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HISD and HCC results

From the HISD runoffs:

Early election results showed Houston ISD school board candidates Kathy Blueford-Daniels and Patricia Allen with comfortable leads in their runoff races Saturday, as they aim to fill the final two seats on the district’s closely watched governance team.

With absentee and early votes counted, as well as 38 percent of precincts reporting, Blueford-Daniels, a retired postal manager, led City Council aide John C. Gibbs by a wide margin, mirroring her strong showing in the November general election.

Allen, a retired HISD administrator, appeared poised to break away from management consultant Matt Barnes after the pair each earned about 30 percent of the general election.

The two victors Saturday will join two newcomers who defeated incumbents in November’s general election. Judith Cruz and Dani Hernandez easily topped Diana Dávila and Sergio Lira, respectively, each earning about 64 percent of the vote.

Blueford-Daniels was leading by about 25 points as most voting centers had reported. Allen was up by about nine points. Congratulations to them both, and all the best in what should be a very challenging next few years.

And some very good news from the HCC races.

Monica Flores Richart

Early results in two Houston Community College Board of Trustees runoff races show Rhonda Skillern-Jones with a commanding lead, while Monica Flores Richart and Dave Wilson are locked in a tight battle.

With absentee and early-voting results tallied, as well as 38 percent of precincts reporting, Skillern-Jones, who has served on the Houston ISD school board for the past eight years, comfortably led longtime educator Kathy Lynch-Gunter in the race for District II. Skillern-Jones entered as a clear favorite after taking 45 percent of the general election vote to Lynch-Gunter’s 25 percent.

In District I, Flores Richart, a lawyer, held a slight lead over Wilson, who resigned from his HCC trustee seat in August and switched districts ahead of the race. Flores Richart nearly emerged from the general election with an outright victory, earning 48 percent of the vote to Wilson’s 32 percent.

[…]

The two winners will join newcomer Cynthia Lenton-Gary, who ran unopposed, on the nine-member board. A fourth new trustee will join the board next year if current HCC Board chair Carolyn Evans-Shabazz were to maintain her strong early lead Saturday in her Houston City Council race. Evans-Shabazz will have to resign her seat to join the council.

Flores Richart built on her lead on Election Day. May we never be cursed with Dave Wilson again.

Carolyn Evans-Shabazz is on her way to winning in District D, so we’ll have a new Trustee in her place early next year. With Neeta Sane running for Fort Bend County tax Assessor, we could have two new HCC Trustees before the 2021 election.

A “most thorough” investigation

Here’s an Astros update for you.

The ongoing electronic sign-stealing investigation against the Astros is “probably the most thorough” ever conducted by the commissioner’s office, Rob Manfred said Wednesday.

Addressing reporters during the final full day of the winter meetings, Manfred said his office has interviewed more than 60 witnesses, has 76,000 emails through which to sift and “an additional trove of instant messages.”

“That review has caused us to conclude that we have to do some follow-up interviewing,” Manfred said. “It is my hope to conclude the investigation just as promptly as possible, but it’s just really hard to predict how long something like that is going to take.”

[…]

Maintaining a stance he’s taken since the query began, Manfred declined to elaborate on possible punishments, calling such predictions “wholly inappropriate.” A timeline for the investigation’s conclusion remains a mystery, though follow-up interviews suggest it could drag longer into the winter.

“I’m going to get all the facts in front of me and make a decision as promptly as possible on discipline and, obviously, you all will know about it as soon as it happens.”

See here for the last update. As a reminder, this is two investigations in one, the sign-stealing allegations and the Brandon Taubman debacle. I have to assume MLB will wrap this up during the off-season, but beyond that we have no idea how long this will take. We’ll know when they’re ready to tell us something.

Runoff Day is today

Hang in there, it’s almost over.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

A nearly year-long mayoral election that culminated in a subdued runoff between Tony Buzbee and incumbent Sylvester Turner comes to an end Saturday when voters decide who wins control over City Hall for the next four years.

Buzbee, a millionaire businessman and trial lawyer, has sought out voters of all political stripes by citing his ties to both parties. For months, he has painted Turner as a corrupt career politician who had run the city into the ground, regularly reminding voters he self-funded his own campaign to avoid the appearance that he is beholden to campaign donors.

Turner, a longtime Democratic state legislator who is finishing his first four-year term, has painted a rosy picture of conditions in Houston, arguing that he has overseen an uptick in the police force and laid the groundwork to diversify the city’s economy through tech and start-up businesses. He also has pitched himself as an astute steward of the city’s finances, pointing to his signature feat: a major overhaul of the city’s costly pension systems.

During the runoff, the two candidates have focused on presenting their plans for the next four years, a marked difference from the general election, when they spent millions of dollars attacking each other. Since Nov. 5, when Turner finished about 19 percentage points ahead of Buzbee, the two have not faced off in a debate, with Turner almost ignoring his foe entirely.

“I think the realization was that Mayor Turner got 47 percent of the vote, and so, if he just didn’t make an embarrassing gaffe or make a wrong move, the election was his to win,” said Michael Adams, chairman of Texas Southern University’s political science department.

See here for the background. I’ve gotten multiple robocalls urging me to vote for Turner (and a few to vote for other candidates, like Raj Salhotra), culminating with one I got on Friday from rightwing radio host Sam Malone on behalf of Tony Buzbee. I finally saw a Buzbee ad on TV a couple days ago – it almost made me nostalgic, it had been so long since I had last seen one. In the meantime, Buzbee has been busy flip flopping on HERO again – what are the odds he could tell you right now what his most recent position on it is? All I know is that as of about 7 PM this evening, I can officially no longer give a shit about anything Tony Buzbee says or does.

Polling locations are here. As a reminder, you can vote at any location. My guess is that more than half of the final vote tally has already happened. I’ll have a report in the morning.

We continue to wait on the District B runoff

Ugh.

Cynthia Bailey

Any hope for a speedy resolution to a lawsuit that is holding up the runoff for Houston’s District B city council seat evaporated Wednesday when the presiding judge for the Houston region said she would not assign a special judge to take over the lawsuit until the state Supreme Court weighs in on a related case.

“Once that happens, she will make an assignment if necessary,” said Rebecca Brite, assistant for Presiding Judge Susan Brown. “We do not know when that will be.”

Brown is the presiding judge for the 11th Administrative Judicial Region of Texas, which includes Harris, Galveston, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Wharton and Matagorda counties.

Attorneys on both sides of the dispute had expected Brown to make an assignment in the contentious case by Wednesday.

[…]

Two days after the election, Jefferson-Smith asked a judge for an emergency order declaring Bailey ineligible. Judge Dedra Davis denied that request, as did the First Court of Appeals. The attorneys now are submitting arguments to the state Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Jefferson-Smith filed a separate lawsuit on Nov. 15, formally contesting the election results and renewing the argument about Bailey’s eligibility.

[…]

“We are waiting for the complete appellate process to conclude,” Brite said.

Nicole Bates, who represents Jefferson-Smith, had said earlier this week she expected an assignment by Wednesday “at the latest.”

“I think (the appeal) clears the path to address those issues concerning eligibility, that the election contest will not,” Bates said after Brown’s announcement.

Bailey’s lawyer, Oliver Brown — no relation to the presiding judge — said the appeal would not resolve the election contest that county officials say is holding up the runoff.

“It should’ve happened already,” Brown said of the judicial assignment.

See here for the previous update. I assume that Jefferson Smith had filed a writ of mandamus, which is now with the Supreme Court, to request that Bailey be removed from the ballot. That was the mechanism that the HERO haters used to get their referendum on the ballot in 2015. The Supreme Court moves on its own timeline, though perhaps the exigent circumstances in this case will motivate them to shake a leg. But whatever the case, we’re waiting on them for the second lawsuit to be assigned and heard. I wasn’t optimistic before, and I’m less so now. I truly have no idea how long this will take.

KHOU/HPM runoff poll: Turner 56, Buzbee 34

Feels about right.

Mayor Sylvester Turner leads Tony Buzbee among likely voters in the December 14 runoff election for Mayor by 56 percent to 34 percent, with 6 percent of voters undecided. Another 5 percent of respondents refused to reveal for whom they would vote.

Support for the Mayoral runoff candidates does not vary significantly among voters who are certain to vote in the runoff election and those who are very likely to vote in the runoff election.

“There’s really nowhere for Tony Buzbee to go and I think proof of that is he’s not buying a lot of TV ads, he’s not spending the kind of money he spent in the general election,” said Bob Stein, KHOU political analyst.

Among voters who supported Bill King in the November general election, 53 percent now support Tony Buzbee and 37 percent support Mayor Turner.

Among voters who identify as Democrat, Republican or Independent, the majority of Democratic voters support Turner and the majority of Republican voters support Buzbee. Votes for either candidate are roughly the same among Independent voters.

