Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

November 12th, 2015:

Precinct analysis: Did HERO hurt Juliet Stipeche?

It’s one theory.

Juliet Stipeche

Juliet Stipeche

In the Houston Independent School District, trustee Juliet Stipeche on Tuesday became the first sitting HISD board member to lose since 1997. At that time, retired educator Larry Marshall defeated Clyde Lemon, a supporter of then-Superintendent Rod Paige.

Stipeche, one of Superintendent Terry Grier’s most outspoken critics, fell to Diana Davila, who served on the board for seven years before resigning her term early in 2010.

Davila won the District 8 seat Tuesday with 55 percent of the vote – bolstered, observers say, by strong name recognition and a high turnout of conservative voters who defeated the city of Houston’s equal-rights ordinance. Davila was listed on the candidate slate pushed by opponents of the HERO ordinance.

Making the anti-HERO slate, however, did not guarantee victory. HISD District 4 candidate Ann McCoy, also listed, lost by a wide margin, and District 3 trustee Manuel Rodriguez Jr. was forced into a runoff in his three-way race.

[…]

Stipeche said she thinks she was hurt by the anti-gay rights movement and community dissatisfaction with HISD under Grier.

“I think people are very frustrated by what is happening in HISD,” said Stipeche, who chairs the school board’s audit committee and launched audits to look into the projected $212 million shortfall in the 2012 bond program.

Davila joined her board colleagues in unanimously hiring Grier in 2009, but she distanced herself during the campaign, saying she was “one of the culprits” in his appointment.

Davila attributed her success largely to “grass-roots campaigning,” fueled by family volunteers.

“You block walk. You look for the least expensive printer. And you label at home,” said Davila, who reported raising no campaign contributions.

She declined to say Wednesday whether she supported the equal-rights ordinance.

First off, I’m not sure which slate this story refers to. I didn’t come across any endorsements at all for Diana Davila, and none of the ones I have on my Election 2015 page for Ann McCoy – who expressed support for HERO in the interview I did with her – came from expressly anti-HERO groups. It’s certainly possible there was something I missed, and I have no doubt that Stipeche would have been a target of anti-HERO forces if they were active in this race. I just didn’t see any such activity.

As for what the numbers say, HERO actually didn’t do too badly in Stipeche’s district. It was defeated by a margin of 8,922 to 7,879 or 46.7% to 53.3%, while Stipeche lost 5,370 to 6,725 or 44.4% to 55.6%. That in and of itself doesn’t tell us anything, because we have no way of knowing what this election might have looked like if HERO hadn’t been on the ballot. It could be that in such a world, fewer people who would have voted against HERO show up, and perhaps that drags Davila’s total down enough for her to lose as well. There’s just no way to know.

For what it’s worth, if you add up the vote in the precincts where HERO lost, you get a tally of 3,017 to 5,625 against HERO and 2,300 to 4,238 against Stipeche. That’s greater than the actual margin of defeat for Stipeche, so it at least suggests that there’s a relation between being anti-HERO and pro-Davila. It’s far from conclusive, however. For one thing, as noted before we don’t know what turnout would have been like without HERO on the ballot. It’s entirely possible that Davila still wins in that scenario – she did win by a fairly healthy amount, and surely there were some pro-HERO voters who also voted for Stipeche but might have stayed home otherwise. It may also be that this is a reflection of geography and ethnicity – Stipeche’s support may have been predominantly from the more Anglo parts of the district in the Heights that were also pro-HERO, while Davila’s support may have come from the more Latino and anti-HERO parts of the district. I’m not map-oriented so you’ll have to wait until Greg or someone like him takes up that question. My point is simply that what we have is suggestive but hardly conclusive.

If one looks at individual precincts, a few other interesting bits emerge. In several precincts where HERO won by a sizable margin, Stipeche won by a much smaller margin, with the difference appearing to be mostly the result of undervoting. Here are a few precincts that stood out to me:


Pcnct  Yes   No   Diff  Stipeche  Davila  Diff
==============================================
0001   470  260    210       246     253    -7
0002   307  190    117       204     136    68
0016   173  117     56       101      91    10
0030   361  239    122       215     200    15
0033   834  262    472       432     236   196
0052   407  251    156       219     162    57

0027   464  385     79       347     423   -76

0080   184  467   -283       203     331  -128
0104   162  406   -244       169     260   -91

I included those last three at the end to show that the effect wasn’t entirely one-sided. I don’t know why so many HERO supporters (and a few HERO opponents) in these precincts failed to vote in their HISD Trustee race, but even the most generous interpretation doesn’t affect the result, as Stipeche would only net 804 more votes if we assigned the HERO results in those first six precincts to her election. There may have been some effect, but if there was it wasn’t decisive.

