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Vidal Martinez

A roundup of runoffs

I was going to just do a basic recap of all the primary races that will require runoffs, and then this happened, and I had to do some redesign.

Rep. Van Taylor

U.S. Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, has decided to end his reelection campaign after he was forced into a primary runoff amid 11th-hour allegations of infidelity.

Taylor made the stunning announcement Wednesday, hours after he finished his five-way primary with 49% of the vote, just missing the cutoff for winning the primary outright. The runner-up was former Collin County Judge Keith Self, who is now likely to become the next congressman for the 3rd District.

“About a year ago, I made a horrible mistake that has caused deep hurt and pain among those I love most in this world,” Taylor wrote in an email to supporters. “I had an affair, it was wrong, and it was the greatest failure of my life. I want to apologize for the pain I have caused with my indiscretion, most of all to my wife Anne and our three daughters.”

The day before the primary, the conservative outlet Breitbart News posted a story that Taylor had had a monthslong affair with a Plano woman, Tania Joya, who he had paid $5,000 to keep quiet. The publication reported that she provided it a phone screen shot purporting to be communications with Taylor and a bank record showing that she deposited $5,000 into her account. The Texas Tribune has not been able to independently verify the report.

[…]

Taylor has until March 16 to remove his name from the runoff ballot, which he plans to do, according to a spokesperson. After he does that, Self is automatically the Republican nominee for the district. There is a Democratic nominee for the seat, Sandeep Srivastava, but they face long odds after the district was redrawn last year to favor Republicans.

Holy shit. There’s a link to that article in the Trib story, which I refuse to include. It’s one of the less important aspects of this story, but the timing is curious. Why not publish this earlier, if that’s what you’re going to do, and not take the chance that he could win without a runoff? It gets a whole lot more complicated for the Republicans if he withdraws after winning the primary, and he came quite close to doing just that. I don’t understand any of this.

Anyway, this is where I was originally going to start this post. Here’s a list of the races that have gone into overtime. You can also read the Decision Desk wrapup for some more details.

Statewide Dem

Lite Guv – Mike Collier vs Michelle Beckley.

AG – Rochelle Garza vs Joe Jaworski. As of Wednesday afternoon Jaworski had less than a 2K vote lead over Lee Merritt. When I first looked at this, it was a 3K lead, with all of the remaining ballots in Harris County, where Jaworski started the day with a 6K vote lead over Merritt. That had shrunk to a bit less than 5K votes by the afternoon, which almost made my logic that Jaworski would easily hold his lead look idiotic, but the gap appears to have been too large for Merritt to overcome. But who knows, there may be a bunch of late-fixed mail ballots out there, so let’s put a pin in this one.

Comptroller – Janet Dudding vs Angel Vega.

Land Commissioner – Sandragrace Martinez vs Jay Kleberg.

Congressional Dem

CD01 – JJ Jefferson vs Victor Dunn.

CD15 – Ruben Ramirez vs Michelle Vallejo, who has a 300-vote lead over John Rigney.

CD21 – Claudia Zapata vs Ricardo Villarreal.

CD24 – Jan McDowell vs Derrik Gay, who rebounded after my initial bout of pessimism to finish in second place.

CD28 – Rep. Henry Cuellar vs Jessica Cisneros. Cisneros had a big early lead that was mostly a function of the order in which the counties reported their results. Cisneros crushed it in Bexar County, then watched as Starr, Webb, and Zapata erased her lead. In the end, if what I’m seeing is the actual final tally, it was Cuellar who missed winning outright by nine (!) votes. This one could change to a Cuellar win as the overseas and provisional votes are tallied, and then of course there may be a recount. Hold onto your hats.

CD30 – Jasmine Crockett vs Jane Hope Hamilton.

CD38 – Diana Martinez Alexander vs. Duncan Klussman. This is the only Congressional runoff in Harris County for Dems.

SBOE Dem

SBOE1 – Melissa Ortega vs Laura Marquez. The third-place finisher had big charter school backing, so this race can go back to being one you don’t need to know about.

SBOE2 – Victor Perez vs Pete Garcia.

SBOE4 – Coretta Mallet-Fontenot vs Staci Childs. This is in Harris County, it’s the seat Lawrence Allen vacated in his unsuccessful run for HD26. I’ll put this one on my to do list for runoff interviews.

SBOE11 – Luis Sifuentes vs James Whitfield. Double-timer DC Caldwell finished third, while also losing in the Republican primary for this same seat to incumbent Pat Hardy. Let us never speak of this again.

State Senate Dem

SD27 – Morgan LaMantia vs Sara Stapleton-Barrera.

State House Dems

HD22 – Joseph Trahan vs Christian Hayes.

HD37 – Ruben Cortez vs Luis Villarreal

HD70 – Cassandra Hernandez vs Mihaela Plesa. This one was an almost even split among three candidates, with third place finisher Lorenzo Sanchez 29 votes behind Plesa and 102 votes behind Hernandez. Another overseas/provisional vote count to watch and another recount possibility.

HD76 – Suleman Lalani vs Vanesia Johnson. This is the new Dem-likely seat in Fort Bend.

HD100 – Sandra Crenshaw vs Venton Jones.

HD114 – Alexandra Guio vs John Bryant. Bryant was a Dem Congressman in the 90’s, in the old CD05. After winning a squeaker against Pete Sessions in 1994, Bryant tried his luck in the primary for Senate in 1996, eventually losing in a runoff to Victor Morales. Bryant just turned 75 (why anyone would want to get back into the Lege at that age boggles my mind, but maybe that’s just me), while Guio is quite a bit younger. Should be an interesting matchup. This was a five-way race with everyone getting between 17 and 25 percent, so endorsements from the ousted candidates may make a difference.

