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Jeff Weems

A closer look at the turnout issue in 2014

I wrote yesterday about turnout for this year’s election. The main problem that Democrats face this year is that turnout has basically been flat for them since 2002 in the off year elections. I began to write a post to illustrate this last year, back when Battleground Texas was being viewed as a long-term experiment in increasing Democratic turnout, before we had Wendy Davis and a race we want and hope to win this year, but between the endless legislative summer and the short turnaround into the 2013 elections, not to mention the change in story line for this year, I never finished it. Now that we’re focusing on 2014, this is the time to polish that off.

I had previously suggested that BGT set some benchmarks for the 2014 election, back when we didn’t have anyone running statewide. We have the candidates and an updated mission now, but we still need to be clear about where we start out. What I did was take a look at the county by county results in the contested Railroad Commissioner races of 2006 and 2010. I did this for two reasons: One, generally speaking a low-level race like that is almost entirely a recapitulation of party ID, and two, 2006 Democratic candidate Dale Henry and 2010 Democratic candidate Jeff Weems got nearly identical vote totals – 1,752,947 for Henry, and 1,757,183 for Weems. I’m not taking into account their percentages or the vote total of any other candidate, because we’re focusing exclusively on Democratic turnout. The first questions to consider, therefore, are where did Weems do better than Henry, and where did he do worse? Here are the counties in which Weems did the best relative to 2006:

County Henry Weems Diff ==================================== Harris 253,845 335,689 81,844 Dallas 192,780 210,021 17,241 Hidalgo 27,213 44,372 17,159 Fort Bend 41,013 55,472 14,459 Bexar 116,909 128,360 11,451 Webb 12,012 19,451 7,439 Travis 121,035 125,283 4,248 Maverick 2,427 4,719 2,292 Collin 40,184 41,712 1,528 Hays 13,146 14,497 1,351 Williamson 29,684 30,910 1,226

I’ve said before that Harris County Democrats did not have a turnout problem in 2010. This is the clearest example I can give of that. All of these are counties where you’d like to see the Democrats improve, and where there is room for such improvement. It’s especially heartening to see gains in counties like Hidalgo, Webb, and Fort Bend. Maverick County deserves special mention because it’s easily the smallest county on this list, but still produced a decent-sized gain for the Dems. That’s mostly because overall turnout in Maverick in 2006 was a pathetic 14.8%. Turnout in 2010 was still only 24.1%. That’s in a county that went 72% Democratic in 2010, meaning there’s plenty of room to add a couple thousand more votes to the D column. I’d consider an improvement in Maverick County to be a necessary yardstick for measuring BGT’s progress in 2014.

Given that Weems got about as many votes as Henry, the fact that there were counties in which he gained means there were counties in which he lost as well. In fact, there were far more counties in which Weems lost ground than ones in which he gained. Here were the biggest losers:

County Henry Weems Diff ==================================== Nueces 30,018 24,021 -5,997 Tarrant 127,293 121,721 -5,572 Johnson 10,140 6,123 -4,017 Wichita 9,577 5,803 -3,774 Grayson 9,935 6,190 -3,745 McLennan 20,680 17,211 -3,469 Galveston 28,718 25,279 -3,439 Angelina 8,611 5,367 -3,244 Orange 8,060 4,903 -3,157 Parker 7,838 4,988 -2,850 Lubbock 14,537 12,169 -2,368

The good news is that Tarrant excepted, these are not strategic counties for Democrats. Of course, a vote lost in Wichita or Angelina is still a vote that has to be made up somewhere if you don’t want to lose ground overall. BGT clearly understands this, and I have no doubt that they will put resources into places like these in order to maximize Democratic turnout, even if it means just moving the needle a few points in a dark red county. The challenge is to give a reason for Democrats in places where there are no local Democratic candidates running for anything a reason to show up. I don’t envy them the task.

It should be noted that some of the counties listed above lost voters during the period. By the same token, there were numerous counties that gained quite a few voters between 2006 and 2010. Here’s a look at the 20 counties that had the largest increase in registered voters and how the Dems did in them.

