” Burke said after a two-hour hearing on Wednesday morning.

Oliver admitted saying that he would have voted for Lykos had he not been running against her. He told the court Wednesday that he made the statement the day after the primary, so she technically no longer was a candidate. He also argued that the party rule applied only to chairmen and other Democratic officials.

“I have a First Amendment right to compliment public officials,” he told the court.

The judge agreed.

“I don’t think that amounts to an endorsement of the Republican candidate, since she had been defeated by then, and it was coupled with a swipe at the prevailing candidate, Mike Anderson,” Burke said.

Oliver, who told the court that Wednesday was his birthday and that he was either 68 or 69, had likened Anderson to a prison guard.

Responding to the argument that a political party had the right to determine who should be on the ballot, Burke noted that most of the cases that Democratic Party attorneys cited involved decisions reached before voters went to the polls in party primaries.

“It seems to me to be a different situation that we have here when the party accepts the filing fee, Oliver campaigns, does whatever he does to win the election and does receive the majority of the votes in the primary,” the judge said.

The case had been remanded to state court last Friday, as noted by commenter Jerad Najvar in my previous post. You know how I feel about this. I agree with Judge Burke’s reasoning, and I think he would have set a potentially dangerous precedent had he ruled otherwise. The situation the party is in is unfortunate, but these things happen and it’s not right to undo the result of a primary over a silly statement by a silly person. (Speaking of the primary, the version of the story I saw said that Oliver won it “by 30,000 votes”. He actually won it by a bit less than 3,000 votes, as you can see on page 19 here. Math is hard, y’all.) The best course of action, which is what I plan to go back to doing, is to ignore the guy. It’s not like he’s going to be out on the campaign trail making further mischief. If Oliver subsequently manages to win this election as well, we should all remind him that he only filed for the race to increase his name ID. Having unquestionably achieved this objective, he should then go ahead and resign, so that he can collect the reward for his higher profile. I mean, actually being DA would be bad for his business as a defense attorney, am I right? Let us speak of this no more until after November 6. You can go back to sleep now, Lloyd. PDiddie has more.

Who gets to rule on Oliver’s eligibility for the ballot?

We’re waiting for a ruling in the Lloyd Oliver lawsuit, but before we get a ruling in the case we must first get a ruling on who gets to rule in the lawsuit.

Tuesday’s federal court hearing centered largely on arguments between Democratic Party lawyer Chad Dunn and the leader of Oliver’s six-man defense team, Keith Gross, on whether the legal issues at hand should be heard in a federal court or a state court. After hearing 35 minutes of arguments, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal said she will rule as quickly as she can on which court should consider the question.

First Assistant County Attorney Terry O’Rourke told Rosenthal the county’s “drop-dead” date for determining which candidates will appear on the ballot is Sept. 6, to allow time for legal elections processes to play out before the Nov. 6 vote.

That’s Thursday, so I presume we’ll at least get Judge Rosenthal’s ruling about jurisdiction today. Anyone want to make a guess about how this turns out?

Oliver sues to stay on ballot

We’ll find out who’s right soon enough.

On Friday, Houston attorney Lloyd Oliver filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the Harris County Democratic Party’s attempts to oust him from the ticket.

“They’re not going to put any candidate on the ballot. They just shut the whole thing down,” Oliver said.

The lawyer called the move an attempt by party officials to disenfranchise voters.

[…]

Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for the Texas secretary of state said there was no provision in state law for removing a political candidate accused of violating party rules.

Harris County Democratic Party officials say they have federal law on their side.

“Political parties get to determine who their nominees are going to be,” said Chad Dunn, the party’s attorney.

He said the Constitution prevents government officials from compelling a political party – a private association – to select a particular candidate.

Dunn said Oliver could run as an independent or a write-in candidate.

“But, if you want to run as a Democrat, then the Democratic Party gets to decide if you are its nominee,” Dunn said.

The irony of all this is that filing the lawsuit is the first proactive step Lloyd Oliver has ever taken to be elected to something. I wasn’t sure he’d even bother, given that his goal was never to actually get elected, but merely to get publicity. Well, now he gets to keep his name in the papers for a few more days.

I’ll say again what I said originally. I don’t see what leg the HCDP has to stand on. I hope I’m wrong and that they really do have chapter and verse of federal law on their side, because they’re going to look like a bunch of idiots if they lose. I just have a bad feeling about this.

As for Dunn’s statement about who gets to decide who the nominees are, well, not to belabor the obvious, but that’s what primary elections are for. The fact that the voters made a poor choice this time is certainly unfortunate and a failure of the process that I believe the party needs to address for the future, but that’s a separate issue. It’s true that Oliver could have run as an independent or as a write-in, but to do so would have required filing paperwork that was due at the same time as the paperwork to be on the primary ballot. Unlike, say, Connecticut, where you can form your own party to run in after losing in the primary of another party, you only get one shot at this in Texas. Oliver chose to file as a Democrat for his own inscrutable reasons. He won the primary, and that means he’s earned the right to run in November, much as I dislike the idea of him winning. I’ll wait to see what the judge has to say, but I really don’t understand this. Tactically speaking, it’s hard to see how Oliver was going to be more trouble on the ballot than he is now trying to get him off of it.

Dems boot Oliver

Here we go.

The Harris County Democratic Party worked Wednesday to take district attorney nominee Lloyd Oliver’s name off the ballot, deciding to go forward without a candidate in November’s general election.

Whether they can actually take the outspoken and controversial lawyer out of the race remains an open question because state law does not appear to allow the party’s actions.

“There are ways to remove a candidate, but not the way they’re doing it,” Oliver said. “And my ultimate remedy is an injunction in the federal court, and I think the federal courts will agree with me.”

Oliver, a perennial candidate who has run as both a Republican and a Democratic, usually in judicial elections, said he did not know why the party wants to take him off the ballot.

[…]

Chad Dunn, the party’s attorney, said the party’s actions are lawful.

“All of the federal court decisions addressing this issue have found that political parties have an intrinsic right, as a private political association protected by the First Amendment, to choose and select their nominees,” Dunn said. “I think the law is very clear that political parties can’t be forced by the state, either by statute or some state officer’s requirement, to have a nominee in a race they don’t want to have a nominee in.”

I still don’t see it, but I remain a non-lawyer, so what do I know. Oliver is a barnacle on the political process and I have zero sympathy for him, but that doesn’t make this legal or right. I presume a judge will eventually decide the former; the latter is for you to determine. I hope Dunn et al are correct about the law, because this will be a debacle otherwise. I’ll say again, I hope the lesson learned is that the party needs to be involved in the primary when a clearly unsuitable candidate files.

