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Brunch Aggrepost for Campaign Season

Still slaving away. Unfortunately, there’s a few media pieces that are really interesting that it looks like I’ll just have to wave at as they pass by. Some of these a now a little dated, so no guarantees that this will be a worthwhile aggregate of fresh hot links that you haven’t already read about elsewhere.

» Sharpstown’s problem? Its image, civic leaders say
Since much of my time these days is in an effort to get a new State Rep elected in my home district, this is a welcome read. I honestly think it takes a bit more than this one look at this sliver of southwest Houston to understand it more fully. But it’s something. And its definitely good to see some meaningful context added to the negative reputation around Sharpstown in particular. Our newly minted Council Member is quoted, as is the latest president of the Sharpstown Civic Association, Peter Acquaro. Stace riffs on the article over at his blog.

One point that I’ll add is that, in slicing and dicing data and walk lists for a political campaign, I’ve had to go over the area with an entirely more granular perspective than I’ve done previously. I was a bit surprised to see a few developments going up in District 137 (a few in Sharpstown and a few on the eastern border, closer to Bellaire and the Galleria). These were townhomes and/or condos selling and/or valued in the $350k-500k ballpark. In the case of the Sharpstown development, these were developments surrounded by a mix of apartments ranging anywhere from “pretty decent” to “maybe not.” To be sure, there were some inevitable foreclosures and some speculative buying of multiple properties. But my takeaway is there are at least people who are betting a pretty penny on a turnaround. That’s a lot more than just boosterism.

» Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem. (Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein)
Honesty for ya. It sure beats the silly “Politifact” approach to determining truths among political claims because the writers and editors of the original stories with those claims are too timid to call a lie a lie.

» Demographics No Longer Destiny for Democrats (Forrest Wilder)
I’m not exactly won over by Wilder as a demographic anthropologist. Sure, he’s got the degree (from UT, however). But I’ll take my “white kid from the ‘hood” cred over his “white kid from the ‘burbs” non-cred in terms of our comparative ability to wrap our minds around the problem … however that’s defined. Be that as it may, he’s the one with the writing gig at the Texas Observer. So the debate that ensues from this article is worth a read.

For all of that, however, I don’t disagree with part of his initial conclusion:

The party recently launched The Promesa Project, an effort to get young Latinos to “promise” to act as “Democratic messengers to their families and social networks,” according to the project’s website. The party is investing $1 million in it. Better than nothing. Yet Promesa, modeled on the “Great Schlep,” a 2008 initiative deployed in Florida to get young Jews to convince their grandparents to vote for Obama, is only a complement, not a substitute, to the dull, block-by-block work needed to enfranchise Latinos. Until that happens, Texas Democrats run the risk of becoming even more irrelevant.

The relevance of any party structure – D or R – is completely worth discussing. I tend to lean toward the increasing irrelevance of both. That’s not going so far as to say there isn’t a role for them. And in the case of the party of my personal preference, I think launching something like Promesa is in line with what they should do. Where Wilder is right is that it is a complement. But I’m biased since I’ve been pushing out blockwalkers for the past several weeks to engage voters in southwest Houston about voting for a quality candidate.

I’m not sure that TDP is of the opinion that they are eliminating the need for such work. Especially since they support the very tool that I’m using to organize with (again, the exact sort of thing that a party should do). In the end, I think its the discussion of relevance that’s irrelevant. Connectivity between a constituency and a political party has less to do with what either party does or says via their spokesfolks or twitter managers and more to do with the effectiveness and resonance that individual candidates on the ballot do to engage those constituencies. But I guess an esoteric argument like that doesn’t create as much friction as simply saying something like “the party is becoming irrelevant” as if there were anything that one person or an improved facebook page could do to reverse America’s growing detachment from pre-existing definitions of political structure.

» My wasted day on Capitol Hill (Vivek Wadhwa)

In short: what he said. In particular:

Government leaders — at least some of those present — actually seemed to believe they could, through legislation and spending, increase entrepreneurship and innovation. They asked questions such as: What legislation can we enact to build innovation ecosystems, facilitate mentorship, and teach entrepreneurship? They didn’t seem to understand that these are things entrepreneurs do—not governments.

