Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Keryl Douglas

Date set for HCDP Chair election

From the Inbox:

Lane Lewis

Two months ago, I announced my intention to resign in February 2017. This will result in a vacancy, therefore we must move forward with a special election. The Precinct Chairs of Harris County will elect a replacement Chair at the next County Executive Committee Meeting.

I am confident that our Precinct Chairs will select the best candidate to serve as Party Chair. Keep an eye out for further emails with meeting location information in the next coming days. The CEC Meeting will be open to the public.

February 26, 2017 from 4:00 PM-6:00 PM: Public Forum to meet the individuals interested in consideration for the Harris County Democratic Party Chair position. The Forum will be hosted by the HCDP (All are welcome and public comment will be encouraged).

March 05, 2017 from 3:00 PM-6:00 PM: CEC Meeting to select the replacement Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party (All are welcome, but only Precinct Chairs currently listed on the Texas Secretary of State’s website are eligible to vote).

I will definitely be there for both. In the meantime, Lillie Schechter made her formal announcement for Chair, while Tomaro Bell dropped out and endorsed Schechter. Assuming that Art Pronin is still either on the fence or not going to get in, we have: Robert Collier, Eartha Jean Johnson, Lillie Schechter, Chris Spellmon, Dominique Davis, Keryl Douglass, Johnathan Miller, and Rony Escobar. I hope to have Q&A responses from all of them before the 26th.

Still more HCDP Chair hopefuls

From the inbox, from precinct chair Sterling Camp:

Lane Lewis

10 Possible County Chair Candidates

I’ve been emailed that Keryl Douglas, former executive director of Houston NAACP, will be running for County Chair. The list grows to 10.

Tomaro Bell
Robert Collier
Dominique Davis
Keryl Douglas
Rony Escobar
Eartha Jean Johnson
Johnathan F. Miller
Art Pronin (considering)
Lillie Schechter
Chris Spellmon

SD17 Forum Moved to Feb. 9

The SD17 County Chair Forum has been changed to Thursday, Feb. 9. All are welcome to attend. Further details to be provided.

Special Election Meeting

I called the office, identified myself, and asked for when the meeting to elect the new County Chair is. The staff who answered the phone said that it has not been decided yet, and Precinct Chairs will be emailed when it is scheduled. So we still do not know when the meeting is.

Here’s Camp’s previous email, which contains information about the qualifications one needs to have to be a county party chair. I will make plans to attend that forum, which is being organized by SD17 Chair Tom Gederberg. I would note at this time that this race, like the ones last year for nominations to be County Commissioner and all that other stuff, will be decided by precinct chairs. What that means is that as was the case with those “races” last year, the only candidates will be those who are nominated during the selection process by a precinct chair, and what that means is that some number of people who say they are running will wind up on the sidelines when the actual vote takes place. That’s how it went with County Commissioner and SD13, where several of the announced candidates, some of whom participated in candidate forums, were never officially put up for consideration.

Which is why I’m a little puzzled that there hasn’t been more outreach from the candidates yet. I have received a couple of emails from Eartha Johnson, and both she and Rony Escobar were at a meeting of the Spring Branch Dems on Wednesday, where I had been invited to speak. I’ve now also received an email from Robert Collier, but so far that’s it. There are multiple people on that list above who have good resumes, but no clear frontrunners. Most if not all of them will need to introduce themselves and make a case for themselves to the precinct chairs. I hope we get more of that soon.

Where are the women?

I have several things to say about this.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

The slate running to replace Mayor Annise Parker features a globetrotting sailor, a triathlete grandfather, a millionaire minister and no women.

Despite the most-crowded pack of mayoral contenders in decades, no female candidates are expected to announce bids this spring, a reality that all but guarantees women will have fewer positions of power at City Hall next year than they had during the last six.

“You are sending a message,” said Kathryn McNeil, a longtime fundraiser who helped elect Parker. “My niece is now 16. For the last six years, she’s seen a strong woman running the city. There’s no question in her mind that a woman could be mayor.”

Though more than 10 candidates likely will appear on November’s ballot, few women even seriously considered the race, which some call a reminder of how much more work Houston’s women must do to achieve political equality.

Some say it creates a less compassionate and less personal, even if equally qualified, field of candidates. It also affects the strength of the democratic process, limiting the diversity of the candidates that voters can choose from when they imagine whom they would like as their next mayor.

“Regardless of who actually wins the race, not having a viable woman candidate can be a disservice for everyone,” said Dee Dee Grays, the incoming president of Women Professionals in Government in Houston.

For the record, in the eleven city elections post-Kathy Whitmire (i.e., since 1993), there has been at least one female Mayoral candidate not named Annise Parker in eight of them:

2013 – Charyl Drab, Keryl Douglas, Victoria Lane
2011 – Amanda Ulman
2009 – Amanda Ulman
2007 – Amanda Ulman
2005 – Gladys House
2003 – Veronique Gregory
2001 – None
1999 – None
1997 – Helen Huey, Gracie Saenz
1995 – Elizabeth Spates
1993 – None

Now, most of these were fringe candidacies – only term-limited Council members Helen Huey and Gracie Saenz in 1997 could have been considered viable, and they were both crushed in the wake of the Lee Brown/Rob Mosbacher/George Greanias campaigns. But for what it’s worth, history does suggest there will be at least one female name on the ballot this year.

Research shows that women nationally need to be recruited to run for office much more than men. That especially is true for executive positions, such as governor or mayor.

Amber Mostyn, the former chair of Annie’s List, a statewide organization that recruits and backs Democratic female candidates, said there is a need for local versions of the organization that would encourage qualified women to make bids for mayor.