Mark Bennett objects to this move on principle. I’ll leave the principle to others to discuss, but I will offer a pragmatic defense: If this sticks, it at least ensures that an unqualified boob like Lloyd Oliver cannot be elected DA. How likely would that be? If Harris County is roughly 50-50 as it was in 2008, then I’d have bet money on Mike Anderson winning. If Harris in 2012 is to 2008 as 2008 was to 2004, then Oliver could easily win on partisan momentum. If it’s somewhere in between, who knows? Point is, as long as Lloyd Oliver is on the ballot there’s a non-zero chance he could win. Your opinion of that risk will likely color your opinion of the HCDP’s action. Murray Newman has more.

Birnberg files complaint to force Oliver off the ballot

I’m far from thrilled to have Lloyd Oliver as the Democratic nominee for District Attorney, but this seems a bit much to me.

Gerry Birnberg, the former party chair, filed a complaint earlier this month to have Oliver removed from November’s ballot because he praised the sitting district attorney, Republican Pat Lykos.

Specifically, Birnberg said in his complaint, Oliver told the Houston Chronicle in May that Lykos was such a good candidate that she “would have gotten my vote.”

[…]

Birnberg said he was not retaliating against Oliver for beating Zack Fertitta in the primary, but said he is concerned about Oliver’s loyalty and the Republican strategy.

“I believe the Republicans are planning on using his colorful past as a way to bring down the entire ticket,” Birnberg said.

He also said he expects loyalty to Democrats across the ticket, “and if a candidate is saying that ‘Republicans are still good candidates too,’ that’s not helpful for the Democratic party.”

So much to cover here, but let me start off by noting that Gary Polland was the first to report this:

This hasn’t made the local media yet, but former Democratic Chair Gerald Birnberg has made a complaint designed to remove Democratic “accidental” District Attorney candidate Lloyd Oliver from the ballot. This is an interesting development.

TCR wonders, do the D’s intend to remove and replace with a handpicked star who they think could take advantage of the nasty GOP primary battle between incumbent Pat Lykos and successful primary challenger Mike Anderson? Do the Democrats think that they can convince enough swing and Lykos loyalists to vote their way, and win a tight battle? Maybe it’s time for the Anderson group to smoke the peace pipe with District Attorney Lykos and her supporters.

Birnberg is worried that the Republicans will user Oliver as a club against the Democrats elsewhere on the ticket. Polland is worried that the residual acrimony from the Anderson-Lykos primary could let Oliver win a race he has no business winning. We live in interesting times.

I’m sure that Birnberg and Polland have both forgotten more election law than I’ll ever know, but I don’t see how the Dems can do this. For one thing, the case Birnberg is making seems exceedingly weak to me. I mean, the Democratic Speaker of the State House in 2000 (Pete Laney) endorsed George Bush for President, and he was far from the only Dem to do so back then. Compared to that, Oliver’s words barely register. I mean, they’d be grounds to remove him as a precinct chair, but to declare him ineligible as a nominee? I just don’t see it. Oliver is an idiot, but unless he chooses to withdraw I’m afraid we’re stuck with him.

Assuming that HCDP Chair Lane Lewis buys the ineligibility argument, it’s also not clear to me that Oliver can be replaced. Section 145 of the Elections Code doesn’t specifically address the question of replacing candidates who have been declared ineligible on the ballot, but Sec 145.039 says “If a candidate dies or is declared ineligible after the 74th day before election day, the candidate’s name shall be placed on the ballot”. By my calculation, that makes the deadline this Friday, the 24th. I have no idea if the machinery can be made to move swiftly enough to allow for this, again in the event that Lewis goes along with Birnberg’s complaint. It just adds to my incredulity about this.

HCDE runoff will be held

So ruled a judge yesterday in the ongoing lawsuit filed by the HCDE to void the Democratic primary in Precinct 1 Position 6.

The Harris County Department of Education told a federal judge Monday it wants to proceed with the lawsuit as a growing number of parties sought to dismiss the case.

Erica Lee

Sarah Langlois, general counsel for the department of education, said the board’s motivation to continue the suit is the same as its reason for filing it: its trustees must be elected lawfully, lest their decisions be legally challenged later.

The department of education provides services to school districts in Harris County, from after-school programs to purchasing.

County attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the suit with U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal’s court on Monday, followed by a similar motion from the county Democratic Party. County Republic Party chairman Jared Woodfill, in an act of inadvertent bipartisanship that sent laughs through the courtroom, soon approached the bench and said he, too, wanted the suit dismissed; a lawyer for Democratic candidate Erica S. Lee echoed the sentiment.

Jarvis Johnson

Tuesday’s Position 6 trustee runoff election between Lee and former Houston city councilman Jarvis Johnson will proceed as scheduled using the correct boundary lines. The other flawed primary, between Republicans for the Position 4 seat, was a blowout, the outcome of which was unaffected by the error.

“I am pleased that the election that is in progress continues,” Lee said after the hearing.

Johnson called Lee’s position “disingenuous,” saying it would disenfranchise 1,400 voters who should have been able to vote in the May primary, but could not because the contest did not appear on their ballots.

“The 1,400 votes that could be counted would clearly favor me by making me the clear-cut winner. I believe I am the winner,” said Johnson, who got 49.5 percent of the vote in May to Lee’s 40.6 percent.

That’s what I’d argue if I were Jarvis Johnson, but let’s see what the numbers have to say. Johnson had 16,557 votes out of 33,459 cast in May (see here, page 21). Let’s take his figure of 1400 additional votes that should have been cast as accurate. There was a 13.60% undervote rate in that election, so we would expect 1210 actual ballots cast in that race, bringing the revised total to 34,669. Johnson would then need 17,335 votes for a clear majority, or 778 more than had actually had. That’s 64.3% of the 1210 extra ballots. I don’t have the statistical chops to calculate the odds of someone who received 49.5% of the first 33,459 votes collecting 64.3% of the next 1210 votes, but it seems unlikely to me. Unless you have some reason to believe that these votes came from a particularly Johnson-friendly set of precincts, it’s hardly a lock that he’d have won outright under a valid set of boundaries.

The lawsuit has not been dismissed; Judge Rosenthal will not rule on that until after all parties have submitted briefs on Friday and Monday. I prefer this to the settlement deal that had originally been proposed. What happens if someone files suit afterward is anyone’s guess; there’s no precedent for this that I know of. I hope we get a clear result, but at this point nothing will surprise me. Miya Shay and Houston Politics have more.