“This is a partisan vote, the mayor is winning well over 90% of democratic voters, but he’s picking up almost 20% of Republican voters,” Stein said.

See here and here for the November polls done by KHOU and Houston Public Media, both of which showed Turner leading Buzbee by about 20 points. I said after Election Day that all of Buzbee’s voters plus all of King’s voters were still less than all of Turner’s voters, so if Buzbee is only getting a big more than half of King’s voters, he’s in very deep doodoo. And as we know from the Keir Murray analysis, the electorate is much more Democratic than Republican, as is the city as a whole. It all makes sense, is what I’m saying. Note that the sample for this poll is “234 of the 516 registered voters who were previously interviewed in September and October 2019”, which is both a little weird and makes the margin of error higher than usual, but since the vast majority of runoff voters are people who voted in November, it’s quite reasonable. HPM has more.

Chron overview of the HISD runoffs

We had overviews of all the Council runoffs, but there are other races to consider.

Kathy Blueford Daniels

Voters in parts of Houston ISD return to the polls next Saturday to complete an overhaul of the district’s much-maligned school board, which will have four new members seated in January.

Runoff elections in District II, which covers large swaths of northern Houston, and District IV, home to parts of downtown and south-central Houston, pit four newcomers promising to refocus attention on students following months of acrimony on the board. None of the candidates earned the necessary 50 percent of the vote in November’s general election to win outright.

In District II, retired postal manager Kathy Blueford-Daniels, who earned 43 percent of the vote in the Nov. 5 general election, looks to hold off city council aide John C. Gibbs, who trailed with 22 percent.

In District IV, the race between retired HISD principal Patricia Allen and management consultant Matt Barnes figures to be close after Allen received 31 percent of the general election vote and Barnes snagged 30 percent.

[…]

After narrowly missing an outright victory in her five-candidate general election, Blueford-Daniels enters the runoff as the favorite to replace incumbent Rhonda Skillern-Jones, who is seeking a seat on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees. Blueford-Daniels and Gibbs both graduated from District II high schools in the mid-1970s — Wheatley and Booker T. Washington, respectively — and serve as community activists primarily on the city’s northeast side.

Blueford-Daniels said her managerial experience and dedication to reforming a dysfunctional school board should propel her to victory.

“I want to be that conduit between the administration and HISD, to find out what people in the community want for their children,” Blueford-Daniels said. “I know we won’t be directly engaged with administration and the schools, but I think I can relate to them.”

Gibbs said his deep ties to the district, burnished as a community outreach liaison for Houston City Councilmember Michael Kubosh for the past six years, give him the edge over Blueford-Daniels.

“You need to know personalities and people and issues that are indigenous to those particular schools and communities,” Gibbs said. “I know what the issues have been, and nobody is looking at the systemic problems that have to be solved.”

Blueford-Daniels and Gibbs both advocate for returning more vocational programs to high schools in District II, many of which have ranked among the lowest-performing in the state in recent years, and fostering more stable leadership in the principal ranks.

The candidates differed on applying for the potential state-appointed board, an option open to all candidates and elected trustees. Blueford-Daniels said she does not plan to apply, preferring to use her time without power to build trust among the elected trustees. Gibbs, who declared in October that he supported state intervention, said he plans to apply for the position amid concerns that an appointed board could close campuses.

Both Blueford-Daniels and Gibbs have run for Council before. I’ve interviewed her before, but have not met Gibbs and don’t know anything about him beyond what I know from stories about this race. I do know that I disagree with his cheerleading for the TEA takeover, and on those grounds I’d vote for Blueford-Daniels.

In the other race, I interviewed Barnes in September, and I didn’t realize until reading this story that Patricia Allen is the daughter of State Rep. Alma Allen. Both have applied or will apply to be on the Board of Managers. I feel like both would be good Board members.

2019 runoff early voting wrapup

Here are your final totals:


Date     Mail   Early   Total
=============================
Nov19  13,015  88,822 101,837
Dec19  18,935  96,269 115,204

The Day Ten EV Runoff file is here, and the final file from November is here. Keir’s thread is here, with a bit of bonus content about the runoff voters who didn’t vote in November – yes, they exist. In the end, there were 152,764 total November early votes cast – there were two more days of early voting, and as usual they were the busiest.

Projecting final turnout is a little tricky, because don’t have many comparable data points. Only 2015 and 2009 had Mayoral runoffs in the modern early voting era. In 2015, 44.58% of votes cast on Election Day, while in 2009 that figure was 56.28%. I strongly suspect that 2015 is the more accurate model, and I’d bet the under on that. I’m guessing we’re headed for final turnout in the 175-200K range. Just my guess, but with a mostly hardcore voter crowd and no romantic attachment to Election Day itself, I fully expect most of the voting to be over. Have you voted yet?

District B runoff lawsuit moved to another court

Still up in the air.

Cynthia Bailey

A Harris County judge on Monday referred the lawsuit stalling a runoff in Houston city council District B to another court, casting more uncertainty about when the contentious case will be resolved and when voters will choose a new council member.

[…]

Monday’s hearing in the case did not address the central claims of the lawsuit. [Plaintiff Renee] Jefferson-Smith has contested the Nov. 5 results and argues that [candidate Cynthia] Bailey’s felony conviction makes her ineligible for office.

Instead, the hearing focused on legal procedure. Attorneys for Bailey and Jackson argued Jefferson-Smith’s lawsuit did not constitute a proper election contest because she did not dispute the results. They asked the court to dismiss the case.

Judge Cory Don Sepolio declined, referring the case instead to the regional authority tasked with assigning a special judge. He cited a state law that says judges in the county where an election took place can’t hear a contest in that election.

Nicole Bates, attorney for Jefferson-Smith, said she expects the judicial assignment to be made in the next couple days. She hailed the move as a win.

“We are happy with this decision and look forward to pursuing the election contest, and hopefully we can give the voters a true choice on a candidate that can actually be seated,” she said.

[Candidate Tarsha] Jackson called the decision “disappointing.”

“The people of District B should be voting right now with the rest of Houston,” Jackson said. “We need to get on the ballot as soon as possible — in January — and I’m going to keep fighting to make sure people can exercise their right to vote.”

The lawsuit is the second case Jefferson-Smith has filed. In the first, a judge declined her request for an order declaring Bailey ineligible. Jefferson-Smith is currently asking the Texas Supreme Court to review that decision.

See here, here, and here for the background. I just want this to be over in a timely fashion, so that the people can finally get to vote. This is such a mess.

8 Day runoff 2019 campaign finance reports

We start with a Chron story.

Mayor Sylvester Turner raked in more than $1.7 million from late October through early December and spent roughly the same amount, leaving him with almost $600,000 for the final days of the runoff, according to a campaign finance report filed Friday.

The total marked a fundraising surge for Turner, who was aided by newly reset donor contribution limits for the runoff, though he still was outspent by Tony Buzbee, a millionaire trial lawyer and the mayor’s opponent in the Dec. 14 contest.

Buzbee, who is self-financing his campaign and refusing all campaign contributions, put $2.3 million of his own money into the campaign last month and spent almost $3.1 million between Oct. 27 and Wednesday, leaving him with about $524,000.

With a week to go in the election, Buzbee and Turner have now combined to spend about $19 million in what has become easily the most expensive Houston mayoral race yet. Buzbee has spent $11.8 million of the $12.3 million he has put into his campaign account, while Turner has spent $7.2 million since the middle of 2018.

As an earlier story notes, self-funding has only occasionally been a winning strategy in Houston. I don’t expect it to be any different this time, but I do note that Buzbee’s basic strategy has changed. I still haven’t seen a Buzbee TV ad since November, but we’ve gotten a couple of mailers (someone needs to clean up his database if he’s mailing to me), I’ve seen a bunch of web ads, and he’s been littering the streets with signs. Gotta spend that money on something.

Here’s a summary of the 8 day reports for the runoff:


Race   Candidate     Raised      Spent     Loan     On Hand
===========================================================
Mayor  Turner     1,741,906  1,722,625        0     597,624
Mayor  Buzbee     2,300,000  3,076,360        0     524,420

A      Peck          38,075     39,252    5,000      15,373
A      Zoes           6,600      7,562    4,000       3,723

B      Jackson
B      Bailey           355        284      200          70

C      Kamin        180,528    137,396        0     173,370
C      Kennedy       35,160     18,343        0      25,995

D      Shabazz       31,490     28,575        0       5,009
D      Jordan        28,190     11,688        0      53,724

F      Thomas        
F      Huynh         

H      Cisneros      54,700     75,012        0      41,632
H      Longoria      36,945     32,906        0      20,946

J      Rodriguez
J      Pollard       38,016     47,147   40,000      22,864

AL1    Knox          69,710     49,857        0      16,073
AL1    Salhotra     128,672    121,736        0      64,150

AL2    Robinson     111,280    199,791        0     189,649
AL2    Davis         27,725     10,367        0      19,816

AL3    Kubosh        72,215     69,164  276,000     113,500
AL3    Carmouche     17,570     11,757        0       5,812

AL4    Plummer       41,915     44,501   21,900      12,443
AL4    Dolcefino     19,215     17,482        0       6,478

AL5    Alcorn       195,105    154,757        0      49,463
AL5    Dick           1,100     65,205   75,000       2,545

I think there must be some reports that have not been uploaded – the Chron story mentions Sandra Rodriguez’s numbers, but there was no report visible on Saturday. It and the others may be there on Monday. In the Council races, what we see here is a continuation of what we had seen before. Big fundraisers raised big money, others didn’t. Eric Dick did his spend-his-own-money-and-file-weird-reports thing. Most of the spending has not been particularly visible to me – I’ve gotten a mailer from Robinson and Turner, and that’s about it.