County Growth Grow % Diff 06 AV% 10 AV% Ratio ============================================================ Collin 42,851 11.22% 1,528 10.52% 9.82% 0.93 Fort Bend 41,272 15.41% 14,459 15.32% 17.95% 1.17 Travis 38,234 6.75% 4,248 21.38% 20.73% 0.97 Denton 31,242 9.37% 904 10.13% 9.51% 0.94 Williamson 29,242 14.02% 1,226 14.24% 13.00% 0.91 Montgomery 22,928 10.10% -915 8.49% 7.35% 0.87 Harris 19,198 1.00% 81,844 13.23% 17.32% 1.31 Hidalgo 16,531 5.90% 17,159 9.72% 14.96% 1.54 Hays 12,609 14.73% 1,351 15.36% 14.76% 0.96 Tarrant 12,414 1.34% -5,572 13.77% 12.99% 0.94 Brazoria 7,252 4.43% -351 12.57% 11.83% 0.94 Bexar 7,172 0.80% 11,451 13.01% 14.17% 1.09 Guadalupe 6,768 9.95% -191 10.90% 9.66% 0.89 Cameron 6,552 3.91% -323 12.47% 11.82% 0.95 Parker 6,189 9.13% -2,850 11.56% 6.74% 0.58 Webb 6,097 6.01% 7,439 11.84% 18.09% 1.53 Comal 5,879 8.66% -706 10.22% 8.45% 0.83 Rockwall 5,706 14.22% -262 9.32% 7.59% 0.81

“Growth” is the increase in voter registrations; “Grow %” is the percentage increase. “Diff” is the difference between Weems’ vote total and Henry’s, so a positive number means Weems had more votes and a negative number means Henry had more. “06 AV%” and “10 AV%” is the ratio of Democratic votes to all registered voters, which is basically a straight up measure of turnout. “Ratio” is the ratio of the 06 AV% to the 10 AV%, so numbers greater than one are good. It’s good that the Dems gained votes in places like Collin, Denton, Hays, and Williamson, but they didn’t keep up with the increase in registered voters. This is what I was trying to get at with my earlier post about BGT’s efforts in Collin County. There’s a voter registration component to that, but the much bigger piece of that puzzle is reaching out to the Democrats and would-be Democrats that are already there and convincing them that their vote this fall really matters even if they lack local candidates to back, or if the local candidates they have face much longer odds than the statewide slate. It matters for this election and it matters for the future elections. We can’t just turn out voters in the strongholds, we have to turn them out everywhere. Democrats can’t and won’t be competitive statewide until that happens.

Blast from the past, RRC edition

TPJ tells me something I didn’t know about Republican candidate for Railroad Commissioner David “My party is my qualification” Porter.

Porter has been the treasurer of the Texas Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (TRLCC) since 2006. That’s when school-voucher activist James Leininger used Porter’s PAC as a $2 million vehicle to attack the GOP incumbents who had opposed Leininger’s agenda. Most incumbents survived the Leininger-funded primary challenges.

Created by GOP consultant Jeff Norwood, GOP activist Bill Crocker and Porter, the now-dormant TRLCC PAC may provide Texas’ best-documented case of a candidacy operating as an almost wholly owned subsidiary of a single PAC, consultant and donor.

James Leininger – now there’s a name I haven’t heard in awhile. Turns out he’s been laying low this cycle, for whatever the reason, not that Republicans have missed his funding. All I know is that I’ve seen several overviews of this race, and that’s the first time I’d heard about the Leininger connection. As if I needed another reason to vote for Jeff Weems. Go read it and see for yourself.

Overview of the Railroad Commission race

Here’s the Chron overview of the race for Railroad Commissioner between the highly qualified and universally endorsed Democrat Jeff Weems and the “I have an R by my name” Republican David Porter.

Weems is a Houston oil and gas lawyer who worked on oil rigs to help finance college.

“I’m a big fan of the oil and gas industry,” he said. “I want to keep it strong because it’s one of our biggest taxpayers.”

