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E-Day ’11: AM Refresher

November 9, 2011 Politics-2011 2 Comments

Taking a brief break from some dayjob duties to hash out some thoughts from last night. Kuff and Robert Miller have their takes posted. The Chron has their take, as well. I think it’s generally good practice to review where the prior predictions were and how they held up against reality. So here’s some background reading on my early calls. With that, here’s how I fared …

The first thing I’ll note is how wildly off my guess was about what the stay-at-home voters meant for Annise’s margin of victory. I had my marker down on the fact that she’d do substantially better in minority communities compared to her 2009 showing. I’ll wait until I have a draft canvass of the returns before offering a more substantive take, but a glance at Fort Bend shows that Annise got 48% of the vote there, with Kevin Simms a distant second at 23%. My hunch is that the gaggle of challengers just rotated out in terms of where each one got that 20-30% second-place showing, with the Mayor holding steady at around 45-55% of the vote. Obviously, the post-election dissection work that I thought was going to be fairly mundane this election may yet prove to be a bit more interesting.

Secondly, there’s this prediction for District A that Brenda Stardig was fine. What do I know? I’m a SWHOU kinda guy.

Speaking of that. One of the things I did manage to get right was my own backyard. Mike Laster carried District J handily and without a runoff. Ellen Cohen won outright. I didn’t want to predict that outright, but it was my very cautious hope. District F proved a little tricky. Whether that can be chalked up to the district’s tricky demographics, the nature of the incumbent, or the demographics/partisan lean of the challengers … I don’t think we have a great read on that yet. Suffice it to say that District F could throw some surprises at us during the decade. And in District K, everyone and their dead dog had Larry Green picked to win with a strong showing.

The At Larges had a number of interesting results, too.

Stephen Costello – The guy should think about spending some time getting known. When he won in 2009, not a lot of people voted for him in the first round and not a lot of people voted – period – in the runoff. For elections like this, it’s helpful to have a lot of people that are just accustomed to voting for you. He should have done better. The anti- spin will be that his showing results from his being a point person in the ReBuild/ReNew Houston setup. I don’t quite buy that because I think he’d fare worse if that was all that was known about him. If he has any aspirations beyond six years on council, there’s just no substitute for name ID.

The AL2 Mess – Elizabeth Perez finished in first place among Election Day voters. David Robinson (one of the white guys in the race) finished second with 24.5% in Fort Bend County. Eric Dick probably has more yard signs than votes cast for him. This contest may very well be the most interesting and complicated of all post-election maps that I’ll likely ever do. Fortunately, at least one sane candidate made the runoff and it’s the one I had hoped would make it: Kristi Thibaut. But man, what a contorted result in this contest.

Melissa Noriega – I think her 55.6% showing is open to interpretation as either a sign of the more challenging electoral times or a suggestion that raising some name ID wouldn’t hurt. However it’s spun, it’s her final term. So it won’t matter much. It’s worth noting that each candidate’s returns in this contest were pretty even for absentee, early, and E-Day. If there’s anything I look for in the post-election mapping/crunching, it’s seeing where Noriega doesn’t break 50% or places second in voting.

C.O. Bradford – has to be sitting pretty right about now. He finished with the best margin of incumbent At Larges despite some lingering negative name ID and a built-in base of opposition to African-American candidates among some voters. And just for good measure, I’m sure his name will be thrown back into the rumor mill for random names of people that might possibly think about considering a challenge of Annise Parker in 2013.

The Jack & JoJo Show – 38.3% JoJo …. 33.4% Jack. Compare that to 2009: 42.2% JoJo … 36.4% Jack. It’s a very marginal step back for JoJo, but as Kuff has repeatedly pointed out, her margin for error goes down without a Gene Locke campaign spending big bucks on citywide field. The runoffs in District A and B are a mix of not-so-good and great in terms of an energetic campaign bringing out anti- and pro-JoJo voters. Note that District B saw 9,017 votes cast to District A’s 7,901. That patterns also held up in terms of total ballots cast: 8,667 in A; 10,007 in B. By way of counterpoint to this ounce of good news for Team JoJo, the undervote in AL5 was lowest among the At Larges. That suggests that voters aren’t lacking an opinion in this contest. That’s not great for JoJo. And what happens to Anglo Dem voters in District C? Do they come out to vote? If so, where do they go? And will Bill White send out another pro-Jack letter? All this and more on the next episode of As The Runoff Turns.

