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October 12th, 2009:

Brown’s fourth ad

Team Peter maintains the air assault:

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

Khan goes on the air

We knew it was coming, and now here we have MJ Khan’s first TV ad.

It’s…okay. Unlike Greg, I think Pam Holm’s ad, which was strong up until the last few seconds, was better. The presentation in Khan’s ad, with the three “average citizens” expressing their preference for Khan’s candidacy, is a bit hokey, but I can live with that. The real issue I have is that Khan’s main argument is that he’s the best qualified candidate for the office – just review his interview and you’ll see what I mean – yet he barely touches on why this is so in the ad. What exactly are his qualifications and why are they superior to his opponents? Well, there’s something about zero-based budgeting in the ad – how many folks know what that is? – and that’s about it. I realize this is a 30-second spot and he has to introduce himself first, but I feel like this ad doesn’t really give me a reason to vote for MJ Khan, whereas Pam Holm’s ad did do that. What do you think?

More heat on Perry over the Forensic Science Commission

The Chicago Tribune provides further evidence that gutting of the Texas Forensic Science Commission was all about politics.

Just months before the controversial removal of three members of a state commission investigating the forensics that led to a Texas man’s 2004 execution, top aides to Gov. Rick Perry tried to pressure the chairman of the panel over the direction of the inquiry, the chairman has told the Tribune.

Samuel Bassett, whom Perry replaced on the Texas Forensic Science Commission two weeks ago, said he twice was called to meetings with Perry’s top attorneys. At one of those meetings, Bassett said he was told they were unhappy with the course of the commission’s investigation.

“I was surprised that they were involving themselves in the commission’s decision-making,” Bassett said. “I did feel some pressure from them, yes. There’s no question about that.”

You need to read the whole thing, because it just gets worse for our only Governor. Combine this with the Chron story from Sunday about Perry stonewalling attempts to release information about what he and his staff did with the report Gerald Hurst prepared prior to Cameron Todd Willingham’s execution, and there’s a whole lot of heat being brought. Sooner or later, something’s got to give.

Now turn the clock back to August, when the Beyler report was released, and imagine a world in which Governor Perry accepted its findings, admitted to his role in the wrongful execution, and gave a speech that said while he still believes in and is committed to the death penalty, he will now dedicate himself to making sure that the system works as it is supposed to so that we’ll never again need to ask these questions after an inmate is put to death. Do you think he’d be in a better position politically than he is now if he did that, or worse? It’s not a completely obvious question, since his first priority is the Republican primary, and the voters there don’t really care about trivia like this, but I don’t think this would cost him many votes with that crowd. It might even make him look statesmanlike, and would bolster him in the general election. Now, it’s certainly true that he can and indeed will be favored to prevail in both March and November next year even given his ham-handed behavior. But I don’t think history is going to be too kind to him at this point. Maybe he doesn’t care about that, I don’t know. All I can say is that if he does, it’s too late to do anything about it now. BOR, The Contrarian, Grits, and TPM have more.

Interview with Gene Locke

Gene Locke

Gene Locke

And we come to the end of the campaign interview season for 2009 with a conversation with each of the three leading contenders for Mayor. First up is Gene Locke, a native of East Texas and longtime resident of Houston who earned degrees from UH and South Texas College of Law. Locke has been in public service for many years, as Chief of Staff to the late Congressman Mickey Leland, City Attorney under Mayor Bob Lanier, the first Chair of the HCC Board of Trustees, and more. He was involved in the negotiations for all three publicly-funded sports stadiums, and has been special counsel to the Port of Houston and Metro. Locke is currently a partner at the firm of Andrews Kurth. He is married to Aubrey Sampson Locke.

Download the MP3 file.


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

Spending on voter outreach: At Large races

I did this exercise for the Controller’s race last week, let’s see now what we can learn about the four contested At Large Council races. First, At Large #1:

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Karen Derr 88.32 Advertising (Allen Jamail) Karen Derr 298.70 Advertising (Allen Jamail) Karen Derr 50.00 Advertising (GHWCC) Karen Derr 358.30 Printing Karen Derr 386.99 Yard Signs Karen Derr 3,772.51 Yard Signs Herman Litt 849.76 Yard Signs Herman Litt 2,530.08 Stationery, pushcards, invitations Herman Litt 388.70 Campaign T-shirts Herman Litt 784.81 Yard signs Herman Litt 1,001.31 4x4 campaign signs S Costello 150.00 GHWCC luncheon/literature table S Costello 1,037.04 T-shirts S Costello 297.42 4x4 campaign signs S Costello 584.00 Campaign stickers & T-shirts S Costello 584.00 Campaign stickers & T-shirts S Costello 2,189.28 Yard signs S Costello 2,000.00 Yard signs R Rodriguez 60.00 Advertising (Rusk Athletic Club) R Rodriguez 180.00 Advertising (HBAD) R Rodriguez 4,140.56 Yard signs R Rodriguez 576.18 Signs L Allsbrooks 5,000.00 Signs and printing L Allsbrooks 2,000.00 Flyers and brochures

Lots of signs, yard and otherwise. In my neck of the woods, Derr and Allsbrooks signs predominate, with Rick Rodriguez a distant third, though farther north and east you’ll see more of them. I’ve seen a few scattered Litt and Costello signs, but clearly haven’t driven through their strongholds. Given Costello’s cash on hand advantage, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t do mail, or some kind of media buy.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Sue Lovell 11,668.00 Citywide survey Andrew Burks 551.00 Push cards Andrew Burks 156.96 Magnetic signs Rozzy Shorter 375.00 Campaign literature Rozzy Shorter 77.80 Campaign literature Rozzy Shorter 120.00 Flyers Rozzy Shorter 823.00 Signs Griff Griffin 68.00 Printing Griff Griffin 477.00 T-shirts Griff Griffin 324.00 Signs Griff Griffin 1,081.00 Food and drink

Another poll I’d love to see but probably never will. I’m somewhat surprised to not see any expenditures for signs or mail or anything like that for Lovell, given that I’m sure she’ll be doing – and will need to do – these things, and can afford them. Perhaps the signage expenses were in the July report, and the other stuff will be in the 8 days out report. I’m mentioning Griffin’s food and drink expenses because it’s not clear he’s throwing a party instead of running a campaign. Someone over there must love Subway sandwiches, because there are three entries totaling $266 in purchases of said subs.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Noel Freeman 692.80 Campaign signs CO Bradford 433.29 Campaign signs CO Bradford 1,979.02 Campaign signs CO Bradford 200.00 Campaign print ad (Holy Name Church) CO Bradford 2,121.75 Campaign signs CO Bradford 880.99 Campaign push cards CO Bradford 1,379.00 Campaign doorhangers

Not really much to say here except to observe that despite Bradford’s padded report, he did legitimately raise more money than Freeman, and has more to spend, including more on things like yard signs.

Candidate Amount Purpose ========================================================== Jolanda Jones 1,000.00 Direct mail Jolanda Jones 500.00 Advertising Carlos Obando 1,050.00 Yard signs D Daniels 350.00 Advertising/Marketing D Daniels 1,000.00 Advertising/Marketing D Daniels 2,000.00 Advertising/Marketing

Unclear what “advertising” or “advertising/marketing” means here. Sometimes these reports give a clear picture, as when “advertising” means “I bought an ad in someone’s newspaper/newsletter/program/whatever”, and sometimes, as when it lists an agency as the payee with no further elucidation in the Purpose field, it doesn’t. The only other item of interest in the At Large #5 group was that Carlos Obando appeared to be filling up his gas tank and buying lunch (a few times, anyway) with campaign funds. I didn’t notice anything similar on the other reports.

I’m going to try to wade through the district race candidates’ reports next. I suppose given the generally meager sums people have raised, this is about what we should expect. I’ll be interested to see what the 8 day reports look like – if Sue Lovell doesn’t have some sizable expenditures on it, I’ll be quite puzzled.

Finally, because I don’t know how long it’ll take me to make something of the district race reports, let me take this opportunity to point you to Stace’s post on District E fundraising, and Greg’s research on KA Khan and the questions about where he really lives.

Bye bye, border fence funds

Good riddance.

A provision to build an additional 300 miles of pedestrian fence along the U.S.-Mexico border has been stripped out of a $42.8 billion spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security.

The provision by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., was removed at the behest of House members from Texas, Arizona and California who called the fencing a waste of taxpayer money and an ineffective way to secure the border.

“We need to invest and secure our border and our land ports without being tied down to an amendment that is out of touch with border needs,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who spearheaded the effort to remove the provision DeMint tucked into a Senate spending bill earlier this year.

I’m not the biggest fan of Rep. Cuellar, but this is exactly the sort of thing I’d hoped he do once the Democrats got in the majority. Good on him, and on Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, for listening to their constituents.