HD147 – Jolanda Jones vs Danielle Bess.

Harris County Dems

185th Criminal District Court – Andrea Beall vs Judge Jason Luong.

208th Criminal District Court – Beverly Armstrong vs Kim McTorry. Judge Greg Glass finished third.

312th Family District Court – Teresa Waldrop vs Judge Chip Wells.

County Civil Court at Law #4 – Manpreet Monica Singh vs Treasea Treviño. David Patronella was in second place after early voting, but fell behind as the Tuesday votes came in.

Commissioners Court, Precinct 4 – Lesley Briones vs Ben Chou.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, Place 2 – Sonia Lopez vs Steve Duble.

Republicans

Not really interested in a complete rundown, but it’s Paxton versus P Bush for AG, Dawn Buckingham versus Tim Westley for Land Commissioner, and Wayne Christian versus Sarah Stogner for Railroad Commissioner. At least that last one will be interesting.

As noted yesterday, it will be Alexandra Mealer versus Vidal Martinez for the nomination for County Judge. I have no feelings about this.

I will put some other primary news and notes in a separate post. Let me know if I missed a race.

2022 primary results: Harris County

There were some issues, as there always are. Honestly, that’s one of the reasons I vote early – less time pressure in case something happens. There was also an issue with reporting the early ballots.

The Harris County Elections Administration has requested an extension on the 24-hour deadline to report the results of Tuesday’s primary elections, according to Texas Secretary of State John Scott.

State law requires that counties report results from both early voting and Election Day within 24 hours of the polls closing. Just after polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Scott’s office said that they were informed by Harris County election officials that the county would not be able to count and report the results.

“Harris County election officials have indicated to our office that the delay in ballot tabulation is due only to damaged ballot sheets that must be duplicated before they can be scanned by ballot tabulators at the central count location,” Scott said in a statement.

Failing to meet the deadline is a Class B misdemeanor, Scott’s office said.

“Our office stands ready to assist Harris County election officials, and all county election officials throughout the state, in complying with Texas Election Code requirements for accurately tabulating and reporting Primary Election results,” Scott said.

Don’t know what happened there, but I get a PDF of the results in my inbox every time they get posted to the web, and the first one arrived at 7:25, so whatever the delay was it didn’t take that long to fix it. Other places had their issues as well, often because of missing election judges. And I can’t wait to see how long it takes Potter County to finish its count.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo was headed for an easy win in her primary; she was at almost 70% of the vote in early voting. Erica Davis was just shy of 15%. Alexandra Mealer and Vidal Martinez were the two top Republicans. Marilyn Burgess was winning for District Clerk, but Carla Wyatt had a nearly identical lead for Treasurer over incumbent Dylan Osborne. You just can’t tell with these things sometimes.

Commissioner Adrian Garcia was also on the way to an easy win in Precinct 2, while Lesley Briones and Ben Chou were leading in Precinct 4. Jack Morman and Jerry Mouton were the top two for Precinct 2 on the Republican side.

Multiple District Court judges were losing their primaries. The ones who were leading included Hilary Unger, Chris Morton, Dedra Davis, Natalia Oakes, Leah Shapiro, and Frank Aguilar, the latter two by smaller margins that could vanish overnight. Amy Martin was trailing Melissa Morris by a small margin as well. Jason Luong was in second place and headed to a runoff against Andrea Beall, Chip Wells was in a similar position against Teresa Waldrop, while Greg Glass and Scott Dollinger were out of the running, with Glass’ opponents in a runoff and Tami Craft leading the field in Dollinger’s race. Veronica Nelson was above 50% in the three-way race for the new 482nd Criminal District Court.

The County Court judges were doing a bit better, with four out of seven leading their races. For the open benches, Juanita Jackson won in Criminal Court #10, Porscha Brown was above 50% for Criminal Court #3, and Monica Singh was leading for Civil Court #4, with second place too close to call between David Patronella and Treasea Treviño.

For the JP races, Sonia Lopez was leading in Precinct 1, with Steve Duble slightly ahead of Chris Watson for second place. Dolores Lozano won in Precinct 2, incumbent Lucia Bates was over 50% in Precinct 3. Roderick Rogers was winning in Precinct 5 and Angela Rodriguez was winning in Precinct 6.

That’s all I’ve got, with results trickling in. I’ll follow up tomorrow.

UPDATE: We’re going to be waiting for results for the rest of the day due to issues with the paper receipts and the printers.

January 2022 campaign finance reports: Harris County

You know what January means around these parts. There’s lots of action in Harris County, so that’s where we’ll begin. Here’s my summary of the July 2021 reports as a reminder. Let’s dive in.