However, Weems said, the BP offshore explosion resulting in millions of barrels of oil pouring into the gulf and crippling fishing and tourism industries earlier this year underscores the need to “watch them. You have to regulate. That’s the commissioners’ job.”

For Weems, the campaign comes down to “competence and balance.”

A commissioner must understand, he said, what goes on out in the field in order to have sensible regulations, and a legal background helps because the commission acts like a tribunal in resolving disputes between producers and pipeline companies. The commission also settles natural gas rate disputes between cities and utility companies.

Here’s my interview with Weems if you need a reminder of how good he’d be at this job. There’s not much else I can think of to add at this point.

Endorsement watch: Sweep

A clean sweep of the big five for Jeff Weems.

Weems, 52, who has worked in the oil and gas industry onshore and offshore, is bright, aggressive and attentive, with a keen knowledge of the various aspects of the business as well as an in-depth and fresh understanding of the commission’s duties.

It is hard to believe anyone could surpass his awareness and interpretation of the statutes governing responsibilities of the commission. He clearly realizes that a commissioner has a responsibility to the consumer, the environment and the industry that he is charged with regulating.

Weems wants the commission to better enforce its existing regulations, including those regarding air quality; order more inspections of well sites; address the issue of plugging the huge number of old abandoned wells; require companies to reveal a list of chemicals — to be kept confidential by the commission — used in “fracking”; and be more prudent in assessing rate requests.

Weems has a wealth of other ideas for making the commission function more effectively and efficiently.

[…]

The Star-Telegram recommends Jeff Weems for the Texas Railroad Commission.

Weems also got the nod from the Amarillo Globe-News (thanks to PDiddie for the catch). If it were about qualifications, this race wouldn’t be close. I just hope enough people read these things to make a difference.

Endorsement watch: Statesman and Express News for Weems

Three for three.

Commission Chairman Victor Carrillo suffered a stunning upset in the March primaries, setting up a contest between candidates who represent the state’s two major parties but who are also unknowns: Republican David Porter, who wrested the nomination from Carrillo, and Jeff Weems, the Democratic nominee.

Weems, 52, is the best choice in this race. He literally knows the oil and gas business from the ground up. He started his career as a “land man” — someone who negotiates oil and gas leases — and is now a successful energy lawyer in Houston.

Porter, 54, is an accountant whose clients include energy firms. He lives in Giddings and apparently hasn’t strayed from there during this campaign.

Weems, on the other hand, has been campaigning aggressively on a platform of consumer and environmental protection and more consistent enforcement of Railroad Commission rules.

Weems won’t need a break-in period if elected to the commission and has the background and education to be a forceful advocate for the energy industry as well as consumers.

And four for four.

We recommend that Texas voters elect Weems to the post. Before becoming a lawyer, Weems gained hands-on experience in the energy industry, including work on rigs, as a drilling mud representative and handling leases for Shell Western E&P Inc.

He has a degree in petroleum land management from the University of Texas and also graduated from the University of Texas School of Law. For 20 years, Weems’ Houston law practice has focused on energy industry activities, representing clients including energy companies and royalty owners. Weems’ background makes him particularly suited for the job.

[…]

Dedicated to the commission and not pursuing another public office, Weems supports a resign-to-run rule requiring commissioners to step down if they become candidates for another office.

Weems is clearly the right choice for the job.

I’ll say it again: You can have a knowledgeable, capable Railroad Commissioner who is working hard to be elected, or you can have a guy with an R next to his name who expects to be elected because of it. Your choice.

Interview with Jeff Weems

Jeff Weems

As we head into the last two weeks before the start of early voting, it’s time to turn attention to the statewide candidates. First up is Jeff Weems, the Democratic candidate for Railroad Commissioner. Weems is a Houston-based attorney whose practice is entirely focused on the energy industry. It’s hard to overstate how much better qualified Weems is for this job than his no-name, no-experience opponent, who isn’t just ducking debates, he’s skipping TV appearances (though he did participate in this Trib face-off video) and avoiding editorial boards as well. Basically, he’s hoping that the R next to his name carries him across the finish line. If you want to know what a Railroad Commissioner does, why we should be calling the Railroad Commission something else, and why Jeff Weems should be doing in, give a listen to the interview:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

Endorsement watch: Chron for Weems

Score two for Jeff Weems.