As an aside in looking at the At Large runoffs together, I have a hard time seeing the needle threading such that both JoJo and Kristi win, though that’s obviously the outcome I’d most love to see. The more JoJo voters there are, then theoretically, the better the odds are for Andrew Burks. And the better things look for Kristi, the harder they look for JoJo. I really hope I’m wrong on this. The runoff will be hideously low, possibly repeating the 36k turnout we had in 2005. But it’s important to realize that the 2005 runoff had the benefit of the Clutterbuck v Hittner runoff in C. No dice this time around. So I’ll pick the under until I see an indication that the Jack & JoJo contest gets heated.

The two school-related contests were about as expected, though I’d rather see Manuel Rodriguez not rewarded. At least it was close and there’s something to be said about the difficulty of knocking off an incumbent. Even in a tough year for incumbents. In HCCC, Carroll Robinson carried the day 56-43. Oddly enough, I’m actually impressed that Jew Don Boney had it in him to be as competitive as he ended up being.

Runoffs are December 10. We do this all over again, albeit on a more limited scale. Maps galore once I get a draft canvass.

ADD-ON: Stace has his day-after post. Here’s his take on 2013:

Believe it or not, I think there is one person who is in the best position to challenge her in 2013, and it’s not perennial wannabe-a-candidate with free space in the Chron, and it’s not some other former activist-turned-wealthy lawyer. It’s that one At-Large member of Council who was handily re-elected and will have the ability to create a bully pulpit where he will be seen on a weekly basis. Some may argue money-raising ability, but we’ve learned that money may not be everything. Still, I’ll root for the Mayor.

Campos, meanwhile, take a different focus:

Commentary is not happy with the fact that H-Town CM Ed Gonzalez and a few other Latino and Latina leaders endorsed Criselda Romero in District J and not check with others before doing so. H-Town CM James Rodriguez who led the Latino redistricting effort on City Council was hoping for a vetting process to get a strong Latino candidate. CM Gonzalez and others decided to handpick a candidate who ended up being a weak candidate and we saw what happened last night. CM Gonzalez and others didn’t do much in terms of raising money or providing resources to help their candidate. Never again!

Cheap shot. Dude, your candidate finished last and actually raised less money than Criselda. So if you’re going to play the “weak candidate” card, there’s a little exposure on your side. And I say that as one who ended the campaign impressed with both Criselda and Rodrigo. The district wasn’t carried by Mike Laster because the internal machinations of Latino politics were given a monkey wrench instead of more WD-40. The bigger failing here is people from outside the district thinking they know how to win elections in SW Houston.

On that note, I’ll extend my own kudos to both Criselda Romero and Rodrigo Canedo. I voted for the other guy, but I hope that the lesson they leave with is that active civic involvement in SW Houston is a valuable asset. Both Romero and Canedo proved to be great examples of the type of home-grown talent that’s been hidden from political view in the district for too long. There’s more where that came from. Rodrigo was a great messenger for his involvement at Bo’s Place and I appreciate him mentioning that prominently at campaign events. That he also comes from a less-political world is certainly something that I view as a plus. Criselda Romero was a great reminder of the younger talent that comes out of SW Houston. I can easily see how her work in Ed Gonzalez’s district might pay a lot of dividends down the road as District J residents ask their council member to represent their interests. If the stars happen to align just right, I think it would be a plus for the district to see Mike Laster hire her out of Ed’s office. I would hope that this isn’t the last time I see either individual on the ballot and I’ve got better things to do than to tear either of them down. To each their own, I suppose. But if Marc’s not too busy tearing down people I think he owes Criselda an apology. That shot was just uncalled for.

