Mayor Annise Parker could be the biggest loser in the runoff race for the At Large 3 seat on City Council even though she is not on Saturday’s ballot.
The citywide position will be vacated by term-limited Melissa Noriega, generally seen as an ally of the mayor. The two conservative candidates in the runoff to replace her, bail bondsman Michael Kubosh and former Harris County Department of Education board member Roy Morales, have battled Parker in the past. Kubosh fought Parker to block the city’s use of red-light cameras, and Morales ran against her in the 2009 mayoral race.
“It’ll be tough for the mayor either way,” said Richard Murray, political science professor at the University of Houston.
Perhaps hoping to build ties on council, Kubosh has shifted the tone of his campaign away from questioning whether the mayor is willing to work with him.
“I thought about it a lot and I need a do over,” he said. “I will not use the position to ever disrespect anyone on council, including the mayor.”
He does not, however, back down on policy goals that could set up a confrontation, such as repealing an ordinance laying out rules for providing food to the homeless.
Throughout his campaign, Kubosh admitted he has few specific policy ideas because he has much to learn about city operations. Nonetheless, he speculated his years as a bail bondsman could qualify him to tackle problems in the municipal courts.
Generally, he said he hopes to increase transparency by dragging more of the city’s decision-making out from closed offices and into the public’s view.
Rice University political science professor Mark Jones said Morales may be a better fit for maintaining the status quo of council dynamics.
“He would be very happy simply to be elected,” Jones said. “And he would structure his behavior to ensure re-election. He would occasionally vote in a conservative way to keep his conservative credentials, but for the most part, work with the mayor and majority to pass things along.”
I wrote about the potential dynamic with Mayor Parker shortly after the November election. She chose not to get involved in the runoff, which is certainly understandable. Since the November election, Kubosh has indeed changed his rhetoric and reached out to supporters of the Mayor. My observation is that while both Kubosh and Morales have a case to make to the voters who did not support them the first time around, neither one has clearly won that battle. Morales has picked up some support, such as from Noel Freeman, and so has Kubosh, who just received the endorsement of Peter Brown’s PAC. If the big Democratic groups have made runoff endorsements in At Large #3, I have not seen any announcement of them. I don’t think the dynamic of the race has changed much – based on November returns, I’d still call Kubosh the favorite. I’d also expect whoever does win to face a strong challenger in 2015, though that may change depending in part on how he performs on Council. By the way, I never did get a response from Kubosh to my runoff Q&A; Morales’ answers to my questions are here.
Among the things we have learned since we last voted:
Kubosh also has faced criticism for the long list of lawsuits tied to his name, including an ongoing civil suit in Jefferson County Court alleging barratry, the practice of illegally soliciting clients. He dismissed the frequency of lawsuits as normal for a bondsman and denied the barratry claim, calling the close ties between his brother’s law office and his bail bonding operation a family business.
Last month, Kubosh won a court battle started by Morales.
Using county homestead exemption records, Morales tried to get Kubosh removed from the ballot, arguing his opponent is not a Houston resident. The case was dismissed.
The disposition of Morales’ lawsuit against Kubosh was posted in the Houston Politics blog, but if it was in the print edition of the paper I didn’t see it. I don’t know anything more about the barratry claims than what is written above. I don’t know that any of this is likely to have an effect on voting at this point. Let’s do a totally unscientific survey here: Who are you supporting in the runoff? Leave a comment and let us know.