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August, 2006:

Libertarian response to CD22 special election

Just to prove that I’m not a one-trick pony, I’m now on the distribution list for Libertarian Party press releases. Here’s what they say about the Very Special Election for CD22:

In response to Governor Rick Perry’s announcement calling for a special election in Texas CD-22, here is a statement from Libertarian Party Communications Director Stephen Gordon:

“Our founding fathers fought and died to prevent Americans from being taxed without adequate representation. Governor Perry could have called for a special election some time ago to ensure that the voters of Texas 22 were properly represented in Congress.

As opposed to governing in a responsible manner, Perry’s priority is to facilitate Republican Party damage control in the wake of Tom DeLay scandals and the GOP failure to place a candidate on the ballot for the general election. Once again, Republican leadership has violated the trust of the voters.

While there will be two names on the general election ballot in November, voters who prefer responsible government and constitutional leadership have but one choice: Libertarian Bob Smither.”

So neither of the two people who will be on the ballot for the real election will be there for the Very Special Election. What if Rick Perry had thrown a special election and no one came? That would have been fun. Anyone know off the top of their heads if the elections code addresses that possibility?

Anyway. I did a Kuff’s World post on libertarian netroots support for Smither, which drew a comment that has more info, if you’re interested.

Lampson will not run in CD22 special election

When I said before that I was aware of a highly interesting rumor about the CD22 Very Special Election, this was what I was talking about.

Nick Lampson, the Democratic candidate for Congressional District 22, will not participate in a special election to fill resigned former congressman Tom DeLay’s unexpired term.

Campaign manager Mike Malaise said Thursday Lampson has decided to stay out of the special election because the voting process is becoming increasingly complicated as Nov. 7 approaches – and Lampson wants to simplify matters for his supports.

“We want to be able to say, vote once for Lampson and then you’re done,” Malaise said.

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry ordered a special election be held to fill the remainder of DeLay’s term. The special election will be held on Nov. 7, concurrently with the general election. The winner of the special election would hold the office only until January, when the winner of the CD-22 race in the general election would take office.

At the end of the day Thursday, with one day left in which to register, Republican write-in candidate Don Richardson was the only person listed on the Texas Secretary of State’s web site as running in the special election.

However, sources said Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, the Houston City Councilwoman whose write-in campaign is being supported by many CD-22 precinct chairs and party officials, also registered for the special election today. So did a third candidate, who sources were unable to identify.

Sekula-Gibbs and Richardson couldn’t be reached Thursday evening.

“We just feel this thing has become a mess,” Malaise said of the election process. “We don’t want to add to that voter confusion.”


Malaise said Lampson believes Gov. Perry should have called a special election in May, so residents of the district would have had continuing representation in Congress. As it is, by the time the special election is held in November CD-22 will have been without a congressional representative for more than four months.

If Lampson were to run in the special election, Malaise said, he would increase odds that the race would be thrown into a runoff, since the winner of the special election must have a majority of votes, not a plurality.

A runoff might not take place until December, leaving the eventual winner with perhaps only three weeks to serve as a working member of Congress.

This makes all kinds of sense for Lampson. After five months of being left vacant, a November special election to fill this seat for the Christmas vacation is nothing but a gimmick and a political ploy to boost Shelley Sekula-Gibbs’ profile. A special election in May would have been meaningful. A special election as late as September, which would at least have had a chance to seat someone in time for the fall session of Congress, would have been meaningful. A special election in November, to keep Nick Lampson’s seat warm, is a joke.

And pending the identity of the third person or any other surprise entrants, that joke may wind up being on Shelley, who is likely to be the prohibitive favorite to win it and thus be forced to resign her City Council seat. Hey who knows, maybe the return to private life in January will give her enough time to mount a campaign for the special election to fill her Council seat. There’d be a certain poetry in that.

Bear in mind that the one purpose a special election (whether in May or November) can still fill is to give a leg up on seniority to whoever wins it, assuming that same person wins the regular election as well. Well, Lampson doesn’t need that head start on seniority like an ordinary rookie would. He’ll get eight years’ worth of it when he’s sworn in again. As such, on top of everything else, there’s no incentive for him to run in it. He doesn’t need to be sworn in before January to be ahead of his Class of ’06 mates. If it weren’t for the Constitutional requirement that Governor Perry is so grudgingly and belatedly fulfilling, there’d be no purpose at all to waiting this long before having the election.

Anyone want to guess how much sillier it gets from here? My imagination is starting to run dry.

UPDATE: Forgot to include Lampson’s press release. It’s beneath the fold.


Ciro dropping out

Well, that didn’t last very long. BOR had the scoop last night, and now it’s in the papers: Ciro Rodriguez has abandoned his effort to run in CD23 against Rep. Henry Bonilla and others.

Democrat Ciro Rodriguez told a roomful of San Antonio union activists Wednesday night that he was pulling out of the crowded race in Congressional District 23, according to one of the participants.

The former four-term congressman didn’t offer an explanation to the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, which met to consider an endorsement in the race, said the person, who asked not to be identified. Rodriguez couldn’t be reached for comment late Wednesday night.

His campaign spokeswoman said she was unaware of his announcement, which came a week after Rodriguez filed to run against 14-year incumbent Henry Bonilla and what turned out to be a bevy of other Democrats in the Nov. 7 open election.

Weird. I think PerryVsWorld is correct in pegging this as a problem Ciro had convincing people to fund his effort, and I unfortunately also agree that this makes it somewhat less likely that Bonilla wil be forced into a runoff. One thing that I hadn’t thought of before, though it’s forehead-slappingly obvious now that I’ve seen it in print, is that straight ticket votes won’t count in the special Congressional elections. They’re basically primaries, so with multiple Dems in a race like this, that of course makes sense. That may mean in practice that if you’re in one of these districts and you pick a straight ticket button, you still get presented with the Congressional ballot. Whether that is how it works or not, it’s how it should work.

I don’t know what will happen here now. Lukin Gilliland has the money to compete, but no name ID and not much time to generate it. Albert Uresti has a recognizable name, thanks to his brother, but doesn’t have any money (as far as I know). Rick Bolanos has been running the longest, since he was Bonilla’s original challenger, but he has neither of those things. I still think this district deserves attention from state and national Dems, but as I also thought Ciro was in the best position to take out Bonilla, I’m not as optimistic about things as I was before.

Third write-in for CD22

Want to know another reason why it’s hard to take write-in candidacies seriously? Because, as Juanita discovered, literally anyone can be a write-in candidate. Does anybody else think that this guy was aiming to be on the CD21 ballot and missed?

Here’s the full list of candidates, by the way. Too bad we don’t have a list of CD22 special election candidates yet. I imagine that will make for some humorous reading as well. We’ll know by tomorrow what to expect for that one.

Do you love your BlackBerry too much?

Via John comes this story of new frontiers in employer-employee relations.

Keeping employees on electronic leashes such as laptops, BlackBerries and other devices that keep them constantly connected to the office could soon lead to lawsuits by those who grow addicted to the technology, a U.S. academic warns.

In a follow-up to an earlier paper on employees’ tech addictions, Gayle Porter, associate professor of management at the Rutgers University School of Business in Camden, N.J., has written a paper that states workers whose personal lives suffer as a result of tech addictions could turn their sights on their employers.

“These people that can’t keep it within any reasonable parameters and have these problems in their lives, at some point may say: ‘My life is not all that great. How did this happen? Who can I blame for this?’ ” Porter, who co-authored the study with two other academics, said in an interview last week. “And they’re going to say, ‘The company.’ ”

I like John’s answer better. Be that as it may, all I can say is that this story gave me and my boss a good laugh.

Research In Motion’s BlackBerry wireless device – jokingly dubbed the “CrackBerry” by some – is well known for what some describe as its addictive properties.

In most major North American and European cities, businesspeople can be seen gazing nose-down into their BlackBerry screens.

Porter says she isn’t picking on RIM or the BlackBerry in particular, but notes that terms like “CrackBerry” show that “there is, however lightheartedly, some acknowledgment that many people have kind of gotten out of control with using these devices.”

Next they’ll tell me that the Internet can be addictive, too. Oh, wait…

Texas poverty

The problem, in a nutshell.

Eighteen percent of Texans, and 25 percent of Texas children, lived below the federally defined poverty level, according to the 2005 American Community Survey. The nationwide percentage below poverty level was 13 percent.


Overall poverty rates, locally and nationally, didn’t change much between the 2000 census and last year, although levels increased somewhat more significantly among Hispanics and blacks in Harris County.

“Generally, the survey reports that the socioeconomic profile of Texas has stayed pretty much the same as it has been for years. It was bad to begin with and has not gotten better,” said State Demographer Steve Murdock, with the Texas State Data Center at the University of Texas in San Antonio.