Precinct analysis: The two races we’re all glad to see the end of

For my last look at precinct data from the Harris County Democratic primary of 2012, let’s see what happened in the two most contentious races on the ballot: Elaine Palmer versus Steven Kirkland, and Keryl Douglass versus Lane Lewis. First up, Palmer-Kirkland:

Dist Palmer Kirkland Palmer % =============================== 126 791 417 65.48% 127 860 466 64.86% 128 815 615 56.99% 129 1155 878 56.81% 130 582 322 64.38% 131 3894 1785 68.57% 132 662 350 65.42% 133 803 884 47.60% 134 1393 2614 34.76% 135 731 401 64.58% 137 816 563 59.17% 138 649 511 55.95% 139 3266 1514 68.33% 140 897 461 66.05% 141 2547 963 72.56% 142 2992 1332 69.20% 143 1859 1122 62.36% 144 944 638 59.67% 145 982 708 58.11% 146 4546 2275 66.65% 147 4224 2710 60.92% 148 1077 1305 45.21% 149 847 514 62.23% 150 647 419 60.69%

Palmer won by a 61.5 to 38.5 margin, so her domination of the districts is not surprising. Never underestimate a large budget and a boundless willingness to go negative. Kirkland did have a base of support, it just wasn’t big enough to withstand the assault. It will be interesting to return to the precinct results in November to see how long the memories of Kirkland’s supporters are. My guess is that Palmer is going to underperform the Democratic baseline overall, and will probably do worse in the districts that Kirkland carried. Good thing for the people who bankrolled Palmer that it wasn’t actually about her winning. They’ve already done what they set out to do.

I don’t know about you, but when the early vote results came in and I first saw the Palmer-Kirkland numbers as I was scrolling through them, I cringed. I was convinced that if Palmer was winning, so too would Keryl Douglass be winning. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

Dist Lewis Douglas Douglas % ============================== 126 621 568 47.77% 127 741 574 43.65% 128 891 550 38.17% 129 1224 734 37.49% 130 494 405 45.05% 131 2629 2884 52.31% 132 540 471 46.59% 133 984 576 36.92% 134 2687 962 26.36% 135 627 497 44.22% 137 811 542 40.06% 138 707 422 37.38% 139 2262 2483 52.33% 140 827 564 40.55% 141 1609 1881 53.90% 142 2062 2112 50.60% 143 1815 1213 40.06% 144 1066 584 35.39% 145 1103 596 35.08% 146 3016 3449 53.35% 147 3407 3181 48.28% 148 1609 746 31.68% 149 757 594 43.97% 150 601 455 43.09%

Douglass carried five of the six African-American State Rep districts, but by relatively small margins. She did not win anywhere else. She also didn’t have anywhere near as much money as Palmer had, and I have to believe that in the end, the homophobic campaign email – whether her campaign had something to do with it or not – and push cards did not help her. I can’t say for certain that they hurt her, but I think it is safe to say that this was the wrong year to be on the wrong side of the equality issue, at least in a Democratic primary. If this is the last year that it’s even a question, I’ll consider that to be one of the better things to come out of this primary.

Democratic results, Harris County

The good:

– Lane Lewis won a full term as HCDP Chair by a 55-45 margin. If you heard a whizzing noise this evening, it was the bullet we all dodged in this race.

– Sheriff Adrian Garcia easily won renomination with over 70% of the vote.

– State Reps. Garnet Coleman and Borris Miles won their races. We may finally have seen the last of Al Edwards.

– Sean Hammerle held off Dave Wilson in Commissioners Court Precinct 4. It was a close race, but the forces of good prevailed.

The bad:

– Jarvis Johnson, who finally held a campaign event during the first week of early voting, nearly won HCDE Position 6, Precinct 1 outright. A late surge by Erica Lee pushed him into a runoff. It’s not that I have anything against Johnson, but he didn’t lift a finger during this race and he was up against two much more qualified opponents. There’s nothing like being a familiar name in a race like this.

– Elaine Palmer drubbed Judge Steve Kirkland, winning over 60% of the vote. I’ll be honest, I had thought that Palmer and Keryl Douglas would win or lose together, but Douglas didn’t have much money, and really didn’t do that much campaigning. Palmer had plenty of money and it worked for her. I wonder if her financial backers will be there for her in November.

The ugly:

– Perennial candidate Lloyd Oliver became the heir apparent to Gene Kelly by defeating the vastly better qualified Zack Fertitta for the DA nomination. I just about threw up when I saw the early numbers, and they never got any better. Let this serve as a very painful example of what can happen when a good candidate doesn’t have enough money to raise his name ID up to the level of the barnacle that is running against him. You can assess the blame however you like for this debacle, all I know is that I will be skipping this race in November.

– If that isn’t bad enough, Kesha Rogers will once again be the “Democratic” nominee in CD22. KP George had an early lead based on a strong showing in Fort Bend County, but he lost in Harris and Brazoria, and that was enough. I don’t even know what to say.

The rest:

– Diane Trautman won the HCDE Position 3 At Large race against David Rosen. Traci Jensen scored a clean win in the three-way SBOE 6 primary. Dexter Smith won in SBOE 8.

– Rep. Alma Allen also successfully defended her seat, winning with 59% against Wanda Adams. Mary Ann Perez had a late burst to win the nomination in HD144 outright, while Gene Wu rode a strong early showing to the top spot in HD137. He garnered 44%, and will face Jamaal Smith, who had 23%, in the runoff.

– Lissa Squiers led the three-way race in CD07 with 40%. She will face James Cargas, who was second with 33%. Tawana Cadien will be the nominee in CD10.

– Incumbent JP Mike Parrott won re-election, as did incumbent Constables Ken Jones, Victor Trevino, and May Walker. In Constable Precinct 1, Alan Rosen and Cindy Vara-Leija will face off in overtime; Grady Castleberry had been running second but Vara-Leija overtook him late. In the Constable Precinct 2 cattle call, Zerick Guinn and Chris Diaz made the cut.

– Turnout was about 73,000, with almost exactly half of it coming on Election Day. Some people just don’t like voting early.

For shame, Keryl Douglas

Take a look at what was being handed out at an early voting location yesterday:

Keryl Douglas push card

So much for all those denials about that “Ministers for Keryl” email. You’d think that President Obama’s recent embrace of marriage equality might have made her reconsider this course of action. I mean, it’s likely that the national platform will contain a plank endorsing marriage equality. Even putting that aside, non-discrimination in all forms is a basic and bedrock Democratic value. How in the world does Keryl Douglas think she can lead the Harris County Democratic Party if she doesn’t share those values?

