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Peter Lyn Rene

More thoughts on the Council elections

One district at a time…

– I confess that I did not see the District A result coming. Helena Brown did raise a decent amount of money since entering the race at the filing deadline, about $22K through the end of October, which makes me wonder how she might have fared if she had gotten in the race sooner. For what it’s worth, she’s at a big financial disadvantage in the runoff, as CM Brenda Stardig reported over $67K on hand in her 8 Day report, while Brown listed only $1378 on hers. Maybe Stardig needed to spend more during regulation time. Brown has received donations from the two previous District A members, Bruce Tatro and Toni Lawrence, the latter of whom apparently had a falling out with Stardig a few months back. If Brown wins she will be a big success story for the anti-Renew Houston forces. She would probably like for the runoff to be a low turnout affair in which she can campaign like it’s a Republican primary. Stardig will likely need to persuade some Democrats that she’s worth voting for; I would also expect the Houston Association of Realtors to try to come to her rescue. I have a bad feeling about this one for the incumbent.

– A lot of endorsing organizations avoided choosing a candidate in District B for November. I presume that part of the reason for that was that it was a crowded race with no obvious frontrunner and multiple contenders who might have a shot at making it to the runoff. Now that it’s narrowed down to Alvin Byrd and Jerry Davis, who received the bulk of the endorsements that were made, it’ll be interesting to see who lines up behind whom. Davis had an email out yesterday touting the fact that former competitors Kenneth Perkins, Phillip Paul Bryant, Bryan Smart, and Charles Ingram were all now supporting him. Also up for grabs now are the HBAD and Chronicle endorsements, both of which had gone to third place finisher (and currently unaligned, as far as I know) Kathy Daniels.

– Moving to the non-runoff districts, I’m still not sure if I’m surprised or not that Ellen Cohen won in C without a runoff. I had no doubt that it was possible, but I had no good feel for what the likelihood of it was. I do have a feeling that Cohen’s next two elections will be much easier to prognosticate.

– Given how a few other first-termers did, CM Al Hoang’s 56% win in District F has to be seen as a pretty strong performance, but much like Helena Brown in A, I wonder how Peter Lyn René might have fared if he had entered the race earlier. He missed out on the opportunity to screen for an awful lot of Democrat-friendly endorsements. I’m not saying he would have won, but a swing of less than 300 votes away from Hoang would have put him into a runoff. Surely that was achievable with a few months’ extra time to organize and fundraise.

– I’m just going to point you to what Greg says about District J, because there really isn’t anything I can add to it. I hope CM-elect Mike Laster makes an offer to Criselda Romero to be on his staff so that she can be in a good position to succeed him in 2017.

– Regarding the At Large runoffs, it’s easy to see the AL2 and AL5 races in racial terms, with the fates of the candidates entwined. Here’s Greg again:

As an aside in looking at the At Large runoffs together, I have a hard time seeing the needle threading such that both JoJo and Kristi win, though that’s obviously the outcome I’d most love to see. The more JoJo voters there are, then theoretically, the better the odds are for Andrew Burks. And the better things look for Kristi, the harder they look for JoJo. I really hope I’m wrong on this.

I think it’s a little more complex than that, for the simple reason that Burks isn’t a particularly good candidate. To put it another way, while I would agree that there will be a correlation between the vote totals of Burks and CM Jones, there will also be a lag between their totals. I believe a fair number of people who show up to vote for Jones will not bother to vote for Burks. As evidence, I cite the district returns from the 2009 runoffs, which featured both Burks and Jones as well as Ronald Green and Gene Locke. Take a look at these numbers, which I compiled from these earlier posts:

Candidate B votes D votes ============================ Locke 11,395 15,223 Green 10,017 16,935 Burks 7,773 11,974 Jones 10,673 17,653

Burks received less that 75% of Jones’ vote total in the African-American districts in the 2009 runoff, and he was running against someone who is not nearly as well-liked as Kristi Thibaut. He isn’t anywhere near Jones’ league. Maybe this time it will be different, but I see a lot of room for Jones to win and Burks to lose. And like District B, there are now a bunch of endorsements up for grabs. Thibaut, who had more endorsements by my count than other candidates going into the November election, counted HBAD among her supporters. She has since picked up the support of former candidates Bo Fraga, Jenifer Pool, and David Robinson; a whole host of Democratic elected officials, including numerous African-Americans (Rodney Ellis, Alma Allen, Garnet Coleman, Harold Dutton, Ron Reynolds, and Senfronia Thompson); and the Oak Forest Dems and Democracy for Houston endorsements; both of those groups reaffirmed their support of CM Jones as well. I think that says something, and about Burks’ ability to keep up with Jones.