Lina Hidalgo, County Judge
Ahmed Hassan, County Judge
Georgia Provost, County Judge
Erica Davis, County Judge
Kevin Howard, County Judge
Maria Garcia, County Judge

Martina Lemon Dixon, County Judge
Robert Dorris, County Judge
Randall Kubosh, County Judge
Naoufal Houjami, County Judge
Hector Bolanos, County Judge
Oscar Gonzales, County Judge
Alexandra Mealer, County Judge
Vidal Martinez, County Judge
Warren Howell, County Judge
George Zoes, County Judge

Rodney Ellis, County Commissioner, Precinct 1

Adrian Garcia, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
George Risner, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
Gary Harrison, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
John Manlove, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
Jerry Mouton, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
Jack Morman, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
Daniel Jason, County Commissioner, Precinct 2
Richard Vega, County Commissioner, Precinct 2

Tom Ramsey, County Commissioner, Precinct 3

Jack Cagle (SPAC), County Commissioner, Precinct 4
Ben Chou, County Commissioner, Precinct 4
Ann Williams, County Commissioner, Precinct 4
Clarence Miller, County Commissioner, Precinct 4
Lesley Briones, County Commissioner, Precinct 4
Gina Calanni, County Commissioner, Precinct 4
Jeff Stauber, County Commissioner, Precinct 4

Teneshia Hudspeth, County Clerk
Stan Stanart, County Clerk

Marilyn Burgess, District Clerk
Desiree Broadnax, District Clerk
Chris Daniel (SPAC), District Clerk

Dylan Osborne, County Treasurer
Carla Wyatt, County Treasurer
Kyle Scott, County Treasurer
Eric Dick, County Treasurer
Stephen Kusner, County Treasurer


Name             Raised      Spent    Loans    On Hand
======================================================
Hidalgo         900,323    424,448    1,400  1,488,652
Hassan              200      2,461        0          0
Davis            50,114     10,143   21,852     59,970
Howard
Provost
Garcia, M

Lemond Dixon    196,977    109,175        0     90,294
Dorris                0         68        0         68
Kubosh           15,075      9,051   60,000      7,165
Houjami           1,390        592        0        147
Bolanos               0          0        0          0
Gonzales          2,475      3,432      500          0
Mealer           60,049     15,464        0     15,840
Martinez        514,585     86,782  100,000    516,134
Howell            1,450      7,075        0        375
Zoes

Ellis           264,000    181,904        0  4,192,308

Garcia, A       587,885    364,783        0  2,119,825
Risner            3,250      1,899        0     51,550
Harrison              5      2,191        0          0
Manlove          19,452      4,285        0     68,870
Mouton           29,100      2,916        0     26,283
Morman           45,749     66,119        0    165,834
Jason
Vega

Ramsey          236,900    185,263        0    581,035

Cagle           285,673    501,923        0  1,119,432
Chou             80,590      4,133        0     77,490
Williams          2,600      1,250    1,250      1,450
Miller            5,293     10,560        0     10,336
Briones         244,974     60,571        0    229,258
Calanni           5,540          0        0      5,540
Stauber               0      1,250        0          0

Hudspeth         26,464     10,395        0     19,376
Stanart               0      3,054        0      8,053
Burgess          24,169     26,475        0     17,222
Broadnax          9,649      9,538        0        110
Daniel           11,875      1,393   25,000     12,264
Osborne           2,440        622        0      2,202
Scott             7,900     20,489   14,000      1,410
Dick                  0      1,489        0          0
Kusner              

If you don’t see a linked report for someone, it’s because there wasn’t one I could find on the harrisvotes.com page. The information I have here is current as of last night. It’s possible someone could still file a report, these things do happen, but I wouldn’t expect much from anyone who hasn’t by now.

There are items of greater substance to discuss, but I can’t help myself: Naoufal Houjami was a candidate for Mayor in 2019 – if you don’t remember him, it’s probably because he got a total of 565 votes, for 0.2%, finishing last in the field. He has filed a finance report as a candidate for Harris County Judge, but he is not listed as a candidate for either primary, according to the Secretary of State’s Qualified Candidates page. (The Harris County GOP candidates page doesn’t have him, either.) The first two pictures I saw on his webpage were one with him and Greg Abbott, and one with him and Sheila Jackson Lee. Go figure. He is fully supporting his friend George P. Bush for Attorney General, so you make the call. This is way more than you ever needed to know about Naoufal Houjami.

Anyway. Barring an unlikely late and lucrative report from Georgia Provost, who wasn’t much of a fundraiser as a City Council candidate, incumbent Judge Lina Hidalgo outraised all of the other candidates for that position combined. Erica Davis claimed $70K raised on the summary page of her report but just $50K on the subtotals page – I suspect the $70K number was a typo. She had six total donors listed, two of whom gave $25K each, one who gave $196, and the others gave $19.12 apiece. Vidal Martinez was the other big fundraiser, though as John Coby notes, almost 70% of his donations came from 14 people who each ponied up at least $10K. For sure, it’s all green, but that’s not exactly grassroots support. As for Alexandra Mealer, I’d been wondering about her because I’ve seen multiple signs for her in my very Democratic neighborhood. Turns out she’s also my neighbor, now living in one of the historic houses. That explains a lot.

I included the two Commissioners who are not on the ballot just as a point of comparison. Adrian Garcia is obviously well-equipped for battle. George Risner presumably had a few bucks in his account from his time as a Justice of the Peace, but his candidacy for Commissioner does not seem to have drawn much support so far. Jack Morman also had some coin still in his bank and drew more support on his attempt to come back, but he’s nowhere close to Garcia. For Precinct 4, Jack Cagle raised a reasonable amount, though as you can see not an earth-shaking total, with Lesley Briones coming close to him. He has a tidy sum in his treasury, but it’s less than what he had in July thanks to how much he spent. Gina Calanni didn’t raise much – to be fair, there isn’t that much time between the filing deadline and the finance reporting deadline – but her report showed $40K in pledges, which are noted as transfers from her State House campaign account.

None of the other offices tend to raise much. Chris Daniel has a personal report as well as the SPAC report. The non-SPAC account reported no money raised and $1,151 in expenditures.

Finally, someone named Stephen Kusner filed a finance report for Treasurer in July but is not on either ballot and has no report for January. I’m just making a note of that here in case anyone who looked at my July summary is wondering what happened to him.

