The 2015 Money Primary: City of Houston [UPDATED]

UPDATE (Thursday afternoon) – Updates made after the first large batch are italicized below. Carroll Robinson leads the way for updates.


UPDATE (midnight) – Kudos to the city staff who got the page updated in good time. Updates below are from the reports listed around midnight on the 15th. Obviously, some are still missing.

A note on methodology: I broke out the amounts “raised” into three distinct categories: the relatively true “raised” total from page three of the reports, the in-kind total from page three, and the loans reported on page three. Totals for expenditures and cash on hand are taken from page two of the reports. Most campaigns are likely to publicize their grand total of funds raised. My intent is to highlight the amounts raised in new, hard cash as well as the cash on hand. For now, just the totals – I’ll update the missing as I get to them. Commentary and a little bit of research to follow in the days ahead.


Here’s the running total as they come in. As Kuff notes, the city’s system isn’t prepared for the new format of the report. So if I’m lagging, here’s the page where the reports are supposed to be loaded.

The new system is designed to clarify what expenses are really in-kind contributions. For the uninitiated, these kind of items have typically been things like a poll or opposition research package provided by an organization or major donor (which has some value and has varying degrees of actual value). They’ve also been abused by candidates listing yard signs as a set dollar value in-kind contribution (which is generally bull-honkus). For better or worse, the distinction looks like it is designed to provide some honest-er accounting.

Given the time of year, Cash on Hand is the amount to pay the most attention to. You may or may not be able to puff up numbers elsewhere in the report, but the amount of money you have in the bank to drop on an opponent’s head going into the Labor Day campaign launchpad is harder to massage. Although, there’s not much accountability for just making up a number there.

Anyway, numbers to come as they’re posted or if candidates post some Page 2s online. In that case (like that of Chris Brown’s below), the in-kind column is noted with a placeholder (#).

Mayor                     Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Chris Bell               366,770     14,897          0    204,868     190,034
Stephen Costello       1,476,757     15,475     90,000    496,668   1,314,202
Adrian Garcia          1,441,792     64,982          0    122,699   1,321,625
Ben Hall                 948,630*         #    850,000    136,454     812,175
Bill King                721,250     34,042    500,000    680,685     544,498
Marty McVey               43,927     16,270  1,075,000    129,185   1,071,585
Demetria Smith                NA
Sylvester Turner         747,793     15,298          0    601,853   1,160,813

* - Ben Hall's campaign didn't break out their in-kind expnses on their report.

Controller                Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Jew Don Boney                 NA
Chris Brown              267,750      3,547          0     22,032     222,858
Bill Frazer              128,097      1,009     32,500    120,956      53,973 
Dwight Jefferson           8,653      2,943      1,860      9,255           *
Carroll Robinson          46,170      3,908          0     33,973       5,033     

* - Jefferson's campaign didn't have Page Two details

At Large #1               Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Trebor Gordon                 NA
Griff Griffin                 NA
Lane Lewis               102,473      2,296        100     19,082      62,839
Tom McCasland            128,241     13,742          0     30,199      98,041
Chris Oliver              27,585     10,000          0      3,913      23,671
Jenifer Pool                  NA

At Large #2               Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Andrew Burks                  NA
Moe Rivera                   992        130          0        303           ?
David Robinson (i)            NA

At Large #3               Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Brad Batteau                  NA
Atlas Kerr                    NA
Michael Kubosh (i)        63,205          0          0     23,322      44,745
John C.B. LaRue              650      1,525          0        537         218    
Joseph McElligott             NA
Doug Peterson              4,250        505          0        104       4,120 

At Large #4               Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Larry Blackmon               NA
Amanda Edwards          157,084       8,874        500     29,300     118,185    
Jonathan Hansen             950         300      6,663      1,613           0
Roy Morales              16,300         500          0        451      16,348
Matt Murphy               3,990           0     10,332     14,195         330
Laurie Robinson          28,623      14,420     12,000     16,736      26,719

At Large #5               Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Jack Christie (i)       124,350           0          0     28,148      100,281
Durrel Douglas               NA
Philippe Nassif              NA
Charles Tahir                 0

District A                Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Brenda Stardig (i)        85,075          0          0     31,833      113,897

District B                Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Jerry Davis (i)           96,430          0          0     28,687      161,587

District C                Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Ellen Cohen (i)          131,450          0          0     24,479     167,474
Jason Hochman                  0          0          0          0           0

