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HD49

2016 primaries: State races

Let’s start with the Democratic race for Railroad Commissioner, and a few words from Forrest Wilder:

Not that Gene Kelly

The Gene Kelly Effect: Texas Democrats are almost perennially embarrassed by what you might call the Gene Kelly Effect — the depressing tendency of many Democratic primary voters to vote for a name they recognize on the ballot, without any regard to the person’s experience or qualifications.

Gene Kelly is the clever/annoying fellow who shares a name with a long-dead dancer and ran repeatedly in the ’90s and ’00s, garnering millions of votes and forcing expensive and time-consuming runoff elections without even pretending to run a campaign. (Perhaps it’s also a reflection of the electorate’s average age, since the dancer Gene Kelly’s heyday was in the ’40s and ’50s.)

Though Gene Kelly hasn’t run for office since 2008, a new spoiler has arrived on the scene. His name is Grady Yarbrough and his last name sounds awfully similar to (but is in fact different from) Ralph Yarborough, the legendary liberal Texas senator. In 2012, Yarbrough won 26 percent of the vote in a four-way race to be the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. That was enough to muscle his way into a runoff with former state Representative Paul Sadler and score 37 percent of the vote.

This year, Yarbrough is running against former state Rep Lon Burnam and Democratic labor activist Cody Garrett for a spot on the Texas Railroad Commission. Burnam is by far the most serious candidate — if measured by endorsements, money raised, legislative experience, etc. Can Burnam (or Garrett) clear 50 percent and avoid a costly runoff, or will Yarbrough, like Gene Kelly, be singin’ in the rain (of ballots)?

Sadly, that was not to be, as Yarbrough led the field with about 40% and Burnam coming in third at 26%. I’ll be voting for Cody Garrett in the runoff, thanks. Burnam did raise a little money, but it was a pittance, the kind of total that would get you laughed at in a district City Council race. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, one of these days the big Democratic check-writers are going to have to realize that they need to robustly support qualified candidates in these low-profile primaries, or we’re going to stop getting any qualified candidates for these offices. I know that the Republican nominee is the overwhelming favorite to win in November, but that’s not the point, and besides, who knows what might happen with Trump at the top of the GOP ticket. One of these days a Democrat is going to win one of these races, and if we’re not careful it’s going to be whatever schmo that bothered to pay the filing fee. Do we want to avoid that fate or actively court it?

Anyway. The marquee race was the rematch in SD26, and it was headed for the same result as before, with Sen. Jose Menendez holding a comfortable lead. However you viewed this race, I’m sad for TMF and sorry to see him leave the scene. He’ll be missed. Congratulations, Sen. Menendez. Also winning, by a much wider margin, was Sen. Carlos Uresti over the widow of former Sen. Frank Madla.

For the State House races, I had said yesterday that I was a little worried about the four Harris County Democratic incumbents who had drawn challengers. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. Reps. Alma Allen and Jessica Farrar cruised with nearly 90% (!) of the vote, while Gene Wu and Hubert Vo were up by two-to-one margins. Whew! There was good news also out of El Paso, where Rep. Mary Gonzalez was over 60% against former Rep. Chente Quintanilla. In not so good news, Rep. Ron Reynolds was headed towards a clear win in HD27. All I can say is that I hope he’s not in jail when the gavel bangs next January. As long as he’s still in office, any calls for Ken Paxton to resign are going to ring just a little hollow.

For the open seat races, Randy Bates led in early voting in HD139, but as the evening wore on he was passed by Kimberly Willis and Jarvis Johnson. Former Rep. Mary Ann Perez started slowly but eventually won a majority in HD144, with Cody Ray Wheeler next in line behind her. Other races of interest:

HD49: Gina Hinojosa, daughter of TDP Chair Gilbert Hinojosa, was headed towards a clear win to succeed Elliott Naishtat. Huey Ray Fischer was in third place.

HD77: Lina Ortega wins big to succeed Rep. Marissa Marquez.

HD116: Diana Arevalo was over 50% to succeed TMF. Runnerup Martin Golando was TMF’s chief of staff. To say the least, not a good day for Trey Martinez-Fischer.

Hd118: Tomas Uresti gets another shot at winning that seat. Hope he does better than in that special election runoff.

HD120: Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, daughter of former Spurs legend George Gervin, will face Mario Salas in a runoff.

SBOE6: Jasmine Jenkins and Dakota Carter head to the runoff.

SBOE1: Georgina Perez, the more interesting candidate, won without a runoff.

On the Republican side, there is too much so I will sum up: Supreme Court incumbents all won, while there will be runoffs for the Court of Criminal Appeals. Reps. Byron Hughes and Susan King were the leading candidates for the two open Senate seats. Speaker Joe Straus won his race handily, but several incumbents were losing at last report: Stuart Spitzer, Byron Cook (a top lieutenant for Straus), Marsha Farney, Molly White, Wayne Smith (surprise #1), and Debbie Riddle (surprise #2). I can’t wait to hear some of those stories. Here’s the story on the GOP Railroad Commissioner race, one in which there was a lot of money spent. Last but not least, the crazy may be back in the SBOE, as Mary Lou Bruner was close to a majority of the vote. Praise the Lord and pass the bong.