“You’ll see men throwing their hat in the ring when they’ve never done the job before and say, ‘I’ll figure it out,’ ” said Mostyn, a Houston lawyer and prominent donor. “Women are very reluctant to do that.”

I’m well aware of the research regarding the recruitment of female candidates. It’s definitely an issue, though I wonder if it will turn out to be a generational one. Perhaps today’s girls and younger women won’t need the same kind of encouragement that their elders currently require. Be that as it may, if there was ever a bad year for that dynamic in the Mayor’s race, it’s this year. I mean, nearly the entire field, not to mention Adrian Garcia, has been known to be planning to run for a long time now. With that many candidates already at the starting line, and presumably working to collect commitments and financial support and campaign advisers, it would undoubtedly be that much harder to make a case for someone else to gear up now and thrown her hat in the ring. As I’ve said many times already, there’s only so much room for viable candidates in this race.

Cindy Clifford, a public relations executive and City Hall lobbyist, said the key to electing a female mayor is to first focus on recruiting women for lower-level elected office and to serve on boards and commissions. That requires a commitment by the city’s leaders to tapping individual women and showing them that they have support.

“If we’re not doing it, no one’s going to come and look for us,” Clifford said. “I always think the cream rises once they’re in the process.”

Council members Brenda Stardig and Ellen Cohen could be joined next year by several top-tier female candidates in council elections this fall, but some worry that the political “pipeline” of female candidates is thin, with few who conceivably could have run for mayor this year. One, Laura Murillo, the head of Houston’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, did publicly explore a mayoral bid last summer before deciding against it.

I would point out that one of the top tier candidates for Mayor this year is someone whose entire political career has been in the Legislature, and that the three main candidates currently running for Mayor in San Antonio include two former legislators and one former County Commissioner. One doesn’t have to be a city officeholder to be a viable Mayoral candidate, is what I’m saying. Hell, none of the three Mayors before Annise Parker had been elected to anything before running for the top job, let alone running for Council. The size of the “pipeline” is as much a matter of framing as anything else. Note also that several women who were once elected to city offices now hold office elsewhere – I’m thinking specifically of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Sen. Sylvia Garcia, Rep. Carol Alvarado, and HISD Trustee Wanda Adams. Pipelines can flow in both directions.

As for the four open Council slots, the seat most likely to be won by a female candidate as things stand right now is At Large #4, where two of the three announced candidates so far are women. Jenifer Pool is running in At Large #1, but if I were forced to make a prediction about it now, I’d say that a Lane Lewis/Chris Oliver runoff is the single most likely outcome. Two of the three candidates that I know of in District H are male – Roland Chavez and Jason Cisneroz – and the third candidate, former HISD Trustee Diana Davila, is ethically challenged. One’s commitment to diversity does not include supporting someone one doesn’t trust. I have no idea at this time who may be running in District G, which is the other term-limited seat. Beyond those races, any additional women will have to get there by knocking off an incumbent.

One last thing: There may not be room for another viable candidate for Mayor, but that isn’t the case for City Controller. There are three known candidates at this time, with two more thinking about it, all men. A Controller campaign would take less time and money, and would therefore likely be fairly ripe for recruitment, especially given that a female candidate in that race would have immediate prominence. As Mayor Parker, and for that matter former Mayor Whitmire, can attest, that office can be a pretty good stepping stone. Just a thought.

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that HCC Trustee Sandie Mullins is planning to run in District G. That not only adds another female candidate for Council, it also indicates that an HCC seat will be open this fall.

Mayoral multitude

Campos has an update on who’s running for what.

Keryl Douglas

Keryl Douglas

Commentary dropped by the City Secretary Office a couple of days ago to check out the latest campaign treasurer designations.

Here is who I will add to my political page later on today:

For Mayor: Keryl Douglas, Eric Dick, Michael Fitzsimmons, and Victoria Lane.

For At-Large 2: David Robinson, Dr. Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, and Brent Gordon.

For At-Large 3: As reported yesterday, Al Edwards.

For District B: Joe Joseph.

For District C: Pete Sosa.

For District D: Lana Edwards, Larry McKenzie, and Anthony Robinson.

For District G: Ben Taef.

Of course, these folks still have to plunk down the filing fee when the time comes.

Yes, former HCDP Chair candidate Keryl Douglas is running for Mayor. I’d heard about this from two different people before Campos did his digging at the City Secretary’s office. I have no idea why Keryl Douglas thinks she can be elected Mayor, but then the same can be said for everyone not named Annise Parker and Ben Hall. Speaking of whom, you have to figure Hall is not happy about this. Douglas will be competing with him directly for African-American voters. I’m sure he’d prefer to not have that competition.

You can see Campos’ list of candidates who have filed designation of treasurer papers here. This week is when campaign finance reports for the period ending June 30 will be appearing on the city’s reporting website. That will give a good indication about who’s running for what as well. I’ll be keeping an eye on those and will write about what I find. First order of business will be to see what Parker and Hall’s reports look like. Stay tuned.