Primary campaigns are always the worst, because we’re all supposed to be on the same team. The fights we do have tend to be that much nastier because we otherwise generally agree with each other, on the goals if not always on how we reach them. If you’re going to launch a personal attack against a fellow Democrat, it really ought to be for conduct unbecoming of a person who would represent us in that particular office. Producing and distributing this push card is definitely conduct unbecoming, especially for a would-be party chair. For shame, Keryl Douglas.

Early voting begins today

New Galleria EV location

Feels weird to be talking about early voting for the primaries now, doesn’t it? Well, ready or not after all this time and all these twists in the road, here we are. Here are your early voting locations and schedule. I note with interest there is a new EV location in the Galleria area – the Harris County Public Health Environmental Bldg., 2223 West Loop South, 77027. I’ve been saying for a long time that there needed to be at least one extra inner Loop EV location to take the pressure off of the West Gray Multi Service Center, and this location makes a lot of sense. I’d still like to see one more in the northwest quadrant of Loop 610 – the West End Multi Service Center on Heights Blvd just south of I-10 comes to mind – but regardless, this is a positive development. There’s another new location up in Spring as well. Take a look at the map to see what’s nearest you.

I’ve made my preferences known on a few of the primary races. I’m not going to list a bunch of personal endorsements because in many races I think there’s more than one suitable choice even if I think one of those choices is better than the others. The one endorsement I am going to reiterate here is for HCDP Chair Lane Lewis, who I think has done more than enough to warrant a full term as Chair. We’ll probably never know the truth behind that infamous “Ministers for Keryl” email – Douglas is now apparently accusing the Lewis campaign of being behind it; all I can say is that as far as I know she has never asked MailChimp to provide whatever information it can about the emails that were sent, or if she has she has not made that information known – and at this point people are going to believe whatever they want to believe about it. What struck me about this whole saga as I was discussing it with some friends the other day is that I have no idea what kind of vision Douglas has as party chair in the event she gets elected. We’ve seen what Lewis has done in the past few months, so from that we have a decent idea of what he’d do going forward, and we’ve heard him talk about his plans in his interview with me. I truly have no idea what Douglas has in mind for any number of bread and butter issues – Latino turnout, fighting the KSP thugs, social media, fundraising, GOTV, etc etc etc. Here’s the page for the Douglas Plan, which has a link for a download of Windows Media Player but no media file that I can see. (If you view the page source, you can see there’s a “KERYL_DOUGLASS_60.wav” file that is to be played by WMP. Let’s just say that this is not what I would call cutting edge technology.) There’s also her Newsletter page, which is a copy of a campaign email she sent out in January, corrected to remove the name of at least one Democratic elected official who had subsequently denied being a supporter of hers. Substance-wise, that’s it. I have no idea what HCDP Chair Keryl Douglas might do, but I have a pretty good idea of what other people will do in the event she gets elected, and that would be to not go through the Party for whatever effort they’re funding or supporting. There’ll be fiefdoms and factions and various independently operated organizations and foundations and what have you. Which is to say, somewhat like it is today but more so, and with even less deference where possible towards the HCDP. I also won’t be surprised if the folks who do the real work at the HCDP now find other opportunities with campaigns or these external groups. A vote for Lane Lewis avoids all this. If that’s not enough to convince you, I don’t know what else to say.

Finally, the Chron reports on a record number of absentee ballots for the primary.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 31,629 people had requested mail ballots – 21,053 for the Republican primary and 10,576 for the Democratic primary, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said. That number, taken three weeks before election day, already exceeded the previous record of 29,970 mail ballots requested for a primary, in 2008.

“Campaigns around here, at least over the course of the last several cycles, have been getting more focused on mail ballots because it’s a very targeted universe of voters,” said political consultant Keir Murray. “You can relatively inexpensively message these folks, and you know exactly who they are because of their age and whether they have a history of voting by mail.”

Only qualified groups may vote by mail in Texas, by far the largest being residents over 65 years of age.

The growth of mail balloting is natural, Murray said, because the electorate, particularly the primary electorate, is aging: As turnout declines, left standing at the ballot box are older voters, who tend to have stronger party affiliations and a longer history of voting in primaries.

Houston Politics has more on this, including a chart showing the trajectory of mail in ballots since 2004. Here’s what that looks like with the addition of mail ballots as a percentage of total votes.

Year Party Mail Total Mail % ===================================== 2004 Dem 4,233 78,692 5.38% 2004 GOP 11,972 82,212 14.34% 2006 Dem 2,738 35,447 7.72% 2006 GOP 10,249 82,989 12.35% 2008 Dem 9,448 410,908 2.30% 2008 GOP 15,174 171,108 8.87% 2010 Dem 7,193 101,263 7.10% 2010 GOP 13,914 159,821 8.71% 2012 Dem 10,576 2012 GOP 21,053

I don’t know that it’s a good idea to make any projections of turnout based on mail ballot requests – remember, the pre-2012 numbers above reflect ballots returned, while what we have for 2012 is ballots requested, with more still to come – but sucker that I am I will anyway. At the usual return rate of about 80%, assume the actual Dem number as of Tuesday was about 8,000, and the actual GOP number was about 17,000. The GOP total is not a huge leap from 2008 nor the Dems from 2010, and if they represent about 7 and 8 percent of final total turnout, we’re looking at maybe 110,000 to 120,000 Dem votes and 210,000 to 220,000 GOP votes. Obviously, those numbers would increase as more mail ballot requests came in. Don’t quote me on any of this, because I sure wouldn’t place any bets on this weird year. But if I turn out to be close, I’ll claim the credit for it.

Finally, just so you know, the voter ID law is not in effect. You don’t need to do anything different to vote in this primary. That could of course change for November or some time after that, but this election will be like its predecessors at least from a procedural perspective.

We really don’t know anything about the “Ministers for Keryl” email

Here’s something I recently learned: You can create a free account on MailChimp, the bulk mailer used by the Keryl Douglas campaign and also by whoever sent that awful “Ministers for Keryl” email. You can do this pretty much anonymously, and can send a lot of email that way. See for yourself.

With MailChimp’s Forever Free plan, you can send 12,000 emails a month to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers, but there are a few features that are only available to users with paid accounts.

Is it really free forever?

Yep, there’s no catch. As long as you’ve got less than 2,000 subscribers, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month without paying us a dime. We won’t even ask for a credit card.

Here’s a screenshot from their Signup page:

So what that means is that we really don’t know who sent that “Ministers for Keryl” email. All that fancy analysis of the headers tells us is that the email was sent via MailChimp. We can’t determine anything further from it. It means that Keryl Douglas’ denial is entirely plausible. Anyone, for any reason, could have done this. Two thousand emails are more than enough to make it seem like a normal email blast. The only way we can get closer to the truth is for MailChimp to provide whatever details it can about the email from its logs. Maybe the IP address will tell us something, or maybe the sender accidentally exposed some other information about himself or herself. Everything else is just speculation.

