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CoH 2013: Mayoral Mapping and Neighborhood Analysis

For the post-Greanias Line outcomes for Anglo Dems, this is pretty much the template. I had suggested earlier that the inexplicably long run of anti-Ben Hall ads on television might have been aimed at keeping Afr-Am votes from Hall. Based on Parker's 30ish showing in Afr-Am neighborhoods, there might be something to that. But the really impressive showing here is that Parker won Hispanic neighborhoods strongly (she barely lost them to Locke in 2009) and the only non-majority showing among Anglo GOP 'hoods is in Kingwood.

I was guessing that Parker would end the night with an outright win south of 60% and that's exactly where she ended up. 2015 will once more redefine "the new normal" for city election coalitions. And there's a long way to go before seeing if there is potential for another Bill White-style consensus showing, or if the Parker templates have some staying power to elect candidates from an Anglo Dem + Anglo GOP base. There's also no telling what's in store for a potentially stronger Afr-Am candidate to perhaps join Anglo Dems and Afr-Am neighborhoods.

Regardless, this is a fairly solid showing by Team Parker for her final election as a candidate. In the end, the only surprise was that there was nothing to be surprised about. For comparison's sake, here is the 2011 neighborhood analysis and here's the one from 2009, and the 2009 runoff.

full page - Google Earth

Dark Blue - Parker: 65% or higher
Med. Blue - Parker: 50% - 65%
Light Red - Parker: 35% - 50%
Dark Red - Parker: 0% - 35%

Neighborhood Analysis

Anglo Dem Neighborhoods
              Parker    Hall    Dick    Others   Undervotes
Heights        75.3%    15.1%    6.5%     3.1%      2.0%
Meyerland      75.1%    12.9%    9.5%     2.5%      2.3%
Montrose       86.2%     7.1%    4.7%     2.0%      1.6%
Rice U         81.8%    10.4%    6.2%     1.6%      1.9%

African-American Neighborhoods
              Parker    Hall    Dick    Others   Undervotes
Acres Homes    30.7%    63.6%    0.9%     4.8%      2.2%
UH/TSU         39.4%    55.5%    0.9%     4.3%      2.7%
Fifth Ward     30.0%    65.6%    0.7%     3.7%      3.0%
Sunnyside      28.8%    65.6%    0.5%     5.2%      2.9%
Hiram Clarke   38.9%    53.6%    1.9%     5.6%      2.5%

Anglo GOP Neighborhoods
              Parker    Hall    Dick    Others   Undervotes
Clear Lake     59.5%    20.3%   16.5%     3.7%      2.6%
Galleria       64.2%    18.1%   15.3%     2.5%      3.1%
Kingwood       44.1%    19.7%   32.5%     3.7%      2.7%
Garden Oaks    64.9%    15.6%   15.6%     3.9%      2.6%
River Oaks     75.3%    14.4%    8.6%     1.7%      2.8%
Spring Branch  54.8%    19.0%   21.4%     4.8%      3.0%
Memorial       59.7%    17.3%   19.7%     3.2%      3.0%
Sharpstown     63.1%    17.8%   14.1%     5.0%      2.8%

Hispanic Neighborhoods
              Parker    Hall    Dick    Others   Undervotes
East End       68.3%    18.5%    6.2%     7.0%      4.7%
Near Northside 63.4%    19.3%    8.1%     9.3%      2.6%
Hobby          53.9%    28.4%   10.0%     7.6%      2.6%

Multicultural Neighborhoods
              Parker    Hall    Dick    Others   Undervotes
Alief          56.8%    25.0%    9.8%     8.5%      4.3%

Texting for Votes

» Chron: Text outreach has benefits and pitfalls ($) - [free pdf]

Apologies again for some tardiness. But there are a couple of points from this older story on the Ben Hall campaign that deserve a bit of mention. While the article itself has the usual limitations of what they have the time and attention span of readers to report on, what piqued my interest from the Hall campaign's press release was the number of cell numbers they planned to reach: 100,000.

The reason that that got my attention was that I knew there was absolutely zero way that the campaign could have gotten those from their own opt-in - especially considering they don't have an opt-in on their website and it's not mentioned on any campaign lit that I've seen. To less of a surprise, the numbers are coming from the pre-existing, third-party opt-ins via Hall's vendor for this: Politikast. These opt-ins are essentially paid-for lists from companies mentioned in the article.