Precinct analysis: The two races we’re all glad to see the end of

For my last look at precinct data from the Harris County Democratic primary of 2012, let’s see what happened in the two most contentious races on the ballot: Elaine Palmer versus Steven Kirkland, and Keryl Douglass versus Lane Lewis. First up, Palmer-Kirkland:

Dist Palmer Kirkland Palmer % =============================== 126 791 417 65.48% 127 860 466 64.86% 128 815 615 56.99% 129 1155 878 56.81% 130 582 322 64.38% 131 3894 1785 68.57% 132 662 350 65.42% 133 803 884 47.60% 134 1393 2614 34.76% 135 731 401 64.58% 137 816 563 59.17% 138 649 511 55.95% 139 3266 1514 68.33% 140 897 461 66.05% 141 2547 963 72.56% 142 2992 1332 69.20% 143 1859 1122 62.36% 144 944 638 59.67% 145 982 708 58.11% 146 4546 2275 66.65% 147 4224 2710 60.92% 148 1077 1305 45.21% 149 847 514 62.23% 150 647 419 60.69%

Palmer won by a 61.5 to 38.5 margin, so her domination of the districts is not surprising. Never underestimate a large budget and a boundless willingness to go negative. Kirkland did have a base of support, it just wasn’t big enough to withstand the assault. It will be interesting to return to the precinct results in November to see how long the memories of Kirkland’s supporters are. My guess is that Palmer is going to underperform the Democratic baseline overall, and will probably do worse in the districts that Kirkland carried. Good thing for the people who bankrolled Palmer that it wasn’t actually about her winning. They’ve already done what they set out to do.

I don’t know about you, but when the early vote results came in and I first saw the Palmer-Kirkland numbers as I was scrolling through them, I cringed. I was convinced that if Palmer was winning, so too would Keryl Douglass be winning. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

Dist Lewis Douglas Douglas % ============================== 126 621 568 47.77% 127 741 574 43.65% 128 891 550 38.17% 129 1224 734 37.49% 130 494 405 45.05% 131 2629 2884 52.31% 132 540 471 46.59% 133 984 576 36.92% 134 2687 962 26.36% 135 627 497 44.22% 137 811 542 40.06% 138 707 422 37.38% 139 2262 2483 52.33% 140 827 564 40.55% 141 1609 1881 53.90% 142 2062 2112 50.60% 143 1815 1213 40.06% 144 1066 584 35.39% 145 1103 596 35.08% 146 3016 3449 53.35% 147 3407 3181 48.28% 148 1609 746 31.68% 149 757 594 43.97% 150 601 455 43.09%

Douglass carried five of the six African-American State Rep districts, but by relatively small margins. She did not win anywhere else. She also didn’t have anywhere near as much money as Palmer had, and I have to believe that in the end, the homophobic campaign email – whether her campaign had something to do with it or not – and push cards did not help her. I can’t say for certain that they hurt her, but I think it is safe to say that this was the wrong year to be on the wrong side of the equality issue, at least in a Democratic primary. If this is the last year that it’s even a question, I’ll consider that to be one of the better things to come out of this primary.

Democratic results, Harris County

The good:

– Lane Lewis won a full term as HCDP Chair by a 55-45 margin. If you heard a whizzing noise this evening, it was the bullet we all dodged in this race.

– Sheriff Adrian Garcia easily won renomination with over 70% of the vote.

– State Reps. Garnet Coleman and Borris Miles won their races. We may finally have seen the last of Al Edwards.

– Sean Hammerle held off Dave Wilson in Commissioners Court Precinct 4. It was a close race, but the forces of good prevailed.

The bad:

– Jarvis Johnson, who finally held a campaign event during the first week of early voting, nearly won HCDE Position 6, Precinct 1 outright. A late surge by Erica Lee pushed him into a runoff. It’s not that I have anything against Johnson, but he didn’t lift a finger during this race and he was up against two much more qualified opponents. There’s nothing like being a familiar name in a race like this.

– Elaine Palmer drubbed Judge Steve Kirkland, winning over 60% of the vote. I’ll be honest, I had thought that Palmer and Keryl Douglas would win or lose together, but Douglas didn’t have much money, and really didn’t do that much campaigning. Palmer had plenty of money and it worked for her. I wonder if her financial backers will be there for her in November.

The ugly:

– Perennial candidate Lloyd Oliver became the heir apparent to Gene Kelly by defeating the vastly better qualified Zack Fertitta for the DA nomination. I just about threw up when I saw the early numbers, and they never got any better. Let this serve as a very painful example of what can happen when a good candidate doesn’t have enough money to raise his name ID up to the level of the barnacle that is running against him. You can assess the blame however you like for this debacle, all I know is that I will be skipping this race in November.

– If that isn’t bad enough, Kesha Rogers will once again be the “Democratic” nominee in CD22. KP George had an early lead based on a strong showing in Fort Bend County, but he lost in Harris and Brazoria, and that was enough. I don’t even know what to say.

The rest:

– Diane Trautman won the HCDE Position 3 At Large race against David Rosen. Traci Jensen scored a clean win in the three-way SBOE 6 primary. Dexter Smith won in SBOE 8.

– Rep. Alma Allen also successfully defended her seat, winning with 59% against Wanda Adams. Mary Ann Perez had a late burst to win the nomination in HD144 outright, while Gene Wu rode a strong early showing to the top spot in HD137. He garnered 44%, and will face Jamaal Smith, who had 23%, in the runoff.

– Lissa Squiers led the three-way race in CD07 with 40%. She will face James Cargas, who was second with 33%. Tawana Cadien will be the nominee in CD10.

– Incumbent JP Mike Parrott won re-election, as did incumbent Constables Ken Jones, Victor Trevino, and May Walker. In Constable Precinct 1, Alan Rosen and Cindy Vara-Leija will face off in overtime; Grady Castleberry had been running second but Vara-Leija overtook him late. In the Constable Precinct 2 cattle call, Zerick Guinn and Chris Diaz made the cut.

– Turnout was about 73,000, with almost exactly half of it coming on Election Day. Some people just don’t like voting early.

For shame, Keryl Douglas

Take a look at what was being handed out at an early voting location yesterday:

Keryl Douglas push card

So much for all those denials about that “Ministers for Keryl” email. You’d think that President Obama’s recent embrace of marriage equality might have made her reconsider this course of action. I mean, it’s likely that the national platform will contain a plank endorsing marriage equality. Even putting that aside, non-discrimination in all forms is a basic and bedrock Democratic value. How in the world does Keryl Douglas think she can lead the Harris County Democratic Party if she doesn’t share those values?

