The Exit Door (part 2)

Following up from the initial retirement/”moving on” list

Sen. Kevin Eltifemakes it official that he’s leaving. Expect to see half of East Texas run for the seat.

Rep. Bryan Hughes & Rep. David Simpson – will be among the list of candidates seeking to replace Eltife. Outgoing SBOE member Thomas Ratliff’s name is still a “maybe.”

Among the replacements …

Dr. Tom Oliverson has announced his plans to replace Rep. Allen Fletcher. The fake quote that accompanies his press release reads as follows:

“I am running for State Representative to fight for our conservative values. As a small business owner, I understand first hand that small businesses are the engines that drive our economy. I will fight to promote free markets and end burdensome regulations that cripple our businesses and hurt the Texas economy. I will unapologetically defend the life of the unborn, fight for lower property taxes, protect our border, be an advocate for education reform, and defend our 2nd Amendment rights.”

I’m real interested to learn about those burdensome regulations that cripple Texas businesses. Sounds like the past 20+ years of single-party Republican rule have been a bit of a failure according to their own standards.

Previously mentioned, but Kevin Roberts of the Lanier Law Firm will be seeking Patricia Harless’ HD126. The Lanier connection could make him an interesting member to watch, if he succeeds.

Former Longview mayor Jay Dean will reportedly seek Simpson’s seat. At first glance, he seems to be an improvement over most in the Lege. But in fairness to our friends in East Texas, HD1’s Gary VanDeaver election in 2014 was a good head start on improving the other caucus.

HoundTV: Elsie vs Deer

I figured it was inevitable that little Elsie would run across a deer while we were living in Austin. And this technically is her second encounter with suburban-dwelling deer. The first time involved the family of deer running away anytime Elsie got withing 50 feet. This is from May 31st – and we finally had some interaction between the animals.

I like to think that Elsie saved the neighborhood from this (and two other) deer this day. But that would involve putting up statues in Elsie’s honor – 14-inch high statues. And people would just trip all over those.

The Exit Door

The Almanac is still a thing, but I figured the current round of legislative retirements deserves a dedicated working space. With that, here’s who’s moving on to better and brighter things:

Rep. Allen Fletcher (R – NW Harris County) – was hoping to get the appointed gig for Harris County Sheriff, but has made it known that he’d be running for it in 2016 regardless. He also gave his going-away speech toward the end of the legislative session. District is about as safe as it gets for GOP – no known names for the seat come to mind.

Rep. Sylvester Turner (D – NW Harris County) – running for Houston mayor for the third time. Also preached his going-away speech during the final days of the lege. Safe Dem seat and there will be a long line of potential replacements. Biggest name to date is HISD trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones.

Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock (R – Bell County) – gave his going-away speech in the closing days of the Lege. No known names for the seat early on, but the district has potential for a Democratic pickup in 2016 (followed by an almost certain return to GOP control in a non-Presidential year).

Rep. Joe Farias (D – Bexar County) – gave his going-away speech in the closing days of the Lege. Like Aycock’s seat, the district has some potential for swinging to the other party.

Sen. Troy Fraser (R – Central Texas) – announced via letter to Senators after the legislative session. Rep. Aycock was asked to consider running for the seat by Fraser’s campaign manager, but declined. There shouldn’t be a shortage of candidates for this seat, but the field could be thinned out by fundraising ability. Of some interest is that former Representative (and failed Comptroller nominee) Harvey Hilderbran represented the southern portion of the Senate District.

Rep. Patricia Harless (R – NW Harris County) – announced on June 8 that she would not run again. District is safe GOP. Two names to watch for may be Harless’ husband (who toyed with a run for SD7 after Dan Patrick announced for Lt. Gov). Former HD126 candidate John Devine has since successfully run for state Supreme Court. The only semi-announced candidate thus far is attorney, Kevin Roberts.

And in other activity:

Thomas Ratliff (R – East Texas) – announced he would not run for re-election to the State Board of Education.

Sen. Kevin Eltife (R – East Texas) – hasn’t announced whether or not he’ll run for re-election. But State Rep. David Simpson is rumored to be running for the GOP nomination regardless. Outgoing State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff has said he would consider running if Eltife opted to retire.

Rep. J.D. Sheffield (R – North Central Texas) – Rep. Sheffield has a very visible voting record that allows him to be identified as a moderate in a GOP primary. But his speech against the Schaefer amendment that would ban abortions of fetuses with genetic abnormalities after 20 weeks gave even more ammunition to opponents. Rep. Jonathan Stickland announced via twitter that “[t]his could be Rep. Sheffields last speech on the #txlege floor.” Stephenville realtor Brent Graves announced his intention to challenge Sheffield prior to the end of the legislative session.