How much any of this moves the needle remains to be seen. As we know from the Keir Murray reports, the runoff electorate is very similar in nature to the November electorate. That’s obviously better for some candidates than for others. If you think of fundraising in runoffs as being like the betting markets to some extent, then we’re probably headed towards the expected results. We’ll see if there are any surprises in store.

Willie D will not be on the Democratic primary ballot

He wanted to run for Commissioners Court but his application was rejected because of his previous felony conviction.

Willie Dennis

Former Geto Boys rapper William “Willie D” Dennis wants to run for Harris County Commissioners Court, but local Democratic party officials rejected his application to get on the ballot, citing his criminal history and a state law that has become a lightning rod in north Houston politics over the last month.

Dennis filed an application Thursday with the Harris County Democratic Party, seeking to challenge incumbent Rodney Ellis for the court’s Precinct 1 seat. He said he wants to bring his unique perspective to government.

On Saturday, the party notified him that he was ineligible because of his 2010 felony conviction for wire fraud charges, stemming from an iPhone sales scam.

The party cited a state law that forbids candidates from running for public office if they have been convicted of felony from which they have not been pardoned or otherwise released from its “resulting disabilities.”

The statute doesn’t define that phrase and has invited varying interpretations that have not been definitively resolved by courts. It is currently the subject of a contentious lawsuit surrounding the stalled runoff in the Houston city council’s District B election.

“I would add that this is not my decision,” said party chair Lillie Schechter. “We follow the Texas Election Code.”

Officials told Dennis that they would reconsider the ruling if he could provide examples in which candidates with felony convictions were allowed to assume office, Schechter said.

Dennis said he was looking at options to appeal the decision. It marks the second time this year his political plans have been foiled by his conviction. His campaign for the District B seat was similarly derailed by eligibility concerns.

“I want my rights back — all of them,” Dennis told the Chronicle Saturday. “I did my time, now give me my rights.”

See here and here for the story of his attempt to run for District B. As far as the ongoing District B runoff situation goes, the latest news is that the hearing we were supposed to get on Friday was rescheduled for today. If there’s an immediate ruling that may provide clarity for both of those situations.

As to why the HCDP would not accept this ballot application when the city accepted Cynthia Bailey’s (and several others’), I’d say it’s simply a difference of interpretation. William Dennis himself said that he decided not to file in District B because he didn’t want to risk perjuring himself by swearing on the affidavit that he hadn’t been finally convicted of a felony. The initial ruling in the lawsuit filed by Renee Jefferson Smith that allowed Cynthia Bailey to stay on the runoff ballot gave him the confidence to try again, but the underlying law remains unclear. I don’t blame him for being upset and confused by this. This needs to be fixed by the Legislature, ideally in a way that allows people who have completed their sentences to fully participate in our – and, ideally, their – democracy again. Until then, we have a mess.

Precinct analysis: 2019 Metro referendum

The one election of interest within Harris County that wasn’t mostly or entirely within Houston was the Metro referendum. Let’s have a look at how that vote went.


Dist     Yes      No
====================
A     18,795  10,648
B     15,120   4,037
C     32,384  12,659
D     19,304   4,823
E     15,912  12,942
F      9,357   3,699
G     20,985  14,163
H     11,049   4,065
I      8,439   3,282
J      5,208   2,063
K     14,987   4,509
		
A     63.84%  36.16%
B     78.93%  21.07%
C     71.90%  28.10%
D     80.01%  19.99%
E     55.15%  44.85%
F     71.67%  28.33%
G     59.70%  40.30%
H     73.10%  26.90%
I     72.00%  28.00%
J     71.63%  28.37%
K     76.87%  23.13%

Where        Yes      No
========================
Houston  171,540  76,890
Not Hou   51,323  28,676

Houston   69.05%  30.95%
Not Hou   64.15%  35.85%

I’ve said before that blowout elections lead to boring precinct analyses, and here you can see a good example. The referendum passed by big margins everywhere, inside Houston and out. It helped that advocates had plenty of money while opposition was sparse. I doubt it would have mattered much in the end – the 2003 referendum passed despite much fiercer resistance, after all – but you have to think that the absence of a vocal and powerful Congressional adversary had to make this a lot easier for Metro. And that’s just fine by me.

Precinct analysis: 2019 Controller

Back to the precinct data. This one’s easy, as there are only two candidates.


Dist Sanchez   Brown
====================
A      8,771   7,059
B      4,507  10,779
C     17,652  21,540
D      7,391  15,225
E     14,505  10,672
F      4,798   4,559
G     18,093  13,451
H      7,174   6,579
I      6,089   4,834
J      3,482   3,213
K      7,286  10,680
		
A     55.41%  44.59%
B     29.48%  70.52%
C     45.04%  54.96%
D     32.68%  67.32%
E     57.61%  42.39%
F     51.28%  48.72%
G     57.36%  42.64%
H     52.16%  47.84%
I     55.74%  44.26%
J     52.01%  47.99%
K     40.55%  59.45%

You have to hand it to Orlando Sanchez. He’s been around forever – he was first elected to City Council, in At Large #3, in 1995, the year Griff Griffin started running for office, but he had run unsuccessfully for District C in 1993. He ran for Mayor in 2001 after serving his three terms on Council and nearly won, then ran again in 2003 and didn’t do quite as well. No worries, he jumped at an opportunity to run for County Treasurer in 2006, and was on the county’s payroll till the end of last year. Why not run for office again? Man needs a job, you know. He won everywhere except the three African-American districts and District C, a pretty fine showing for a nondescript Latino Republican, but it wasn’t quite enough. In a county that’s a bright shade of blue and a city where the next elections are in 2023, is this the last we’ll hear of him? I kind of don’t think so. One of the first things he did after losing last year was cheerlead for the TEA to take over HISD, which makes me wonder if he might angle for a spot on the Board of Managers. Water finds its level, and Orlando Sanchez finds opportunities, is what I’m saying. Don’t count him out just yet.

As for Chris Brown, here’s how he did in the 2015 runoff against Bill Frazer. As you can see, better in the Republican districts and District C, less well in the Democratic districts. It’s still a win this way, but he didn’t exactly build on his success from four years ago. Campos thinks he should have done better, and that he failed to get a leg up for a potential future run for Mayor. I think there’s something to that, but I also think no one will remember these numbers even one year from now. If Mayor is next on his agenda, then the most important numbers he’ll need are fundraising numbers. A little more visibility wouldn’t hurt, either. I have to think some of what happened this year is due to Orlando Sanchez’s name recognition, but it shouldn’t have taken that much on Chris Brown’s part to overcome that. It’s not like he’s some no-name generic, after all. A win is a win, and in the end that’s what matters. But probably no other potential future Mayoral candidate is quaking in their boots right now.

Day Six 2019 Runoff EV Report: One day more

We’ve completed a five day early voting week, with a bonus day from before the week included. The Day Six EV Runoff file is here, and the final file from November is here.


Date     Mail   Early   Total
=============================
Nov19   6,799  52,718  59,517
Dec19  14,902  56,079  70,981

And here’s the Friday Keir Murray report.

Over seven thousand mail ballots came in on Thursday, which more than doubled the total at that time. About half of all mail ballots have now been returned. Only about a quarter of mail ballots had been returned after six days in the November election, though do keep in mind that “six days” in the December context covers a week and a half. Remember also that the December ballots are all Houston, while the November totals were all of Harris County. That said, more votes are cast early in off year runoffs than in odd year November elections – 55% of all ballots were early in the 2015 runoff, for example. And there are only ten total days of early voting here, as opposed to twelve in November. We’ll take our guesses about final turnout later. For now, things are chugging along.

HISD lawsuit to stop TEA takeover has its day in court

We’ll see how it goes.

As Houston Independent School District fights for its independence, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel gave little indication Thursday of whether he would tap the brakes on the state’s plans to strip power from the elected trustees and install a new governing board.