There is one race for a Railroad commissioner’s seat on this fall’s statewide ballot to fill the seat currently held by Victor Carrillo, who lost to a challenger in the Republican Party primary.

We commend Houstonian Jeff Weems, the Democratic candidate, to fill this seat.

Weems, the son of a petroleum engineer, would bring both legal and petroleum engineering experience to the position. He would also bring dynamism and enthusiasm that does not appear to be matched by his Republican opponent.

As before, it’s clear there’s no comparison between Weems and his no-name opponent. If you want someone who’s well qualified for the job, he’s your candidate.

Endorsement watch: DMN for Weems

The Dallas Morning News is almost always the first out of the chute with most election endorsements. This year is no exception, as they’ve already issued recommendations for most statewide offices. They’ve gone mostly Republican – Keith Hampton for CCA notwithstanding – but broke with that by giving a resounding thumbs up to Jeff Weems, the Democratic candidate for Railroad Commissioner.

Seldom do we run into a first-time candidate for any office and wonder why that person hasn’t already been elected to the job. But that’s how impressed this newspaper is with Democrat Jeff Weems, who is seeking election to the Texas Railroad Commission.

The 52-year-old Houston attorney would be ready on Day One to make a significant contribution, which is why we strongly recommend him for the three-member panel.

[…]

Weems wants the commission to be more aggressive in lobbying the Legislature about its goals. We particularly like his idea of limiting fundraising for this quasi-judicial post to selected times during a commissioner’s six-year term. He would curtail fundraising shortly after a commissioner’s election until essentially the member’s next election cycle.

These are just some of the many examples of Weems’ smart and thoughtful views. His opponent, Republican David Porter of Midland, filled out our questionnaire, but the 54-year-old CPA neither showed up for an interview alongside Weems nor returned a call seeking a phone interview. Roger Gary is running as a Libertarian, and Art Browning is running as a Green Party candidate.

Weems and Porter are competing for an open seat, so voters would be well-served to take the time to distinguish between these candidates and dig deeper than sound bites. Weems clearly has the qualifications – and then some – to bring common-sense leadership to this influential commission.

I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Weems – the interview will run after next week – and I can attest to all the things they say. He’s very much the kind of person you want in this position, at least if what you want is someone who knows what he’s doing and would excel at it. The contrast in his election couldn’t be clearer.

UT/TT poll: Perry 39, White 33

Another poll result.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry leads his Democratic challenger, Bill White, by 6 percentage points — 39 percent to 33 percent — in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Libertarian Kathie Glass has the support of 5 percent of the Texans in the survey; Green Party candidate Deb Shafto gets 1 percent. And 22 percent of respondents — more than one in five Texans — say they’re undecided about which candidate to support with only seven weeks to go in the fall campaign.

Clearly, the natives are restless: In addition to the high percentage of undecided voters up and down the ballot, the poll also found that third-party candidates are capturing enough of the vote to affect the outcomes of some statewide contests. And 31 percent of respondents — nearly one in three Texans — consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement.

“White has not yet faded and remains in striking distance of Perry,” says Daron Shaw, a government professor at the University of Texas who oversees the UT/Tribune poll with his colleague Jim Henson. “The downside for White is that Perry is up by 18 points among those who say they are extremely likely to vote. White needs a big turnout among young voters and minorities to be competitive.”

As for the undecided voters, Shaw and Henson say the high percentage isn’t that unusual when you consider that they weren’t pressed to say whom they’d support if the election were held today. The candidates have plenty of voters to fight for, they say — and there are enough unanchored votes to swing the election either way. The question to be answered between now and November is what those people will do when it comes time to vote.