But the sheer numbers are still an open question. On the Bill White campaign, we had just short of 6,000 numbers that were entirely opt-ins from the campaign website. Team Obama had about 30,000 for the entire state of Texas in 2012. If Ben Hall texted 100,000 cell numbers in just the city of Houston (and one guy in Friendswood), then I've got some oceanfront property in Alief to sell you. Either they're making up the number for dramatic effect ... or they just got hosed bigtime by a vendor.

Another interesting tidbit from the Chron's story is that the lawsuit against Politikast, that was filed immediately after our stray Friendswood cellphone owner received his reminder to vote in the city of Houston ... is settled. The quick timing of that suggests to me that there is a good deal of proprietary (and likely grey- or black-hat) business practice that Politikast is looking to keep out of the public domain.

One of the areas likely to be a factor is the distribution method used by the firm. The easiest form of SMS texting that comes to mind is phone-to-phone. That means of transport both originates and is conducted via cell technology. What Politikast uses is more along the lines of email-to-phone. The reason that distinction is important. The FCC presently forbids a non-opt-in text sent to your phone. But email-to-phone does not fall under those definitions. For now. Maybe that'll change, maybe it won't. The vendor we used on Bill White's campaign is making the case for the change, though.

I didn't get a text from Team Hall and I haven't run into many in my network who have. Maybe I need to be freer with my email address when I'm signing up for stuff. But I usually make it a point to deselect a lot of the "Would you like other offers....?" checkboxes when doing so. What should cause at least a minor amount of concern now isn't how the Ben Hall campaign is going to throw away good money after bad on some really awful ideas like this. It should be when enough less-smarter campaigns pick up this approach, thinking something like "Hey, at least it's 100,000 points of contact." I'm still getting the occasional small-time campaign e-blast from a local vendor who charges $199 for the privilege. To be fair, I got one from the Ben Hall campaign via that same vendor. Make of it what you will.

My point is that at some point, this type of thing becomes ubiquitous and others try to imitate the approach. Here are two snippets from a Politikast presentation that give some insight into how this might happen:

Are there legal considerations?
Many websites (eg - Netflix, offer free downloads, services, or information in exchange for customer consent to receive third party advertisements. We have assembled the largest permission-based databank of cell numbers for political marketing by purchasing these data and producing our own.

What is the source of the cell numbers?
Politikast only contacts those for whom we have opt-in permission. Even without opt-ins, governments only place limits on commercial speech, which "advertises the commercial availability or quantities of property, goods, or services."

Two curious turns of a phrase here: "... and producing our own" and "Even without."

In short, Politikast makes the case for just seeding a series of cell phone numbers from a prefix set. So it's quite likely that some (or many) of the numbers they sent to are yet to be assigned to cell phone users. Secondly, there's the "so what" exit clause that suggests they're doing everything with permission ... but even if they don't, it's political free speech and that's constitutionally protected. Which is true. Technically, I can send an email to every email address in the world and it wouldn't be spam in the legal sense of the word. The problem is that there is not a technical way to rebut a complaint with one's constitutional protections when your IP address is blocked. So, functionally, all email gets treated the same and if there are enough spam complaints, mail servers risk getting shut down.

There's not a great protection for the least-organized aspect of our cell phones, though. And next election, we can only guess at how much Erik Dick will be making use of the next Politikast impersonator.


Ben Hall in a Dark Room

Caught this on TV yesterday morning ...

I'm not sure how effective this is going to be toward Hall's "Pincer Strategy" goal. On the one hand, it undoubtedly helps Hall identify with African-American voters. I'm sure there are some folks who will find Hall's darkroom mannerisms folksy and good-natured. But the critiques of Annise Parker seem very insider-ish and he doesn't really seem to have any details to offer ehre. Maybe that's what we're supposed to talk about next time. For now, I'm supposed to believe that Mayor Parker is hiding something. I think there are going to be a number of bold-type political consultant names, if not the candidate himself, who realize how invisible their argument is about debates. So far, I haven't heard a natural clamor among normal people for six debates versus one ... or two candidates versus twenty. And if it were my reputation, I wouldn't bank on this ad changing that.