E-Day ’11: First E-Day Numbers

November 8, 2011 Politics-2011 No Comments

87 boxes in for Harris County. And the Mayor is running at 49% for those boxes. Here’s the rundown …

- 52.3% total for MAP so far. 49.1% on E-day ballots. District B seems to have turned in a bundle of them as 31% of the precincts and 22% of the vote turned in are from that district. So far, this indicates a bit of the Peter Brown effect. Could make the night interesting if it holds up.

- District A has 11 of 157 boxes in, but a lot of those are partial precincts. The worse news is that challenger Helena Brown is running at 51.1% on E-Day and stands with a 47.4-42.8 lead so far.

- District B is still Byrd v Davis. 26 of 124 boxes in.

- Ellen Cohen is under 50% for E-Day. 47.0% to be precise. The second and third batch should be worth watching here. She’s at 54.3% overall, so far. Only 6 of 65 boxes in so far.

- District F only gets one box in. It’s a good one for Al. 57.3% on the whole for him.

- District H gets 9 of 68 boxes and the E-Day numbers are 50.3-49-7 for Ed. Much closer. Could be interesting to see what the rest of E-Day holds here. Ed has a solid lead from the earlies and is at 69.8% overall.

- Similar findings in District I. James Rodriguez leads the E-Day counts 53.8-46.2 and has 66.9% overall. Weird results.

- Mike Laster is pulling 65% on E-Day with the first two boxes (of 30) in. That’s about the ratio I think he’ll get throughout the night.

- Larry Green is pulling only slightly lower than his 70% on E-Day. He’s fine.

- Stephen Costello is barely over 50% for E-Day. Compare that to the Mayor if you want. This one could get tight since Costello didn’t break 52% on either of the early counts.

- AL2 is still the Kristi & Burks show. Oddly, Perez leads in the first early boxes 17.8% to Burks’ 16%. Kristi’s close at 14%. Should be intreresting to see what impact E-Day has on this one. Robinson holds third place for now, with a 207 vote lead over Perez in fourth.

- Melissa Noriega is getting an even line for both earlies and E-Day results. 56-57 percent across the board.

- Jones is at 37.8% in the first E-Day boxes. She leads 41.6-31.6 on the whole.

Adding Up the 8-Days

November 1, 2011 Politics-2011 3 Comments

Taking from Eric Vidor’s updated spreadsheet on campaign finance for City of Houston candidates, I thought I’d combine the July report, the 30-day report, and 8-day report to get a feel for what the overall level of spending is for the year. So the format below is the sum of all of those reports, with the Cash on hand number only being taken from the recent 8-day reports. Obviously, some of the reports lack a cash on hand total and that clouds the picture. I’m not about to break the reports out into a spreadsheet and do the math that the campaigns should be doing in the first place. But I’m pretty sure that Laurie Robinson has more than $0 on hand. So there ya go.

Since I’m primarily interested in the southwest side of town, here are the three districts of most relevance to that area:

District F           RAISED      SPENT    ON-HAND
--------------------------------------------------
Al Hoang (I)        $81,040    $55,385    $16,039
Peter "Lyn" Rene    $50,000     $1,672         $0

I bumped into Al Hoang at a recent 80-20 PAC dinner and he told me that he had over $50k raised recently. I usually take such things with a grain of salt, but it looks like Hoang ended up raising more this cycle than anyone outside of the Mayor. That includes the two big fundraisers this cycle: Costello and Cohen. Not bad. And it probably puts to rest any potential chance for an upset or a close showing if he’s dropping mail.

District J           RAISED      SPENT    ON-HAND
--------------------------------------------------
Rodrigo Canedo      $11,179     $4,008     $5,724
Mike Laster         $55,985    $44,657    $20,300
Criselda Romero     $25,862    $16,683     $7,316

With Hoang finally throwing a fundraiser in F, District J regains its place as the low-dollar district. Still no major change in what campaign money might make of the outcome, though. I did see a mailer from Mi Familia Vota Texas. It wasn’t necessarily advocating for a particular candidate, but you can be the judge of their intent from the snippet of the mail piece here:

District K           RAISED      SPENT    ON-HAND
--------------------------------------------------
Patricia Frazier     $2,450     $6,747    $10,000
Larry Green        $102,660    $91,006    $15,779

Nothing changes here … I hope that Larry Green has the oath of office memorized by now. It is interesting to see the amount of money that he’s raised so far. And it’ll be curious to see how much money is raised after Green’s term. I don’t necessarily see the district as capable of raising more money than F and J combined in normal circumstances, but maybe I’m wrong to think that. We’ll see when we see, I guess. For now, Larry Green’s track record with Houston Works and the network he’s accumulated are obviously a good source for raising money.