That would be a good description of the Perry administration, but that’s neither here nor there. What is of importance is Moving Forward: Common Sense Policies to Promote Prosperity for Working Texans, which is a meaty report (PDF) by the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) that gives a number of strategies for improving our bad-and-not-getting-better socioeconomic profile. Check it out.

On the enthusiasm gap

In my post on the CD10 poll that provides some good news for Ted Ankrum, I mentioned that one reason why the proportion of likely voters was higher in Travis County than in Harris was greater enthusiasm by voters in the Democratic Travis. For what it’s worth, various national polls have consistently shown that more Democrats are excited about this year’s election than they have been in recent years, while Republican interest is down. MyDD has the details.

Poll in CD10

A few days ago, Paul Burka reported being on the receiving end of a robocall poll for CD10, which he presumed came from the Mike McCaul campaign. He was wrong about that – the poll was commissioned by Ted Ankrum. I am now in possession of the results. Here is the full script, with totals for each question:

Q1. Are you a registered voter who intends to vote in the election?

(Note: Only “yes” answers continued with the call, for a total of 500 respondents and a margin of error of 4.4%.)

Q2. Michael McCaul is your current Representative in Congress. What are your thoughts on his reelection?

34.7% Would you definitely vote to reelect him
39.1% Would you consider other candidates
26.1% Would you definitely vote to replace him

Q3. The three Candidates for Congress are Michael McCaul, the Republican, Ted Ankrum, the Democrat, and Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian.

50.8% Would you vote for Michael McCaul, the Republican
41.6% Would you vote for Ted Ankrum, the Democrat
7.6% Would you vote for Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian

(Note: The order in which the candidates’ names was read was rotated for each call.)

Q4 In times such as these, should a Representative follow the lead of the President or follow the opinion of voters in their District? In a situation where the two do not agree:

23.2% The Representative should follow the President
76.8% The Representative should follow the voters

Q5. What is your opinion of President Bush’ job performance on a scale of 1 to 4, where 1 means you strongly approve and 4 means you strongly disapprove?

25.7% Strongly approve
22.8% Somewhat approve
9.4% Some disapproval
42.0% Strong disapproval

There was one more question asking for the respondent’s age. As you can see, it was a pretty straightforward, non-push poll, generic enough to make Burka think it came from McCaul’s camp. Approximately 36% of the respondents were from Harris County (which broke down as McCaul 67%, Ankrum 25%, Badnarik 8%), 47% from Travis (Ankrum 57%, McCaul 36%, Badnarik 7%) and the rest in between. That’s slightly tilted towards Travis, but may simply reflect greater voter enthusiasm this year.

I would not claim that 42% of the respondents in this poll even know who Ted Ankrum is, much less that they know enough about him to vote for him. This is basically an anti-Bush, anti-incumbent statement. The breakdown of the approve/disapprove question says it all: Over 91% of the voters who strongly or somewhat approved of George W. Bush preferred McCaul, while 78% of those who strongly or somewhat disapproved went for Ankrum (it was 88% of the strong disapprovers). This is the first real piece of evidence I’ve seen that Bush’s sagging poll numbers, even in Texas (most recent SurveyUSA result 47 approve/51 disapprove), will have an effect on races here in Texas. Combine it with the earlier Henley poll, and I think one can feel a little optimism for Democratic prospects overall. Hopefully we’ll see even more results like this.

The good news for Ankrum is that I believe he has room to grow. The key for any Democratic candidate to have a shot in this district is to boost turnout and performance in Travis County. If this is an accurate picture of voter intensity, then he’s got #1 going for him. If he can get his performance there up to about 65%, he’s up close to 45% overall. The flip side of that, of course, is that better turnout in Harris pushes him down. If you tweak things so that it’s 47% Harris and 36% Travis, and assume the same ratios for each county, McCaul goes up by a 53-39 score. I believe there’s a fair piece of SD07 in this district, and enthusiasm for Dan Patrick may well help bump up participation in Harris to McCaul’s advantage. That may also have been accounted for by question 1, I can’t say. In any event, turning out Travis County, and doing a little better there and among the weak Bush disapprovers is the key for Ankrum. We’ll see how it goes from here, but this is an encouraging beginning.

UPDATE: More from BOR, McBlogger, and R.G. Ratcliffe.

I should note that Ankrum emailed me to say that he agrees that this is an anti-Bush result. It also occurs to me that the poll apparently did not allow for questions to be skipped, or for “Don’t Know” to be selected. That could skew things in any number of ways, including the high-for-a-Libertarian-in-a-three-way-race 7.6% total for Badnarik. Just something to think about.

How special is this election anyway?

I’m just thinking out loud a little here about the Very Special Election for CD22 that will be held on the same day as the regular election. I’m still not sure what the point of it all is, besides Rick Perry’s constitutional obligations, which I doubt he really cares much about since he waited so long to bother with this. Paul Burka thinks the point is increasing Republican base turnout. Maybe, but then why bother with SD19 and HD33, where Democrats are the majority? Who’s to say that Carlos Uresti and Solomon Ortiz, Jr won’t take the opportunity to work their base support extra hard, too?

Chris Elam suggests the special election is a chance for Shelley Sekula-Gibbs to get a leg up on 2008. To which I say, did anyone ask David Wallace about that? We all know he has his sights set on ’08, right? Well, it’s one thing for him to put on the Good Team Player hat and give Shelley some money and whatever moral support he has for her write-in bid, since Wallace quite reasonably expects that to fail. It’s another thing entirely to expect him – or for that matter, any of Talton, Howard, Jackson, Meyers, Bettencourt, and even Eckels – to give aid and comfort to a potential future primary opponent. If the motivation is to give an early boost to the Shelley 2008 campaign, what possible reason could there be for any ambitious local Republican and his or her supporters to help that effort? That makes no sense to me.

Even if you put that aside and assume that the cast of characters who also hope to run in two years’ time will still work for Shelley in a special election, are we 100% sure Shelley wants the help? That is, are we certain she plans to run in that special election? Because if she does, and if she wins the special election while failing as expected in the general, then she has to do something that she currently isn’t required to do, and that’s resign her City Council seat. Is getting to play Congresswoman during her Christmas vacation enough compensation for her last year on Council? Maybe it is, if it really does make her the frontrunner for the GOP primary in 2008. But then we’re back to my previous point. Who among her potential future rivals is going to help make that happen?

All I’m saying is that there’s a lot of questions to answer, and the filing deadline for the special election is Friday. I don’t think at this time that we can make a whole lot of assumptions about how this will shake out until we know who is and isn’t in.

And to bring things back to the regular election, via Muse we learn that Shelley won’t be the only official write-in candidate after all.

On Tuesday – the deadline for withdrawing or registering as a write-in – Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs traveled to Austin to file her papers, as expected.

But unexpectedly, by the end of the day former Republican congressional candidate and Houston businessman Don Richardson did not ask the Texas Secretary of State’s office to remove his name as a write-in candidate.

The move threatens to further confuse voters in what has already been an extremely complicated congressional campaign. And having two GOP write-in candidates in the race may jeopardize funding from national Republican Party sources.

Contacted at his home Tuesday night, Richardson said he is still in the race despite telling GOP officials and precinct chairs at an Aug. 17 gathering in Pearland that he would drop out.


At the Pearland gathering, Texas GOP Chairman Tina Benkiser “got up and said the Republican National Committee would put up $4 million if and only if” there were a single write-in candidate in the race, Richardson said.

In that case, he said, he would withdraw and allow Sekula-Gibbs’ campaign to benefit from the funding.

But the next morning, he called an official at the RNC in Washington, D.C. “I said put it in writing” that $4 million would be available to the single GOP candidate running as a write-in against Lampson, Richardson said.

He didn’t hear back. On Friday, Richardson said, he sent a fax to RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, to the RNC official to whom he’d originally spoken, and to Benkiser.

“I said look, if you’ll put it in writing about the $4 million and refund my campaign expenses…I will withdraw,” Richardson said. “I haven’t heard from anybody. So my name is still on the ballot.”

Benkiser could not be reached Tuesday night to confirm Richardson’s recollection about $4 million coming from the RNC. Sekula-Gibbs also could not be reached.

But Sekula-Gibbs said a few days ago it was “suggested to me that” significant funding from national Republican sources would be made available if the GOP could get behind a single write-in candidate. “That’s a very important part – that there would be adequate funding” to run a major campaign, she said.

Nobody ever expected those mythical millions, whether three or four of them, to materialize anyway, so I don’t see this as anything but a convenient excuse for the national party to weasel out of any commitments that people may think they’ve made. I also don’t believe the presence of a second official write-in measurably affects Sekula-Gibbs’ already miniscule odds of victory, unless there are people out there who would have spun in her name but will now change their minds. It’s not like Don Richardson is on the ballot, after all.