However, Yeakel complimented the district on a “well-presented” case and said he plans to rule quickly on HISD’s request for a preliminary injunction. An injunction would stop the state from making moves to upend management at the state’s largest school district until the court hears and decides the full case.

David Campbell, an attorney arguing on behalf of HISD, said the state’s attempt to appoint a board of managers to oversee the school district is like “bringing an elephant gun to shoot a mouse.”

[…]

“This case starts and ends with Wheatley High School,” said Emily Ardolino, assistant attorney general in the state’s general ligation division. She said the commissioner has a mandate to take action and much of what the state is challenging is not reviewable by the courts under state law.

Yeakel questioned whether the decision to take over the entire governing body of the school district was an overreaction to the failing performance of one in more than 280 schools.

“Texas law provides for this,” Ardolino said, adding government intervention is mandated by state law. She argued the current board has been characterized as “dysfunctional” by one of its members and said disarray in meetings has exposed racial tensions. She pointed to a state investigation that found HISD trustees were unilaterally taking actions that required board approval. The appointed board would serve for a matter of years, not indefinitely, according to the state’s defense.

See here, here, and here for the background. You know my opinion of this, so let me just say I appreciate that Judge Yeakel will give a ruling quickly. Whatever happens, best we know it soon. The Trib has more.

It could be March before District B gets to vote in their runoff

And honestly, by the same calculations, it could go later than that.

Cynthia Bailey

The Houston City Council District B runoff could be delayed until March if a lawsuit contesting last month’s election result is not resolved by Monday, the Harris County Attorney’s office said.

The third-place finisher in the race filed the contest, arguing that second-place finisher Cynthia Bailey’s felony conviction bars her from holding public office.

Meanwhile, incumbent District B Councilman Jerry Davis said he intends to hold the seat until a successor is elected, while Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said the runoff should not have been delayed.

“There’s a lot of people out there that are angry,” Ellis said at this week’s Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday. “And to be honest with you, I’m angry as well.”

Assistant County Attorney Douglas Ray said Dec. 9 is the deadline to place District B on the Jan. 28 ballot, which also will feature the runoff for the vacant District 148 seat in the Texas House of Representatives. The county will begin sending mail ballots for that election next week, Ray said.

“We don’t want to have to run another election in addition to the ones that we’re already doing,” Ray said.

A hearing on the election contest has been scheduled for Friday.

See here for the previous update. According to the Secretary of State, the deadline to send out the mail ballots for the March primary election is January 18th. That means that if we don’t have a resolution by the 9th, we have a bit less than six weeks to get resolution in time to have the election in March. Otherwise, the next opportunity is May. Isn’t this fun?

The District B race was a topic of discussion at Commissioners Court, where Ellis questioned whether the county should have yanked the runoff from the ballot. He suggested the county attorney could have sought to quickly dismiss Jefferson-Smith’s suit so the runoff could proceed as scheduled.

Ellis said the county’s decision sets a dangerous precedent where any disgruntled party could cause delays to an election.

“We’re going to be the laughingstock of the country if there’s some last-minute challenge, and then somehow we’re going to affect the presidential primary on Super Tuesday,” Ellis said.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo suggested the county attorney’s office develop a strategy to more quickly resolve election challenges in the future.

To be fair, the fact that the state law in question is ambiguous and has not been resolved by a court is part of the problem. Short of declaring Bailey ineligible when she filed, I’m not sure what the County Attorney can do or could have done. That said, I Am Not An Attorney, and they are (it’s right there in the name), so maybe they can think of something. Whatever they do think of, getting that law fixed needs to be a priority as well.

City and county leaders have said they support keeping Davis on council until his replacement is named.

“Although his term will expire on January 2, 2020, the City expects Council Member Jerry Davis to serve on a holdover basis (if necessary) until his successor is elected and qualified for office,” said Alan Bernstein, communications director for Mayor Sylvester Turner.

While some question whether that may run afoul of the city’s term limits, Davis and county officials said the Texas Constitution allows him to stay.

“All officers of this State shall continue to perform the duties of their offices until their successors shall be duly qualified,” Article XVI of the Constitution says.

I’m fine with this as well, but we all know this is another lawsuit waiting to happen, right? Lord help us if Davis is on the winning side of a 9-8 vote in Council in 2020. It sure would be nice if we get a verdict by Monday.

Why not appoint newly elected Trustees to the Board of Managers?

It’s a perfectly reasonable question, posed recently in the Chron op-ed pages by two of those new Trustees-to-be, Judith Cruz and Dani Hernandez.

Judith Cruz

As former Houston Independent School District educators, a product of HISD, and a parent in HISD, we are personally familiar with the inequity and mediocrity that plagues large portions of the seventh largest school district in the United States. We have experienced the average or below-average schools that hover just above “improvement required” status. We resigned or put our jobs on hold and spent the last few months in 100-degree weather walking door-to-door in Districts 3 and 8 in Houston’s East End. Our aim was to give our communities the voice and policy changes to make our schools excellent. Again and again, we heard we were the only candidates who had come to meet them in their neighborhoods and in their homes. We did the work. It paid off. In Districts 3 and 8, we have a clear mandate for change by winning 64 percent of the vote over the incumbent trustees. The people liked our message and spoke with their votes for change. Democracy worked!

Dani Hernandez

We won with a decisive mandate, though the victory was bittersweet. Within hours, rumors of a Texas Education Agency takeover came true. TEA announced it would be replacing the elected trustees with an appointed board of managers. Many were shocked by TEA Commissioner Mike Morath’s timing. The announcement came with a call for those interested in serving on the new board to apply online. Wait! What? Hadn’t Houston spoken on election day? Clearly, Districts 3 and 8 not only have “interested applicants”—they had just elected trustees who weren’t part of the problematic HISD board. We demonstrated our interest months ago when we filed for election and put our lives on hold to be the change we need.

Remember that the HISD takeover is partly about Wheatley High School, and partly about the investigation that concluded multiple Trustees had violated ethics rules, as well as the Texas Open Meetings Act. Two of the Trustees named in the investigator’s report were Diana Davila and Sergio Lira, who were defeated by Cruz and Hernandez. All indications we’ve had so far suggest that the TEA will replace the entire Board with the Board of Managers, and roll the elected officials back on over time, but there’s no reason why they couldn’t start with a couple of elected Board members. If that’s on the table, then it makes sense to put Cruz and Hernandez at the front of the line, precisely because they directly removed two of the problems. I don’t expect the TEA to buy this argument, but there’s nothing inherently illogical about it. We’ll know soon enough.

Day Four 2019 Runoff EV report: Steady as she goes

I’ll probably do these more or less every other day. The Day Four EV Runoff file is here, and the final file from November is here.


Date     Mail   Early   Total
=============================
Nov19   6,362  35,467  41,829
Dec19   6,387  37,606  43,993

As an extra added bonus, here’s Keir Murrary’s analysis of the voter roster through Day 3. Here, as we can see, mail ballots are now at parity and in person voting is slightly higher for Round Two, though Wednesday was the slowest day so far. Runoff voters are the hardest of the hardcore, so all of this is sensible to me. Have you voted yet?

Chron overview of the At Large #3 runoff

The basic story should be familiar by now.

Janaeya Carmouche

In the race for the third of Houston’s five citywide council seats, voters have a choice between candidates opposite in age, temperament, and, often, policy positions.

At-Large 3 incumbent Michael Kubosh is a bombastic 68-year-old bail bondsman. Seeking to deny him a third term is Janaeya Carmouche, 37, an even-keeled former nonprofit and government employee who most recently worked for Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis.

Kubosh relishes being a contrarian voice on the council, deploying thundering speeches, parliamentary delays or “no” votes when he sees fit.

“It’s not in my DNA to go along to get along,” Kubosh said. “You need me on council so I’ll speak up when I see wrong. If everybody just votes with the mayor, then why in the hell do we have a council?”

Carmouche is a self-proclaimed introvert with a “wonkish” bent who says community service works best out of the spotlight. She chose to challenge Kubosh rather than seek an open seat partly because she said he grandstands but produces little for Houstonians.

“He’s great at marketing, and I think we’ve given him a lot of credit for being politically savvy,” Carmouche said. “He is the Wizard of Oz: Pull back that curtain and it’s just a guy pulling knobs. We need to have sensible, thoughtful and critical-thinking folks around the table. This is a job of service.”

My interview with Janaeya Carmouche is here, and my analysis of the vote in AL3 is here. There’s not a whole lot to add here. Kubosh is what he is, Carmouche should get a boost from the Mayoral runoff, but she has a lot of ground to make up and Kubosh does better in the African-American districts than your typical Anglo Republican. We’ll see what happens.

Time for the 2019 outrageous and dishonest mailer

There’s at least one every cycle.