District C           RAISED      SPENT    ON-HAND
--------------------------------------------------
Josh Verde          $11,867     $6,422       $578
Karen Derr          $26,022    $14,043     $4,183
Ellen Cohen        $380,443   $315,274    $60,606
Brian Cweren        $79,950   $102,407     $2,350
Randy Locke            $475       $473         $0

This only covers a portion of SW Houston, but it’s obviously a big race with a lot of interested viewers. And it’s also a next-door-neighbor district to me, I’m among those interested. Oddly enough, what stands out to me is not that Ellen Cohen has spent and raised so much more than her opponents … it’s that I might have guessed that there could be more campaign money for her to raise. I haven’t dived too deeply into the reports to see what names might be among the missing and I fully realize that State Rep races aren’t City Council races … even to the inside-the-loop donor class of folk. Of course, there’s also a difference between a district and an At Large contest. Maybe Ellen could raise a cool million or so for a citywide run and maybe I’m thinking that it would have been too easy for her to clear $500k by now. Either way, she’s sitting in the pole position and all that’s left now is to finish off GOTV work and count the votes. I’m obviously optimistic that she can win without a runoff. If the votes are there for that to happen, I think she’s done a fair job of getting the money to pull it off.

At Large -5          RAISED      SPENT    ON-HAND
--------------------------------------------------
Laurie Robinson     $80,845    $31,562         $0
Jolanda Jones (I)  $145,621   $123,812    $40,363
Jack Christie       $50,315    $78,204    $23,495

This is one race where money isn’t really the big indicator of how things will go for E-day. But given that JoJo is sitting on $40k suggests to me that there’s ample money in the tank for GOTV work through E-day. That’s critical for her. And add in the multi-candidate field in District B along with the first-time campaign activity in District K and that could be worth remembering if she manages to hang on this time. In terms of campaign structure and getting the money to execute, I think she’s done pretty well for herself.

That pretty much sums up the money races that I’m interested in. If there’s anything you see that falls outside of that, feel free to drop an observation in the comments.

Or, if you’re just up for some good old fashioned political humor, here’s a report on Scott Boates, winning the Peter Brown Award for Bipartisan Bloopers.

G-Slate 2011

October 19, 2011 Politics-2011 2 Comments

It’s time to set the markers down. Here’s what my ballot will look like when I vote, plus a couple of other recommendations outside of my city council district. Soon to follow: my prediction line for how the races end up.

Mayor – Annise Parker
Controller – Ronald Green

At Large #1 – Stephen Costello
At Large #2 – Kristi Thibaut
At Large #3 – Melissa Noriega
At Large #4 – Amy Price
At Large #5 – Jolanda Jones
District F – Mike Laster

Elsewhere: Ellen Cohen (District C); Ed Gonzalez (District H)

Open seats first: I supported Mike Laster in 2009 because I didn’t want to see another parachute candidate “move” into the district and Mike’s experience with various Sharpstown civic organizations would represent a swift change to having representation more attuned to local needs. I think that’s even more the case with the redistricted District J that centers on Sharpstown. I’ve known him for seven years now and I’d be hard-pressed to locate another individual who’s better prepared to serve the district. As it turns out, the other two candidates are definitely good people. And if the voters don’t see fit to agree with me this time around, I don’t see a bad alternative on the ballot. And in the likely scenario that voters do agree with me, I hope that Rodrigo Canedo and Criselda Romero remain active in the district and think about running again in six years.