District D                Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Dwight Boykins (i)        86,050          0          0     34,760      59,481

District E                Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Dave Martin (i)           72,900          0          0     14,045      94,758

District F                Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Steve Le                      NA
Richard Nguyen (i)        77,095      1,352          0    16,457       73,347

District G                Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Sandie Mullins Moger      15,920      1,550          0      8,035       8,617
Greg Travis               16,635          0     41,000    29,773       34,395

District H                Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Roland Chavez             48,669      5,235      5,100     5,573       48,415
Karla Cisneros            30,095      5,272          0    13,956       24,647
Jason Cisneroz            33,000      2,174          0    14,611       18,738
Abel Davila                6,500          0          0     9,046       17,453

District I                Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Robert Gallegos (i)       62,655      3,000          0     21,475      91,014

District J                Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Jim Bigham                    45          0          0         51          45
Mike Laster (i)           85,550      1,711          0     14,081     157,061

District K                Raised     In-Kind      Loan      Spent     On Hand
Larry Green (i)          110,270          0          0     29,135     137,117

Vacation Prep: The Weird Part

In addition to United Airlines grounding their fleet for the second time in a month (yesterday), here’s more Minnesota madness that I get to content with:

» CNN: Bear at Minnesota Zoo causes brief scare by smashing viewing glass

In somewhat related news, the director of the Minnesota Zoo is headed to Houston. No word if he plans to bring along the monkey rebellion with him.

» Star-Tribune: Air pollution warning expanded in Minnesota due to smoke from Canadian wildfires

For the sake of completeness, the state Capitol in St. Paul is closed to the public while they do interior renovations. Good thing I can still take in all those statues around the Capitol mall, I suppose. Also, mudslides along the Mississippi look like they’ll make for some interesting detours to get to some parks and river walkways.

And with that, I’m off to find out exactly how excruciating of an ordeal it can be to deal with TSA, reservations made by Orbitz, DOS attacks on United Airlines’ system, and other atrocities known to world travelers.

One Foot Still in Houston: City Fundraising Announcements

I haven’t left Houston just yet, so it’s worth taking note of the markers that the city candidates are putting down for their fundraising results.

Garcia was first out of the gate with his figures, announcing a $1.5 million haul Tuesday afternoon. According to his campaign, Garcia neither contributed his own money nor transferred funds from his sheriff’s account.

King followed with a statement Wednesday morning saying he raised $1.25 million, $750,000 of which came from donors, meaning King likely supplied $500,000 for his own bid.

Costello also financed his own campaign to the tune of $250,000 and transferred $262,000 from his city council account, according to his release.

That’s just the Mayoral numbers. The Controller’s race is obviously well below the radar, but there are more than two viable candidates in that race, also. If the results are anywhere near what they are in the Mayoral race, it’s quite obvious that someone is going to raise a whole heckuvalotta money, run a better race than Peter Brown ever ran, and still miss out on a spot in the runoff.

And just as obviously, there’s going to be some nit-picking over how the reports are filed: how much is in-kind contributions, how much is transferred from other campaign funds, self-funded, or family-funded. And things like burn rate, donor names, and other piddly details are enough to eat up my free time when I get back from the Twin Cities. But fear not – eventually the voters get a say in whether any of that matters.

Vacation Prep: The Easy Part

In lieu of any truly meaningful blogging, I thought I’d start with some pre-vacation items. The wheels go up for me Thursday morning. Dog-sitter has already been procured. And I’ve taken the radical step of purchasing a piece of luggage. After checking the memory banks, it seems the last real vacation I had was to Toronto in 2000. About all I know to expect for my first post-9/11 flight is to arrive early, take off the shoes, and rely on the hotel for shampoo and conditioner.

The biggest reason that the Twin Cities is a destination of interest for me is to visit Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul. I’ve been listening to podcasts of Greg Boyd’s sermons since sometime after he was profiled in the NY Times in 2006. And the first time I read the article, I wasn’t particularly swayed. I wasn’t looking for another Jim Wallis to listen to. But I eventually gave him a listen and his messages grew on me rather quickly. I picked up the book he was known for at the time – “The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church” – and it resonated pretty strongly. I’m sure there are those who would still classify Boyd as a crazy liberal evangelical. But I’ve never been disappointed that I didn’t make the time to listen to each week’s message. Since then, the podcast-listening hasn’t been as routine. But Woodland Hills has remained on something akin to a bucket list. So that’s my Saturday. To set the vacation mood, this little blog post of Boyd’s is worth the time.