Now, this doesn’t mean that the Keryl Douglas campaign didn’t send that email. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best one. However, knowing about this free service means that in the absence of any further information from MailChimp, there is sufficient reasonable doubt to acquit. Douglas has said she filed a criminal complaint about this, and I hope that means HPD is investigating and that they have requested and received log files from MailChimp. If not, the longer we go without an answer the more likely we’ll never get one, because sooner or later those log files are going to be deleted or overwritten. If someone with a stake in this hasn’t made that request by now, time is running out.

As I’ve thought about this, I’ve debated whether the sender of this email was really smart, or really stupid. I’m now leaning towards “smart, but maybe not as smart as they think”. The thing that’s been nagging at me is the difference in the List-Unsubscribe information between the legitimate Douglas email and the Ministers email. If you’re smart enough to know that the Douglas campaign uses MailChimp and you want to frame them for something like this, why not use the same list name her campaign had used before? Of course, changing it from the generic “democrats” to the more provocative “keryldouglascampaign” did accomplish the goal of getting someone to point a finger, and maybe that’s all any potential troublemaker might have cared about. It stands out as odd under scrutiny, but it sure did take me long enough to notice, and any intended damage is already done. And who knows, maybe I’m just overthinking this. The less you know for sure, the more you want to try to fill in the blanks.

One thing I do know for sure is that if I’m affiliated with a campaign, I would not use MailChimp on a bet. This episode demonstrates clearly that it’s far too insecure to use for that purpose. Use a mailer that doesn’t allow freebies, or take your chances that someone will spoof you. Consider yourselves warned.

The truth is out there on the Ministers for Keryl email

In response to my previous post about the homophobic “Ministers for Keryl” email, a couple of commenters said that we didn’t have enough evidence to determine whether or not the email was genuine or spoofed. So, based on that feedback I’m going to provide as much information as I can to see what we can learn.

The starting point for this kind of investigation is always the full headers of the email in question, as that’s how you can tell where the email originated, what path it took, and whether there’s anything bogus in there that would point to some kind of skulduggery. Different email clients have different ways of exposing this information to you. In Gmail, you click the dropdown menu next to the Reply button, and choose Show Original:

It opens the result onto a new webpage. Here’s what I get for the header information (it also includes the full HTML and Java code for the body of the email, which I will omit here) for the infamous “Ministers for Keryl” email:

Delivered-To: [email protected] Received: by 10.182.14.138 with SMTP id p10csp103284obc; Mon, 9 Apr 2012 11:33:58 -0700 (PDT) Received: by 10.224.98.3 with SMTP id o3mr10492149qan.62.1333996438456; Mon, 09 Apr 2012 11:33:58 -0700 (PDT) Return-Path: [email protected]v.net Received: from mail125.us2.mcsv.net (mail125.us2.mcsv.net. [173.231.139.125]) by mx.google.com with ESMTP id a8si13886738qao.49.2012.04.09.11.33.58; Mon, 09 Apr 2012 11:33:58 -0700 (PDT) Received-SPF: pass (google.com: domain of [email protected]v.net designates 173.231.139.125 as permitted sender) client-ip=173.231.139.125; Authentication-Results: mx.google.com; spf=pass (google.com: domain of [email protected]v.net designates 173.231.139.125 as permitted sender) [email protected]25.us2.mcsv.net; dkim=pass [email protected]et DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha1; c=relaxed/relaxed; s=k1; d=mail125.us2.mcsv.net; h=Subject:From:Reply-To:To:Date:Message-ID:List-Unsubscribe:Sender:Content-Type:MIME-Version; i=MinistersForKeryl[email protected]; bh=Sr1KnAmgb/3XEASAZvhocc4+cHA=; b=e8rsMzkHmbg1qzZiRx3SVuTNq5fJ+NWjB9WsTd3YN9fjRK993EOa0se1P/HqnGMUrZo7TDF89H1P s/qbDgg95CMhYHYNMTdiTNVadBsT1jwdiuD27q8aiV19GoCpnVNAfRNEHBzWwHS3YgGcKTPm8QQY l6NzRMBaP+rqmgGZB38= DomainKey-Signature: a=rsa-sha1; c=nofws; q=dns; s=k1; d=mail125.us2.mcsv.net; b=cSuqm0G7Gnm0HemlKLpwfQT4dJyqIgwcVV31ziTnSK/G4jsWl8OlFm47bvAh7AmNkLTdCrZyH7mX gOMZ8an++wh/JMBIdozWwfDEzTCcjXn+BfIqOqe/88wB3xHP+qhGdPAWgUGbzEvxjfzJJGrv90cv c/2qL94pTDyNSTyRlYE=; Received: from (127.0.0.1) by mail125.us2.mcsv.net (PowerMTA(TM) v3.5r16) id hgclpc11djob for [email protected]; Mon, 9 Apr 2012 18:29:05 +0000 (envelope-from [email protected]v.net) Subject: =?utf-8?Q?Support=20Keryl=20Douglas=20for=20Harris=20Democratic=20Chair?= From: =?utf-8?Q?Rev.=20Willie=20J.=20Howard?= [email protected] Reply-To: =?utf-8?Q?Rev.=20Willie=20J.=20Howard?= [email protected] To: [email protected] Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2012 18:29:05 +0000 Message-ID: [email protected]csv.net X-Mailer: MailChimp Mailer - **CID03a4f8c00a65e3510466** X-Campaign: mailchimp83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc.03a4f8c00a X-campaignid: mailchimp83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc.03a4f8c00a x-im: 38509-03a4f8c00a X-Report-Abuse: Please report abuse for this campaign here: http://www.mailchimp.com/abuse/abuse.phtml?u=83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc&id=03a4f8c00a&e=65e3510466 x-accounttype: ff List-Unsubscribe: mailto:[email protected]in1.us2.mcsv.net?subject=unsubscribe, http://keryldouglascampaign.us4.list-manage2.com/unsubscribe?u=83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc&id=0c4af39c85&e=65e3510466&c=03a4f8c00a>\ Sender: "Rev. Willie J. Howard" [email protected] x-mcda: FALSE Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="_----------=_MCPart_1217078024" MIME-Version: 1.0

That may look like a lot of gobbledegook if you’re not a techie, but there are a few important things to highlight. Where it says “Received: from mail125.us2.mcsv.net (mail125.us2.mcsv.net. [173.231.139.125])”, the key things are that “mail125.us2.mcsv.net” appears to be a MailChimp server – “mcsv.net” resolves to http://mailchimp.com/about/mcsv/ if you plug it into a browser – and that 173.231.139.125 is indeed the IP address for mail125.us2.mcsv.net – open a command prompt and do “ping -a 173.231.139.125” to see for yourself. We can therefore say that the email does appear to have originated with MailChimp, which as Noel Freeman noted in that Dallas Voice story was what the GLBT Political Caucus used to make the accusation that the email came from Keryl Douglas’ campaign.

