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Lane Lewis

We speak again of an elections administrator

As you know, I’ve been wondering when this might happen.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said he will ask the Texas Secretary of State’s Office to examine his office’s election processes after a “human error” in his office caused erroneous primary runoff election results to be posted online for hours last Tuesday. The error made the Democratic runoff for Precinct 2 constable appear to be a blowout for one candidate when, in fact, the correct count had his opponent ahead.

Democratic Party chairman Lane Lewis also called for an audit of election procedures. Lewis referenced delays in the posting of results in May and July, and a Democratic primary race for the Harris County Department of Education run on outdated boundaries. County tax assessor-collector Don Sumners has accepted some blame for the error but says the Department of Education was required to notify him of the change; the department disagrees.

“We all want a fair election, so why not have an independent auditor come in and be able to identify, ‘This is what’s going right, this is what’s going wrong’?” Lewis suggested. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

County Judge Ed Emmett – like Stanart, a Republican – revived his proposal that an elections administrator, an appointed official outside the clerk’s office and tax office, be considered. Emmett said 85 Texas counties, including most large ones, use the system.

“I’m not saying we need to go to what they do, but if there are improvements we can make, I think we ought to consider making those improvements,” Emmett said. “If there is an error, then at least you have somebody who is a professional election administrator. Nobody reads into it that this is an elected person that’s partisan one way or the other.”

I’m glad to see the elections administrator idea has been brought up again, because it really does need to be fully debated. It’s hard to say from the story if it will go anywhere – Judge Emmett and Commissioner Lee were the only ones quoted. Stanart unsurprisingly hates the idea, and if he has cover from the other members of the Court then that’s pretty much that. As for Chairman Lewis’ request for an audit, all we know at this point is that the Secretary of State reported not having received such a request as of press time. I would hope that County Clerk Stanart follows up on that. If Stanart is correct in his assertion that the runoff screwup was just one of those things that could happen to anybody, then the audit ought to help restore a little confidence in him. If not – if there were systemic problems that can and likely will happen again – we need to know that now.

One more thing. Campos, who is on the elections admin bandwagon, asks a question:

I wonder why local Dem Party leaders won’t come out and support an Election Administrator?

Former HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg gives a reason for that in an email sent to Carl Whitmarsh’s list, which I’ve edited a bit:

Under Texas law, the Elections Administrator is appointed by a five person committee consisting of (1) the County Clerk, (2) the County Tax Assessor-Collector/Voter Registrar, (3) the County Judge, (4) the Chair of the Harris County Republican Party, and (5) the Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party. […]

And once you appoint an Election Administrator, that person cannot be replaced — even for cause, unless four of the members of that committee vote to remove him or her. So, as a practical matters, once appointed, it’s essentially a lifetime appointment. (Commissioners Court can abolish the position by majority vote, but they cannot fire the Administrator and obtain a replacement).

The supermajority requirement to remove an elections administrator is one of the concerns I raised when the issue was first brought up. I understand the reason why it’s done this way – allowing for a simple majority to recommend the removal of an elections admin would make it too easy to play political games with the position – but doing it this way may make it too hard. I’d like to hear more about the experience other counties have had before I’m willing to sign off on the idea. Birnberg also notes that if an elections admin position were to be created and filled today, two of the people that are the root cause of why we need an elections admin – Stan Stanart and Don Sumners – would be on the board that selects and oversees said admin. That doesn’t sound like a brilliant idea to me, either. I suspect nothing will happen till after the election anyway, but then something was supposed to happen after the last election, and here we are now. So who knows? PDiddie has more.

No settlement deal for HCDE election screwup

Just as well, because this wasn’t a good deal.

A proposed settlement hashed out Thursday evening would have seen the Republican race – a blowout victory – stand, and the Democratic race – for which a runoff is under way – voided. In that race, the November ballot would list all three Democrats and the one Republican who filed for the Position 6 trustee seat. The leading vote-getter would win the seat.

“I am wholeheartedly in disagreement,” Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis said Friday. “If you’ve got the Democrats splitting their votes three ways and the Republicans only have one person to vote for, I don’t see how mathematically it would be possible for a Democrat to win.”

Lewis said if an unfair agreement is presented to the court, his party would be forced to intervene and file an injunction to block the settlement.

