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December 1st, 2009:

Liveblogging tonight’s Mayoral debate

No, not me. David Ortez, over at Hair Balls. It’s just getting underway now. I’m sure Twitter will be lighting up with commentary as well, so head over there or run for the hills, as the case may be.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story on the debate, which not surprisingly was rather heated. Of interest:

During a heated 10 or 15 minutes in which the two were allowed to ask each other questions, Locke accused Parker of making an attack she knew to be baseless. He said he pledged to resign his partnership at the law firm Andrews Kurth at a forum in which she was present eight months ago.

“I’m going to give up my law practice,” he said.

She has repeatedly called on him to pledge that he will not return to the firm after his time as mayor, a step he has not yet taken.

At another point, Locke claimed never to have been a lobbyist, a statement that appears to be inaccurate. According to Texas Ethics Commission records, he was registered in 1999 as a lobbyist for the sports authority. Houston Chronicle archives also show that Locke was retained along with a variety of consultants to help a company win a lucrative airport concession contract.

The TEC records are here; search for “Locke, Gene L.” and you’ll find him. Here’s a link to the Chron archive story mentioned, with the key graf:

The Hudson Group includes businessman and concessionaire Gerald Wilson; entrepreneur Art Lopez, who also operates golf courses for the city; engineer Bobby Singh; and Brooks & Brooks, a company co-owned by Harlan Brooks of Harlan’s Bar-B-Que. Lobbying on their behalf are Andrews & Kurth attorney Gene Locke and consultant Kathryn McNeil.

So there you have it. More comments on the debate are in Miya’s post, with more on related matters from Martha and Nancy Sims.

Runoff EV report, Day Two

The early vote spreadsheet has now been updated to include Day Two. Short story, about the same number of in person votes, fewer mail ballots returned, two day total of 17,480. Again, not too shabby considering the crappy weather. Maybe folks just want to get it done. For comparison to 2003, here’s Bradley Olson’s spreadsheet, which has the day by day totals. For whatever the reason, there were two full weeks of early voting in 2003, compared to only nine days this year, and the mail ballots returned look wonky, so a direct comparison isn’t possible. But at least now you know.

UPDATE: More from Olson and KUHF.

What the others are saying about Hotze’s endorsement

So here’s the Chron coverage of the Hotze endorsement. Of the many things I find unfathomable about this, here’s the item at the top of the list.

Kris Banks, president of Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus, which has endorsed Parker, questioned why Locke did not distance himself from Hotze.

“He came to us seeking our endorsements, saying he thinks same-sex couples should have legal recognition and the city should have domestic partnerships,” Banks said in a statement to the Chronicle. “I cannot believe he has not repudiated this piece yet. It’s very disappointing and makes us question his ability to treat all Houstonians with respect.”

Martha has examined Locke’s earnestly pro-gay rights answers on candidate questionnaires before. What I want to know is, when Locke met with Hotze and asked for his endorsement, did Hotze know or care about any of that? Or was the fact that Locke wasn’t the gay candidate good enough for him? I know, I know, I cannot understand the logic of a madman like Hotze. But I’d like to understand Locke’s logic. How could he think this was okay? I don’t get it, I just don’t get it.

Anyway. How about the other “beneficiaries” of Hotze’s curse blessing? We already know about Stephen Costello, who quickly rejected Hotze’s endorsement. I’ve seen some of my compatriots be cynical of that, and while I understand that sentiment, I don’t share it. I give Costello full marks for doing the right thing.

Councilman M.J. Khan, who faces fellow councilman Ronald Green in a runoff for City Controller, said he had never been interviewed or screened by anyone associated with Hotze. Khan said he wants the support of all Houstonians, but rejects intolerance and wants to be judged solely on his record and qualifications.

[…]

[Jack] Christie, who is challenging Councilwoman Jolanda Jones for the council’s at-large 5 seat, said that when he found out about Hotze’s intentions to send an endorsement mailer, he called Bruce Hotze, Steven’s brother, and told him he did not want to be included.

I give Christie an A, too. Khan’s response is weaker, but if he really never did meet with Hotze then it’s still better than Locke’s. See how easy this is if you never dance with the devil in the first place?

Al Hoang, who is locked in a runoff for District F with Mike Laster, said he was proud to have Hotze’s endorsement. Andrew C. Burks, who is running against Councilwoman Sue Lovell, said he welcomed anyone’s endorsement in the race.

I was always supporting Mike Laster, who’s a great guy and someone I’ve been acquainted with for years, but in case you needed a reason, there you have it. As for Burks, all I can say is that this is exactly the kind of response I’d expect from a perennial candidate. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Brenda Stardig, who is running for an open seat in District A against Lane Lewis and also was endorsed by Hotze, could not be reached for comment.

Maybe she has a secret plan to deal with it. I kid, but apparently Stardig will be a no-show at the candidate forum this evening, so she’s not making herself very visible right now.

Did I mention that we’re facing a revenue shortfall?

In case I haven’t beaten this horse beyond recognition yet, the stimulus money really saved our budgetary bacon this year, and without something equally dramatic, we are so screwed in 2011.

“It was a deficit budget as written,” said Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), who chaired the Appropriations subcommittee on Education.

As soon as legislators knew how much money the state would have to spend, they realized the state was about $4 billion short of covering the proposed costs.

The federal stimulus money came to the rescue. In addition to the one-time expenditures typically associated with stimulus — roads, buildings, etc. — the Legislature also used the money to cover ongoing costs, particularly for education and health and human services.

But in order to avoid cutting education money next session, legislators will have to find a way to make up for this year’s missing education money as well as the money for growth.

“We sort of had a $5 billion hole that we covered with $8 billion of stimulus money,” said Dale Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association.