A handful of black Democratic elected officials are expressing outrage over a campaign mailer that appears to have used photos of the politicians without consent to falsely suggest they endorsed a slate of City Council candidates — including two backed by the Harris County Republican Party.

The mailer, circulated by a group called the Harris County Black Democratic News, features photos of former President Barack Obama, U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green, and several state legislators and county officials, along with Mayor Sylvester Turner.

On the other side of the mailer are photos of nine City Council candidates, including Willie Davis and Eric Dick — who are endorsed by the Harris County Republican Party — under the banner text “Endorsement Announcement.” It also purports to endorse Turner and two Harris County Department of Education board candidates.

“I have never been contacted by the Harris County Black Democratic News, nor am I sure that they are a legitimate news or community organization,” said state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, who is pictured on the mailer. “I did not consent to being included in the Harris County Black Democratic News and am appalled that a group would go to this extent to mislead voters.”

The mailer does not disclose which person or political committee funded it, an apparent violation of state law.

Dick, a Harris County Department of Education trustee who is in a runoff for the At-Large, Position 5 seat against former City Council staffer Sallie Alcorn, contributed $8,500 to the Harris County Democratic News in September and October, according to his campaign finance records.

You can see a picture of the mailer, front and back, here. It’s almost admirable in its shamelessness. John Coby has been all over this. The news coverage will of course reach more people than would have ever seen the mailer itself, which is a two-edged sword, as some of them will just remember the images and not the truth about them. The thing about stuff like this is that it’s fundamentally a sign of weakness. No one who is confident in their ability to win needs to claim phony endorsements. This isn’t Eric Dick’s first campaign. He knows what he’s doing and he knows why he’s doing it. I’d say he should be ashamed of himself, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

Chron overview of the At Large #5 runoff

Of the five At Large runoffs, this one is the least predictable to me.

Sallie Alcorn

Sallie Alcorn is a proud nerd who sweats the small stuff.

“I like looking at ordinances and trying to figure out how to make them better,” said Alcorn, a long-time City Hall staffer. “I like the budget stuff. I like helping people. It’s the mundane stuff of city government that I like.”

In the race for Houston City Council’s fifth at-large position, Alcorn is touting her decades of public sector experience, and has been endorsed by a host of local and state leaders.

Her opponent, attorney Eric Dick, said his experience representing vulnerable people is the key difference between the two candidates.

Both have eschewed negative campaigning in favor of issues such as flooding.

[…]

After an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2015, Dick won a seat on Harris County Department of Education’s board of trustees in 2016. A supporter of Tony Buzbee for mayor — both are largely self-funding their campaigns — Dick is often billed as a Republican.

He disagrees with the classification, however, citing his views on climate change and criminal justice, views he calls out of step with many traditional Republicans.

“I probably agree with one-third of their platform,” he said.

As I noted before, it’s a pretty neat trick to run in and win a contested Republican primary while still claiming to not actually be a Republican. Let’s just say that since 2016, the year Eric Dick was was elected to the HCDE Board as a Republican, the state and national Republican Parties have offered many, many opportunities for wannabe “not one of those Republicans” to clearly and publicly distance themselves from their colleagues. Joe Straus, whatever you may think of him, has done it numerous times. Ed Emmett has done it. Some, like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, were almost entirely performative in doing it, but they still did it. We know because they all got lots of attention for it. If you can think of one example of Eric Dick, as shameless an attention hound as you’ll find in local politics, doing them same, well, then you know of one more example than I do. So please take those extremely conveniently-timed professions of being an apostate and stuff them in whatever remains of your Thanksgiving turkey. I ain’t buying it, and neither should you.

So, then. Here’s my interview with Sallie Alcorn. Eric Dick’s schtick may be a load of hooey, but some people will believe it, and that’s why I’m unsure of how this one will go.

Day Two 2019 Runoff EV report: It’s going to be a weird EV period

Let’s do a table:


Date     Mail   Early   Total
=============================
Nov19   5,708  17,287  22,995
Dec19   2,269  19,882  22,151

That’s pretty close! The Day Two EV Runoff file is here, and the final file from November is here. Remember that there will be fewer early voting days for the runoff than there were for November, so the comparisons are ultimately a little skewed. More mail ballots had been returned by this point in November, but that election had a long lead-in for mail ballots. Besides, there have been more ballots sent out for December than there were for November – 29,247 for the runoff, 26,824 for November – so look for those numbers to even up. At some point I’ll check and see how big a share of the final totals early voting is for runoffs – the population involved is different, after all – but for now, enjoy what we have.

Chron overview of the District J runoff

This unfortunately misses a relevant piece of information.

Sandra Rodriguez

The candidates vying for the District J city council seat in December’s runoff election have different backgrounds and separate bases of political support but have arrived at similar conclusions about the way forward for southwest Houston.

Edward Pollard, 35, was raised in the Meyerland-Westbury area and was an academic All-American basketball player at Morehouse College. He played professionally overseas, then returned to Houston to earn a law degree, open a practice and start a nonprofit. He has wanted to run for office since working a 2011 internship at the state Legislature, and sought the 2016 Democratic nomination for District 137 state representative, losing to current Rep. Gene Wu.

Sandra Rodriguez, 40, grew up in Gulfton. The first-generation American lived in an abusive home, a one-bedroom apartment she shared with her parents and four siblings. She joined the city’s anti-gang office shortly after high school, earned a bachelor’s degree in 2013, and is now in her 12th year with the city Health Department. She recently decided to run for council as a way to do community work full-time rather than volunteering on off hours.

Pollard pushes a centrist message — “That pothole could care less whether you’re a Democrat or Republican” — and touts endorsements from the Houston Police Officers Union, business groups like the Houston Realty Breakfast Coalition and industry groups representing city contractors, engineers and Realtors.

“No matter who you are, where you come from, we’re all in this community together,” he said. “You couldn’t run this type of race in most other districts because they’re so heavily partisan one way or the other, but in a true purple district like J it gives you the opportunity to really push that message, and I’m glad I’m at the forefront of being able to do that.”

Rodriguez stresses the need to engage new immigrants and improve the district’s poor civic engagement, and is backed by SEIU Texas and other labor groups, the Texas Organizing Project, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, and a host of Democratic politicians at the federal, state and local level.

“I just want to do the work. I’ve been doing the work for 20 years, I enjoy what I do, and if this will help me push policies and move our district forward in Southwest Houston, to change the image — because you hear Sharpstown, Gulfton, Westwood, you think crime, you think prostitution, all the negativity — if this will help me serve the district, then I’ll run. That was the ultimate decision-maker.”

Ed Pollard was also accused by Beth Martin, the then-District Director for Rep. Gene Wu, of verbally harassing her during that 2016 campaign. I have no idea what has happened since then, if Pollard has owned up to the incident and sincerely tried to make amends, or if it has just gone down the memory hole like these things usually do. I do know it’s a legitimate thing to mention in a story about this person’s candidacy, and I’m disappointed that it wasn’t in this article.

Be that as it may, my interview with Sandra Rodriguez is here. If I lived in District J, I would be voting for Sandra Rodriguez. If you live in District J or know someone who does, that’s my recommendation to you.

The KLOL documentary

Of interest to me, and other middle-aged guys like me.

This past week Houston filmmaker and blogger Mike McGuff released a trailer for his upcoming film about the late, great radio station, Rock 101 KLOL-FM, and it’s getting Houstonians of a certain vintage very excited for the finished product.

The story of the raunchy Houston radio phenomenon will be told in McGuff’s first documentary, with appearances from the likes of Outlaw Dave (one of the Texican’s creative mentors), Lanny Griffith, Colonel St. James, Pat Fant, David Sadof and even the late Jim Pruett of morning duo Stevens and Pruett in footage shot before he passed away in 2016.

To help with this long-gestating rock doc, McGuff, a former newsman, has turned to crowdsourcing platform IndieGoGo to bankroll some final nips and tucks for the promotional side of things. He’s hoping for a wide release in 2020, just in time for the station’s 50th anniversary. KLOL, formerly KTRH-FM, was born in 1970 as a progressive-rock station, evolved into a more structured album-oriented-rock and then classic-rock station before owner Clear Channel flipped it to Spanish-language in 2004.

As McGuff says, it has been a long journey to get this film in the can. When it comes to labors of love, sometimes time is the best ingredient.

“This project was only supposed to take a couple of years, at least that is what I told my very patient wife back in 2010,” McGuff says. “The years kept piling on as I kept chasing people for interviews, conducted a bunch of research, and waited for people’s photos and video to be found.”

As their onetime promo went, I admit it, I listened to Stevens and Pruett back in the day, and not just them. My enthusiasm for Dayna Steele’s Congressional campaign came very honestly, I assure you. I was right in the sweet spot of their demographic. Anyway, you can see a trailer for this here, and if you want to contribute to the Indiegogo campaign, you can do that here. You know you want to.