In short, the ad looks like it was devised in an echo chamber, with a faulty idea being what gets echoed in said chamber. Whoever decided to include "grew up poor" with mention of Duke, Harvard, multiple degrees, and a gig at Vinson & Elkins probably shouldn't be allowed to write ad copy in the future. But at least they left out any mention of Hall's longtime residency in Piney Point. Smart on their part.

Via media questioning, Team Hall attempts to spell out some of the detail by offering four areas where they believe Mayor Parker is "hiding" from Houstonians. One of those items is: "Our looming pension liabilities are real. What is Parker doing to address them before it is too late?" A fair enough point, in and of itself. What's odd, though, is that Ben Hall doesn't have a thing to say about the issue on his campaign website.

And since Hall is endorsed by the Firefighters, maybe it would be of interest for him to spell out some facts on how he would deal with this "looming" liability. Would he seek to get a bill carried in the Legislature that would force the Firefighters to negotiate directly with the City? Would he seek to restructure the city's pension obligations (thereby funding them less) or does he see a need to put more funds into local pensions (thereby funding them more)? I think those would make some worthwhile questions if only Hall wouldn't hide from them on his own campaign website. I don't necessarily agree with Parker's position on Firefighter's pensions ... but I at least know where she stands.


Pincer Strategy Redux, Continued

» Chron: Challenger Hall's mayoral campaign gathering steam

Or, just re-arranging the deck chairs ...

Joining Hall's team as campaign manager is John Weaver, a veteran of four presidential bids, as well as spokesman Sanders. Weaver replaces former Harris County Republican Party executive director Jeff Yates and Sanders replaces DeeAnn Thigpen, former spokeswoman for U.S. Reps. John Culberson and Ted Poe.

"I've watched a lot of out-of-towners come to Houston and make rookie mistakes that, if they had experience in Houston, they wouldn't have made," Blakemore said. "That being said, both Weaver and Sanders have got great reputations and are strong players, and it would indicate that Ben Hall is going to be stepping his game up."

Weaver ran former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman's presidential campaign in 2012, Arizona Sen. John McCain's in 2000 and former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm's in 1996; he also helped McCain's 2008 effort, leaving in mid-2007. He also was executive director of the Texas Republican Party in the late 1980s.

Sanders worked in communications for the Texas Comptroller's office for much of the 2000s and worked on the gubernatorial bids of former Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn in 2006 and Tony Sanchez in 2002. He also worked on Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's 1998 bid for land commissioner, and in 1988 was Texas Republican Party spokesman.

Always interesting to see how new campaign staff manages to get their name into print. But if the candidate were truly "gathering steam", I suspect we'd hear more about the candidate himself.

If this is going to be the strongest case made for the "Pincer Strategy", it'll be an interesting aftermath to pore over. Put shortly, Hall's strategy is to put together a coalition that has never existed in a hotly-contested Mayoral election. The 2011 At Large 2 contest between Burks and Thibaut is the closest model and I'm not sold on that situation being replicable in a higher-information election.

At the Mayoral level, Gene Locke couldn't break 20% of the vote in Anglo GOP areas beyond the one area where a Bob Lanier endorsement carried any amount of weight - and yet, his 24% showing in River Oaks was second to Annise Parker's 32% in the first round and highly localized to Lanier's home precinct. It wouldn't surprise me that the coalition couldn't be improved upon and maybe even force a runoff. But it's hard to see it winning.

On a sidenote, here's a snippet from a previous post back when Hall was repeatedly pitching stories on his "considering running for Mayor" ...

So, wild hunch here: July 30th will be another round of “Really, seriously, this time I mean it … I’m running” stories.

Not entirely off the mark, if I dare say so. Just substitute "staff shakeup" with "campaign announcement."


January 2013: Fundraising Notes – City Folk

If you've had a sec to scope out some of the numbers that people have put up, maybe there was something or another worth raising an eyebrow over. Here's what got my attention:

» Mayor ... It's officially down to "Few For Hall" and I'm guessing the current press secretary won't be among that bunch before long. Hall is still going to drop his own money around town and there's ample amounts of that to get some votes. But there is nothing about the visible portion of Hall's campaign to warrant deep concern over the incumbent Mayor's prospects. As for Annise, she did her fundraising the old fashioned way (other people's wallets) and hauled in $2.2M and retains a lead in cash on hand. The Chron quotes my old boss thusly:

Democratic consultant Mustafa Tameez said Hall, as with many challengers to fairly popular incumbents, is spending a lot of money to make comparatively less progress.