First Assistant County Attorney Terry O’Rourke said that proposal was outdated, adding that Lewis’ party will have to agree to any settlement. The goal, O’Rourke said, is to present a settlement to Commissioners Court for approval Monday morning, then take the document into court Monday afternoon. A judge could reject all or part of any agreement, he noted.

While I understand HCDP Chair Lewis’ concern, the split among the three candidates in May was 49.5 – 40.5 – 10, so it seems unlikely to me that there would be an even three-way split among them in a hypothetical November special election. Even if there were, Precinct 1 is Democratic enough that one of them might still prevail over the Republican candidate. But regardless of that, under this proposal we could be electing someone to a six-year office with no resign-to-run requirement and taxing authority with less than 30% of the vote. That ain’t right no matter who it is. I get that the county wants to avoid the expense of a separate election or runoff for just this race, but that’s too bad. We shouldn’t short-circuit democracy to save a few bucks. A solution I could live with is this: Hold the voting Tuesday under the correct lines (if the eSlates can all be programmed correctly by then) so that all of the in person votes and most of the absentee votes are correct, then see if the margin between winner and loser exceeds the total number of misplaced absentee ballots. If so, let the result stand; if not, proceed to a November special election and bite the bullet on a December runoff, just as you would for any other November special election like the SD17 special election in 2008. It’s the best we can do, and it might survive a subsequent lawsuit by whoever loses on Tuesday. If you’ve got a better idea, leave it in the comments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democratic results, Harris County

The good:

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

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

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

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

The bad:

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

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

The ugly:

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

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

The rest:

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

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

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

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

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

For shame, Keryl Douglas

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

Keryl Douglas push card

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

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

Early voting begins today

New Galleria EV location

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The truth is out there on the Ministers for Keryl email

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Douglas denies sending anti-gay email

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

Interview with HCDP Chair Lane Lewis

Lane Lewis

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

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

Download the MP3 file

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

What I want from the next HCDP Chair

So by now you know that HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg will step down in December. The precinct chairs will select an interim Chair at that time, and a new Chair will be elected in the March primary. Lane Lewis has thrown his hat in the ring – he’d announced his intent to run for Chair some time ago – and I feel confident there will be other candidates. I’ll wait to see who gets in before I make any decisions, but in the meantime, here’s my wish list for the next HCDP Chair, whoever he or she may turn out to be.

1. Have a plan to deal with vote suppression. All the other items on this list put together are not half as important as this one. This includes, but by no means is limited to:

  • Educating voters about the new voter ID law, and helping those who need it get the required ID.
  • Defending against, and finding ways to go on the offensive against the King Street Patriots and their ilk.
  • Holding the Tax Assessor’s feet to the fire on voter registration applications, including more litigation as needed.

Anyone who does not have a detailed plan for this should be automatically disqualified for the job. If we don’t have our act together on this, nothing else will matter.

2. Develop a Latino outreach/turnout strategy. We’ve only been talking about such a thing since about five minutes after the Texas Constitution was ratified. May as well try to put one into practice.

3. Get involved in city elections. I don’t expect the Party to take sides in city races, since most city races involve more than one Democrat. But there’s no reason why the HCDP can’t at least tell us who the Democrats are in these races. Compare and contrast the HCDP’s 2011 City Election page with that of the Harris County GOP. The former tells you exactly nothing that you couldn’t find out elsewhere. The latter lets you know who’s on which team, and who’s the better team players among them. I can think of no valid reason why we don’t do something like that. In addition, city races can be used as testing grounds for voter registration, messaging, and turnout strategies. Every election matters. Why would we turn down a chance to use these elections to improve what we do?

4. Develop and implement a social media strategy. I’ll be honest, I don’t spend that much time on Facebook and Twitter, and I don’t use location-based apps like Foursquare, so for all I know the Party is already doing a great job with this. But whatever we’re doing, there’s always more that can be done. The methods and apps we’re using to win this election may be obsolete by the next election, and the key tool we’ll need to win the election may be something that hasn’t been developed yet. If we’re not on the leading edge, we’re falling behind. Oh, and studies show that Latinos – you know, the group that we desperately want to do a better job communicating with – are heavy smartphone users, more so than Anglos. You do the math.

5. Get elected officials more involved. I believe it should be the responsibility of every elected Democratic official to maximize voter registration and Democratic turnout in their district in every election that has Democrats on the ballot. I know I’m not the only Democrat in this county who believes that some of our Democratic elected officials do a better job of this than others. I know that the HCDP Chair has no authority over any elected official, but I daresay it’s within the Chair’s abilities to report on how each elected official does on this score to the Party membership. We the voters can take it from there.