Governments routinely build science parks, provide subsidies to chosen industries and set up investment funds — all in an effort to spark economic growth. But hardly any of these efforts bear fruit.

District J: A Very Different Kind of Opportunity

November 10, 2011 Politics-2011 2 Comments

» Chron: After vote, Houston Latinos fail to capture district

Good reading as Joe Holley finally gets to the core of why District J isn’t the Hispanic opportunity district that some folks thought they saw on the map.

Even though Hispanic population growth fueled the four-seat expansion of Texas’ congressional delegation, fewer than half of all Hispanics (43.1 percent) are eligible to vote, according to figures from the Pew Hispanic Center. That number compares with nearly 8-in-10 whites and 7-in-10 blacks who are eligible to vote.

Although Hispanics make up 63 percent of the 180,000 residents of District J, only 17 percent of registered voters are Hispanic. Many are non-U.S. citizens or under age 18.

The low percentage of Hispanics eligible to vote, combined with a relatively well-known Anglo candidate who spent nearly 10 times as much money as his neophyte challengers – $40,000 to about $4,000 for both his opponents – made District J an opportunity district in name only. Anglos cast more than 50 percent of the vote.

It would be a disservice to compare the election returns in this election to another Ben Reyes/Gene Green type of election loss for a Hispanic candidate in a Hispanic opportunity district. The central difference between SW Houston and the East End and North Side is the difference in citizenship rates among Hispanics. As I’ve been saying repeatedly, the demographic changes in the last decade, combined with the rise in immigration, were very unique and different changes from what we’ve seen before. And if the more recent trend is an indication, it’s one that won’t have the same impact on this decade. Births and deaths, the aging of more voter-eligible Hispanic and Asian youth, combined with intra-state/intra-county/intra-city migration will be more important factors unless we see another spike in immigration like we saw from 1998-2007.

But regardless of how the broader trends play out, Gulfton seems likely to be a starting point for an enormous number of new immigrant families. That means they don’t vote. That means they can’t vote. And if and when they become citizens, or their kids grow up to be of voting age … they’re likelier to move away from SW Houston. Aside from the remnants of Sharpstown’s previous migration of 1950s white flight, Jewish population, and weird people like me that enjoy what the area has to offer … the neighborhood, as a whole, isn’t thought of as a place people move to stay for the long haul. That’s with some notable exception to the nicer parts of Sharpstown, Braeburn Glen and Braeburn Valley. But the voters in those areas aren’t exactly known to be hospitable to minority candidates.

There’s still more Marc Campos stammering in the article, unfortunately. Apparently, if there had been better “vetting” and if someone who isn’t a Campos client had stayed out and let Campos decide who should run (using Campos as a consultant, of course), then the 16% of Spanish surname registered voters would have coalesced around said candidate. Also unfortunate is that there’s no mention in the article that he had a client in the race and that client finished third. So much for Marc’s vetting.

Maybe Campos should visit the district he helped draw. With all the patron politics that Campos suggests we should have had here in SW Houston, that effort would have given such a candidate about 16% of the vote, of course. If they’d gone door-to-door and registered as many new voters as they could, they miht get that number up to about 24-25%. Criselda at least benefited a bit more as the only female candidate in the contest. I wonder if female political consultants needed to vet anyone.

District J does at least have some advantage in that it’s not inconceivable that a Hispanic, or anyone else for that matter, could win the district. But the emphasis should really be on the “anyone.” While that’s a better opportunity for a Hispanic candidate, it’s not quite the same as a traditional “Hispanic opportunity district” as it’s known elsewhere. Especially when you have over half the votes coming from old Anglos in odd-year elections, with a majority of the electorate being Sharpstown.

As Mike Laster has been saying, it’s an opportunity for everyone district. And that’s not just some fancy political slogan. It’s the reality of why so many people from multiple backgrounds find a home here. I live in a precinct with two mosques, a Baptist church, a Presbyterian Church, a Methodist church and yet another church of indeterminate congregation that operates out of a health care industry strip center. The Head Start program that operates where I catch my morning bus is doing a hopping business with Latino, Asian, and African families dropping off their kids and that diversity is seen equally in the kids walking to Jane Long Middle School or the YES Prep charter school (and hopefully soon, the still-planned KIPP charter school) also in Pct. 430.

