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December 7th, 2009:

A gubernatorial threefer

Debra Medina made her filing for Governor today as well, and she hopes to be allowed in the clubhouse when the big kids get together to play.

“Texans deserve a Governor who is more interested in the needs of Texans,” campaign manager Penny Langford Freeman said in a statement. “We are proud to have a candidate who is listening to the people and offering real solutions for the future of our state.”

Medina, the chair of the Republican Party of Wharton County, wears the “Tea Party” label proudly. According to her website, the central issues of her campaign include eliminating property tax, protecting gun ownership, securing our border, and restoring state sovereignty.

Medina does not have the funds or name recognition of her primary opponents, Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison, but she’s believes there’s more to a campaign than money. She recently told the Tribune, “If we could put a value on the shoe leather and elbow grease that has been applied to this campaign by the same activists that have been leading and attending the tea party and 9/12 events all over the state, we would look very competitive.”


As Medina heads into the fight, she says others — specifically Rick Pery — is running away. The Medina camp released a statement today saying that, when it comes to official debates, “each time we confirm, the governor cancels.”

“That’s just not true,” says Perry spokesman Mark Miner.

Hutchison spokesman Joe Pounder says, “We would welcome Medina’s involvement in the January debate.”

Of course KBH would like Medina to be in any debate. That’s two candidates bashing on Rick Perry instead of one. While I’m skeptical that Medina will have any real effect on this race, I’m sure KBH believes, not unreasonably, that most votes Medina gets will come out of Perry’s hide. There’s little downside for KBH in giving Medina some visibility.

She’ll need all the help she can get. Dubious polls about teabagger ID aside, most people don’t know who Medina is. And all due respect, but speaking from the perspective of the perpetually underfunded statewide party, the value of shoe leather and elbow grease ain’t what you hope it will be when up against money and name recognition.

Meanwhile, Farouk Shami, who shook up his campaign not too long after starting it, is one of those candidates with a spotty record of actually voting.

Shami voted in the 1996, 2002 and 2004 general elections, according to Montgomery County Elections Administrator Carol Gaultney, but skipped the 2006 and 2008 general elections, missing chances to vote for Independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman (to whom he donated $24,400) and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who Shami has called his inspiration. “That’s the man, that’s my man, that’s the man who did not let his strange name or an unconventional upbringing stand in his way,” Shami said of Obama at his November campaign announcement.

Shami’s primary election voting record is thinner. While the haircare billionaire is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next March, there’s no record of him voting as a Democrat in his home county at least as far back as 1996. He did, however, vote in the Republican primary in 2000.

The campaign is challenging some of the county’s data, saying Shami did indeed cast a ballot in the 2008 election. “He did go vote for Obama, but they can’t find any record of it, so we’ve talked with them about fixing it,” said Jamila Shami, the candidate’s niece and campaign aide.

As for the other skipped elections, Shami spokesperson Jessica Gutierrez says he was otherwise engaged.

“He was focusing on his company, and he had a billion dollar company at the time, and his business came first,” Gutierrez said. “He’s apologizing that he didn’t go vote, so that’s why he’s educating people that they should go vote.”

Okay, look. I’ve said before that a candidate’s previous voting history is not a make-or-break issue for me. It can be a deciding factor if all else is even, but it’s almost never a disqualifier. That said, please spare me the “I was too busy to vote” baloney. Most of the time, it takes just a few minutes to actually go to a polling place, wait your turn, and make your selections. Nowadays you have as many as ten days over which to do this. Nobody is too busy to do this, at least not year in and year out. If you’re one of those hardly-ever-voted-before candidates, don’t insult my intelligence like this. Just admit you should have done better before and then prove to me you mean it when you say you’ve learned your lesson.

Finally, Come and Take It notices that despite having endorsed Rick Perry in the primary, Sarah Palin never actually appeared with him while in the state promoting her book. Make of that what you will.