Are we having fun yet? I too am aware of some highly interesting rumors about this Very Special Election. All I can say now is stay tuned and we’ll see what materializes.

Interview with State Rep. Scott Hochberg

Continuing with my interview tour of the State House, today I bring you my first interview with an incumbent Rep who’s running for re-election, Rep. Scott Hochberg. I’m proud of all the interviews I’ve done so far, but if you were to tell me that you only had the time to listen to one of them, I’d say this is the one. Not because I asked brilliant questions, but because Hochberg knows so damn much about education and school finance, and he makes it all very accessible and easy to understand. If you’re not at least five percent smarter after listening to this, I’ll give you double your money back.

Here it is. Seriously, give it a listen:

Link for the MP3 file is here. I’ve got more of these coming, so let me know what you think about them.

Here are all my previous interviews:

Gary BinderimInterview
Glenn MelanconInterview
Jim HenleyInterview
David HarrisInterview
Ted AnkrumInterview
Shane SklarInterview 1, Interview 2
John CourageInterview
Nick LampsonInterview, Interview about space
Mary Beth HarrellInterview
Hank GilbertInterview
Joe FariasInterview
Harriet MillerInterview
Ellen CohenInterview
Diane TrautmanInterview
Rep. Scott HochbergInterview

“Bless your heart”

As a naturalized Texan, I loved this story about the expression “Bless your heart”.

Like a sweet candy with a sour center, “bless your heart” can cloak a tart surprise, however. That’s likeliest in the South, where good manners and irony flourish together like clematis among roses and wielding the phrase creatively can be an art form.

Celia Rivenbark of Wilmington, N.C., the author of a book of Southernisms titled Bless Your Heart, Tramp, offered some pungent examples. For instance, “You know, it’s amazing that even though she had that baby seven months after they got married, bless her heart, it weighed 10 pounds!”

Or: “If brains were dynamite, he wouldn’t have enough to ruffle his hair, bless his heart.”

Jill Connor Browne of Madison, Miss., another writer on Southern manners and usage, explained the phrase’s power: “We can say absolutely the vilest things that come into our mind about another person and yet still leave the listener with the impression of our unfailing sweetness.”

Allison Burkette, a sociolinguist at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, offered this statement as an example: “Well, John, bless his little heart, tries as hard as he can, but just can’t seem to pass math.”

Her translation: “John’s too dumb to do much in the way of mathematics.”

I discussed this with Tiffany last night, and we agree that there’s a difference between “Bless your heart” and “Bless his/her heart”. The former is generally said with affection, whereas the latter, as it is said about someone who isn’t there to hear it, often is not, as indicated above. It’s certainly not always meant unkindly; context is everything. If you really want to stick the knife in, as Ginger once noted to me, is to say something like “She does the best she can with what she has, bless her heart.” Nothing good comes out of that one, believe me.

Friday’s the day for red light cameras

We knew that the red light cameras would be operational and fine-inducing as of September 1. Well, that’s this Friday.

“This is a great opportunity for us to use technology so we won’t have to use officers as much for traffic enforcement, (and) we can put them in communities to prevent crime,” Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said Monday as he showcased a newly installed camera system at Milam and Elgin.


Revenue generated by the camera program – expected to be more than $6 million a year once 50 intersections are monitored – will help to pay police officers who work overtime because of the department’s manpower shortage, Hurtt said.

That’s about as positive a spin as you can put on these things, at least until and unless we get some evidence that they actually reduce crashes and injuries. I want to see that data as soon as it’s feasible, and I still want to get some strong assurances that the images captured by these cameras are used for the stated purpose of traffic enforcement only, then destroyed once that purpose has been fulfilled. As far as I’m concerned, this discussion is still in the startup phase.

Ben Barnes interview

The PerryVsWorld blog has part one of an interview with former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes up, and it’s some interesting reading. So far, they’ve mostly covered redistricting and redistricting reform. I hope the question of Carole Keeton Strayhorn comes up in a subsequent segment. Check it out.

Urban corridor planning report

For those of you who didn’t get to attend last weekend’s urban corridor planning meeting, fear not. Tory was there, and he’s got a report of what happened. Check it out.

ParentPAC endorses Ellen Cohen

I knew this was coming, but here’s the official announcement:

Texas Parent PAC today endorsed Ellen Cohen for state representative in House District 134, which encompasses Bellaire, West University, River Oaks, Meyerland, and Montrose areas of Houston.

“Ellen Cohen is the pro-public education candidate in this race,” said Texas Parent PAC board member Dinah Miller. “She is a fiscal conservative who will lead efforts to finally develop a long-term school finance plan that addresses the needs of our neighborhood schools while continuing to reduce property taxes.”

Parents from throughout Texas have joined together in a bipartisan effort to elect to the state legislature strong and effective leaders who will stand up for children and parents and strengthen public schools. In addition, a broad base of individuals and business leaders are coming together to join in this effort.

“Ellen Cohen is intelligent, articulate, a collaborator, and a proven leader,” said Carolyn Boyle, Texas Parent PAC chair. “Unlike the incumbent, Ellen Cohen will be a partner with parents and responsive to their concerns. Ellen will be part of the solution instead of part of the problem at the state Capitol.”


Texas Parent PAC is endorsing a small and select number of Republican and Democratic legislative candidates statewide. The PAC describes its endorsed candidates as “men and women of integrity, open and responsive to parents, actively involved in their communities, and committed to investing in public education to achieve economic prosperity in Texas.”

Parents are encouraged to volunteer in the Ellen Cohen campaign, to donate money and in-kind services, and to vote and bring friends to the polls during the October 23-November 3 early voting period and on the November 7 election day.

For more information on Texas Parent PAC, visit For more information on Ellen Cohen and her campaign, call 713-660-0899 or visit

For a reminder of what ParentPAC is about, see this Texas Observer story. It wasn’t necessarily clear that they were going to endorse anyone in the general, but it seems to me that after their pretty impressive record in the GOP primaries, it wouldn’t have made sense to pack up and go home afterwards. I don’t know who else they’ve touted for November (their website doesn’t say), but I’ve sent them an email to ask and will update this post when and if I get a reply. In the meantime, this is a very nice (and very well deserved) coup for Ellen Cohen. Let’s see if that ParentPAC magic carries over.

UPDATE: ParentPAC’s Carolyn Boyle answered my question via email:

We are going to be rolling out the endorsements one-by-one, with the announcement in the legislative district. It is important to our PAC that the candidates not be considered a “slate,” because they are not. The candidates we are choosing to endorse are just individually very talented!

So there you have it. And here’s the Chron story on the endorsement.

Texas Parent PAC, a group that proved influential in this year’s Republican primaries, made its first endorsement for the general election Tuesday, backing Ellen Cohen, the Democratic candidate in Texas House District 134.

Cohen was the first of an expected 20 to 25 House candidates to be endorsed by the bipartisan Texas Parent PAC.


“Ellen Cohen is the pro-public-education candidate in this race,” said Texas Parent PAC board member Dinah Miller of Dallas.

The group announced its endorsement across the street from West University Elementary School. District 134 includes Bellaire, West University Place, River Oaks, Meyerland and parts of Montrose.

“I’m flattered beyond words to be endorsed by a PAC that’s bipartisan, that cares about issues that affect public schools,” said Cohen.


Carolyn Boyle, chairwoman of the political action committee, rapped Wong for supporting private school vouchers, education cuts in 2003 and the Republican leadership’s bill to use revenue from a new business tax for property tax cuts instead of new school funding.


Boyle said she thinks education will be a key issue in this fall’s legislative races, despite a new school finance bill passed during the special session that lowers property taxes, raises teacher pay by $2,000 and boosts high school spending by $275 per student.

Boyle called that plan a “quick fix, short term.”

“We need a lot of attention on public education come January, with some really talented legislators who care,” she said.

Miller said the PAC expects to make other endorsements in Houston-area legislative races.

I’ve heard reports about one other race in Houston in which ParentPAC will support a candidate, but I’ll wait until it happens to write about it since for all I know I could be wrong.

Three! Three special elections!

I keep thinking that it’s not possible for the November elections to get any screwier. I keep getting proven wrong.

Gov. Rick Perry today officially set the special election to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay to coincide with the general election on Nov. 7.

Candidates wishing to run in the special election must file by 5 p.m. Sept. 1 with the Texas Secretary of State to appear on the ballot.

Shortly after DeLay announced in April that he was resigning from Congress, Perry said he would not schedule a special election to fill the vacancy before the general election. Today, he issued the official order setting the date.

The winner of the special election will serve DeLay’s district in Congress from the day the election results are certified until a new Congress begins in January.

At that point, the winner of the general election will take over as the representative of Congressional District 22.