That’s not enough for a conviction. As commenter Paul said to me in an email, it would be nice to be able to compare these headers to those from an email known to have come from a campaign via MailChimp. As it happens, I have several of those from the Keryl Douglas campaign in my mailbox. Here are the headers from the most recent one, dated January 23.

Delivered-To: [email protected] Received: by 10.182.81.230 with SMTP id d6cs32291oby; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:04:06 -0800 (PST) Received: by 10.224.168.84 with SMTP id t20mr7916103qay.2.1327309445041; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:04:05 -0800 (PST) Return-Path: [email protected].net Received: from mail120.us2.mcsv.net (mail120.us2.mcsv.net. [173.231.139.120]) by mx.google.com with ESMTP id d10si4311876qcx.187.2012.01.23.01.04.04; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:04:05 -0800 (PST) Received-SPF: pass (google.com: domain of [email protected].net designates 173.231.139.120 as permitted sender) client-ip=173.231.139.120; Authentication-Results: mx.google.com; spf=pass (google.com: domain of [email protected].net designates 173.231.139.120 as permitted sender) [email protected]0.us2.mcsv.net; dkim=pass [email protected] DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha1; c=relaxed/relaxed; s=k1; d=mail120.us2.mcsv.net; h=Subject:From:Reply-To:To:Date:Message-ID:List-Unsubscribe:Sender:Content-Type:MIME-Version; [email protected]; bh=ntfeE12aE8Vd8ky8gyVOZYlgy90=; b=Al+GShpwJsaGcDiox+RHHVKr5LzftL/sSCdd0QZU0cx5LSN4DfPotIhBZYHDdziUBgtQMuUFWxpD /REnpk1Yrbj0Gz1kHdwFP1zwbluQEtuLmF6rT/YxtyyEvxZ0Mhm+RBIhos6HK8CIIk6vdYim6eZH otqd3xPJvpYJYeJ6e0E= DomainKey-Signature: a=rsa-sha1; c=nofws; q=dns; s=k1; d=mail120.us2.mcsv.net; b=Bfe7MCVMbSbZ19eaGOTOAUNNM6I4j/GcRXpswVR8oRDBH9Q9LOBDgF46wxn2bwl5Rx0Ngp+dV0Os Qb/K1+ZpYiaVrBSnmcqS82b5ojXxvPcnnM/u9cn7ai9b8vu1QAW+u5LYeX4/G6qQOqKl9y2paef/ /BUOIjno3/IXcKSQAjM=; Received: from (127.0.0.1) by mail120.us2.mcsv.net (PowerMTA(TM) v3.5r16) id h3kh8811djoh for [email protected]; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 09:03:58 +0000 (envelope-from [email protected].net) Subject: =?utf-8?Q?You=20can=20repeat=20history=20in=202012=21?= From: =?utf-8?Q?Keryl=20L.=20Douglas=20Campaign?= [email protected] Reply-To: =?utf-8?Q?Keryl=20L.=20Douglas=20Campaign?= [email protected] To: [email protected] Date: Mon, 23 Jan 2012 09:03:58 +0000 Message-ID: [email protected]csv.net X-Mailer: MailChimp Mailer - **CID0160311a9e5f508aea06** X-Campaign: mailchimpd87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0.0160311a9e X-campaignid: mailchimpd87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0.0160311a9e x-im: 38509-0160311a9e X-Report-Abuse: Please report abuse for this campaign here: http://www.mailchimp.com/abuse/abuse.phtml?u=d87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0&id=0160311a9e&e=5f508aea06 x-accounttype: ff List-Unsubscribe: mailto:[email protected]in1.us2.mcsv.net?subject=unsubscribe, http://democrats.us4.list-manage.com/unsubscribe?u=d87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0&id=7151477e83&e=5f508aea06&c=0160311a9e Sender: "Keryl L. Douglas Campaign" [email protected] x-mcda: FALSE Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="_----------=_MCPart_1410715978" MIME-Version: 1.0

They look more or less the same; the IP address and mail server in the “Received from” match up as before. The main difference I see is in the “List-Unsubscribe” line; where the Douglas campaign email has “http://democrats.us4.list-manage.com/unsubscribe”, the Ministers for Keryl email has “http://keryldouglascampaign.us4.list-manage2.com”. (Those addresses also resolve to the MailChimp domain, by the way.) I wondered what that might mean, so I checked a couple of other MailChimp campaign emails I have. There’s one from the Elaine Palmer campaign dated February 6 for which the List-Unsubscribe is “http://ElaineHPalmerforJudge.us4.list-manage2.com/unsubscribe”, and one from the Andrew Burks for City Council campaign dated December 22 for which the List-Unsubscribe is “http://andrewburksforhouston.us4.list-manage.com/unsubscribe”. Seems pretty clear to me.

Again, not enough for a conviction, but nothing that would lead to an acquittal, either. I think we’re at the limit of what I can tell from the emails, but we can certainly get closer to the truth than this. Since everything indicates that the Ministers For Keryl email did come via MailChimp, then the next step is to ask them to check their logs to see what they can say about where it originated. I doubt they’d turn that information over without a paid account or a subpoena, neither of which I have. Not that it really matters, since I don’t have the bandwidth to pursue this any further, but there are surely other parties who ought to be able to. Keryl Douglas, who according to Noel Freeman claimed at her press conference that her account had been hacked, would presumably be interested in ferreting out the truth if she really has been victimized. Having formally accused her of being responsible, the GLBT Political Caucus might want to get an answer. And of course, a professional reporter might want to take advantage of the resources that a professional newsgathering organization could bring to bear on the matter. My point is that this isn’t another he-said/she-said dispute, and it should not be treated as one. There’s an objective answer to this question, and while we may not be able to answer it definitively, we can at least narrow down the objective possibilities. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Douglas denies sending anti-gay email

Keryl Douglas held a press conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the Willie Howard email, and she sent out this statement regarding the matter.

Let me begin by stating immediately and unequivocally that I did not write, nor cause to be written the letter allegedly penned by a Reverend Willie J. Howard on behalf of a group of ministers for Keryl. Neither did I have knowledge that such a letter was being written.