As far as CM Jones goes, the playbook is the same for her as was two years ago: Run up the score in the friendly precincts, and hope it’s enough. Without a Gene Locke at the top of the ticket to drive turnout, that could be harder to achieve. She does have the benefit of the runoff in B to help her, but that may be canceled out by the action in A. It’s a crapshoot. I wouldn’t bet against her, but boy this is a tough way to go about it.

Chron overview of District F

Moving on from District B, here’s the Chron’s overview of District F. It’s really more of an overview of the incumbent Council Member Al Hoang, and I think it’s safe to say that it’s different from the rest of these stories.

Councilman Al Hoang pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in donations meant for the local Vietnamese community organization he headed prior to his election as District F councilman, a lawsuit by a group of Vietnamese civic activists claims.

Hoang denies the charges and has countersued the plaintiffs for what he considers libel.

The lawsuit is another step in what Hoang sees as a persistent campaign of harassment against him. Detractors have been so aggressive, he said, they once mailed him a photograph of themselves urinating on the graves of his parents.

He is a target not for any legal improprieties, he said, but for his maturing attitude toward Vietnam, one that has evolved from focusing on the regime’s violent overthrow to one of promoting change from within the country through trade and dialogue.

“They want me to use this seat as a base to overthrow the Communist government” of Vietnam, Hoang said.

Outside of court, Hoang is being challenged for re-election by Hoc Thai Nguyen, a businessman who claims Hoang’s sister-in-law threatened to poison his children, calls Hoang “the Gadhafi of Houston,” and says he fears for his life because he believes Hoang is capable of killing him. Nguyen is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Peter René, an information technology manager with no involvement in the internecine Vietnamese conflict, also is challenging Hoang.

I don’t even know what to say about any of that. Nguyen was a deadline day filer and I did not have the chance to interview him, but I did do interview with CM Hoang and with Peter René, who recently received the Chron’s endorsement in the race. I don’t know how much that or the controversies around CM Hoang will affect his re-election chances. Both of his opponents filed late, so neither is likely to be particularly well known, but on the other hand Hoang doesn’t have that much cash on hand, so perhaps they can catch up a bit. This is one to watch. What do you think?

Endorsement watch: René and Pennington

Today we learned that the Chron is apparently not endorsing in uncontested elections, as they skipped over CM Mike Sullivan in District E, and we got our first endorsement of a challenger over an incumbent.

After a series of controversies involving incumbent Al Hoang divided his Vietnamese-American base, Hoang indicated he would not stand for re-election. Though he later changed his mind, we think his initial decision was the right one. The district, which has demanding infrastructure and economic development needs, requires new, focused leadership at City Hall.

Fortunately, voters have the opportunity to elect such a person, businessman and community activist Peter “Lyn” René. Born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, René came to Houston in 1979 and graduated from Westbury High School and UH-Downtown.

[…]

René promises to be a strong voice at City Hall for street repair and district beautification. To counter budget cuts that have closed community centers and after-school programs, he says he would use his skills as a grant writer to solicit funds from corporations and foundations to continue vital municipal youth services.

With his technical skills and record of community service, René is, from our point of view, the best choice on the ballot to represent District F constituents.

I’m going to step out on a limb here and infer that the Chron is telegraphing its forthcoming endorsement in At Large #5 for Laurie Robinson. Who disagrees with me about that? In any event, you can listen to my interview with René, who was a deadline day filer, here.

The Chron stayed with incumbent CM Oliver Pennington in G.

Pennington is a retired lawyer who spent much of his career at Fulbright & Jaworski working on issues related to municipal governance. That familiarity with the ways of City Hall has allowed him to tackle complex issues with knowledge and experience that benefit his district and the city as a whole.

[…]

Pennington well understands the need for Houston officials to work with our state lawmakers to better manage employee pension expenses that threaten to bankrupt city coffers. There is no more pressing long-term fiscal issue.

Finally, Pennington also backs important quality-of-life difference-makers, such as preservation of our city’s architectural heritage and green spaces.

The Chronicle recommends that District G voters return Oliver Pennington to City Hall.

My interview with CM Pennington is here. Of note in that endorsement is the Chron’s complimentary mention of Pennington’s late-filing opponent, Clyde Bryan. As you’ve seen in earlier endorsements, they don’t usually bother to do that.

Interview with Peter Lyn René

Peter Lyn René

Another deadline day filer was Peter Lyn René, who is running for Council in District F. René is an IT project manager and mediator who mediates civil cases in the Harris County Justice Courts; he was the Democratic nominee for Justice of the Peace in Precinct 5, Place 1, in 2008. He is also the founder, Chair, and CEO of a non-profit arts foundation called the Singing from the Soul Foundation. Here’s what we talked about:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle, plus other related information, on my 2011 Elections page.