Yes, the longest standing vacant Congressional seat in Texas history (PDF) will finally get filled. Why did it take so damn long for Perry to get off his gubernatorial keester and finally set a date for this sucker? Kathy Walt explains it all to us.

“Because there were a lot of maneuverings in the court on the Delay question on what could happen with that election, that had to play out then we reviewed all the legal requirements and options,” said Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt.

Mmm hmmm. Remember, kids, DeLay announced his resignation on April 3. He officially stepped down on June 7, a day before the Dems got the initial temporary restraining order that ultimately prevented the ballot replacement process from going forward. In between, as Greg in TX-22 noted, Perry went from deciding there should be an emergency special election to deciding that there shouldn’t be one. That took place long before there was a lawsuit. Even if you believe that Perry feared there would be litigation that would leave the status of the ballot uncertain for months, it’s also the case that the Supreme Court settled matters on August 7. So once again the question is “What took him so long?”

Of course, what wasn’t settled on August 7 was the official GOP strategy for trying to play the rotten hand they’d been dealt, though that was the case by August 17. What has Rick Perry been doing since then (besides this, whatever that is)?

How will this play out? I have no idea. I’ve expressed the thought that it’s good for Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, while both Chris Elam and Greg think it’s bad for her. One of us is wrong, but it’s probably a coin toss as to whom. It does keep this race in the news, at least for a little while longer.

And if all this isn’t more fun than you can stand, take a close look at the official ballot (PDF) for CD22 as currently posted on the Secretary of State website. Here it is, on page 4:

U.S.Representative District 22 (M )

Nick Lampson DEM
Bob Smither LIB
Don Richardson W-I

I’m sure there will be one more candidate by September 6. But will there be one less as well? I still don’t think it matters that much in the grand scheme of things, but it might give the RNC/NRCC a face-saving way to punk out on that $3 million promise it made to Sekula-Gibbs, since she wouldn’t be the only write-in candidate. Link via Fort Bend Now and South Texas Chisme.

One last thing:

Perry also set Nov. 7 special elections to fill the unexpired terms of state Rep. Vilma Luna, D-Corpus Christi, and Sen. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio. The winners of those elections will serve until a new Legislature is convened in January.

Madla resigned effective May 31, which is even earlier than DeLay, while Luna quit more recently. I can’t think of any purpose a November special election to fill their empty seats for those two months could serve.

CQ updates its ranking in CD22

CQ Politics has updated its rating of the CD22 race from “No Clear Favorite” to “Leans Democratic”, which makes it “the first House seat being defended this year by the Republicans in which the Democratic nominee is rated as having a clear edge”. That’s a step in the right direction.

I’ve got a post about libertarian netroots coming out for Bob Smither and another about more successful write-in candidacies over at Kuff’s World. Hey, someone’s got to cover this thing now that it’s not newspaper-worthy any more, right?

Updated list of candidates for special Congressional elections

According to this list (PDF) from the Secretary of State’s office (via Quorum Report), each of the five re-re-redistricted Congressional seats has at least two challengers. That contradicts this sloppy AP article, which says the following about CD21:

In the 21st District, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, 58, will face perennial Democratic candidate Gene Kelly, 80, a retired Air Force colonel and San Antonio-area lawyer. Kelly, who has the same name as the late song-and-dance star, has sought elected office numerous times. His most recent outing was his unsuccessful bid against Democratic Senate nominee Barbara Ann Radnofsky in the spring primary. Radnofsky beat Kelly in a runoff.

Incredible. Nearly a full paragraph about the joke that is Gene Kelly, and not a word about John Courage, the man who has been running against Lamar Smith for a year now. The phrase “Liberal media, my rear end” just doesn’t get said nearly often enough.

According to QR, that SOS list may change depending on petition signature verifications. One presumes they’ll do that job faster than they did for the first round, when the not-lovable loser Steve Stockman failed to qualify. The ballot is supposed to be certified on September 6, so we should know for sure by then.

Clutterbuck’s cantilever canned

This should come as no surprise to anyone.

Metro has evaluated Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck’s suggestion that part of its future University light rail line be suspended over the Southwest Freeway, and the results are hardly a surprise.

In the segment from Dunlavy to Edloe, the “cantilevered” tracks over the north side of the freeway would cost more than twice as much as Metro’s proposed ground-level route in the middle of Richmond Avenue and would attract fewer than half as many riders, the agency estimates.
Click to learn more…

The numbers, which Metro says were generated using the same procedures required for Federal Transit Administration funding applications, are: $215 million over the freeway vs. $90 million for the Richmond alignment, and 700 riders a day over the freeway compared with 1,600 for Richmond.

Clutterbuck said Friday that she had not advocated the freeway route, which was suggested to her by some residents.

“I asked Metro to look at this so that we would know they had done their due diligence,” she said. “And now the process will go forward.”

Yes, I hope it will, and I hope we’ll all be more serious about it. Including, one hopes, with the numbers that get cited one way or another.

Consultant Janet Kennison told the board that Metro had received 2,600 comments (57 percent) for Westpark or against Richmond, and 2,000 (43 percent) for Richmond or against Westpark.

“We had an awful lot of feedback,” she said.

I presume that at least some of those pro-Richmond comments came from people who live and/or work along the street. I think we can safely translate John Culberson’s laughable statement from his hot dog rally as “Ninety-seven percent of the people who contacted my office to say that they opposed rail on Richmonf oppose rail on Richmond.”

Culberson also got feedback recently from officials of the Greater Houston Partnership, the West Houston Association and the North Houston Association.

The three groups sent letters responding to his request that Metro drop Richmond from its route evaluations.

Although each organization sent its own letter, and each was signed by a different person, the three were in uncanny accord that ” … the most financially competitive, technically competent alignment that maximizes ridership potential will best serve the greater Houston community.”

Proving that great minds not only think alike, they sometimes write alike.

Would you have preferred that they just write one letter and all sign their names to it? I’m not sure why that’s even worthy of mention, but since Rad Sallee brought it up, I’m including the text of the letter beneath the fold. I found it at the West Houston Association site, but it’s not permalinked so who knows how long it will be there. Note the date on it, too; this wasn’t exactly timely news.


Why not Kinky

Clay Robison sums up the case against Kinky better than I can by simply quoting the man himself.

“It’s politically correct these days to apologize to the Indians and apologize to the Hawaiians for taking their land, apologize to the African-Americans for dealing with them as slaves and on and on without end. It’s a little late in the game to go around apologizing and thinking everything’s going to be OK.”


“I am going to see nondenominational prayer and the Ten Commandments put back in the schools,” he told the Kilgore News Herald several weeks ago.

“If you don’t love Jesus, go to hell,” he added.

He also has called for repeal of the top 10 percent law, which many minorities value because it gives the best students from poor, mostly minority school districts an equal opportunity with more-privileged young people for admission to the best state-supported universities.

And Friedman talks a tougher line than Gov. Rick Perry on border security.

He told conservative TV commentator Bill O’Reilly last year that he would “seal the border” against illegal immigrants by bringing in the “National Guard, the Texas Rangers, the entire Polish Army, whatever it takes.”

“Good fences make good neighbors,” he added.

More recently, as quoted in the Dallas Morning News, Friedman said, “My immigration policy is ‘Remember the Alamo.’ ”

Meanwhile, struggling Democratic nominee Chris Bell, who wishes more voters would remember him, isn’t amused.

Bell’s campaign, which has been collecting Kinky’s quotes, believes the quipster’s conservative viewpoints contradict those of his own strongest supporters.

An internal Bell campaign poll indicates Friedman’s strongest base – a 51 percent favorable rating to 25 percent unfavorable – is among Anglo liberals, the type of people who normally would be expected to support Bell and who the Democrat desperately needs.

“He (Friedman) has stated contempt for a lot of the people who are supporting him,” said Bell spokesman Jason Stanford.

To everyone who has a “K – The Governor” sticker on their car next to a Kerry/Edwards or KPFT sticker: You’re not supporting some kind of freethinking progressive who shares your values. You’re supporting Larry the Cable Guy. I’d say the joke’s on you, but unfortunately the rest of us are collaterally damaged by it.

I’ve long thought that Kinky represented a bigger threat to Bell than Strayhorn did; at least, he’s definitely a bigger threat than Bell has made him out to be relative to Strayhorn. And the latest Zogby Interactive poll suggests I just might be right about this.

Candidate Pct ================ Perry 34.8 Bell 23.1 Friedman 22.7 Strayhorn 9.6

Usual caveats: It’s Zogby Interactive, it’s just one data point, nothing means anything anymore since Pluto was deplanetized, etc etc etc. Still, Strayhorn has been drooping in all of the available polls – according to the Bell blog, Strayhorn has lost 11 points in the Zogby poll since January – and even Paul Burka says that the wind is shifting against her. It ain’t easy being all things to everyone, especially when you used to be a whole lot of other things. If we can ever convince the Friedman Democrats to come home, look out. Rick Perry at 40% is almost surely unbeatable. Rick Perry at 35% is very much not.

