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Ronald Green

A first look at the 2013 elections

It is 2013, right? So while we have the SD06 special election and the new legislative session to worry about, it’s not too early to start talking about the 2013 elections. Let’s start with a peek at the campaign finance reports from last July of the Houston officeholders who will be on the ballot this November:

Dist Name Cash on hand ================================= Myr Parker 1,281,657 Ctrl R Green 9,983 AL 1 Costello 57,345 AL 2 Burks 3,160 AL 4 Bradford 20,590 AL 5 Christie 14,535 A Brown 22,641 B Davis 64,211 C Cohen 45,597 F Hoang 6,429 G Pennington 119,951 H Gonzalez 57,899 J Laster 31,816 K L Green 9,107

I omitted the three Council members who are term-limited out (Melissa Noriega, Wanda Adams, and James Rodriguez), as well as newly-elected Dave Martin, since his July report would not be relevant. Normally there would have been five open seats this year, but with Mike Sullivan stepping down due to his successful candidacy for Tax Assessor and Jolanda Jones losing in 2011, there are only three vacancies, and as such there will likely be a stampede for those seats. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s take a closer look at where the non-term limited incumbents are.

Mayor

As we know, Mayor Parker will probably by challenged by former City Attorney Ben Hall, will possibly be challenged by her former Housing Director James Noteware, may possibly be challenged by some yet unknown candidate or candidates, and will certainly have a few fringe challengers as well. It could be quite the crowded race at the top of the ticket. While Hall would certainly be a more serious opponent in terms of money, resume, and presumed base of support than the 2011 hopefuls were, with Noteware and the others also possibly having more juice, I have believed for some time now that Parker starts out in a stronger position this year than she was in two years ago. The much-improved economy and real estate market mean that the city’s budget is far healthier than it was, which means the Mayor can do positive things rather than negative things like layoffs and service reductions. Distractions like red light cameras and Renew Houston are in the past, while the overwhelming passage of the city’s bond referenda gives the Mayor some wind at her back and a nice accomplishment with which to begin the year. Anything can happen, and we’ll see who if anyone else emerges to run against her, but I believe we will look back and say that 2011 was the better chance to beat her.

How would one go about defeating Mayor Parker if one were inclined to do so? The conventional wisdom is to aim to replicate the 1991 campaign, in which State Rep. Sylvester Turner and eventual winner Bob Lanier squeezed then-Mayor Kathy Whitmire into a third place finish. This is the vaunted “pincer strategy”, combining African-Americans and Republicans to shrink the remaining voter pool for the white Democratic lady Mayor. I’m skeptical of this. For one thing, Whitmire – who garnered an incredibly low 20% of the vote in that election – was running for her sixth term in those pre-term limits days, at a time when the term limits movement was gaining steam. There was a strong case for change, or at least there was a more restless electorate that was going through an economic downturn that year. Whitmire was also coming off a bruising defeat, as her $1.2 billion monorail proposal was killed by Metro’s board chairman, who was none other than Bob Lanier. Lanier promised to spend that money on roads, which was much more popular. There isn’t an issue right now that could be used as a cudgel against Parker, which makes the argument to fire her that much more challenging.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t issues to be used against Parker, but they’re not issues that I think are likely to be used effectively by an establishment insider like Hall, or any Republican who may file. Given that Hall is who he is, I think a more potent strategy would be to pair him with an outspoken liberal, who can compete with Parker’s base voters in District C by attacking her for things like the homeless feeding ordinance, the lack of any effort to advance equality in Houston, and the Metro referendum if one believes the University Line is mortally wounded. Quantifying the irony of Whitmire losing for promoting a rail plan, and Parker losing for being perceived as insufficiently supportive of rail, is left as an exercise for the reader.

And as long as I’m giving out advice, my suggestion to Team Annise is to work on building its ground game and seeking to increase turnout. There were 160K ballots cast in the 2009 runoff, but only 123K in 2011. Neither of these are particularly high totals for a city election – indeed, the 2011 total failed to reach the puny 125K ballots cast in the sleepy 2007 election. There are plenty of people who have voted in city elections, certainly as recently as 2003, but haven’t done so in the past few cycles. I rather doubt that Parker versus Hall et al is likely on its own to draw any more voters than Parker/Locke/Brown/Morales did in 2009 (181K, in case you’re curious), but there’s no reason Parker shouldn’t be working to identify and bring out voters who have a less consistent history of voting in city elections. I think that offers a better path to 50% plus one than another dreary exercise in talking to only the same old hardcore voters. You know, like me. She has plenty of money, she’ll have plenty more after the curtain comes up on fundraising season. Target a bigger universe, I say.

Controller

I’m wondering if Ronald Green has a typo in his finance report. He reported $46K on hand last January, then his July report showed that he raised $26K and spent $13K, so I have no idea he could have had only $9,983 on hand. I guess we’ll see what this January’s report says. Beyond that, not much to see here. He’s still not a big fundraiser, and he still has no credible announced opposition despite his recent negative press.

Council At Large

Is it just me, or are those some anemic cash on hand totals? Six out of eight district Council members have larger campaign treasuries than three of the four At Large members. Bradford often reports a lot of in kind contributions – he has listed some things we might normally think of as expenditures as in kind contributions – which tends to reduce his COH figure. Burks, who raised $35K but had $34K in expenses, paid off a number of debts, including the $10K loan from his wife and two items dating from the 2009 campaign that totaled $4650. Christie also spent nearly as much as he raised – $66K raised, $63K in expenditures. This included $45K for “printing”, which I presume was a deferred expense from his runoff campaign.

As was the case in 2011, there’s only one open At Large seat, At Large #3, so once again I expect a cattle call in that race. I know Jenifer Pool, who ran in At Large #2 in 2011, is in for AL3 this year, and other names will surely emerge in the next few weeks. I have to think that it would be worthwhile for a Council wannabe who might be concerned about getting lost in that shuffle to consider taking on one of the incumbents instead, specifically Burks or Christie. Burks’ winning campaign in 2011 after however many previous tries was, to put it gently, atypical. The only policy item I can recall that he originated last year was a proposal to revamp Houston’s term limits ordinance, which never made it out of committee. He also drew scorn for suggesting that the propane tanks used by food trucks might potentially be used as weapons by terrorists. He doesn’t have much money, doesn’t have a history of fundraising, has generally run do-it-yourself campaigns, and his main asset is the name recognition that a dozen or more previous campaigns has earned him. You can make a similar case for Christie, who made an interesting proposal relating to shelters for homeless people that as far as I know went nowhere and who also said silly things during the food truck debate. Unlike Burks, Christie has been and should continue to be a good fundraiser, but also unlike Burks he has no natural constituency – he’s a moderate Republican who isn’t beloved by county GOP insiders. His win in 2011 could also reasonably be described as out of the ordinary. I’m not saying either would be easy to beat this year, I’m not even saying someone should run against them. I’m just suggesting that a multi-candidate open seat race where getting to the runoff is more crapshoot than anything else doesn’t necessarily offer the best odds of being sworn in next January.

District Council

Just so you know, former Council Member Brenda Stardig reported $26,574 on hand in July. If she aims for a rematch with Helena Brown, she starts out at parity in the money department. I’m not sure what’s up with CMs Hoang and Green, but I don’t expect either of them to have much difficulty this year. Everyone will be watching District A, probably even more than the two open seats, but I’d keep an eye on Jerry Davis in District B as well. Davis has worked hard, but doesn’t appear to have won over the insiders in the district, being a new resident of B himself. It would not shock me if he gets a serious opponent. Beyond that, Dwight Boykins appears to be in for the open seat in District D, and while other names will soon emerge we may have to get a judge’s opinion about whether Jolanda Jones can be among them. There are already two candidates for District I; if history holds, there likely won’t be too many more.

HISD and HCC

It’s a bit confusing because the County Clerk webpage doesn’t track uncontested Trustee races, but I’m pretty sure that the following people are up for election:

For HISD Trustee: Mike Lunceford, Anna Eastman, Greg Meyers, Lawrence Marshall, and Harvin Moore. Lunceford and Eastman are finishing their first terms; Moore and Meyers were unopposed in 2009; Marshall won in a runoff. I have not heard anything so far to indicate that any of them are not running for re-election. If Anna Eastman runs for and wins re-election she will be the first Trustee in District I to do so since at least 1997 – I can’t check any farther back than that. Gabe Vasquez was elected that year, followed by Karla Cisneros in 2001, Natasha Kamrani in 2005, and Eastman in 2009.

For HCC Trustee: Mary Ann Perez’s election to the Lege in HD144 means there will be a vacancy in HCC Trustee District III. The Board has appointed former Trustee Herlinda Garcia to replace her. Garcia, about whom you can learn more here, will need to run in a special election to be able to serve the remainder of Perez’s term, which expires in 2015. The three Trustees whose terms are up this year are Bruce Austin, Neeta Sane, whose district includes a piece of Fort Bend County, and Yolanda Navarro Flores. It’s fair to say that Trustee Navarro Flores’ current term in office has been rather eventful. She won a close race last time, and if she runs again I would expect her to get a strong challenger. Sane is completing her first term, while Austin, the longest-serving Trustee, was first elected in 1989. I am pleased to note that this year the Trustee candidates’ campaign finance statements are now available online. Sometimes, a little bitching and moaning goes a long way.

That’s all I’ve got for now. January finance reports are due next week, and a few will probably trickle in early. I’ll keep an eye out and will post a report when they’re all up, or at least at some point after they’re all supposed to be when I’ve run out of patience waiting for them. I’ll throw in the reports for County officeholders who are up in 2014 as well, just because. Please add your own speculation and rumormongering about who is or isn’t running for what in the comments.

The Controller’s travels

This is me shaking my head.

City Controller Ronald Green

Houston controller Ron Green, the city’s top elected financial watchdog, has flown first class and frequented high-end hotels in New York and Chicago at taxpayer expense for more than two dozen publicly funded excursions, booking lodgings that cost as much as $460 per night and often exceeding maximum rates set by city policy, records obtained by the Houston Chronicle show.

In all, Green has billed for more than $35,000 in expenses for out-of-town trips in his first three years as the city’s elected financial watchdog – taking far more city-funded jaunts than Houston’s better-known mayor.

[…]

When asked about the trips, Green’s spokesman Roger Widmeyer said Green did nothing wrong, saying the Chronicle’s questioning of expenses bordered on “insulting.” Widmeyer said Green’s hands-on participation in travel and meetings involving bond deals pays off in savings and costs little.

“As a department director, elected official and CFO, Ronald Green has elected not to be a ceremonial controller. As a result, this office has been the most productive in decades,” said Widmeyer, who emphasized Green’s role in overseeing the city’s $14 billion debt portfolio and its $2.5 billion in investments.

Green minimizes expenses by staying at hotels booked by city financial consultants who sometimes passed on their corporate discounted room rates and organized working lunches and dinners for the controller and other staff, Widmeyer said.

“Most importantly the municipal bond refinancing that has taken place during Controller Green’s tenure in this office amounts to more than $200 million saved over the last nine years without extending the term of the debt. That has been the objective of bond travels,” Widmeyer said.

On frequent bond-related trips to Manhattan and Chicago, Green has been accompanied by an entourage of up to six other employees from various departments. Records show other city staff stayed in the same expensive hotels and sometimes took flights that cost more than $1,000.

In contrast, Harris County officials banned bond pricing trips for employees as unnecessary in 2010. They use teleconferencing technology to monitor the process without leaving Houston.

“We live in a world where you don’t need to go up there,” said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. “There’s no benefit to the county, and if you’re using tax dollars to do it, it’s a waste.”

[…]

Beyond the controller’s expenses, his staff filed another $28,000 in travel bills for a dozen bond-related trips since 2010. Sometimes, they filled out waivers to justify hotel bills that exceeded spending limits in the city’s travel policy, records show. However, some waivers were incomplete or missing from files provided to the Chronicle.

Furthermore, controller staffers said they could not guarantee that the more than 1,200 pages of travel records provided to the newspaper were complete since the office relies on an outdated paper process for filing and reviewing travel expenses instead of tracking them electronically.