This is the reality of today that the old guard political crowd doesn’t seem to know what to do with. And the future is going to look a lot more culturally complex. That’s pretty much the dead horse I’ve been beating with the whole multi-cultural chatter and whatnot. It’s something that folks better learn if they want to understand how to engage actual voters in the area.

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: PM Wrap

November 9, 2011 Politics-2011 No Comments

Here’s how things ended for the November round. These are all three counties combined. Nothing like a little bit of raw data to end the night with.

Look elsewhere for deeper post-election wraps. I’ll be knee-deep into some overnight work unrelated to any of this and catching up on sleep during sunlight hours tomorrow while the pontificating goes on. The only deep thought I’ll impart for now is that I think I see at least a few parallels in how the big-name GOP types treated this election and how Texas Dems treated statewide runs in 2006. Both involved a lot of top-tier talent staying on the sidelines in years that were otherwise very advantageous for them. And it could easily end up that, just as Dems saw in 2010, the next cycle for the local GOP wannabes will be a very different environment. So for whatever perception of vulnerability that may be seen in a 50% and some change showing, 2013 is a long ways from now.

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Annise D. Parker  4,340 50.1%  19,380 53.4%   36,200 49.6%    59,920 50.8%
Jack O'Connor     1,256 14.5%   4,699 12.9%   11,310 15.5%    17,265 14.6%
Fernando Herrera    974 11.2%   5,400 14.9%   10,425 14.3%    16,799 14.2%
Dave Wilson       1,362 15.7%   3,305  9.1%    9,191 12.6%    13,858 11.8%
Kevin Simms         636  7.3%   2,884  7.9%    4,677  6.4%     8,197  7.0%
Amanda Ulman        102  1.2%     624  1.7%    1,156  1.6%     1,882  1.6%
Cast Votes:       8,670        36,292         72,959         117,921  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Helena Brown         223 48.7%   1,112 46.7%    2,392 47.3%   3,727  47.2%
Brenda Stardig       189 41.3%   1,034 43.4%    2,025 40.0%   3,248  41.1%
Bob Schoellkopf       46 10.0%     236  9.9%      644 12.7%     926  11.7%
Cast Votes:          458         2,382          5,061         7,901  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Alvin Byrd            462 39.8%    763 24.1%    1,039 22.2%    2,264 25.1%
Jerry Davis           364 31.4%    771 24.3%    1,063 22.7%    2,198 24.4%
Kathy B'ford-Daniels  117 10.1%    619 19.5%      889 19.0%    1,625 18.0%
Kenneth Perkins        46  4.0%    338 10.7%      553 11.8%      937 10.4%
Charles A. Ingram      63  5.4%    224  7.1%      392  8.4%      679  7.5%
Phillip "Paul" Bryant  38  3.3%    207  6.5%      292  6.2%      537  6.0%
James Joseph           36  3.1%    139  4.4%      259  5.5%      434  4.8%
Bryan Smart            35  3.0%    109  3.4%      199  4.3%      343  3.8%
Cast Votes:         1,161        3,170          4,686          9,017  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Ellen Cohen          452 33.8%    3,491 60.2%   7,337 52.8%   11,280 53.6%
Brian Cweren         679 50.8%    1,264 21.8%   3,780 27.2%    5,723 27.2%
Karen Derr           135 10.1%      663 11.4%   1,894 13.6%    2,692 12.8%
Randy Locke           54  4.0%      223  3.8%     550  4.0%      827  3.9%
Josh Verde            17  1.3%      159  2.7%     339  2.4%      515  2.5%
Cast Votes:        1,337          5,800        13,900         21,037  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Wanda Adams         1,110 89.4%   4,066 84.4%   5,378 78.5%   10,554 81.7%
Larry L. McKinzie     131 10.6%     753 15.6%   1,477 21.6%    2,361 18.3%
Cast Votes:         1,241         4,819         6,855         12,915  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Mike Sullivan       386 100.0%   2,927 100.0%   6,029 100.0%  9,342 100.0%
Cast Votes:         386          2,927          6,029         9,342  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Al Hoang               98 45.6%   1,314 57.7%   1,244 55.1%   2,656  56.0%