" 'All for Hall' is primarily funded by Ben Hall. There's not a lot of people in the 'all,' " Tameez said, referring to the political committee Hall has formed for the race. "The other thing notable was, in practical terms, he's raised $300,000, but he's spent $800,000. If $800,000 is spent and we haven't seen anything on television and we haven't seen a whole lot of mail, we've seen a lot of outreach and we've seen a lot of consulting fees."

... and I couldn't agree more.

» Comptroller ... A surprisingly strong showing by the challenger, Bill Frazer. I'll have to review his actual report for details to see if there's more reason for concern. Ronald Green has had a fairly charmed political life, as far as his re-election campaigns have gone. That this one might require more work is a pretty low standard to clear. There's still not a lot of money circulating in this contest. Maybe you'll hear about the folks that Ronald has vouched for in court if you're one of the same 30 people that show up for civic clubs and whatnot. And maybe you'll hear about it if you're on a GOP-heavy mailing list that might not otherwise have been planning on voting for Green. But I think it'll take more than that to make this contest as hot as it has potential to be.

» At Large 3 ... I'm not entirely sure that the herd in AL-3 is significantly sorted out from the January reports. Kudos to my friend, Rogene Calvert, for clocking in at an impressive ~$84k raised/$75k on hand. That comes in as the highest legally-filed totals due to Michael Kubosh reporting a $72,000 contribution from a relative. I'm assuming that that amount gets cleaned up and considered a loan (there was a situation like that a cycle or two back, as I recall). That's money that will still drop somewhere for Kubosh and I'd still expect him to end up as the lead dog on money. But a quick scan of his spending demonstrates that a lot of it is going to go toward funding an imperfect understanding of where votes come from. Any campaign that plays smarter is likely to do well. I got bogged down with other work before noticing any updates on Pool and Al Edwards. The report I spotted by Pool just didn't have totals on page 2. There seemed to be a healthy number of individual donors, but I wasn't about to spend my time adding it all up. It will be interesting to see whether Al Edwards blunts a lot of the Afr-Am support that Michael Kubosh was hoping he could buy up. There's still GOP support available for Kubosh, but I'd expect Morales to chip away at some of that. On the whole, this is shaping up to be the worst possible field for Michael Kubosh to be in. Or, at least, I'm not as convinced that he's the expected first-place finisher in November. Also of interest is how the three Hispanic candidates sort out among voters. When talk of this race first started, Roland Chavez was the first name people mentioned and other than having some good manpower available via the firefighters, his first report doesn't exactly shake anyone up. I'd feel fairly comfortable about the state of city affairs if I saw Calvert and Chavez go to a runoff. But, as we've seen ... big fields have a way of generating some crazy results. It's anyone's game until I start seeing some honest field metrics during Early Vote.

» District A ... I was really hoping that this race might turn into a healthy battle between Brown, Stardig, and Peck. As it stands, replace Peck with Knox. Either way, you'd have a really hard time defining "dog" before I got around to identifying a dog in this race. All things considered, I think council is capable of functioning at its best when there is one smart critic from the right and another from the left. Which is to say ... I really miss Mike Sullivan.

» District D ... As expected, its Dwight Boykins' race to lose. But I'd still expect his money to be spent at an efficiency rate approaching North Korean farming standards. It wouldn't take a Billy Bean to make up for a 3-to-1 difference in a race like this.

» District I ... Ben Mendez leads the Benjamins Primary, but silly spending abounds. Hard to buy into conventional wisdom about "name ID" of any candidate in this pack. This might just be one of those contests where it's amazing that anyone manages to win it.

» Elsewhere ... Not a total surprise, but still nice to see an incumbent-friendly showing by my CM, Mike Laster. In the one AL race where an incumbent should have a healthy challenge, David Robinson seems to have some good totals posted to unseat Andrew Burks. I'm guessing that the Andrew Burks caucus of the local GOP is still considering Burks to be bought and paid for, so maybe they can repeat their mail ballot surprise that helped Burks into office. But I wouldn't mind seeing Robinson run a smart enough campaign to negate that. There's an easy path for Robinson to win. But someone else is driving that train, so I'll see what the rest of you see in November.