So that’s my list. I don’t claim that it’s exhaustive or authoritative, but I do hope it will serve as a starting point for the discussion. I’d love to know what you want from the next Chair. Have at it in the comments.

Precinct analysis, District Council races

In addition to the five citywide runoffs, there were two runoffs in district Council races, in A and F. In each case, they were run in territory that, judging by the citywide results, were modestly (F) or very (A) friendly to Republicans, and in each case the Republican candidate won. But that’s about where the similarities end.

Since there are a small number of precincts for each district, I’ve created this Google spreadsheet that has a mostly complete list of each precincts from them both. I say “mostly” because I filtered out the smallest precincts, in which generally fewer than 10 votes were cast. My comments on each:

Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Stardig 9,258 56.6 Lewis 7,103 43.4 Parker 11,199 63.5 Locke 6,439 36.5 Khan 10,171 61.8 Green 6,297 38.2 Christie 10,541 66.6 Jones 5,300 33.4

– In District A, the first thing you notice is that Brenda Stardig trailed the higher profile Republican candidates Jack Christie and MJ Khan, each of whom drew more votes and had a higher percentage than she did. By the same token, Lane Lewis outperformed Jolanda Jones and Ronald Green. Jones and Green each won six out of the 46 precincts in total, while Lewis won twelve. Lewis did at least as well as Jones in all but six precincts, and at least as well as Green in all but twelve. There were about as many votes cast in the District A runoff as there were in the Controller’s race, and Khan outscored Stardig by about as much as Lewis improved on Green, but in the At Large #5 runoff there were about 500 fewer votes cast, and as Jones trailed Lewis by a wider margin than Christie led Stardig, I’d guess that a sizable number of those who skipped this race might have otherwise been inclined to vote for a Democratic candidate. Consider that a success for Christie’s mail campaign, and keep it in mind as we move on. Anyway, the bottom line is that Lewis’ good precincts generally overlapped with Jones’ and Green’s, with the latter two winning only one that Lewis did not carry.

Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Hoang 4,662 52.9 Laster 4,161 47.1 Parker 4,612 51.3 Locke 4,383 48.7 Khan 4,870 59.8 Green 3,298 40.2 Christie 4,404 60.0 Jones 2,964 40.0

– Moving on to District F, it’s a very different story. The undervote rate was 5.96%, smaller than any race besides the Mayoral race. The dropoff in the Controller’s race – even though this was MJ Khan’s home district – and At Large #5 was considerable:

Mayor’s race, total votes = 8995
District F, total votes = 8823
Controller’s race, total votes = 8166
At Large #5, total votes = 7368

Unlike in A, there was almost no correlation between the precincts won by the Democratic candidate in the district, Mike Laster, and the Democratic citywide candidates who had Republican opponents. Laster won 13 of the 27 precincts I looked at. Of those 13 precincts, Jones won three, while Green won one. In the other 14 precincts, Jones won four and Green two. The margins of victory varied greatly as well. In the 14 precincts that Al Hoang won, he received at least 50 more votes than Jack Christie in eight of them, including five in which he topped Christie by at least 100 votes. But on the flip side, in the precincts Laster won, Hoang trailed Christie by at least 50 votes in five of them, trailing by at least 100 in two. I presume the differences were geographical, but I’ll leave the mapmaking the Greg. The point here is that I believe both Laster and Hoang had a base that supported them regardless of what they did – or even if they voted – in the other races. Lewis had this to a lesser extent, while Stardig basically rode the partisan tide, as far as I can tell. Hoang in the end had more support, perhaps due to the historic nature of the race – as Parker is our first gay Mayor, and Green is our first African American Controller, Hoang is our first Vietnamese American to serve on Council.

– One final observation is that the usual dynamic of early versus Election Day voting was flipped on its head in F. In A, Stardig won 70% of the absentee ballots, 56% of the votes cast on December 12, and 52% of the in person early votes. In other words, this race followed the partisan rhythm we’ve seen in every other race. In F, Laster actually won the absentee balloting, by a 428-337 margin, and won Election Day handily, with nearly 58%. But Hoang crushed him in early in person voting, scoring over 62% and running up an 1100 vote margin that was more than enough to compensate for Laster’s game day showing. This was a repeat of their pattern from November, except that Laster had a plurality then. Whatever Hoang did to get out his voters, it worked.