A Katrina timeline

The Talent Show takes a look back at the horrors we all witnessed a year ago in New Orleans. Ray looks at his own writing from a year ago here and here. The lead story on the Chron is about some Katrina survivors who now call Houston home. Read and remember.

Candidate Q&A: Neeta Sane

Continuing in my series of interviews with local candidates, today I bring you Neeta Sane, who is the Democratic candidate for County Treasurer in Fort Bend.

1. Who are you and what are you running for?

My name is Neeta Sane. I am running for Fort Bend County Treasurer. I am a resident of Missouri City and I have been married for 19 years with one son who is a freshman at UT-Austin studying Chemical Engineering.

We came to the United States of America in 1994. This was one of the major turning points in our life. Becoming an American citizen had a tremendous impact on the way I thought about my life. As opposed to India and Australia, American citizenship inspired me to commit myself to a two-way relationship with this country, to accept its blessings and in turn, give of myself to improve the lives of those around me.

I serve as a Director of Vote-Texas which is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization committed to acquiring transparency in electronic voting systems. I served as the Vice-President of Texas Democratic Women of Fort Bend, the Secretary of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party, the Publicity Chair of Dulles High School ProGrad and the Diversity Chair of American Association of University Women of Fort Bend. My commitment of giving back and making a positive difference in the political arena has only grown stronger.

At this point, I have entered the political race for Fort Bend County Treasurer to protect the interests of the taxpayers of Fort Bend County.

2. What are the responsibilities and powers of the County Treasurer in Fort Bend?

Fort Bend County Treasurer is the chief custodian of county funds. Legislatively prescribed duties for the elected County Treasurer include receipt of funds, disbursement of funds as Commissioner’s court may require or direct, and accounting for funds in the county treasury.

3. What are your professional qualifications for this job?

I am a financial technology entrepreneur. I have founded and managed a very successful financial software company with the highest ethical standards. Today, my innovative fraud-prevention and payment processing system, which increases both security and operational efficiency, is used by banking systems.

My professional experience in modern financial systems and fraud-prevention will enable me to successfully customize and utilize the county’s newly purchased financial system to meet the county’s ever growing need to improve efficiency and bring integrity in financial dealings.

I earned a Master of Science degree with a GPA of 3.97 from University of Houston-Clear Lake and published research papers in Scientific journals in collaboration with Center for Research in Parallel computing, Rice University.

4. Your counterpart in Harris County, Richard Garcia, is running on a platform to abolish the office there. How is Fort Bend different from Harris?

In Fort Bend County, the excessive concentration of Republican Party rule and their inept leadership has led to the indictment and resignation of the previous Republican Fort Bend County Treasurer followed by the appointment of a lobbyist as replacement County Treasurer. The situation in Fort Bend County definitely requires an elected Democratic County Treasurer who will provide the necessary checks and balances in the county leadership to manage the county funds with integrity, efficiency and transparency.

5. State Rep. Charlie Howard of Fort Bend tried unsucessfully last year to pass a bill to abolish the Fort Bend County Treasurer’s office. What is your response to that?

American politics revolves around the basic principle of checks and balances to make sure that no party in rule can turn the given power into misuse or abuse. Proposing and defending the abolishment of an elected office like the office of County Treasurer, is nothing but an effort against the very basic need of having checks and balances in the governmental processes. I do not support abolishing the elected office of County Treasurer. Handing over the elected treasurer’s duties and responsibilities to an appointed budget or finance officer defeats the very purpose of having an elected Treasurer who constitutionally protects the interests of the voters.

6. The last elected Treasurer was Jeanne Parr, who was forced to resign after pleading guilty to misappropriating funds. How much of an issue is that in the race this year? What needs to be done to restore the voters’ trust in the office?

The indictment and resignation of the previously elected Republican Treasurer for stealing money from a youth organization and misappropriation of funds is a disgraceful example of inept Republican leadership. This year, the race for Fort Bend County Treasurer brings another Republican candidate who is past retirement age and has been hand-picked by the same republican leadership to be a rubberstamp of the majority of the County commissioners.
Voter’s trust in the office can only be restored by electing a qualified Democratic candidate who will serve as the watch dog for the taxpayers to protect their tax-dollars from mismanagement and embezzlement.

7. What are your priorities for this job if you are elected?

  • I will bring integrity and honesty–I will optimize the usage of the newly purchased county’s financial system to meet needs of ethical financial management. I will make sure that fraud-prevention measures are in place to prevent mishandling of the county funds.
  • I will bring efficiency–I will streamline the financial transaction processes to increase the efficiency in the office of County Treasurer.
  • I will bring fiscal accountability– I will bring openness and transparency in all the transactions that go through the office of County Treasurer and I will make the information readily accessible to the taxpayers of Fort Bend County.

8. What effect have the events in the 22nd Congressional District campaign had on your race? What effect has the Nick Lampson campaign had on your race?

All the events in the 22nd Congressional District race point to a strong need to have accountability, to prevent backroom wheeling and dealing, and to function according to the law of the land. In my opinion, the 22nd Congressional District race has not had any direct impact on my race.

Nick Lampson’s campaign has definitely raised the profile of Fort Bend County Treasurer race a bit as our campaigns share a common platform of bringing fiscal accountability and responsibility in the governmental processes to efficiently serve the taxpayers.

9. Fort Bend currently has no elected Democrats in countywide offices. Why do you believe you can overcome that?

I can overcome that challenge because I have trust in the voters of Fort Bend County who realize that it is time to look beyond the political maneuverings in order to elect the most qualified and suitable candidate who will succeed as the watchdog for the taxpayers and not end up being another lapdog of the commissioners.

10. What else do we need to know about you and your campaign?

At this point in my life, I could have continued focusing on my business needs but I saw the stronger need to have checks and balances in the county government and to have a competent County Treasurer to restore the public trust in that office. So I decided to contest this election. I would like you to know my passion and desire to utilize the prime years of my life to serve the people of Fort Bend County to make sure the county funds are handled with integrity, efficiency and transparency.

Thank you, Neeta Sane. Here are all my previous interviews with Harris and Fort Bend countywide candidates:

Richard GarciaInterview
Leora T. KahnInterview
Chuck SilvermanInterview
Bill Connolly – Interview
James Goodwille PierreInterview
Albert HollanInterview

UPDATE: Bryan has more.

Alvarado: Still cloutful

The Chron checks in on City Council member Carol Alvarado, who is still wielding considerable influence with Mayor White despite having stepped down from the Mayor Pro Tem position.

Despite a cloud of uncertainty about an ongoing investigation by local prosecutors and the negative news about her employees taking unauthorized bonuses, Alvarado still has more access to White than her council colleagues.

She’s the only member with an open invitation to attend his thrice-weekly senior staff meetings, and Alvarado remains a regular on the mayor’s weekend bicycle rides through city neighborhoods.

He also lets her spearhead complicated issues, such as studying a tougher ban on workplace smoking, responding to a grass-roots effort to change a police immigration policy or modernizing the city’s campaign-finance disclosure system.

And she’s still performing many of the historical duties assigned to the mayor pro tem. She advises the mayor, helping advance his agenda. She also works with his staff to gauge the moods of council members on emerging issues.

It’s not unusual for White to delegate tasks to council members despite Houston’s strong-mayor system, which allows his administration to set the agenda. He wants consensus. He gets that by letting members, even those who don’t side with him politically, handle high-profile issues they care about.

Councilwoman Toni Lawrence has led efforts to enact new neighborhood-protection ordinances. Councilman Adrian Garcia has held hearings on a tougher juvenile curfew. And Councilman Michael Berry has been a champion of White’s mandatory freeway-towing program, known as Safe Clear.

Yet Alvarado’s role is unique.

“Carol is the only one that I think he’s going to ask to figure out if there’s votes on something, even if that’s not her issue, because he trusts her,” said Berry, who took over the administrative duties in the Office of Mayor Pro Tem when Alvarado stepped down. “In some ways, she is an extension of the administration.”


Alvarado also acknowledged some tension between her and White, especially as speculation swirled before she stepped aside as mayor pro tem while Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal investigates the bonuses and probes other city files for possible wrongdoing.

Publicly and professionally, though, the relationship seems back to normal.

“There’s no doubt that there was a management lapse in the mayor pro tem office, and she’s accepted responsibility for that,” said White, who regularly chats with Alvarado during council meetings. “But she also is extremely hardworking and knowledgeable about government.”