Peter "Lyn" René       80 37.2%     480 21.1%     678 30.1%   1,238  26.1%
Hoc Thai Nguyen        37 17.2%     482 21.2%     334 14.8%     853  18.0%
Cast Votes:           215         2,276         2,256         4,747  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Oliver Pennington   1,043 89.3%   3,025 77.7%   7,837 75.1%   11,905 76.8%
Clyde Bryan           125 10.7%     868 22.3%   2,598 24.9%    3,591 23.2%
Cast Votes:         1,168         3,893        10,435         15,496  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Ed Gonzalez            495 77.5%   1,230 70.3%   2,615 65.8%   4,340 68.2%
Patricia Rodriguez     144 22.5%     520 29.7%   1,358 34.2%   2,022 31.8%
Cast Votes:            639         1,750         3,973         6,362  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
James Rodriguez        480 84.1%   1,162 63.9%   2,403 61.9%   4,045 64.5%
Leticia Gut'rez Ablaza  91 15.9%     656 36.1%   1,482 38.2%   2,229 35.5%
Cast Votes:            571         1,818         3,885         6,274  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Mike Laster          225 85.9%   1,047 68.1%    1,521 64.7%    2,793 67.3%
Criselda Romero       23  8.8%     329 21.4%      549 23.3%      901 21.7%
Rodrigo Canedo        14  5.3%     162 10.5%      282 12.0%      458 11.0%
Cast Votes:          262         1,538          2,352          4,152  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Larry Green          612 70.7%   2,522 70.1%    4,729 61.9%    7,863 65.1%
Pat Frazier          191 22.1%     794 22.9%    1,922 27.7%    2,907 25.8%
Alex Gonik            63  7.3%     208  7.0%      654 10.4%      925  9.1%
Cast Votes:          866         3,524          7,305         11,695  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Stephen Costello   3,802 51.8%  15,701 51.8%   29,437 50.7%   48,940 51.2%
Scott Boates       1,590 21.7%   6,536 21.8%   13,399 23.3%   21,525 22.7%
Don Cook           1,522 20.7%   5,457 18.0%   10,317 17.6%   17,296 18.0%
James P-Galvan       431  5.9%   2,512  8.4%    4,816  8.4%    7,759  8.2%
Cast Votes:        7,345        30,206         57,969         95,520  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Andrew Burks, Jr.  2,336 30.1%   6,077 18.4%   9,099 14.6%   17,512 17.0%
Kristi Thibaut     1,411 18.2%   5,169 16.4%   9,228 15.3%   15,808 15.9%
Elizabeth Pérez      634  8.2%   3,469 11.0%  10,264 17.0%   14,367 14.4%
David Robinson       956 12.3%   3,808 11.7%   7,351 11.7%   12,115 11.8%
Bolivar Fraga        696  9.0%   3,035  9.7%   5,836  9.7%    9,567  9.6%
"Griff" Griffin      519  6.7%   2,352  7.4%   5,430  8.9%    8,301  8.3%
Eric Dick            463  6.0%   2,455  7.8%   4,492  7.4%    7,410  7.4%
Jenifer Rene Pool    292  3.8%   2,677  8.5%   4,164  6.8%    7,133  7.1%
Roslyn Shorter       320  4.1%   2,443  7.5%   4,207  6.6%    6,970  6.7%
Gordon Goss          141  1.8%     552  1.7%   1,202  2.0%    1,895  1.9%
Cast Votes:        7,768        32,037        61,273        101,078  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Melissa Noriega   4,206 55.5%   17,497 57.0%   32,543 54.9%   54,246 55.6%
Chris Carmona     1,914 25.3%    7,274 23.9%   16,393 27.9%   25,581 26.4%
J. Brad Batteau   1,458 19.2%    6,005 19.1%   10,338 17.2%   17,801 18.0%
Cast Votes:       7,578         30,776         59,274         97,628  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
C. O. Bradford    6,236 78.3%   21,991 69.1%   39,079 65.8%   67,306 67.9%
Amy Price         1,088 13.7%    6,166 19.7%   13,517 23.1%   20,771 21.2%
Louis Molnar        644  8.1%    3,523 11.3%    6,459 11.1%   10,626 10.9%
Cast Votes:       7,968         31,680         59,055         98,703  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Jolanda Jones     3,006 35.8%   15,077 43.8%   24,303 35.8%   42,386 38.3%
Jack Christie     3,348 39.9%    9,730 29.3%   22,522 34.6%   35,600 33.4%
Laurie Robinson   1,383 16.5%    6,354 18.9%   13,665 20.8%   21,402 19.8%
Bob Ryan            664  7.9%    2,645  8.0%    5,748  8.8%    9,057  8.5%
Cast Votes:       8,401         33,806         66,238        108,445  

