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June 28th, 2008:

Another Lyceum poll

Those Texas Lyceum folks have been busy lately, first with their Senate poll, and now with an early peek at the 2010 Governor’s race.

Robert Black, spokesman for [Governor Rick Perry], dismissed the Texas Lyceum Poll results, saying, “Any poll that tries to forecast any kind of results two years from an election isn’t worth a whole lot.”

[…]

Perry has said he wants to continue his streak by winning another term in 2010, but the poll for the non-profit Texas Lyceum group gave a strong advantage to Hutchison, who’s expected to run for governor.

Among all respondents, 35 percent said they were likely to support Hutchison in a GOP contest, and 22 percent backed Perry, with other possible candidates dividing the rest. Among a subgroup of GOP voters, Hutchison drew 50 percent to 23 percent for Perry.

The poll shows “how difficult it is to be a governor,” said Daron Shaw, poll director and associate professor in the government department at the University of Texas at Austin. “Perry has to take lots of positions and get out in front on public policy issues. Senators can be a little more selective.”

The poll of 1,000 Texans has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

You can see the poll memo here (PDF); they also did a poll on transportation issues, which you can see here (PDF). For once I have to agree with Robert Black (and also with Greg, though that’s not unusual). It’s just not possible that this poll can tell us anything very specific at this early date. Now a straight-up “Do you want to see Governor Perry run for re-election in 2010” question, that would have been something. This, not so much. All I’ll say about the Bill White numbers is that much closer to the 2003 election than we are now to 2010, lots of people – myself included – were comparing him to George Greanias. Never underestimate someone who can raise funds and hire good people.

More on the Lyceum poll

In my earlier post about that Texas Lyceum poll, I wondered about the partisan ratio that the pollster used. I see now that Harvey Kronberg is on the case.

In response to our query, Lyceum pollster Daron R. Shaw sent us the following explanation:

“We use a likely voter screen consisting of the following:

1. self-reported registration
2. interest in the election (somewhat or extremely)
3. voting behavior over past two years (almost all or every election).

“This gets the 1,000 person sample down to 478. The party breakdown for the LV population is 42%R-42%D. Democrats are more prominent in this estimated electorate than they have been in recent years due to their relatively high levels of interest and self-reported recent voting. We could have weighted this to a 6-8 point Republican advantage, but judged it best to simply report the numbers and be clear about the underlying party breakdown. Do we believe Democrats will maintain their “enthusiasm” edge over the Republicans and make these elections close in the fall? History is against them. But given recent trends nationally and the engagement attitudes expressed in the poll, it seems imprudent to weight the data back to expected party turnout.

“Let me be clear; the internals show little to no cross-over voting. Obama (and Noriega) are not getting Republicans. They have locked down almost all Democrats, though. This is a snap-shot whose predictive value is highly contingent. Democratic candidates need to have a huge Democratic turnout, along with lukewarm Republican turnout, to get the numbers we show here on Election Day.”

Very interesting, once again showing the potential for the Obama strategy in Texas. We know he’s capable of turning out non-traditional voters; if that pattern is maintained for the general election, we will wake up in a very different world on November 5. It also makes me wonder what the raw numbers are that Baselice is getting. Is he weighing things to get the partisan gap he expects, or is he still seeing that gap without any tinkering? Maybe he’ll address that in a future poll.

Senate shenanigans

The Lone Star Project highlights another bit of funny bookkeeping from State Sen. Kim Brimer:

Campaign finance records show that Republican State Senator Kim Brimer (SD10 – Fort Worth) has again used campaign contributor funds for personal gain. A complete review of Kim Brimer’s campaign finance forms from 1987 to the present shows that Brimer skimmed at least $37,953 from his campaign account for his personal use. The Lone Star Project discovery of Brimer’s improper, and possibly illegal, repayments resulted from an earlier investigation (PDF) into the Republican Senator’s improper use of campaign cash to purchase a luxury condominium in Austin.

Facts: Phony Loan Scam

Documents filed with the Texas Ethics Commission show that during Brimer’s campaign for the Texas State House in 1987 and 1988, he bilked his campaign for more than $37,000.

  • Brimer loaned his campaign $46,000 during 1987 and 1988
  • Brimer family members loaned the Kim Brimer Campaign an additional $10,000
  • Brimer made a series of payments to himself totaling at least $83,953, reported as “loan repayments,” from 1988 to 1992
  • As a result, Kim Brimer received at least $37,953 more than the amount he loaned himself.
    (Source: Texas Ethics Commission) See Documents Here

Brimer Scandal File Growing

This Brimer campaign loan scam comes on the heels of a Lone Star Project report and Fort Worth Star-Telegram article detailing how Kim Brimer used donations to his campaign to make bogus “rent” payments to his wife. The “rent” payments and the profits from the sale of the luxury condo netted Brimer more than $357,000.

You almost have to admire the entrepreneurship needed to come up with a scheme like this. If only such creative thinking were used to solve the school finance problem. Or rising insurance rates, which have gotten Brimer’s attention somewhat belatedly. See the extended entry for a press release from the Wendy Davis campaign for more on that.

Meanwhile, the Texas Conservative Review has a long article on the “real reasons behind State Sen. Kyle Janek’s resignation” in SD17. This is not an unbiased source, as TCR publisher Gary Polland lost to Janek in a GOP primary for the SD17 seat in 2002, but it’s an interesting read, and offers a further clue that the seat is ripe for a Democratic pickup this year with the right candidate in the race. Check it out.

(more…)

Gray on Kirby

The Chron’s Lisa Gray makes a pitch for saving at least some of the doomed trees along Kirby Drive.

The street is a major thoroughfare, a big deal in and of itself. And even more important, it presents the kind of challenge that Houston has to learn to deal with. It’s obvious, driving past Kirby’s current spate of high-rise construction, that we’re becoming a different kind of city: tighter packed, more urban than suburban, a city with light rail and pedestrians.

A different kind of city needs a different kind of street — a street that we’re not used to designing.

She wrote this column after Trees for Houston made a public appeal last Friday to change the plan for Kirby Drive.

Founder of Trees for Houston William Coats told the media Friday morning his organization probably made a mistake in endorsing a compromise to make Kirby Drive 73 feet wide before seeing engineering plans.

As a result, he said, only speedy action on the part of the city of Houston can save about 135 trees standing between Westheimer Road and Richmond Avenue from being removed when construction on the Kirby Storm Drainage project begins, probably in July.

“Good people correct mistakes,” Coats said, gesturing from the patio of Beck’s Prime in the 2900 block to several trees the group had marked with red X’s to symbolize each would be removed.

Coats comments came almost three weeks after he told a group attending the Upper Kirby District TIRZ 28 that Trees of Houston wanted the width of the proposed street surface reduced by a foot on either side.

[…]

Coats said Friday half the trees along the disputed stretch of street could have been saved in a 73-foot configuration, if the engineering plans had been drawn “in any way that is sympathetic” to the trees.

“Most of the time, we don’t say a word,” he said of trees lost during city projects. “In this case, the citizens will pay for taking the trees down unnecessarily.”

Coats said trees the size of the larger ones in the area would cost at least $25,000 to replace but that would be impossible, because there would be no room for the root balls to be planted.

“We want to have shade as we are enjoying here today,” he said.

It may be too late, but if you feel strongly about this, it’s never a bad idea to contact your City Council member and let him or her know that you’d like to see more of an effort made to save these trees. Contact info is here.