Primary campaigns are always the worst, because we’re all supposed to be on the same team. The fights we do have tend to be that much nastier because we otherwise generally agree with each other, on the goals if not always on how we reach them. If you’re going to launch a personal attack against a fellow Democrat, it really ought to be for conduct unbecoming of a person who would represent us in that particular office. Producing and distributing this push card is definitely conduct unbecoming, especially for a would-be party chair. For shame, Keryl Douglas.

Early voting begins today

New Galleria EV location

Feels weird to be talking about early voting for the primaries now, doesn’t it? Well, ready or not after all this time and all these twists in the road, here we are. Here are your early voting locations and schedule. I note with interest there is a new EV location in the Galleria area – the Harris County Public Health Environmental Bldg., 2223 West Loop South, 77027. I’ve been saying for a long time that there needed to be at least one extra inner Loop EV location to take the pressure off of the West Gray Multi Service Center, and this location makes a lot of sense. I’d still like to see one more in the northwest quadrant of Loop 610 – the West End Multi Service Center on Heights Blvd just south of I-10 comes to mind – but regardless, this is a positive development. There’s another new location up in Spring as well. Take a look at the map to see what’s nearest you.

I’ve made my preferences known on a few of the primary races. I’m not going to list a bunch of personal endorsements because in many races I think there’s more than one suitable choice even if I think one of those choices is better than the others. The one endorsement I am going to reiterate here is for HCDP Chair Lane Lewis, who I think has done more than enough to warrant a full term as Chair. We’ll probably never know the truth behind that infamous “Ministers for Keryl” email – Douglas is now apparently accusing the Lewis campaign of being behind it; all I can say is that as far as I know she has never asked MailChimp to provide whatever information it can about the emails that were sent, or if she has she has not made that information known – and at this point people are going to believe whatever they want to believe about it. What struck me about this whole saga as I was discussing it with some friends the other day is that I have no idea what kind of vision Douglas has as party chair in the event she gets elected. We’ve seen what Lewis has done in the past few months, so from that we have a decent idea of what he’d do going forward, and we’ve heard him talk about his plans in his interview with me. I truly have no idea what Douglas has in mind for any number of bread and butter issues – Latino turnout, fighting the KSP thugs, social media, fundraising, GOTV, etc etc etc. Here’s the page for the Douglas Plan, which has a link for a download of Windows Media Player but no media file that I can see. (If you view the page source, you can see there’s a “KERYL_DOUGLASS_60.wav” file that is to be played by WMP. Let’s just say that this is not what I would call cutting edge technology.) There’s also her Newsletter page, which is a copy of a campaign email she sent out in January, corrected to remove the name of at least one Democratic elected official who had subsequently denied being a supporter of hers. Substance-wise, that’s it. I have no idea what HCDP Chair Keryl Douglas might do, but I have a pretty good idea of what other people will do in the event she gets elected, and that would be to not go through the Party for whatever effort they’re funding or supporting. There’ll be fiefdoms and factions and various independently operated organizations and foundations and what have you. Which is to say, somewhat like it is today but more so, and with even less deference where possible towards the HCDP. I also won’t be surprised if the folks who do the real work at the HCDP now find other opportunities with campaigns or these external groups. A vote for Lane Lewis avoids all this. If that’s not enough to convince you, I don’t know what else to say.

Finally, the Chron reports on a record number of absentee ballots for the primary.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 31,629 people had requested mail ballots – 21,053 for the Republican primary and 10,576 for the Democratic primary, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said. That number, taken three weeks before election day, already exceeded the previous record of 29,970 mail ballots requested for a primary, in 2008.

“Campaigns around here, at least over the course of the last several cycles, have been getting more focused on mail ballots because it’s a very targeted universe of voters,” said political consultant Keir Murray. “You can relatively inexpensively message these folks, and you know exactly who they are because of their age and whether they have a history of voting by mail.”

Only qualified groups may vote by mail in Texas, by far the largest being residents over 65 years of age.

The growth of mail balloting is natural, Murray said, because the electorate, particularly the primary electorate, is aging: As turnout declines, left standing at the ballot box are older voters, who tend to have stronger party affiliations and a longer history of voting in primaries.

Houston Politics has more on this, including a chart showing the trajectory of mail in ballots since 2004. Here’s what that looks like with the addition of mail ballots as a percentage of total votes.

Year Party Mail Total Mail % ===================================== 2004 Dem 4,233 78,692 5.38% 2004 GOP 11,972 82,212 14.34% 2006 Dem 2,738 35,447 7.72% 2006 GOP 10,249 82,989 12.35% 2008 Dem 9,448 410,908 2.30% 2008 GOP 15,174 171,108 8.87% 2010 Dem 7,193 101,263 7.10% 2010 GOP 13,914 159,821 8.71% 2012 Dem 10,576 2012 GOP 21,053

I don’t know that it’s a good idea to make any projections of turnout based on mail ballot requests – remember, the pre-2012 numbers above reflect ballots returned, while what we have for 2012 is ballots requested, with more still to come – but sucker that I am I will anyway. At the usual return rate of about 80%, assume the actual Dem number as of Tuesday was about 8,000, and the actual GOP number was about 17,000. The GOP total is not a huge leap from 2008 nor the Dems from 2010, and if they represent about 7 and 8 percent of final total turnout, we’re looking at maybe 110,000 to 120,000 Dem votes and 210,000 to 220,000 GOP votes. Obviously, those numbers would increase as more mail ballot requests came in. Don’t quote me on any of this, because I sure wouldn’t place any bets on this weird year. But if I turn out to be close, I’ll claim the credit for it.

