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Peter Brown

Spending on voter outreach: The Mayorals

I didn’t take a look at the Mayoral candidates’ expenditures on voter outreach in the 30 days out reports, as this exercise is rather time consuming, but I figured I’d have a look at the 8 day reports, just to see what we’ve got going into the home stretch.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Annise Parker 9,365.91 Research (Celinda Lake) Annise Parker 500.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 175,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 75,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 60,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 3,000.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Annise Parker 60,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller) Annise Parker 1,750.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 3,000.00 Phone bank Annise Parker 780.30 Ad (KCOH) Annise Parker 1,789.25 Ad (KROI & KMQJ) Annise Parker 40,000.00 Media buy (Rindy Miller)

Parker reported a bit over $500K in spending on this form, after having reported $738K spent on the 30 days form. $410K of this spending, more than 80%, is on TV. I saw two media buys from Rindy Miller in the 30 days form, worth $500K; there may have been more, but that form was 414 pages long, and I just did a search on “Rindy” to spot-check it. I assume the “Research” entry is for her recent poll. Those radio buys are small compared to Locke and Brown, but since she’s not engaged in an authenticity contest as they are, perhaps they’ll have a greater effect. Parker was one of many candidates who placed an ad in Gary Polland’s Texas Conservative Review; my understanding is that this is for a printed document that will be mailed to some number of households. As all of the others I’ve seen so far with this expense have been Republicans, I presume Parker will tout her fiscal conservative credentials and leave it at that.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Gene Locke 28.89 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 25,000.00 Media production (Dixon/Davis) Gene Locke 2,000.00 Media production (Ttweak) Gene Locke 225.75 Ad (Houston Forward Times) Gene Locke 677.25 Ad (Houston Forward Times) Gene Locke 1,102.50 Ad (Houston Defender) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 20,319.00 Printing Gene Locke 2,281.68 Robocalls Gene Locke 6,000.00 Video production (Ttweak) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 5,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Gene Locke 4,300.00 Ad (Houston Style Magazine) Gene Locke 50,160.00 Field consulting/management Gene Locke 95,670.00 Field consulting/management Gene Locke 54,862.50 Media/cable (Adelante) Gene Locke 10,649.50 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 13,584.05 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 15,747.20 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 165,770.25 Media/TV (Adelante) Gene Locke 6,300.00 Media/newspaper (Adelante) Gene Locke 250.00 Ad (Linda Lorelle scholarship fund) Gene Locke 100.00 Ad (KEW Learning Academy) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 1,500.00 Ad (The Houston Sun) Gene Locke 903.00 Ad (Houston Forward Times) Gene Locke 1,102.50 Ad (Houston Defender) Gene Locke 1,755.00 Ad (African-American News & Issues) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 36,641.50 Media/cable (Adelante) Gene Locke 22,858.65 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 139,953.00 Media/TV (Adelante) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 27,005.00 Door hangers Gene Locke 17,721.40 Printing Gene Locke 2,295.30 Robocalls Gene Locke 5,177.10 Research (Stanford Campaigns) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 38,251.50 Media/cable (Adelante) Gene Locke 2,625.00 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 14,474.98 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 162,966.00 Media/TV (Adelante) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 11,853.40 Printing Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 49.00 Ad (Involver.com) Gene Locke 29.00 Ad (Facebook) Gene Locke 17,799.00 Media production (Dixon/Davis) Gene Locke 2,749.80 Robocalls Gene Locke 34.37 Web ad (Domino's Pizza) Gene Locke 23,500.00 Polling Gene Locke 2,205.00 Ad (Houston Defender) Gene Locke 46,800.00 Media/radio (Adelante) Gene Locke 5,725.56 Door hangers Gene Locke 16,235.00 Door hangers Gene Locke 36,120.80 Printing Gene Locke 800.00 Ad (NAACP - Houston) Gene Locke 125.00 Ad (South Wesley AMEC)

Clearly, Locke is leaving no stone unturned. Everything from Facebook to African-American newspapers (no doubt to boost his standing in the community) to TV and radio. Bear in mind that some of that money spent on TV was for ads that ran much earlier in the month; we knew about them before the 30 day reports came out, but the expenditure wasn’t listed in that report. As such, while Locke outspent Parker on TV in this report, she has spent more than him overall. Adelante, which I believe is campaign manager Christian Archer’s outfit, is big on field work/GOTV, which is how one can wind up buying nearly $50,000 worth of door hangers. There were many, many entries relating to paid field workers, which I skipped to maintain my sanity and stave off carpal tunnel syndrome for another day. Other candidates up and down the ballot have similar entries, though not nearly as many; Parker is a notable exception to this, as she’s putting her money into media and is relying on an extensive volunteer network for GOTV activities. We knew Locke was doing polls, even if we never get see any of them. Oh, and Ttweak, of course, are the folks that brought us Houston, It’s Worth It. I give Team Locke style points for hiring them in whatever capacity.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Peter Brown 1,214.17 Printed materials Peter Brown 36,675.00 Media buy (Foston International) Peter Brown 43,601.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 251,027.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 888.99 Printed materials Peter Brown 1,742.82 Printed materials Peter Brown 75,120.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 5,800.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 82,225.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 449,527.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 9,949.43 Production (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 27,438.89 Media buy (Foston International) Peter Brown 500.00 Text messaging service Peter Brown 59,213.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 449,682.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 9,125.99 Production (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 42,338.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 2,553.00 Printed materials Peter Brown 5,000.00 Media buy (Neuman & Co) Peter Brown 126,485.92 Consulting (Neuman & Co) Peter Brown 4,558.60 Media buy (Foston International) Peter Brown 451,527.00 Media buy (Buying Time, LLC) Peter Brown 117,964.00 Consulting (American Mail Direct) Peter Brown 5,953.75 Printed materials

Behold the Peter Brown media empire. The man has a fortune at his disposal, and by God he used it. The disclosure form listed over $2.4 million in expenses, which is to say nearly five times what Parker spent and a bit less than double what Locke spent. Of that, as you can see, over $1.7 million was spent on media buys, which I presume all means television. I could be wrong – I don’t know what the difference is between Foston and Buying Time, though one possibility is “cable” versus “broadcast”, and another is “radio” versus “TV”. I’m guessing that the $5K and $126K expenditures to Neuman should be reversed, but since all of his direct mail expenditures – all $350K+ of it – were listed as “Consulting”, I could be wrong about that. And in the midst of all this airtime, it’s nice to know they didn’t forget about more modern forms of voter outreach. I’ll bet $500 buys a lot of text messages.

Candidate Amount Purpose ============================================================ Roy Morales 1,976.25 Radio ads (KSEV) Roy Morales 8,650.32 Mailer deposit Roy Morales 3,000.00 Mailer deposit Roy Morales 378.88 Printing Roy Morales 2,500.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Roy Morales 1,000.00 Ad (Tx Conservative Review) Roy Morales 500.00 Mailer deposit Roy Morales 5,000.00 Mailer balance Roy Morales 1,500.00 Commercial purchase

Roy didn’t have much to spend, and what he did have he mostly spent on mail. Kind of piddly compared to what Brown spent, but then most things are. I’m not actually sure what Locke spent on mail, since all I saw were those “printing” charges, which could be many things. Parker didn’t spend anything on mail, but she’s been featured in several third party mailers I’ve received, including one from the HGLBT Political Caucus, one from Annie’s List, and one from the Houston Turnout Project. With friends like those, you can concentrate on other things. Oh, and let’s not forget the Texas Conservative Review, too. I bet it’ll chafe Roy to realize that Parker will have a bigger ad in Polland’s piece than he will. I’m just now realizing that neither Locke nor Brown had an expense for that, which strikes me as odd. Roy also got a $3000 in-kind donation for video production on his ad, and that $1500 commercial purchase, which I presume landed his ad somewhere, was an addendum to his original report. Anyone want to guess what show Roy’s ad interrupted was? Just a hunch here, but I’m thinking it was a one-off.

I’ve got similar reports in the works for the At Large and district Council races. Hope you found this useful.

Eight day out finances

Here’s the Chron story about the eight days out finance reports, which is all about the Mayor’s race.

City Councilman Peter Brown, who polls show leading the pack, poured an additional $801,000 of his family fortune into the race, pushing his self-funded total to $3.2 million. In the one-month period covered by the report, he spent $2.42 million and has a war chest of $418,000.

Former City Attorney Gene Locke has spent $1.34 million and has $391,000 on hand, while City Controller Annise Parker spent just $506,000 with $83,000 remaining. Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales’ report was not available before deadline Monday; he has reported raising only a fraction of that of his opponents in previous periods.

Roy’s report is available – it was Locke’s report I couldn’t find. Be that as it may, he raised $35,106.43, spent $28,826.80, and has $7,333.43 on hand; he also listed a loan of $5,927.86. I’ve updated my Google spreadsheet to show the results that have been posted so far. (I haven’t been able to get to any of the district Council races as yet, and the site has been crashing all day today, so don’t read anything into the absence of most of those races.) Note that Roy’s showing since the 30 day report is better than he had in either previous report, and indeed is nearly as much as he’d raised all year to that point.

As for Brown’s lead, and the dueling commentaries among various unaffiliated campaign types, what we’ve got is two polls of registered voters that show him in the lead, and one poll that does some pre-screening based on recent voting history that shows Parker in the lead. I agree with Greg that Peter gets the benefit of the doubt, but I really do have my doubts about those two polls. Which is not to say that Parker’s poll is the gold standard – even if it were, it’s still just one data point, and that poll’s assumptions may be too restrictive or otherwise skewed in some fashion – but I am more comfortable with it, at least in terms of the voter pool it’s drawing from. That said, if Brown’s ad blitz has genuinely raised his profile among otherwise undecided voters, it wouldn’t take too much of a bump in turnout among voters I’ve been considering unlikely to make a difference for him. I just have no way of knowing about this.