Last up, a look at HISD I tomorrow.

Endorsement watch: Another takeback

Got a press release yesterday from Lane Lewis announcing that he had won an endorsement that had previously gone to his opponent.

HARRIS COUNTY COUNCIL OF ORGANIZATIONS RESCINDS STARDIG ENDORSEMENT

Houston, Texas – City Council District A candidate Lane Lewis has earned the endorsement of the Harris County Council of Organizations (HCCO) after the HCCO rescinded their original endorsement of Brenda Stardig.

“The Harris County Council of Organizations is happy to get behind Lane Lewis and his campaign for City Council,” said DeWayne Lark, HCCO President. “HCCO sees Lane as the candidate with the integrity and experience to get the job done in City Hall. Lane will be a full-time Council Member dedicated to solving problems and that is what District A needs.”

“I am proud to have the backing of the Harris County Council of Organizations,” said Lewis. “I have the support of fire fighters, multiple police organizations, and the Houston Chronicle because they all know that I am the only candidate with the proven experience to take on flooding, crime, and over-development.”

I thought it was a bit unusual for an endorsement to be rescinded out of the blue, so I got in touch with DeWayne Lark and asked him about it. He said they re-screened after the general election – he said they didn’t always do that in the event of a runoff, but did it some of the time – and they were very impressed with Lewis, whom they had not spoken to before. He said they thought Lewis had some great, progressive ideas for the city and that he was very well-informed on the issues.

He also said that the organization was troubled by the fact that Stardig had been endorsed by Steven Hotze and had not rejected it. “That’s not the kind of endorsement you want to be associated with,” he told me. “We likened it to being endorsed by the KKK.” I reminded him I was going to blog about this after he said that. He said he knew.

So there you have it. A nice endorsement for Lane Lewis to get, and evidence that Steven Hotze is bad news for people other than just Gene Locke.

Eight days out finance reports, District Council candidates

To wrap up our tour of the finance reports for the city runoffs, here’s a look at the two District Council races. First, District A, in which Lane Lewis is up against Brenda Stardig:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Lewis 42,439 33,765 0 19,401 8,250 19.4 Stardig 41,495 41,638 0 40,264 18,800 45.3 Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field Other =========================================================== Lewis 0 0 19,600 0 0 852 Stardig 0 2,040 32,041* 0* 0 1,930

Pretty even in terms of how much was raised, though Lewis got a higher proportion from individuals than Stardig did. Stardig ran some ads on KSEV and spent more on mail. The asterisks are because one expense line item, for $19,069.08, has the explanation “Robo call to seniors, Senior mailer to 65 and older, Republican mailer, Early vote mailer to all of District A plus R women”. That means that she spent less than I indicated for mail, and something greater than zero for phones, but I can’t tell how much of one should be shifted to the other. And speaking of “Other”, this category refers to print ads. Lewis spent his money on an ad in the Leader News. Stardig had two such ads, worth $1238, and the rest was spent on an ad in Houston Community Newspapers, presumably one of the Examiner papers. Stardig also spent another $4466 on signs.

Here’s the who’s who among their donors:

Lewis – State Rep. Garnet Coleman (250), former Council Member Rob Todd (150), Galveston County Democratic Party Chair Lloyd Criss (25), Council Member Sue Lovell (500), State Sen. John Whitmire (1000)

Stardig – UH Board of Trustees Chair Welcome Wilson (250)

Rob Todd was the Council member in District E before Addie Wiseman. He now lives in District A. Whitmire is the Senator for that district. I did not see any donations from elected officials to Stardig, just from Welcome Wilson, whose name appeared on several reports.

And finally, District F:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Laster 40,553 39,648 500 46,901 23,308 57.5 Hoang Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field Other =========================================================== Laster 0 500 30,131 0 0 0 Hoang

Al Hoang’s campaign finance report was posted last night on the city’s webpage. As was the case with his previous reports, it is cumulative from the beginning, and there are no dates listed on any individual item, so you cannot tell by looking at it what has been done since the last reporting deadline. As it was not up when I began researching the reports, I emailed Hoang’s campaign advisor Eric Weinmann on Monday to inquire about this and was told they needed to file their report. He sent me a document that listed some donations, which I presume are those that came in since October 26. I’ve made it available as a Google doc for your perusal. He also forwarded an email that listed a few expenditures, from which I can determine $9950 was spent on three separate mailers, plus $1250 on an ad with KSEV. A couple other entries aren’t really clear to me as to their nature, but I can at least say that much.