[…]

On or about Monday, April 9, 2012, this Willie Lynch style letter began to be widely distributed and was falsely blamed on or attributed to my campaign. Prior to this letter and responding e-mails being widely distributed by Carl Whitmarsh and/or others, I had absolutely no knowledge of such a letter, nor did I distribute or cause it to be distributed. From the onset, numerous libelous and slanderous statements have been made associating the letter with me or my campaign. Such conduct is not only malicious but actionable under the law. I urge everyone to immediately cease and desist from these false, libelous accusations against me and my campaign.

My immediate response after learning of the letter’s existence and the attempts by numerous persons to associate the letter with me or my campaign, was to immediately act to report the letter to law enforcement . I strongly believe that as it relates to fabricating this letter and its writer, creating an e-mail and possibly a P.O. Box for the purpose of falsely associating these to me or my campaign, if such conduct is not a crime, it should be. As a result of the distribution of this “Willie” letter, I have received hundreds of mean-spirited and accusatory, attacking e-mails which, at minimum, should qualify as cyber-bullying and harassment.

At no time in my campaign to date has there ever existed a group called Ministers for Keryl. This is a fabricated group just as I strongly assert that the letter is also a fabricated letter. I have absolutely no knowledge of having ever met a Willie J. Howard, let alone a Reverend by that name. It is my firm belief that Willie J. Howard does not exist. If he does exist, then I both challenge him to come forward AND I challenge “Team Whitmarsh” and other responders to the letter to produce this Willie J. Howard.

The letter, a copy of which accompanies my press advisory and statement, is not only an attack on me and my campaign, but also on Ministers, the Religious Community, and the African American Community in general. I strongly assert that it originated with neither of us, nor could or would serve either of us any benefit. I assert that the identification of the source of this letter would be identical to who gained the most from it being produced and distributed.

This letter was written and distributed as a despicably desperate attempt to distract or derail my substantive campaign on the issues, while at the same time intended to demean, disrespect and denigrate ministers and the religious community. The Church is a traditional pillar of the community which deserves respect and reverence. Even such a base, depraved attempt to compete with my campaign on the issues should not have also targeted the ministers. I believe that only those who are morally and ethically bankrupt could concoct and distribute such a letter, and especially to blame it on one or more ministers.

I cannot recall even once in my life when one or more ministers have expressed their views or concerns under the cloak of an alias or anonymity. A google search does not show the existence of a Reverend Willie J. Howard. In a search to determine the origin of the letter, the path actually grows cold for us at the forwarded e-mails of Carl Whitmarsh and an internet link where the letter can be accessed. It cannot ever be truthfully linked to any ministers I know of nor with the only e-mail and website established by me or my campaign. Whoever initiated, distributed and/or attributed to me this letter, lacks the affirmative defense of TRUTH in any potential civil litigation. This letter has or will be reported to all agencies that may be of assistance in determining its origin and holding accountable its originators.

The strategy of the incendiary and inflammatory letter of unknown origin is unfortunately not a new one. It was used in the Mayoral election in 2009, as well as prior mayoral elections. It has been used to incite defeat of other measures. It is not a new strategy, but it is definitely time that it becomes an unsuccessful and unacceptable strategy.

Let me assure you that neither I nor anyone representing or acting on behalf of my campaign wrote this letter; nor do we embrace or approve of the spirit and intent of it. I will continue to endeavor to include and work with ALL people from ALL walks of life across our myriad diverse communities. I will continue to focus my campaign on the critical issues our voters and our nation face, educating and empowering our voters on the Democratic platform, mobilizing and inspiring them to turnout to vote and protecting them from voter intimidation, suppression or civil rights violations as they exercise their right to vote.

I’m glad to hear Douglas disavow the “spirit and intent” of that email, but a key question remains unanswered. The Dallas Voice explains.

The above screen grab shows the yellow information window that pops up when you 'mouse over' a link at the bottom of an anti-gay email sent by 'Ministers for Keryl Douglas.' Based on this 'metadata,' the Houston GLBT Political Caucus alleges the email was in fact sent by Douglas' campaign itself.

In a press release sent out [Monday] night in response to Howard’s letter, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus alleged that a digital analysis shows the email containing Howard’s letter was in fact sent by Douglas’ campaign itself, and not by “Ministers for Keryl Douglas.”

We contacted Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Caucus, to find out how the Caucus determined this. Freeman explained that electronic data, called “metadata,” is attached to every email. When you use an email client — such as iContact or Constant Contact, but in this case “MailChimp” — it attaches its own specific data.

“We examined the metadata on that email that was sent out and compared it to an official email from the Keryl Douglas campaign,” Freeman said. “They were identical. The metadata that was attached was identical, and it says Keryl Douglas campaign.”

Freeman directed us to “mouse over” a link at the bottom of the copy of Howard’s email that was forwarded to us. We confirmed that when you mouse over a link that says “Add us to your address book” at the bottom of the email, what pops up is a web address associated with Douglas’ campaign website. (See screen grab above.)

“You’d be amazed at how stupid people can be about this stuff,” Freeman said.

I can also confirm that a mouseover of the links in the “Ministers for Keryl” email that I received showed the link you see in that screenshot. That does not square with Douglas’ denials. I will reiterate what I said when I published my interview with Lane Lewis: Keryl, if you contact me with a time and place that are suitable for you, I will still do an interview with you. Obviously, I will ask about this. You know how to reach me.

Finally, from Patricia Kilday Hart, who unfortunately treats this as a he-said/she-said dispute instead of exhibiting any curiosity about whether the objective claim being made about the “Ministers for Keryl” email is, you know, factually correct or not:

As Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus explained it to me, the tags cannot be altered by users. “Any claim that this email did not come directly from the Keryl Douglas Campaign is a lie. The digital trail of evidence is indisputable.”

Douglas held a news conference Thursday not only disputing the allegations, but turning the tables. In her statement, Douglas, an attorney, asserted that “numerous libelous and slanderous statements have been made associating the letter with me or my campaign. Such conduct is not only malicious but actionable under the law.”

Like I said, you would think that the objective claim Freeman made, which logically implies that someone is not telling the truth here, would have piqued Hart’s interest. The Chron does have a couple of computer experts on staff in the event one would like an evaluation of such things. I’m just saying. Be that as it may, there was a political angle that did catch Hart’s eye:

This mystery has an interesting cast of characters: Michael Kubosh, who ran as a Democrat against Sen. Dan Patrick, attended Douglas’ press conference, as did Pastor James Nash.