                    Absentee      Early          E-Day           Total  
Ronald Green     7,129 100.0%   28,463 100.0%   53,139 100.0%   88,731 100.0%
Cast Votes:      7,129          28,463          53,139          88,731  

E-Day ’11: Second Batch

November 8, 2011 Politics-2011 No Comments

136 new boxes just came in for Harris County. 21% of the boxes are from District C. 15% from A, 15% from E.

- Annise Parker holding up. She gets 50.5% from the new boxes. 52.1% overall.

- Stardig falling in A. She loses the new boxes 41.6-49.2. Overall race is at 42.8-47.5. Let’s call this one a runoff.

- Districts B, C, F, J & K seems to be keeping the same shape with new boxes.

- Ed Gonzales and James Rodriguez get some good boxes. They’re not both north of 62% on E-Day numbers. Should be interesting to see where they had the weakest results. But they’re both fine for re-election.

- Stephen Costello’s new numbers are still north of 50%. I’m guessing he hangs on with the slimmest of wins. Lessons should be learned about how well-known incumbent CMs are.

- New boxes in AL2 show a clump of Burks, Perez,and Kristi, with Burks at 17% and the others at 15% or so. Burks and Kristi are still in the lead for the overall.

- JoJo gets under 40% with the new boxes. Overall it’s 41.0-31.3 in Harris County overalls.

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.

E-Day ’11: Early Votes In

November 8, 2011 Politics-2011 No Comments

A few minor surprises, but nothing that shouldn’t revert to normal when today’s numbers come in. Again, these are ONLY Harris results I’m looking at so far. So factor in a bump from black vote coming out of Ft. Bend.

- Mayor Annise Parker clocking in at 52.8% in the EV. That’s definitely on the low side of projections, but I think her numbers improve with E-Day totals. It might be a stretch to see her numbers get up to 60% based on this start. We’ll see. I think I hear the spinning from the anti-Annise peeps now.

- Brenda Stardig trailing Brown in District A. That’s a definite surprise to me. Stardig trailed both Absentee and Early votes. This might go either way … and it might go into a runoff since neither has a 50 on either column.

- District B looks to be Byrd v Davis for the time being.

- Ellen Cohen over 50 … I repeat, Ellen over 50. 55.3%, to be precise. Cweren is the one to watch for second place and he’s all the way back at 27.2%. I think this one closes tonight.

- In District F, Al Hoang is sitting at 56.7% in the earlies. Lower than I’d have guessed. The others are at 22% and 20%. Wait and see if or how they move as the votes come in from today. I believe the early analysis had a high Asian vote cast in this district, so the post-election analysis on this one might be very revealing.

- Mike Laster starts off at 70%. La Opportunidad turned out to be quite the good ol’ fashioned opportunity.

- Same in K … Larry Green with 70%. Both races are over.

- AL1 … Stephen Costello barely cracking 51% and the pattern is nearly identical for absentee and early. I’d expect E-Day to hold the same for him. Much closer than I think he wanted.

- AL2 … Kristi & Burks start off as 1-2. Robinson & Perez seem to be the ones to watch for a move on E-Day numbers.