Houston’s three previous elected controllers, including Mayor Annise Parker, controller from 2003 to 2009, rarely traveled for bond business.

Through a spokesman, Parker confirmed she did not go along on any bond-pricing trips at all in her last two years as city controller because she had “staff with bond expertise and believed they could handle it.” Even as mayor, Parker has traveled less often than Green – taking 17 trips at city expense from 2010-2012, compared with 27 for Green.

I know Ronald Green well enough to know that he’s a smart, accomplished person who has ambitions to run for Mayor. I’m at a loss to understand why such a smart, ambitious person would have such a blind spot about something like this. If you truly believe that taking these trips is returning value to the taxpayers, then it’s on you to proactively make that case, and to do so before the newsies start sniffing around your expense account. Especially after there’s already been a negative story about you that might lead people to question your judgment. I still don’t have any concerns about Green being challenged for Controller by the likes of Don Sumners, but Green ought to be concerned about being challenged by someone of a higher caliber than that. He’s certainly going to face better opponents in 2015, if he does indeed run for Mayor. I’d try to address those concerns sooner rather than later if I were him.

Sumners for Controller?

Yeah, I don’t know about that.

County tax assessor-collector Don Sumners, who lost his bid for re-election in the May GOP primary, said Wednesday he is considering running for city controller next year.

“The part that has to be decided is whether I can actually win. I’m not a spring chicken,” said Sumners, 73.

Controller Ronald Green did not draw an opponent for re-election in 2011. He is eligible to run for a third and final two-year term in 2013.

For whatever the reason, incumbent City Controllers have been unopposed for re-election in recent cycles. The last sitting Controller to have an opponent was Lloyd Kelley, who was ousted by Sylvia Garcia in 1997. Since then – Garcia in 1999 and 2001; Annise Parker in 2005 and 2007; Green in 2011 – Controllers have gotten free rides after their initial elections. Sumners ran for Controller once before, in 1993, drawing less than 10% of the vote as one of three unsuccessful challengers to George Greanias. Green had some bad press earlier this year, but he can’t hold a candle to Sumners on that score. Plus, not to put too fine a point on it, this is a heavily Democratic city. I’ll have more on this on Monday, but as was the case in 2008 the city of Houston voted over 60% for President Obama. Obviously, the electorate is very different in an odd-numbered year, but the point is that someone like Sumners has a much lower ceiling than Ronald Green has. So let’s just say I don’t think Green will lose any sleep over this.

The Green blues

First there was this.

City Controller Ronald Green

City Controller Ron Green, Houston’s top elected money manager and self-described watchdog, is seeking leniency for a five-time convicted felon and contractor who masterminded an elaborate real estate and forgery scam targeting the city’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Green is asking a judge for probation for his friend and former next-door neighbor Dwayne K. Jordon, a rogue developer who pleaded guilty to felony theft. According to indictments, Jordon pilfered 23 Houston properties from different owners and then duped unsuspecting buyers into purchasing homes built on stolen ground.

The ex-con contractor and the city controller have known each other about five years, the same period, according to a Houston Chronicle review of dozens of court records and related real estate documents, that Jordon carried out the series of land thefts, mortgage frauds and deed scams.

Harris County prosecutors want a 25-year sentence for Jordon, who has a long string of prior convictions, including kidnapping, armed robbery and illegal possession of drugs and firearms. Along with a business partner, Jordon executed the contracting scheme by forging deeds of sale on mostly vacant properties and profiting from his illegally built homes, indictments say.

Green – who owes $112,000 to the IRS and nearly lost his house to foreclosure in 2006 – has described the 46-year-old Jordon as a hardworking businessman who renovated Green’s own home. In fact, Jordon’s contract for the renovations helped Green get a new $508,000 home loan in 2008.

Acting as a character witness, Green told a judge in March that Jordon raised money to buy turkeys for the poor, performed high quality construction and “worked very hard to really try to change the face of that Sunnyside community in which he lives.”

Then there was this.

Elected Justice of the Peace Hilary Harmon Green repeatedly ordered the eviction of tenants and relatives on behalf of a five-time felon even though she and her husband, City Controller Ron Green, both had financial and personal ties to the home builder.

In one case involving Dwayne K. Jordon – a convicted thief who has admitted to repeatedly pilfering people’s properties for his residential construction projects – Green evicted Jordon’s own uncle despite a dispute over whether Jordon held ownership of the family home.

That ruling, which later was overturned by a county court, came in 2009 – the same year Green’s husband, a lawyer, was paid an undisclosed amount of money to advise Jordon on his criminal case, meet with a Harris County prosecutor and recommend a defense attorney.

Through her clerk, Hilary Green refused to comment on why she did not recuse herself from more than a dozen matters involving Jordon, who has been her neighbor, her home renovation contractor and for whom her husband has served as a character witness in the pending real estate criminal case.

[…]

Ethically, Hilary Green should have recused herself on legal cases involving Jordon because of her other associations with him, said Lillian Hardwick, an Austin attorney and expert in judicial conduct who co-authored the authoritative Handbook of Texas Lawyer and Judicial Ethics.

We don’t get much of either Green’s side of these stories, so it’s a little premature to judge them. Still, they don’t look good, and to have two bad stories in the space of a week, that’s going to leave a mark. Campos suggested after the first story came out that it put Ronald Green in a vulnerable position not just for a future Mayoral campaign but even potentially for re-election in 2013. I think it’s a little early for such speculation, but if there are more shoes to drop, then that certainly becomes possible. We’ll see if this is it or not.

The city’s bond package

And here’s Mayor Parker’s bond proposal for November.

Mayor Annise Parker is unveiling a $410 million package of proposed bond measures for the November ballot that will not require a tax increase.

She proposes five bond measures. The purposes and amounts:

  1. Public safety: $144 million
  2. Health, sanitation and general government: $63 million
  3. Affordable housing: $15 million
  4. Library: $28 million
  5. Parks: $160 million

“I realize many Houstonians are still recovering from the economic downturn,” Parker said in a press release. “That is why it was important to me to present a plan that does not require a tax increase. It is also the smallest bond proposal in more than 30 years. It is a fiscally responsible approach that will create jobs and improve public safety, infrastructure and quality of life.”

Council cannot vote on the measures today. Parker will bring the measures back on a future agenda for a formal vote by council to put them on the ballot.

You can see full details in the Mayor’s press release and the Chron story, which notes that each of these five items will be its own ballot proposition. Parks funding includes the Bayou Greenway project, which merits a couple of paragraphs in the release. Not all of the funds from this package has been designated to specific projects – some $116 million worth will be decided by Council, which ought to be interesting. Anyone want to guess how big District A’s piece of the pie will wind up?

The day before this came out, City Controller Ronald Green griped to the Chron that he had not been kept in the loop about the details of the bond package, and that the numbers he had been hearing sounded too low to him.

Green said he has heard that the package of bond measures will total approximately $400 million.

“I still believe we need to go out for more bond authorization. I think $400 million is not adequate to meet the needs of the city,” Green said. “If you’re going to ask somebody to vote for bond referendums, you need to be realistic about what it’s going to take to meet a major CIP (capital improvement project) initiative.”

The city should take advantage of low interest rates and ask for $600 million to $800 million, even if that requires a tax increase, Green said.

As we now know, Green’s information about the size of the bond package was accurate. Part of the reason for this is specified in the Mayor’s press release:

In addition to being the smallest bond referendum in 30 years, the mayor’s proposal is approximately $135 to $350 million less than the three previous bond referendums Houston voters have considered in the last 15 years. This is due to ReBuild Houston’s pay-as-you-go approach, which provides approximately $125 million of debt free street and drainage improvements annually. In the absence of ReBuild Houston, the bond request would be larger.

Controller Green’s point about taking advantage of historically low interest rates is certainly meritorious, but one can easily imagine the caterwauling that would result from a proposal that necessitated even a small tax increase. Given how contentious these things have become lately, I can certainly understand taking this approach. It’s also probably why I got a press release just a few hours after the original one announcing the bond package’s details that announced the formation of the campaign to support the package’s passage:

The Vote for Houston’s Future Committee is co-chaired by Philamena Baird, Pam Gardner, Melinda B. Hildebrand, City Councilmember Melissa Noriega and Barron and Lisa Wallace. Finance chairs are Robert Collie, Jr., Jason Few and Neil Thomas. Dean Corgey is the campaign treasurer and Billy Briscoe is the campaign manager.

“In these tough economic times, Houston is leading the way – creating more jobs, borrowing less, and improving the quality of life for all Houstonians for years to come,” said Campaign Co-Chair Pam Gardner, former President of Business Operations for the Houston Astros. “We urge Houstonians to vote for the City Bonds in November.”

The Committee has set up a website: www.JobsParksSafety.com. The site will allow visitors to get detailed information on the bond proposal, sign up for an e-mail newsletter or contact the campaign.

We’ll see what kind of opposition materializes. Campos and Stace have more.

Precinct analysis: 2011 At Large #5

Last but certainly not least, the race everyone is wondering about, At Large #5:

Dist Robinson Jones Christie Ryan ======================================= A 17.10% 23.61% 48.91% 10.38% B 18.80% 73.00% 5.09% 3.11% C 25.07% 30.02% 35.57% 9.35% D 14.96% 73.56% 7.86% 3.62% E 19.97% 13.73% 54.51% 11.79% F 19.44% 30.45% 37.41% 12.70% G 14.99% 14.70% 61.81% 8.49% H 23.23% 45.26% 21.10% 10.41% I 26.13% 41.33% 21.39% 11.14% J 20.19% 31.78% 35.56% 12.47% K 20.85% 51.01% 21.54% 6.60%

For comparison purposes, here are my analyses of the 2009 runoff and regular election for At Large #5. I’m going to keep this simple, because I think Greg captures most of the important points. Superficially, the race this year resembles the one from 2009, in that you had CM Jolanda Jones versus Jack Christie, an African-American woman, and another Republican. Clearly, though, Laurie Robinson > Davetta Daniels, and Carlos Obando at least had second place finishes in the old Districts H and I to show for his effort. Jones remained strong in B and D – she scored 76% and 70% in the old versions, respectively. While Robinson did better than Daniels in those districts – Daniels had 8% and 14% – she didn’t take a noticeable amount of that vote away from Jones. But Jones starts out with a lower percentage than last time, suggesting there may be more people than before that are willing to vote her out.

Which is a problem, of course, because she won by a very slender margin last time. The main difference this time is that the 2009 runoff was a relatively high profile affair, with Gene Locke and Ronald Green also on the ballot, wooing African-American voters. Over 160,000 people voted in the ’09 runoff. Here, Jones’ race is the top of the ticket, and Andrew Burks will hope to ride her coattails because he has no momentum of his own. If the 2011 election was like the 2007 election, perhaps the 2011 runoff will be like the 2007 runoff, in which case we can expect maybe 25,000 to 30,000 voters. It all comes down to who comes out. Jones has no room for error. The scary thing for her is that when you shrink the voter pool that much, even if the basic shape of the electorate is the same as it was two years ago, a little random fluctuation here or there could be the difference. I’ll say it again, I would not bet against her, but I would hate to be in this position. It’s anyone’s ball game.

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.

Interview with City Controller Ronald Green

City Controller Ronald Green

What I had originally thought would be my final interview with a City of Houston candidate is with City Controller Ronald Green. As it happens, due to some late contact with a couple of campaigns, I have some more to follow. In any event, like Mayor Parker, Controller Green is finishing his first term. Unlike the Mayor, he’s been busy doing things that don’t get nearly as much attention in the news. I tried to cover as much of that as I could in the interview:

Download the MP3 file

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

Better times are coming (we hope)

So says City Controller Ronald Green in the Chron’s op-ed pages.

Officially, the U.S. recession has ended. We have certainly rounded the corner here in Houston. And while there is a loss here of public sector jobs, the private sector in Houston is hiring again – about 23,000 new jobs this year, significant but not near the typical 65,000 new jobs created annually pre-recession.

But we’re getting back.