Pincer Strategy Redux

» Chron: Hall launches bid to challenge Parker for mayor

In case anyone wasn't aware ... Ben Hall really, really wants to be mayor. We've now gradually gone through the various iterations of "I'm thinking about it" here, here, and here. If you were wondering if this fourth entry in the slow-motion marathon of Hall's announcement tour through Houston was now complete, the story tucks away the best part toward the end of the article:

No candidate has formally filed for mayor; filing begins July 29 and ends Aug. 26.

So, wild hunch here: July 30th will be another round of "Really, seriously, this time I mean it ... I'm running" stories.

In fairness to Hall, I do think he makes something of a valid critique of Parker on the "leadership vs manager" argument. But that's also a fairly easy argument for Parker to rebut. The bigger, tactical mistake is Hall attempting to recreate the "Pincer Strategy" that didn't work terribly well for it's original practitioner, Gene Locke. There's a big difference between winning broad Anglo GOP support and having a GOP consultant along with a fringe Republican Kubosh brother by your side at one of the way-too-many announcements of your candidacy.


Inaugural Aggreblogging

Another four years, another inauguration. Here's a random break from whatever it is that I do when I don't blog.

» Chron: Again, Hall says he will challenge Parker
In case anyone wasn't aware ... Ben Hall really, really wants to be mayor. This story follows a Chronicle blog posting, where Hall had previously announced his intentions. And that follows the KTRK story from a month ago, where Hall had also previously announced his intentions. And that followed the KHOU story from November, where Hall had ... well, you get the point by now. And it's worth pointing out that this is still far from official since Ben Hall has yet to publicly announce and to officially file as a candidate. I'm sure that'll be worth two new pitches to the local media that he really plans to run this time. Can't wait to hear if he has anything to say about his candidacy outside of "Hey, I'm running!" But based on his initial foray into civic thinking, I doubt he has anything to offer that moves me off of my default choice.

» SSRC: Evangelicals who have left the right (Marcia Pally)
This follows up somewhat from Pally's 2011 book, with a little added context from the 2012 election. Responses by Pastor Joel Hunter and Professor David Gushee are also worth a read.

» Nate Silver: What Is Driving Growth in Government Spending?
Good wonky reading from Nate Silver. Nice to see him turn his analytical skills toward public finances. Of some interest:

Another surprise is how little we are paying in interest on the federal debt, even though the debt is growing larger and larger. Right now, interest payments make up only about 6 percent of the federal budget. In addition, they have been decreasing as a share of the gross domestic product: the federal government spent about 1.5 percent of gross domestic product in paying interest on its debt on 2011, down from a peak of 3.3 percent in 1991.

I distinctly remember a few conversations - both online and in-person - where many of my Republican friends rationalized the renewal of deficit spending under Bush-43 by stating how low the GDP percentage was in historical terms. Now, considering the spikes in deficits that began in Bush's last years in office but are now associated with Obama ... the argument is nowhere to be found.

» AZ Republic: Bruce Arians wants QB with ‘grit,’ leadership
Kevin Kolb gets his third head coach as an NFL QB. And the early read is uncertain as to what it means for his future as a starter in Arizona. Of course, even if he does start next season, it's an open question as to whether he can endure it without the kind of injuries that have ended his previous three seasons.

» NY Times: Dartmouth Stops Credits for Excelling on A.P. Test
» NY Times: Next Made-in-China Boom: College Graduates

Among the issues I get to track in the Lege is education. Both of these are good backgrounders on some issues in secondary ed.

» Chron: Political novices look to gain stature working for legislator (Patricia Kilday Hart)
» Texas Tribune: For Dean of Senate, Public and Private Blur (Jay Root)
Two good reads on matters pertaining to state government. On a somewhat related note, I also attended my first Trib Talk event with Michael Williams being in the hot seat next to Evan Smith. First impression is that the event is a bit too clubby for my taste, but watching Evan interview someone in person is pretty fun to watch.


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