[…]

“Primarily the stimulus in Texas was used to just move dollars around and you didn’t have the level of benefit that the stimulus was designed to create,” says Rep. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco), chair of the Select Committee on the Federal Economic Stabilization Funding, the formal name for the stimulus money.

Dunnam argues that the Legislature created a deficit in education when it was actually spread throughout the budget.

If he’s right, that may prove to be a problem for educators. Next session, legislators will have to find a way to balance the budget, and this time, they’ll probably be without a stimulus package. Basic costs in education will be even higher as more kids join the ranks of students.

I’ll say it again, because I never get tired of saying it. The simplest solution to this problem is to roll back the unaffordable, irresponsible property tax cuts of 2006 that guaranteed we’d have a structural deficit in the budget for years to come. Given the creation of the business margins tax, we can probably get away with rolling back only a part of the property tax cut, so that there would still be a net reduction in rate. But that fifty-cent reduction was and is a complete budget-buster, and it has to be tamed. There’s no other truly viable option.

But wait! I hear you cry. What about the rainy day fund? That could cover the shortfall for 2011, and if we’re lucky we’ll have grown our way out of the problem by 2013. Putting aside the need for a supermajority to tap into the RDF, there’s a teensy weensy problem with this: The rainy day fund is smaller than you think.

[Texas Comptroller Susan] Combs revised her estimate for the so-called rainy day fund to $8.2 billion, down from her January projection of $9.1 billion.

The primary culprit is falling natural gas prices, which will lead to less production and thus less tax revenue.

Guess we better start hoping harder. Phillip has more.

Quan considering a run for County Judge

Miya has the story.

Former City Council Member Gordon Quan is THISCLOSE to throwing his hat in the ring for Harris County Judge. I heard the rumors a few days ago, but confirmed with Quan this morning.

[…]

When we spoke earlier today, I asked him what prompted him to consider challenging Ed Emmett. He replied, “Well, I’m thinking it’s now, or never.” However, Quan was quick to point out that this is not a “done deal.” He’s getting legal opinions on what relationship he can maintain with his firm. He’s also looking at the quality of campaign consultants that would be available. In addition, he’s got to convince his family members, who are often tough cookies.

Quan says he will make a decision in the next two weeks on whether or not to jump in the race. If he does, he says he will make a call to Judge Ed Emmett first, as it is the proper thing to do.

I too had been hearing these rumors for awhile. My guess is that the likelihood of Bill White running for Governor, which would presumably be a boost to Democratic turnout in Harris County, was going to push someone into this race, and Quan is at the front of the line if he wants it. If he ultimately decides against running, I do hope someone else of his quality gets in, because of this.

Businessman Ahmad Hassan, who ran in the Democratic primary election for county judge last year, has filed the paperwork appointing a campaign treasurer for another run for county judge.

Like most people, I think Ed Emmett has done a pretty good job as County Judge. But that is a partisan office, and partisan issues do come up, so as a Democrat, I’d rather have a Democratic County Judge. As a resident of Harris County, I want a competent person in that job. I’ll be happy to support a strong Democratic candidate like Gordon Quan if he decides to run. I won’t support a mediocre candidate against Emmett, however. Hassan, who previously ran as a Republican against Sheila Jackson Lee in 2006 and strikes me as a perennial candidate in the making, doesn’t measure up.

Anyway. Dems still need a candidate for County Treasurer against Orlando Sanchez. I’ve heard several names for that race, including 2006 candidate Richard Garcia, but have not heard anything new on this in a few weeks, so who knows where it stands right now. The filing period opens this Friday, the 4th, so we’ll know soon enough.

Controller’s runoff overview

Here’s the Chron overview of the Controller’s runoff. Two points of interest to note. One is what presence, if any, the two candidates will have on the airwaves.

Tactically, both campaigns said they intend to focus on direct-mail, block-walking and other field operations and will produce TV ads if they raise enough money to do so. Campaign finance reports show that [Ronald] Green had raised about $128,000 and had about $38,000 on hand as of late October; [MJ] Khan had raised about $139,000 and had $31,000 on hand.

We’ll get to see the eight days out reports on Friday, so we ought to have an idea then if either one’s hope to get on TV is realistic. I believe Khan’s TV advertising, and the fact that he was the only one of the Controller candidates to really do any TV advertising, was a big factor in getting him into the runoff. I don’t know if any of that will carry over in the absence of further ads or if a new round will be needed.

Khan’s wife owns a 10,000-square-foot house in Piney Point Village, a small Memorial area municipality, with a market value estimated at almost $3.8 million by the Harris County Appraisal District. Khan and his wife jointly own a southwest Houston condominium valued at $77,000, which Khan says is his residence.

Yeah, I’d totally live by myself in the dinky condo instead of with my wife in the multimillion dollar mansion, too. As you know, I don’t consider residency issues too greatly when it comes to evaluating candidates. Khan’s setup certainly meets the legal requirements. But when you put it this way it really does look ridiculous.

The real reason Governor Perry keeps his travels secret

I think this sums it all up right here.

The governor’s Oct. 24 political trip to Las Vegas to meet with Brian Sandoval, a Republican candidate for Nevada governor, included a bachelor party for Perry’s son, Griffin, spokesman Mark Miner conceded Thursday.

He initially declined to call it a bachelor’s party, saying he would describe it more as a dinner. He confirmed, though, that it was a celebration of Griffin Perry’s upcoming nuptials joined by a number of his male friends.

Miner said he didn’t know how many people attended the dinner and couldn’t provide details about any other festivity, saying he wasn’t there.

So don’t even bother asking about the strippers. That’s need to know only, and you don’t need to know.