What we need to really get a handle on this is at least one poll of truly likely voters by an independent pollster. I mean, for all we know, Annise’s poll oversampled women, or Democrats, or some other group that might be favorable to her. I haven’t seen her poll’s crosstabs, so I can’t judge that. Failing that, a poll from another campaign, one that also does a likely-voter pre-screen, would be instructive. As Martha suggests, surely Gene Locke has commissioned such a poll. Of course, if said poll gives him a lousy result, he has no reason to release it. Draw whatever inferences you want from the lack of a poll release from his campaign.

Brown leads in KHOU poll

Another good poll result for Peter Brown.

According to [an 11 News / KUHF Houston Public Radio] poll, 24 percent of likely voters in the Houston mayoral race plan to vote for Brown. This is up sharply from the five percent of likely voters who said they would vote for him in an 11 News poll conducted in August, before Brown had launched a massive advertising campaign and spent more than $2.4 million of his own money to promote his candidacy.

Brown’s nearest challenger is comptroller Annise Parker, who holds the support of 16 percent of likely voters in the current poll. Former city attorney Gene Locke has 14 percent support, and Harris County Department of Education trustee Roy Morales has 5 percent support. Forty-one percent of likely voters told pollsters that they have not yet settled on a candidate. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2 percent, which means it is difficult to determine whether Locke or Parker has more support than the other.

“It seems very likely that if this trend holds up, that Peter Brown will be in the runoff,” said 11 News political expert Bob Stein, who conducted the poll with the Center for Civic Engagement at Rice University. “The most likely opponent will be Annise Parker, but that is still very much up in the air,” he said.

Stein said he did not expect to see such a high percentage of likely voters who said they still do not know who to vote for. When Bill White was first elected on 2003, Stein said, a similar poll conducted at the same time showed an “undecided” figure of 12 percent.

I don’t see a link to crosstabs, or any discussion of what “likely” means here. Is it the case that the screen was done by asking people if they were likely to vote, as appears to be the case with the Chron poll, or was there a pre-screen based on recent voter history, as was the case with the Parker internal poll? If it’s the former, and I kind of think that it is, then I have the same issues I did with the Chron poll. I mean, through the first four days of early voting, 75% of all early voters had voted in all three of the last three city elections, according to the analysis done by Kyle Johnston. These are the hardest of hardcore voters. Only 2% of early voters had not voted in any of the last three city elections. I’m sorry, but unless someone has a demonstrated history of actually voting in odd-numbered years, I’m not taking their word for it when they say they’re “likely” to vote.

I also think that the high number of undecideds in this poll, which compares to a 24% “undecided” rate in the Parker poll, is evidence that this poll isn’t really sampling “likely” voters. I believe that among those who really are going to vote, there aren’t that many who don’t have a good idea of whom they prefer. To be sure, there are still folks who are wavering, but I don’t believe it’s that high.

Having said all that, this is now two good polls for Brown, and they have definitely changed the perception of the race. He’s run a good race, he’s got a good message about which he’s been very consistent, and he’s been able to get that message out. That’s got to be having an effect. I’m just still not sure how big that effect has been.

UPDATE: Here’s the KUHF story. The key bits:

Rice University Professor and Political Scientist Bob Stein conducted the survey of 545 registered voters over the last week and a half. He asked people how strong their support was for each candidate.

“Peter Brown’s support is interestingly weak. Tepid would be the right word. Gene Locke and Annise Parker, 3-1 voters who tell us they’re voting for Gene Locke and Annise Parker are strong supporters — 75 percent. In Peter Brown’s case it barely breaks 58-59 percent. I think what Peter Brown has got is a broad base of support. He’s got support in every community. The problem for Peter will be probably that support is not very deep and may not take very much to, how shall I say, peel it away.”

Again, this strongly suggests what we have here is a self-screen for likelihood of voting. I am not surprised.

Parker polls and claims a lead

The Annise Parker campaign has released an internal poll (PDF) that shows her in the lead of the Mayoral race.

A recent Lake Research Partners’ survey of likely voters in Houston’s upcoming mayoral contest shows that City Controller Annise Parker continues to hold the lead. Peter Brown, Gene Locke, and Roy Morales trail behind and are still in a race to see who can make the run-off with Parker. Late deciding voters will also make a difference.

Given the projected low turnout, we sampled voters who are the most likely to vote, i.e. those with previous participation in past city elections. Among these likely voters Controller Annise Parker leads the race with 27 percent (18 percent strong). Brown holds second place with 21 percent (12 percent strong). Locke trails with 17 percent (12 percent strong). Morales brings in 11 percent support (8 percent strong). A quarter of voters (24 percent) remains undecided.

According to the footnote, “The survey was conducted among 400 registered voters in Houston with previous vote participation in municipal elections and who are likely to vote this November.” Assuming this means they did a pre-screen to draw their sample from folks with a history of voting in recent city elections, this strikes me as far more sound than the Chron poll. It was also conducted between October 15-18, so it takes into account the recent TV advertising that Brown and Locke have done. It is an internal poll, and we don’t have the crosstabs or exact wording of the questions, so there’s always room to debate the result. But one thing you can be sure of is that the other campaigns have been doing their own polls. If they’re getting significantly different numbers, especially ones that favor their preferred candidate, we’ll be hearing of them.

Locke v. Brown

So here’s the new Gene Locke ad:

Everybody noticed the pause, right? Hey, if the electorate isn’t paying close attention to the details, you may as well make the most of it where you can.

And here’s the Chron story about Locke taking to the radio to attack Peter Brown:

The 60-second spot, the first paid negative advertising in the campaign, makes a direct appeal for black voters to choose Locke, the only African-American in the race.

“Peter Brown is spending millions of dollars in this mayor’s race because he can’t match Gene’s longtime record of service,” former City Councilman Jew Don Boney, associate director of the Mickey Leland Center for World Hunger at Texas Southern University, says in the ad. “But our community is not for sale.”

You can listen to the ad here (MP3 file). Two things I’ll add to this. One, whether or not you believe that Chron poll – Dr. Murray expresses his skepticism about it – I think it’s safe to say that Locke believes he is either behind Brown, or not ahead of him by enough to feel comfortable about it.

Two, I disagree with what is written here:

The ad underscores Locke’s surprisingly tenuous place among one of the most formidable blocs of voters in the city less than two weeks before the Nov. 3 election. Former Mayor Lee P. Brown is widely credited with winning three elections based on his strength in areas with high African-American populations. Some analysts have cited state Rep. Sylvester Turner’s failure to win a similarly high amount of voters as a key factor in his 2003 loss to Mayor Bill White and Orlando Sanchez.

I don’t know which analysts Olsen and Snyder have talked to, but that’s the first I’ve ever heard it suggested that Sylvester Turner did not get enough of the black vote to win in 2003. Taking a look in the wayback machine, here’s George Strong gaming out how the vote that year might go:

Assumption: 300,000 voters in first election. 25 % are African-American, 15 % are Hispanics and of the remaining 60% Anglos, a third of those are Democrats, Gays, Labor, etc.

African Americans: A Total of 75000 votes. Tuner would get 75% or 56250 votes. The remaining 25% (18750) would be split with White getting 75% of that vote or 14062 votes and Orlando the remainder or 4688 votes

Hispanics: A Total of 45000 votes. Orlando would get 60% or 27000. Of the remaining 18000 votes the White would get 80% or 14400 votes and Turner the rest 3600

Anglos: A total of 180,000 votes. Orlando would get 50% of the Anglo vote or 90000. Of the remaining 90000 votes Bill White would get 70% or 63000 votes and Turner would get 27000.

In this scenario Orlando would have 121,688. White would come in second with 91462 votes and be in a runoff with Orlando. Turner would trail with 86850 votes.

Strong overestimated Sanchez’s strength and underestimated White’s but he sure did nail Sylvester Turner’s number. And after the fact, he printed this analysis from Dr. Murray. It’s a little hard to read, but here’s the crucial bit:

Table 3 shows White got some votes in all racial/ethnic groups in the first round, and had very broad and substantial support in the runoff. His voter coalition was the broadest of any winning mayor since Kathy Whitmire’s in 1981.

Table 3. Estimated Vote Share in Different Voter Precinct Groupings in 2003 General Election Runoff White% Sanchez% Turner% White% Sanchez% Racial/Ethnic Anglos…………………. 46% 48% 6% 48% 52% Blacks……………………18% 1% 81% 96% 4% Hispanics………………..46% 47% 7% 56% 44% Asians………………… ..70% 25% 5% 72% 28%

Murray pegged Turner’s level of support among African-Americans in the November election at 81%. That’s from looking at the actual canvass, not from a pre-game estimate. Turner’s problem wasn’t the black vote, it was the non-black vote – six percent of Anglos, seven percent of Hispanics, five percent of Asians. I have no idea who suggested otherwise, but whoever it was, I’d like to know how exactly he or she arrived at that conclusion.

Anyway. Since then, the Brown campaign has responded with some comments from various African-American leaders, and Locke has responded as well – one of his supporters who wanted to clarify what he said in the Chron story, actually. The releases are beneath the fold. I’m thinking they’re not exactly unhappy about this turn of events at Annise Parker headquarters. Miya and Martha have an interesting takes on this as well.

UPDATE: It’s probably not a coincidence that Parker picked this moment to announce the endorsement of State Rep. Garnet Coleman. I’ve put her press release beneath the fold as well.

