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December 13th, 2009:

Weekend link dump for December 13

Happy Birthday, Kristin!

The AV Club’s Top 50 movies of the decade. I’ve seen two of them, about what I’d have expected given how seldom I watch movies these days.

Talk about having a gambling problem.

The rise and fall of MySpace.

After all this time, are we really surprised that the BCS sucks?

They just don’t make mavericks like they used to any more.

Fools’ gold.

God bless West Texas. If it didn’t exist, we’d have to invent it.

Don’t go green on your own. Drag some elected officials with you.

sigh Once again, this is my home town.

For the gamer in your life.

Now that’s a frequent flyer scheme.

We consume 34 gigabytes a day. I feel like I’m not keeping up. And yes, “zettabyte” is a very cool word.

Hey, remember that ACORN video that got everybody’s shorts in a bunch? Turns out it was heavily edited. You just can’t trust some people.

Remembering the Montreal Massacre, 20 years later.

If more of our billboards looked like this, I wouldn’t feel the need to get rid of them.

Okay, this may be the best defense of Sarah Palin as VP choice I’ve ever seen.

Streaming versus downloading. Good summary.

Silly reasons to not buy a book.

“Attracting poor players — the fish — to feed the good ones — the sharks — is the only way the online poker model works

Allen Barra on Tiger Woods.

Why Professor Snape was a lousy teacher. I’d never thought of it that way. Oh, and Hi, Mike!

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” on the big screen? About time, I say.

How others are viewing the election

This AP story about the Mayoral runoff election contains a paragraph you won’t see very often.

Houston became the largest U.S. city to elect an openly gay mayor, with voters handing a solid victory to City Controller Annise Parker after a hotly contested runoff.

Several other U.S. cities, including Portland, Ore., Providence, R.I., and Cambridge, Mass., have openly gay mayors, but none are as large as Houston.

Outside of Randal O’Toole’s obsession with Portland, you’ll almost never see Houston mentioned in the same breath as those other cities. As I said last night, I believe people’s perceptions of Houston are going to change, and that’s a good thing.

Meanwhile, the Chron rounds up some other national coverage of the race, from the NYT, Bloomberg, MSNBC, and the Christian Science Monitor. The latter adds some of the larger context.

Houston chose Ms. Parker, the city controller, over Gene Locke, a former city attorney, with 53 percent of the vote. Yet, in the past, Houston has voted against extending benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian members of the city government. And Texas has outlawed gay marriage.

The distinction neatly sums up the American mood. As gays and lesbians become broadly accepted in society and politics, that acceptance is marked by a firm boundary beyond which voters do not yet appear willing to cross: same-sex marriage.

[…]

In some respects, Harris County – which includes virtually all of Houston – does not align perfectly with typical Texas politics. In the 2008 presidential election, it gave Barack Obama 19,000 more votes than Sen. Jon McCain – this in a state where Senator McCain won by 950,000 votes. Moreover, both candidates in Saturday’s nonpartisan election were Democrats.

Harris County is, of course, about twice the size of Houston, which as we also know is strongly Democratic. I don’t really expect the nationals to grasp this, but I included that paragraph mostly because it makes me happy to see Harris’ Democratic trend noted like that.

Much like last year’s Presidential election, Parker’s election is historic and brings with it a lot of hope for a lot of people. And much like that election, I think a lot of that hope is sooner or later going to run into the reality of the economy, and the fact that like Barack Obama, Annise Parker is much more of a pragmatist who will try to solve the problems in front of her than a crusader who will try to advance an agenda. The former is what I think we need right now in each case, and I believe that in a few years we’ll look back and see that they have accomplished much, and along the way done a lot to make things better as well. At least Parker gets to say what gets done, and only has one majority vote to overcome to get it done. The challenges are there, but so I believe is the path forward. I feel good about where we’re going. Nancy, Martha, Erik, Stace, and South Texas Chisme have more.

Chron slaps Culberson again for Metro meddling

It’s an old story. Metro gets some good news relating to the University line. Rep. John Culberson tries again to halt the project. The Chronicle calls him out on it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that last part.

It’s not clear how effective Culberson’s latest railblock will be, since his party is now in the congressional minority and under the Obama administration the FTA seems more responsive to Houston’s rail-building efforts. The FTA does not require congressional approval for evaluations of rail plans.

One thing is sure. Until the first trains start whizzing down the University Line, count on Culberson to be busily scheming to derail the project. In doing so, he will be working against the transit interests of his constituents and the wider Houston community.

In other words, we’ll see this all again sooner or later.

Initial thoughts on the runoffs

I’ll go through them one race at a time, with the unofficial vote totals minus Montgomery County for each. Once I have precinct results, I’ll go through those and do a more detailed analysis.

