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December 22nd, 2009:

McDonald decides against running in CD10

This is a big surprise.

Democrat Jack McDonald, who was going to challenge Republican incumbent Mike McCaul for District 10, will no longer be running for the seat. He never filed.

McDonald’s press release is beneath the fold. I’m stunned by this because McDonald had been very successful at fundraising, and had over $800K in the bank as of the third quarter reporting deadline. I confess I’m too cynical to take an announcement like this at face value, but I’m not sufficiently plugged into the Travis County scene to know any more about what may have been going on. If anyone knows some details, please leave a comment. BOR has more.


Judicial Q&A: Cheryl Harris Diggs

(Note: I am running a series of Q&As for judicial candidates in contested Democratic primaries. There are a lot of judicial races on the ballot in Harris County this election, and so this is intended to help introduce the candidates and their experiences to those who plan to vote in March. I am running these responses in the order that I receive them from the candidates. I will also be conducting some in-person interviews of candidates who will be involved in contested primaries for non-judicial offices. Please see the 2010 Election page listed at the top of the blog for a full list of Q&As and interviews.)

1. Who are you, and what are you running for?

I am Cheryl Harris Diggs and I am a Democrat running for the County Criminal Court at Law #12 bench.

I am a native Houstonian who grew up on the Southeast side of town and graduated from Jesse H. Jones High School. I am married and I have a son.

2. What kind of cases does this court hear?

The judge in this court presides over Class A misdemeanors such as DWI 2nd, assault, resisting arrest, and burglary of a motor vehicle. Class A misdemeanor punishment is up to 1 year in jail and up to a $4000 fine.

The court also hears Class B misdemeanors such as first time DWI offenses, theft, possession of marihuana, and criminal mischief cases. Class B misdemeanor punishment is up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2000 fine.

3. Why are you running for this particular bench?

I was not interested in running for a district court bench. I feel my personality is better suited to deal with the people and situations presented daily in misdemeanor court. After I was screened by the Democratic party, they placed me in the race for this bench.

4. What are your qualifications for this job?

I have been a licensed attorney for 11 1/2 years. I practice criminal law in both state and federal court. I am a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center and Georgetown University. I also speak Spanish.

5. Why is this race important?

People don’t care about judges until they have to appear in front of one as an accused person, parent, friend, potential juror or witness in a case. The decisons made in misdemeanor court can impact a person’s ability to get and/or keep a job, get financial aid for college, or to legally remain in this country. This is why this race is important.

6. Why should people vote for you in the primary?

People should vote for me because I am the best person for this job. I am capable, committed, and qualified to serve. I am patient and caring and will do my best to make sure that people who appear in my court are treated fairly.

Precinct analysis, District Council races

In addition to the five citywide runoffs, there were two runoffs in district Council races, in A and F. In each case, they were run in territory that, judging by the citywide results, were modestly (F) or very (A) friendly to Republicans, and in each case the Republican candidate won. But that’s about where the similarities end.

Since there are a small number of precincts for each district, I’ve created this Google spreadsheet that has a mostly complete list of each precincts from them both. I say “mostly” because I filtered out the smallest precincts, in which generally fewer than 10 votes were cast. My comments on each:

Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Stardig 9,258 56.6 Lewis 7,103 43.4 Parker 11,199 63.5 Locke 6,439 36.5 Khan 10,171 61.8 Green 6,297 38.2 Christie 10,541 66.6 Jones 5,300 33.4

– In District A, the first thing you notice is that Brenda Stardig trailed the higher profile Republican candidates Jack Christie and MJ Khan, each of whom drew more votes and had a higher percentage than she did. By the same token, Lane Lewis outperformed Jolanda Jones and Ronald Green. Jones and Green each won six out of the 46 precincts in total, while Lewis won twelve. Lewis did at least as well as Jones in all but six precincts, and at least as well as Green in all but twelve. There were about as many votes cast in the District A runoff as there were in the Controller’s race, and Khan outscored Stardig by about as much as Lewis improved on Green, but in the At Large #5 runoff there were about 500 fewer votes cast, and as Jones trailed Lewis by a wider margin than Christie led Stardig, I’d guess that a sizable number of those who skipped this race might have otherwise been inclined to vote for a Democratic candidate. Consider that a success for Christie’s mail campaign, and keep it in mind as we move on. Anyway, the bottom line is that Lewis’ good precincts generally overlapped with Jones’ and Green’s, with the latter two winning only one that Lewis did not carry.

Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Hoang 4,662 52.9 Laster 4,161 47.1 Parker 4,612 51.3 Locke 4,383 48.7 Khan 4,870 59.8 Green 3,298 40.2 Christie 4,404 60.0 Jones 2,964 40.0

– Moving on to District F, it’s a very different story. The undervote rate was 5.96%, smaller than any race besides the Mayoral race. The dropoff in the Controller’s race – even though this was MJ Khan’s home district – and At Large #5 was considerable:

Mayor’s race, total votes = 8995
District F, total votes = 8823
Controller’s race, total votes = 8166
At Large #5, total votes = 7368

Unlike in A, there was almost no correlation between the precincts won by the Democratic candidate in the district, Mike Laster, and the Democratic citywide candidates who had Republican opponents. Laster won 13 of the 27 precincts I looked at. Of those 13 precincts, Jones won three, while Green won one. In the other 14 precincts, Jones won four and Green two. The margins of victory varied greatly as well. In the 14 precincts that Al Hoang won, he received at least 50 more votes than Jack Christie in eight of them, including five in which he topped Christie by at least 100 votes. But on the flip side, in the precincts Laster won, Hoang trailed Christie by at least 50 votes in five of them, trailing by at least 100 in two. I presume the differences were geographical, but I’ll leave the mapmaking the Greg. The point here is that I believe both Laster and Hoang had a base that supported them regardless of what they did – or even if they voted – in the other races. Lewis had this to a lesser extent, while Stardig basically rode the partisan tide, as far as I can tell. Hoang in the end had more support, perhaps due to the historic nature of the race – as Parker is our first gay Mayor, and Green is our first African American Controller, Hoang is our first Vietnamese American to serve on Council.

– One final observation is that the usual dynamic of early versus Election Day voting was flipped on its head in F. In A, Stardig won 70% of the absentee ballots, 56% of the votes cast on December 12, and 52% of the in person early votes. In other words, this race followed the partisan rhythm we’ve seen in every other race. In F, Laster actually won the absentee balloting, by a 428-337 margin, and won Election Day handily, with nearly 58%. But Hoang crushed him in early in person voting, scoring over 62% and running up an 1100 vote margin that was more than enough to compensate for Laster’s game day showing. This was a repeat of their pattern from November, except that Laster had a plurality then. Whatever Hoang did to get out his voters, it worked.

Last up, a look at HISD I tomorrow.

Here come the gay tourists

The election of Annise Parker as Mayor has put Houston on the map as a travel destination for gay groups.

Houston historically has not been a popular destination for gay and lesbian travelers, according to U.S. Travel Association data. Last month, independent of mayoral politics, the visitors bureau launched an online effort to reach out to them.

Regardless of whether Parker’s election boosts that effort directly, at the least it could help change the perception of Houston, according to a longtime tourism consultant. Houston drew international attention earlier this month when it became the largest U.S. city to elect an openly gay mayor.

It “makes Houston seem more tolerant and gay-friendly,” said David Paisley, senior program director of Community Marketing, a San Francisco-based marketing and consulting firm that works primarily with the gay and lesbian tourism industry.

Cities have been marketing themselves to gay and lesbian tourists for years now, since as the story notes they tend to travel more and spend more money at their destinations. Houston got a ton of free, positive publicity from Parker’s win, so now is as good a time as any to try to capitalize on that.

It’s too early to say how Parker as mayor will affect gay and lesbian travel to Houston, [Holly Clapham, vice president of marketing at the Convention and Visitors Bureau] said, but “her brand is now associated with our product.”

The reaction among many outsiders when they heard Parker was elected was, “‘Wow, this happened in Houston!’” Clapham said. “Certainly there is buzz and awareness out there.”

People won’t come here just because of her election, she said, “but this could open windows to them considering Houston.”

For those of us who think that most people will like Houston if they give it a try, that’s all you can ask for.

Bellaire bans texting while driving

First West U, now Bellaire.

Following the lead of the city of Austin, the City Councils in Bellaire and West U Monday adopted ordinances to prohibit texting or web browsing while driving. Laws are in effect immediately, though not enforceable by respective police entities until proper legal notice is published and appropriate street signs are posted.

Officials in West University expect signs to be in place by about Jan. 1, while Bellaire’s enforcement will begin at a time to be determined in January.

“This one passes the common sense test,” said Bellaire Councilman Phil Nauert. “I don’t believe there’s any safe way to text while driving.”

Bellaire’s enactment of the ordinance was done with little fanfare, following West University’s process that was the focal point of significant attention in the greater Houston area.

‘We’ve brought an awareness to everyone that texting is not responsible,” said West U Councilmember George Boehme.

Note that both cities’ restrictions include bans on texting while stopped for a red light. If you’re in a driving lane, even if you’re not moving, it’s forbidden. Link via Hair Balls.

Texas blog roundup for the week of December 21

It’s Christmas week, so we’ve added a sprig of holly to this week’s Texas Progressive Alliance blog roundup. The wassailing begins after the jump.