UPDATE: Brown responds with a radio ad featuring the Rev. James Dixon. It’s very effective, so give it a listen.

UPDATE: The press release war continues. Whoever said that Friday afternoon was a time for dumping news you hope will go unnoticed? Brown is calling a press release Sunday with numerous supporters in Acres Homes. Locke announces his own list of 100 clergymen. As Nancy Sims remarks, now things have gotten interesting. Must have been that Houston Press cover that did it.

(more…)

Be like Bill

On the matter of where the Mayoral candidates stand on environmental issues, I don’t mind that they’re basically indistinguishable. As long as they follow the good example that has been set for them, it’s fine by me.

To improve air quality, City Controller Annise Parker, Councilman Peter Brown and former city attorney Gene Locke said they would build on White’s successes.

But in interviews, none of three offered any new ideas about how to tackle the decades-long problem of air pollution, and there were few differences among them.

“Right now, there is no way to tell them apart,” said Matthew Tejada, executive director of the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention. “For the environmental community, it’s about putting your faith behind the one who might make it a priority.”

The next mayor, Tejada said, should be like White.

“The mayor of Houston doesn’t have a lot of tools in the toolbox, and White has used most of them,” he said. “The best thing they can do is what he has done … keeping a spotlight on the issue.”

Be like Bill. Simple, to the point, and the best you can do on this.

Brown ad #5

You’ll probably see this without my help, but here’s Peter Brown’s fifth, and presumably final (modulo the runoff) TV ad:

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing the Brown ads all over the place. I haven’t seen a Parker ad in at least a week, and saw my first Locke ad in at least that long Tuesday night, but I’ve seen the Brown ads during the baseball playoffs, and several of the shows I record on the TiVo. Heck, my office building has a big-screen TV in the lobby that’s usually tuned to CNN, and twice this month it was showing a Brown ad as I entered. There’s no escape, the man is everywhere. You know how I feel about the Chron’s poll sample, but I do believe all this airtime has helped him. It also helps that he’s got a good message, and that he’s delivered it consistently. One can only wonder what the landscape would look like if Parker and Locke had the same resources available to them.

Meanwhile, At Large #1 contender Stephen Costello is on the air as well:

Not bad, and according to Greg it should be on broadcast by now. I am also informed that Council Member Sue Lovell has an ad running – I don’t have a YouTube link handy, but will be on the lookout for one. As we get down to the wire and the cost of running an ad till Election Day, especially on cable, comes down, expect to see some more of this.

Those up-for-grabs conservative voters

The Chron gets one more story from the crosstabs of their poll.

A Houston Chronicle poll conducted last week shows that [Peter] Brown, who has saturated the city with TV, radio and mail advertising, has a commanding lead among self-identified Republicans. Meanwhile, [Gene] Locke’s strategy to build a winning coalition that includes many conservative voters appears to be foundering.

[Roy] Morales is statistically neck and neck with City Controller Annise Parker.

Of 213 Republicans surveyed last week, 27.8 percent said they favor Brown, followed by 12.6 percent who support Morales, 11.3 percent who back Parker and 6.5 percent who are behind Locke. The poll of likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 7 percentage points.

Pet peeve alert – Putting aside the issues of drawing any firm conclusions from a subsample of a poll that may or may not be full of unlikely voters, I still cringe whenever I see the term “statistical tie” used to describe someone who is leading but within the margin of error. I refer you once again to that nifty Excel spreadsheet that Kevin Drum provided back in 2004, which shows that given the percentages and sample sizes involved here, the probability that Parker actually leads Morales among these voters is over 95%.

Not that it really matters, since Morales isn’t competitive in the race. And so far, at least, the number of Republicans who have actually voted is fairly small. According to an analysis I received via email from Kyle Johnston of the first two days of early voting, 62% of the people who have cast ballots so far have voted in at least one Democratic primary, while only 25% have voted in a Republican primary. That may change before we’re done, but in the end, the City of Houston votes Democratic. There are Republican votes out there, and especially in a close race they’re worth pursuing, but there’s only so many of them.

One more thing:

After Brown’s appearance, J.D. Joyce, the Pachyderm Club president, said he did not know why Brown has surged among conservatives.

“I don’t understand what the draw is, quite frankly,” he said.

Not to be indelicate, but he’s an older white guy. That’s a pretty good nickel description of your modern Republican Party these days. For a more in-depth explanation, see Martha.

More details on the Chron poll

Here we have crosstabs and more details about that Chron poll from the weekend. The first thing that leaps out at me is that they also polled the Controller’s race:

“If the election for city controller was held today and the candidates were Ronald Green, Pam Holm, and MJ Khan, for whom would you vote?”


Candidate        Frequency    Percent
=====================================
Ronald Green           103       17.2
Pam Holm                90       15.0
MJ Khan                 62       10.4
Someone else             8        1.3
Not sure               338       56.2

As there are only three candidates on the ballot for this race, those eight people who replied “Someone else” are in for a disappointment. Otherwise, I’d say this roughly conforms to my perception of that race.

The crosstabs themselves were about what you’d expect as well – the partisan split (Dem 43.5, GOP 35.5, Independent 21.0) and breakdown by race (White 51.0, Hispanic 14.7, African-American 26.5) seem reasonable. Getting down into the subgroups was very interesting. Brown led among men, with Parker second. He also led among women over Parker by a tiny bit. Parker led among Democratic voters, but Brown had a big lead among Republicans, with Locke trailing all three of his opponents; I’m going to guess the timing of his release in which he touts the support of numerous GOP bigwigs isn’t coincidental. Locke did lead among African-American voters, but not by much over Brown, and Brown had a large lead among Hispanic voters; despite sweeping the endorsements among Latino groups, Locke was in third among this group.

You shouldn’t read too much into any of this, as the subsamples are pretty small, but they’re fun to look at nonetheless. I still don’t have a satisfactory answer to my question about how this sample was done. They did use voters who self-identified as “very likely” (84%) or “likely” (16%) to vote, but frankly unless they pre-screened the pool to only quiz those who had some recent history of voting in city elections, I wouldn’t put too much stock in it. If all they did was ring up registered voters and use a “how likely are you to vote this fall” question as the screen, then unless they called about 2000 people to begin with, I think they’re way oversampling unlikely voters. In the end, we’ll just have to see what the scoreboard says. Campos and Greg have more.

Casey on the Chron poll

Rick Casey has some good observations about that Chron poll that was released Saturday. The main point I want to focus on is here:

[Peter Brown] leads with 24 percent of the vote, but given that he had the airwaves to himself for a month, it’s hard to see how he lifts his total much above this in the next two weeks.

What’s more, a chunk of his TV-juiced support may be based on name recognition and easily peeled off.

This is precisely what I was talking about when I asked about how Zogby was defining “likely voters”. A sample of “registered voters”, which did not try to narrow it down to those who really are a good bet to show up at the ballot box, may well include a lot of people who chose Brown because they’ve seen his ads, but who may not wind up voting at all. It’s not that Brown has to worry about someone else stealing them from him – first and foremost, he has to make sure they actually cast a vote. If that’s the case, then this poll really didn’t tell us that much.

My point is not that Brown’s support is overstated. Everyone, myself included, expected his advertising blitz to move the numbers for him to some extent. My point is that we don’t know enough about how this poll was conducted to judge it sufficiently. It’s a tough task, and I can tell you that nobody really knows how big the likely voter pool is this year. I just hope Zogby took a legitimate guess at what they think it will be, and sampled accordingly. And I wish they’d been clear enough in the description of their methodology so we could know that for sure.

Endorsement watch: It’s a twofer

Well, this is unusual.

Houstonians are fortunate to face a difficult choice for mayor this year between two exceptional candidates, public law attorney Gene Locke and City Controller Annise Parker. It’s likely one or both will be in a runoff after the first round of voting winds up on Nov. 3.

With the city facing critical financial decisions early next year as a result of the economic downturn, the next mayor will occupy a pivotal leadership position. Parker and Locke offer deep roots in the city and a dazzling range of life experiences and public service that would well equip either to serve as the successor to term-limited Mayor Bill White.

The Chronicle is withholding its final endorsement in the race until the runoff. We have made this unusual decision because the candidates are so evenly matched, and we want to hear more details about their ideas for managing the city before recommending the person who could well control the helm of City Hall for the next six years. The last three mayors have all served their allotted three two-year terms under the current term limits system.

I dunno. On the one hand, a number of endorsing organizations, including the AFL-CIO and Christians For Better Government, have taken a pass on the Mayor’s race, for similar reasons. It’s true, there are multiple good choices – I guess the Chron doesn’t like Peter Brown, though they never say why that might be the case – and it may as well be a coin toss for some folks. There aren’t that many pronounced differences between the candidates on the issues. As far as all that goes, I can certainly understand them taking this approach.

On the other hand, how many more details does the Chron’s editorial board need? Whether folks have been paying attention or not, the campaign has been going on for months, and there have been dozens candidate forums, not to mention a plethora of candidate interviews, at which the candidates have expressed their views on just about every topic imaginable. How could they feel like they don’t know enough to make a decision? How can they expect voters to make one if they can’t?

I’m going to guess that the ed board was split down the middle, which is why they chose to sit it out in this fashion. If so, I don’t know how waiting till the runoff will help, unless their poll is an accurate predictor. I might have suggested running two separate endorsements, one by a supporter of each candidate. Surely they have someone who could make the case for Parker over Locke, and vice versa. I think that would have served the voters better than this.

UPDATE: Martha has more.