As for Laster, he raised, spent, and retains a decent amount, with nothing that stood out as being unusual. Here’s who gave to his campaign:

Laster – Former At Large candidate Zaf Tahir (250), HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg (500), Coleman (250), State Rep. Scott Hochberg (1500)

Rep. Hochberg is the State Rep. for Sharpstown, where Laster lives. I’ve now gone through Hoang’s entire report, and there were no names that I recognized among them. I saw one small donation that appeared to be a PAC, and several mostly small donations that appeared to be from businesses. Again, it’s a bit hard to say for sure.

I hope you found this exercise useful. Let me know what you think.

District F runoff overview

Here’s the Chron story on the District F runoff.

The condensed version of Al Hoang’s vision for Sharps town’s shopping center echoes a Reagan-era foreign policy pronouncement: Tear down this mall.

Mike Laster’s recent work on Sharpstown Mall is more analogous to Vietnam War-era peace talks. Mall owners can use someone to help them decide the shape of the table before they sit down to hash out a revitalization plan.

Both point to the mall as a bellwether of southwest Houston’s economy, and each sees his approach to the mall problem as indicative that he will do more for District F if elected in the Dec. 12 runoff.

I don’t have any insight into this, so I’ll leave it to those who live in the district to comment about it if they’d like. What I will say is that I’ve known Mike Laster (interview here) for a few years, and I think he’d make an excellent Council member. I also know that Al Hoang has accepted Steven Hotze’s endorsement with open arms, so even if I knew nothing of Mike Laster, I’d be more than inclined to support him.

I didn’t mention this before, but I am also supporting Lane Lewis in District A. He’s a hard worker and has a solid grasp of the issues, and as is the case with Laster would make an excellent Council member. Meanwhile, his opponent Brenda Stardig missed that candidate forum on Monday night, and as with the Hotze endorsement story was unable to be reached for a comment about it. I can’t say I’m impressed by that. I don’t live in either of these districts, but if you do, Mike Laster and Lane Lewis are the guys I’d vote for.

District A runoff overview

Now that we’re into the runoff season, it looks like the Chron will finally do a bit more in depth coverage of the races that are still unresolved. Yesterday, they ran this overview of District A and the remaining candidates Lane Lewis and Brenda Stardig.

Lewis, 42, a community college instructor and Democrat who lives in Oak Forest, was the runner-up in the seven-candidate Nov. 4 election.

Lewis proposes that the city buy the closed 227-acre Inwood Forest Country Club and turn it into a flood control basin and park. Then, he wants to give businesses tax incentives to locate on the park’s periphery.

“I think we have the opportunity to go into our blighted areas and create opportunities for growth,” Lewis said.

Stardig, 47, a real estate broker and Republican who lives in Shadow Oaks, was the top vote-getter with nearly 32 percent of ballots cast.

Stardig said she has specific flood control projects in mind, but did not want to speak publicly about them out of a fear of hurting property values. Instead, she emphasizes that she already is trying to recruit businesses to the district the same way she sells homes, by selling the virtues of District A.

“This is a huge opportunity, because nowhere else in the city like District A or northwest is there a greater return on investment,” she said.

You can listen to my interview with Lewis here and my interview with Stardig here. There will also be a candidate forum for the two of them, apparently the first such one they’ve both engaged in, this coming Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 7:00 PM. It will be held at Woodview Elementary School in SBISD, 9749 Cedardale, (near the intersection of Bunker Hill and Westview), Houston, Texas 77055. Here’s a map to the location if you need it.

Khan has an announcement

Council Member and candidate for Controller MJ Khan has an announcement to make tomorrow. From his press release:

Who: Councilman M.J. Khan, Candidate for Houston City Controller

What: Press Conference on a major announcement from the M.J. Khan for City Controller campaign.