Alvarado’s removal from the office was said to be temporary, pending Rosenthal’s investigation, which could drag on for many months.

He said last week that he hopes to finish the probe into the four employees’s actions “shortly.” As for the status of any probe into the activities of Alvarado or other city officials, Rosenthal wouldn’t comment.

Who knows what Rosenthal will do. He’s got a pretty spotty record in high-profile prosecutions of city officials, so indictments, of whoever, are not the last word by any stretch. Looking at the timeline in the story sidebar, it’s been over five months since a search warrant was executed in Alvarado’s office (the story says March 6; I have a blog entry about computers being seized from her district office on March 17). I don’t know how soon “shortly” is, but it’s gotta be getting close by now.

She wants to stay in public life and would prefer elected office, though some political analysts have said the scandal – or any future allegations by prosecutors – might complicate her efforts to seek a citywide post.

“Realistically, I think she may well have a successful political future in elected office, but I think it’s going to be very difficult to run citywide,” said Richard Murray, director of the University of Houston’s Center for Public Policy, who taught Alvarado years ago.

Others think she still can get back on the political fast track.

“If she’s able to rehabilitate herself politically, and I think she can, you’re talking about somebody who could be a formidable mayoral candidate,” said Jon Taylor, who chairs the political science department at the University of St. Thomas.

Maybe, I dunno. Let’s see what Rosenthal does first. For what it’s worth, I think Alvarado would have a decent shot at State Sen. Mario Gallegos in a contested primary in 2008. She’s one of several rumored possibilities for that seat. As I said before, I’m not going to use too much brainpower on 2008 until 2006 is in the rearview mirror.

Alvarado said she hopes people judge her by her accomplishments, political experience and the vigor with which she has represented her constituents, not by a single scandal.

“We’re all human. We all learn from our mistakes,” she said. “From this, I will be a better public servant.”

Not all of us, Carol. Not all of us.

Feeding the spammers

Dwight points to a story about the latest spam craze and asks the obvious question: “Who are the idiots that buy stocks touted to them in spammed email?”

Spam messages that tout stocks and shares can have real effects on the markets, a study suggests.

E-mails typically promote penny shares in the hope of convincing people to buy into a company to raise its price.

People who respond to the “pump and dump” scam can lose 8% of their investment in two days.

Conversely, the spammers who buy low-priced stock before sending the e-mails, typically see a return of between 4.9% and 6% when they sell.

The study recently published on the Social Science Research Network say their conclusions prove the hypothesis that spammers “buy low and spam high”.

I really wish I better understood the mentality of people who fall for this sort of thing. The only way spam can be a profitable business model is if there’s a pool of people who respond to them regularly. I hope some day to meet one of these people so I can ask them about their experience and maybe understand it all a little better.

Time for new mnemonics

This Chron article addresses what I think is the most crucial question about Pluto’s demotion from planet to Vowel Planet: What about the mnemonics?

Now how will students learn the planets? Some possibilities:

  • My Very Extravagant Mother Just Sent Us Nachos.
  • Make Very Extraordinary Meals of Jell-O, Strawberries and Unsalted Nuts.
  • Mary’s Violet Eyes Make Jack Stare Until Noticed.
  • My Very Exotic Mistress Just Showed Up Nude (perhaps this one is for college lads).

Yeah, I don’t think too many elementary school teachers will be writing that one on the chalkboard. The panel on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me suggested a few more at the end.

Problems I hand’t considered:

The planetary change also spells trouble for science museums.

The National Air and Space Museum, for example, has a popular song called The Family of the Sun, set to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell, that children love and which helps them learn the planets.

Spokesman Mike Marcus said a decision on rewriting it has not been made yet.

The museum also has a scale model of the solar system that spans the length of the National Mall.

Reducing the number of planets eliminated fears that the museum model would have to float new, more distant planets in the Potomac River to stay on scale.

I’m telling you, it’d be so much simpler if we just left things as they were. Why mess with success? Rob is with me on this. We don’t care what those pinheads say, Pluto, we still love you.

The CD22 wrap-up story

It’s Sunday, so it’s News Feature Story Day, and today’s feature is an overview of CD22 and how Shelley Sekula-Gibbs came to be the One True Write-In. There’s lots of stuff here that’ll be familiar to those who’ve followed this all along, but we do get for the first time that I can recall some on-the-record comments about how the David Wallace Express went off the rails.

Some Republicans perceived Wallace’s filing as a pre-emptive move to discourage other candidates and force the party’s hand.

“There were concerns about the way he kept circumventing the party,” said Kathy Haigler, a GOP precinct chair in Harris County . “He decided he was going to bypass the whole process and win this race on his own. It was a flawed strategy. The more defiant Mr. Wallace was with the party, the wider and taller the wall got between us.”

Wallace questioned whether the closed-door gathering Aug. 17, at which a majority of the 83 precinct chairs in attendance voted to support Sekula-Gibbs, was representative of the party grass-roots. He’s still not convinced it was.

He did not attend the meeting, although his supporters were in evidence carrying his campaign signs.

Wallace’s tactics backfired, said Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt. “He had shown every proclivity up until that point to say he was in at all cost, period,” Bettencourt said. “The party called his bluff.”

Still, Wallace says he would not have done anything differently. “You go with the process as it’s unfolding and make decisions along the way. People can call it what they want,” he said.

Boy, you can see why Wallace was once considered the true heir to Tom DeLay. He’s got the “never admit I’m wrong, no matter how badly the course of action I chose turned out” thing down pat. You do realize what this means, right? If DeLay is like the Fonz, then Wallace must be Chachi. Nothing good can come out of this, I assure you.

More from Wallace:

“We were poised and ready to mount an aggressive campaign. But it was blatantly obvious that two write-in candidates would do nothing but hurt each other. Since Shelley’s name emerged as a result of that secretive meeting, I support her.”

Wallace had a natural constituency in the district as mayor of DeLay’s hometown. But he also has political enemies in Fort Bend County. He doesn’t speculate about who was behind the smear campaign against him as he and others were courting the precinct chairs for their support.

“When you’re in the business of buying insolvent companies and breathing new life into them, of course those things are going to show up,” said Wallace, an investment banker, referring to the bankruptcy documents circulated anonymously. “People can put whatever spin they want on that.”

Wallace says he wasn’t pressured to get out of the race but came to the decision on his own.

Will he seek the nomination in two years? “2008 is a long time from now,” Wallace said. For now, he’s committed to the Sekula-Gibbs campaign.

Translation: “Hell yeah! I can’t come out and say that because we all have to pretend that Shelley might win, but anyone who knows anything knows that this is what I’ve wanted all along. I may be sucking it up for now, but you better believe I plan to remind everyone about how I took one for the team starting on November 8.”

Meanwhile, Cragg Hines talks to Rick Hasen about the Guerra v. Garza case and other issues regarding what write-in votes will or may be counted. I still believe that this is unlikely to be of anything but academic interest, but we may as well start the discussion now just in case.

Elsewhere on the editorial page, former FEC chairman Bradley Smith uses the DeLay case as evidence that election laws should be loosened.

In Texas, for example, indicted former House majority leader Tom DeLay chose not to seek re-election. He moved his residence to the Washington area and withdrew from the race for his House seat. Texas Republicans sought to replace him on the ballot. But Texas law makes it difficult to substitute for a candidate nominated in a primary, and Texas Democrats successfully sued to prevent the Texas GOP from naming a replacement for DeLay. The result is that voters in that heavily Republican Texas district will not have a Republican nominee listed on the ballot in November.

This is an incredibly shallow and naive recapitulation of the events in CD22, which ignores DeLay’s manipulation of the process, the Constitutional logic used by the judges, and the rationale for Texas’ stringent candidate withdrawal laws in the first place. I believe Smith has a decent point in general, but there’s no way that the DeLay saga bolsters his case. I don’t have the time or energy to write a full-blooded response to this right now, but someone needs to.

Finally, Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert has responded to charges that he broke State Code of Judicial Conduct rules by publicly endorsing candidates in the One True Write-In anointment process. I’m still not convinced of this, but I wasn’t convinced that the Dems’ lawsuit to prevent DeLay’s replacement was going to work, so what do I know. Muse has the background on this.

The mouse that roared in CD10

This is the funniest thing I’ve read all weekend.

Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik has asked Democrat Ted Ankrum to withdraw from the race against U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, to give the Libertarian a better chance at unseating the freshman representative.


“There’s a lot of people, who, without a Democrat in the race” would cast a ballot for Badnarik “just to vote against the Republican,” Badnarik’s spokesman Jon Airheart said. “We feel we draw from both parties.”