And the city of Houston is getting back. I sense a new way of doing business here at the city, with employees dedicated to their jobs and serving the citizens, employees more cognizant than ever of the importance of efficiency in the workplace. Employees willing to pay a larger part of their benefit deductibles, willing to renegotiate pensions and willing to forgo raises.

That works as a short term fix for the city’s bottom line, but it’s not exactly good for the employees’ long term financial health. Green doesn’t give any figures for the 2012 budget year, perhaps because too much is in flux right now (*cough* *cough* debt ceiling *cough* *cough*), perhaps because they might contradict his sunny thesis. I hope like hell he’s right – I hope that in a few months we’ll be talking about what services we can restore instead of what else we can cut, but I’m going to wait to see some numbers before I get too optimistic.

More campaign finance reports for July

Following up on the earlier post, here are some more highlights from the July campaign finance reports for City of Houston elections. All reports can be found on my 2011 Election page.

– Since I dinged Al Hoang for not filing a January report, I will state up front that his July report is on time and looks to be correct at first glance. He had a habit in 2009 of entering some expenditures as in-kind donations, and his subsequent filings were done as cumulative reports instead of just for that period, which made his totals look inflated. I don’t see any of that here, so kudos to him. If I want to be super nitpicky, I’ll note that unlike his 2009 reports, which listed many dozens of small-dollar contributions from citizens, many from the Vietnamese community, this report mostly has entries from the usual suspects – PACs, law firms, whatnot. Which is to say, it looks a lot like the reports of other incumbent Council members.

– Speaking of which, here are the contribution and expenditure totals for all Council incumbents:

Incumbent Dist Contribs Expends Cash Loan ================================================== Costello AL1 162,124 77,984 91,857 15,000 Noriega AL3 74,965 40,807 35,774 11,000 Bradford AL4 56,376 4,273 44,120 0 Jones AL5 113,586 30,046 85,166 0 Stardig A 52,315 17,220 56,499 0 Adams D 82,105 16,077 67,620 0 Sullivan E 88,355 34,186 67,132 15,000 Hoang F 16,900 14,707 22,980 0 Pennington G 194,157 56,109 202,249 0 Gonzalez H 69,134 24,741 60,712 0 Rodriguez I 44,840 47,517 42,424 0

Both CMs Pennington and Costello were big fundraisers last time, so while their totals are quite impressive, it’s not as surprising as it would be from someone else. Like Hoang, CM Bradford also had the habit last time of listing some odd things as in-kind donations. There’s still some of that this time around – for instance, a $2,000 donation by himself for “Use of Personal Vehicle/Gas for Campaign Purposes”, and $3,000 from Wendy Richard for “Campaign Consulting Services”, which is something you’d normally expect to see as an expenditure – but there seems to be less of it, and more traditional giving, this time.

– Speaking of big fundraisers, Mayor Annise Parker clocks in with $2,231,691 raised and $2,340,034 on hand. Good luck to anyone who might be thinking about a late challenge to her.

– City Controller Ronald Green, who was easily the third-best fundraiser in that race in 2009, had a respectable showing with $94,913 raised and $53,181 on hand. Given that he has no opponent, and that he (probably) has till 2015 to build up a warchest if he intends to follow the Annise Parker career path, it’s a start. Let’s see what he reports next January.

– Among non-incumbents, the report that jumps out at you is that of Ellen Cohen, who raised a mind-boggling $234,814 for the period. She regularly raised scads of money for her State Rep campaigns, and many of the same donors are supporting her again, so this too isn’t a surprise, but it is an eye-opener. I don’t know what the record is for a district race, but she could challenge it.

– Cohen’s competitors in District C were much more subdued. Karen Derr, who lost in a runoff for At Large #1 last time, had an oddly empty report, showing $950 raised and no expenditures. She sent me a preview of an email to her supporters about this, which you can see here; basically, she says she is making a deliberate choice to “win this race with fewer dollars and more grassroots support”. I have no opinion at this time of the merits of this strategy, but the contrast it helps create for her is undeniable. Joshua Verde raised $5,882 and has a bit less than half of that on hand. Brian Cweren raised a superficially impressive $51,485 to come closest to Cohen. I say “superficially” impressive because almost $45,000 of that total came from…Brian Cweren himself. No point calling it a loan if you’re not going to pay it back. This is the flip side to the Eric Dick approach, who is paying as he goes.

– Another candidate whose report looks bigger than it is is Louis Molnar, who is challenging CM Bradford in At Large #4. Molnar reported taking in $45,040, but nearly all of that is in kind, for things like rent, clerical support, and in what may be the most ominous thing I’ve seen on a report so far, $5000 from a “singer/songwriter” with Universal Music for “entertainment”. I am gripped by an abiding fear that a campaign song is in the works. Anyway, as this is another example of many things that would be subsequently classified as expenses being shown as in-kind donations, Molnar reported only $2,625 on hand despite a paltry $643 in listed expenditures.

– Elsewhere in open seat reports, Larry Green in K leads the way with $40,060 raised and $31,804 on hand. All three known candidates in J have reported: Criselda Romero raised $5,220 and has $4,419 on hand; Mike Laster, who lost in a runoff in F in 2009, raised $5,100 but thanks to a balance carried over from that race of $7,224 on his January report, he has $12,259 on hand; Rodrigo Canedo reported no money raised or spent, and his form was signed by someone named “David Merkel”, which makes me suspect an error somewhere.

– There are many District B hopefuls out there, but only three of them have filed so far, Phillip Bryant raised $15,309, a fair bit of which was in-kind, leaving $3,554 on hand; and Kathy Daniels raised $3,874 and loaned herself $4,700 but has less than $1,000 on hand; Jerry Davis raised $8,585 and retains $6,804.

– Most of the At Large #2 hopefuls have now filed: Jenifer Pool raised $30,492 and has $15,058 on hand; Elizabeth Perez raised $1,505, loaned herself $3,683, and has $1,687 on hand; Bolivar Fraga raised $27,284 and has $14,988 on hand; Kristi Thibaut raised $31,124, loaned herself $5,000, and has $30,921 on hand; and David Robinson led the field with $61,112 raised. His form does not list cash on hand, however – he claimed $6,969 in expenditures – so I expect there will be a correction. I’ll upload that when I see it.

– Finally, the other two challengers to CM Jolanda Jones have now filed, but neither did anything notable. Robert Ryan reported no money raised or spent; Jack O’Connor raised less than $400. Chris Carmona in At Large #3 has filed a second report, which no longer shows a contribution from Eric Dick but otherwise appears to be the same. He didn’t file a “correction” report, so I’m just guessing about the differences between the two.

– The most prominent candidates to not post reports as yet are Michael Williams and Griff Griffin in At Large #2, Bryan Smart in B, Randy Locke in C, and Otis Jordan in K. As always, I will update the 2011 Election page as I see more reports come in.

Anyway. To see all of this in a simple chart, see this document that was put together by my friend Erik Vidor. While I’ve taken a passing glance at many of these reports, it still remains to do a more detailed inspection and see what crops up. The 30-day and 8-day reports are likely to be the most informative about what campaigns are actually doing with their money, but I’m sure there will be points of interest in this heap of data. Noel Freeman got a head start on that by looking for food-related expenses. Take a look for yourself and see what you see.

UPDATE: I have been told by the David Robinson campaign that cash on hand should have been reported as $53,095.57, and that the correction affadavit and finance form update have been filed with the city. I’ll upload the corrected form when I see it.

It’s official – Council will expand

Very good news.

Council voted today to declare that the city’s population is 2.1 million. The number was a trigger point that mandates the city add a 15th and 16th council seat by the city charter.

[…]

After much debate that included a special meeting yesterday, the council voted 13-1 to expand. Only Council Member Brenda Stardig voted against the item. Council Member Mike Sullivan, who had repeatedly spoken out against expansion, in the end voted with the majority.

Hallelujah. It’s gratifying to see that in the end, even (most of) those who were openly critical of this effort did the right thing and supported it. There may yet be litigation, but the 13-1 Council vote is a strong statement, and I’d say it’s unlikely that such litigation would succeed in stopping the redistricting. The rumor mill about who’s going to run for what will kick into a higher gear shortly. See Greg for another liveblog of the Council meeting, this op-ed by City Controller Ronald Green in favor of adding the two districts, and this report by Jerry Wood that explains in detail why the city’s population is indeed over 2.1 million for more.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story about the Council vote.

About those land sales…

The current fiscal year’s budget for the City of Houston includes revenue from the sale of some city-owned property to make it balance. This article talks about this and what might happen if they don’t sell before the end of the fiscal year, but it leaves out one critical piece of information:

Real estate sales of $40.6 million were built into this year’s budget based primarily on the sale of two properties: the public works building, which sits adjacent to the Federal Reserve Bank on Allen Parkway, and the city’s permitting offices at 3300 and 3400 Main.

With the sales, the administration would finish the year with a general fund balance, or surplus, of about $123 million. That would be about $3.7 million below the threshold the city has adopted as a measure of good fiscal stewardship.

If the sales do not clear before June 30, something the controller said is unlikely, the surplus could drop below $84.5 million.

Such a step would require a vote of City Council, since city ordinance requires maintaining a cash balance of at least 5 percent of operating expenditures, not counting debt service.

So, um, are there any buyers lined up? What stage of the purchasing process are we in here – finalizing the paperwork, haggling over the price, waiting for a buyer to get their financing in order, or waiting for a buyer to make an offer? Seems to me that makes a pretty big difference here. Yes, I know, the city and any potential suitors it may have will not want to speak on the record about any possible deals, but surely the point should be raised in the story. Without it, there’s no way to tell how big a concern this is.

One more thing:

[City Controller Ronald] Green said ratings agencies may look askance at dipping below that benchmark.

“Obviously, the more cushion you have, the better,” he said. “Any bank likes to see that people have money in the bank to be able to pay their debt. Going below that 5 percent is just not prudent.”

Acting Finance Director Kelly Dowe said he does not believe the city will dip below that mark. If it does, it will be temporary. The city would use the coming budget year to immediately restore the balance to 7.5 percent, or roughly $130 million.

This is another example of why “balanced budget” requirements are silly and counterproductive. Why shouldn’t the city be able to carry over the balance if it fails to meet an arbitrary deadline? How is that any worse than playing a shell game with the reserve funds? Or the “delay certain payments by a day so they fall into the next fiscal year” trick that the Lege has played before and will surely play again this session? I’m sure ratings agencies are perfectly capable of judging how realistic the city’s prospects are for getting the funds they’ve budgeted for in an appropriate amount of time, and can adjust their ratings accordingly. What exactly have we accomplished by marking a boundary point on the calendar?

A very early look at 2011 fundraising

A couple of weeks ago I took an early look at the 2011 city elections, but there was a key ingredient missing in that analysis: Money. The fundraising season for city candidates, which has been closed since last January, will open again on February 1. Let’s take a look at where various cast members stand now, before all the fun gets underway again.

Name Office Cash on hand ========================================= Annise Parker Mayor 1,050,253 Ronald Green Controller 15,677

One of the nice things about being elected Mayor is that you can hold a late-train fundraiser or two before the year-long moratorium sets in, and people with checks will attend them. Keep that number above in mind when discussing other potential Mayoral candidates. Sure, some of them would be able to raise big bucks as well, but 1) that takes time; 2) a lot of people who might otherwise like them will already be on the Mayor’s team; and 3) you can be sure she’ll have a couple of events lined up for as soon as the curtain is lifted, making the hole they start out in that much deeper. It’s a big factor, and when you hear someone say they’re “exploring” a race, what they mean is they’re calling around to see if there are enough people out there willing to write them enough big checks to make it worth their time. Waiting for term limits to do their thing is almost always the wiser course.

As for Controller Green, he defeated two better-funded opponents in 2009, so his lack of scratch is no big deal. Better yet, as you will see there’s no one out there with the kind of moolah MJ Khan and Pam Holm had to begin with. I’ll say again, it’s my opinion that Green is a lock for re-election.