When: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. (after City Council has adjourned)

Where: Steps of Houston City Hall
901 Babgy
Houston, TX 77002

Info: Natural light and sound

I suppose that last bit is for the TV folks. My guess is that he’ll be announcing Pam Holm’s endorsement. I can’t think of anything else offhand that’s likely to occur and would qualify as a “major” announcement. No, these things are not automatic – remember, Sylvester Turner never endorsed Bill White even though you might have thought that would be natural for him to do. I could be wrong – he could just be announcing some other Republican endorsements, which may or may not be truly press conference-worthy. Or he could surprise me and announce the support of some high-profile Democrat, or some other members of Council. But if I had to place a bet, it would be on a Holm endorsement. We’ll know soon enough.

Speaking of endorsements, the HCDP made its endorsements for the runoffs. From their Facebook page:

The Harris County Democratic Party is proud to announce that it has endorsed the following candidates in the City of Houston Runoff Election, which will be held on Saturday, December 12, 2009:

RONALD GREEN for Houston City Comptroller
KAREN DERR for Houston City Council Member, At Large Place 1
JOLANDA (“JO”) JONES for Houston City Council Member, At Large Place 5
LANE LEWIS for Houston City Council Member, District A
MIKE LASTER for Houston City Council Member, District F

In the interest of party unity, the Steering Committee of the Harris County Democratic Party has elected to refrain from making an endorsement in races where two Democrats are running against each other.

In the citywide races and in District F (which you may recall voted strongly Democratic in 2008) this makes a lot of sense; it’s less clear you want to partisanize things in District A, but you do want to make sure your voters get out, so there you have it. As you’ve seen in the Controller’s race and will see tomorrow in the At Large races, improving performance in the core Democratic districts will be key to winning for them.

Endorsement watch: ABCDEFG

I’ve been hard on the Chron lately for being so lackadaisical about getting to some of their endorsements. In my opinion, they should all be done before Early Voting begins, or else their value erodes. So I’m pleased to see that they have made their endorsements for all contested District Council races today. This means they could get them all done in time, say with At Large races tomorrow, the Mayor’s race on Sunday, and HISD/HCC Trustee races on Monday. So kudos – tentatively, and conditionally on that schedule – to them for their punctuality. May it herald a new trend.

And here are the endorsements themselves. They skipped Districts H and I, where incumbent Council Members Ed Gonzalez and James Rodriguez are unopposed. In addition to recommending the incumbents who do have opponents – Jarvis Johnson in B, Anne Clutterbuck in C, Wanda Adams in D, and Mike Sullivan in E – they gave the following nods in the open seat races:

District A

• In the race to replace outgoing Councilwoman Toni Lawrence in this northwest Houston district beset with high crime and flooding concerns, the Chronicle endorses social worker and educator Lane Lewis.

Lewis has served as a mayoral appointee on police oversight committees and promises to concentrate on projects to revitalize blighted areas in the district. He is a proponent of the city acquiring an abandoned golf course in the Inwood Forest area and converting it to park space and retention ponds to help control area flooding. He believes it could become the nucleus of a redevelopment zone that would improve land values and decrease crime. “We would have a whole new area ripe for redevelopment,” says Lewis. “That is a solution that is affordable, accessible, and accountable to the needs of the people.”

District F

• In this open far Southwest district seat being vacated by term-limited incumbent and controller candidate M.J. Khan, the Chronicle endorses lawyer Mike Laster.

A former senior assistant city attorney, Laster has had extensive community involvement and serves as chairman of the Sharpstown TIRZ that provides more than $50 million for infrastructure and development in the area. If elected, Laster promises to make public safety, business and commercial development, and constituent services his primary focus. He has an impressive roster of endorsements, including firefighter and police groups, as well as labor and business associations.

District G

• In the five-candidate contest to replace outgoing incumbent and controller candidate Pam Holm, the Chronicle endorses attorney Oliver Pennington, a retired partner for Fulbright & Jaworski and a former chairman of the city’s Civil Service Commission.

Pennington cites his legal experience in municipal finance and law as an asset in being an effective member of council. “I’m accustomed to hard work, going to nightly meetings, getting engaged and getting things done,” says Pennington. “My record shows I can deliver.” If elected, Pennington promises to work to put more police patrols in the district while concentrating on improving infrastructure and drainage. A former board member of the Memorial Park Conservancy, he wants to encourage increased public-private sector support for parks and recreational areas.

All of these endorsements make sense to me. From where I sit, Lewis has worked the hardest in his race. He’s run an impressive campaign, he’s raised more money than anyone else, and he’s collected a ton of endorsements, including a bunch from nonpartisan groups. He’ll still have a hard time winning a runoff, but it won’t be for lack of effort.