At Large 2 is obviously the wide-open field. But my decision there is a bit easier. I’ve known Kristi Thibaut for six years and actually got signed onto my first campaign in a professional capacity through her. She’s far smarter than she usually lets on and in every instance I’ve observed, she does her homework on the issues. It’s not simply for the bias of personal friendship that I maintain that she could be one of the better members of council if given a full six years. There are plenty of other quality candidates, a few perennials, and even some jokers to choose from. While a more ordinary wide-open field can lead to some interesting results on election day, I think it goes without saying that there will be a good candidate who won’t make the runoff in this contest. My hope, however, is that none of the folks who shouldn’t even be considered don’t make the cut. Whether you’re considering Kristi for this race, or possibly Jenifer Pool, David Robinson, or Bo Fraga for this race, I’m optimistic that there’s no loss for the city if either of those four end up in office.

In two At Large contests with incumbents, I opt for the incumbent in one and a challenger in the other. Jolanda Jones, the AL#5 incumbent, has been under fire from police and fire unions, it seems, since taking office. But since the infamous firehouse visit, I think the cat is out of the bag. They’ll go so far as to make stuff up to take Jolanda out. The more recent ethics investigation that got tossed out by the Republican District Attorney is another case in point that suggests that the efforts taken by her opponents are over-reaching. If she were truly guilty of something that I saw as disqualifying for office, I’d have no problem drawing the line. But a steady stream of negative attacks in the news isn’t the same thing. If anything, it’s an admission that she’s having an impact.

If you care to watch City Council in session, you’ll need a case of NoDoze handy. At least until Jolanda speaks. The sad fact of the matter is that not enough of the public’s business is conducted in public. Jolanda has been effective in countering that. While I don’t always agree with her … while her politics may not be my politics … and while I don’t make many endorsements that suggest that I see perfectly eye-to-eye with anyone … City Council would be a boring insider’s-only club without Jolanda. Kingwood makes it a habit to send their right-leaning noisemaker to council and that’s their right. But I maintain that there’s room for one voice on the other end of the spectrum that deserves a role in making the process more candid, and that’s the main reason I’m voting for her again.

In the case of AL#4, my case is a bit more conflicted. The incumbent, C.O. Bradford, has demonstrated two variations of his public worldview. On the one hand, I share some of the same appreciation as I do for Jones due to Bradford’s rarer council standoffs. I’m always glad to see some independent thought on council. But the other hand is more disconcerting. Bradford has been increasingly talking like a standard-issue Republican on the topic of private property, the needs of businesses, and a handful of other areas. He’ll probably win regardless of anything I do or say because he’s an incumbent and he’s got enough positive name ID for his stint as HPD chief. At his best, I’d be an enthusiastic supporter of Bradford’s. Regardless of what anyone thinks of (or overstates of) his record with the HPD Crime Lab, his views on crime and police management are actually a great resource for city council. But to the extent that I’ve witnessed, that’s a negligible part of the discussion at council and even less in his public remarks.

The other side of this is that he’s actually got an interesting challenger in Amy Price. She’s not raising a ton of money and she’s a Green Party type. Typically, that’s the sort of candidate I’d not waste too much time thinking about. But Amy’s proven to be someone who puts a great deal of thought into finding new and creative solutions. She’s probably put more homework into her council run than most other candidates, and if she happened to be elected, she’d be a great addition to city council.

Beyond my own District J, I’ll simply add a shout-out to two other district candidates in competitive races that I think are deserving. Ellen Cohen, from District C, should prove capable of maintaining the district’s record of quality representation. Seeing a lineup on council with Cohen, Thibaut, and Noriega has a lot of potential to strengthen city council. Likewise, District H’s Ed Gonzalez is another candidate worth keeping an eye on from outside his own district boundaries. He’s not a noise-maker, but he’s proof that you can get a lot accomplished in a cooperative manner. I think there’s just as much need for that as there is for the approach by CM Jones.

LWV’s City Council Debate Series: Districts C & D

October 18, 2011 Politics-2011 No Comments

Two more debates/forums/interviews/sessions/whatever from last week:

District C:

District D:

COH Election 2011: The 30-Days

October 12, 2011 Politics-2011 No Comments

Kuff gets the first take out of the gate on the 30-day reports. My impressions of the reports are as follows. And many thanks to Erik Vidor (the best non-blogging blogger out there) for compiling the reports.

