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January 10th, 2012:

2012 Democratic primary overview – Elsewhere in Texas

Congressional districts for Texas as drawn by the court

As I noted in my previous post about contested Democratic primaries in Harris County, I have also created a page for contested primaries elsewhere in Texas. Many of the same notes and caveats exist for this page as well:

– This page is for contested Democratic primaries outside Harris County only. As with the Harris County page, I will fill in the other races after the primaries.

– My source of information for these races was the TDP 2012 filings list, which notes that it is not comprehensive. If you are aware of any omissions or errors, please drop me a note or leave a comment and let me know.

– I’ve included information on races for Congress, SBOE, and the State House; there are no contested primaries for State Senate as far as I know. I’ve also included the Travis County DA race, as this will undoubtedly be of interest to people.

– Needless to say, the races and candidates may be subject to change, depending on what SCOTUS says and what happens in the second filing period. I will make updates as needed later.

– I have included website information for candidates where I could find it. This early in the cycle, not everyone has websites up yet. I will try to keep an eye on things and update as needed, but again by all means let me know if I’ve missed something.

– For the most part, I don’t expect to do interviews with these candidates, though there are a few races where I’d really like to. Time and my ability to reach candidates permitting, I may sneak a few in. I can’t make any promises, this is going to be a heavy enough lift as it is. I will try to do a few after the primaries – if I’m lucky, I’ll catch some folks while they’re here for the Dem convention in June.

– As with Harris County, I will not be creating a similar page for the contested GOP primaries. Life is too short.

I think that about covers it. As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments about the new page.

Larkin elected to Hall of Fame

Congratulations to Barry Larkin on his Cooperstown call. I just wish he had some company for the dais.

Barry Larkin

Former Cincinnati Reds shortstop and current ESPN analyst Barry Larkin was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday, getting 86.4 percent of the vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

A player needs at least 75 percent to gain election. A 12-time All-Star and the 1995 NL MVP, Larkin got 62.1 percent of the vote last year, falling 75 votes short as Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were elected.

Jack Morris was next with 382 votes (67 percent), missing by 48 votes on his 13th try but up sharply from 54 percent last year.

Jeff Bagwell was third with 321 votes, followed by Lee Smith (290), Tim Raines (279), Edgar Martinez (209) and Alan Trammell (211).

Mark McGwire, 10th on the career home run list with 583, received 19.5 percent in his sixth try on the ballot, down from 19.8 percent last year and 23.7 percent in 2010 — a vote before he admitted using steroids and human growth hormone.

Rafael Palmeiro, who received a 10-day suspension in 2005 for a positive test but is among just four players with 500 homers and 3,000 hits, failed to gain election again, getting 12.6 percent of the vote in his second appearance on the ballot.

Bernie Williams received the most votes among first-time eligibles, with 55. Bill Mueller got just four votes and will be dropped in future years along with Juan Gonzalez (23) and Vinny Castilla (six).

I’m glad to see Bagwell and Raines move up in the vote totals, but they both deserved better. The problem with the writers overlooking them now, as Jayson Stark, Jim Caple, and Joe Posnanski have all observed, is that there’s going to be a large glut of newly eligible players whose Hall cases range from debatable to slam-dunk entering the ballot in the next couple of years, and there’s an excellent chance some worthies like Baggy and Rock will get shafted, at least for a few years, as a result. Go read that Posnanski piece for a history lesson on how the writers’ penuriousness led directly to the creation of the various Veterans Committees, with all they entailed. How often are you aware of the fact that history is repeating itself as it is happening?

Dis-Harmony

Interesting story about the Harmony charter schools, which are right up there with KIPP and YES Prep among the top charters. They seem to attract a fair amount of criticism, more than their peers, for how they do their business, which is explored in the story. Based on what is detailed, I have to agree with SBOE member David Bradley (much as it pains me to do so) that a lot of the criticism seems misguided. The one thing that struck me as odd was this:

From 2008 to 2010, the Labor Department certified 1,197 H-1B visa requests from the Cosmos Foundation — more than double the number of visas certified nationwide for Texas-based computer company Dell USA and about 70 percent as many as were certified for tech giant Apple Inc.

Those certifications were forwarded to the Homeland Security Department for final approval.

The visas are intended to attract foreign workers with skills that are in short supply among American workers.

Harmony has about 290 employees working on H-1B visas, or 16 percent of its workforce, according to Superintendent Soner Tarim. Most are Turkish, said Tarim, who is also from Turkey.

Few other Texas school districts hire significant numbers of workers on H-1B visas.

“Staffing Northside schools has never really been a problem,” said Pascual Gonzalez, spokesman for Bexar County’s largest school district with 97,000 students, where Labor Department records show no H-1B visa certifications in recent years. “In the past there have been thousands of people applying for hundreds of jobs.”

At Harmony, Tarim said the charter network finds a shortage of qualified teachers in math, science and English as a second language sometimes prompts them to hire foreign workers.

He noted that Harmony’s focus on science and math means particularly high recruiting standards in those areas.

“It’s unacceptable for us to raise our kids to say, ‘I cannot do math,’” he said.

Nearly a third of the H-1B certifications received by Cosmos actually were for jobs outside those fields, however.

Labor Department data includes visa certifications for legal counsel, accountants, assistant principals, public relations coordinators and teachers of art, English and history.

“They may be on an H-1B visa and they already worked in our system and they changed positions,” Tarim said, noting the number of certifications includes renewals and applications for individuals who change jobs or locations. “Remember, we always promote from within in our organization.”

With all due respect, I find that explanation weak. I have a hard time believing they are unable to find sufficiently qualified teachers, and I rather doubt that math and science teachers are moving on to take positions in accounting, legal, or PR in significant numbers. I strongly suspect they do what they do because it’s their preference. Which is all fine as long as they can get the visas approved, but I do understand this line of argument against them. Given the results they get, if that’s the worst that can be said, it’s not too shabby.

The year in beer

You know you want some

Scott Metzger offers a look back on beer news from 2011, and makes some predictions for this year. Of the most interest to me is this:

    Distributors Start to Play Nice. In many states, there has long been an uneasy relationship between brewers and distributors, especially in the legislative arena where distributors feel empowering breweries puts their place in the 3-tier system at risk. I see 2012 as the year distributors in lagging states “see the light” and drop their opposition to legislative changes that would help small brands. Operationally, I predict increased pressure from InBev on its distributors to focus on their brands and wouldn’t discount the possibility of threats on those distributors if they don’t focus on InBev’s portfolio. Even so, I see craft beer & brand promiscuity accounting for an increasing percentage of wholesalers’ portfolios.
  • Texas Will Change in 2013, and We’ll Know About it in 2012. Before the end of the year, craft brewers, distributors, retailers, consumers & lawmakers will have agreed upon legislation that allows production brewers to sell directly to consumers on the brewery premise and for brewpubs to sell their beer to distributors for resale. Texas will be free from the shackles of the past… which leads me to:
  • BONUS 2013 PREDICTION: Texas experiences a craft beer Renaissance. Some of you may already think we are there, with all the new brewers popping up around the state… but by the end of 2013, you’ll look back and realize that we hadn’t seen anything yet.

I sure hope he’s right about all that. It’s way past time for microbrewers to get a fair shake from the Lege. Go read the rest and see what you think. For a more local take on what went down in the brew business, see Beer, TX.