“There are a lot of people out there who are not ready to respond to a poll about who they’re going to vote for,” Henson says. “If you look at the breakdown, there are a lot of moderates and a lot of independents.”

You can see more info here, though full crosstabs aren’t out yet. Color me a little skeptical of this one. I believe Rick Perry has a lot of soft support, but I don’t believe 22% of the electorate is actually undecided. Just hearing the words “Democrat” and “Republican” should get you a candidate selection over 80% of the time, as it did in their generic Congressional/legislative ballot question. Nor do I believe that the Libertarian candidates will collect over 5% of the vote in most of these races. No Libertarian candidate got as much as 5% in 2006 in a statewide race. Finally, if 14% of your sample is people who don’t know (6%) who they voted for President in 2008 or didn’t vote at all (8%), then I think you’re sampling a lot of people who will not be voting this November. Unless you were ineligible to participate in 2008, if you didn’t vote then you ain’t voting now.

Note that in their May poll, Perry was leading by 9, 44-35, meaning he lost five points and White two between the two polls. I didn’t see a “Who did you vote for in 2008?” question in their Day One toplines, so I can’t compare the two on that. Interestingly, every single candidate appears to have lost ground in this poll since May:

Candidate Race May Sept ================================ Perry Gov 44 39 White Gov 35 33 Dewhurst LtGov 44 41 Chavez-Thompson LtGov 30 26 Abbott AG 47 43 Radnofsky AG 28 26 Patterson LandCom 39 35 Uribe LandCom 27 25 Staples AgCom 39 33 Gilbert AgCom 28 26 Porter RRCom 39 33 Weems RRCom 27 25

All Republicans except Dewhurst, who went from +14 to +15, saw their leads shrink. That’s with the generic Congressional ballot going from 46-34 in the GOP’s favor in May to 48-33 in September. You’d think that might have been worthy of comment, but it went unnoted by the pollsters. Given my issues with the sample, I don’t think it means all that much, but it was striking nonetheless. I presume there will be more data coming, including the full crosstabs, so we’ll see what else there is soon enough. Burka has more.

Fundraising: Other statewides

Bill White kicked butt in the fundraising department, but how did the other statewide candidates do? Not nearly as good, unfortunately. Here’s a look:

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458383&form=COH

Totals From Report For Linda Chavez-Thompson
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period February 21, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $94.00
Total Political Contributions: $331,023.42
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $1,442.55
Total Expenditures: $162,904.34
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $136,421.09
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458315&form=SPAC

Totals From Report For David Dewhurst Committee
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $0.00
Total Political Contributions: $3,172,765.68
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $987.03
Total Expenditures: $1,299,511.30
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $3,550,829.75
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $1,137,500.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458258&form=COH

Totals From Report For Barbara Ann Radnofsky
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $11,790.00
Total Political Contributions: $233,941.91
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $1,424.84
Total Expenditures: $176,092.13
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $415.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $463,852.09
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458479&form=SPAC

Totals From Report For Texans for Greg Abbott
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $30.00
Total Political Contributions: $1,717,734.99
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $2,861.64
Total Expenditures: $653,222.40
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $11,209,703.93
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458764&form=COH

Totals From Report For Henry E. Gilbert
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period February 21, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $0.00
Total Political Contributions: $51,701.98
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $6,229.72
Total Expenditures: $32,684.16
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $90,710.73
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458472&form=SPAC

Totals From Report For Texans for Todd Staples
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $1,455.00
Total Political Contributions: $387,462.34
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $3,616.61
Total Expenditures: $210,392.40
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $1,065,709.00
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458249&form=COH

Totals From Report For Jeffry D. Weems
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $168.00
Total Political Contributions: $63,716.53
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $100.00
Total Expenditures: $88,389.86
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $17,448.60
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=457583&form=COH

Totals From Report For David J. Porter
Filed on: July 14 2010
Covering the Period February 21, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $782.00
Total Political Contributions: $128,482.00
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $0.00
Total Expenditures: $63,133.72
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $74,727.48
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $15,000.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458410&form=COH