- Melissa Noriega starts off at 56.7%. I’d expect her to clear 60 by the end of tonight.

- JoJo starting off at 42.2% with Christie at 31.5%. Not terribly different than the ’09 showing. Looks like we’ve got our runoff there. Robinson’s 18.4% is pretty even among absentees and earlies. Looks like she served her role this election in pushing it to a runoff.

- Obviously, no opponent for Ronald Green or Mike Sullivan. So they’re back. Ed Gonzalez in H has it wrapped up with 72.2% of the earlies, as does James Rodriguez in I with a 68.7% start. JRod, has a big difference in his absentee (84%) and EV (64%), though. He’ll win, but his number might drop during the night. Oliver Pennington starts with 80% in District G, so he’s done for the night. Wanda Adams starts off the best among the district incumbents with 85.4%. Lights out on the south side.

In HCC, Carroll Robinson starts off with a 55-45 lead in early voting. It should remain about that tight.

In HISD, Manny Rodriguez starts out over Ramiro Fonseca 53-47. It’s one to watch tonight.

ADD-ON: Here’s the Harris County line for Mayor …

Kevin Simms       3,341  7.55%
Amanda Ulman        707  1.60%
Dave Wilson       4,603 10.40%
Fernando Herrera  6,333 14.31%
Annise D. Parker 23,348 52.76%
Jack O'Connor     5,919 13.38%
Cast Votes:      44,251 

… and here’s Fort Bend:

Kevin Simms       179 26.09%
Amanda Ulman       18  2.62%
Dave Wilson        57  8.31%
Fernando Herrera   39  5.69%
Annise D. Parker  360 52.48%
Jack O'Connor      33  4.81%

The numbers for Simms should be seen in African-American precincts in Harris, also. I definitely think the contours are showing for what it would take to challenge Annise more aggressively (essentially the same as Lanier/Turner’s dual attack against Whitmire). The details should be a bit more revealing for how resilient or how at-risk she might be two years from now. But there will definitely be spin.

SIDENOTE: Glancing at state constitutional amendments while I wait for city numbers to change, I notice that Prop 8 is losing 51-49. That’s the water bonds thing. I voted against all of them out of my principle that we have too many amendments. But if there’s one that I might have thought twice about, that was one. It should be interesting to see how it ends up.

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.

LWV’s City Council Debate Series: Districts J & K, Plus AL4

October 24, 2011 Politics-2011 No Comments

Three more League of Women Voters’ candidate forums/debates/whatever. I still haven’t made time to take in the one for my district, but here’s the latest for your viewing pleasure.

District J

District K

At Large #4

Election 2011 Markers

October 20, 2011 Politics-2011 2 Comments

So KHOU has a poll suggesting a fairly broad range of outcomes for the Mayor’s re-election contest. If there’s any polling to come out on city council candidates, I think they’re likely to be far more meaningless. So we’re left with history as a guide and guesstimates for the rest.

First off, here’s what we know from cold, hard math: the average for contested city council district re-election contests in the last three November elections, excluding CM Jones and Lovell, stands at 76.6%. You can see the math at the end of this post. If there’s a contest I’m forgetting, feel free to yell at me. The average for 2009 was a bit higher than the previous two cycles (78.5% in 2009 compared to 73.3% for 2007 and 74.7% for 2005). For all intents and purposes, I’m calling 75% as the over-under for council incumbents not named Jolanda Jones. And Mayoral elections are generally better-informed choices, which makes this irrelevant for that election.

With that, here are my markers for how I see each contest ending up:

District A: Stardig wins, somewhere around the generic over/under.

District B: Not my best area for speculating. But if forced, I’d probably roll with Alvin Byrd and Kathy Daniels. But if I’m totally off-base in that guess, I’m not likely to lose any sleep over it.