The returning City Council members:

Name Office Cash on hand ========================================= Stephen Costello CCAL#1 28,938 Melissa Noriega CCAL#3 1,681 C.O. Bradford CCAL#4 4,238 Jolanda Jones CCAL#5 22,304 Brenda Stardig Dist A 21,892 Wanda Adams Dist D 342 Mike Sullivan Dist E 162 Al Hoang Dist F Oliver Pennington Dist G 64,223 Ed Gonzalez Dist H 19,975 James Rodriguez Dist I 45,923

CM Hoang’s report was not available as of this posting. There were numerous issues with his finance reports in 2009. So far, 2011 isn’t starting off so well for him on that front.

You can see why I’ve been skeptical of the rumors about CM Bradford’s potential candidacy for Mayor. He has not demonstrated big fundraising abilities in two different campaigns, and he starts out with very little. Again, I’m not saying he (or anyone else) couldn’t do it, but the track record isn’t there, and the piggy bank isn’t overflowing.

After winning a squeaker of a runoff in 2009, it’s good to see CM Jones with a few bucks on hand. While I believe she won’t be any easier to beat this time around, she will undoubtedly continue to be in the news, so she may as well be forearmed.

CM Pennington raised a boatload of money in 2009 and won without a runoff, so I’m not surprised he starts out with a decent pile. CMs Rodriguez and Gonzalez were unopposed in 2009, and given that they may have very different diatricts this year, I’m sure they’re happy to have the head start. I’d guess CMs Adams and Sullivan will be hitting the fundraising circuit sooner rather than later.

The departing incumbents:

Name Office Cash on hand ========================================= Sue Lovell CCAL #2 98,935 Jarvis Johnson Dist B 0 Anne Clutterbuck Dist C 89,534

Hard to know what the future holds for CM Johnson, but another candidacy doesn’t appear to be in the cards right now. The same can probably be said about CM Lovell, who had once wanted to run for County Clerk. That ship has sailed, and I don’t see there being much of a Lovell bandwagon these days. I won’t be surprised to see her disburse some of her funds to other candidates in the future, however.

I do feel that we’ll see CM Clutterbuck run for something again. No, not Mayor – at least, not this year. There was a time when I thought she’d be a big threat to win HD134, but unless Sarah Davis (whom Clutterbuck supported last year) stumbles badly, that seems unlikely now. She could possibly be groomed to take over for her former boss Rep. John Culberson. I’d hate to see that if it meant she’d morph into a Washington Republican – she’s far too sensible for that, I hope. Actually, what I wouldn’t mind seeing is for the redistricting fairy to move her into Jerry Eversole’s precinct (this map doesn’t quite do that, but it’s close), because she’d be an excellent choice for Ed Emmett to make in the event Eversole does get forced out before 2012. Just a thought.

Finally, a few others of note:

Name Office Cash on hand ========================================= Gene Locke Mayor 20,645 Roy Morales Mayor 5 MJ Khan Controller 1,657 Michael Berry CCAL #5 88,122 Jack Christie CCAL #5 0 Eric Dick CCAL #2 4,036 Mark Lee Dist C 1,287 Robert Glaser Dist C 301

If it’s an election year, you can be sure ol’ Roy will be running for something. Doesn’t really matter what – this is Roy we’re talking about. I’m sure he’ll let us know what soon.

Who knew Most Influential Houstonian of 2010 Michael Berry had so much cash left in his account? I seriously doubt he’d run for anything – he’s got a much cushier, not to mention higher-paying, gig now – but I suppose he could decide to throw a few bucks at someone. Hey, Roy, you got Berry’s phone number?

I have no idea if Jack Christie will take another crack at At Large #5. As I said above, I don’t think CM Jones will be any more vulnerable this time around, but who knows? It does seem likely she’ll draw a fringe opponent or two – Griff Griffin needs a race now that Lovell is termed out – so hoping for a runoff and better luck in same isn’t unreasonable. My advice, for what it’s worth, would be to start fundraising early, and not shoot your wad all in the last few days.

Mark Lee ran for District C in 2005, and for Controller in 2003. He’s reportedly looking at C again, but like Ellen Cohen will have to wait to see what the mapmakers produce. Robert Glaser ran against Clutterbuck in 2007 and 2009. Eric Dick, who as far as I know has not been a candidate before, will be running for the open At Large #2 seat; the cash on hand listed for him is the result of a loan.

There were a handful of other names listed among the reports, but none that are likely to be candidates this cycle. We’ll have a much better idea where things stand after the June 15 reporting date.

A very early look at the 2011 elections

Texas on the Potomac lists 11 national races of interest for 2011. Well, of interest to some – outside of the Dallas Mayoral race, none of these mean much to me, and that’s only if incumbent Tom Leppart leaves to pursue the Senate or draws a real challenger. (Here’s a good overview of the Dallas races, if you want to know more about them.) What I care about is the races that will be on Houston ballots this November. Here’s an early look at what will be up and what we may have to look forward to.

Mayor

Obviously, the biggest race, if there is one. For a wide variety of reasons, Mayor Annise Parker is not in the same position that Bill White was six years ago, when he was set to cruise to a 90% total against a handful of nobodies. Still, Parker may or may not face a real challenger – while a number of names have been mentioned as possibilities, no one has named a treasurer or taken any other formal steps to take her on. The person most consistently mentioned as a possible opponent is Council Member C.O. Bradford, but I have my doubts that there’s anything to this, mostly because Bradford has not been a strong fundraiser in his prior campaigns, and because I have my doubts he would have much broad appeal. I think if someone doesn’t go on the record with at least a statement that he or she is “exploring” a Mayoral candidacy by the end of this month, we can expect Parker to have a clear path to a second term.

City Controller

The last year in which a sitting City Controller had an election opponent was 1997, when Sylvia Garcia knocked off Lloyd Kelley. I don’t expect anything different this year, so go ahead and pencil in Ronald Green for another term.

City Council At Large

Only one open At Large seat, the one currently held by CM Sue Lovell. I expect a big field for that seat – there are already two candidates that have made their ambitions known, Jenifer Pool and HCC Trustee Michael Williams, with several others known to be talking about it. Unlike 2009, when incumbent At Large members Lovell and Jolanda Jones were forced into runoffs before winning re-election, I don’t expect any current incumbents to face serious challenges. Someone may take a crack at Jones, but if they couldn’t take her out in 2009, I don’t expect them to do so in 2011. If CM Bradford is planning to run for Mayor, then of course there would be a second open At Large seat, in which case you may see some people shift races, and some more people jump in. I don’t really expect this to happen, but until it’s been ruled out anything is possible.

City Council district seats

2011 is the year that Council is increased to 11 district members, with new boundaries being drawn for all seats. Two current incumbents – Jarvis Johnson in B, and Anne Clutterbuck in C – are term-limited out, so there will be at least four open seats in play. With City Prop 2, which would have authorized a one-time change to the residency requirement to six months from the usual 12, being defeated, if you’re not already in the Council district you hope to run for, it’s too late. What that suggests to me is that every reasonable step will be taken to ensure that the remaining seven district incumbents can run again in those districts, leaving B and C to be sliced and diced freely if need be.

Questions to ponder before Census data comes in and the sausage-making process begins:

1. Will there be a third Latino district drawn, as some activists have hoped/demanded? Given the low level of Latino participation in city elections, and the wide dispersal of Latinos across the city, I think that’s a mighty tall order. The thing to watch for is if someone actually produces a map that they say would elect three Latinos to district seats. Without that, don’t expect there to be a serious attempt at achieving this.

2. Will there be a “gay-friendly” district in central Houston that (among other things) separates Montrose from District D and unites it with the Heights? Greg took a crack at drawing such a thing, and discussed some of the difficulties in doing so. As with a Latino district, I expect there will be some pressure for this to happen. You’ll note, by the way, that the map Greg drew had a Latino population of about 35%, which will likely be higher when the 2010 data is in. Not enough to get a Latino elected by itself, perhaps, but a decent starting point for a base.

3. Will the successor to the current District F be preserved as an “Asian” district? Between MJ Khan and Al Hoang, F has certainly functioned as an Asian district, however it was intended to be. This seems likely to happen, partly because it would be in incumbent Hoang’s best interests and partly because there’s already some interest in keeping it that way. And not to be tedious, but I’m willing to bet that both the current and future versions of F are also heavily Latino. I’m just saying.

4. Will Kingwood and Clear Lake remain joined? I asked CM Sullivan about this when I interviewed him in 2009, and that was his preference. He is no longer the Chair of the committee that handles redistricting, however, so he doesn’t have as much influence over that as he once did. You can make a case either way, so we’ll just see how it goes.

HISD Trustee

Four HISD Trustees will be on the ballot, assuming no one steps down. They are Carol Mims Galloway (District II), Manuel Rodriguez (III), Paula Harris (IV), and the newly-elected Juliet Stipeche (VIII). Other that perhaps Stipeche, I don’t expect anyone to be seriously challenged. If no one does step down, it will be the first time in at least a decade that there will be no open seats available; I’ve verified this through 2001, but the 1999 results aren’t available on the County Clerk webpage, and I’m too lazy to go back farther than that.

HCC Trustee

I certainly hope we won’t have a repeat of 2009, in which incumbent Trustee Abel Davila decided at the last minute to not file for re-election, leaving the field open for his brother-in-law, who dropped out two days later amid much public backlash, thus paving the way for a write-in candidate, Eva Loredo, to win. Three Trustees are up for another six-year term: Michael Williams (District 4), Richard Schechter (District 5), and Christopher Oliver (District 9). Williams, as noted above, is apparently seeking a City Council office, which would leave his seat open if he follows through. Only Schechter had an opponent in 2005, whom he dispatched easily. On the other hand, we did have a very close race in 2009, with incumbent Diane Olmos Guzman being nipped by Mary Ann Perez. For offices that have six-year terms and no resign to run requirement, these offices deserve more attention than they usually get.

The mandatory furlough plan

Happy New Year, city employees.

Thousands of city of Houston employees will have to take six unpaid days off in the coming six months, one of a series of actions Mayor Annise Parker is taking to close a $29 million budget gap.

“This is a step that I didn’t want to take,” Parker said on Thursday. Furloughs send “the wrong message to hard-working city employees who get up and pick up our trash, fix our roads, keep our libraries open, mow our parks.”

The furloughs will save the city $5 million and will apply only to civilian employees, with a few exceptions in such areas as trash pickup and other positions that generate revenue, Parker said. Employees who make less than $24,000 a year also will be exempt, she said.

I guess it’s still better than layoffs, but that’s likely small comfort for the people that will be taking what amounts to about a 2.3% pay cut. The main issue I have with this is where do you go from here? It’s a one-time fix, and the problems exist beyond this year. Obviously, you can hope that the economy improves and that property values begin to rebound – there’s at least some reason to be optimistic, or at least not pessimistic, about that nationally – but what’s the plan beyond that?

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this, so let’s get to it.

City Controller Ronald Green painted a more dire picture of the city’s budget situation through fiscal 2011.

The Parker administration has estimated the city will garner $36 million by selling city-owned property, but Green projects that figure will only reach $20 million at best. The added gap could make more layoffs necessary, he said.

“Most of our budget is in salaries, so where you make the cuts is with personnel,” he said. “Furlough days obviously will help with the bottom line, but it’s still not the ultimate solution.”

[…]

City Councilman Mike Sullivan, who has emerged in recent weeks as a sharp critic of the mayor, said the furloughs won’t go nearly far enough. Freezing spending at its 2009 level and deferring contractual 3 percent pay increases for city employees would save far more, he said.

“These are just one-time savings,” he said. “We’ve got to trim millions and tens of millions of dollars from the budget.”

I’m going to ask again, when will rolling back the property tax rate cuts that were adopted in recent years going to be on the table? It’s easy to beat your chest about making cuts when it’s primarily other people – city employees – who will feel the brunt of it. What’s your own skin in the game?