Finally, just so you know, the voter ID law is not in effect. You don’t need to do anything different to vote in this primary. That could of course change for November or some time after that, but this election will be like its predecessors at least from a procedural perspective.

We really don’t know anything about the “Ministers for Keryl” email

Here’s something I recently learned: You can create a free account on MailChimp, the bulk mailer used by the Keryl Douglas campaign and also by whoever sent that awful “Ministers for Keryl” email. You can do this pretty much anonymously, and can send a lot of email that way. See for yourself.

With MailChimp’s Forever Free plan, you can send 12,000 emails a month to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers, but there are a few features that are only available to users with paid accounts.

Is it really free forever?

Yep, there’s no catch. As long as you’ve got less than 2,000 subscribers, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month without paying us a dime. We won’t even ask for a credit card.

Here’s a screenshot from their Signup page:

So what that means is that we really don’t know who sent that “Ministers for Keryl” email. All that fancy analysis of the headers tells us is that the email was sent via MailChimp. We can’t determine anything further from it. It means that Keryl Douglas’ denial is entirely plausible. Anyone, for any reason, could have done this. Two thousand emails are more than enough to make it seem like a normal email blast. The only way we can get closer to the truth is for MailChimp to provide whatever details it can about the email from its logs. Maybe the IP address will tell us something, or maybe the sender accidentally exposed some other information about himself or herself. Everything else is just speculation.

Now, this doesn’t mean that the Keryl Douglas campaign didn’t send that email. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best one. However, knowing about this free service means that in the absence of any further information from MailChimp, there is sufficient reasonable doubt to acquit. Douglas has said she filed a criminal complaint about this, and I hope that means HPD is investigating and that they have requested and received log files from MailChimp. If not, the longer we go without an answer the more likely we’ll never get one, because sooner or later those log files are going to be deleted or overwritten. If someone with a stake in this hasn’t made that request by now, time is running out.

As I’ve thought about this, I’ve debated whether the sender of this email was really smart, or really stupid. I’m now leaning towards “smart, but maybe not as smart as they think”. The thing that’s been nagging at me is the difference in the List-Unsubscribe information between the legitimate Douglas email and the Ministers email. If you’re smart enough to know that the Douglas campaign uses MailChimp and you want to frame them for something like this, why not use the same list name her campaign had used before? Of course, changing it from the generic “democrats” to the more provocative “keryldouglascampaign” did accomplish the goal of getting someone to point a finger, and maybe that’s all any potential troublemaker might have cared about. It stands out as odd under scrutiny, but it sure did take me long enough to notice, and any intended damage is already done. And who knows, maybe I’m just overthinking this. The less you know for sure, the more you want to try to fill in the blanks.

One thing I do know for sure is that if I’m affiliated with a campaign, I would not use MailChimp on a bet. This episode demonstrates clearly that it’s far too insecure to use for that purpose. Use a mailer that doesn’t allow freebies, or take your chances that someone will spoof you. Consider yourselves warned.

The truth is out there on the Ministers for Keryl email

In response to my previous post about the homophobic “Ministers for Keryl” email, a couple of commenters said that we didn’t have enough evidence to determine whether or not the email was genuine or spoofed. So, based on that feedback I’m going to provide as much information as I can to see what we can learn.

The starting point for this kind of investigation is always the full headers of the email in question, as that’s how you can tell where the email originated, what path it took, and whether there’s anything bogus in there that would point to some kind of skulduggery. Different email clients have different ways of exposing this information to you. In Gmail, you click the dropdown menu next to the Reply button, and choose Show Original:

It opens the result onto a new webpage. Here’s what I get for the header information (it also includes the full HTML and Java code for the body of the email, which I will omit here) for the infamous “Ministers for Keryl” email:

Delivered-To: [email protected] Received: by with SMTP id p10csp103284obc; Mon, 9 Apr 2012 11:33:58 -0700 (PDT) Received: by with SMTP id o3mr10492149qan.62.1333996438456; Mon, 09 Apr 2012 11:33:58 -0700 (PDT) Return-Path: [email protected] Received: from ( []) by with ESMTP id a8si13886738qao.49.2012.; Mon, 09 Apr 2012 11:33:58 -0700 (PDT) Received-SPF: pass ( domain of [email protected] designates as permitted sender) client-ip=; Authentication-Results:; spf=pass ( domain of [email protected] designates as permitted sender) [email protected]; dkim=pass [email protected]et DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha1; c=relaxed/relaxed; s=k1;; h=Subject:From:Reply-To:To:Date:Message-ID:List-Unsubscribe:Sender:Content-Type:MIME-Version; [email protected]; bh=Sr1KnAmgb/3XEASAZvhocc4+cHA=; b=e8rsMzkHmbg1qzZiRx3SVuTNq5fJ+NWjB9WsTd3YN9fjRK993EOa0se1P/HqnGMUrZo7TDF89H1P s/qbDgg95CMhYHYNMTdiTNVadBsT1jwdiuD27q8aiV19GoCpnVNAfRNEHBzWwHS3YgGcKTPm8QQY l6NzRMBaP+rqmgGZB38= DomainKey-Signature: a=rsa-sha1; c=nofws; q=dns; s=k1;; b=cSuqm0G7Gnm0HemlKLpwfQT4dJyqIgwcVV31ziTnSK/G4jsWl8OlFm47bvAh7AmNkLTdCrZyH7mX gOMZ8an++wh/JMBIdozWwfDEzTCcjXn+BfIqOqe/88wB3xHP+qhGdPAWgUGbzEvxjfzJJGrv90cv c/2qL94pTDyNSTyRlYE=; Received: from ( by (PowerMTA(TM) v3.5r16) id hgclpc11djob for [email protected]; Mon, 9 Apr 2012 18:29:05 +0000 (envelope-from [email protected] Subject: =?utf-8?Q?Support=20Keryl=20Douglas=20for=20Harris=20Democratic=20Chair?= From: =?utf-8?Q?Rev.=20Willie=20J.=20Howard?= [email protected] Reply-To: =?utf-8?Q?Rev.=20Willie=20J.=20Howard?= [email protected] To: [email protected] Date: Mon, 9 Apr 2012 18:29:05 +0000 Message-ID: [email protected] X-Mailer: MailChimp Mailer - **CID03a4f8c00a65e3510466** X-Campaign: mailchimp83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc.03a4f8c00a X-campaignid: mailchimp83ae24d69daa2a0b2455947fc.03a4f8c00a x-im: 38509-03a4f8c00a X-Report-Abuse: Please report abuse for this campaign here: x-accounttype: ff List-Unsubscribe: mailto:[email protected],>\ Sender: "Rev. Willie J. Howard" [email protected] x-mcda: FALSE Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="_----------=_MCPart_1217078024" MIME-Version: 1.0