Rep. Jim Keffer (R – North Texas) – Hasn’t made an announcement. Michael Quinn Sullivan seems to believe he will retire rather than face another tough primary challenge (allegedly from RR Commish David Porter). That may be wishful thinking on Sullivan’s part, however.

Rep. Charlie Geren (R – Tarrant County) – Hasn’t made an announcement. Presumed to be running again. But already has a primary challenge. Given the growing strength of the Tea Party in Tarrant County and more relaxed campaign finance laws (not to mention Geren’s pointed opposition to same), it could potentially be more entertaining than prior primary challenges against Geren.

Updates are a given …

The Joys of Bracketing

A minor tidbit of legislative work to share from the past five months:

Legislative Director typically entails reading a fair amount of legislation. That’s about as exciting as it sounds. And even more mundane is that a good deal of legislation is “bracketed” so that it only applies to certain counties, cities, school districts, etc…. After a while, you pick up a lot of the easy-to-guess brackets, like Harris County being “a county of over 4 million.” But some locations require more creativity. And when you factor in a fight over a pet project, the added spite makes that creativity a bit more comical.

With that, I offer my favorite bracket of all time – offered as an amendment to an amendment by Rep. Jason Isaac (R – Hays County) after taking offense to Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R – NW Dallas County) arguing against an economic incentive fund. The solution: don’t allow it to be used in the bulk of Rinaldi’s legislative district:

Amend amendment by Rinaldi to CSHB 1 (page 43, prefiled amendments packet) by adding the following appropriately numbered item and renumbering subsequent items accordingly:

(_) None of the funds appropriated above to Strategies C.1.1, Economic Development; and C.1.2, Tourism can be used for projects located in a city with a population under 750,000 people according to the 2010 census and located within a 5 mile radius of an international airport with three active flight towers.

It was the first time I’ve seen a bracket definition incorporate either a radius or airport flight towers. And in fairness to Rep. Isaac, he did seem to leave a good portion of HD115 eligible for economic development funds (blue blob = HD115; yellow line = 5 mile radius from DFW Airport):


Summer Reading 2015

Long days in the Lege managed to kill off a lot of my normal reading time. If you’d like, I can provide countless hours of very abnormal committee hearing notes that have occupied much of that time. But for the summer ahead, there are a few items on the reading list to make up for lost time. And you should know that the sole purpose of posting this is to shame myself into actually reading these for fear that someone will ask me about them (what with all the dinner parties I attend).

» Red Tape: Its Origins, Uses, and Abuses
by Herbert Kaufman
I actually forgot I ordered this since I pre-ordered it several months prior to release. Which is remarkable since the book is a reprint of a 1977 book.

As far as subject matter goes, the book keeps me planted pretty close to the Political Science/Public Administration realm. Which is just as well since I’ve got two partially-read college texts on the subject to mow through over the next 18 months. I’ve put off buying James Q. Wilson’s “Bureaucracy” to fill this need for reading material. So I’m hoping that it absolves me of the need to buy more lit in this genre when it’s all said and done.

» Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877
by Brenda Wineapple
I wish there was some majestical reason I could give for picking this book out of the herd, but the reality is that it came with a $3.79 price tag that went very well with my itch to read more about Reconstruction-era history.



Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

One more legislative session is out of the way. One thing that definitely feels overdue is the need for an actual vacation. So, no sooner than I get my stuff moved back into a new place in Houston, I’ll be packing up for a few days in the Twin Cities of Minnesota (a poor man’s DFW, if you will). Most of time is penciled in for the St. Paul side of things, although Mall of America is an obligatory stop and I’ve noticed a timely Twins-Tigers series going on while I’m in town. The main draw for me is a visit to Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul. But I’m spending a lot of my free time listing other possible things to do, see, eat, or experience. If you know of anything worthwhile to do in either Minneapolis of St. Paul, feel free to let me know.


Belatedly, it’s worth noting that I’m back in Austin for the legislative session. Theoretically, that would mean a slowdown in blogging. But given the pace over the past several months, who knows.

For the sake of making myself feel better, the work product over this span of time seems to be about 568 pages of notes from legislative and budget board hearings between the end of the last legislature and the beginning of this one. I’m sure it’ll eventually be some fascinating reading for an archaeologist many years from now.