At a more fundamental level, to focus exclusively on cuts is dishonest and I believe ultimately destructive. Saying “we can’t raise taxes when times are bad” is little more than a shibboleth. If that’s really the case, then we shouldn’t have cut them when times were better, because the revenue we willingly forsook in years past would be mighty handy right about now. The same is true for Harris County, the state of Texas, and the federal government, which is filled with people (mostly but not exclusively Republicans) that scream about the deficit at every opportunity while also never missing a chance to increase it for the benefit of the wealthy. For some people, times haven’t been bad at all. When are these folks going to be called on to sacrifice for the greater good?

Voluntary furloughs

I suppose this was inevitable.

Mayor Annise Parker announced a voluntary furlough program for civilian employees in December, the first in what may be a series of difficult steps the city must take to close a $30 million budget deficit in the next six months.

Parker said she would take a furlough — a day off without pay — and five City Council members standing with her also agreed to do likewise, including Sue Lovell, Al Hoang, Jolanda Jones, Wanda Adams and Brenda Stardig. At best, the city could reap $1 million in savings from the program, although Parker said it was too soon to know how many employees would participate.

“The budget is tightening up,” Parker said. “Some of the savings we are working on … probably will not materialize this fiscal year.”

The Mayor’s announcement is here, and a statement from HOPE, which is definitely taking one for the team, is beneath the fold.

In addition to the $30 million gap the city must close in the next six months, there remains a $118 million gap in 2012 and about a $420 million projected deficit in the next three years. To deal with those gaps, the administration has begun to contemplate raising taxes, instituting additional furloughs and renegotiating pension payments.

City Controller Ronald Green, who said he planned to take a furlough, predicted that involuntary furloughs would be inevitable.

As I’ve been saying, it’s a function of what amount of government services we’re willing to tolerate, and what amount we actually want. And anyone who talks about “sacrifice” without including a higher property tax rate as an option is someone who’s hoping that sacrifice will be borne by others. Stace has more.

(more…)

Mayor Parker’s first budget

It sounds good, and she kept her promises about not raising the property tax rate, at least for this year, but there are some blanks that still need to be filled in.

Mayor Annise Parker unveiled a $4.1 billion spending plan Tuesday, balancing the city’s budget largely through a one-time draw of surplus funds, land sales, fee increases and spending cuts she insisted would have a minimal impact on Houstonians.

[…]

City Controller Ronald Green sounded a more cautious note, pointing out that the budget has been balanced by anticipated cuts of more than $22 million and about $40 million in land sales that have yet to be realized.

City officials said the $22 million will come from what they termed “efficiencies” in how Houston manages its fleet of more than 12,000 vehicles, as well as consolidation of some employee functions. Where departments or employee functions are combined, city positions may be cut, which could result in some layoffs, Parker said.

Green said there should be a “question mark” next to the $22 million in cuts.

“How they realize those savings has yet to be seen,” the controller said. “The administration’s definitely going to have to make some tough choices along the way.”

I presume that the details about the land sales and the $22 million in cuts will come out as Council discusses and amends the budget. Given the fuss over the sale of Lakewood Church, I’d be a little concerned that some of those land sales may run into some resistance. I like the general shape of this budget, which is doing an awful lot under some fairly constrained circumstances, but it’s not at the finish line yet. And I daresay we all agree that unless sales and property tax revenues go back up again, the choices next year will be a lot less palatable. A press release from the Mayor’s office about the budget is beneath the fold.

(more…)

Property tax values drop

This budget news is really really bad.

Thirty percent of Harris County homes declined in market value this year, as the area’s overall tax base dropped for the first time in at least two decades, officials announced Thursday.

The reduced tax revenue will likely require substantial budget cuts for the 600 taxing entities in the county, including cities, school districts, community colleges and municipal utility districts.

Harris County tax rolls, buffeted by residential foreclosures and business failures, are expected to decrease more than $11 billion for 2010. The overall decline represents a drop of more than 4 percent from last year.

Jim Robinson, who heads the Harris County Appraisal District, said only 1 percent of residences, most of them in the Katy and Cypress-Fairbanks areas, rose in market value. Hardest hit were homes worth more than $1 million and those worth between $80,000 and $150,000.

[…]

By the appraisal district’s calculations, the 2010 tax base for the Houston Independent School District is expected to drop by slightly more than 4 percent. School district spokesman Norm Uhl said the loss in revenue will be made up by the state.

The city of Houston’s tax base should shrink by about 5 percent.

City Controller Ronald Green said the tax base decline likely will result in a budget shortfall of at least $32 million — on top of the $100 million gap the city already expects.

I don’t even know what to say. If you thought last year was bad, it’s about to get a lot worse.

Council approves Lakewood sale

This had generated a lot of discussion, but in the end it went through.

The Houston City Council on Wednesday approved the sale of the former Compaq Center to Lakewood Church for $7.5 million.

The vote was 13-to-2, with Councilmen Oliver Pennington and Stephen Costello opposed.

[…]

As they received more information about the proposed sale and weighed the $100 million shortfall the city faces in the coming fiscal year, several council members said they came to see the sale as a good idea.

“We are really in tough financial times,” Councilwoman Jolanda Jones said. “I don’t see where we have a lot of options.”

The sale had been endorsed by City Controller Ronald Green the day before Council voted. As I said before, what you have to consider is the fact that the city wasn’t going to be making any money off of this property for more than 20 years thanks to the lease that was signed in 2001, and the fact that cash was needed by the end of June to close a revenue gap in this year’s budget. Those factors made the circumstances of this sale unique, and when combined with the $11.8 million Lakewood had already paid, it makes sense. I can’t think of any other remotely palatable options for finding or cutting the same amount to help balance the budget.

Something else to keep in mind: If the city weren’t required to balance the budget – if there weren’t this artificial deadline of June 30 for having revenues match up with expenditures – this sale would likely not have happened. It’s only because the city needed cash now that it was considered. If the city were allowed to carry the balance forward into a new fiscal year – that’s another way of saying “run a deficit” – this might never have happened. I’m just saying.

One more thing:

Councilman C.O. Bradford sharply faulted Parker for how the sale was unveiled to the public, questioning why the previous payments from Lakewood and all the encumbrances were not more clearly explained initially. Parker gave Bradford a long stare during Wednesday’s council session Wednesday but did not address the criticism directly.

Boy, if only Council meetings had musical accompaniment. Bradford did vote for the sale, so make of that what you will. Swamplot has more.

The city’s budget gap widens

Everywhere you look, it’s bad budget news.

Mayor Annise Parker raised the possibility of furloughs and layoffs for city employees for the first time Wednesday, saying the city’s dire budget outlook will require City Council to consider all available options for closing roughly $110 million in budget gaps during the next two years.

The key to the negotiations, Parker indicated, could be the willingness of the city’s police, fire and municipal employee unions to offer concessions, such as forgoing salary increases.

“If our employees’ groups will work with me to, perhaps, delay some of the statutory increases, we may be able to save jobs,” Parker said. Otherwise, some job losses are possible if City Council determines certain services to be unnecessary.

The mayor, who has indicated that rate hikes for water and sewer usage, as well as other fee increases, may be imminent, emphasized that no budget-cutting strategy was certain because she merely is putting all options on the table for council consideration. So far, however, she has ruled out a tax increase.

[…]

Falling tax revenues are the primary reason for the gap this year. Sales tax collections are roughly $55 million less than anticipated as thousands of Houstonians have lost their jobs, and property tax revenues have plummeted $18 million as home values have declined, [City Controller Ronald] Green said.

In a memo Parker gave to council members Wednesday, she said the primary reason for the budget gap in 2011 is an expected $43 million decrease in revenues and higher expenditures due to mandated salary increases, spikes in health care benefit costs and pension contribution requirements and higher costs for electricity and fuel.

There’s some hope that the sales tax revenues will pick up soon, but that won’t help much for the current fiscal year. I don’t see why there’s such extreme reluctance to talk about maybe rolling back some of the property tax rate cuts that we had in recent years. The effect to individual homeowners would be modest, but the combined amount would be significant. If we’re spending more than we’re taking in, and we have no good options for cutting costs – there’s not much we can do about “mandated salary increases, spikes in health care benefit costs and pension contribution requirements and higher costs for electricity and fuel” – then we need to talk about all sources of revenue, and not just fees. Are furloughs and layoffs really what we’d rather do here? If we’re putting all options on the table, this needs to be there as well. We can still decide to do something else, after all.

Sales tax collections keep going down

That sound you hear is the budget writers gnashing their teeth.

In more grim news for Texas’ budget, state Comptroller Susan Combs said Friday that monthly sales tax collections are down again, the eighth straight month of double-digit declines.

Collections for January — the period that reflects December holiday shopping — were down by 14.2 percent compared with a year ago.

[…]

“Eight consecutive months of double-digit declines — there is no parallel for what we’re seeing with the sales tax,” said budget expert Dale Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association.

You wonder what effect all this will have on the Governor’s race. Is Governor Perry going to keep running ads that proclaim what great fiscal shape Texas is in? How are any attacks he’s going to make on Houston’s fiscal shape going to play when contrasted with this?

Speaking of Houston’s fiscal shape, I forget where I saw this, but Houston’s sales tax collections were equally crappy in January, and we got back a smaller amount from the state than last year. Expect the next communication from Controller Ronald Green to be a glum one.

Combs has predicted the state will collect $21.2 billion in revenue from the sales tax in the fiscal year that began Sept. 1, slightly more than the $21 billion collected in fiscal 2009.

So far, however, collections are about $1.2 billion below the amount that had been collected by this time in the last fiscal year.

For the sales tax to bring in as much this year as originally projected, Craymer said, it “would have to grow by 11 percent for the rest of the fiscal year, and clearly that’s not going to happen.”

Sales tax collections represent more than 56 percent of the state’s tax revenue and more than 24 percent of overall revenue.

Lawmakers already expect to face a funding gap of at least $12 billion to $13 billion when they meet in regular session in 2011 to write the next two-year state budget. That figure does not account for new spending to meet the demands of a growing population.

It’s gonna be ugly. And all this is without taking into account the long-term structural deficit that was created by the irresponsible, unaffordable property tax cut of 2006, for which the business margins tax is a completely inadequate replacement. Somebody needs to be talking about this, because it is not sustainable.

One small glimmer of hope:

Craymer said Texas could be eligible for some additional stimulus money if federal legislation passes.

The irony of that just kills ya, doesn’t it?

Precinct analysis, District Council races

In addition to the five citywide runoffs, there were two runoffs in district Council races, in A and F. In each case, they were run in territory that, judging by the citywide results, were modestly (F) or very (A) friendly to Republicans, and in each case the Republican candidate won. But that’s about where the similarities end.

Since there are a small number of precincts for each district, I’ve created this Google spreadsheet that has a mostly complete list of each precincts from them both. I say “mostly” because I filtered out the smallest precincts, in which generally fewer than 10 votes were cast. My comments on each:

Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Stardig 9,258 56.6 Lewis 7,103 43.4 Parker 11,199 63.5 Locke 6,439 36.5 Khan 10,171 61.8 Green 6,297 38.2 Christie 10,541 66.6 Jones 5,300 33.4

– In District A, the first thing you notice is that Brenda Stardig trailed the higher profile Republican candidates Jack Christie and MJ Khan, each of whom drew more votes and had a higher percentage than she did. By the same token, Lane Lewis outperformed Jolanda Jones and Ronald Green. Jones and Green each won six out of the 46 precincts in total, while Lewis won twelve. Lewis did at least as well as Jones in all but six precincts, and at least as well as Green in all but twelve. There were about as many votes cast in the District A runoff as there were in the Controller’s race, and Khan outscored Stardig by about as much as Lewis improved on Green, but in the At Large #5 runoff there were about 500 fewer votes cast, and as Jones trailed Lewis by a wider margin than Christie led Stardig, I’d guess that a sizable number of those who skipped this race might have otherwise been inclined to vote for a Democratic candidate. Consider that a success for Christie’s mail campaign, and keep it in mind as we move on. Anyway, the bottom line is that Lewis’ good precincts generally overlapped with Jones’ and Green’s, with the latter two winning only one that Lewis did not carry.

