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December 6th, 2009:

Runoff EV report, Day 7

We’ve had one full week of early voting, with two twelve-hour days to go. As you can see on the spreadsheet, today was the slowest day, with 2,600 voters showing up, giving a total of 43,989 votes. I’ve been remiss in noting the fact that some of these votes are not city of Houston. According to the Johnston report, 96% of the votes were actually Houston votes through the first five days. Assuming the same rate for the weekend, 42,229 of those votes are the ones we care about. So take these figures and adjust accordingly.

Weekend link dump for December 6

No planet status for Pluto, no justice.

Yeah, I can’t believe there hasn’t been one of these before now, either.

Coolio’s kitchen. I got nothin’.

James Garfield is in his rightful place, and all is well with the universe.

The dark side of embedding one’s Twitter feed.

I’ll never look at a Victoria’s Secret catalog in the same way again.

Every once in a while, it’s bracing to be reminded what a bunch of vicious misogynists some political operatives are (via).

Credit card companies would rather keep you in debt till you go bankrupt because they make more money that way.

Ed Gruberman, you must learn patience.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah, patience. How long will that take?” (In case you’re not familiar.)

Ideally, Republicans would love Medicare to death if they could.

RIP, Tommy Heinrich.

Of girls and geeks. And on a tangential note, meet Justine Siegal, the first woman to coach on a men’s professional baseball team.

Does this mean they might stop running those stupid map ads? No? Well, forget it then.

If any of those so-called “deficit hawks” are serious about it, here are some good ideas.

Yes, indeed, let’s dumb things down so our junior Senator is able to understand them.

I love it when Senators get snarky.

If you’ve otherwise mostly avoided the Tiger Woods media frenzy, I recommend reading Charles P. Pierce on the subject.

Parker leads in another poll

It’s a Zogby poll, so don’t get too excited, but that’s still four out of four since Election Day.

While the race for Houston mayor remains too close to call, Parker’s 5.5 percentage point lead stems from advantages among several demographics, including women, whites, Hispanics and self-identified independent voters.

Parker leads with 41.9 percent of the vote, followed by Locke’s 36.4 percent, according to the poll conducted last week by Zogby International. Nearly 18 percent of likely voters remain undecided in the contest, a sign of how fluid the race remains just days before the campaign will come to an end.

“There’s a huge pool of undecided voters and the real question now is which way they split or whether they vote at all,” said John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International, which conducted the poll last week for the Chronicle.

[…]

The results are drawn from a survey of 601 likely Houston voters selected randomly from purchased telephone lists of registered voters. The margin of error is 4.1 percentage points.

OK, here’s the thing. By this point, we have a pretty strong idea about who is actually participating in this election, and who is not. According to the analysis Kyle Johnston has done, 92% of the people who had voted through the first five days of early voting were people who had voted in at least two of the last three general elections. As such, any sample that doesn’t match this just isn’t going to be accurate. I seriously doubt there are that many undecideds among those who really are going to vote.

Now, I don’t know which candidate would benefit from a truer sample of likely voters, though I’m sure both of the campaigns themselves do. It may be that it all comes out in the wash. But I just don’t get the reluctance, if that’s what it is, of pollsters like Zogby to pre-screen in a more realistic manner. I mean, it’s not like this runoff is out of line with others in terms of who is voting in it. Even if I’m wrong about it not exceeding the general election turnout, we’re still talking something like 20% participation. Why wouldn’t you try to be more selective in who you poll? I just don’t get it.

The crosstabs for this poll are here. As it happens, again going by the Johnston numbers, Zogby is reasonably accurate with some subgroups, less so with others. He’s got about the right number of Republicans and African-Americans, for example, but he’s oversampled Hispanics and Independents, and undersampled Democrats and Anglos. Again, I can’t really say how that might affect this result, but I do think it’s skewed the other race they polled:

In the city controller’s race, City Councilman M.J. Khan leads with 35.4 percent of the vote to his fellow Councilman Ronald Green’s 29.5 percent, with 34.5 percent of voters still undecided.

Khan dominates among Republicans, Green is somewhat less dominant but still strong among Dems, and Khan has a tiny lead among indies. Having more Dems and fewer indies would make this race appear closer, perhaps putting Green in a slight lead. Zogby has it at 43.5D/35.5R/21.0I, when in reality 57% of early voters have a Democratic primary voting history, 32% have a GOP primary voting history, and 11% have no primary voting history. It may be that the runoff is like the general, in that a greater share of Republicans turn out on Election Day than they did during early voting. But I think that was caused in part by the late push from the Harris County GOP for Roy Morales, which I believe turned a number of undecided voters who may have otherwise stayed home into Morales supporters. I say that because of Roy’s third place finish on Election Day itself, where he surpassed Peter Brown. Without a Republican candidate in the Mayor’s race, will there be a similar surge for the runoff? Maybe, but it seems doubtful.

The effect on this in the Mayor’s race is more nebulous. Locke actually led by a tiny amount among Dems, due to his strong lead among African-Americans. Parker led among Anglos, Hispanics, Republicans, and Independents. Replacing some indies and Hispanics with Anglo Dems would likely leave her in about the same position. Hard to say for certain, though.

Anyway. The poll that really matters is going on right now, and we’ll know soon enough whether or not Zogby did any better guessing this outcome than he did the one in November. Martha and Erik have more.

Eight days out finance reports, Parker and Locke

Among other things, Friday was the eight days out campaign finance reporting deadline for the city runoffs. The Chron reports on the Mayoral candidates.

Both sides aggressively asked for volunteers and donors before the Wednesday deadline. Election rules allowed Parker and Locke to go back to donors who gave the $5,000 maximum in the general election for another round, and both did, according to their reports.