We’ve got mail

Campos observed the other day that he’d hardly received any campaign mailers so far this year. That’s largely been true for me as well – before this week, I’d gotten the Peter Brown pieces, an Anna Eastman mailer, and maybe one or two others that aren’t sticking in my mind. But since Thursday, things have picked up considerably. Over the last three days, I have received:

– One more Peter Brown piece.
– Two mailers from Alma Lara, one of which prominently features State Rep. Jessica Farrar.
– A Pam Holm mailer, which has the same front as this one but a different back, which appears to be an image taken from her TV ad.
– A Ronald Green mailer – yes! he’s spending money!
– And the Noel Freeman mailer that Martha and Stace have discussed.

That last one was interesting in that it was addressed to Tiffany and not me or the both of us, as all the others were. Unlike me, Tiffany has voted in a GOP primary or two in her day, and as such we occasionally get mail or robocalls that are clearly intended for that kind of an audience. Which makes me wonder who the intended audience for Freeman’s piece was. Frankly, if it’s being aimed at soft Rs with a good voting history, that strikes me as a very reasonable strategy. Given that Freeman did not report much cash on hand in his 30 days out report, one wonders how widely this was sent, or if he got a late infusion of cash from somewhere. We’ll know when we see the 8 days out report, I guess. What mail have you received lately, if any?

Chron poll: Brown leads

Campos teased the news earlier today, and now the story is up: Peter Brown leads in a new Zogby poll of the Mayor’s race.

According to the poll, Brown leads the field with 23.8 percent of the vote, followed by Parker with 19 percent, Locke with 13.1 percent, and Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales with 6.7 percent.

The results are drawn from a survey of 601 likely Houston voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

In head-to-head matchups that provide some insight on how the candidates may fare in a potential runoff, Brown’s lead withers to statistical insignificance against Parker, with him winning 35.3 percent to Parker’s 34 percent, and 28.8 percent undecided.

In a one-on-one contest between Brown and Locke, Brown leads with 36.9 percent to 24.9 percent, with 34.1 percent undecided.

While Parker is close to Brown and polled strongly among self-identified Democrats, women and younger voters, the results could spell trouble for Locke, who has only slightly better name recognition in the race than Morales, a more conservative candidate whose anemic fundraising has not allowed him to pay for any television, radio or mail advertising.

Well, that’s a strong suggestion that Brown’s domination of the airwaves has had an effect. There’s still a lot of undecideds, and I’m not sure I believe that Locke’s level of support is that low, but this is what we’ve got.

Greg, Martha, and Nancy add their analyses, and they cover most of the necessary ground. The main thing I would add is that it’s a wee bit unclear just what their voter screen is. The story says “a survey of 601 likely Houston voters”, but the sidebar says “601 likely voters, randomly drawn from a telephone list of registered voters”. Does that mean they spoke to more than 601 people from that list and used a filter of some kind to narrow it down, or does that simply mean 601 registered voters? There’s a big difference between the two. And if they did narrow things down, how many people did they speak to originally? Remember, in a good year turnout will be around 30%, so most registered voters are not “likely”, and that’s especially true this year when turnout might be more in the 20-25% range. So as happy as I am to see another data point, it’s still the case that you can only put so much stock in just one data point. It would not be a surprise at all if another pollster got a different result, if only because they made different assumptions about who is “likely” to vote this year.

For what it’s worth, Zogby did a pretty reasonable job polling Harris County in 2008 for the Chron, though they did show Bradford beating Lykos by 7 in the DA race, and gave Ed Emmett a much bigger lead than he eventually won with against David Mincberg. I believe this is a trickier race to poll, as again nobody has a firm grip on how big the electorate will eventually be. With all those undecideds, the question is will they eventually pick someone, or will they stay home? I guarantee everyone will be paying very close attention to how early voting goes.

Finally, as Nancy notes, the Chron also made its endorsements in the Mayor’s race. Yes, endorsements – they co-endorsed Parker and Locke. I can’t wait to see how that goes. A statement from the Parker campaign about the poll is here. I’ve reproduced it, plus a statement from the Brown campaign, beneath the fold. I have not as yet seen a statement from the Locke campaign.

UPDATE: Received a release from the Gene Locke campaign, which has been added beneath the fold as well.

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Correction!

Now that everyone has had a chance to look over everyone else’s campaign finance reports, a number of candidates have made some corrections to their reports.

Former City Attorney Gene Locke and City Controller Annise Parker received money from donors who gave to their campaigns during “contractor blackout” periods. City ordinance prohibits donors from making contributions during the time a contract involving them is awarded or for 30 days afterward.

The Locke campaign returned $15,000 and Parker’s $7,900 after both were contacted by the Chronicle this week and last.

[…]

A review of contributions to the Locke, Parker and City Councilman Peter Brown, who also is running for mayor, showed nine donors over the $5,000 limit — five for Locke, two for Parker and and one for Brown.

[…]

Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales, who also is running for mayor and has raised a fraction of what his opponents have hauled in , did not appear to have violated any donation limits or regulations.

Actually, if you read the Chron profile of Morales, you’d know that his report did contain at least one “minor error”. Which, as noted in the comments, he would still be held accountable for by the TEC if a complaint were to be filed. I’m just saying.

Meanwhile, the story notes some issues with C.O. Bradford’s report that had been blogged about before, such as the complaint with the TEC that was filed against him.

Others have raised questions about Bradford’s report because more than 60 percent of his total of $112,945 was in-kind rather than monetary donations. These included $7,200 in donations for the value of the use of donors’ property for placement of large political signs.

Several political professionals unaffiliated with Bradford’s or his opponents’ campaigns said they had never heard of this being reported as an in-kind contribution. They suggested it was an effort to create the appearance of greater support.

“He wanted to show the bottom-line funds on his report as higher than he had received in cash donations or checks,” said Nancy Sims, a longtime Houston political consultant who now works in public relations and is blogging about the mayor’s race. “He’s stretched a bit to beef those numbers up and make the race look competitive.”

I’d actually argue that the effect was to make the race look less competitive, as Bradford’s initially reported total far exceeded that of Noel Freeman. In any event, Bradford filed several correction affidavits on the 14th. You can see one of them here, which notes the lowered values of the in-kind donations. As far as I can see, however, looking at the updated report that went with it, the totals and individual contributions reported are still the same. I don’t know if the affidavit itself is sufficient, or if a report that reflects those revised amounts should have been filed as well. If it’s the latter, I believe he still has work to do.

And finally, there’s KA Khan and his clearly bogus non-electronic report, in which he swore in an affidavit that he hadn’t raised more than $20K, then reported that he’d raised $34K. He also didn’t account for the many mailers he’d sent by then. What’s up with that?

Khan said he filed the affidavit because he was unable to get a password to file his report electronically from the city secretary’s office on the day it was due. He said the mailing expenses were not reported because he had not been billed for them yet, although the law requires that expenses be reported when they are incurred.

Okay then. I’ll just note again that in the report Khan filed, it says “I swear or affirm that I have not accepted more than $20,000 in political contributions or made more than $20,000 in political expenditures in a calendar year.” I don’t think “my dog ate my password” is an acceptable excuse for not living up to that, but then you never know how the TEC might rule on a complaint, if one ever gets filed against him. I for one am looking forward to Khan’s eight days out report.

UPDATE: Greg adds on about Khan.

Endorsement watch: A late roundup

Some recent endorsements in City elections over the past few days. Going back to last week, here are the endorsements from the Houston Black American Democrats (HBAD):

Mayor – Gene Locke
Controller – Ronald Green
At Large #1 – Karen Derr
At Large #2 – Andrew Burks
At Large #3 – Melissa Noriega
At Large #4 – C.O. Bradford
At Large #5 – Jolanda Jones
District A – Lane Lewis
District B – Roger Bowden
District D – Wanda Adams
District F – Mike Laster
District G – Dexter Handy
District H – Ed Gonzalez
HISD District IX – Adrian Collins
Proposition 4 – Yes

HBAD also endorsed John Sharp in the whenever-it-will-be Senate race. More on that in a bit. Next up is the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce PAC, which thankfully put its endorsements online where I could easily find them:

Gene Locke, Mayor

Ronald Green, Controller

Sue Lovell, At Large Pos. 2

Melissa Noriega, At Large Pos. 3

Noel Freeman, At Large Pos. 4

Jarvis Johnson, Dist. B

Anne Clutterbuck, Dist. C

Wanda Adams, Dist. D

Mills Worsham, Dist. G

Ed Gonzalez, Dist. H

James Rodriguez, Dist. I

Alma Lara, HISD Dist. 1

Mary Ann Perez, HCCS Dist. III

And finally, and also nicely online, the Noah’s Ark PAC:

Noah’s Ark PAC endorses Gene Locke for Mayor of Houston. Following a personal visit to Houston’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC), Gene Locke met with a group of Houston’s most vocal advocates for BARC to ask for their input and suggestions for making lasting changes at BARC. Locke incorporated their input into his policy for BARC which can be found on his web site at:
http://www.genelocke.com/release_details.asp?id=68#

Gene Locke was selected due to his obvious commitment to working with advocates and for providing tangible, realistic solutions to addressing the problems at BARC.

Noah’s Ark PAC also endorses the following candidates for controller and city council:

City Controller- Pam Holm

City Council
At-Large 1- Karen Derr
At-Large 2- Sue Lovell
At-Large 3- Melissa Noriega
At-Large 4- C.O. “Brad” Bradford
At-Large 5- Jolanda Jones
District A- Lane Lewis
District B- Jarvis Johnson
District C- Anne Clutterbuck
District D- Wanda Adams
District E- no endorsement
District F- Peter Acquaro
District G- Oliver Pennington
District H- Ed Gonzalez
District I- James Rodriguez

Noah’s Ark PAC congratulates these candidates and thanks the many candidates that completed the PAC’s candidate survey. Noah’s Ark PAC would like to specifically recognize Karen Derr for being the first major candidate for Houston city council to make the issues at BARC a campaign platform issue. The PAC also recognizes candidate for mayor, Annise Parker, for routinely discussing the problems at BARC in her newsletter and campaign literature, helping to elevate the public discussion. Noah’s Ark PAC also recognizes Councilwoman Jolanda Jones for her commitment to thoroughly researching the problems at BARC and for asking tough questions when they needed to be asked.