Candidate Votes Pct ======================== Hoang 4,662 52.9 Laster 4,161 47.1 Parker 4,612 51.3 Locke 4,383 48.7 Khan 4,870 59.8 Green 3,298 40.2 Christie 4,404 60.0 Jones 2,964 40.0

– Moving on to District F, it’s a very different story. The undervote rate was 5.96%, smaller than any race besides the Mayoral race. The dropoff in the Controller’s race – even though this was MJ Khan’s home district – and At Large #5 was considerable:

Mayor’s race, total votes = 8995
District F, total votes = 8823
Controller’s race, total votes = 8166
At Large #5, total votes = 7368

Unlike in A, there was almost no correlation between the precincts won by the Democratic candidate in the district, Mike Laster, and the Democratic citywide candidates who had Republican opponents. Laster won 13 of the 27 precincts I looked at. Of those 13 precincts, Jones won three, while Green won one. In the other 14 precincts, Jones won four and Green two. The margins of victory varied greatly as well. In the 14 precincts that Al Hoang won, he received at least 50 more votes than Jack Christie in eight of them, including five in which he topped Christie by at least 100 votes. But on the flip side, in the precincts Laster won, Hoang trailed Christie by at least 50 votes in five of them, trailing by at least 100 in two. I presume the differences were geographical, but I’ll leave the mapmaking the Greg. The point here is that I believe both Laster and Hoang had a base that supported them regardless of what they did – or even if they voted – in the other races. Lewis had this to a lesser extent, while Stardig basically rode the partisan tide, as far as I can tell. Hoang in the end had more support, perhaps due to the historic nature of the race – as Parker is our first gay Mayor, and Green is our first African American Controller, Hoang is our first Vietnamese American to serve on Council.

– One final observation is that the usual dynamic of early versus Election Day voting was flipped on its head in F. In A, Stardig won 70% of the absentee ballots, 56% of the votes cast on December 12, and 52% of the in person early votes. In other words, this race followed the partisan rhythm we’ve seen in every other race. In F, Laster actually won the absentee balloting, by a 428-337 margin, and won Election Day handily, with nearly 58%. But Hoang crushed him in early in person voting, scoring over 62% and running up an 1100 vote margin that was more than enough to compensate for Laster’s game day showing. This was a repeat of their pattern from November, except that Laster had a plurality then. Whatever Hoang did to get out his voters, it worked.

Last up, a look at HISD I tomorrow.

Runoff precinct analysis, Controller’s race

Picking up from where I left off yesterday, here’s the breakdown of the Controller’s race by Council district. For comparison purposes, here’s the November analysis.

Dist Green Khan Holm Green % Khan % Tot votes ========================================================= A 4,685 6,750 7,125 25.2 36.4 18,560 B 7,483 3,329 1,362 61.5 27.3 12,174 C 7,356 7,494 6,332 34.7 35.4 21,182 D 13,410 4,673 3,047 63.5 22.1 21,130 E 5,133 7,684 6,633 26.4 39.5 19,450 F 2,403 4,171 1,975 28.1 48.8 8,549 G 4,908 8,446 16,733 16.3 28.1 30,087 H 4,879 4,236 2,973 40.4 35.0 12,088 I 3,725 2,708 1,510 46.9 34.1 7,943 Dist Green Khan RG Pct MJ Pct RG inc MJ inc Total Nov % =================================================================== A 6,297 10,171 38.2 61.8 1,612 3,421 16,468 88.7 B 10,017 2,713 73.0 27.0 2,534 -616 12,730 104.6 C 9,951 10,878 47.8 52.2 2,595 3,384 20,829 98.3 D 16,935 5,014 77.2 22.8 3,525 341 21,949 103.9 E 6,172 10,304 37.5 62.5 1,039 2,620 16,476 84.7 F 3,298 4,870 40.4 59.6 895 699 8,168 95.5 G 8,130 17,206 32.1 67.9 3,222 8,760 25,336 84.2 H 6,616 5,513 54.5 45.5 1,737 1,277 12,129 100.3 I 4,437 2,994 59.7 40.3 712 286 7,431 93.6

Where the Mayor’s race was basically predictable, this one has a few twists and surprises. Some of the things that stand out to me:

– Clearly, people were paying more attention in Round Two. The share of the vote in every district relative to November was greater in this race than it was in the Mayor’s race. In districts B, D, and H, voter participation increased. The reason for this is simply that fewer people skipped this race the second time around. The undervote rate in November was over 15%, but in December it was 8.5%. As such, the total number of votes in the Controller’s race dropped by about 10,000, whereas the decrease was about 24,000 in the Mayor’s race.

– Green did well where he needed to do well. The people in B and D certainly got the message, where the former saw some Khan voters convert to his side. He held his own reasonably well in the Republican districts, a fact which will be more clear when you see the runoff analysis for the At Large Council races. It feels to me like he maybe could have done better in C and even H, but the cause isn’t clear. It may be that Democratic voters in those districts didn’t turn out at as high a level as the Republican voters, and it may have been the result of Khan’s financial advantage, which he used in large part on a TV ad blitz. Hard to say.

– It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Khan could have won this race. Had there been the kind of turnout in the Republican districts that might have made the Mayor’s race less close, I think Khan would have won. Looking at the dropoffs in A, E, and G supports the conclusion that Republicans as a whole were less into the runoff without one of their own at the top of the ticket. They didn’t stay home in droves – indeed, each of the three Republican citywide candidates carried Harris County on Election Day – but they didn’t turn out at the same levels, at least in some parts of the city. I’m a little surprised to see that Khan didn’t do any better in his home district of F than he did, but given that he didn’t get a majority there in Round One, I suppose I shouldn’t be.

– Overall, Khan improved on his performance from November by more than Green did, picking up 20,172 extra votes in Harris to Green’s 17,871. But Green started with a lead of over 4500 votes, so he held on here and padded the lead with the results in Fort Bend, which were about the same as in November.

Next up, the Council At Large races.

Initial thoughts on the runoffs

I’ll go through them one race at a time, with the unofficial vote totals minus Montgomery County for each. Once I have precinct results, I’ll go through those and do a more detailed analysis.

Mayor

Annise Parker – 81,971, 52.78%
Gene Locke – 73,331, 47.22%

This was perhaps a bit closer than one might have thought given the most recent poll. At a guess, given the Fort Bend County results, I’d say that African American voters broke more strongly to Locke than had been previously indicated, but that there just weren’t that many of them in the end. Certainly, all the predictions that turnout for the runoff would exceed that of the general were way off. There were about 87,000 votes cast Saturday in Harris County, far less than the 112,000 predicted by County Clerk Beverly Kaufman. In the end, 67,653 early votes were cast in the Mayoral race, or 43.8% of the final Harris County tally of 154,618. In other words, this runoff was just like the last three runoffs in terms of early vote share compared to that of the general. I called it right, and I’m going to gloat a little about that.

Parker’s election has made the national news, and she’s a trending topic on Twitter. Lots of people are going to be talking about this for a long time. I don’t think we fully realize yet the impact her election will have. I think this will make an awful lot of people take a second and third look at Houston, and may finally make some of my progressive colleagues outside of Texas realize that there’s more to the state than just Austin.

Oh, and Parker made history in more ways than one, too. Go Rice Owls!

Controller

Ronald Green – 74,262, 51.48%
MJ Khan – 69,991, 48.52%

Green won early in-person voting by a fairly wide margin, but trailed in absentee ballots and also in Harris on Election Day. This suggests to me that as was the case in November, the early electorate was much more Democratic than the Election Day electorate. That was the case in Harris County last November as well. I sure hope the local Democratic strategists are paying attention to that. Green carried Fort Bend by 2,016 votes but would have won anyway. Oddly, I was more nervous about his chances going into today than I was about Parker’s, but less so about them once the early results were in. I figured if there was an African American surge that could carry Locke to a win, it would bring Green in its wake as well.

City Council At Large #1

Stephen Costello – 67,842, 52.15%
Karen Derr – 62,249, 47.85%

I had no feel at all for this race. The only thing that would have surprised me was a not-close result. Derr led coming into Election Day, but Costello pulled it out. If I had to guess, I’d say his late TV blitz – after not seeing any of his ads in months, I saw it four times this week – was a factor. Surely having such a large financial advantage should mean something. Costello had a fair amount of crossover support, and while I’m sad to see Derr lose I think he’ll make a fine Council member.

City Council At Large #2

Sue Lovell – 68,676, 54.08%
Andrew Burks – 58,317, 45.92%

Lovell has the easiest win of the night in the race with the highest undervote. Make of that what you will.

City Council At Large #5

Jolanda Jones – 69,763, 50.61%
Jack Christie – 68,080, 49.39%

Let this be Exhibit A for how hard it is to unelect a sitting Council member in Houston. It’s hard for me to imagine conditions more favorable for Jack Christie going into Election Day. Ultimately, he could not overcome the Democratic tilt of the early vote. Jones won early in person voting by a 58-42 margin, easily the widest of any candidate, but Christie ran strongly on Saturday, capturing Harris by 53.5-46.5, which combined with the absentee vote put him over the top in this county. Unfortunately for him, Fort Bend was to Jones what it was to Lee Brown in 2001, and that was enough for her to hang on. I voted for Jones, I’m very glad she won, but I have nothing bad to say about Christie, who ran a clean and honorable race. I sincerely hope that Council Member Jones uses this experience to help her channel her considerable talent and smarts more productively.

Houston City Council, District A

Brenda Stardig – 9,258, 56.59%
Lane Lewis – 7,103, 43.41%

Houston City Council, District F

Al Hoang – 4,681, 52.72%
Mike Laster – 4,180, 47.28%

The City of Houston proved its Democratic bona fides, but Districts A and F remained Republican. I’ll be interested to see how the citywide candidates did in each of these districts. Beyond that, my congratulations to the winners and my condolences to the losers. Oh, and in my favorite bit of trivia for the evening, Laster and Hoang split the Fort Bend vote evenly, with 19 ballots apiece.

HISD Trustee, District I

Anna Eastman – 4,959, 50.99%
Alma Lara – 4,766, 49.01%

HISD Trustee, District IX

Larry Marshall – 6,295, 51.15%
Adrian Collins – 6,012, 48.85%

A bad night for the Houston Federation of Teachers, as both of their candidates lost. Conversely, a good night for the HISD Parent Visionaries, who ultimately went three for three in the Trustee races. Lara had a slight early lead, which Eastman overcame, while Marshall led all along for yet another close escape. Again, my congratulations to the winners, and my condolences to the losers.

That’s all I have for now. I’ll have more when the precinct results are in. Chron coverage is here, here, here, and here. Let me know what your thoughts are about this election.

Eight days out finance reports, Green and Khan

We’ve seen the eight days out finance reports for the Mayor’s race, now here’s the same thing for the Controller’s race. As before, the campaign finance spreadsheet has been updated with all of the raw data. Here’s how it breaks down for Ronald Green and MJ Khan:

Candidate Raised Spent Loans Cash PAC $$ PAC % =============================================================== Green 76,273 71,418 0 40,269 30,158 39.5% Khan 182,740 229,593 75,000 57,220 49,750 27.2% Candidate TV Radio Mail Phone Field ==================================================== Green 0 2,000 45,117 1,930 2,200 Khan 70,264 625 96,588 0 16,619

Looking at this, you’d almost wonder how it is there’s any doubt about who ought to win. It still boggles my mind that Green has had such a weak fundraising track record, but there you have it. He has done a lot better this time around, with some help from various PACs, and more donations from current and former officeholders and candidates than I’ve seen for anyone else. Here are some of the people you know who have donated to Ronald Green:

Jarvis Johnson – $100
Pam Holm – $600 (in kind, radio ad)
Gerald Birnberg – $500
Garnet Coleman – $1000
Peter Brown – $3000
Peter Brown – $185.06 (in kind, food for breakfast)
Kristi Thibaut – $1000
Carol Alvarado – $500
Zinetta Burney – $50
David Mincberg – $500
Borris Miles – $1000
Morris Overstreet – $100

The Pam Holm in kind donation stems from an incident before the general election (the donation is dated October 30) in which Holm had a date to appear on KCOH and challenged Green to come on the air with her to discuss his tax issues. According to Keir Murray, with whom I inquired about this item, since Green repeatedly asked listeners to vote for him, and since Holm had paid for the radio time, they felt obligated to report it as an in kind donation. Sometimes, I really love politics. Anyway, I note that even though Holm endorsed Khan, she has not given him any money. Neither had any other elected official, as far as I could see. I don’t know that it matters, but I thought it was interesting.