Runoff EV report, Day 8

Before I get into today’s numbers, there was an incident at one of the early voting locations this morning.

Police say someone broke into the Hester House Community Center, an early-voting location in the Fifth Ward, overnight, but officials with the Harris County Clerk’s Office said the integrity of the vote was not compromised.

Still, some voters in the community said they can’t help but feel concerned.

“I want my vote to county fair and square,” said Evelyn Thacker, who showed up to vote at the Hester House Community Center just a few hours after the break-in was discovered.

Officials say the suspect or suspects smashed through a window and gained entry to the voting area. When election workers arrived early Monday morning, they discovered the place ransacked and saw that some electronic equipment had been taken.

“The vandals took a modem, two printers and a pair of computers used to store voter registration information,” according to the Harris County Clerk Chief Deputy Kevin Mauzy. “The voting machines were not touched. The seals were not tampered with and the locks were not broken.”

County Clerk Beverly Kaufman called it “an incident of random vandalism”, according to a statement. The computers were said to contain only information that is publicly accessible. I sure hope so.

And now for the early voting totals update. As you can see from the spreadsheet, today’s total of 7494 was the highest of the early voting period. Strictly speaking, though, it wasn’t as busy as it was during the first four days last week, when the EV hours were shorter. From Monday through Thursday, 23,199 in-person votes were cast over 36 hours, or about 642 per hour. Today, those 7494 votes over 12 hours represent a rate of 624 per hour. Counting absentee ballots, we’ve seen 52,400 votes for Houston plus West U, with one day to go. I’m going to guess we’ll get between 65,000 and 70,000 total early votes. Need I say again that I am skeptical of the projections that turnout for the runoff will exceed that of the general? I still am. We’ll see how we end up.

By the way, I’m happy to note that despite the problems at the Hester House, it had its best turnout day today, with 196 votes cast. Hopefully there will be no more problems.

KBH officially enters the Governor’s race

While I never believed that Kay Bailey Hutchison would actually resign her Senate seat in order to run for Governor, I also never believed that she would drop her primary challenge to Rick Perry, even as he played his mind games with her to try to make her go away. And indeed, as expected, she made her filing today, while giving a unique reason for GOP primary voters to support her.

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison today used the entry of Houston Mayor Bill White into the Democratic contest for governor as a reason Republicans should vote for her over Gov. Rick Perry in the March 2 GOP primary.

“Certainly, he (White) is a credible candidate. That makes it more important for Republicans to vote for the candidate who can win,” Hutchison said.

In other words, “Vote for me, because I’m the only one who can beat the guy that wouldn’t be in this race if I had ever followed through on that promise I made to resign my seat”. Hey, it’s as good as anything else she’s got to say. But sadly for her, I don’t think it will work. The Trib has more.

Eight days out finance reports, Green and Khan

We’ve seen the eight days out finance reports for the Mayor’s race, now here’s the same thing for the Controller’s race. As before, the campaign finance spreadsheet has been updated with all of the raw data. Here’s how it breaks down for Ronald Green and MJ Khan:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Green 76,273 71,418 0 40,269 30,158 39.5% Khan 182,740 229,593 75,000 57,220 49,750 27.2% Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Green 0 2,000 45,117 1,930 2,200 Khan 70,264 625 96,588 0 16,619

Looking at this, you’d almost wonder how it is there’s any doubt about who ought to win. It still boggles my mind that Green has had such a weak fundraising track record, but there you have it. He has done a lot better this time around, with some help from various PACs, and more donations from current and former officeholders and candidates than I’ve seen for anyone else. Here are some of the people you know who have donated to Ronald Green:

Jarvis Johnson – $100
Pam Holm – $600 (in kind, radio ad)
Gerald Birnberg – $500
Garnet Coleman – $1000
Peter Brown – $3000
Peter Brown – $185.06 (in kind, food for breakfast)
Kristi Thibaut – $1000
Carol Alvarado – $500
Zinetta Burney – $50
David Mincberg – $500
Borris Miles – $1000
Morris Overstreet – $100