Mayor

Annise Parker – 81,971, 52.78%
Gene Locke – 73,331, 47.22%

This was perhaps a bit closer than one might have thought given the most recent poll. At a guess, given the Fort Bend County results, I’d say that African American voters broke more strongly to Locke than had been previously indicated, but that there just weren’t that many of them in the end. Certainly, all the predictions that turnout for the runoff would exceed that of the general were way off. There were about 87,000 votes cast Saturday in Harris County, far less than the 112,000 predicted by County Clerk Beverly Kaufman. In the end, 67,653 early votes were cast in the Mayoral race, or 43.8% of the final Harris County tally of 154,618. In other words, this runoff was just like the last three runoffs in terms of early vote share compared to that of the general. I called it right, and I’m going to gloat a little about that.

Parker’s election has made the national news, and she’s a trending topic on Twitter. Lots of people are going to be talking about this for a long time. I don’t think we fully realize yet the impact her election will have. I think this will make an awful lot of people take a second and third look at Houston, and may finally make some of my progressive colleagues outside of Texas realize that there’s more to the state than just Austin.

Oh, and Parker made history in more ways than one, too. Go Rice Owls!

Controller

Ronald Green – 74,262, 51.48%
MJ Khan – 69,991, 48.52%

Green won early in-person voting by a fairly wide margin, but trailed in absentee ballots and also in Harris on Election Day. This suggests to me that as was the case in November, the early electorate was much more Democratic than the Election Day electorate. That was the case in Harris County last November as well. I sure hope the local Democratic strategists are paying attention to that. Green carried Fort Bend by 2,016 votes but would have won anyway. Oddly, I was more nervous about his chances going into today than I was about Parker’s, but less so about them once the early results were in. I figured if there was an African American surge that could carry Locke to a win, it would bring Green in its wake as well.

City Council At Large #1

Stephen Costello – 67,842, 52.15%
Karen Derr – 62,249, 47.85%

I had no feel at all for this race. The only thing that would have surprised me was a not-close result. Derr led coming into Election Day, but Costello pulled it out. If I had to guess, I’d say his late TV blitz – after not seeing any of his ads in months, I saw it four times this week – was a factor. Surely having such a large financial advantage should mean something. Costello had a fair amount of crossover support, and while I’m sad to see Derr lose I think he’ll make a fine Council member.

City Council At Large #2

Sue Lovell – 68,676, 54.08%
Andrew Burks – 58,317, 45.92%

Lovell has the easiest win of the night in the race with the highest undervote. Make of that what you will.

City Council At Large #5

Jolanda Jones – 69,763, 50.61%
Jack Christie – 68,080, 49.39%

Let this be Exhibit A for how hard it is to unelect a sitting Council member in Houston. It’s hard for me to imagine conditions more favorable for Jack Christie going into Election Day. Ultimately, he could not overcome the Democratic tilt of the early vote. Jones won early in person voting by a 58-42 margin, easily the widest of any candidate, but Christie ran strongly on Saturday, capturing Harris by 53.5-46.5, which combined with the absentee vote put him over the top in this county. Unfortunately for him, Fort Bend was to Jones what it was to Lee Brown in 2001, and that was enough for her to hang on. I voted for Jones, I’m very glad she won, but I have nothing bad to say about Christie, who ran a clean and honorable race. I sincerely hope that Council Member Jones uses this experience to help her channel her considerable talent and smarts more productively.

Houston City Council, District A

Brenda Stardig – 9,258, 56.59%
Lane Lewis – 7,103, 43.41%

Houston City Council, District F

Al Hoang – 4,681, 52.72%
Mike Laster – 4,180, 47.28%

The City of Houston proved its Democratic bona fides, but Districts A and F remained Republican. I’ll be interested to see how the citywide candidates did in each of these districts. Beyond that, my congratulations to the winners and my condolences to the losers. Oh, and in my favorite bit of trivia for the evening, Laster and Hoang split the Fort Bend vote evenly, with 19 ballots apiece.

HISD Trustee, District I

Anna Eastman – 4,959, 50.99%
Alma Lara – 4,766, 49.01%

HISD Trustee, District IX

Larry Marshall – 6,295, 51.15%
Adrian Collins – 6,012, 48.85%

A bad night for the Houston Federation of Teachers, as both of their candidates lost. Conversely, a good night for the HISD Parent Visionaries, who ultimately went three for three in the Trustee races. Lara had a slight early lead, which Eastman overcame, while Marshall led all along for yet another close escape. Again, my congratulations to the winners, and my condolences to the losers.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll have more when the precinct results are in. Chron coverage is here, here, here, and here. Let me know what your thoughts are about this election.