To make matters even more fascinating, the reading list has turned to matters more along the lines of a thrilling class on Public Administration. I’ve caved into the textbook pricing scheme and picked up some long-lost reading that includes some updates since my time in college. The Washington Monthly obliges with more recent spins on the subject. As fascinating as I find the subject matter, it’s not exactly the most “blog-friendly” material.

With that, I expect a bit of a slowdown, but also some time to refocus on what it is that I’d like to spend more time blogging about (or updating the Almanac with). Until then, I’ll be sure to update sparingly between now and the end of the legislative session.

2009-13 ACS Update

The end of the year means new Census data being released. I’m saving most of my work until the Citizen Voting Age data is out, but here are the top lines for total population in Harris County, with previous ACS updates included to show the gradual change over time:

          Tot. Pop. '10 (%) | Tot. Pop. '11 (%) | Tot. Pop. '12 (%) | Tot. Pop. '13 (%) 
TOTAL     4,092,459         | 4,025,409         | 4,101,752         | 4,182,285
Anglo     1,349,646 (33.0%) | 1,353,868 (33.6%) | 1,354,869 (33.0%) | 1,361,568 (32.6%)
Hispanic  1,671,540 (40.8%) | 1,621,065 (40.3%) | 1,671,262 (40.7%) | 1,717,940 (41.1%)
Afr.-Am.    754,258 (18.4%) |   747,398 (18.6%) |   775,085 (18.9%) |   774,120 (18.5%)
Asian       249,853  (6.1%) |   246,924  (6.1%) |   257,467  (6.3%) |   262,251  (6.3%)
Other        67,162  (1.6%) |    56,154  (1.4%) |    43,069  (1.1%) |    66,406  (1.6%)

On a technical note, this is all based on the 5-yr dataset, which is the only dataset that provides CVAP details at the block group level. The one-year data at the county level, however, shows a more current snapshot of the county:

         5-yr ACS             1-yr ACS
        4,182,285            4,336,853   
Anglo   1,361,568 (32.6%)    1,376,670 (31.7%)
Hisp    1,717,940 (41.1%)    1,803,547 (41.6%)
AfrAm     774,120 (18.5%)      798,658 (18.4%)
Asian     262,251 ( 6.3%)      276,803 ( 6.4%)
Other      66,406 ( 1.6%)      81,175  ( 1.9%)

I asked some people smarter than me about how the five year set was calculated. I figured they may weight more recent years or do something fancy. Turns out, there’s no magic to it at all. Everything is weighted the same. What this means is that the “Pulaski Effect” leads to the 2012 and 2013 5-yr data sets closely tracking with the full 2010 Census data. That’s due to the aggregate of yearly data in, say, the 2008-2012 data set averaging somewhere toward the middle of that range – which is precisely 2010. I trust that everyone in the world was as curious as I was about that.

Again, CVAP data and mapping to happen as soon as the Census puts numbers online.

Harris County Election Results, by House District

Mapping and other analysis is slowly underway during my free time. But here are the results for statewide offices broken out by House District in Harris County.

As Kuff notes, about the only real standout is that Leticia Van de Putte carried HD134. Dan Patrick lagged behind lower-ballot GOP candidates in most districts. But in most cases, it was a minor amount. In HD134, it was just more substantial. Previous research has shown that the inner-loop “Anglo Dem” corridor has been home to the lowest amount of straight ticket voting, so it makes sense that the district would have the biggest variation in performance.

Canvass Results Are In!

I’m still recuperating from a final week of more manual labor than I should be doing at my age. But I’ve also got the unofficial canvass of Harris County returns on my hand. Of immediate interest, I’m proud to see the efforts of Team Wu pay off to the tune of 57.9%. That’s on par with the results Scott Hochberg got in the old HD137 (and the current one is drawn to perform very similarly to that one). Even better, we outperformed all other Dems on the ballot in our district – in terms of total votes and percentage. Last time around, I believe Garcia and Ryan did better in each of those columns than we did.