I’ll take a look at some state reports next, and Congressional reports later. Let me know if you have any questions.

Filing update: More candidates than you can count

This headline and first paragraph are short by a couple of candidates.

Judge Lina Hidalgo

A dozen potential challengers to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo were among the scores who filed ahead of Monday’s deadline to run for county offices next year.

[…]

Hidalgo, who is seeking a second term, faces three candidates in the Democratic primary: former Precinct 1 Constable’s Office Chief of Staff Erica Davis, real estate broker AR Hassan and photographer Georgia Provost.

Nine Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination, including attorney Vidal Martinez, former Army Capt. Alexandra del Moral Mealer, Humble Independent School District board president Martina Lemond Dixon and Randy Kubosh, brother of Houston Councilman Michael Kubosh. The others are Oscar Gonzales, George Zoes, Robert Dorris, Warren Howell and HQ Bolanos.

There are five Democrats running against Judge Hidalgo, not three. Joining Erica Davis on the last-day-to-file train were Kevin Howard and Maria Garcia; I know nothing about either of them. The photos in that Facebook post, plus the 2022 candidate filings album, are the main source that I have for figuring out where the SOS qualified candidates webpage falls short. Chron reporter Zach Despart must have gotten his info from there before the late-filers were included.

There are still some oddities and seeming exclusions on the SOS page as well. I know I saw a Democratic candidate for CD22 on there on Monday, but as of Tuesday there’s no listing. There’s still no one listed for HD22, the seat being vacated by longtime Rep. Joe Deshotel, but local news in Beaumont lists three candidates, one of whom (Joseph Trahan) is the Jefferson County Democratic Party Chair. Jonathan Cocks had been listed for well over a week as a candidate for SBOE8 but is now showing as a candidate for SD08, which makes sense because his address is in the Metroplex city of Allen, and because the Svitek spreadsheet had him going there after pulling out of the Land Commissioner race. Svitek lists two of the three HD22 candidates as the news story, and has the CD22 candidate (Jamie Jordan) as well.

Some other bits of interest:

HD80 was carried by Trump by four points in 2020, so yeah, that’s a big miss for the GOP.

Bryant represented the old CD05 through the 1994 election. He ran in the 1996 primary for US Senate and lost in the runoff to Victor Morales. His old seat was then won by Pete Sessions, who was drawn into CD32 by Tom DeLay in the 2003 re-redistricting, knocking off longtime Rep. Martin Frost the next year. This concludes your history lesson for the day.

Spent a million bucks of his own money to do so, ultimately winning 3,831 votes, or 20.67%, against Rep. Garcia and several others. I suspect Rep. Fletcher won’t have too much trouble with him, but she’ll want to spend some money to make sure.

I will of course keep an eye on that. I’m sure there will be at least one more post in this general vein.

Two other items of note: While Fort Bend County Judge KP George did not draw a primary challenger, there are two candidates vying to take him on in November, including failed 2020 Sheriff candidate and Congressional brother Trever Nehls. Both incumbent County Commissioners, Grady Prestage and Ken DeMerchant, drew multiple primary opponents. Here in Harris County, while HCDE Trustee Eric Dick is one of two Republicans running in the primary for County Treasurer, his wife Danielle is running for his seat (Position 2) in Precinct 4. She will be opposed by Andrea Duhon, the incumbent in Precinct 3 who now lives in Precinct 4 following the adoption of the new map. A bit more than a year from now, we will have between zero and two members of the Dick household in public office. I can’t think of a better place to end this post.

UPDATE: Tahir Javed has withdrawn from the CD07 primary, leaving Rep. Fletcher without opposition in March. I’ll have a post on that tomorrow.

Filing update: Judge Hidalgo makes it official

She has filed for re-election, in case you had thought there was some other possibility.

Judge Lina Hidalgo

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced her 2022 re-election campaign Friday afternoon as she filed paperwork at the Harris County Democratic Party headquarters.

Although progress has been made during her tenure, Hidalgo said her desire is for the county to continue its momentum on various social issues.

“This community has given so much to us, but we have to do better to remain competitive,” Hidalgo said. “Over the past few years we have done that on flood control, on early childhood education, on putting politics behind people… there is so much left to do.”

The incumbent Harris County judge will run against Republican candidate and Humble ISD School Board president Martina Lemond Dixon, who announced her candidacy on Sept. 22.

There are other candidates out there. Indeed, if you search the filings, Martina Dixon doesn’t appear yet. To be fair, neither does Judge Hidalgo as of Friday, but that may be updated by the time you read this. In my previous update I mentioned Republicans Vidal Martinez and Alexandra Mealer. On Friday, I heard that perennial candidate AR Hassan has filed as well, in the Democratic primary. Let’s just say I’m not worried about Judge Hidalgo’s chances there. If it makes her start campaigning in earnest earlier, that’s fine by me.

I see a new entrant in the race for County Commissioner in Precinct 4, Alief ISD Board President Ann Williams, whose Twitter account is here and whose personal Facebook page is here. I don’t know anything about her besides what I can tell from those sources. Oh, Williams’ colleague on the board Lily Truong has filed in the Republican primary in HD149 against Rep. Hubert Vo.

I don’t usually pay too much attention to the JP and Constable races, but I couldn’t help but notice that there are three people with filings for Justice of the Peace in Precinct 1, Place 2, which is where I am and where incumbent David Patronella presides. All three – Sonia Lopez, Steve Duble, and Victor Lombrana – are Democrats, which makes me wonder if Judge Patronella is retiring and I missed an announcement. Anyone have any ideas?