Chron overview of the At Large #2 runoff

This one’s a rerun.

CM David Robinson

City Councilman David W. Robinson and the Rev. Willie R. Davis last faced off for the At-Large 2 seat in 2015, with Robinson winning by 10 percentage points and taking on his second term.

Four years later, the two are at it again.

This time, Robinson is hoping his experience and record from six years on council will be enough to win voters’ support, while Davis says his decades-long connections to the community make him a better candidate.

[…]

Bringing community reinvestment — meaning having residents benefit from the businesses and organizations that profit within their neighborhoods — is one of Davis’ main priorities, along with addressing the displacement of black Americans caused by gentrification.

“I’m for development, but it needs to be equal development,” he said.

He emphasized that if elected, he would aim to serve all communities, something he said is not possible if council members are serving special interests.

Well, as I recall, Davis was an opponent of HERO in 2015, so when he says he would serve “all communities”, he doesn’t actually mean he would serve “all communities”. These things do matter. As was the case in 2015, Davis hasn’t raised much money, and incumbent CM Robinson beat him pretty much everywhere, so I don’t expect it will matter much what Davis meant by that statement. There is a misleading and illegal mailer out there that lumps Davis (and Eric Dick, who largely paid for it) in with other Democratic candidates and claims that various African-American legislators have endorsed him. Confusion and misdirection are the main strategic moves that Davis has, so be prepared to make sure other people don’t get fooled by it.

The quiet runoff

Have you been enjoying this little break from the Mayor’s race? Break’s over, but then we’re now into early voting, so we don’t have much longer to go.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

After a colorful first round defined by biting attack ads, mudslinging debates and policy disputes over crime and city finances, the temperature of the Houston mayoral runoff has noticeably cooled heading into Wednesday’s start of early voting.

Since the Nov. 5 election, when Sylvester Turner and Tony Buzbee finished atop the 12-candidate field, there have been few of the day-to-day sparks that marked the final weeks of the first stage. Buzbee, who spent millions to maintain a regular presence on television, just recently began running ads after a post-election hiatus. Turner has touted support from elected Democratic allies and largely ignored Buzbee.

Nor, after partaking in scores of forums and three televised debates, do the candidates have plans to engage in any more square offs.

The sleepy tone of the runoff marks a divergence from the 2015 contest, too, when Turner and his runoff opponent, Bill King, participated in more robust policy discussions and jousted in a pair of debates leading up to a razor-thin outcome in December.

“It has definitely been more quiet,” said Renée Cross, senior director of the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston. “I don’t think we can pinpoint it to one thing, but I think there are a variety of factors going on that didn’t occur in 2015.”

For one, Cross said, the 2020 presidential election appears to be eating up far more attention than the 2016 contest was four years ago.

“I’ve said this all along, the national election has just overshadowed everything, politically speaking,” she said, adding that the House’s impeachment inquiry into President Trump has only further diverted the attention of Houstonians.

Also dampening enthusiasm for this year’s runoff, Cross and Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said, is the perception among some voters that it’ll be difficult for Buzbee to overcome Turner’s first-round advantage. According to unofficial returns, Turner received 47 percent of the vote, Buzbee 28 percent.

“After Turner came so close to 50 percent and defeated Buzbee by close to a 20-point margin, the conventional wisdom is there’s no realistic way for Buzbee to catch Turner, unless Turner were to commit some type of egregious gaffe between now and Election Day,” Jones said.

I think both profs are largely right. That said, if Buzbee had been carpet-bombing the airwaves like he said he was going to, then we’d be having a very different conversation right now. I don’t know what’s going on in Buzbee’s head, but if I were on his campaign staff I’d very much want to ask him why he chose the past three weeks to stop setting his money on fire.

Buzbee of course has the harder job here. Turner just needs to make sure his people return to the polls. He’ll likely pick up some Boykins and maybe Lovell supporters as well, not that that were that many of them. Buzbee needs to not only convince his own supporters to get back out there for him, he needs to persuade King voters and anyone else who didn’t vote for Turner in round one. That’s a tall order, and he doesn’t have much room for error. Yes, he can try to turn out people who didn’t vote in November – there are always a few of them who make it out for the runoff – but that’s easier said than done. He has a lot of ground to make up, and not much time left to do it. The main question in my mind at this point is how the low-key-so-far nature of the runoff will affect the other races. As far as that goes, the members more likely to align with Turner need a boost from him, but a dud from Buzbee might help as well. I couldn’t say at this point where any of the other citywide races may stand.

Chron overview of the At Large #1 runoff

“Sharp contrasts” is a good description of this race. “Clear choice” also works.

Raj Salhotra

A runoff between a conservative incumbent and liberal challenger for one of Houston’s citywide council seats presents arguably the sharpest contrast of any race on Houston’s December ballot.

Councilman Mike Knox, an Air Force veteran and former police officer, is seeking his second four-year term but faces stiff competition from Raj Salhotra, a 29-year-old attorney and former high school math teacher making his first run for elected office.

Last month, Knox secured 36.5 percent of the vote in the five-person race, far ahead of Salhotra’s 22 percent but not enough to win the race outright.

In his bid to retain the At-Large, Position 1 seat, Knox is pitching himself as a persistent check on Mayor Sylvester Turner and a leading advocate of reining in city spending. He also has framed Salhotra as a “Beto socialist” and alleged his challenger would distract city council by pushing partisan issues.

“This is a race where we have a young person who’s aspiring to become a career politician, who believes that political agendas are the most important thing for Houstonians,” said Knox, 61. “And I disagree with that.”

Salhotra, meanwhile, is casting Knox as a tea party Republican, contending that the incumbent has served as an antagonist on council and taken positions that threaten to hinder progress on key issues. He rattles off Knox’s dissenting votes by memory: opposing Turner’s pension overhaul, voting against stricter floodplain regulations, voting not to join a lawsuit opposing Texas’ so-called sanctuary cities law, Senate Bill 4.

“This is a nonpartisan race, but I do think there are real philosophical differences between Councilmember Knox and myself, and we’re making that clear to voters through knocking on doors, phone banking, texting, mail, Facebook ads,” Salhotra said Sunday while block walking through a high-turnout precinct in the Heights. “The thinking goes, if we can explain his record to voters and my vision and core values, we feel confident they will make the choice to support me.”

My interview with Raj Salhotra is here, and my analysis of the precinct data from Round One is here. Salhotra has had the fundraising advantage, and he will need to use it to make sure people know who he is and what he stands for. As we’ve discussed before, all of the At Large runoffs are Republican versus Democrat, though some of the candidates in those races lean into that more than others. Mike Knox is all in on it, and that by itself would be enough to want to vote him out, even before you look at his record. Raj has a lot of votes to make up, but he will have a favorable environment in December. The rest is up to him.

Runoff endorsement watch: Revisiting races

Most of the candidates that the Chron endorsed for November either won their races or made it to the runoff. A few fell short, which leaves a bit of unfinished business for them. They have since addressed that, in the three races where they needed to pick a new favorite. In District D, they went with Brad Jordan.

Brad Jordan

Twenty-five years ago, when Brad Jordan was making hits as a rapper called “Scarface,” it’s unlikely that he ever thought about being in a runoff election for Houston City Council. Celebrity alone didn’t bring Jordan this far. The longtime community activist has proved his concern for the District D neighborhoods where he grew up is genuine.

The editorial board didn’t recommend Jordan, 48, in the general election. Our choice was Rashad Cave, whose experience as the city Department of Neighborhood’s liaison to City Council was an asset. Jordan, though, has his own intangibles. He hasn’t just lived in District D, which stretches south from Midtown to Beltway 8; he has sincerely tried to improve it.

[…]

Also making the runoff to replace current District Councilman Dwight Boykins is Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, chairwoman of the Houston Community College Board of Trustees. Boykins ran unsuccessfully for mayor instead of seeking reelection.

Evans-Shabazz’s work on the trustee board could be helpful on another deliberative body like City Council. Jordan’s grassroots work in District D, however, suggests he would speak louder for voices that too often get lost when competing in a district that also includes tony neighborhoods, the Texas Medical Center, the University of Houston and Texas Southern University.

My interview with Brad Jordan is here, my interview with Carolyn Evans-Shabazz is here, and my comment on the original endorsement is here. The Chron usually leans towards the establishment, so this choice is a little unexpected, but it’s easy enough to understand.

In At Large #4, they went with Letitia Plummer.

Letitia Plummer

In many ways, Letitia Plummer embodies the diversity of Houston.

She hails from ground-breakers in the African American community. Her grandfather was one of the first African American judges in Texas, her grandmother a long-time educator at Wheatley High School, and her mother is an immigrant from Yemeni, reflecting the demographics of a city where one in four residents is foreign-born.

That gives the Houston native and candidate for City Council At-Large Position 4 valuable insight into the needs of Houston communities that often lack a voice at the table.