[…]

Locke went back to many of the same donors that have fueled his candidacy from the outset, including a who’s who of Houston’s political and business elite. Major donors included former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, METRO Chairman David Wolff, restaurant magnate Tilman Fertitta, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair and ex-Kemah Mayor Bill King.

Employees and the political action committee of the law firm Andrews Kurth, where Locke is a senior partner, donated more than $45,000 to his runoff campaign, and three METRO board members contributed $10,200. Locke had a total of about 800 donors.

Numerous supporters of City Councilman Peter Brown, who endorsed Parker shortly after placing third behind her and Locke on election day, contributed the maximum to the controller.

Her fundraising strength came from more than 3,000 donors, including Continental Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek, philanthropost Nancy Kinder, the Annie’s List political action committee and the Service Employees International Union.

Several major law firms gave the maximum or close to both candidates, a sign they believed the race was too close to call and wanted to hedge their bets, analysts said.

The reports were available as of late Friday evening. Parker’s was 990 pages long, thanks to a huge number of donors, and Locke’s was 312, so my hat is off to Olson for wading through the contributor lists. I didn’t have the fortitude for that, so I concentrated on how they spent their money. I have updated my campaign finance report spreadsheet to include a new tab for the runoff, and this time I tracked loans and various expenditure types on it. Here’s the basic summary for each, followed by how the money was spent:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash ================================================= Parker 1,580,014 1,228,648 30,000 358,449 Locke 1,185,096 1,282,385 0 350,735 Candidate TV Radio Mail Polling Phone Field ================================================================== Parker 692,053 2,855 189,648 36,488 10,000 91,919 Locke 423,709 14,492 121,297 72,068 18,451 223,268

Speaking generally, since I’ll be doing this for all of the runoff campaigns, “TV” includes anything listed as “Media”, which usually indicates a purchase made through a consulting firm. Both it and “Radio” include any listed costs of production. “Mail” does not include separate listings for postage or printing, as I did not assume they necessarily went to a direct mail piece; if they went through a consulting firm, all that is rolled up into the final cost anyway. It does include any expense listed for the Harris County GOP or the Texas Conservative Review, as what’s being bought in those cases is an ad in a mailer they send out. “Polling” is my best guess as to what was paid to a polling firm; it also includes anything that looks like opposition research, since that often gets used in polls. “Phone” is for phonebanking and/or robocalling; it does not include anything that’s obviously landline or cell costs for the campaign. “Field” is very nebulous. Some candidates – Locke and MJ Khan in particular – have extensive field campaigns that includes a lot of paid canvassers. Locke had dozens and dozens of entries for “Field/Payroll” or the like. I did not include those in these tabulations, I just added up the consulting, management, and associated costs like rent and printed materials where it seemed appropriate.

Not all of these expenses are relevant to the runoff. These reports cover the period starting October 26, so a lot of November election expenses can be and are included here. All of Locke’s phone expenses, half of his mail, and one of the three polls he listed were dated November 3 or earlier. Parker had some pre-Election Day expenses listed as well, but it was more noticeable for Locke.

There were other types of expenses as well, which I didn’t list here. That includes things like print and web advertising – Locke had some of each, mostly in community newspapers and on Facebook – and campaign signs; again, Locke had those listed, Parker did not. Most other campaigns did not list any expenditures on signs – in general, all that was done before the November election – but as you might have noticed, a bunch of Locke signs have appeared on overpasses and other public rights-of-way, so there was new spending on that. About $44,000 worth on signs, in fact, plus another $48,000 or so on flyers and other printed campaign materials, which I did not include in the Field total.

Anyway, there you have it. I believe the next finance reporting deadline is January 15, so if you want to know how Parker and Locke (and the rest) spent their remaining cash, you’ll have to wait till then. Erik Vidor has more.

Salvation Army changes its policy

Good for them.

The Salvation Army of Houston will no longer require Social Security numbers from those seeking Christmas gifts, the organization announced today.

“It was never our intention to offend anyone with our registration requirement to provide a Social Security number, or to give the impression that we were discriminating against those individuals and families who do not have a Social Security number,” Major Chris Flanagan, Area Commander for The Salvation Army Greater Houston Area Command said in a statement.

Glad to see it. A statement from State Rep. Carol Alvarado, who had been critical of the previous policy, is beneath the fold. Stace has more.

(more…)

Bye bye, hurricane season

More like this next year would be nice.

The Atlantic hurricane season ended Monday with barely a whimper: Not a single hurricane came ashore in the United States.

Since June, when the season began, just nine named storms developed. Only three of them became hurricanes, and those stayed out at sea or weakened before passing over land.

[…]

The 2009 season was on target with the lower end of forecasters’ predictions. Before the season began June 1, the National Hurricane Center had anticipated nine to 14 storms, with four to seven hurricanes — a prediction that the Miami-based center scaled back slightly in August before the arrival of the season’s first storm, Tropical Storm Ana.

James Franklin, the center’s chief hurricane specialist, credited much of the quiet season to El Nino, the periodic warming of the central Pacific Ocean. El Nino, he said, produced strong winds in the Atlantic that cut down storms before they could develop into hurricanes.

Franklin said forecasters also noticed drier conditions in the atmosphere, which limited the potential for storms.

“Lately we’ve had busy seasons,” Franklin said. “To get a year this quiet, it’s a little bit unusual.”

As Eric Berger, who has a nice map here noted, the recent higher level of activity we’ve seen around here is more in line with historic norms than the long quiet spell we had in the 90s and first few years of this decade. If we’re really lucky, we’ll go back to that quietude for a few more years.