It was hard to imagine the Chron picking anyone else in District F. Laster is the strongest candidate, and like Lewis has done very well with fundraising and group endorsements. He also has an easier path to winning, as District F is much more Democratic than A is, though you never know what can happen in a runoff.

District G could have gone a number of ways, though again the choice they made is not surprising to me. Basically, Pennington is the kind of candidate they like. He’s a Republican in a Republican district, and he’s more of a moderate, “let’s work together to get things done” type than Mills Worsham is. At least, that was the impression I got from their interviews. He too has had the most success in fundraising – yeah, that may be a pattern – and has gathered a lot of endorsements as well.

So there you have it. Anyone want to predict who they’ll go for in the At Large and Mayoral races? My guesses, and I’m totally pulling these out of my ear, are Costello, Lovell, Noriega (if they make an endorsement in the uncontested At Large #3), Freeman, and Jones for Council, and Parker for Mayor. Of those, I feel the least confident about At Large #1 and Mayor. What do you think?

UPDATE: Made some edits to shorten the original post.

Filings and endorsements

I’ve added several updates to my recent endorsements list. It’s not comprehensive, as it doesn’t include earlier endorsements, but it’s what I know of the recent activities. Endorsement lists added today were the Spring Branch Democrats and the Greater Houston Restaurant Association. I’ll keep adding to this post as I get more.

The filing deadline is this coming Wednesday, September 2, at 5 PM, and it will be followed by Council Member Melissa Noriega’s Let The Games Begin event. Martha continues to keep track of who has filed and who hasn’t done so yet. Council Member Ronald Green announced his filing for City Controller today (see press release beneath the fold), and I ran into Lane Lewis at City Hall Annex as he was on his way to file. Annise Parker did hers yesterday for Mayor – see Martha’s liveblog coverage for more. Gene Locke filed early, Peter Brown and Roy Morales haven’t done theirs yet. There’s always the potential for a surprise or two, so we’ll keep an eye on it right up till the last minute.

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Interview with Lane Lewis

Lane LewisMoving on to the first district Council race of this interview cycle, today’s subject is Lane Lewis, who is running for the District A seat currently held by Toni Lawrence. Lewis has worked as a social worker and has been on advisory boards for the last three Mayors, and is currently a teacher. He is a resident of Oak Forest.

Download the MP3 file.

PREVIOUSLY:

Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1

City campaign finance reports come rolling in

As the campaign finance reports for City of Houston races come online, I’ve been collecting all the reports and putting them together into an easier-to-read format. I’ve also received a bunch of press releases, which I’ll be reproducing beneath the fold. Here are some quick hits.

– According to his press release, Houston Mayoral candidate Gene Locke raised $1.15 million for the six-month reporting period that just ended. That’s about $200K more than Annise Parker raised, and is a very strong showing, especially for a first time candidate.

Peter Brown‘s press release reports $477,000 raised and over $1.7 million cash on hand. He also reported a loan of $765,000. Even without that, he’d have a sizable lead in COH, as Locke has $574K and Parker $602K.

– All of the Mayoral candidates can claim success, and indeed all of them have – Parker put out another release later in the day today comparing her achievements with those of Locke and Brown. I think they all did pretty well in a tough environment, and I feel confident you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot from all three of them starting real soon.

– By the way, in case you’re curious, Roy Morales raised $18,720 and has a smidge under $10K on hand. He’s not going to be a factor. I could not find a report for TJ Huntley as yet.

– On the Controller side, Pam Holm raised $292K, with $348K on hand; MJ Khan raised $87,350 and has $312K $353K on hand. Ronald Green had not yet filed a report. As I said before, he’s got his work cut out for him.

(UPDATE: Fixed MJ Khan’s cash on hand number. My thanks to Andre Castro from his campaign for the correction.)

– For the At Large races, there are several reports missing. The biggest money-raiser so far is Stephen Costello in #1, who hauled in a fairly impressive $156K, with $106K on hand. The only other report I’ve seen so far is for Rick Rodriguez, who raised very little. In At Large #4, Noel Freeman sent out a release claiming $35,985.75 from nearly 175 donors, which edged out Brad Bradford’s $31,285.

– At Large incumbents Sue Lovell and Melissa Noriega each raised over $100K, with Jolanda Jones pulling in $64K. Roslyn Shorter, who is an announced candidate against Lovell, raised no money; Carlos Obando, running against Jones, had not yet filed his report.