The Pam Holm in kind donation stems from an incident before the general election (the donation is dated October 30) in which Holm had a date to appear on KCOH and challenged Green to come on the air with her to discuss his tax issues. According to Keir Murray, with whom I inquired about this item, since Green repeatedly asked listeners to vote for him, and since Holm had paid for the radio time, they felt obligated to report it as an in kind donation. Sometimes, I really love politics. Anyway, I note that even though Holm endorsed Khan, she has not given him any money. Neither had any other elected official, as far as I could see. I don’t know that it matters, but I thought it was interesting.

Khan’s strategy appears to be what it was in the general, which is to boost his name recognition as much as possible. He’s also started attacking Green over his tax issues in the mail he’s sent out, according to what I’ve heard – I’ve not received one of Khan’s mailers myself. As noted before, he has a lot of paid field workers, too. He has to do all this because he’s not fighting on a level playing field. As we know, while Khan does very well among Republican voters, there are a lot more Democrats actually voting, and he needs to hold his losses there in order to win.

The flip side of that is Green’s strategy, which is largely to remind Democratic voters which candidate is on which team. I got a Green mailer last week that was mostly positive about him, but also had a bit that highlighted Khan’s GOP credentials. The message is pretty clear, and so is the need for it to work for Green. I still think he’s the favorite to win, but if you’d told me a year ago it was going to be this hard for him, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Next up, a peek at the Council reports. Let me know what you think.

The last debate

I’m not much of a debate-watching person, and we had company yesterday afternoon, so I did not catch the last Mayoral debate. (Judging by David Ortez’s liveblogging, it would seem a lot of people weren’t watching.) I don’t think events like these tell you much about a candidate that you didn’t already know, though there is always the chance you’ll get to see a highly visible screwup. Which apparently didn’t happen. I’m not sure what there is left to convince people who weren’t sure for whom to vote which choice to make, but then I’m not an undecided voter. So let me ask: Who out there watched? Did it affect your opinion of either candidate? Leave a comment and let us know.

At Large #1 runoff overview

I believe this will be the last of the runoff overview stories.

The runoff for an at-large City Council seat has devolved into a battle over the subtle connotations of the phrase “city contractor.”

One of the candidates for Position One, Stephen Costello, has worked as a drainage engineer for Houston, Harris County and numerous municipal utility districts. His opponent, Karen Derr, has said that government contractors like Costello and his supporters view Houston “as a big place to make money.”

“His support is heavily, heavily weighted with people who contract with the city of Houston,” said Derr, 50, who built a successful residential realty firm focused on the Heights area. She recently sold the company, but still has a real estate license. “My support is very broad-based with people who live in the city, regular folks, taxpayers.”

Costello acknowledged that his company, Costello Inc., has received about $3.5 million in Houston contracts over the past 18 years. But he called Derr’s attitude “offensive.”

“The people that back me are people who bring jobs to the city, who bring economic development to the city,” the 56-year-old said.

I get the impression that this race is the farthest beneath the radar among the runoffs. It hasn’t generated a whole lot of heat that I’ve seen. Each candidate has been endorsed by two of their former opponents, Herman Litt and Donald Cook for Derr, Rick Rodriguez and Lonnie Allsbrooks for Costello. For the record, I voted for Derr, but I don’t have anything bad to say about Costello. What do you think about this race?

Not-quite-an-endorsement-but-close-enough watch: Roy for Annise

As we know, Peter Brown endorsed Annise Parker for Mayor fairly soon after the November election. That left the question about what, if anything, Roy Morales would do. Via Big Jolly, we now know the answer. Apparently, Roy sent out a short questionnaire to Parker and to Gene Locke. Parker responded, Locke did not. So, Roy sent out this mailer, presumably to his supporters (Big Jolly did not indicate the size of the audience), which speaks for itself. Click and see what I mean. David Ortez has more.