The Big Money
Among the strongest raisers in the past cycle: obviously the Mayor leads the pack with $469k raised. Here’s the top 5 non-Annise Parker raisers:

Ellen Cohen       $92,773.00
Laurie Robinson   $80,845.00
Stephen Costello  $68,975.00
David Robinson    $56,291.58
Bolivar Fraga     $55,298.53

Laurie Robinson comes into the race with a slightly different professional network and has some skilled campaign pros working for her. I’m sticking with JoJo for this election, but Laurie’s certainly an impressive candidate doing a lot of things well. The only other thing to stand out from this list is Bo Fraga. That’s because a big part of his $55k raised is a $35k loan that doesn’t seem to look legal according to state and city law:

Loans are counted the same way as contributions: with a $5k limit. You can loan yourself a gazillion dollars, although there are rules about how much you can reimburse yourself for. I’m guessing there’s a gray area for spouses, though I’m no lawyer. But I don’t see anything allowing a $35k loan like this. No idea what it takes for the issue to get legally aired, but it doesn’t look kosher at first glance.

As far as the big Cash on Hand leaders, Mayor Parker again leads all with $2.3M. The top 5 non-Parker bank accounts are:

Oliver Pennington  $185,704.27
Ellen Cohen         $92,934.13
Stephen Costello    $90,717.60
Jolanda Jones       $83,333.39
Wanda Adams         $80,370.57

About the only interesting thing I see about this list is that three of them are district officials, compared to two at-large officials. And the next two folks beneath this list are also district folk (Stardig & Sullivan).

The Bob & Doylene Report
For those who care about such things, here’s the full list of 2011 donations by Bob & Doylene Perry …

Perry, Doylene   5000.00   08/05/2011   Sullivan, Mike
Perry, Bob       5000.00   07/13/2011   Romero, Criselda
Perry, Doylene   5000.00   07/13/2011   Romero, Criselda
Perry, Bob       5000.00   06/13/2011   Bradford, Clarence
Perry, Doylene   5000.00   06/13/2011   Bradford, Clarence
Perry, Bob       5000.00   06/03/2011   Noriega, Melissa
Perry, Doylene   5000.00   06/03/2011   Noriega, Melissa
Perry, Bob       5000.00   02/11/2011   Green, Ronald C.

As usual, no obvious ideological statement made from the contributions. What stands out from this, though, is the lone open-seat donation to Criselda Romero in District J. What’s particularly curious about it is that Romero raised all of $12,000 – all but $100 of that on her campaign kickoff event on July 13. That represents over 80% of her contributions come from one source. That’s not quite as bad as Peter Rene getting $4600 of his $5000 raised from his employer, but neither of those examples is a very strong show of support.

At Large #2
I haven’t done a good apples-to-apples comparison here, but it appears from the dollar figures in this race that there’s not a dry patch of money in this election, as much as it’s just being distributed a lot of different ways. There’s obviously a lot of loans worked into these dollar amounts, but it certainly look like we’ll get a bare minimum of mail dropped in this race before E-day. And hopefully, there’s as much ability to raise money to communicate the fact that there’s an election in December for this race, also.

Names are linked to the finance reports …

Candidate             Raised       Spent     Cash on Hand
Bolivar Fraga       $55,298.53   $35,762.53   $52,733.13   
David Robinson      $56,291.58   $57,005.48   $50,258.19   
Kristi Thibaut      $37,738.50   $17,495.54   $46,852.49   
Jennifer Rene Pool  $31,350.00   $29,246.37                
Eric Dick           $14,535.43   $19,900.75   $15,197.72   
Andrew Burks         $1,150.00    $5,366.98   $15,861.39   
Rozzy Shorter           $44.00   $15,000.00                
Elizabeth Perez      $4,510.00    $1,522.93    $2,987.07   

Of course, $30k out of Fraga’s $52k on hand may not be legal.