Moody to run for Supreme Court again

Good news for Democratic statewide prospects.

A veteran state district judge who walked across Texas three years ago in pursuit of a seat on the state Supreme Court plans to go airborne next year for another shot at the high court.

Judge Bill Moody, of El Paso, plans to charter a blimp and make two daily stops in the state’s 70 most populated counties to grab the attention of voters. An amateur historian, Moody says no Texan has campaigned from a blimp before, although Lyndon Johnson created a buzz by using a helicopter during his 1948 U.S. Senate campaign.

The blimp idea came to Moody during a walk in the hot sun near the Johnson ranch east of Fredericksburg.

“I saw a blimp flying through the sky, and I said, ‘There might be an easier way to do this and to get out the message,’ ” he said Thursday from the state Capitol. “The blimp is important as a messaging tool.”

A Democrat, he hopes to break into the nine-member, all-Republican court.

Moody was the leading votegetter among Dems in 2006, collecting 1,877,909 tallies in a 51-45 loss to appointed Justice Don Willett. He collected a lot of newspaper endorsements along the way, which I believe helped him. Two Democratic judicial candidates from 2008 – Sam Houston and Susan Strawn – received a higher percentage of the vote than Moody did in 2006, so with his name ID and qualifications, he has a real shot next year.

Individual workers, home owners and consumers have lost nearly every case before the court when opposed by insurance and pharmaceutical companies, Moody said.

“These large political contributors have been so overpowering and loud in exercising their speech and influence before the Republican court that everyone else’s voices have been drowned out,” he said.

If you want to know who those big contributors are and who their beneficiaries were in the last election, read this report (PDF) from Texans for Public Justice.

According to Postcards (whose individual entry link is broken), Moody will run against Justice Paul Green. I don’t know yet who will run for the seat that was vacated by Justice Scott Brister, which has now been filled by Justice Eva Guzman of the 14th Texas Court of Appeals, but I’m sure someone will. For that matter, I’m sure someone will run against Guzman and whoever her appointed replacement is on the 14th Court in the Republican primary as well. And I know that whoever wins that latter primary will face Tim Riley, who ran against Tom DeLay in CD22 back in 2002, in the general election. I think that about covers it.

Eat your veggies, kids

Texas school children don’t have sufficiently healthy diets. I know, I can’t believe it, either.

Only 8 percent of Texas teens are eating enough fruits and vegetables, a new report finds, despite efforts to stock school cafeterias with healthier foods.

Nine out of 10 American high schoolers are short on fruits and veggies, which is only a slightly better rate than their Texas counterparts, according to a survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The recommended daily minimum is more than two cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit.

The findings come from a 2007 national survey of about 14,000 high school students. The report’s results were culled from six questions involving whether students drank fruit juices, ate fruit or green salad, carrots or other vegetables in the prior week.

The true percentage of teens eating enough fruits and vegetables may be even lower than the survey found, said Houston child nutrition researcher Tom Baranowski.

“The fact that it’s not assessing all components of fruits and vegetables may mean it’s overestimating,” said Baranowski, a pediatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine who works for the Children’s Nutrition Research Center.


In 2004, then-Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs set a public school nutrition policy that restricted fried and fatty foods but required more healthful offerings including daily fruits and veggies. This year’s updates to the law required schools to eliminate deep-fat frying as of Aug. 1 and restrict candy sales to after school.

Still, teens have more opportunities to eat what they want, which is why the survey results don’t surprise Sonya Kaster, a registered dietician and school nutrition specialist. She also consults at The Oliver Foundation, which aims to prevent childhood obesity.

“They are more in control of what they are eating than younger children,” Kaster said of today’s teenagers.

That’s why the Houston-based foundation focuses most of its efforts on elementary students, instead of trying to persuade older kids to break unhealthy habits.

Good luck with that, because speaking from my own experience, that control is more illusory and shorter-lasting than you might think. Audrey still eats everything I send to school with her, but Olivia is much more likely to simply not eat portions of her lunch, as she knows that she’ll be getting snacks later in the day both at kindergarten from a rotating schedule of class parents, and also at after-school care. On the plus side, she’s become a fan of the school lunches, which do include fruits and vegetables, so we let her buy them a couple days a week. Not perfect, and I don’t think she eats as well now as she did in preschool when we had essentially full control over her choices, but it’ll have to do.