In Congress, I still don’t see a Democrat running in CD38. Nor do I see any primary challengers for Reps. Fletcher, Green, Jackson Lee, or Garcia. All of which is fine by me, though given that we’re in a post-redistricting cycle and there’s still a week-plus to go, I would not think that’s the final word. The main news of which I am aware is that Donna Imam, who was the Democratic candidate for CD31 in 2020, has announced that she will run in the new CD37 this spring. That will pit her against Rep. Lloyd Doggett, and with all due respect, she will not win. But no one is entitled to a seat, so go forth and good luck.

We now have a couple of Dems listed on the Svitek spreadsheet for Comptroller. One is Tim Mahoney, who ran in 2018 and lost in the primary to Joi Chevalier. Another is Angel Vega, who is a resident of Fort Bend and works in the non-profit industry. The spreadsheet also lists former HD14 candidate from 2020 Janet Dudding, whose campaign webpage has not been updated if she is indeed running. Dudding is a CPA.

Finally, the other news of interest is that Sen. Larry Taylor will not run for re-election. As with pretty much everything else to do with the state Senate, this is almost certain to make it a worse place than it is today.

Taylor chairs the Senate Education Committee and has served in the Legislature since 2003, first as a member of the House. He is also chair of the Senate Republican Caucus.

His decision comes just under two weeks before the candidate filing deadline for the 2022 primary. Within minutes of Taylor announcing his retirement, state Rep. Mayes Middleton, R-Wallisville, announced he had filed for for the Senate seat.

[…]

After news of Taylor’s retirement broke, he told a reporter with the Galveston Daily News that part of his decision was due to Middleton’s interest in his seat. Taylor told the reporter that he tried to dissuade Middleton, but that he is “ready to go and wanting to spend a lot of money.”

Middleton, an oil-and-gas businessman, is the chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus in the House, where he has been a member since 2019.

I mean, Larry Taylor is your basic cookie cutter Republican. I have nothing nice to say about him, but he doesn’t make me want to scream. Mayes Middleton is a rich guy who primaried out the Republican that had been in HD23 because he wasn’t sufficiently wingnutty. We all need another guy like that in the Senate like we need another hole in the head, but that’s what we’re gonna get.

The filing deadline is December 13, a week from Monday. I’ll check in again as we go.

UPDATE: I am reliably informed that Judge Patronella is running for the County Court bench that Lesley Briones is vacating to run for Commissioner. Also, there are even more Republicans than the ones I’ve listed here that are running for County Judge.

A brief filing update

Just a few observations as we head out of the holiday season and into what I expect will be the busier part of the filing period. I’m using the Patrick Svitek spreadsheet, the SOS candidate filing resource, and the candidate filing info at the harrisvotes.com site for my notes.

– There’s now a fourth candidate listed for Attorney General on the Dem side, someone named Mike Fields, who along with Joe Jaworski has officially filed as of today. I can’t find anything to clarify this person’s identity – there’s no address listed on the SOS page, and Google mostly returned info about the former County Court judge who is now serving as a retired judge and who last ran for office as a Republican. I seriously doubt this is the Mike Fields who is running for AG as a Dem. I know nothing more than that.

– No Dems yet for Comptroller or Ag Commissioner, though I saw a brief mention somewhere (which I now can’t find) of a prospective Dem for the former. I feel reasonably confident there will be candidates for these offices, though how viable they are remains to be seen.

– Nothing terribly interesting on the Congressional front yet. A couple of Dems have filed for the open and tough-to-hold CD15; I don’t know anything about them. State Rep. Jasmine Crockett, in her first term in the Lege, will run for CD30, the seat being vacated by the retiring Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, who has endorsed Crockett for the primary. That race will surely draw a crowd, but having EBJ in her corner will surely help. No incumbents have yet drawn any primary challenges, though Reps. Vicente Gonzalez (now running in CD34) and Lloyd Doggett (now running in CD37) will have company for their new spots. I am not aware of any Dem yet for the new CD38, which should be Republican at least in the short term but which stands as the biggest prize available for Harris County Democrats.

Michelle Palmer has re-upped for SBOE6, which will be a tougher race this time around. I’m working on a post about the electoral trends for the new SBOE map.

– Sara Stapleton-Barrera and Morgan LaMantia have filed for the open SD27 Senate seat; Rep. Alex Dominguez has not yet filed. Nothing else of interest there.

– For the State House, I’m going to focus on area districts:

HD26 – Former SBOE member Lawrence Allen Jr, who ran in the 2020 primary for this seat, has filed.

HD28 – Eliz Markowitz still has an active campaign website and Facebook page, but I don’t see anything on either to indicate that she’s running again. One person who is running though he hasn’t filed yet is Nelvin Adriatico, who ran for Houston City Council District J in 2019.

HD76 – The spreadsheet lists four candidates so far. Two ran in 2020, Sarah DeMerchant (the 2020 nominee) and Suleman Lalani (who lost to DeMerchant in the primary runoff). Two are new, Vanesia Johnson and James Burnett. This new-to-Fort-Bend district went 61-38 for Joe Biden in 2020, so the primary winner will be heavily favored in November.

HD132 – Chase West has filed. He’s not from the traditional candidate mold, which should make for an interesting campaign. This district was made more Republican and is not the top local pickup opportunity, but it’s on the radar.

HD138 – Stephanie Morales has filed. This is the top local pickup opportunity – the Presidential numbers are closer in HD133, which does not yet have a candidate that I’m aware of, but it’s more Republican downballot.

HD142 – Jerry Davis is listed on the Svitek spreadsheet as a challenger to Rep. Harold Dutton. He hasn’t filed yet, and I don’t see any campaign presence on the web yet. That’s all I know.