District J
First off, congrats to Mike Laster for getting the Chronicle endorsement. I think they nailed the reasoning for it. As for the money reports, I can’t say there’s anything terribly surprising, but it is a very unusual feeling to see Laster this far ahead of the rest of the field. At this point in the season, the only remaining question is what candidates can do to finish the campaign with mass communication. The electorate in this district is insanely small. Laster can actually drop a significant amount of mail with the funds he’s got left. The others look like they’ll be lucky to get one piece of mail dropped.t

Again, names are linked to the finance reports …

Candidate          Raised       Spent     Cash on Hand
Mike Laster      $39,675.00   $10,537.18   $40,017.22   
Criselda Romero  $12,010.02   $11,416.86    $4,645.66   
Rodrigo Canedo    $9,679.00    $4,007.76    $4,223.98   

ADD-ON: Oh, and since I referenced District F with the Chron’s writeup of Al Hoang recently, that district looks to the be the low-budget affair. Al Hoang raised just short of $11k and has under $14k on hand for his 30-day report. He knows he’s an incumbent, right? Peter Rene, the challenger, raised $5k ($4600 from one source) and has $3328 on hand. That’s about the equivalent of being one fundraiser away from outraising the incumbent and making a strong showing to bigger donors that you’ve got a real campaign.

One day, a candidate is going to actually raise money in this district. I just never thought that anyone out of District J would outraise the entire field in District F. It’s going to surprise folks to see what the electorate in District F really looks like.

ADD-ON 2.0 Coby catches another problem for Bo Fraga … a corporate donation.

House Redistricting: West Side Story

For now, it’s an open question as to whether the State Rep map passed late last night is the plan that we’ll be experiencing elections with in November 2012. There’s still the matter of whether the Senate passes the plan and it gets the official state signature. I think those moves are quite likely as the GOP grumbling over the map is limited. But there’s also the Department of Justice that has to preclear the map. And there will be lawsuits over the missing new Hispanic seats – so a judge will have his or her say on the matter. I’m still leaning toward the plan, as-passed, going through. But I obviously have no problem with being proven wrong on this one.

So, for the sake of looking at some comparisons to see what we might have in store for us for elections ahead, here’s an initial Harris County glimpse on the west side of the county. The three districts below represent seats held by Republicans, but with two of them having been won by Democrats in previous elections. I’ll eventually get around to doing some election analysis and I’m really hoping that the Legislative Council beats me to it. But just looking at the geography of the new districts, it looks as if HD133 and HD138 are solidified quite well for those two incumbents. HD134 got a little bit of beefing up, but not a great deal.

As always, the blue blobs are the current district boundaries, while the red outline is the new district as defined by Plan H283.

HD133
If things were to have gone smoothly in redrawing HD133, HD149 and HD137, then Jim Murphy’s HD133 would have picked up the north-of-Westheimer boxes from Hubert Vo’s HD149 and then HD149 and Hochberg’s HD137 would have eaten up the Alief portion of the existing HD133. Obviously, things didn’t happen quite so politely. This district got shored up a little – but it retains a new part of Alief now. That puts this district at about 60-40 GOP to start the decade with. And the demographic change that saw the current HD133 become competitive is likely to see this one become competitive within the decade. The district could be the focus of any VRA complaints, also, as the carving of Alief and Sharpstown represent a very intentional fracturing of minority communities. But that was what they tried to do in 2001 and that plan didn’t get overturned. So wait and see.

View House Redistricting: HD133 in a larger map

HD134
The district was previously a nominal GOP seat that Ellen Cohen was able to earn enough swing votes in for a majority in years past. But the additions pack on some new GOP turf while shedding some blue boxes on the Montrose side of the district. The loss of Montrose precincts has the biggest impact on the distirct. But much of the population boost involved picking up some Meyerland boxes that are politically 50-50. So HD134 may be about as winnable in 2012 as it ever has been by Ellen Cohen. In terms of priority pickup opportunities, the district should start off at the top of the list.

View House Redistricting: HD134 in a larger map

HD138
This is a fairly straightforward removal of any competitive or Dem-leaning turf on the eastern wing of the existing district, in favor of more solidly GOP turf as the district extends westward. In straightforward terms, the GOP likely needed to draw a new House district on either the west or northwest side. The shift in this district accomplishes part of that. It should be a much safer GOP seat for Bohac during this decade.