That’s a pretty good week for Gene Locke. (It may be a little less so if this story about the Sports Authority needing to refinance a bunch of debt gets any legs.) You can read the responses they got to their questionnaires here and here. And here’s the Chron profile of Locke, the second in their series.

Not endorsement-related, but Annie’s List sent out another mailer in support of Annise Parker, this one attacking Peter Brown for being a “serial exaggerator”. I’ve put a copy of it beneath the fold for your perusal. So far, I have not seen or heard of any pushback on the mailer, which distinguishes it from the hit piece they did on Gene Locke last month.

Elsewhere, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Schieffer announced the support of several South Texas legislators.

Announcing their support for Schieffer were Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen and Representatives Veronica Gonzales of McAllen, Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles of Alice, Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Eddie Lucio III of Brownsville, Armando “Mando” Martinez of Weslaco, Rene Oliveira of Brownsville, Aaron Pena of Edinburg and Tara Rios Ybarra of South Padre Island.

The full release is beneath the fold. Schieffer’s release prompted a response from Hank Gilbert that said the announcement of all this support so early in the game is an acknowledgement that Gilbert is a serious threat to him. Maybe so, but one could also ask at what point Gilbert will start to get official support like that. In particular, I’m wondering which candidate for Governor guys like Reps. Jim McReynolds, Chuck Hopson, Stephen Frost, and Mark Homer – all Dems from Gilbert’s neck of the woods – will endorse.

Finally, circling back to the Senate race, John Sharp announced the endorsement of State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, while Bill White received the nod from the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

Endorsing members include Rep Alma Allen (Houston), Rep Garnet Coleman (Houston), Rep Dawnna Dukes (Austin), Rep Harold Dutton (Houston), Rep Helen Giddings (Dallas), Rep Barbara Mallory Caraway (Dallas), Rep Ruth McClendon (San Antonio), Rep Sylvester Turner (Houston) and Rep Marc Veasey (Fort Worth).

Coleman, Allen, Dukes, Caraway, and McClendon were on the first list of endorsees that White released. He’s now received the nod of 37 of the 74 Dems in the House (full list here), including 11 of 14 from Harris County; in addition to Dutton and Turner, Hubert Vo and Armando Walle have signed on since that initial list came out. The three holdouts are Senfronia Thompson, Al Edwards, and Kristi Thibaut. This release is beneath the fold as well.

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Interview with Council Member Peter Brown

Peter Brown

Peter Brown

Our next Mayoral candidate interview is with City Council Member Peter Brown, who is currently serving his second term as the Member from At Large #1. Brown is a Houston native and UH grad who served six years in the Army Reserve after graduation. Brown is an architect and urban planner who was elected to City Council on his second attempt in 2005, and he is on the board of numerous non-profits. He is married to Anne Brown.

Download the MP3 file.

PREVIOUSLY:

Karen Derr, At Large #1
Brad Bradford, At Large #4
Stephen Costello, At Large #1
Lane Lewis, District A
Lonnie Allsbrooks, At Large #1
Noel Freeman, At Large #4
Brenda Stardig, District A
Oliver Pennington, District G
Amy Peck, District A
Herman Litt, At Large #1
Natasha Kamrani, HISD Trustee in District I, not running for re-election
Alex Wathen, District A
Robert Kane, District F
Council Member Melissa Noriega, At Large #3
Jeff Downing, District A
Mike Laster, District F
Council Member Jolanda Jones, At Large #5
Mills Worsham, District G
Rick Rodriguez, At Large #1
Council Member Sue Lovell, At Large #2
Carlos Obando, At Large #5
Richard Sedita, District G
Jack Christie, At Large #5
Dexter Handy, District G
George Foulard, District G
Alma Lara, HISD Trustee District I
Anna Eastman, HISD Trustee District I
Linda Toyota, HISD Trustee District I
Council Member Ed Gonzalez, District H
Council Member Wanda Adams, District D
Council Member Anne Clutterbuck, District C
Progressive Coalition candidates
Council Member Mike Sullivan, District E
Council Member James Rodriguez, District I
Council Member Jarvis Johnson, District B
Mike Lunceford, HISD Trustee District V
Ray Reiner, HISD Trustee District V
Council Member Ronald Green, candidate for Controller
Council Member MJ Khan, candidate for Controller
Council Member Pam Holm, candidate for Controller
Gene Locke, candidate for Mayor

The Mayorals on public safety

Reading this story about the Mayoral candidates and their public safety plans, I have the same questions that I’ve had from the beginning. How do they plan to pay for the things they want to do? Hiring more officers, obviously, isn’t cheap. Neither is buying new technology, to do things like communicate better among themselves and with other agencies. Does this require other agencies to spend more on communications equipment as well, and if so how do you ensure they do so? Similarly, if you want HPD to coordinate better with other law enforcement agencies, how do you ensure that those agencies play along? If your ideas require state or federal funding, how do you make that happen? To a large degree, there’s an element of faith here, that one candidate will do a better job of these things than another. Where do you place your faith? That’s the big question.

Just as a reminder, Annise Parker’s plan for public safety is here, Peter Brown’s is here, and Gene Locke’s is here. While I agree with the assessment that there’s a lot of overlap among them, I also think that there are some pretty sharp differences in what they each would emphasize, and I think that’s at least as important as what bullet points they do or don’t have.

Brown’s fourth ad

Team Peter maintains the air assault:

Okay, I’m a math major, so maybe I’m the wrong person to bring this up, but shouldn’t that be “I look at city government differently than other politicians”? I had to watch a few times to catch the rest of the ad because that kept distracting me. Other than that, it reinforces his brand – blueprint! – and gives us a second chance to hear Brown speak for himself. If you don’t have at least a rudimentary idea of who Peter Brown is and what he wants to do as Mayor by now, you probably watch very little TV. If so, you can still read the Chron’s bio of Brown, the first in a series of four for the week. You can’t say you weren’t given the opportunity to get to know him, that’s all I’m saying.

KTRK Mayoral forum

Anyone catch the KTRK Mayoral forum?

The four major candidates vying to be Houston’s next mayor took some of the first steps toward engaging each other directly in a live televised debate on KTRK Wednesday evening.

With just four weeks remaining in a contest that has been slow to pick up steam, City Councilman Peter Brown, City Controller Annise Parker, former City Attorney Gene Locke and Harris County Education Trustee Roy Morales made some of the most pronounced attempts in the campaign season to distinguish themselves from one another. On many issues, their policy ideas have been markedly similar, but a television viewer connecting with the race for the first time might not have known it.

Much of the conflict among the four revolved around fiscal issues as the city finds itself in one of the most dire financial straits in recent memory.

Locke, who spoke forcefully but did not look directly at the camera in the one-hour event, struck first by highlighting the discrepancies between Mayor Bill White’s characterization of a fiscal shortfall and that of Parker’s office.

“It’s unfortunate that the citizens don’t know what the real deal is,” he said, noting that Brown and Parker have been as “quiet as a church mouse” in their roles at City Hall.

Brown, who also did not make eye contact with the camera, responded that he has worked closely with White in his nearly four years on City Council.

Parker, who engaged with the medium and even offered up a few jokes, shot back directly.

“I can’t help the fact that my opponents are confused” about the budget, she said, noting that she had tried to avoid engaging with White over “whether the glass is half empty or half full” to instead deal more directly with the problem.

My interviews with Locke, Brown, and Parker will run next week. If you missed this you can still catch the airing of the forum at Discovery Green on Sunday. I’d love to know how many people tuned in or will tune in to these showings, and (say it with me now) I’d love to see some more polling data so we can get an idea whether or not they’ve helped engage voters or move any undecideds. If you watched, what was your impression?

More on the 30 days out report

Here’s the Chron story on the 30 days out finance reports. It discusses the disparity in cash on hand totals between Annise Parker, Peter Brown, and Gene Locke.

“[Parker’s] got a challenge to compete on the airwaves down the home stretch,” said Keir Murray, a Houston political consultant. “It just puts you in a position to scramble as a campaign if your opponents are on television and you can’t match them. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard.”

Murray, who worked for Brown in a 2005 City Council race, is unaffiliated in this contest.

Parker Campaign Manager Adam Harris insisted she will have enough money to continue running a robust campaign effort that will include television advertising through election day, Nov. 3.

“We are right on target with what our plan has been the entire campaign,” he said. “I feel very good about where we are with fundraising now.”

Harris noted that their numbers are artificially low because the $738,000 of expenditures listed in the report include $500,000 for advertising, not all of which has been spent. But rival campaigns tracking the ad expenses using publicly available information said that as of Oct. 12, Parker will have spent $405,000, leaving little remaining after the advertising production costs.

No one will ever admit they missed their fundraising target, so make of this what you will. I have heard of an internal poll taken by the Locke campaign about two weeks ago that showed Parker in the lead, so her position is still fairly strong. I also expect there to be a lot of money raised and spent during the runoff. The main question at this point is whether Locke and Brown’s financial advantages today can enable them to make up ground with the still sizable number of undecided voters.

Political consultant Marc Campos noted that Locke only began introducing himself to voters through TV ads on Monday and his campaign report showed little to nothing in expenditures for direct mail or radio advertising.