Totals From Report For Hector Uribe
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period February 22, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $1,295.00
Total Political Contributions: $44,703.85
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $0.00
Total Expenditures: $33,008.80
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $7,289.77
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

http://www.ethics.state.tx.us/php/summary.php?rn=458409&form=COH

Totals From Report For Jerry E. Patterson
Filed on: July 15 2010
Covering the Period January 01, 2010 Through June 30, 2010

Total Unitemized Contributions: $0.00
Total Political Contributions: $307,629.67
Total Unitemized Expenditures: $0.00
Total Expenditures: $205,441.21
Total Unitemized Pledges (Schedule B1 or B2) $0.00
Total Contributions Maintained As Of The Last Day Of The Reporting Period $822,401.18
Total Principal Amount Of All Outstanding Loans As Of The Last Day of the Reporting Period $0.00
Total Unitemized Loans: $0.00

The Republicans break down into three groups: Dewhurst and Abbott, who have the resources to run a bunch of TV ads statewide if they want to (though I suspect Abbott will save a few pennies for a 2012 Senate race); Staples and Patterson, who have a comfortable lead in finances but don’t have enough to do more than spot some ads in select markets; and David Porter, who has a token amount, though still more than his opponent, Jeff Weems. None of the Democrats are going to approach the top level, but getting to the second tier is a doable goal, especially for Chavez-Thompson and Radnofsky. If you’re a big Democratic donor and you’ve already given five figures or more to Bill White, you can get a pretty decent amount of bang for those bucks if you were to write a similar check to some or all of his ballotmates.

Meet the Statewides: Moody and Weems

Two more candidate videos from the TDP’s “Meet the Statewides” series. First up, Supreme Court candidate Bill Moody:

Moody, a District Court justice in El Paso, was the top performer among Democratic candidates in 2006, getting 45% of the vote while sweeping the newspaper endorsements. He ran for Supreme Court in 2002 as well.

Next is Jeff Weems, candidate for Railroad Commissioner.

Weems, a Houstonian, is running against the no-name Republican that knocked off Victor Carrillo in the GOP primary. He’s got a lot of experience and expertise in the energy industry; if any of that matters, he should win easily. I’ll be very interested to see what his fundraising totals look like in July.

Carrillo’s message to supporters

Ousted Railroad Commission Chair Victor Carrillo sent a sharply-worded email to his supporters about how he lost his race on Tuesday.

Early polling showed that the typical GOP primary voter has very little info about the position of Railroad Commissioner, what we do, or who my opponent or I were. Given the choice between “Porter” and “Carrillo” — unfortunately, the Hispanic-surname was a serious setback from which I could never recover although I did all in my power to overcome this built-in bias.

I saw it last time but was able to win because the “non-Carrillo” vote was spread among three Anglo GOP primary opponents instead of just one. Also, the political dynamics have changed some since 2004.

Carrillo had three primary opponents in 2004, when he ran for his first full term. He got 49.60%, then easily dispatched runnerup Robert Butler in overtime with 62.77% of the vote. As Leo Vasquez could also attest, this was not a good year to be running in a Republican primary with a Hispanic surname.

Carrillo did not endorse his opponent, David Porter, nor did he urge his followers to support him in November. That’s not too surprising, given that he described Porter as follows:

Porter, an unknown, no-campaign, no-qualification CPA from Midland residing in Giddings filed on the last day that he could file while I was waiting in Abilene to bury my dad.

He has never held any elected office, has no geoscience, industry, or legal experience other than doing tax returns for oil and gas companies.

I’m thinking that might show up on some of Jeff Weems‘ campaign materials. I just hope he can raise the funds to distribute those materials widely enough.

More from this DMN story:

Privately, some Republicans said they felt that Carrillo should have campaigned more. In recent months, Carrillo has endured health problems, and his father died in January.

Carrillo spent more than $600,000 on mailers, radio spots, newspaper ads and other materials, records show. Porter spent nearly $30,000, including $15,000 from his own pocket.