That may look like a lot of gobbledegook if you’re not a techie, but there are a few important things to highlight. Where it says “Received: from ( [])”, the key things are that “” appears to be a MailChimp server – “” resolves to if you plug it into a browser – and that is indeed the IP address for – open a command prompt and do “ping -a” to see for yourself. We can therefore say that the email does appear to have originated with MailChimp, which as Noel Freeman noted in that Dallas Voice story was what the GLBT Political Caucus used to make the accusation that the email came from Keryl Douglas’ campaign.

That’s not enough for a conviction. As commenter Paul said to me in an email, it would be nice to be able to compare these headers to those from an email known to have come from a campaign via MailChimp. As it happens, I have several of those from the Keryl Douglas campaign in my mailbox. Here are the headers from the most recent one, dated January 23.

Delivered-To: [email protected] Received: by with SMTP id d6cs32291oby; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:04:06 -0800 (PST) Received: by with SMTP id t20mr7916103qay.2.1327309445041; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:04:05 -0800 (PST) Return-Path: [email protected].net Received: from ( []) by with ESMTP id d10si4311876qcx.187.2012.; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 01:04:05 -0800 (PST) Received-SPF: pass ( domain of [email protected].net designates as permitted sender) client-ip=; Authentication-Results:; spf=pass ( domain of [email protected].net designates as permitted sender) [email protected]; dkim=pass [email protected] DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha1; c=relaxed/relaxed; s=k1;; h=Subject:From:Reply-To:To:Date:Message-ID:List-Unsubscribe:Sender:Content-Type:MIME-Version; [email protected]; bh=ntfeE12aE8Vd8ky8gyVOZYlgy90=; b=Al+GShpwJsaGcDiox+RHHVKr5LzftL/sSCdd0QZU0cx5LSN4DfPotIhBZYHDdziUBgtQMuUFWxpD /REnpk1Yrbj0Gz1kHdwFP1zwbluQEtuLmF6rT/YxtyyEvxZ0Mhm+RBIhos6HK8CIIk6vdYim6eZH otqd3xPJvpYJYeJ6e0E= DomainKey-Signature: a=rsa-sha1; c=nofws; q=dns; s=k1;; b=Bfe7MCVMbSbZ19eaGOTOAUNNM6I4j/GcRXpswVR8oRDBH9Q9LOBDgF46wxn2bwl5Rx0Ngp+dV0Os Qb/K1+ZpYiaVrBSnmcqS82b5ojXxvPcnnM/u9cn7ai9b8vu1QAW+u5LYeX4/G6qQOqKl9y2paef/ /BUOIjno3/IXcKSQAjM=; Received: from ( by (PowerMTA(TM) v3.5r16) id h3kh8811djoh for [email protected]; Mon, 23 Jan 2012 09:03:58 +0000 (envelope-from [email protected].net) Subject: =?utf-8?Q?You=20can=20repeat=20history=20in=202012=21?= From: =?utf-8?Q?Keryl=20L.=20Douglas=20Campaign?= [email protected] Reply-To: =?utf-8?Q?Keryl=20L.=20Douglas=20Campaign?= [email protected] To: [email protected] Date: Mon, 23 Jan 2012 09:03:58 +0000 Message-ID: [email protected] X-Mailer: MailChimp Mailer - **CID0160311a9e5f508aea06** X-Campaign: mailchimpd87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0.0160311a9e X-campaignid: mailchimpd87e28aeb03746ebd23666dd0.0160311a9e x-im: 38509-0160311a9e X-Report-Abuse: Please report abuse for this campaign here: x-accounttype: ff List-Unsubscribe: mailto:[email protected], Sender: "Keryl L. Douglas Campaign" [email protected] x-mcda: FALSE Content-Type: multipart/alternative; boundary="_----------=_MCPart_1410715978" MIME-Version: 1.0

They look more or less the same; the IP address and mail server in the “Received from” match up as before. The main difference I see is in the “List-Unsubscribe” line; where the Douglas campaign email has “”, the Ministers for Keryl email has “”. (Those addresses also resolve to the MailChimp domain, by the way.) I wondered what that might mean, so I checked a couple of other MailChimp campaign emails I have. There’s one from the Elaine Palmer campaign dated February 6 for which the List-Unsubscribe is “”, and one from the Andrew Burks for City Council campaign dated December 22 for which the List-Unsubscribe is “”. Seems pretty clear to me.