“It should be good news for Gene Locke and his supporters, but today is the first day voters in general get to see who he is,” said Campos, who is unaffiliated in the race. “They can beat on their chest all they want, but they’re still in uncharted waters.”

Say it with me now: More poll numbers would be nice to have. Until then, we’re all just guessing.

I’ve added more totals to my Google spreadsheet since I published last night, as new reports have continued to appear. Despite what it says in the sidebar of this story, Roy Morales has in fact filed his report. He raised $23K, which is actually better than he did in the first six months, and has about $4600 on hand. In other words, he’s still a footnote. Outside of the Mayor and Controller races, most incumbent Council members who have opponents are in good shape. Sue Lovell has $165K on hand, while her opponents have less than $10K combined. Jolanda Jones was actually outraised by Davetta Daniels, $19K to $7K, but Jones has $50K on hand; I guesstimated Daniels’ COH total at about $14K because she didn’t give totals, so I added up her expenditures and subtracted from the contributions (which I also added up myself). Anne Clutterbuck has $149K and Mike Sullivan has $103K; Sullivan’s opponent Phillip Garrison raised a quite respectable $30K but has only $16K on hand. I can’t quite judge the state of the races in B and D, as Jarvis Johnson (raised $15K, has $41K on hand) and Wanda Adams (raised $16K, has $29K on hand) raised modest amounts but none of their opponents (Roger Bowden in B, Otis Jordan and Larry McKinzie in D, all of whom announced after the July reporting deadline) have visible reports.

Among open office contenders, C.O. Bradford in At Large #4 had the strongest period, bringing in $113K with $41K on hand; Noel Freeman had $21K and $11K. Stephen Costello in At Large #1 and Oliver Pennington in District G did well again, with $79K and $72K, respectively. Karen Derr raised $47K, which was more than any other contender and more than all incumbents other than Lovell, but she reported only $9475 on hand. Costello ($119K) and Pennington ($102K) dominate that number, as they are the only ones with over $100K on hand; Bradford, George Foulard in G ($29K raised, $47K on hand), and Mike Laster in F ($18K raised, $29K on hand) are the runnersup. I should note that I do not see reports yet for Mills Worsham in G or for several contenders in F, so this may get revised later.

Finally, on a side note, I had said previously that only a couple of Council candidates had been putting out campaign videos. I overlooked Noel Freeman, whose YouTube channel has multiple vids. If I’ve missed any other examples, please let me know.

UPDATE: What I’ve done so far is just look at the totals. Martha has started digging into the detailed reports, and she found that while Bradford did raise a decent amount of cash, more than 60% of what he took in was in-kind donations, including some that appear to have exceeded the individual contribution limits. Take a look and see what she reports, and also look at her closer peek at Roy Morales’ report as well.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that Phillip Garrison, the challenger in District E, reported all of his contributions received since the beginning of the year in his total, instead of just the amount raised between July 1 and September 24. I went through the individual contributions, and $24,190 of it was raised on or before June 30, meaning his actual amount raised (cash and in-kind) for the reporting period was $6,135. Also by my calculation, he’s spent $11,603.90 since July 1, which is consistent with his July report, so I believe his cash on hand amount is accurate.

The Mayorals on mobility

Carolyn Feibel discusses the Mayoral candidates’ plans for transportation and mobility.

Two candidates, City Controller Annise Parker and Councilman Peter Brown, disagree on what Metro’s main focus should be. While supporting light rail, Parker said buses should remain the “heart” of the transit system.

“I have been increasingly concerned that in their efforts to build out the light-rail lines, which I support, that they are neglecting the current bus system,” Parker said. “When we cut back our routes, when we run the fares up, we’re hurting people that have no other choice.”

Brown said, “You can’t serve a low-density city like Houston with a bus system.” He did not specify what he wants Metro to focus on instead, but called for the bus and rail systems to be “integrated.”

“We’ve got to have a rationalized plan for rail, and bus to feed the rail,” Brown said. “We’ve got to encourage people to live closer to where they work.”

Former city attorney Gene Locke knows Metro well. Until January, he worked as special outside counsel for the agency, defending it from litigation and consulting on a number of projects. He helped draft the language of the 2003 voter referendum to build new light-rail routes.Locke said Metro should expand express bus service along major corridors and consider putting a circulating trolley or bus through downtown and retail areas like the Galleria. He also proposed a pilot program to eliminate fares at special times, such as during sporting events or festivals.

Acknowledging that finding money for new services could be a problem during a recession, Locke said Metro will need to “consider programs in the context of budget.”

All three candidates — Brown, Locke and Parker — said they would work closely with city engineers to make sure the rail construction goes smoothly as city streets are torn up and repaved.

Brown, who says he’ll give the Metro board a complete makeover, and Locke have detailed plans on their websites; Parker does not have an Issues page specific to this. I’ve asked every candidate I’ve interviewed about Metro and where they should go from here, and you’ll hear more about that from the Mayoral candidates in my interviews with them next week.

As for poor ol’ Roy Morales, there’s a reason why he doesn’t get to sit at the grownups’ table:

Morales also distinguished himself from the other three candidates by not knowing the answer to the question “What is the Transportation Policy Council?” Houston’s mayor gets two appointments to the 24-member regional body, which decides how to spend millions in federal transportation funds throughout the eight-county metropolitan area.

Pop quiz: Who are those two representatives from the city of Houston on the TPC? Answer here, if you don’t already know. Poor Roy.

The Mayoral forum at Discovery Green

In case you didn’t make it to the Mayoral forum at Discovery Green on Sunday, you’ll have another chance to see what happened later this week.

The four candidates vying to become Houston’s next mayor emerged from the first major debate of the campaign Sunday evening unscathed from any attacks or gaffes, choosing instead a style that may not have cost or won them any votes.

While they did not attack each other, they criticized the Metropolitan Transit Authority for lacking transparency and asserted that the city’s housing department made poor use of federal funding.

The fiscal challenges that will confront the race’s winner dominated most of the one-hour affair, as questions about crime, transportation, immigration and affordable housing led almost inevitably to the financial constraints that will likely shackle new ideas or policy initiatives.

The issues discussed and promises made by City Controller Annise Parker, Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales, former City Attorney Gene Locke and City Councilman Peter Brown differed little from the past few months on the campaign trail, but the event had a far more serious feel.

The four did not engage each other, which contributed to a civil, yet occasionally slow, tone before a packed upper room at The Grove restaurant near Discovery Green Park. The debate, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and moderated by KPRC, is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. Saturday.

All I can say is that I hope a lot of questions were asked about “how are you going to pay for that”. If you can’t wait till Friday to see what the candidates have to say for themselves, check out David Ortez’s liveblogging, or musings’ commentary. On a related note, the Chron will be hosting chat sessions with the three major Mayoral candidates; apparently, Roy hasn’t gotten back to them yet. The first one, a conversation with Peter Brown, is here, Annise Parker participated today, and Gene Locke is up on Wednesday at noon. Check ’em out.

So who will the Republicans vote for in this election?

This article can basically be summarized as “Republican voters in Houston have a choice between three serious candidates who are all Democrats, and Roy Morales, and neither of those choices is particularly appealing to them”. I’ll put aside my sense of schadenfreude for a moment to make a couple of observations. One is that all three of the leading candidates will likely do all right among these voters. Gene Locke has as the story notes picked up a bunch of endorsements from Republican-leaning groups like the Houston Police Officers Union and the C Club, not to mention the backing of Bob Lanier, the last (final?) Republican mayor of Houston. Parker will do well with female voters, which will include a non-trivial number of Republican women. Brown’s dominance of the airwaves and mailboxes should help him get votes from those who like his vision. These votes aren’t going to Roy, and they’re going to go somewhere.

Having said that, it will be very interesting to see how the vote goes in heavily Republican areas like Districts A and G in the runoff, as those locations will have Council runoffs as well as the Mayoral one. I’ll be looking to see if there’s a higher rate of undervoting in the Mayoral race in those districts, as there’s always the choice of not making a choice at all.

And even if Republicans punt on the Mayor’s race, they can still exert some influence over the next Mayor’s ability to get things done by their choices in the Council and Controller’s races. I certainly got the impression from all the interviews I did that some of the candidates in Districts A and G are more likely to work with the next Mayor, and some are more likely to be resistant. Go back and give them a listen and draw your own conclusions. There’s also the Controller’s race, in which Pam Holm has sent a clear signal about how she intends to act in office. I wonder how many of them have paid attention to these possibilities.

Meta-campaigning

I confess, I found it rather amusing to be quoted, along with a number of my blogging colleagues, in a press release sent out by the Peter Brown campaign that talked about how so many of us were talking about his TV ads. I suppose that’s the sort of thing that can happen in a campaign like this that has largely been lacking in high notes. Of course, now I’m talking about them talking about us talking about their TV ads…I’d better stop before I get a nosebleed.

Two things to add. One, for all of the talk about the ads, I still have no idea if they’ve had any actual effect on the race. I have some qualms about that KHOU poll, but at least it’s a data point, and a month later it’s still all we’ve got. Doesn’t anyone want to poll this race? Just to see if Brown’s ads have moved the numbers, even a teensy weensy bit? Pretty please? And if we had the answer to that question, we’d be better placed to know if the ads that Annise Parker is now airing have had any effect on that effect. But alas, we don’t.

And two, according to a blurb I heard on KHOU last night and confirmed by KPRC’s Mary Benton, we’ll finally get to see an ad from Gene Locke next week.

In the TV ad, Locke, who has never been a candidate for office, will introduce himself to voters and talk about his vision for the city of Houston.

Did Locke and his top campaign team make a risky decision to wait until Monday?