– Finally, among the open district seats, the leading fundraisers were Lane Lewis in District A with $34,858 raised and $13,066 cash on hand; Mike Laster in F with $38,629 raised and $31,608 on hand; and Oliver Pennington in G with an impressive $182K raised and $101K on hand. Not everyone in those races has reported yet, so there could wind up being a reshuffling. I’ve put what I’ve got so far in this Google spreadsheet, so check that for further updates.

Beneath the fold are all of the press releases I got. If I get any more, I’ll add them as well. Let me know what you think about how the candidates have done.

UPDATE: Nancy Sims and Greg Wythe weigh in.

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Another City Council lineup update

Time for our periodic check on who’s running for what this fall. The Memorial Examiner gets us started.

Five confirmed candidates are vying to replace Lawrence in District A.

Jeff Downing, Amy Peck, Bob Schellkopf, Brenda Stardig and Alex Wathen are campaign-ready, having filed campaign treasurer forms.

Not running in District A is P.M. Clinton, 58, a private investigator and longtime Spring Branch resident.

Clinton said Tuesday that he’s been asked to run, but feels he can do more by staying involved with a reactivated Spring Branch Revitalization Association.

In District G, Oliver Pennington and Mills Worsham have filed treasurer papers and are campaigning.

The story has basic bio information on all of them. Peck is the new name to me – she’s a district liaison for state Sen. Dan Patrick, and worked for Sen. Jon Lindsay before him. She’s also 24, which makes her a heck of a lot more focused and accomplished than I was at that age. Not surprisingly for someone with that resume, she lists cost reduction as her top priority.

I can add two names to this group: Lane Lewis for A, and Dexter Handy for G. Lewis, according to an email from Carl Whitmarsh, who broke the news of Lewis’ candidacy a few days ago, is the former Chair of the Houston Gay Lesbian BiSexual Transgendered Political Caucus, Democratic Chair and Election Judge in Oak Forest, and Professor of Government and Political Science at San Jacinto College where he will soon be teaching supervisor of his department. Handy ran for County Commissioner in Precinct 3 against Steve Radack last year. I’ve confirmed his candidacy via email. I interviewed Handy twice last year, once for the primary and once for the general. He’s a real good guy, and I’m glad to see him in the race.

Elsewhere, I’ve now heard of two candidates for At Large #1: former HCC Trustee and 2005 candidate for District C Herman Litt, and Steve Costello, who is the head of the Memorial Park Conservancy. There are two other entrants for At Large #4 as well, Jay Green and Sandy Dahlke, about whom I know nothing.

Finally, while there were no new entrants into the Mayor’s race that I know of, there was some action as current City Council member Peter Brown kicked off his campaign, and City Controller Annise Parker called on Governor Perry to make sure Houston got its fair share of the stimulus money. What are you hearing these days?

Council campaign miscellania

Just some notes and news about various Council campaign activities, collected and collated into one convenient location for you…

Karen Derr will have an “old fashioned patriotic grand opening” of her campaign headquarters, which happens to be her house in the Heights. The event is this Saturday, February 28, from 2 to 4, at 448 Columbia (map). For more information, call Lance Marshall at 281-702-6367. Derr also has a podcast up on her site, for those of you who want to hear from her and can’t wait for my interview.

Also this Saturday, from 2 to 5, is a house party for Maverick Welsh, at the home of Shannon Bishop and Kevin Jeffries, at 829 Allston (map).

If you’re looking for something before then, there will be a fundraiser for Yolanda Navarro Flores this Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:00 at Rico’s Triangle Cafe, 4002 North Main (map). There’s a Facebook event for it, or contact Marisol with Campos Communications, 713 861 2244, [email protected]

Finally for District H, while I missed posting the info about a fundraiser for Ed Gonzalez that took place this past Friday, you can help him with blockwalking any weekend from 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. or 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Show up at the headquarters on 415 Fairbanks St (map) or call Jason Cisneroz at 832 368 2042 for more info. We got our door knocked by the Derr campaign yesterday; I’m curious to see which others come by between now and May.

And in news from other districts, Carl Whitmarsh sent out word that there is another Democratic contender for District A, a fellow named Lane Lewis, who is an educator and resident of Oak Forest. That’s all I know about him at this point.

That’s what I know at this time. What are you hearing?