Apparently, the concept of straight ticket voting is not one with which Mr. Badnarik is familiar. And just for the record, Badnarik has already been the Libertarian in a two-way race against a Republican before. In 2000, he challenged then-State Rep. Terry Keel in HD47. He garnered 15,221 votes, for 16.87% of the total. That’s about 1300 votes more than write-in candidate Lorenzo Sadun got in CD10 last time.

All I can say is that for a guy who got 0.52% of the vote in Texas as a Presidential candidate, he’s got quite a bit of cheek. And as for Badnarik’s big campaign warchest, well:

In the latest campaign filings, Badnarik reported having $9,504 on hand, though a press release Friday reported he had received an additional $17,000 from supporters in recent weeks.

That may be more than Ted Ankrum currently has on hand, but color me unimpressed anyway. My prediction of the usual 2-3% for a Lib candidate in a three-way race stands.

One more thing:

Ankrum was not immediately available for comment Friday.

The timestamp on the Postcards from the Trail post is 4:53 PM Friday. The following press release that I got from Ankrum hit my Inbox at 11:17 AM on Friday:

“This race is only improved by three candidates,” said Ted Ankrum, Democratic candidate for Congressional District 10. “Michael Badnarik has asked for me to drop out of the race, but the common good of the district is not served by that outcome. I won a four-candidate primary election, and won the runoff by 71%. I welcome a three-way race in the general, and the opportunity to unseat the Republican candidate who seems to hold office because Tom Delay Gerrymandered a district for him.

“Mr. Badnarik loudly proclaims his fundraising, but his money comes primarily the National Libertarian Party. My fundraising is local, coming from numerous donations within the district, and without the support of the national Democratic party. They’re concentrating their support in only a few places in the country, and no challengers in Texas are being supported by the national party. In Texas, we don’t give up when the odds are against us. It only makes us fight harder.”

“Prior evidence shows that a third-party candidate won’t win, and I have no intention of leaving this race to be decided because the Republican incumbent happens to be married to the daughter of the owner of Clear Channel Communications. I welcome the competition, and Mr. Badnarik’s candidacy. It’s what America and this district are all about,” said Ankrum.

“Michael Badnarik and I agree on many issues, including that the one-term Republican incumbent has betrayed his constituents. We have great support in the district, and I have no intention of letting the district down,” Ankrum said.

I should note that this was a corrected press release. The original arrived at 2:43 AM. Tara Copps at the Statesman needs to check with her colleagues on these matters before she hits the Publish button.

Poll favors Ciro in CD23

Greenberg Quinlan Rossner Research has released a poll that shows some good news for Democrats and Ciro Rodriguez in CD23. I’ve got a copy of the poll memo here (PDF) for your perusal. To summarize:

Congressional Vote Candidate Vote Total for Dem candidates 47% Republican Henry Bonilla 44% Libertarian Cecil Lamb 1% None 2% Undecided 6% Cong Vote Among Dem Candidates (among all general election voters) Candidate Vote Ciro Rodriguez 24% Pete Gallego 11% Albert Uresti 7% Richard Perez 3% Rick Bolanos 1% Virgil Yanta 1%

Gallego is not a candidate, though at the time the poll was taken (August 10-15), he was talked about as a possibility. Lukin Gilliland has now joined the race, and with the money he says he’ll bring, he ought to be a force to contend with. He’s also issued a press release saying that State Rep. Robert Puente of San Antonio is his campaign treasurer, so he’s already got some establishment support. And I’m starting to hear whispers that Lukin Gilliland will have more names behind him than that, so this definitely bears watching.

Both Paul Burka and PerryVsWorld think that Gilliland’s entry into the race makes an eventual runoff more likely. Burka notes that the poll memo “cheerleads” for Ciro, but may help him get some national money. I say the DCCC and any other national group that was planning to throw money into CD22 should take that dough and split it between CDs 23 and 14. Make the Republicans play defense as much as possible, and see if anything good happens. At the very least, be prepared for the runoff that is increasingly probable.

BOR has a complete list of candidates in this and the other special Congressional elections, one of whom will not be former San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza. (How did Ruben Hinojosa in CD15 get lucky enough to lose his only opponent?) Vince adds commentary on all the filers. It’s a pretty crowded field in the 23rd. I hope everyone keeps their fire aimed at Henry Bonilla, and as commenter RBH observes, that someone spends a little time in Medina County. I still think Ciro is the candidate with the best shot to take out Bonilla, but we’ll see how things develop.

Would you believe there could still be a special election in CD22?

Believe it.

[W]ith all eyes on the November election, overlooked is the fact that the Constitution states that the governor shall call a special election to fill DeLay’s unexpired term.

Despite previously declaring he would call a special election, Gov. Rick Perry has yet to do so. His office is now leaving open the possibility he may decide against calling one.

The deadline for calling a special election is Tuesday, said Scott Haywood, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections in Texas.

In April, Perry said he would call a special election to fill the final two months of DeLay’s term.

But spokeswoman Kathy Walt indicated Friday that Perry was weighing his options.

“The matter is being reviewed, and no decision has been made at this time,” Walt said in an e-mail response to The Daily News.

Incredible. As I said several weeks ago, we’re way past the point where anything in this story could shock me. And Lord knows, I’d never put anything past Rick Perry if he thought he could milk political advantage out of it. If someone could convince him that calling a special election to coincide with the general election might help boost Shelley Sekula-Gibbs’ chances in the latter, I’ve no doubt that he’d do it.

Having a special election and the general election poses some risks. That’s especially true for Sekula-Gibbs, who must not only convince voters she is the best candidate, but also must convince them to write in her name.

A special election that could include more candidates could confuse voters, and some might simply skip the race.

Lampson plans to be on both ballots, should a special election be called. Campaign manager Mike Malaise said a staff member was set to deliver the necessary paperwork and a $3,000 filing fee.

Smither said he was hoping the governor would not call a special election.

He noted how confusing the race already is.

Even if Perry does call a special election, Smither does not plan to run for the unexpired term. He plans, instead, to concentrate on the bigger prize.

Sekula-Gibbs would not speculate about what she’d do. Her spokeswoman, Lisa Dimond, noted that the governor had not called a special election.

I don’t see a special election as much of a risk to Sekula-Gibbs, since it would be a vehicle for getting somewhere on the ballot, and it would increase the level of coverage of the race. Anything that boosts her visibility and generates more discussion of her write-in bid is good for her. Yes, some people might be confused by seeing her name on one location, and assume that that’s the only place they need to vote for her. I’m not sure how solidly I’d count on those folks to write her in under any circumstance.

We’ll see what happens. Whatever it is, it will have nothing to do with what’s best for the citizens of CD22 and everything to do with political calculations. If there were going to be a special election to fill out DeLay’s term, it should have happened well before CD22 became the longest standing vacant Congressional seat in Texas history (PDF). Greg in TX22 argues that the Governor is Constitutionally required to call a special election, and notes that Kathy Walt sang a different tune on the subject back in April. Note Perry’s statement at that time: “If I don’t get it [DeLay’s resignation] by close of business tomorrow, the election will be in November.” If that’s what he intended to do all along, then why is he waiting till next week to make it official?

Thanks to South Texas Chisme for the catch.

Vintage Base Ball

If you don’t care for the current style of baseball, perhaps this will be more to your liking.

Former major league pitcher Jim Bouton announced Thursday the launch of an organization that will play by 19th century rules: The Vintage Base Ball Federation. Yup, back then baseball was two words.

It will be six balls for a walk, and a foul ball won’t count as a strike – unless it’s caught, in which case the batter will be out. A foul ball caught on a bounce counts for an out, and a hit batter is only a ball, with no base awarded.

Gloves will be tiny, bat handles will be thick and the ball – that’s right, one ball will be used per game unless it falls apart or is lost – will be dead. There aren’t any pitcher’s mounds, and there’s no such thing as a balk on pickoff attempts.

In a mixture of sport and theater, umpires must be addressed as “sir.” Fans – called “cranks” – will be encouraged to wear period costumes, so ladies get out those flowered hats and gentlemen doff your straw boaters.

Amateur baseball and softball teams are invited to join the VBBF.


“The game the way it was meant to be played,” Bouton said during a news conference at Delmonico’s, a restaurant that opened in 1836. “No batting gloves, helmets, wristbands, elbow pads, shin guards, sunglasses. No arguing with the umpire. No stepping out of the batter’s box. No charging the pitcher or posing at home plate. No curtain-calling, chest-thumping or high-fiving. Just baseball.”

Well, at least it’s not Baby Boomer-inspired nostalgia for all things 1950s and 60s. The most recent edition of the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract gives a good, concise feel for how baseball was played and by whom back in the ancient days. It’s a perfectly valid way to play the game, and I daresay people will find it interesting both as a novelty and on its own merits, but it has no more claim on being “the way it was meant to be played” than any other era has. For my money, this is like baseball version of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, with its utter romanticism of a past that wasn’t particularly pretty.