Plummer’s 20 years as a private-practice dentist also helps her understand the challenges facing Houston’s small business owners and the role entrepreneurs play in the city’s economy.

Plummer, 49, has also worked on political campaigns and successfully lobbied the Texas Legislature regarding adoption and surrogacy rights and was on the small business task force of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Her experience and her connections to the community give her a considerable edge over opponent Anthony Dolcefino, a 22-year-old college student and the son of former TV investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino. Her candidacy promises to give Houston’s diverse communities a representative on City Council.

They had endorsed Nick Hellyar the first time around. I didn’t interview Plummer for this race, but I did interview her in 2018 when she ran for CD22. I had expected several of the candidates who didn’t make it through the Congressional races from that cycle to take a look at Houston City Council this year, but Plummer was the only one who did, and look at her now. She’s the clear choice in this race.

And in HISD II, they went with Kathy Blueford Daniels.

Kathy Blueford Daniels

Blueford-Daniels is running to represent District II on the HISD board. She is our choice in the runoff election against candidate John Curtis Gibbs, currently the outreach coordinator for City Councilman Michael Kubosh.

The 62-year-old former postal worker and community activist is a graduate of Wheatley and understands the opportunities a quality education provides. She also understands the perils that come when kids fall through the cracks.

Her community activism and desire to make a difference in the lives of Houston’s children were forged by the pain of her son’s death in 2006.

“The person who killed my son was a dropout,” she said. “He was on drugs; he saw no way out. We can’t let our kids go that way.”

If elected, Blueford-Daniels said she will do what’s right for students and make sure the community’s voice is represented on the board of trustees. If the state appoints a board of managers — a move that will strip the board of trustees’ of its authority — she said she will use her elected position to advocate for students and the community before the board of managers.

Here was the original endorsement. I’ve interviewed Blueford Daniels twice before, both times when she ran for District B – here’s 2011 and here’s 2013. She’s a good person and especially given her opponent’s cheearleading of the TEA takeover she’d be a good advocate on the HISD Board.

Day One Runoff 2019 EV totals: Wait, there was early voting?

Did you vote on that bonus early voting day on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving? Nine thousand four hundred and ninety people did – you can see the day one EV report here. For comparison, the final November 2019 EV totals are here, the final November 2015 EV totals are here, and the final December runoff EV totals from 2015 are here. I’ll wait till the Monday numbers come in before I start making a table for daily comparisons, as there were basically no mail ballots returned for this haul.

You may have noticed that the day one in person vote for the runoff was higher than the day one in person vote from November. The overall vote was greater in November because of mail ballots, but more people showed up at the polls on Wednesday than on October 21. That’s a little weird, because the November election included the rest of Harris County, while the runoff is Houston/HISD/HCC/Bellaire only. The same thing happened in 2015, though, so maybe it’s not that weird. Runoff voters are more hardcore, and there are fewer EV days available in the runoff. If nothing else, it showed that the extra day was indeed useful, even if all it did was shift people from Monday. I’ll be tracking the early vote through the runoff as usual.

Precinct analysis: 2019 At Large #5

Our last At Large race, and another one with many candidates. There wasn’t a clear division among the nine contestants here, so I’m presenting them all.


Dist Batteau  Garcia Flowers    Dick  Rivera  Bonton  Alcorn   Woods McNeese
============================================================================
A        654     955   1,232   4,224   1,676     952   2,526     835   1,333
B      1,421     826   1,905   1,206   1,567   2,973   1,068   1,328   1,674
C      1,459   1,502   2,782   7,167   2,769   1,377  14,491   1,852   2,147
D      3,661   1,076   3,588   1,910   1,901   2,385   2,528   1,733   2,130
E      1,275   1,271   1,498   7,117   2,865   1,311   3,966   1,233   1,774
F        553     599     865   1,997   1,165     848   1,172     646     809
G      1,107     939   1,693   7,974   1,821   1,199   9,274   1,237   2,754
H        577   1,718   1,449   1,635   2,459     843   2,574     789     703
I        654   1,661   1,173   1,251   2,277     639   1,369     573     570
J        371     447     585   1,415     865     474   1,034     434     468
K      1,440     910   2,056   2,523   1,729   1,755   3,012   1,250   1,611
									
A      4.55%   6.64%   8.56%  29.36%  11.65%   6.62%  17.56%   5.80%   9.27%
B     10.17%   5.91%  13.64%   8.63%  11.22%  21.28%   7.65%   9.51%  11.98%
C      4.10%   4.23%   7.83%  20.16%   7.79%   3.87%  40.77%   5.21%   6.04%
D     17.51%   5.15%  17.16%   9.13%   9.09%  11.40%  12.09%   8.29%  10.19%
E      5.71%   5.70%   6.71%  31.90%  12.84%   5.88%  17.78%   5.53%   7.95%
F      6.39%   6.92%  10.00%  23.08%  13.46%   9.80%  13.54%   7.46%   9.35%
G      3.95%   3.35%   6.05%  28.48%   6.50%   4.28%  33.12%   4.42%   9.84%
H      4.53%  13.48%  11.37%  12.83%  19.29%   6.61%  20.19%   6.19%   5.52%
I      6.43%  16.34%  11.54%  12.30%  22.40%   6.29%  13.47%   5.64%   5.61%
J      6.09%   7.34%   9.60%  23.22%  14.20%   7.78%  16.97%   7.12%   7.68%
K      8.84%   5.59%  12.62%  15.49%  10.62%  10.78%  18.49%   7.68%   9.89%

Here again in our hypothetical ranked-choice election world – which by the way would take a change to state law, so if this is something you really want to see happen, I suggest you contact your State Rep and State Senator – of the nine candidates present I’d list no more than two. Of the remaining seven, I only have the barest idea about the two perennials, one of whom is now in the runoff. Having a lot of candidates run is not at all the same as having many good choices.

Sallie Alcorn led in Districts C (by a large margin), G, and H. Her strength in those districts gives her a clear path to victory if she can consolidate the Democratic vote. Like the other Dems in the runoff she has collected the establishment endorsements, and she is running against an actual Republican elected official. Some Dem activists are not on board, however, in part because she has collected some endorsements from conservative groups like the Houston Realty Business Coalition, and in part because of some hard feelings from the GLBT Political Caucus endorsing her over Ashton Woods. I have no idea how much to make of that.

You don’t need me to tell you about Eric Dick, but I will anyway. This is his fourth run for city office – he ran for At Large #2 in 2011, for Mayor in 2013, for At Large #2 again in 2015, and now this. He was elected to the HCDE in Precinct 4 in 2016, and has been adjacent to some scandals. He littered the town with his yard signs in 2011, hilariously and dishonestly claiming that all the ones that had been illegally placed on utility poles were the work of overzealous volunteers, and made crude sexual jokes about Mayor Annise Parker. After his initial campaign, ads for his law firm became a fixture on the back page of the Houston Press (RIP), and just the other day I saw a brief ad for his firm – not his campaign, because he’d have to report those expenditures – on TV. In other words, whether you ever wanted to or not, you have probably heard of Eric Dick. He led the way in Districts A, E, F, and J, and I have no doubt that helped him. His name and the fact that despite being an actual elected Republican official he’s not closely identified with the Republican Party are his two best assets in the runoff.

Beyond that, what is there to say? Michele Bonton carried District B, perennial candidate Brad Batteau carried D, with Catherine Flowers right behind him, and Sonia Rivera carried I. None of them raised any money, and one presumes their voters are gettable. Alcorn has funding and endorsements, including the Chron – my interview with her is here in case you want to give it a spin – and Dick has himself. We’ll see what happens.

Chron overview of the District D runoff

The story headline about it as a “friendly runoff” between two very different candidates is a good summary.

Carolyn Evans-Shabazz

Standing beneath a papier-mâché toucan earlier this month, Carolyn Evans-Shabazz told a handful of potential voters about her aspirations to be a bus

Both she and her Houston City Council District D opponent, Brad “Scarface” Jordan, want to be vessels for change, but understand that doing so requires getting as many perspectives as possible — hence, Evans-Shabazz’s talk of being a bus.

“A vehicle has more than one passenger,” Evans-Shabazz said. “And I wanna be a bus. I. Want. To. Be. A. Bus.”

Just outside the wood-paneled room, hip-hop icon Jordan sipped soda and munched on finger foods. He had not expected to be there, and was still “stunned” to have made the runoff days earlier.

His stump speech, delivered a few minutes later, reflected that shock. “These are good cookies,” he said before telling the group of mostly senior citizens about the 30 million-plus records he has sold and his desire to better his childhood neighborhood.

“I want to give back to a city that has given so much to me and allowed me to do what I do,” he continued.