HD147 – I am aware of a couple of candidates so far to fill the seat left vacant by Rep. Garnet Coleman’s retirement. Nam Subramaniam has filed. HCC Trustee Reagan Flowers sent out a press release over the weekend stating her intention to run. I would expect there to be more contenders for this open seat.

– For Harris County offices, there are already some people campaigning as challengers to incumbents. Carla Wyatt is running for Treasurer, Desiree Broadnax is running for District Clerk. On the Republican side, former District Clerk Chris Daniel has filed for his old office, and someone named Kyle Scott has filed for Treasurer. There are no Democratic challengers that I can see yet for County Clerk or County Judge, though there are a couple of Republicans for County Judge, Vidal Martinez and Alexandra Mealer. Finally, there’s a fourth name out there for County Commissioner in Precinct 4, Jeff Stauber, who last ran for Commissioner in Precinct 2 in 2018 and for Sheriff in 2016, falling short in the primary both times.

So that’s what I know at this time. Feel free to add what you know in the comments. I’ll post more updates as I get them.

Why these term limits?

David Mincberg has an op-ed about the city’s term limits law that makes some interesting points but doesn’t quite get at the issue of whether the system we actually have now is the best way to meet the goals of better and more diverse representation in Houston’s government.

Back in 1991, Republican Clymer Wright led the successful movement to limit Houston’s mayor and council members to three terms that total six years. Over the past 19 years, besides the turnover in mayors, Houston’s had five controllers examining the city’s budget.

At the same time, the wide-ranging turnover in council members has led to a City Council that mirrors a very diverse city. The days when council members held onto their positions for decades — collecting ever-greater campaign contributions from more and more city contractors — are mostly a distant memory.

Term limits have created a more open, transparent city government with fewer conflicts of interest. Coupled with financial reform, they are working as hoped. Restrictions on the amount of campaign contributions and blackout periods for contributions are working.

Mincberg spends a fair amount of time in his piece noting that while Houston’s government has undergone a lot of turnover since 1991, County Commissioners Steve Radack and Jerry Eversole, who is uncontested for re-election and is expected to resign shortly afterward so a successor can be appointed, are still in office. I’ve made the same observation and agree that the lack of interest by the Clymer Wright crowd about this is curious, to say the least, but we’ll leave that for another day. One must acknowledge that all it took to change the city’s law was a single referendum, whereas imposing term limits on Harris County Commissioners Court would require legislative intervention and a constitutional amendment, which is a much steeper hill to climb. It’s still telling to me that no one seems to care much about it, certainly not anywhere near as much as the city’s term limits law.

That’s not what I want to talk about. The question, given that we’re stuck with term limits whether I like them or not, is whether the term limits law we have is fine as it is or if it should be changed in some fashion. I would agree with Mincberg that Houston’s government today is more diverse and representative of Houston’s changing population than it was in 1991, though how much of that is directly attributable to term limits is not clear to me. The fact that Houston is a lot more diverse now than it was even 20 years ago suggests to me that some of that change would have happened on its own. But surely having a steady supply of open Council seats has helped make that happen more rapidly, and term limits gets the credit for that.

Still, just having open Council seats hasn’t meant that people of color will win them, or even run for them. We’ve had exactly two Latino At Large Council members since 1991, none since Orlando Sanchez in 2001. When I interviewed Vidal Martinez and former Council Member John Castillo last year about their lawsuit to force City Council to be redistricted and expanded, I asked them why we didn’t see more Latinos running citywide. Their answer was that it costs a lot of money to do that, and that’s a barrier to entry for many Latino hopefuls. Term limits don’t do anything about that, and neither have the financial reforms of which Mincberg speaks. The solution that I would suggest is a form of public financing for city campaigns, in which matching funds are made available for small-dollar contributions.

Even when Latino candidates do run for At Large seats, they often don’t get a lot of financial support. Rick Rodriguez early on announced a slew of high profile endorsements for the At Large #1 race last year, but ultimately raised little money. Joe Trevino made it to the runoff for At Large #5 in 2007, but also attracted little monetary help. No term limits law will change this dynamic.

And let’s be honest. Even with the reforms that have been implemented, it’s still the case that candidates who can raise the most money tend to win, and much of the money these candidates do raise comes from the many special interest PACs that operate in the city. In this past election, in the five open seat Council races, at least four were won by the candidate that got the most PAC money. The one possible exception is Al Hoang, who still took in a decent chunk of PAC money but who also had an impressive amount of mostly small-dollar donations from individuals. Maybe we’re okay with this as it is. Maybe we like the alternatives, like the one I’ve suggested, even less. All I know is we’re only focusing on one part of the equation, and I think that’s inadequate.

The other question I’d raise about term limits is whether setting them at three two-year terms, for a total of six years in office, is optimal. We can debate the experience-versus-new-perspectives ideas all we want, but I look at it this way: It’s exceedingly rare for an incumbent Council member to face a serious electoral challenge. Once you’re in, you’re in for three terms. We did happen to have two incumbents get forced into runoffs this past year, though only one faced an opponent with real resources, and that was a genuine novelty. If you want to run for a Council seat, why would you bother going against an incumbent? You know the PAC money will be against you, and besides, it’s only six years to wait your turn for the open seat. Better to court the power brokers in the interim and make the pitch that you should be next in line than tilt at windmills. To me, this strongly suggests that allowing for longer terms in office, whether eight, ten, or twelve years, would lead to there being more truly contested races each election. The longer people have to wait for a seat to come open, the higher the likelihood that impatience will kick in, and the greater the pressure to take on an incumbent who is performing poorly. Couple that with some kind of reform that makes it easier for a challenger to raise money, and you might see serious challenges as the norm and not the exception. That’s the point at which I might agree we’ve got a system that truly promotes democracy. Maybe we can even apply it to county government some day.