[…]

Locke is not a household name, but he’s been a behind the scenes figure working to create much of Houston’s current infrastructure: light rail, sports stadiums and economic development.

Locke’s campaign manager Christian Archer, who would not confirm the TV ad, told 2 on The Beat that waiting wasn’t a risky decision, but rather part of a disciplined strategy.

Once Locke begins his TV political ads, his campaign expects to maintain a presence through election day, a time when voters are paying the most attention.

We’ll see how that goes. If nothing else, it’lll give us all something else to talk about, and the cycle will begin anew. Better get some cotton balls ready, just in case. In any event, the Brown release is beneath the fold.

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New TV ads from Parker and Brown

Annise Parker has released her second TV ad. Before I embed the video, here’s some of the press release about the ad:

The Annise Parker Campaign released its second TV ad today, on the theme of leadership. The ad will run in conjunction with Parker’s first ad that launched Thursday, “Parker Delivers.”

The ad is called “The Only One” and features Parker’s vision of Houston as the world headquarters for the new energy economy and points to her detailed plans to create jobs, grow our economy and attract high-tech, clean-tech companies to Houston. It also highlights Parker’s innovative Hire Houston First policy to ensure that jobs created by city projects go to local workers first.

Parker’s detailed plans can be found on her website at www.anniseparker.com/issues.

The ad makes clear, however, that plans alone are not enough: “Leadership means more than plans,” says Parker at the start. “You have to deliver, too.”

So we have one slap at Gene Locke, and one at Peter Brown. At least this one is unlikely to annoy or confuse supporters of the arts. Give her credit for being aggressive. Now here’s the ad.

The ad is on YouTube and as the release notes, is coincident with the release of Parker’s energy plan. Even without the mixed-message issues of the first ad, I like this one a whole lot better. It’s more appealing to me personally, it’s forward-looking, and yes it’s simple and direct with nothing to distract from it. More like this, please.

Meanwhile, Peter Brown is out with TV ad #3.

Also pretty good. Brown speaks for himself for the first time, rather than just a voiceover, and I thought he did well. It too comes with a new plan, Brown’s expanded “Get Tough, Get Smart” public safety blueprint, which is an expanded version of his original crimefighting plan (both PDFs). Brown has made good use of his media budget, at least from where I sit. Again, it’d be nice to see what a poll has to say about that.

Releases from both candidates about their new ads are beneath the fold. Here’s more on Parker’s ad from Greg and from Martha, and more on Brown’s ad from Greg and from Martha. We’re still waiting for an ad from Gene Locke, and I’m still waiting to see either of Parker’s spots on TV instead of the Internet. What do you think?

UPDATE: Stace likes Parker’s ad. KT is unimpressed by both.

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Parker’s first ad

And Annise Parker wins the race to be the first candidate not named Peter Brown to air a TV ad in the Mayor’s race. Here it is:

And my reaction is…eh. That’s more about me than anything else, as public safety-themed ads just don’t move me. I admit that places me squarely in the minority, as it seems this is the issue that concerns most voters this year, but there you have it. I think it’s a pretty good spot as far as these things go – Parker does a good job speaking directly to the audience, highlighting her accomplishments in office, which as the candidate with the most electoral experience is her strength. There’s no razzle-dazzle, but that would have been out of place in an ad like this. I don’t care for the “I won’t raise taxes” bit, as I believe no candidate is in a position to make that promise (not that this has stopped any of them), and I’m not sure what “sports stadiums we don’t need” she plans to fight against, as the city’s part of the Dynamo Stadium deal – purchasing the land – is already done. The swipe at Gene Locke (Parker also won’t support “museums we don’t need”) is subtle enough that I daresay 98% of the people who view the ad will miss it. Frankly, I’d have left most of that stuff out, as I think it clutters up the spot. Greg, who highlights a bit from Parker’s accompanying press release about the ad that explains some of this, agrees with me on this. I’ve put the release beneath the fold.

Overall, I’d give the ad a B. It does what it intends to do, which is associate Parker with public safety, which by being first to air has the side effect of stepping on one of Locke’s main messages, and it leverages her biggest strength, which is her experience. Not the ad I would have written, but there’s probably a good reason they didn’t ask me for that. Stace, musings, Miya and Houston Politics have more. What do you think?

UPDATE: Turns out, according to Campos, that Locke has been running ads on the radio. Like him, I had no idea about this and had not received a release about them, so that’s all I know.

UPDATE: Nancy Sims weighs in.

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Election tidbits for 9/23

– KTRK has another round of candidate videos, this time answering the question “How can you help Houstonians get to work?”

– Peter Brown sends out another mailer, this one all about his blueprint for an “Even Better Houston”. You can view it here.

– Tom Schieffer goes to college.

“Carlyfornia”, here we come. To mock for being the worst political website ever.

– Won’t someone please think of the insurance companies?

Greg has an early look at the early voting locations in Harris County. Thanks to the constitutional amendments on the ballot, you don’t have to be in Houston to have something to vote on.

Andrea White is campaigning, too.

– Somehow, my email address wound up on a list that Louisiana Sen. “Diaper David” Vitter sent a missive to. Yeah, I don’t think I’m in his target demographic.

BOR gets some feedback from Rep. Henry Cuellar regarding that R2K poll on health care reform. I look forward to seeing his statement, as what they got from him isn’t exactly crystal clear.

Election tidbits for 9/22

More stuff that’s worth a mention.

– The deadline to register to vote in the 2009 election is Monday, October 5. Towards that end, Texans Together will be holding a voter registration drive this Saturday, September 26, at various locations around the city. If you want to participate, please contact Dee at 281-702-7864 or e mail [email protected]

– HISD District I candidate Alma Lara has a new website.

– City Controller candidate Pam Holm has been making robocalls. Personally, I’d advise sending mail now (if you can afford it, which she ought to be able to do), and saving the robocalls for the GOTV effort later. But then no one asked me.

– Along those lines, Peter Brown is making robocalls as well. I know this because there was a voice mail of such a call on my work number this morning. I don’t know how that number got onto anyone’s list. Maybe they were just dialing every number in town.

– Not at all campaign related, but my neighbor Mark Strawn, who was badly injured in a car accident two years ago, has been making huge strides in his physical therapy. His wife Sabrina recently sent out an email asking for support for SIRE, Houston’s therapeutic equestrian center, which has so helped Mark in his recovery. I’ve reproduced the email beneath the fold, and you can click here when you’re done reading it to give them a hand.

Purple Texas writes about Hank Gilbert and his nascent campaign for Governor. Maybe it’s just the city boy in me, but I can’t say I’ve ever felt a longing for a liberal-disguised-as-a-redneck to save us all. Which isn’t to say that Hank couldn’t win next year with that formula. It’s just that I’d support him in spite of his rural roots, not because of them.

– District G candidate Richard Sedita sent out a press release in support of the current efforts to build a stadium east of downtown for the Houston Dynamo.

– The Texas Tribune invites you to take a look inside their office:

– I cannot begin to express how little sympathy I have for poor widdle Rick Perry and that dirty trick that that mean old Senator Hutchison pulled on him. Karma is a remarkable thing, isn’t it?

UPDATE: Phillip says what needs to be said regarding Rick Perry and this incident.

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HOPE/SEIU poll of the Mayor’s race

Here’s another poll result, this time from Houston Justice for Janitors.

Annise Parker leads her closest opponent by a 2-to-1 advantage in an initial vote preference for mayor. Parker holds a solid lead in the election for Houston mayor (28% Parker – 14% Locke – 13% Brown – 5% Morales — <1% Huntley – 40% undecided), though the plurality of voters are still undecided. After hearing completely positive introductions of each candidate, Annise Parker maintains her significant double–digit lead over the rest of the field. In an informed vote preference where positive bios of each candidate were read, Parker is still in control of the race (33% Parker – 19% Locke – 18% Brown – 5% Morales – 12% Huntley – 13% undecided).

You may be wondering, as I was, why they bothered to include TJ Huntley in this poll, given that he dropped out of the race (and endorsed Morales) back in August. The answer comes from the poll summary:

The poll, conducted by national research firm Hamilton Campaigns, is based on a survey of 400 registered voters who are likely to vote in the November 2009 mayoral election in Houston. Voters were interviewed by telephone in the period July 17-20, 2009. The margin of error for a sample of this size is ±4.9 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level. The racial composition of the sample was 49% White, 33% Black, 15% Hispanic, 3% Other.

Which leads to the next question: Why is a poll from July just being released now? I can’t answer this question, but I do have to wonder how accurate the result is two months later, given the TV exposure Brown has had, among other things. This poll has far fewer undecideds than the more recent KHOU poll, which seems counterintuitive, though it could be a function of the likely voter screen each pollster used.

Beyond that, the main point I want to bring up is with the “informed voter” sample, in which Morales and Huntley were described as follows:

Roy Morales is a 51 year-old Hispanic and serves as Harris County School Trustee. Morales is passionate about our children receiving a proper education, staying in school, and staying off the streets. Morales understands that when our children grow up they are not only going to be competing for jobs with people here, but also with people in other countries like China and India. Morales is running for mayor to help move our children up the ladder of success — not with welfare or handouts — but with education and hard work.

T.J. Huntley is a 37 year-old Anglo successful businessman who is pro-life, believes marriage should be between a man and woman, and supports the right to bear arms under the 2nd Amendment.