“I wish [Carrillo] had been more aggressive and astute in how his resources were spent. I think that made the difference between winning and losing,” said Ted Delisi, a Republican strategist who helped direct Republican Tony Garza’s campaign for railroad commissioner in 1998.

That sounds like something you’d say after a candidate lost by two points. Carrillo lost by twenty. Other than having a few million dollars at his disposal, I don’t know what he could have done about that. The Trib has more.

Election results: Other statewides

The big story in the other statewide primaries is the loss of Railroad Commission Chair Victor Carillo to a first-time candidate.

David Porter, who moved to Giddings after building a business in Midland, ousted Victor Carrillo, the highest-ranking nonjudge Latino in Texas government, in an election some said was determined by ethnicity.

Carrillo, who was appointed to the panel in 2003 before winning election a year later, had the support of top Republicans and vastly more money, according to campaign filings. Through Feb. 20, Carrillo had $322,601 on hand; Porter had $11,251.

Porter, who said he spent about $50,000 on his campaign, played up his lack of political credentials in his campaign, and he credited his outsider status for the victory. “People are tired with professional politicians, and looking for a change,” he said Tuesday night.

But Carrillo’s camp thought his biggest problem might have been his last name.

“We’ve got the problem of an Anglo surname versus an Hispanic,” said campaign consultant Susan Lilly, who said Carrillo’s campaign had spent at least $600,000. Candidates with any kind of unusual name are at a disadvantage, she said.

Hold that thought, because we’ll be coming back to it when we look at the Harris County results. I had the opportunity to finally meet Jeff Weems last night at the Bill White event. As you might imagine, he was happy with that result. The question is whether the industry support in this race will switch from Carillo to Porter or Weems. Their July finance reports will be a lot more interesting to look at now.

Democrat Linda Chavez-Thompson won without a runoff in the Lite Guv primary; the SOS shows her at 53.10% to Ronnie Earle’s 34.67%. You have to figure there might have been a runoff if Mark Katz had run an actual campaign. Hank Gilbert won what turned out to be a not-too-close race against Kinky Friedman, getting over 52%. Friedman is now a three-time loser, once as an R, once as an I, and now as a D. Turn out the lights, dude. Hector Uribe won a closer-than-I-expected race to be the candidate for Land Commish, winding up with 51.67% after early returns had him trailing. When I went to bed last night, Bill Burton was up on him by about 10,000 votes, but Uribe’s turf in South Texas had largely not reported yet. The Democrats got the slate their best slate.

Finally, there will be a runoff for the Republican nomination for Harriet O’Neill’s open Supreme Court slot, with four candidates finishing within 2000 votes of each other. The leader, former State Rep. Rick Green, is the worst of them.

Green, who represented the Dripping Springs area in the Texas House from 1999 to 2003, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the night’s returns and “real thrilled” about the prospect of a runoff, and that he thought his campaign had “good ground game and a good Internet presence.” The former lawmaker made headlines in 2006 for a public row with his Democratic successor, state Rep. Patrick Rose, whom he allegedly punched and shoved on Election Day. While in the Legislature, Green attracted criticism for using his Capitol office as the setting for a health supplement infomercial for a company and arguing successfully for the parole of a man who had lent $400,000 to his father’s company. He also made Texas Monthly’s list of the 10 worst legislators.

The libertarian-style candidate has earned the endorsements of rightwing celebs Chuck “Walker, Texas Ranger” Norris and the prolific Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of TLC’s 18 Kids & Counting!, as well conservative lawmakers like state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, and state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center. Green is also cozy with the Aledo-based organization WallBuilders, a group that wants to close the gap between church and state, and advocates for other causes that preserve America’s “moral, religious and constitutional heritage.”

Yecch. Barring anything strange, Green will apparently face off against Fort Worth District Court Judge Debra Lehrmann, with the winner going up against Jim Sharp in November. In the other Supreme Court primary, the newly-appointed Justice Eva Guzman won easily against Rose Vela.