Again, not enough for a conviction, but nothing that would lead to an acquittal, either. I think we’re at the limit of what I can tell from the emails, but we can certainly get closer to the truth than this. Since everything indicates that the Ministers For Keryl email did come via MailChimp, then the next step is to ask them to check their logs to see what they can say about where it originated. I doubt they’d turn that information over without a paid account or a subpoena, neither of which I have. Not that it really matters, since I don’t have the bandwidth to pursue this any further, but there are surely other parties who ought to be able to. Keryl Douglas, who according to Noel Freeman claimed at her press conference that her account had been hacked, would presumably be interested in ferreting out the truth if she really has been victimized. Having formally accused her of being responsible, the GLBT Political Caucus might want to get an answer. And of course, a professional reporter might want to take advantage of the resources that a professional newsgathering organization could bring to bear on the matter. My point is that this isn’t another he-said/she-said dispute, and it should not be treated as one. There’s an objective answer to this question, and while we may not be able to answer it definitively, we can at least narrow down the objective possibilities. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Douglas denies sending anti-gay email

Keryl Douglas held a press conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the Willie Howard email, and she sent out this statement regarding the matter.

Let me begin by stating immediately and unequivocally that I did not write, nor cause to be written the letter allegedly penned by a Reverend Willie J. Howard on behalf of a group of ministers for Keryl. Neither did I have knowledge that such a letter was being written.


On or about Monday, April 9, 2012, this Willie Lynch style letter began to be widely distributed and was falsely blamed on or attributed to my campaign. Prior to this letter and responding e-mails being widely distributed by Carl Whitmarsh and/or others, I had absolutely no knowledge of such a letter, nor did I distribute or cause it to be distributed. From the onset, numerous libelous and slanderous statements have been made associating the letter with me or my campaign. Such conduct is not only malicious but actionable under the law. I urge everyone to immediately cease and desist from these false, libelous accusations against me and my campaign.

My immediate response after learning of the letter’s existence and the attempts by numerous persons to associate the letter with me or my campaign, was to immediately act to report the letter to law enforcement . I strongly believe that as it relates to fabricating this letter and its writer, creating an e-mail and possibly a P.O. Box for the purpose of falsely associating these to me or my campaign, if such conduct is not a crime, it should be. As a result of the distribution of this “Willie” letter, I have received hundreds of mean-spirited and accusatory, attacking e-mails which, at minimum, should qualify as cyber-bullying and harassment.

At no time in my campaign to date has there ever existed a group called Ministers for Keryl. This is a fabricated group just as I strongly assert that the letter is also a fabricated letter. I have absolutely no knowledge of having ever met a Willie J. Howard, let alone a Reverend by that name. It is my firm belief that Willie J. Howard does not exist. If he does exist, then I both challenge him to come forward AND I challenge “Team Whitmarsh” and other responders to the letter to produce this Willie J. Howard.

The letter, a copy of which accompanies my press advisory and statement, is not only an attack on me and my campaign, but also on Ministers, the Religious Community, and the African American Community in general. I strongly assert that it originated with neither of us, nor could or would serve either of us any benefit. I assert that the identification of the source of this letter would be identical to who gained the most from it being produced and distributed.

This letter was written and distributed as a despicably desperate attempt to distract or derail my substantive campaign on the issues, while at the same time intended to demean, disrespect and denigrate ministers and the religious community. The Church is a traditional pillar of the community which deserves respect and reverence. Even such a base, depraved attempt to compete with my campaign on the issues should not have also targeted the ministers. I believe that only those who are morally and ethically bankrupt could concoct and distribute such a letter, and especially to blame it on one or more ministers.

I cannot recall even once in my life when one or more ministers have expressed their views or concerns under the cloak of an alias or anonymity. A google search does not show the existence of a Reverend Willie J. Howard. In a search to determine the origin of the letter, the path actually grows cold for us at the forwarded e-mails of Carl Whitmarsh and an internet link where the letter can be accessed. It cannot ever be truthfully linked to any ministers I know of nor with the only e-mail and website established by me or my campaign. Whoever initiated, distributed and/or attributed to me this letter, lacks the affirmative defense of TRUTH in any potential civil litigation. This letter has or will be reported to all agencies that may be of assistance in determining its origin and holding accountable its originators.

The strategy of the incendiary and inflammatory letter of unknown origin is unfortunately not a new one. It was used in the Mayoral election in 2009, as well as prior mayoral elections. It has been used to incite defeat of other measures. It is not a new strategy, but it is definitely time that it becomes an unsuccessful and unacceptable strategy.

Let me assure you that neither I nor anyone representing or acting on behalf of my campaign wrote this letter; nor do we embrace or approve of the spirit and intent of it. I will continue to endeavor to include and work with ALL people from ALL walks of life across our myriad diverse communities. I will continue to focus my campaign on the critical issues our voters and our nation face, educating and empowering our voters on the Democratic platform, mobilizing and inspiring them to turnout to vote and protecting them from voter intimidation, suppression or civil rights violations as they exercise their right to vote.

I’m glad to hear Douglas disavow the “spirit and intent” of that email, but a key question remains unanswered. The Dallas Voice explains.

The above screen grab shows the yellow information window that pops up when you 'mouse over' a link at the bottom of an anti-gay email sent by 'Ministers for Keryl Douglas.' Based on this 'metadata,' the Houston GLBT Political Caucus alleges the email was in fact sent by Douglas' campaign itself.

In a press release sent out [Monday] night in response to Howard’s letter, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus alleged that a digital analysis shows the email containing Howard’s letter was in fact sent by Douglas’ campaign itself, and not by “Ministers for Keryl Douglas.”