District 137       D     D%        R     R%       TV
Gov              6,899 (55.3%)   5,306 (42.5%)  12,472 
Lt. Gov          6,815 (54.9%)   5,161 (41.6%)  12,410 
Comptroller      6,626 (53.8%)   5,203 (42.3%)  12,311 
Attorney General 6,683 (54.0%)   5,251 (42.4%)  12,386
Land Commish     6,243 (50.6%)   5,565 (45.1%)  12,342 
Ag Commish       6,300 (51.4%)   5,362 (43.8%)  12,250 
RR Commish       6,340 (51.6%)   5,343 (43.5%)  12,278 
SCOTX-CJ         6,451 (52.5%)   5,466 (44.5%)  12,278 
14th COA - CJ    6,593 (54.5%)   5,505 (45.5%)  12,098 
1st COA - CJ     6,622 (54.7%)   5,480 (45.3%)  12,102 
State Rep        7,147 (57.9%)   5,203 (42.1%)  12,350 
Dist. Attorney   6,779 (55.6%)   5,420 (44.4%)  12,199 
Dist. Clerk      6,449 (53.5%)   5,597 (46.5%)  12,046 
County Clerk     6,576 (54.4%)   5,503 (45.6%)  12,079 
County Treasurer 6,502 (53.6%)   5,628 (46.4%)  12,130 
BOE - Kerner     6,707 (55.7%)   5,325 (44.3%)  12,032 
BOE - Noriega    6,721 (55.7%)   5,343 (44.3%)  12,064 

Eventually, I’ll check a few other curiosities in other districts. And the neighborhood analysis and maps will follow at some point.

4-wk sprint: DPI Comparison

Upon running a quick comparison using another method for seeing how the county is doing, I’m getting 46.98% for the county. This method assumes that Obama’s 2012 percentage holds the same per precinct and plugs in the new precinct turnout for EV and VBM. Another way to think about it is that the county running, basically, at “Obama, minus one.” This, of course, starts from the notion that Obama clocked in at 48% when the EV and VBM totals showed up back in November 2012. Compared to the Clarity method, that presents a fairly tight range of performance. We’ll see what we see when the real numbers start rolling in. But I don’t see much reason to expect anything wildly off from a 46-47% opening score for Dems.

4-wk sprint: The Closing Bell for Early Voting

The scoring for Early Voting, based on Clarity scores, is as follows:

Mail ballots – 49.1% Dem
In-Person Early Voting – 46.2% Dem
Combined 46.7% Dem

And the combined scores by House district …

 HD      Votes   DEM Support
County  373,940     46.7%
 126     18,563     31.2% 
 127     24,942     28.3% 
 128     16,926     28.9% 
 129     20,478     32.9% 
 130     24,070     22.6% 
 131     13,812     82.1% 
 132     18,310     35.2% 
 133     25,706     26.4% 
 134     25,963     40.6% 
 135     16,013     36.5% 
 137      6,886     55.2% 
 138     15,358     34.9% 
 139     15,688     75.5% 
 140      5,584     74.8% 
 141     11,342     83.6% 
 142     12,754     76.4% 
 143      8,247     71.5% 
 144      6,286     53.6% 
 145      7,960     61.0% 
 146     16,183     76.2% 
 147     16,608     78.2% 
 148     11,586     58.9% 
 149     13,695     51.5% 
 150     20,980     28.7% 

Comparing this to 2012 for the county, here are a variety of metrics I had back then:

v2 ……… 45.45% Dem
Clarity …. 54.16% Dem
DPI-Obama .. 49.98% Dem
DPI-Avg …. 50.34% Dem

As I recall, I think I was placing most of my faith in adjusting the Clarity v2 score up by about 2.5 points. Obama ended up opening with a combined EV and VBM deficit of 48.0%-51.1%. So the baseline Dem estimate ended up fairly close to the money. I still need to crunch data on a DPI estimate for the county. But I don’t expect it to be wildly off from Clarity scoring. This time around, I’ve only had time to do a very simple comparison of the current score to previous elections and I didn’t see much reason to add or subtract anything. We’ll see from the first numbers on Tuesday night how they stack up, though.

Kuff breaks out the napkin to do some math and suggests that a 54.2% showing on E-Day would be what it would take to win. No quarrels with the math. But I’m not overly optimistic about the probability. In part, that’s because I think there’s too much behavior shifting to get more Dems into the Mail Ballot column.

The fact that more of our base voters are available for E-day than there are for Republicans is a key counterpoint to that skepticism and that’s why I take a pass on making any grand prediction on whether we win on E-Day or outperform the opening numbers. Obviously, I’d love to see us beating the opening spread by 7 points, as was the case in 2010. But I’m not overnighting a check to Vegas on that one. Short of an across-the-board win, a few key wins by some folks with a D next to their name would be a significant positive. And if the end result is nothing more than a better showing than 2006 or 2010, we’ll be spending several months afterward spinning the results.