Well-known for his activism – with his two brothers – to overturn Houston’s red-light camera ordinance, Kubosh told me that Nash’s support had been critical in winning that election. “We wouldn’t have won had it not been for Pastor Nash,” Kubosh said. If Nash was supporting Douglas, then so would the Kubosh brothers, he said. In recent years, they have been mostly known for their Republican ties.

I would think that if there’s one office a person might seek for which bipartisan credentials are not an asset it would be the chair of a county political party. I’m pretty sure that if I showed up at a Jared Woodfill press conference and expressed my support for his leadership that it would not be looked upon fondly by Republican primary voters. Putting everything else aside, I don’t see how this is helpful for Keryl Douglas.

A little bit of NOM comes to the race for HCDP Chair

NOM is the National Organization for Marriage. They are big proponents of “traditional” marriage and opponents of marriage equality, and have been the driving force behind anti-marriage equality initiatives around the country, including California’s notorious Proposition 8. They have been very secretive about who they and their financial supporters are, but recently were forced to cough up some files as a result of litigation over their campaign finance practices, and this charming piece of their strategy was exposed.

The secret campaign of the National Organization for Marriage for creating hostility between African Americans and gays over marriage equality have come to light in a lawsuit over campaign financing in Maine. The document, which dates to 2009, was circulated by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group at odds with NOM for years. It also shows that NOM targeted Latinos in its efforts as well as President Obama:

“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constiu[t]encies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots. No politiician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of the party. Fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop 8 is key to raising the cost of pushing gay marriage to its advocates and persauding the movement’s allies that advocates are unacceptably overreaching on this issue. Consider pushing a marriage amendment in Washington D.C.; find attractive young black Democrats to challenge white gay marriage advocates electorally.”

HRC Campaign Media Director Kevin Nix said, “Nothing beats hearing from the horse’s mouth exactly how callous and extremist this group really is.”

One section of the document explains how the group would buy ads and robocalls directed at African Americans. Included in the $1 million budget for that is $60,000 to pay black bloggers.

The main focus was to be a “$20 million strategy for victory” directed toward the 2010 midterm elections. But the document also described to the NOM board a $1 million plan of the American Principles Project to “expose Obama as a social radical.” Among other things, APP wants a return to the gold standard and to protect innocence. It says the government “plays a central role in propagating” messages of violence and promiscuity that affect “our children through schools, textbooks, libraries, job programs, health initiatives, and other public policies.”

More here. This was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw an email from [email protected] with the subject “Support Keryl Douglas for Harris Democratic Chair” that hit my Inbox yesterday. I’ve put the text of the email beneath the fold, but it’s straight out of the NOM playbook. I don’t know if it is the case that NOM had a hand in this – they are very secretive and take full advantage of lax state laws on donating to PACs when they aren’t just ignoring the law altogether – but it sure does smell like them, and as one of the barrage of emails to Carl Whitmarsh’s list noted, the person whose signature is on that email apparently belongs to someone who passed away in 2009. So, you know, watch out.

I am heartened to see a strong and visceral reaction against this email – see Dos Centavos, Egberto Willies, Marc Campos, the GLBT Political Caucus, the Stonewall Young Dems, the Harris County Young Democrats, among others – but the fact that anyone, whether outside agitator or not, thought that this was a viable strategy is sickening. I condemn this in the strongest possible terms, and if I weren’t already a supporter of Lane Lewis for HCDP Chair, I would be now. To whoever sent this out, I say for shame. To Keryl Douglas, I say the longer you remain silent about it the more these words belong to you. What do you stand for?

(more…)

Harris County voter registration lawsuit settled

For now, at least. Something tells me we have not heard the last of this.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Should not be that hard to get one of these

Harris County officials and the Democratic Party have settled an ongoing legal dispute over denial rates of new voter registration applications – at least for now – though an attorney for party officials say they remain concerned that more voters appear to get rejected here than in other large counties nationwide.

Harris County Tax Assessor Collector Don Sumners said Wednesday via email that his office has agreed to provide Democrats with a database and specific documentation about how 1,250 registration applications were denied, according to the terms reached in talks last week. The agreement spells out that the office can charge no more than $1,500 for providing the information.

Sumners argued that Friday’s mediation was unnecessary.

“They could have received the data without causing the county to spend a lot of taxpayers’ money on attorneys, not to mention expending the time of my employees,” he said in an email to the Chronicle.

But Chad Dunn, an attorney for Democrats, argued Sumners’ office repeatedly obstructed requests for voter registration data both from the party and from a nonprofit group.

“I’m disappointed that it takes a federal lawsuit to get information out of our tax office. For four months we’ve been seeking information about denials,” he said. “By every objective measure Don Sumners’ office is the worst performing voter registration department of any major county in America whether you look at total number of applications rejected or a completely flat line voter roll.”

The story notes that other large counties reject fewer voter registration applications than Harris does, and that Harris County has seen no growth in voter registrations over the past decade despite explosive population growth. As a data point, here are the registered voter tallies given by the County Clerk on Election Day for even-year election days going back to 2002:

2002 – 1,875,777

2004 – 1,876,296

2006 – 1,902,222

2008 – 1,892,656

2010 – 1,917,534

The story says “Harris County’s voter registration is about 1.88 million – a number that has remained relatively flat for six years.” As you can see, it’s been flat for longer than that. You tell me why that is the case.

Interview with HCDP Chair Lane Lewis

Lane Lewis

Next week I will begin running interviews for legislative races. As you might imagine, the long-running saga of when the primary would be, coupled with the uncertainty of what the districts would be as well as the re-filing period now going on has made that a challenge, but I’ll muddle through. This week is a wrap on county races, and to begin with we have Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lane Lewis, who was voted in by precinct chairs to succeed Gerry Birnberg in December. Lewis was a longtime party activist and SDEC15 Chair prior to being elected Chair, and ran for Houston City Council District A in 2009, losing in the runoff to Brenda Stardig. Lewis has been a social worker and elementary school teacher among other things in his career, and from my observation as a Democrat has brought some new energy and a strong vision to the party since his election.

Two things to note before we get to the interview. One is that this was conducted on February 17, which is to say a couple of weeks before the San Antonio court produced the interim maps and decreed a May 29 primary. I don’t recall offhand anything else in our conversation that might be affected by the lag, but keep that in mind. Two, I did my best to reach out to Keryl Douglass, who is challenging Lewis in the primary. We traded some emails and had a tentative agreement to meet for an interview a week before Friday though we had not set a time or location. Before that happened, she emailed to say she needed to postpone till the following week – that is, last week – but never got back to me after that despite a couple of followup emails from me. Keryl, if you read this, I would still like to interview you. Email me or call me and we’ll set it up. Now here’s the interview with Lane Lewis:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.