View House Redistricting: HD138 in a larger map

Ellen’s Fallback?

So what happens if the candidate who has announced her campaign for City Council District C finds out that she no longer is in District C? Apparently, this

“All we can do is wait and see what happens, but Ellen will run for the at-large seat if she gets redistricted out,” campaign manager Brooke Boyett told me.

Ellen Cohen, of course, is in a unique situation. She’s the biggest name likely to run in a legitimately contested race for anything this cycle. She’d be a new face on council and should be a very welcome addition. She can also raise the dough to stay in the pole position. Unfortunately, nobody knows where District C will be by the filing deadline and Ellen Cohen doesn’t know that she’ll be in District C. With that said, I can certainly appreciate the fact that in order to raise the money she’s capable of, she has to start early. And it’s never easy to raise money when you make the calls, saying “I dunno what seat I’m running for.” So it’s best to just call your shot and change course if you have to.

Cohen should also have enough allies on council today that might be interested in ensuring that her home precinct ends up in a new form of District C. It’s not hard to see that outcome and I’d probably put something north of 75% probability of any early purchase of “Ellen for C” yard signage still being good for October and November of this year. But now we have our answer for what happens in the off chance she’s not districted in a good, open district.

The interesting thing will be to see what happens in the off chance Ellen does have to look At-Large. There’s only one open seat available and the GLBT community has one candidate already running and Michael P. Williams will be gunning for African-American votes. Ellen can probably still win outright in that field, but it puts Ellen in a very different dynamic if she has to run in that sort of field. Last I checked, people who run against each other rarely remain friends after an election.

2011 COH Elections: First Marker Down

January 7, 2011 Politics-2011 No Comments

» Examiner: Cohen files for District C Houston council seat

Ellen puts both feet into the race the day the first Examiner story ran. And with that, Ellen Cohen is now the biggest-name entrant into city politics for the year. The filing is actually a designation of treasurer. Candidates for city office can’t take campaign contributions until Feb. 1 and the actual filing for office begins in August.

What the move does for Ellen is mark territory and it will be an enormous disincentive for any potential challenger to start making the rounds of city political folks if they’re eyeing the same contest. Of course, if the district Ellen happens to be residing in is a new Montrose/Heights district, it’ll be curious to see if any other competitive challengers consider it worthwhile to run. Whether it totally closes the door for shifting to a citywide run instead remains to be seen. I don’t doubt that a race in Ellen’s core area is the path of least resistance for her, but she could raise the money to run citywide if she really wanted. I don’t see her losing any seat she chooses to run for.

Council Name-Dropping

January 6, 2011 Houston/Harris 7 Comments

» Examiner: Cohen ponders run for City Council

A poorly-kept secret, here. Usually, when politicians say that people are encouraging them to look at running for an office, it’s a lie. With Cohen, it’s believable.

I would suspect that redistricting at the State House level will lead to the mapmakers trying to make Sarah Davis’ seat safer for her and that would be enough to make it a prohibitively favorable Republican seat. So the odds of seeing another State Rep seat appeal to Ellen Cohen seems remote.

That leaves City Hall if she’s still looking. In Kuff’s overview of upcoming 2011 elections, the only “for sure” At Large seat would be Sue Lovell’s current seat. There’s already a decent-sized line for that seat – maybe not enough to scare off Ellen, but enough to mean she’d have to work a bit harder for it than she might elsewhere. Everything that I’ve heard has revolved around Ellen running for District C, which strikes me as odd in a redistricting year. For one, it’s not clear what District C will be yet. Despite the proximateness of both Ellen’s and Oliver Pennington’s residences (see map below), there’s a good shot that Ellen would be in some formation of either a “new C” or a “new Montrose/Heights” district and not paired with Pennington in the “new G”. That should favor her for a district seat and since she’s establishing herself as being at the front of the line, it would take a lot of hubris to think you’re going to defeat her in November.


pink – District C
purple – District G
green – District D

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