So did HERO have an effect in this particular election? I can’t say it did, and I can’t say it didn’t. Or to put it another way, I think it was a factor, but I don’t know how much of one. It probably wasn’t a difference maker, but who knows? Wish I could be more definitive, but sometimes all you can do is shrug.

The Dallas Equal Rights Ordinance

Buckle up.

RedEquality

Chapter 46 of the Dallas City Code, which was passed in May 2002, makes it illegal to discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation. The ordinance, which applies to everything from employment to housing, has defined sexual orientation as “an individual’s real or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual or an individual’s real or perceived gender identity.” Which means that for 13 years, the transgender community has been protected in the city of Dallas.

But [Tuesday] morning, the council went the extra step by separating sexual orientation from gender identity. The council voted unanimously on the amendment, which now reads, “It is the policy of the city of Dallas to bring about through fair, orderly, and lawful procedures the opportunity for every person to obtain employment, access to all places of public accommodation, and housing, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.”

The city’s LGBT Task Force, of which council member Adam Medrano is chair, has been working on the new language for more than a year.

Despite the long-standing definition in the city code, “the transgender community believes they’re not included because the definition of gender identity is stuffed into sexual orientation,” LGBT task force member Patti Fink told the council shortly before the vote. She asked the council to pass the amendment “so it’s clear to those who live in this city [that] they have protections.”

Said Fink, with the amendment transgender individuals can “see themselves in this ordinance very clearly. This move makes that possible. They don’t have to look under one line in Section 18 for the definition of sexual orientation to make sure gender identity is included.”

Following a lengthy closed-door discussion about the amendment at Monday’s Quality of Life Committee meeting, it was unclear if there’d be much discussion among the full council. There wasn’t any, save for a few words from Medrano about the task force’s work (“we’ve been able to do a lot for equality”) and a brief hear, hear from the mayor.

“Words have meaning,” said Rafael McDonnell of the Resource Center, “and your vote today will give life to those words and will be seen not only here in Dallas but around the country as support for the LGBT community.”

You can see the report produced by the LGBT Task Force here. The change was adopted unanimously by Dallas City Council. I’d like to be able to say “and they lived happily ever after”, but as you can see from the top of that post I linked to above, the forces of darkness are gathering again. Dan Patrick has already put out a statement referring to the “Dallas Bathroom Ordinance”, because why waste a perfectly good lie? I look forward to him promoting a bill in the 2017 legislative session that would require package checks at all public restrooms, because freedom and protecting women and stuff like that. As the Trib notes, several Texas cities also have similar ordinances. I don’t know if this is going to be the start of a long city-by-city assault on these ordinances or if the preferred method of attack will be a state law outlawing them, but one way or the other it’s coming. The Chron, the Dallas Observer, the Dallas Voice, and the Press have more.

Fort Bend vote centers report

They seemed to work OK.

vote-button

Not all the kinks had been worked out in Fort Bend County – the first Election Day here that voters were allowed to cast ballots at any polling place.

When results were finally tallied and posted – around 10:40 p.m. – one of the effects became clear: 49,947 ballots had been cast, making for a 13.4 percent voter turnout.

It was a sizable increase over the 8.7 percent turnout in the county’s November 2013 election, which also included a bond proposal.

“We think it played out well,” Elections Administrator John Oldham said.

Fort Bend County was among six Texas counties with populations of more than 100,000 to use the so-called “Countywide Polling Precinct Program” on a trial basis Tuesday, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office. Four other counties with populations less than 100,000 people also tried the system.

[…]

Fort Bend officials for years had considered whether to switch to all-county polling, Oldham said. Last summer, they put together how such a plan would be promoted and executed.

Elections staff expected to see increases at sites that had been used during early voting but didn’t predict the high demand that materialized at some centers.

“We didn’t really know where people would vote,” Oldham said. “We thought we did.”

Officials planned for about 500 voters at a site near Pecan Grove that had seen a few more than 100 voters a few years prior. On Tuesday, 998 people cast ballots there.

“We know we had some lines,” Oldham said, explaining that 40 or 50 people were still in line at the Pecan Grove site come 7 p.m.

Added Oldham: “We didn’t have horrible waits, but, you know, to me 40 minutes is too long … to me 20 minutes is too long.”

Although the aim of opening up polling places is not necessarily to increase voter turnout – the idea is to remove the hassle and confusion of voting so that residents don’t give up in frustration – higher turnout is a welcome side effect, Oldham said.

See here and here for some background. Turnout may have been up over 2013, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in a one-year comparison. As I’ve said before, I generally favor this idea. I don’t know if it will prove to be a turnout-increaser as a rule, but I think it has value even if there is no effect there. If you’re in Fort Bend or some other place that uses these, what is your opinion of them?

Texas blog roundup for the week of November 9

The Texas Progressive Alliance reminds everyone that runoffs matter too as it brings you this week’s roundup.

(more…)