We contacted Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Caucus, to find out how the Caucus determined this. Freeman explained that electronic data, called “metadata,” is attached to every email. When you use an email client — such as iContact or Constant Contact, but in this case “MailChimp” — it attaches its own specific data.

“We examined the metadata on that email that was sent out and compared it to an official email from the Keryl Douglas campaign,” Freeman said. “They were identical. The metadata that was attached was identical, and it says Keryl Douglas campaign.”

Freeman directed us to “mouse over” a link at the bottom of the copy of Howard’s email that was forwarded to us. We confirmed that when you mouse over a link that says “Add us to your address book” at the bottom of the email, what pops up is a web address associated with Douglas’ campaign website. (See screen grab above.)

“You’d be amazed at how stupid people can be about this stuff,” Freeman said.

I can also confirm that a mouseover of the links in the “Ministers for Keryl” email that I received showed the link you see in that screenshot. That does not square with Douglas’ denials. I will reiterate what I said when I published my interview with Lane Lewis: Keryl, if you contact me with a time and place that are suitable for you, I will still do an interview with you. Obviously, I will ask about this. You know how to reach me.

Finally, from Patricia Kilday Hart, who unfortunately treats this as a he-said/she-said dispute instead of exhibiting any curiosity about whether the objective claim being made about the “Ministers for Keryl” email is, you know, factually correct or not:

As Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus explained it to me, the tags cannot be altered by users. “Any claim that this email did not come directly from the Keryl Douglas Campaign is a lie. The digital trail of evidence is indisputable.”

Douglas held a news conference Thursday not only disputing the allegations, but turning the tables. In her statement, Douglas, an attorney, asserted that “numerous libelous and slanderous statements have been made associating the letter with me or my campaign. Such conduct is not only malicious but actionable under the law.”

Like I said, you would think that the objective claim Freeman made, which logically implies that someone is not telling the truth here, would have piqued Hart’s interest. The Chron does have a couple of computer experts on staff in the event one would like an evaluation of such things. I’m just saying. Be that as it may, there was a political angle that did catch Hart’s eye:

This mystery has an interesting cast of characters: Michael Kubosh, who ran as a Democrat against Sen. Dan Patrick, attended Douglas’ press conference, as did Pastor James Nash.

Well-known for his activism – with his two brothers – to overturn Houston’s red-light camera ordinance, Kubosh told me that Nash’s support had been critical in winning that election. “We wouldn’t have won had it not been for Pastor Nash,” Kubosh said. If Nash was supporting Douglas, then so would the Kubosh brothers, he said. In recent years, they have been mostly known for their Republican ties.

I would think that if there’s one office a person might seek for which bipartisan credentials are not an asset it would be the chair of a county political party. I’m pretty sure that if I showed up at a Jared Woodfill press conference and expressed my support for his leadership that it would not be looked upon fondly by Republican primary voters. Putting everything else aside, I don’t see how this is helpful for Keryl Douglas.

A little bit of NOM comes to the race for HCDP Chair

NOM is the National Organization for Marriage. They are big proponents of “traditional” marriage and opponents of marriage equality, and have been the driving force behind anti-marriage equality initiatives around the country, including California’s notorious Proposition 8. They have been very secretive about who they and their financial supporters are, but recently were forced to cough up some files as a result of litigation over their campaign finance practices, and this charming piece of their strategy was exposed.

The secret campaign of the National Organization for Marriage for creating hostility between African Americans and gays over marriage equality have come to light in a lawsuit over campaign financing in Maine. The document, which dates to 2009, was circulated by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group at odds with NOM for years. It also shows that NOM targeted Latinos in its efforts as well as President Obama:

“The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks—two key Democratic constiu[t]encies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots. No politiician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of the party. Fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop 8 is key to raising the cost of pushing gay marriage to its advocates and persauding the movement’s allies that advocates are unacceptably overreaching on this issue. Consider pushing a marriage amendment in Washington D.C.; find attractive young black Democrats to challenge white gay marriage advocates electorally.”

HRC Campaign Media Director Kevin Nix said, “Nothing beats hearing from the horse’s mouth exactly how callous and extremist this group really is.”

One section of the document explains how the group would buy ads and robocalls directed at African Americans. Included in the $1 million budget for that is $60,000 to pay black bloggers.

The main focus was to be a “$20 million strategy for victory” directed toward the 2010 midterm elections. But the document also described to the NOM board a $1 million plan of the American Principles Project to “expose Obama as a social radical.” Among other things, APP wants a return to the gold standard and to protect innocence. It says the government “plays a central role in propagating” messages of violence and promiscuity that affect “our children through schools, textbooks, libraries, job programs, health initiatives, and other public policies.”

More here. This was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw an email from [email protected] with the subject “Support Keryl Douglas for Harris Democratic Chair” that hit my Inbox yesterday. I’ve put the text of the email beneath the fold, but it’s straight out of the NOM playbook. I don’t know if it is the case that NOM had a hand in this – they are very secretive and take full advantage of lax state laws on donating to PACs when they aren’t just ignoring the law altogether – but it sure does smell like them, and as one of the barrage of emails to Carl Whitmarsh’s list noted, the person whose signature is on that email apparently belongs to someone who passed away in 2009. So, you know, watch out.

I am heartened to see a strong and visceral reaction against this email – see Dos Centavos, Egberto Willies, Marc Campos, the GLBT Political Caucus, the Stonewall Young Dems, the Harris County Young Democrats, among others – but the fact that anyone, whether outside agitator or not, thought that this was a viable strategy is sickening. I condemn this in the strongest possible terms, and if I weren’t already a supporter of Lane Lewis for HCDP Chair, I would be now. To whoever sent this out, I say for shame. To Keryl Douglas, I say the longer you remain silent about it the more these words belong to you. What do you stand for?