More on the City Council redistricting lawsuit dismissal

Here’s the Chron story about the dismissal of the lawsuit, brought by Vidal Martinez and Carroll Robinson.

The lawsuit argued the city was violating its own charter by refusing to redistrict and add two council districts when its population passed the 2.1 million threshhold in late 2006.

U.S. District Judge Sim Lake rejected that contention, finding the plaintiffs had failed to show the city’s charter compelled redistricting. Martinez promised an appeal.

“This is just the first step in a long marathon,” he said, noting that the outcome of the case could depend on a U.S. Supreme Court case dealing with voting rights that originated in Austin. “Nobody should take any happiness out of this very preliminary ruling by the court. In the end, justice has not been done with a 30-year agreement and contract the city made with the Houston Latino community.”

City Attorney Arturo Michel said the ruling upholds the city’s contention that it could not follow federal law regarding redistricting without the accuracy provided by the upcoming decennial population count by the U.S. Census Bureau. Federal law requires precinct-level data for redistricting, which would not be available until after the 2010 count. Using data from the 2000 count, the city argued, would lead to inaccurate district boundaries.

“That will allow you to identify where voters are and come up with the representation system that is the fairest,” Michel said. “What’s more important is that you have a complete and accurate Census count so that you know where people are, and then you can divide your districts in a way that will be fairest to everyone.”

I’m not sure at this point how you can get a resolution from the courts that would be done any sooner than the post-2010 Census redistricting, but we’ll see how that goes. A copy of the opinion can be found here (PDF). It’s pretty complex, but I think Miya summarizes it succinctly enough as “the plaintiffs basically didn’t prove how they were damaged by the city waiting for the census”. And so wait we will, pending a reversal on appeal. Houston Politics has more.

City Council redistricting lawsuit dismissed

Marc Campos mentions this in passing:

This past Friday, a federal judge threw out Lopez v. City of Houston. That is the lawsuit filed by Vidal Martinez to force the City of H-Town to draw two more district council seats immediately. I guess it is not going to happen until 2011.

I’ve searched Google, and I’ve searched the Southern District Court webpage, and other than this May 8 tweet from Liz Lara Carreno, I can’t find anything more on this beyond what Marc has written. The lawsuit, you may recall, was filed in February to force the city to abide by the 1979 ruling that required two new district Council seats to be created when the population hit 2.1 million. The city’s argument was that they wanted to wait till after the 2010 Census, while the plaintiffs argued that sufficient data existed today to do the job in time for this November’s election. A copy of the suit is here, in RTF format. If anyone can point me to an opinion or an order or something so I can have some idea of the reason for the dismissal, I’d appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Casey on City Council redistricting

Rick Casey provides an update on the City Council redistricting lawsuit.

The burning question of whether the city of Houston must immediately expand its 14-member City Council by adding two new districts in time for November’s election, or whether it can wait two years for detailed census information, is now before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake.

The legal question sounds simple: What constitutes a change?

But this involves lawyers, so nothing is simple.

One side says adding the two seats would be a change.

The other says not to do so would be a change.

Both are arguably right.

[…]

[Vidal] Martinez and [Carroll] Robinson are suing under a section of the Voting Rights Act that requires that all changes in the voting system be approved either by the Justice Department or by a federal court. They argue that the city’s decision not to follow the 1979 agreement by adding two seats is a change and therefore needed federal approval.

To the contrary, argues the city’s lawyer, Austin voting rights specialist Robert Heath. Adding two seats would be a change that required Justice Department approval. Since the city has not changed, the suit is not valid.

Martinez says he expects Lake to rule within a couple of weeks. If the judge agrees with Martinez and Robinson, the matter goes to a panel of three federal judges for further argument. If the city loses there, it can appeal straight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If Sims rules for the city, there is no appeal.

No problem, says Martinez. “We’ll go to state court and ask a judge to require the city to obey its own charter and add the districts,” he said.

No clue about the timeline, unfortunately. If the city wins and the two plaintiffs refile in state court, I have my doubts that they could get a ruling in time to affect things, at least for this election. Legal actions always take longer than I think they will. Thanks to Greg for the tip.

Interview with Vidal Martinez and John Castillo

As you know, I’ve been following the issue of Houston City Council redistricting with a lot of interest. After the lawsuit was filed a week ago Thursday, I wanted to speak to the protagonists and ask them some questions about their position and their desired outcome. I had that opportunity recently, and sat down with attorney Vidal Martinez and former City Council Member John Castillo, who was one of the key players in the 1979 suit that gave us the districts we have now. (Carroll Robinson was also going to be in on this, but he had a last-minute conflict.) I have to say, they make a compelling case for taking action now – among other things, Martinez points out that the original map was drawn with 1970 Census data; they didn’t wait till the 1980 Census was out to go ahead with it – and claim that it could be done in time for even the May special election to go forward, if all parties agreed to do it right away. You can listen to the interview here (MP3) and judge for yourself.

As I understand it, we are currently waiting on a court hearing and a Justice Department investigation. The defendants – the Mayor, the Controller, and all City Council members – have 20 days to give their responses to the suit, so we’ll presumably see some action in early March, which is to say shortly after the filing deadline for District H. In the meantime, let me know what you think about what Martinez and Castillo have to say.