[…]

Brad Jordan

Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, said he believes Evans-Shabazz is the front-runner in the race. She has been a longtime trustee for Houston Community College, he said, and as an African-American woman in her 50s, is reflective of many District D voters.

Jones has not entirely ruled out Jordan, who unexpectedly made it to the runoff after getting the second-highest number of votes of the 16-candidate field Nov. 5.

Jordan’s name recognition may not help as much in a head-to-head race, Jones said. With his stature in the international Hip Hop community, however, his election to council would be “national news” and could change the district long-term.

“District D has always been one of those that’s last at the table in terms of getting resources,” Jones said. “One advantage that Jordan has is his unique perspective… He can make the claim that he can not only work better with marginalized groups because he’s walked in their shoes, but also that, because of his celebrity status, he might be able to get more things for the district.”

You can listen to my interview with Carolyn Evans-Shabazz here, and my interview with Brad Jordan here. I included Mark Jones’ commentary because I basically agree with it. I said myself in a recent Chron profile of Brad Jordan that the bulk of his name ID is likely to be with people who are younger than the typical voter. He did do better than expected – better than he expected, anyway – in Round One, so who knows. The voters have two good choices here.

Interview with Brad Jordan

Brad Jordan

Lots of people who run for Houston City Council are first-time candidates. Along with the State House, it’s a great entry point to elected office. And lots of first time candidates have profiles and backgrounds that are outside the traditional law/government/business milieu. Brad Jordan, also in the runoff for District D, checks both of those boxes. You’ve probably heard of him as a founding member of the Houston hip hop group the Geto Boys, though as a recent Chron story on him noted, he’s got more going on than that. A native Houstonian, Jordan is a member of The National Forum for Black Public Administrators and serves as co-founder and chairman of The Positive Purpose Movement. Here’s what we talked about:

You can still refer to the Erik Manning spreadsheet for your race and candidate information. The July finance reports that include District D are here, and the 30 day finance reports are here.

Chron overview of the District A runoff

I’m going to keep this one short and sweet.

Amy Peck

Two candidates with different approaches to politics but agreement on some key issues are facing off for the District A seat on City Council.

Amy Peck, a Houston native and seasoned staffer for term-limited District A Councilwoman Brenda Stardig, says she can best represent the constituents of the city’s northwestern district because she has spent years listening to their concerns and working for them.

George Harry Zoes, owner of Spring Branch wig shop Ruby’s Wig Salon, prides himself on not being a politician, saying his business experience has prepared him to best serve the interests of the community in which he was born and raised.

Peck, who is making her third run for the District A seat, finished well ahead of the six-candidate field on Nov. 5, but she heads to the runoff with second-place Zoes.

“With over a decade of experience in resolving constituent issues, I know what it takes to find solutions, navigate complicated governmental agencies, and get results,” Peck said. “I have worked very closely with the residents of District A for many years, and I have the hands-on experience to help our community.”

[…]

Zoes did not respond to requests for an interview.

Yeah. You know what, if you cannot be bothered or are too disorganized to respond to an interview from the main media outlet in your town when they want to write a story abut your candidacy for office, you have no fricking business being elected to anything. Peck had over 45% of the vote in Round One, and she’s easily the best qualified candidate. Sometimes it’s just that simple.

Early voting for the 2019 runoffs begins tomorrow

From the inbox:

Early Voting for the December 14 Joint Runoff Election begins Wednesday, November 27, halts for Thanksgiving break, and resumes December 2-10. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., except Sunday, December 8, when they will open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. On Election Day, December 14, the polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The deadline to apply for a ballot by mail (received, not postmarked) is Dec. 3.

Harris County will open 33 polling locations during early voting, and 385 on Election Day. Registered voters can vote in the runoff election even if they did not vote in November. A total of 389,494 people voted in the November 5th election out of the more than 2.3 million registered voters in Harris County.

“We remind voters that they do not have to go to an assigned polling location in this election,” said Harris County Clerk Dr. Diane Trautman. “With countywide polling, they can cast their ballots at any voting center near their home, work, school, or wherever they may be during Early Voting and on Election Day.”

On the ballot are races for Houston Mayor, city council members, Houston Independent School District and Houston Community College board members, and City of Bellaire council members. The State of Texas has set January 28, 2020 as the runoff date for the House District 148 Special Election. Early voting for that election is January 20-24, 2020.

“We truly hope that all registered voters exercise their right to vote,” added Dr. Trautman. “Every voice matters, please be proactive and remember you can now vote YOUR way.”

Harris County voters can find individual sample ballots, polling locations, and utilize the new wait time feature at www.HarrisVotes.com. Mobile phone users can text VOTE to 1-833-937-0700 to find the nearest voting center.

District B will also not be on the ballot. You can find the map of early voting locations here – remember that this is City of Houston, HISD, HCC, and City of Bellaire only, so that’s why the farther-out locations are not open. The interactive map is here. Info for Fort Bend folks is here. Remember that the next EV day is Monday, December 2, and after that it’s a normal schedule. Happy voting!

Precinct analysis: 2019 At Large #4

We move now to the first of two open seat At Large races, where the candidates were many and the clarity was lacking. Here’s an abridged look at At Large #4:


Dist  Ericka Hillyer Baldwin   Dolce  Javier Plummer
====================================================
A      1,584   1,454   1,475   3,951   1,335   1,400
B      2,994     272   1,022     829   1,124   4,428
C      2,759   8,458   5,248   7,150   1,768   3,517
D      3,250   1,142   1,634   1,663   1,328   8,015
E      2,108   2,666   2,539   7,956   1,443   1,408
F      1,142     711     820   1,804     907   1,217
G      2,525   4,902   3,190   9,212   1,023   1,932
H      1,231   1,329   1,703   1,845   2,601   1,542
I        868     858     784   1,571   2,593   1,411
J        683     566     594   1,319     720     911
K      2,135   1,722   1,297   2,470   1,169   4,470
					
A     11.00%  10.10%  10.24%  27.44%   9.27%   9.72%
B     20.74%   1.88%   7.08%   5.74%   7.79%  30.67%
C      7.87%  24.12%  14.96%  20.39%   5.04%  10.03%
D     15.22%   5.35%   7.65%   7.79%   6.22%  37.55%
E      9.31%  11.78%  11.22%  35.15%   6.38%   6.22%
F     13.11%   8.16%   9.42%  20.72%  10.42%  13.98%
G      9.15%  17.76%  11.56%  33.37%   3.71%   7.00%
H      9.48%  10.23%  13.11%  14.20%  20.02%  11.87%
I      8.53%   8.43%   7.71%  15.44%  25.49%  13.87%
J     11.08%   9.18%   9.64%  21.39%  11.68%  14.78%
K     12.87%  10.38%   7.82%  14.89%   7.05%  26.95%

There were eleven candidates in the open seat At Large #4 race. Amanda Edwards’ decision to run for the US Senate changed this from a race between an incumbent and two or three challengers you’ve never heard of to a wide open race of 11 contenders you’ve mostly not heard of. Seriously, how many of the six names here do you recognize? How many of the five names I didn’t list can you think of? Most of these candidates raised little to no money and had campaign presences to match. How are people to decide for whom to vote?

Well, one way is by picking a name they recognize. In this race, that name was Anthony Dolcefino. How many votes do you think a first-time candidate who had raised about $12K as of the thirty-day report and whose name was Anthony Smith would have received? He did well in the Republican districts and he’s got Republican endorsements plus the firefighters. Basically, he’s Tony Buzbee at this point, minus ten million dollars.

Along those same lines, Letitia Plummer did well in the African-American districts, and has the Democrats behind her bid. She’ll be riding on Sylvester Turner’s coattails, and the better he does the better off she’ll be. This race is the closest proxy to the Mayor’s race, and the main challenge Plummer will face is ensuring that Turner voters go down the ballot. She can’t afford a 22% undervote rate in the runoff.

I don’t know how many more times we will have to learn the lesson that while there is room in a citywide race for a Nick Hellyar OR a Bill Baldwin to be viable, there is not room in citywide elections for a Nick Hellyar AND a Bill Baldwin to be viable. Hellyar was in the race first, having moved over from District C (along with Dolcefino) following Edwards’ announcement, while Baldwin entered later and raised more money in a short period of time than any of the other candidates. It wasn’t enough to matter.

There’s been some discussion in the comments of previous posts about ranked-choice elections and how they might work in municipal races. I’d like to point out that there would be 39,916,800 possible rankings of these candidates (that’s eleven factorial, for my fellow math nerds), which, you know, is a lot. I might consider ranked-choice voting as an option if it were done like Cy Young voting in MLB, where you pick your top five only. Honestly, even that may be too much – in this race, I can think of at most four candidates that would have been worth a spot on such a ballot of mine. Ranked-choice voting would enable us to get a winner on Election Day. It’s not at all clear to me we’d get results that are more representative or less goofy than what we get now.