While the Hartford Senators have a team spittoon, gambling will be prohibited – 19th century baseball was marked by alleged fixed games.

“The 1880s and ’90s were characterized by very rough play and ill-mannered conduct toward umpires and opponents and spectators,” said John Thorn, a board member who serves on the 19th Century research committee of the Society for American Baseball Research.

You can dress up in period costumes all you like, but the game of baseball at that time was filled with ruffians and gamblers. And of course you can’t talk about 1880s baseball without discussing the origins of the game’s organized racism, which began when future Hall of Famer Cap Anson refused to play against a team that featured Fleet Walker.

Obviously, the goal of the Vintage Base Ball Foundation is to evoke the positive things from that era, and to provide a contrast to what it sees as an artificial and commercial game now. Which is fine, if a bit naive about the actual history of the game. I personally prefer to remember that the good old days weren’t always good. To each his own. Thanks to Matt for sending me this link.

Casey on Radnofsky

Well, I don’t know if the headline is one that you’d want, but overall I’d say Rick Casey wrote a pretty complimentary column about Barbara Radnofsky and her Senate campaign. He certainly mentioned a lot of the things she likes to talk about, so do go and read it. One point to discuss at the end:

[S]he may well surprise a lot of people by making it into a respectable race.

And if she does, and if the “perfect storm” of Iraq and a flagging economy gathers more force in the next two years, she may well be in a position to muster a lot more resources for a 2008 race against Texas’ junior and more polarizing senator, John Cornyn.

I don’t know who it will be, but I feel pretty confident that someone will be able to mount a reasonably well-financed run against the Box Turtle man. I don’t care to speculate about who that might be, since among other things I’m too focused on 2006 to have given it much thought, but I expect it to happen. Too far off to worry about now, but file it away for later.

Tom DeLay: Still unclear on the concept

From the “I Fought The Law (And The Law Won)” files, I bring you the master of denial himself, Tom DeLay.

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said he never thought the courts would prevent the Republican Party from replacing him on the November ballot, a Houston television station reported Thursday.

“I’m very disappointed in our justice system. There doesn’t seem to be justice,” DeLay told KTRK-TV.


DeLay said efforts to replace him on the ballot weren’t “bungled.”

“We read the law and the law is very specific,” he said. “You’re ineligible if you die, have committed a felony and are convicted of a felony, if you are not mentally capable of serving or if you’ve moved out of the state.”


DeLay said he doesn’t have second thoughts about his decision to resign from Congress and give GOP leaders a chance to replace him on the ballot.

“Knowing what I know now, I don’t think I would have done it any differently because I read Texas law, I knew what Texas law was,” he told the television station.

Remember how on Happy Days the Fonz was physically incapable of saying the words “I was wrong”? DeLay is like that, minus the perfect hairdo, good looks in a leather jacket, and ability to turn on a jukebox by hitting it with his fist. This is your brain on too much lobbyist money, kids. Pay heed or wind up looking like that.

Paul Burka thinks the result is the ultimate expression of Justice. I couldn’t agree more.

Good news on the I-45 front

Via his spiffy new Chron blog, Marty Hajovsky brings some good news about the planned expansion of I-45.

[Jim Weston, president of the I-45 Coalition] also said that after years of back and forth on the Interstate 45 question, the department is investigating an expansion plan that would not significantly impact the Woodland Heights.

The department is expected to announce a series of what they call “scoping meetings” with interested parties sometime before the end of the year in order to garner public input.

“All indications are that they are not going to need additional right of way for this expansion except for two possible areas: the intersection of I-45 and North Main (where an Exxon station and McDonald’s restaurant are right now) and the curve at Little York north of Loop 610,” Weston said.

“They’re doing environmental studies right now, which basically comes down to vibration and impact on historic buildings and sites. The studies are nothing about air quality or the effects of increased traffic, which is what most people think about with ‘environmental.’

“Nothing is for sure until they get through this phase, but it looks positive.”

Weston said one idea being studied is to expand the freeway underneath the existing service roads and then cantilever them over the highway.

“That’s one of the things that they’re studying right now, whether that’s feasible, the costs of it, etc.,” Weston said. “The I-45 Coalition did a study in May and concluded that the community wouldn’t be opposed to getting rid of those things, the service roads, entirely. Right now, there’s no service road farther south than North Main anyway. The neighborhood doesn’t really want to keep the service roads if we have to lose part of the neighborhood to have them.”

In response, Henry wrote a letter to Weston last week saying the study will be a reference as the design process proceeds. But he also said the department will either have to stay within the existing right of way or eliminate the frontage roads, but not both. He wrote that access to the frontage road is “a property right.”

“On IH 45 in this section, the adjacent property owners own the access rights,” Henry wrote. “To buy the access rights from a private property owner, we are required to have a valid transportation need that can stand up in court. This usually means acquiring the property to expand the roadway and buying the access rights.”

Weston said the final design is not here yet, so no one’s breathing easy, but the initial signs are encouraging for the Woodland Heights at least.

“Until the final design happens, nothing is for sure,” he said. “When we get that, the public will be informed and we’ll have the right to give input. But yes, we can do it without impacting the neighborhood.”

Music to my ears. Kudos all around for finding a way to make this happen in a neighborhood-friendly way. And just as a reminder, that urban transit corridor planning meeting I’ve talked about is today.

By the way, Weston sent me a copy of the document they created at that design workshop back in May. You can check it out here (Word doc) if you’d like. Skip ahead to page 13 for a discussion of the North Main/Houston Avenue interchange, which is in desperate need of a complete overhaul.

Wider smoking ban may be on the way

Didn’t get to this yesterday: Remember last year when a compromise ban on smoking in restaurant dining areas but not bars was enacted? Well, it looks like that ban will be extended to include bars, thanks to the unexpected support of the Greater Houston Restaurant Association.

“We want to make sure that (the ban) is fair across the board,” said Carl Walker, president of the Restaurant Association and owner of Brennan’s of Houston. “Let’s just don’t focus on restaurants only.”

That position is new for the group; last year, it supported the city’s push for a partial ban. But without a comprehensive ban, bars have a competitive edge over restaurants, Walker said.

Since the ban likely will be strengthened in some way, Walker said, he and other restaurant owners would prefer it apply to all food and drink establishments, even if that means patrons in the bar areas of their restaurants no longer are allowed to smoke.

City law now allows smoking in bars as long as operators of restaurants that include bars take measures to keep smoke from drifting into dining areas. It also allows smoking on outdoor patios, which the Restaurant Association hopes would still be allowed.


The case for extending the ban was bolstered in July by a report by the U.S. surgeon general, who called for completely smoke-free workplaces.

“I think that took it to another level,” said Councilwoman Carol Alvarado, who chairs the public health committee and supports strengthening the ordinance. “That has, I think, brought a broader coalition of people together.”

The full council will consider a new ordinance, which has not yet been drafted, after the two committee hearings, she said.

Interesting. I’m happy to see this happen, though somewhat ambivalent about forcing it to happen legislatively. I’ll be curious to see how the bar owners react to this development.

Speaking of which, HandStamp comes out in favor of a smoke-free bar scene.

I’m all for a smoking ban in Houston bars. I hate breathing in your cigarette smoke when I’m within the confining, unbreathing walls of Rudyard’s. I hate having to come home and wash my hair just so that I can sleep without continuing to smell that filthy habit. Most importantly, I hate that I might be sacrificing my health just so I can see a band. I love live music, but I don’t want to give my life for it.

Boy howdy, Rudz is as bad as it gets, smokewise. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I was at a Spankers show there awhile back when the smoke got so bad, the band (almost all of whom smoke) actually asked everyone to refrain from lighting up for awhile.

The retort I hear from so many smokers is, “if you don’t like the smoke, leave the bar.” But I’m at the bar to see the band, I paid money to see the band, I’m not really there for the bar. And a lot of folks at the bar aren’t there for the music, they’re at the bar to smoke and talk and drink. Who gets the right of way in this situation? Will we be forced to divide music venues from the bars? It seems like such a good relationship in theory, but if the bar patrons insist on smoking and talking and live music listeners insist on breathing, how can we coexist?

Well, to use the case of Rudz again, the bar is downstairs and the stage is upstairs, so in theory you could smoke ’em if you’re there just to drink. I wouldn’t object to that. At a place like the Mucky Duck, where the only place to be during a show that won’t cost you admission is the outdoors patio, there’s no issue. (The Duck is also smoke-free now anyway; they tried a partial smoke-free solution some years ago, and apparently it was a success.)

Question for my Austin readers: Since that city passed a smoking ban over the outraged howls of the music scene, are the bars any less crowded? Have any gone out of business? Or has everyone gotten over it and adjusted to the new reality?