Outside of that, my vacation criteria were rather simple: get to another plot of geography outside the state. If for no other reason than to say I’ve actually set foot outside of Texas. And make sure there’s enough big-city accoutrements to satisfy my exploratory curiosity. So, with all due regards to Podunk, Idaho, I’m off to a big city with the following agenda items somewhere on my to-do list:

» Mall of America – This really goes without saying.

» See the St. Paul Saints – The Twins are in town while I’m there. But where’s the fun in that? The Saints are partly owned by none other than Bill Murray. Yes, Ghostbusters Bill Murray. And all I know otherwise about the team is that the catcher is the only .400 hitter in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball (the only Texas teams being the Grand Prairie AirHogs and the Amarillo Thunderheads). Lucky me, I get to catch the Ottawa Champions.

» Stone Arch Bridge – And about a handful of other places to see the Mississippi River up close.

» Ride a bike – The Twin Cities has a pretty robust bike share program and given that much of my sightseeing falls conveniently in each downtown area, biking it makes the most sense.

» Whitesnake – They happen to be in town Saturday night. Coincidence?

Obviously, there are loads of other details to take up time. I’ll try and save a few as a surprise.

A Fine Time to Move

I picked a heck of a week-plus to get my stuff (and dog, and myself) moved back to Houston. Let’s see:

– KHOU polled Houstonians on their preference for Mayor. Looking forward to seeing what this “Don’t Know” dude’s position is on fixing potholes.

– Yet another senseless hate crime is carried out in a way that is too maddeningly common. As a result, the confederate flag falls – in southern state capitols, Amazon, and Bo & Luke’s car. Never underestimate what a confused 21-yr old hillbilly can accomplish in this world.

– Obamacare survives another challenge with the Supreme Court. The Bush-appointed/conservatives-celebrated Chief Justice wrote the opinion on why. Some heads exploded. Scalia among them.

– Greece somehow managed to knock my brokerage account down a couple of percentage points in one day. Good thing I was too busy schlepping boxes to check in and join in on the panic.

– We finally get an answer to what happens when investigators find heretofore unreleased records from Hillary Clinton. And unless references to hanging up fax lines is code for “let the embassy burn,” wingnuts are sure to be disappointed.

– Oh, and gays can marry.

On the plus side, I’ve managed to successfully install cable and internet in my apartment, the dog is confused by her new surroundings, the office gets a remodel this week, and I still need to plan a vacation agenda down to the nanosecond.

Topical commentary should pick back up from here on out.

CoH 2015: Southwest Houston Council Challenges

I’m long overdue for catching up on the City of Houston campaign season. My plan was to take a deeper dive into the subject after my vacation in a few weeks. But it’s worth pointing out that both city council members representing SW Houston will have primary challenges this election. Today’s entry happened with District J, with Sharpstown Civic Association President Jim Bigham jumping into the race against incumbent, Mike Laster. Prior to that, District F incumbent Richard Nguyen drew an opponent in physician Steve Le.

Together with an open (and crowded) Mayor’s race, it should be interesting to watch. For whatever it matters or proves to be worth, here’s my post showing the partisan inclination of City Council voting districts.

About That San Antonio Election

I’m obviously still running days and weeks behind on a lot of election/campaign news going on. In the case of the San Antonio mayoral race, I’m only a few days behind. With that, here are the three traditional views of the results (map courtesy of the Express-News):

» San Antonio Express-News: Taylor dominated key voting precincts
» Texas Tribune: Taylor’s San Antonio Win a Wake-Up Call for Democrats

Ivy R. Taylor  .......... 50,659 (51.7%) 
Leticia Van De Putte .... 47,328 (48.3%) 

There’s obviously a great deal of angst expressed by folks who (like me) supported Leticia Van de Putte. In particular, a lot of that is directed at “those lazy people who don’t vote.” I’ll offer one contrarian take to this and be done with it. I’ve worked on campaigns that have won and lost. I’ve worked on campaigns where I had a negligible impact on that outcome and those where I’ve had a bit more. But I know enough to say that when you’ve lost, the first questions shouldn’t be aimed at voters who didn’t support you. I guarantee you that there had to be something the LVP campaign wishes they had done differently that had an impact on the election. I doubt that lack of money was a significant issue for the campaign. So, as much as it pains me, there should have been a better campaign run. Period. That doesn’t seem to reflect what’s getting written about, but I hope the folks who go from LVP’s campaign to work on other campaigns operates on that basis in their next campaign.