More on the city council redistricting lawsuit

Here’s today’s version of the story, which adds a little more detail to yesterday’s.

Population consultants and planning officials have said that redistricting now would require the city to rely on 2000 census data outlining population figures in voting precincts. Although the city has done that before, officials said, updated population figures showed those efforts to have been flawed.

Redistricting now, he said, could lead the city to violate the Voting Rights Act by potentially undercounting minorities through the use of outdated census data.

“I support the Voting Rights Act,” [Mayor Bill] White said. “We think the most important step to make sure there is fair representation of all citizens is to have maximum participation in the 2010 census.”

{Plaintiffs Vidal] Martinez and [Carroll] Robinson said the city has several options for getting the most accurate population information, including using data from the census and demographic specialists.

“It’s a sad day when it takes a group of private lawyers to have to ask the Justice Department and the courts to do what the city is legally and morally obligated to do,” Robinson said.

He and Martinez said they felt goaded into action as the council prepared to vote next week on a measure that ostensibly declares the population for voting purposes to be around 1.95 million, and the council districts to be evenly divided according to population.

That’s a “comical farce,” Martinez said.

Council members have admitted as much during open meetings, questioning whether their votes on the matter would ratify a misleading stance.

[Annise] Parker, the city controller, is a candidate for mayor and has declared her support for redistricting now. She said Thursday that the city has staked out an “inconsistent” position on its population.

In budget-related decisions, she said, the council already has cast votes asserting a higher population, and she has used a 2.2 million population figure in bond-related documents, as well.

I’m going to guess that the other candidates for Mayor will share Parker’s position on this, if for no better reason than I’m sure they’d all prefer to have this matter dealt with, or at least largely out of their hands, before taking office. Who wouldn’t want to avoid dealing with it, especially right out of the gate?

As I’ve said before, given that we put this off till now I think it’s reasonable to wait till the 2010 Census numbers are in before tackling this task. But given that we shouldn’t have put this off in the first place, I also think it’s reasonable to force the issue now. My main concern right now is the disposition of the District H special election. I don’t want it to be delayed by this lawsuit. I have no idea what a timeline is likely to be for any court decisions that would affect it, however. I’ve got a copy of the lawsuit here (rich-text format document, thanks to Miya for the link). Can any lawyers out there give me an opinion as to how this may play out? I’m not looking for a guess on how it will be decided, just on how long you think it might take to get to some kind of resolution, and whether or not the May and/or November elections are in doubt. Thanks.

UPDATE: On a tangential note, I just got an email announcing Lupe Garcia‘s official entry into the District H race. His press release is beneath the fold.

(more…)

Lawsuit filed to force city to redistrict

Former City Council Member Carroll Robinson, who has been a strong proponent for redistricting City Council boundaries and drawing two new districts now rather than waiting till 2011, has said that the city should not fear any litigation that might result from such an action. Clearly, Robinson himself does not fear it.

Community activists have filed a lawsuit alleging the City of Houston has violated the Voting Rights Act by putting off the redistricting of city council boundaries as required by its own charter and a decades-old court settlement.

The lawsuit, which seeks to force the city to begin redrawing voting boundaries, could have far-reaching implications, including delaying an upcoming special election to fill the council seat vacated by Sheriff Adrian Garcia and, possibly, even the November elections, plaintiffs claim.

Mayor Bill White, all 13 council members and City Controller Annise Parker are named as co-defendants in the suit, which was filed in federal court today.

[…]

The city’s failure to take that action has galvanized minority leaders, who see the creation of new seats as a chance to increase the number of minorities on City Council.

“The result of that breach is lack of representation at City Hall by a significant portion of the community,” said Vidal Martinez, a former Port of Houston Authority commissioner who is litigating the suit with former city councilman Carroll Robinson.

“The need for leadership to protect the voting rights of Houstonians is why we have acted today to seek the help of the U.S. Justice Department and the federal court to make sure that the city charter is complied with,” Robinson said.

In a city made up of 41.7 percent Hispanics, 24.3 percent African-Americans and 5.3 percent Asian-Americans, according to the U.S. Census, there is one Latino council member, four African-Americans and one Asian-American.

The irony, of course, is that if the plaintiffs get what they want, the delay of the special election in District H will mean there will continue to be only one Hispanic on Council for however much longer. I guess they believe that the short-term loss is worth the long-term gain. Speaking as a resident of District H, I can’t say I’m terribly happy about this.

I just can’t excuse the decision to not take action in 2006, which would have settled all of this by now. Given that we put things off then, it makes sense to say we should wait till 2011 now. In a vacuum, I’d totally agree with that. But we could have headed this off, and we chose not to. I don’t see how the path we didn’t take could have been any messier than the one we appear to be about to take.

Filing report: Noel Freeman

Noel Freeman, who had been a candidate for the At Large #3 position in the May 2007 special election that was eventually won by Council Member Melissa Noriega, has sent out a press release saying he’ll officially file his Treasurer’s report on Thursday for the At Large #4 seat. Freeman had announced his intent to run for that seat last month. As far as I know, he’s the first official candidate for this seat.

I’m going to try to keep up with these as best I can. I feel like there ought to be a way to look up who’s filed a report with the City Secretary online, but I don’t see anything obvious on the City Secretary’s web page. Am I missing something?

UPDATE: Some action on the Mayoral front as well. City Controller Annise Parker is planning to announce her candidacy on February 2, which is a day after the official start date for raising money. Also, a group of Latino leaders, including the suddenly-ubiquitous Vidal Martinez, has been busy vetting the Mayoral wannabees. I have a feeling this campaign will be in full swing a bit earlier than the 2003 version was.