Filing season opens for 2010

Today is the first day to file for the March 2010 primaries. BOR is following the action from Travis County. No surprises yet – those usually happen later in the period – so far it’s mostly incumbents filing for re-election. I’ve received a bunch of press releases related to that today. Of interest is one from Jeff Weems, who is running for Railroad Commissioner – I’m going to keep track of all the downballot statewide offices, since there are a few that don’t have a known candidate yet – and State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon. The big one to watch for will be Lieutenant Governor. We’ll know a lot more about the state of the slate once that piece is in place. The state and county parties usually maintain spreadsheets of the filings as they come in, so I’ll peek in on those periodically to see where the action is. The deadline is Monday, January 4, so stay tuned.

Jeff Weems

We’ve been hearing plenty about the top of the ticket for Democrats in 2010, but there are still several slots to fill. One of them is the Railroad Commissioner seat held by Victor Carrillo. Via email to Carl Whitmarsh, here’s a name for you:

Jeff Weems is running for the Democratic nomination for Texas Railroad Commissioner in 2010, hopefully earning a chance to square off with Republican incumbent Victor Carrillo.

Jeff is currently the precinct Chair for Precinct 274. He is an oil and gas litigation attorney, representing exploration companies, service companies and landowners. Before becoming an attorney, he worked in the industry for years, first as a laborer on drilling rigs, next as a mud man, then as a landman. He has been an attorney for 19 years. He works with Harrison, Bettis, Staff, McFarland & Weems, a mid-sized Houston litigation firm.

Jeff is running because he knows the energy industry inside and out. He knows that the Railroad Commission can do so much more than it does now. The incumbent Republican commissioners are far too ready to take contributions from companies with matters pending before the commission, even when they are not up for election. Even more importantly, the current commissioners have demonstrated a bias toward the gas utilities when rate cases are heard, which ends up costing the citizens of Texas dearly. In addition, Jeff will balance the desires of the operators seeking to drill and complete wells with the need to protect Texas’ environment (such as in the Barnett Shale).

Won’t surprise me if Dale Henry, who was a candidate in 2006 and again in 2008, runs again. Mark Thompson, who defeated Henry and Art Hall in the 2008 primary for RR Commish, is currently running for Governor. There may be someone else out there as well – who knows, maybe Hall wants to take another crack at it – but at least we have one.

The potential contenders for all statewide offices at this time, as I know of them:

Governor – Tom Schieffer is in, Kinky Friedman and Mark Thompson say they’re in. Kirk Watson and/or Ronnie Earle may decide to join them. Former San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger has been mentioned as well, but while everyone I’ve spoken to loves the guy, nobody as yet thinks this is likely.

Lieutenant Governor – Not a whole lot of chatter about this one just yet, but I’ve recently heard that State Sen. Royce West, who has previously expressed some interest in Attorney General, may run for this slot instead. Watson remains a possibility here as well.

Attorney General – Barbara Radnofsky is in. West and Earle are possible. State Rep. Patrick Rose has been in the conversation, but any buzz he’s had has diminished of late. 2006 nominee David Van Os is always a possibility, but the word I’ve heard lately is that he’s not considering it.

Comptroller – Haven’t heard a peep. Susan Combs may become the Kay Bailey Hutchison of the next decade, at least if no one serious ever challenges her.

Ag Commish – 2006 nominee Hank Gilbert is running. He may have company, but as yet I’ve not heard any other names.

Land Commish – I have recently heard the name of a potentially exciting candidate for this slot, but that person has not made a decision and the name was given to me in confidence, so that’s all I can say for now.

So there you have it. Regarding the Comptroller slot, Combs probably is the one person no one serious wants to run against. There’s a danger in that if there is a vacuum, it could get filled by a clown like Fred Head, whose buffoonish presence would be a drag on a ticket that had, say, Watson, West, and Earle/Radnofsky as the headliners. You can’t stop anyone from running – see “Kelly, Gene” for all the evidence of that you’ll need – but you can try to persuade someone with a bit more heft to challenge him in the primary if it comes down to it. A self-funder would be preferred, given the amount of funds that will need to be devoted to other races. Whether one can be found or not is the question.