The oddity of it all, for me, is that San Antonio seems to be the most fought-over mayor’s seat that involves a City Manager form of government. There have certainly been mayors in San Antonio’s recent history that have exceeded what most weakish-mayor systems tend to produce. But still. San Antonio will be fine.

The Exit Door (part 3)

Well, that’s one way to announce your retirement:

As others have noted, there are only three remaining GOP members of the House that helped elect Joe Straus Speaker in 2009: Charlie Geren, Byron Cook, and Straus himself. Geren and Cook are certain to have challenging primary elections. But the good news for Straus is that he’s been doing a sufficient job of winning support among caucus-mates further to his right. It says something that the last two challengers for Straus’ speakership were junior members of the caucus who barely knew either the House rule book or legislative process. There’s a way of looking at the original base of Straus’ support and seeing his time as Speaker being limited. But there hasn’t really been a big hue and cry for change among the GOP caucus. So I wouldn’t expect to see a change given retirements like that of Keffer, or even after a few primary losses.

Bud Kennedy gets the reaction on Keffer’s announcement from Mike Lang, who had expected to challenge Keffer. I’d expect to see a few more credible names line up for the seat now that it’s open.

CORRECTION: Unfortunately, former Rep. Ed Kuempel passed away in 2010 and was replaced by his son. The third member of the “Gang of 11″ that remains, is Joe Straus himself. The correction has been made in the post above.

ADD-ON: It’s not legislative, but it’s of some intrigue – Michael Massengale (1st Court of Appeals, Place 8) will challenge Supreme Court justice Debra Lehrmann for the GOP nomination in 2016. If nothing else, that creates an open seat on the multi-county 1st CoA. That court has the same jurisdiction as the 14th CoA and here’s what the 2012 and 2008 results look like for those courts (GOP results on the left column, Dems on the right column):

2012 General Election

1st Court of Appeals District
Place 2   Bland(I)      869,923  (53.3%)   Lovett       762,619  (46.7%)
Place 6   Brown(I)      871,073  (53.4%)   Silverman    758,993  (46.6%)
Place 7   Jennings      872,095  (53.5%)   Oakes        757,166  (46.5%)
Place 8   Massengale(I) 875,473  (53.8%)   Copeland     752,158  (46.2%)
Place 9   Huddle(I)     870,117  (53.4%)   Cheng        759,483  (46.6%)

14th Court of Appeals District
Place 3   Busby         851,386  (52.3%)   Gardner      777,867  (47.7%)
Place 4   Brown(I)      882,666  (54.2%)   Wrotenbery   744,530  (45.8%)
Place 5   Jamison(I)    879,147  (54.0%)   Garth        748,127  (46.0%)
Place 8   Donovan       857,843  (52.7%)   Maldonado    771,367  (47.4%)

2008 General Election

1st Court of Appeals District
Place 3   Hubbard       776,587  (49.4%)   Sharp        794,759  (50.6%)
Place 5   Higley(I)     802,668  (51.2%)   Taylor       763,840  (48.8%)

14th Court of Appeals District
C. Justice Hedges(I)    798,272  (51.0%)   Beverly      768,045  (49.0%)
Place 4   Brown(I)      806,648  (51.6%)   Moser        756,035  (48.4%)
Place 6   Boyce(I)      793,829  (50.8%)   Markantonis  768,014  (49.2%)
Place 7   Frost(I)      790,831  (50.7%)   Siegel       770,586  (49.4%)

While those numbers are close and Jim Sharp managed to win a majority in 2008, the real trick to winning this district is to see (at minimum) a 53% win in Harris County and some slight upticks in the other counties. Seeing Ft. Bend County go 50-50 would still leave you short without the smaller counties chipping in a point or two. It’s still a good court to run for in the hopes that the tide turns, but it’s a challenge to run with the aim of picking off your own crossover votes. Sharp obviously benefited from his last name. I worked on the Siegel campaign in 2008 and we ran cable ads in the hope of getting some crossover votes. I think I can make an argument that it happened, but it definitely didn’t happen in large enough numbers. And whether you believe that the 2008 level support is there in 2016 or whether 2012 is more reflective of the new normal is definitely a factor for consideration.