For plenty of other information on these and other races, here’s your supplemental reading assignment:

Trib liveblog

Observer liveblog

Chron live coverage

Rivard report

Austin Chronicle

BOR

Harris County Dem resultsHarris County GOP results

Democratic statewide resultsRepublican statewide results

New frontiers in social media campaigning

From Slate:

Huey Rey Fischer identifies as a queer, vegetarian, Latino “progressive Democrat on a bicycle.” He is 23 years old, and he’s running for state representative in Texas’ District 49, which encompasses the University of Texas at Austin. A longtime incumbent is vacating the seat, and Fischer, who attended UT Austin, believes he can defeat his six competitors by seizing the student vote in the March 1 primary. Fischer is campaigning in all the ways youth-vote-hungry candidates campaign—college canvassing, early voting drives, a focus on student debt—with a twist: He’s reaching out to voters on Grindr and Tinder, popular dating apps famous for facilitating hookups. (Grindr is designed for gay men; Tinder is for everyone.) On Wednesday, I spoke with Fischer about political goals and his unconventional campaign tactics.

[…]

How did you decide to campaign through Grindr and Tinder?

My campaign was brainstorming ideas about how to engage with millennials. With Facebook and Twitter, people have to opt in—but when it comes to Grindr and Tinder, it’s direct engagement, direct conversations. It’s a medium that my opponents would never be able to use, anyway; it probably wouldn’t be appropriate for a 45-year-old to be messaging millennials on dating apps. We figured it’d be a fun way to engage with voters.

Do you message voters from your personal phone?

No. There’s a phone in the office dedicated to Tinder and Grindr outreach. We let volunteers come in and strike up messages with people on the apps, as long as they stay on message. “Hey, how’s it going, are you registered to vote?” “Go vote in the Democratic primary for Huey Rey Fischer!” “Huey Rey Fischer is the progressive choice on the ballot!” And so on.

Do you worry that you might be abusing the medium? People typically use these apps to connect with potential intimate partners, not politicians.

We don’t strike up conversations. We allow other people to strike up the conversation with us. It’s a profile of me, and it says clearly that I’m a candidate for state representatives, seeking votes. When people message us, for the most part, they know I’m a candidate for the state legislature.

Fascinating, and ironic in a way since Fischer is campaigning in HD49, now held by the famously Internet-averse Rep. Eliott Naishtat. That field is full of progressive Democrats, so any way to stand out and gain an edge is vital. It would be truly awesome if someone with real statistical chops compared turnout in the (say) 30-and-under segment from 2012 to 2016, and tried to determine if this made a real difference or not. Whatever happens, I salute Huey Rey Fischer for thinking outside the box.

Rep. Naishtat will not run for re-election

Godspeed.

Rep. Elliott Naishtat

Longtime state Rep. Elliott Naishtat announced Thursday he will not seek re-election to the House seat he first won in 1990, despite saying earlier this week that he would.

Naishtat, 70, said Tuesday he had discovered a renewed desire to run for office. But since then, he has “been very anxious and stressed about the decision,” he said Thursday.

This week, “I was down at the Capitol; I wasn’t able to focus the way I usually do,” Naishtat said. “I thought through the process again and, I know I’m not over the hill, but in light of my age, my time serving … and in light of some long-term health and well-being concerns, I decided this is the time for me to not seek re-election.”

Naishtat suffered serious injuries in a 2014 bicycle accident.

[…]

Four people expressed interest in pursuing Naishtat’s seat if he did not seek re-election, he said, but they all told him they would not enter the race if he ran again. On Thursday, he said he informed them each of his decision not to run.

“There is a next generation that stands enthusiastically ready and prepared to serve, and that has an energy toward and passion for public service that I cannot in good conscience ignore,” Naishtat said in a statement. “Perhaps the best gift I can give to the people I represent is the gift of new leadership, fresh perspectives, and renewed energy.”

Harold Cook posted an image of Naishtat’s announcement on Facebook. This is a deep blue district – President Obama got 70% of the vote in 2012, so the winner will be decided in the Democratic primary. The AusChron lists a few potential contenders, all of whom had considered running earlier when Naishtat was initially thinking about retirement.

[B]efore Naishtat filed, there was a list of names lining up to potentially take his place: Council Member and former state rep Ann Kitchen; AISD Board President Gina Hinojosa; former Congressional staffer Katie Naranjo; and former [Rep. Eddie] Rodriguez staffer Huey Rey Fischer (he resigned this morning).

I’d expect multiple people to run and for the race to be decided in a runoff. I wish Rep. Naishtat all the best in whatever comes next for him, and may whoever succeeds him live up to the standard he set.