Khan’s strategy appears to be what it was in the general, which is to boost his name recognition as much as possible. He’s also started attacking Green over his tax issues in the mail he’s sent out, according to what I’ve heard – I’ve not received one of Khan’s mailers myself. As noted before, he has a lot of paid field workers, too. He has to do all this because he’s not fighting on a level playing field. As we know, while Khan does very well among Republican voters, there are a lot more Democrats actually voting, and he needs to hold his losses there in order to win.

The flip side of that is Green’s strategy, which is largely to remind Democratic voters which candidate is on which team. I got a Green mailer last week that was mostly positive about him, but also had a bit that highlighted Khan’s GOP credentials. The message is pretty clear, and so is the need for it to work for Green. I still think he’s the favorite to win, but if you’d told me a year ago it was going to be this hard for him, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Next up, a peek at the Council reports. Let me know what you think.

Parker leads in another poll

It’s a Zogby poll, so don’t get too excited, but that’s still four out of four since Election Day.

While the race for Houston mayor remains too close to call, Parker’s 5.5 percentage point lead stems from advantages among several demographics, including women, whites, Hispanics and self-identified independent voters.

Parker leads with 41.9 percent of the vote, followed by Locke’s 36.4 percent, according to the poll conducted last week by Zogby International. Nearly 18 percent of likely voters remain undecided in the contest, a sign of how fluid the race remains just days before the campaign will come to an end.

“There’s a huge pool of undecided voters and the real question now is which way they split or whether they vote at all,” said John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International, which conducted the poll last week for the Chronicle.

[…]

The results are drawn from a survey of 601 likely Houston voters selected randomly from purchased telephone lists of registered voters. The margin of error is 4.1 percentage points.

OK, here’s the thing. By this point, we have a pretty strong idea about who is actually participating in this election, and who is not. According to the analysis Kyle Johnston has done, 92% of the people who had voted through the first five days of early voting were people who had voted in at least two of the last three general elections. As such, any sample that doesn’t match this just isn’t going to be accurate. I seriously doubt there are that many undecideds among those who really are going to vote.

Now, I don’t know which candidate would benefit from a truer sample of likely voters, though I’m sure both of the campaigns themselves do. It may be that it all comes out in the wash. But I just don’t get the reluctance, if that’s what it is, of pollsters like Zogby to pre-screen in a more realistic manner. I mean, it’s not like this runoff is out of line with others in terms of who is voting in it. Even if I’m wrong about it not exceeding the general election turnout, we’re still talking something like 20% participation. Why wouldn’t you try to be more selective in who you poll? I just don’t get it.

The crosstabs for this poll are here. As it happens, again going by the Johnston numbers, Zogby is reasonably accurate with some subgroups, less so with others. He’s got about the right number of Republicans and African-Americans, for example, but he’s oversampled Hispanics and Independents, and undersampled Democrats and Anglos. Again, I can’t really say how that might affect this result, but I do think it’s skewed the other race they polled:

In the city controller’s race, City Councilman M.J. Khan leads with 35.4 percent of the vote to his fellow Councilman Ronald Green’s 29.5 percent, with 34.5 percent of voters still undecided.

Khan dominates among Republicans, Green is somewhat less dominant but still strong among Dems, and Khan has a tiny lead among indies. Having more Dems and fewer indies would make this race appear closer, perhaps putting Green in a slight lead. Zogby has it at 43.5D/35.5R/21.0I, when in reality 57% of early voters have a Democratic primary voting history, 32% have a GOP primary voting history, and 11% have no primary voting history. It may be that the runoff is like the general, in that a greater share of Republicans turn out on Election Day than they did during early voting. But I think that was caused in part by the late push from the Harris County GOP for Roy Morales, which I believe turned a number of undecided voters who may have otherwise stayed home into Morales supporters. I say that because of Roy’s third place finish on Election Day itself, where he surpassed Peter Brown. Without a Republican candidate in the Mayor’s race, will there be a similar surge for the runoff? Maybe, but it seems doubtful.

The effect on this in the Mayor’s race is more nebulous. Locke actually led by a tiny amount among Dems, due to his strong lead among African-Americans. Parker led among Anglos, Hispanics, Republicans, and Independents. Replacing some indies and Hispanics with Anglo Dems would likely leave her in about the same position. Hard to say for certain, though.

Anyway. The poll that really matters is going on right now, and we’ll know soon enough whether or not Zogby did any better guessing this outcome than he did the one in November. Martha and Erik have more.

Controller’s runoff overview

Here’s the Chron overview of the Controller’s runoff. Two points of interest to note. One is what presence, if any, the two candidates will have on the airwaves.

Tactically, both campaigns said they intend to focus on direct-mail, block-walking and other field operations and will produce TV ads if they raise enough money to do so. Campaign finance reports show that [Ronald] Green had raised about $128,000 and had about $38,000 on hand as of late October; [MJ] Khan had raised about $139,000 and had $31,000 on hand.

We’ll get to see the eight days out reports on Friday, so we ought to have an idea then if either one’s hope to get on TV is realistic. I believe Khan’s TV advertising, and the fact that he was the only one of the Controller candidates to really do any TV advertising, was a big factor in getting him into the runoff. I don’t know if any of that will carry over in the absence of further ads or if a new round will be needed.

Khan’s wife owns a 10,000-square-foot house in Piney Point Village, a small Memorial area municipality, with a market value estimated at almost $3.8 million by the Harris County Appraisal District. Khan and his wife jointly own a southwest Houston condominium valued at $77,000, which Khan says is his residence.

Yeah, I’d totally live by myself in the dinky condo instead of with my wife in the multimillion dollar mansion, too. As you know, I don’t consider residency issues too greatly when it comes to evaluating candidates. Khan’s setup certainly meets the legal requirements. But when you put it this way it really does look ridiculous.

The HCRP view of the candidates

Here, in PDF format, you will find a copy of the mailer that Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill sent out to his flock before the election. In it you will find three things of interest. One is all the ads several candidates reported spending $5000 on. Another is the official endorsement that Roy Morales got from them; he’s the only one whom they endorsed, at least at that time. They may not have trumpeted it on the internets, but they did make their feelings known the old-fashioned way. Finally, there’s the 16-question “How much do you agree with our positions?” test, which some candidates answered but quite a few did not. For the runoff elections, here’s how many questions the candidates got “right” from the GOP’s perspective:

Annise Parker – 8 out of 16
Gene Locke – Did not respond
(For comparison, Roy got all 16 “right”. Peter Brown did not respond.)

MJ Khan – 16 out of 16
Ronald Green – Did not respond
(Pam Holm got all 16 “right”.)

Stephen Costello – 4 out of 16
Karen Derr – Did not respond

Andrew Burks – 14 out of 16
Sue Lovell – Did not respond
(Griff Griffin got 14 out of 16. Keep that in mind the next time he’s on the ballot.)

Jack Christie – 12 out of 16
Jolanda Jones – Did not respond

For the two district races (A and F), only Al Hoang (16 out of 16) responded.

You can make of this whatever you want, I’m just presenting it. From my perspective, some of the questions are inconsequential, while others are very much not. Read through the questions and answers and see for yourself what you think.

Khan has an announcement

Council Member and candidate for Controller MJ Khan has an announcement to make tomorrow. From his press release:

Who: Councilman M.J. Khan, Candidate for Houston City Controller

What: Press Conference on a major announcement from the M.J. Khan for City Controller campaign.

When: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. (after City Council has adjourned)

Where: Steps of Houston City Hall
901 Babgy
Houston, TX 77002

Info: Natural light and sound

I suppose that last bit is for the TV folks. My guess is that he’ll be announcing Pam Holm’s endorsement. I can’t think of anything else offhand that’s likely to occur and would qualify as a “major” announcement. No, these things are not automatic – remember, Sylvester Turner never endorsed Bill White even though you might have thought that would be natural for him to do. I could be wrong – he could just be announcing some other Republican endorsements, which may or may not be truly press conference-worthy. Or he could surprise me and announce the support of some high-profile Democrat, or some other members of Council. But if I had to place a bet, it would be on a Holm endorsement. We’ll know soon enough.

Speaking of endorsements, the HCDP made its endorsements for the runoffs. From their Facebook page:

The Harris County Democratic Party is proud to announce that it has endorsed the following candidates in the City of Houston Runoff Election, which will be held on Saturday, December 12, 2009:

RONALD GREEN for Houston City Comptroller
KAREN DERR for Houston City Council Member, At Large Place 1
JOLANDA (“JO”) JONES for Houston City Council Member, At Large Place 5
LANE LEWIS for Houston City Council Member, District A
MIKE LASTER for Houston City Council Member, District F

In the interest of party unity, the Steering Committee of the Harris County Democratic Party has elected to refrain from making an endorsement in races where two Democrats are running against each other.

In the citywide races and in District F (which you may recall voted strongly Democratic in 2008) this makes a lot of sense; it’s less clear you want to partisanize things in District A, but you do want to make sure your voters get out, so there you have it. As you’ve seen in the Controller’s race and will see tomorrow in the At Large races, improving performance in the core Democratic districts will be key to winning for them.

Precinct analysis: The City Controller race

Here are my numbers. As before, for maps, go see what Greg‘s got.

Dist Green Khan Holm ============================= A 4,685 6,750 7,125 B 7,483 3,329 1,362 C 7,356 7,494 6,332 D 13,410 4,673 3,047 E 5,133 7,684 6,633 F 2,403 4,171 1,975 G 4,908 8,446 16,733 H 4,879 4,236 2,973 I 3,725 2,708 1,510

One of the reasons why I thought Pam Holm would make it to a runoff, and why I thought MJ Khan had no chance to do so, is because there are so many more voters in District G than there are in District F. Indeed, Holm built up a huge lead in G, and had a small advantage in neighboring District A, but it wasn’t enough. She ran third in all six non-Republican districts, while Khan carried districts C and E in addition to his home district F, and ran second everywhere else, including in Fort Bend. I have to assume his TV advertising paid off for him; unlike the Mayor’s race, where Peter Brown’s air assault wasn’t enough to get him into the runoff, this race featured three far less known candidates, only one of which spent any significant amount on TV. The boost I presume he got in name recognition, with no countervailing forces from Holm and Green, propelled him forward. I don’t know why Holm didn’t spend more of her money on TV. She still had over $130K in her treasury as of the 8 days out report, and spent less than half of what Khan did ($380K to $160K) in the period. This strikes me as a critical mistake on her part.

As for Ronald Green, he did about as well as Gene Locke in District B, once you factor in the 15% undervote in the Controller’s race, and he did better in District D. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Khan’s first place showing in C, not to mention his strong second place finishes in H and I, should be a loud blaring klaxon that he needs to shore up his support among Anglo and Hispanic Democratic voters. With Holm’s support in the Republican districts likely to transfer to Khan, and with Khan’s strength in F (though I note he didn’t get a majority there), Green can’t take anything for granted. He needs to raise some money quickly, and to remind the Inner Loop folks that he’s their guy. I believe there will be another 8 days out report for the runoff, so we’ll have some idea if he’s doing that or not. If he continues to coast, I believe he will lose.

Next up: City Council At Large races.

Six questions for the runoffs

Six questions that I can think of, anyway.

1. What will Peter do?

Will Peter Brown endorse someone in the runoff? If so, how vigorously does he support that person? He’s in a position to have an effect on the outcome if he chooses to do so. What will he do?