Now which one of those descriptions screams “Republican!” to you, and which one doesn’t? It’s no wonder that Morales’ total remained the same in each, while Huntley went from a complete non-entity to 12% of the vote. That basically tracks the boost Morales got from the “informed voter” sample in the KHOU poll, which unlike this one specified party identification. About ten percent of the vote is undecided Republicans. If they figure out who Roy is, he’ll easily crack double figures, and could affect who makes it to the runoff. If not, who knows what those folks will do – stay home, undervote, spread their support around, some combination. Roy has no money, but the Harris County GOP could try to whip up some support for him. We’ll see if they bother, or if they can afford it.

Anyway. This is an interesting result, but I’m not sure I know all that much more about the race than I did before I saw it. Houston Politics has more.

Monday election tidbits

Just some news and notes that I thought were worth passing along…

KPRC had a longish story on the hoax email that was sent in the name of Christians for Better Government. Whoever pulled this particular dirty trick sure got his or her money’s worth for it.

– Council Member Mike Sullivan tells CM Peter Brown that NASA is his turf.

– Speaking of Peter Brown, he’d like to know what your vision for Houston is.

– At Large #1 candidate Stephen Costello releases a video.

– Not really election-related, but there will be an interesting conference later this week called Megaregions+MetroProsperity: Sustainable Economics for the Texas Triangle to discuss high speed rail and other transportation-related matter. Go to TexasTriangle.org for more information.

– District F candidate Robert Kane talks to neoHouston.

– HISD Trustee candidate Adrian Collins, one of three people challenging incumbent Lawrence Marshall in District IX, launches his campaign website.

UPDATE: One more link to add. Turns out that “What recession?” video clip was a dirty trick by the Hutchison campaign. Whatever. I’ll say again, Rick Perry is the last person in the state who gets to complain about that sort of thing happening to him.

White warns about new spending

Mayor White has a few words for whoever will succeed him.

Houston mayoral candidates, read Mayor Bill White’s lips: No new spending.

White, who has shied away from endorsing or even offering tacit support to those vying to replace him, weighed in last week with surprising advice for voters: Beware of any promises of new spending in 2010 and 2011.

“Texas has not come out of the recession, and sales tax receipts are dropping,” White wrote in a post on his Facebook page Tuesday. “Be sure not to vote for our next mayor based on commitments of more spending in the next two years.”

White, who personally has given that advice to the candidates, said he did not know of specific campaign promises that went too far. The admonition, however, was born of experience, as hard fiscal times have defined the beginning and end of White’s time in office.

They almost certainly will define the next mayor’s first term. Challenges to the city treasury include declining tax revenues, mandatory salary and health benefits increases, pension liabilities that have grown amid the stock market crash and a potential contract showdown with the Houston Police Officers Union.

The story examines the platforms of the Mayoral candidates to see where they’re proposing things that will cost money and how they intend to pay for them. I’ll be running my interviews with Mayoral candidates in October, and can hear them talk about this subject and judge for yourself how well they do at addressing it. I asked incumbent district Council members about it as well, so listen for that in their interviews over the next two weeks.

What I’ll say from having done all of these interviews is that everyone has ideas about how to handle the current budget situation, and to find ways to pay for the things we want. They include the usual talk about “cutting waste” and “finding efficiencies”, sometimes with specifics, as well as ensuring that the city is receiving the funds it is due – fines, fees, federal dollars – and bringing new businesses to Houston. These are all fine things, and they all need to be done, but there’s a lot of vagueness in there – define “waste”, for instance – and even if you did all of them, it’s not clear how much ongoing revenue they would generate. In particular, I am not convinced that anyone I’ve spoken to has a clear answer to the question of how to pay for more police officers. Some come closer than others, and I’ll leave it to you to listen to the interviews and judge for yourself. But I’m skeptical.

The other point that I’ve brought up in the interviews is that we’ve cut the property tax rate multiple times over the past six years, and that costs money, too. I’d be willing to bet that rolling back any one of those tax cuts would make a significant dent in the revenue shortfall we now face, without costing people a lot of money. A one-penny increase to the tax rate would add $20 a year to the bill for someone with a $200,000 house, and I daresay it would raise a few million bucks, not just this year but every year. Yet no one wants to go there, though some are less reflexively opposed than others. I say it’s a matter of ensuring that we have the revenue we need to ensure we can pay for the things we want and need. I also recall that the justification for the tax cuts at the time was that times were good and we could afford it. Well, times aren’t so good any more, and we’re looking to make cuts everywhere because we suddenly can’t afford things we thought we could. I don’t understand why this isn’t at least a part of the conversation, but it isn’t. For now, anyway – I say it will need to be later. I just hope we’ll be ready to deal with it then, since we aren’t now.

Did I mention that election season is officially underway?

Why, yes, I did. Add to the Controller email shenanigans questions about who does or doesn’t support Peter Brown, which recalls his own curious dual endorsement from 2007; allegations about who is or isn’t a Republican, and allegations about Gene Locke and sexism. The latter is the most incendiary shot fired by someone that actually signed their name to it, in this case Annie’s List, which supports Annise Parker. I have three things to say regarding that:

1. Locke’s campaign has, by my observation, been the most aggressive so far in criticizing the other candidates, in particular Parker. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but sooner or later one will be counterpunched. Things don’t usually get more cordial after that. This Mayoral race is basically a Democratic primary, and these are the sorts of things that happen in Democratic primaries around here. Supporters and people involved in these campaigns seem to take attacks from fellow Dems more personally than they do from Republicans, and given that there are still grudges being held from the May special election in District H and its June runoff, that suggests next March’s actual primary could be a bit more uncomfortable than usual.

2. Along those lines, I hope Annie’s List is prepared for some blowback. The women who do support Gene Locke aren’t going to be too happy with the email that was sent, and some of them may be Annie’s List supporters who will be less inclined to do that now. Here’s a response from two prominent Locke supporters, from Whitmarsh’s listserv:

We were deeply disappointed to read the email from Annie’s List questioning Gene Locke’s respect for women. We have known Gene for years and can attest to his utmost respect for women. Gene is pro-choice and is supported by many Houston women. We are proud that Gene Locke continues to take the high road by talking about issues that Houstonians care most about and not the usual slander and political attacks contained in your email.

State Representative Senfronia Thompson and State Representative Carol Alvarado

I’m sure Bree Buchanan’s received a few irate phone calls in the past 24 hours. I wonder how she’s responded to them.

3. As for the charges made in the Annie’s List email, I thought the Sue Walden firing and the Ladies For Locke flap were the most substantive. I thought the latter was more amusing than offensive, but the official Locke response was weak, and given the visuals involved, it’s the kind of thing that will live on. If anything out of this hurts him, I daresay it’ll be that.

Finally, on a tangential note, Peter Brown has followed up his TV ads with the first mail piece of the race. I’m wondering when Locke and Parker will get into the game on these fronts. The longer Brown has the airwaves and the mailboxes to himself, the greater the likelihood that he’s swung some of those many undecided voters to his side. Speaking of which, I do hope there will be more polling in the race soon. This is a big, important race. It deserves more attention from the polling class.

UPDATE: Musings has some advice for all of the candidates.

Metro should get a bigger piece of the pie

This article is about Metro’s budget for the next year and its proposal to add a nickel to the bus and rail fares. What really interests me is this bit:

Metro receives a 1-cent sales tax, but must set aside 25 percent of the revenue to pay for transportation-related projects in the contributing taxing jurisdictions of Houston, Harris County and other small cities the authority’s service area.

I think it is well past time to review that old agreement and see about giving Metro more of that revenue. I’ll defer to Christof for the details on this, but my understanding is that a lot of the small municipalities that receive some of this money literally have nothing useful to spend it on any more. By far, the greatest need exists with Metro, and the greatest benefit will come from upping its revenues; among other things, it might then make sense to think about rolling back fare increases. I for one would love to see Houston’s next Mayor start talking about this, as he or she will be in the best position to make this happen. Peter? Gene? Annise? What do you say?

All forumed out

The three main Mayoral candidates are cutting back on the number of candidate forums they’re doing.

Having logged more than 40 so far with just about every interest group or neighborhood imaginable, the campaigns of City Controller Annise Parker, City Councilman Peter Brown and former city attorney Gene Locke apparently have decided that enough is enough, sending out joint letters via e-mail notifying some groups that their forums or “debates” are no more.

The reason, according to some politicos, is that the candidates have such similar views that their ideas for fixing Houston’s problems may not resonate in these civic settings.

“I saw a picture of the three of them at one of these events recently, and they honestly just looked dead bored,” said Marc Campos, an unaffiliated political consultant who was scheduled to ask questions at a recently canceled event. “They haven’t distinguished themselves. Everybody pretty much knows where they’re at on all these issues. They’ve been asked the same questions over and over and over, and they’ve all stuck to their own party line, so it’s a little bit of, this is too much.”

In the form letters, which were sent to eight or nine groups, including some to which the candidates already had committed, the campaign managers explained that there were just too many forums. More than 20 are scheduled this month, including five this week.

“While our candidates will be accessible to all Houstonians, the rigors of a campaign and the time constraints on our candidates’ schedule, do not allow us to participate in every request we receive,” the letter says. “After having done nearly 40 forums to date, there are simply too many joint appearances to accept all.”

My recollection from 2003 is that there weren’t as many such events that year as there have been this year. I could be wrong about that, I wasn’t paying as close attention back then as I am now, but it sure seems to me like there have been a ton of these. I do feel bad for the groups whose forums were canceled – the Montrose Area Democrats, whose email to Carl Whitmarsh announcing their event’s termination appears to be the spark for this story, had clearly done a lot of work in preparation for their now-defunct forum – but I have sympathy for the candidates as well. By the way, there is a forum tonight at TSU, and the Houston Press would like you to know that they one they’re involved in, at UH-Downtown on September 30, is still on. Miya has more, while Nancy Sims reports from – you guessed it – a Mayoral forum from earlier this week.