(Sorta) New Year Resolutions

In some ways, the day after a legislative session feels like New Years Day – if it only happened every 18 months. It’s time to move back to Houston. It’s time to see if my dog being house-trained is a fluke or not and it’s time to flesh out the home with a few more items that were put off until I had a fresh 18-month clock to enjoy them (namely, a big fat recliner that I can occasionally fall asleep in with my hound dog). The session also takes me out of my weekly volunteer routine at church, although I do manage to get back for random weekends. Hopefully they’ll have me back on a regular basis in a few weeks.

So, in addition to taking a proper vacation for the first time in over a decade, I thought I’d take the time to list a few more things I’m hoping to accomplish over the next 18 months:

Reading: If I really wanted to get nerdy about things, I could chart my life by the amount of reading I get done to the amount of driving I do. It’s a perfectly inverse relationship: whenever I had a car and a long commute, I got very little reading done. Whenever I relied on a METRO pass to and fro, I got a jack-ton of reading done. Currently, there’s a car and a short work commute (and the occasional urge to go shopping some place further than my local Fiesta). I may need to dust off the library card, sort through the Kindle, and carve out some time. But these are all doable things. Around the time of my move last year, the plan was to add a basset hound to the equation and I knew that would also suck up some free time. It did, but the training is now paying off. Elsie still needs play time from me, but I no longer have to spend an insane amount of time patrolling a very small apartment for things she’s chewed up or pooped on. Bottom line: I can no longer state a good reason for why I’m not going through at least one book every two weeks given all of my time constraints. I think this will just take some will-power to get back into the habit. I’m off to an abysmal start with the first two assignments, but proper shaming can wait until I’m back to having a 3 minute commute to work.

Writing: Yes, the blog and Almanac both need some pixels typed into them. But I’m actually thinking something more like this from a habit I developed somewhere around 2009-10:


Seems that there used to be a project promoted by a church I listen to via podcast that involved a group of people devoted to transcribing books of the Bible. I gave this a shot on my own at the time and it was rewarding in a lot of different ways. I seem to have maintained a habit of collecting composition books with the intention of doing this again … without actually starting up again with the writing. So this gets added to the list of things to get back in gear with.

Recording: Tops on the “big expense” items that I’ve held off on until the Lege wrapped up is an upgrade of recording gear and a few new additions to the guitar gear. I’ve wanted to take a few ideas that I’ve recorded and flesh them out into fuller songs. Technically, there’s nothing stopping me from doing that with the equipment I already have. But the biggest impediment I currently have is the memory limitation on my 8-track recorder. It seems that the type of SD card it takes is limited and behind the times. If I wanted to stock up on 2GB cards, I’d be spending a small fortune to overpay for the privilege. And importing/exporting is a chore. So I’m upgrading that bit of hardware and creating a setup that lets me record a mic’d up amplifier rather than the more limiting tone of a direct line into the recorder (essentially the difference of hearing your guitar emulate something closer to a motorcycle rather than a bunch of angry bees). The amplifier and recording device are the easy decisions. The harder decision seems to be the microphones (what kind and how to use them properly) as well as the fine art of re-amping. I’m looking forward to it, though. There may be some unloading of guitar gear that I currently have in stock just to offset the crazy expense of new equipment that far exceeds the skill and talent I have to play and compose music.

More trips to the dog park: Elsie has long since made her proper introductions at the Danny Jackson Dog Park on Westpark. But her time there was bracketed by virtue of her young age and being in heat shortly before we left for Austin. So we’ve probably only managed to visit the place a handful of times last year. Little Elsie is now accustomed to a big backyard and a larger dog that she shares our Austin home with. I think we’re going to have to work in multiple trips to the park per week to compensate for her more isolated home life in Houston. The time commitment for a leash-free romp in the park is the least of my concerns. The need to bathe Elsie after each trip is the biggest issue.

That’s a sizable enough list of things that I’d hate to admit defeat over. With some amount of effort, there will be snippets and reviews from the reading list, music samples, cute puppy pictures from the dog park, and maybe some weekend posts updating the writing project. If not … who knows. Maybe just pictures of me and Elsie zonked out on the recliner.