His won’t be the only endorsement that will be sought out and may make a difference. As you know, I don’t think Roy’s voters will be inclined to come back out in December, but I could be wrong about that. It is worth wondering what, if anything, Roy will do at this point. Beyond that, will Pam Holm pick a side in the Controller’s runoff? So far she hasn’t, but that could certainly change. Will the Democrats who sided with Herman Litt or Rick Rodriguez reposition themselves in At Large #1? Will Linda Toyota back a candidate in HISD I? Not all endorsements matter, and of those that do, some count for more than others. I believe these count for something, and I expect there’s a lot of inter-campaign conversation going on right now.

2. Where’s the money?

Gene Locke reported $391,969.75 on hand in his eight days out report. Parker had $83,229.73. I strongly suspect both of them are running lower than that now, and needless to say neither can write their own check. How much fundraising can they do over the next (say) three weeks, and which one can get back on the air first? What’s their plan to get their voters out if they can’t afford airtime?

3. What about the Republicans?

I estimate Roy won something like 55-60% of the Republican vote in this election, based on the fact that folks with a Republican primary history made up about 31% of early voters, and that Roy did better on Election Day (22.86%) than he did in early voting (15.37%). That’s a significant bloc if they decide they have a preference for one or the other remaining candidates. It doesn’t come without risk, however – there are still way more Democratic voters in this city, and a high-profile embrace of Roy might turn some of them off. There have been rumors for a couple of weeks that the likes of Steven Hotze and Dan Patrick will stump for Locke. I have no idea if there’s any truth to that, but it would very much be a double-edged sword for him. I can’t think of a better way to fire up Parker’s supporters than that.

Republicans may aim a little lower and try to win the Controller’s office, while knocking off incumbent Council member Jolanda Jones. Both are doable, though I don’t think either will be easy. They may also work to hold MJ Khan’s District F seat by supporting Al Hoang against Mike Laster. I consider Brenda Stardig the favorite to win against Lane Lewis in District A, but if there’s little Republican interest at the top of the ticket, Lewis may get some coattails from the dual Democratic Mayoral campaigns.

4. How negative are things going to get?

Hard to say. While all of the Mayoral candidates attacked each other, the main image I have of negativity is Brown’s ad campaign against Locke. You figure Parker and Locke have to attack each other, it’s just a question of how and how much. I will say this, since several people have asked me about it: I don’t expect Parker’s sexuality to be any more of an issue in the runoff than it was in the general. For one, that’s not who Gene Locke is, and for two, I don’t think it would be a successful strategy.

Similarly in the Controller’s race, the main source of attack ads is now out. Does Khan pick up the theme from Holm, or does he decide she didn’t gain anything from it and stick to his “I’m the most qualified” theme? For that matter, does Green bring up the residency issue against Khan? I think if the one happens then the other does, but it’s not clear if the one happens, or which campaign shoots first.

I definitely expect some negativity in the Council races, where a last minute attack on Sue Lovell may have helped keep her below 50%. If Jack Christie, or someone on his behalf, doesn’t send out at least one mailer attacking Jolanda Jones, I’ll be shocked.

Finally, remember that negativity doesn’t mean lower turnout. If this election doesn’t drive a stake in the heart of the notion that voters are turned off by negative campaigns and prefer nice, quiet, issues-oriented ones, I don’t know what would.

5. Who will the Chron endorse?

Time to get off the fence, fellas. Who’s it gonna be, Parker or Locke, and how long will you make us wait? Will any other endorsing entity that declined to pick a side in the first go-round commit to one candidate or the other in overtime? My guess on the latter question is No, but surely the Chron won’t weasel out again. Or maybe they will, if their editorial board is sufficiently divided. I can’t wait to see what they do.

6. What will early voting look like?

As noted, 31% of all votes in Houston were cast early, which is a significant uptick from previous city elections. My guess is that an increasing number of the more habitual voters, who needless to say were the bulk of this electorate, have shifted their habits towards early voting. I would guess that a similar share of the runoff vote, perhaps more, will vote early.

Those are my questions. Prof. Murray has a few as well. What are yours?

UPDATE: I get some answers to one of my questions via press release from Karen Derr:

Candidate Karen Derr for Houston City Council At-Large Position 1 has received mounting support from a broad base of organizations and elected officials. Karen Derr has gained the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, Democracy for Houston, and the Houston AFL-CIO. In addition, Karen Derr has also received the endorsements from State Representatives Garnet Coleman and Ana Hernandez.

The HGLBT Political Caucus endorsed Herman Litt in the first go-round; I’m not sure about the other groups offhand. But this is a pretty clear sign to me that much of Litt’s support will transfer to Derr.

The Controller’s race

I’m still somewhat amazed by this result.

City Councilman Ronald Green led a three-candidate field in the race for Houston city controller Tuesday and will face Councilman M.J. Khan in a Dec. 12 runoff.

Green, whose campaign appeared unharmed by last-minute anonymous phone calls warning Democrats against him, led comfortably for most of the evening and finished with 36 percent. Khan and Councilwoman Pam Holm jockeyed for second place as the returns came in, and Khan finished with 32.5 percent to Holm’s 31.2 percent — a difference of about 2,000 votes.

Last night, as Khan overtook Holm, I thought there might be a recount in this race. With a 2000 vote difference, however, that would clearly be a waste of time and money.

Green said he was looking forward to the runoff campaign.

“Of course, I would have preferred no runoff,” Green said. “But I’m going to run on my qualifications and I feel confident that I’ll be the next controller.”

Khan, a Pakistani immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 1985, said he never expected to finish first but picked up support as voters learned more about him. The engineer and real estate developer said he expects that trend to continue during the runoff campaign.

“I believe Houstonians will reward qualifications,” Khan said.

Two questions: Will Green try to raise some money and be more visible in the runoff? Will Khan get the local GOP establishment to back him? I believe this race is fundamentally the same as the Controller’s race was in the beginning, which is to say it’s Green’s to lose. I don’t think the runoff in F will be as big a boost to Khan’s chances as a runoff in G would have been for Holm’s, had it gone that way. The lack of a runoff in G helps Green. If I’m right about Roy’s voters sitting it out – and I note that Martha isn’t so sure about that – that helps Green as well. If the GOP gets its act together – having a chance to knock off Jolanda Jones as well as win this race ought to motivate them – that helps Khan. Khan had $31K on hand as of his 8 days out report, so at least this time they start out more or less even in the money department. That’s what I’ll be watching for the overtime period.

As for whether or not Pam Holm picks a side in the runoff, all I can say is that as yet, she has not done so. Click on to see an email she sent out yesterday morning on the race.

(more…)

White condemns anti-Green robocalls

I’ve heard from numerous people, including several in the comments here, who have received a nasty anti-Ronald Green robocall in the past week or so; at this point, I believe there are at least two variants on the call. It has no identifying information associated with it, which makes it illegal, but also basically untraceable as well. Anyway, one of the recipients of this call was Mayor Bill White, who wrote on his Facebook page to condemn it. From an email sent out by the Ronald Green campaign:

Yesterday Houston Mayor Bill White condemned anonymous phone calls attacking Ronald Green, candidate for Houston City Controller. Green, a three-term At-Large City Council Member, is running for an open seat to succeed the current Controller, who is term-limited.

Mayor White said the following via Facebook: “At home I just got a recorded call urging Democrats to vote against Ron Green for City Controller because he would hurt D’s. Who paid for this? …it does seem to me that if another candidate or party paid for it, they should say so upfront.”

Over the past several days, some Houstonians have reported receiving multiple anonymous automated phone calls attacking Ronald Green, and urging a vote against him. The announcer in the calls does not identify himself, there is no callback number given, nor is there a disclaimer identifying who paid for the call, which is required by law.

“I join Mayor White in condemning these anonymous false attacks,” Green said. “These calls are illegal and have no place in our political discourse. It is disappointing that my Republican opponents have stooped to such tactics. I am going to keep talking about the issues that matter to Houstonians – weathering this economic downturn and securing the City’s long-term financial health.”

While City races are officially non-partisan, Ronald Green is the lone Democrat running against two Republican opponents.

Since the calls purport to come from “Democratic leaders” and address the recipients as “fellow Democrats”, the HCDP has responded as well:

It has been reported to the Harris County Democratic Party that someone is making anonymous telephone phone calls claiming that certain unnamed “Democratic leaders” have some reservations about Ronald Green as a candidate for City of Houston Comptroller. These illegal calls are not coming from the Harris County Democratic Party and do not reflect the position of the Harris County Democratic Party, or its chair.

On the contrary, while the Harris County Democratic Party is officially “neutral” in the non-partisan City of Houston elections (unless and until a run-off election emerges), we can inform the public that Ronald Green is the only candidate in the Comptroller’s race who has a Democratic voting history (Ron has a strong one) and Ronald Green has long been a Sustaining Member of the Harris County Democratic Party and consistent supporter of Democratic causes. The chair of the Harris County Democratic Party regards him as highly qualified to be Houston’s City Comptroller.

The Harris County Democratic Party and its leaders would not stoop to making anonymous telephone smears against any candidate – let alone one as competent, capable, and loyal to the Democratic Party as Ronald Green.

I hope these messages get out to those who may have been taken in by these calls. Green has certainly provided some fodder for his opponents, and I have no problem with them jumping on it. This is different. I have no idea who’s doing these robocalls, but I consider it to be sleazy and cowardly, no matter who it is. Have the guts to sign your name to your work – which, I remind you, is the law for stuff like this – or go crawl back under your rock.

UPDATE: Just got a robocall from Gerry Birnberg reiterating this message.

Comparing Controller’s races

In 2009, we have a Controller’s race that features an At Large Council member, a Council member from a high-turnout, mostly white district, and Council member from a low-turnout, mostly non-white district. In 2003, we had a Controller’s race that featured an At Large Council member, a Council member from a high-turnout, mostly white district, and Council member from a low-turnout, mostly non-white district. I thought it might be interesting, if not necessarily instructive, to compare the races and see if we can learn anything. Here’s the data:

Year Candidate Votes Pct ================================= 1997 Tatro 6,449 23.19 1997 Parker 47,841 20.25 97 Runoff Tatro 15,739 56.25 97 Runoff Parker 139,787 57.45 1999 Tatro 12,349 57.64 1999 Parker 112,470 63.23 1999 Vasquez 5,418 36.70 99 Runoff Vasquez 4,055 60.59 2001 Tatro 15,811 56.52 2001 Parker 112,153 50.66 2001 Vasquez 11,248 100.00 2003 Tatro 52,258 20.40 2003 Parker 106,441 41.54 2003 Vasquez 30,319 11.83 2003 Holm 11,172 35.37 2003 Khan 4,096 37.55 2003 Green 53,163 31.20 03 Runoff Holm 18,411 50.04 03 Runoff Khan 6,889 53.31 03 Runoff Green 98,464 52.21 2005 Holm 22,500 100.00 2005 Khan 7,019 69.22 2005 Green 123,254 100.00 2007 Holm 14,733 100.00 2007 Khan 4,662 100.00 2007 Green 82,417 100.00

Couple points of interest. The 2009 Controller’s race has just the three term-limited Council members in it. The 2003 race had three other candidates – Gabe Vasquez, who as you can see was not term-limited that year, actually finished fourth, behind Mark Lee. Both Ronald Green and Annise Parker finished second in their initial races, then went on to win in the runoff. Parker had two opponents in 2001.

As for what it all means, well, the parallels are obvious, but I would not draw too much from them. Parker had a fair amount of money in 2003, more than Green has now, and she had three competitive elections going into her Controller’s race, where Green had only the first one. Tatro had money in 2003, but Holm and Khan have more. They’ve run aggressive campaigns, while Green has, um, not. Green and his tax issues have also presented a large target for his opponents, at which Pam Holm has gleefully aimed, with mailers, press releases, challenges to appear on the radio with her, and so forth. I don’t know who’s behind that robocall that trashes Green over this, but I’ve heard from a lot of people that have received it. And MJ Khan is out there, too, spending over $300K on TV, which is something Gabe Vasquez never did. This is just a very different race. I could try to come up with some mathematical relationship between all the numbers involved, beyond what you can plainly see, but I wouldn’t believe any of it. Consider them for entertainment purposes only.