District C: I’ll go with the conventional wisdom that Ellen Cohen wins, but without guessing whether it’s in November or December. She’s killing it on money and organization. But her base, such as it exists, offers some conflicting cues about how they’ll vote. On the one hand, she’s been elected out of an area that’s close to 50-50 in partisan years. In a non-partisan year, you’d expect the electorate to get slightly more conservative, hence anti-Cohen. But on the other hand, many of the folks likely to come out in a non-open/contested Mayoral year are those who are likelier to be familiar with Ellen. I think picking between either of those two hands is a crapshoot. If Ellen wins in November, I see it as being a win with less than 52%. If it goes to a runoff, I think she can break 60%. Brian Cweren isn’t without a possibility in the district. But I’ve been a bit surprised at how non-partisan he’s kept his appeal despite the backing of a lot of the GOP heirarchy around town. There are certainly enough GOP voters to go around in the district. If there’s some strike of lightening that ends up with Cweren ahead of Cohen in November, that could feed into a very different psychology for December. If the race is close in November with a lower-than-expected showing for Cohen (say 40% Cohen, 35% Cweren), things might get interesting, but I still don’t see an upset in December as likely. The two big drivers of this are simple: candidates for local races (even if they’re former State Reps), aren’t as well known as most people think; and the districts are new and the behavior of each electorate isn’t known as well as they will be after a couple of elections.

District D: Wanda Adams has a bit of a new district to contend with after losing Montrose and gaining an Anglo-Hispanic leg along Myakawa. I think she’s still the favorite and I’d be shocked if she doesn’t beat the over/under line.

District F: This is probably the only race where we’re waiting to see what the 8-day reports say about late fundraising since nobody seems to want to raise money for this district. All things being what they are at present, I’d say that Al Hoang wins re-election. But there’s certainly room for him to under-perform the over/under line. This is one district where I don’t think many people realized what the electorate looked like. If they did, I think there’d be at least another candidate or two that might have gotten in. Peter Rene’s percentage should be worth watching, if nothing else. It’ll be interesting to see what African-American voters can do in this district over the decade.

District G: Oliver Pennington pulls the average up for incumbents being challenged. I’ll wildly speculate that he gets somewhere around 80%.

District H: Ed Gonzalez wins, somewhere around the generic over/under.

District I: JRod wins and I’ll pick the over. He and Pennington should place a wager on who gets a higher percentage of vote in their district.

District J: Mike Laster wins in November. My guess is he gets something like 55%. The points of comparison come from his performance in District F in 2009. In a wide-open field in November, he won 34% of the vote in Sharpstown. The 48% of the vote in the area that went to Hoang, KA Khan and Joe Chow don’t have a natural place to go and it’s not immediately obvious where the vote among the district’s not-entirely-insignificant Asian vote will fall. But I Think they’ll lean more toward Laster, even if only as a plurality. Mathematically speaking, if he kept his 34% in the new District J and got 40% of the 48% that went for the three Asian candidates, that would put him at 53%. However it falls out, though, there will be no runoff in the district. That’s not an indictment of the quality of competitors, nor does it have anything to do with there being two different Hispanic candidates. It’s simple demographics and the fact that you have a surprisingly small field of candidates in an open contest in a new district. This would have been all kinds of unpredictable if you had an Asian candidate, a far-right GOP candidate, and Lord knows what else get into the mix. But with a single Anglo candidate in a district where Anglos are the voting majority, this district is very easy to call.

District K: I realize you have to go through the formality of an election and all that jazz. But I’m still not sure why Larry Green isn’t sworn in already. He’ll win. He should win handily. And he’ll win it in November. Possibly even enough to compare with re-election candidates. Longer-term, watch during the remaining decade for the district to get considerably less African-American. There could be a surprise in the district … just not in November.

At Large #1: I think Costello wins easily in November, but he might fall below the over/under. If there’s room for a real surprise, I think this is one race where it could happen. Recall that Costello wildly outraised a lot of contenders last time in an open race and only led Karen Derr by 23.6% to 19.3% in November. This election should demonstrate whether he’s the new Peter Brown in his ability to under-perform on Election Day … or not. As far as putting precise marker on this one, though, I’d guess he wins with somewhere around 60%. Maybe slightly less than 60%.

At Large #2: Complete crapshoot. Guessing is futile. A runoff is obvious. I’m just hoping that the four sane candidates finish one through four and you already know who I’m hoping to see finish on top.

At Large #3: Noriega wins with something north of 65%.

At Large #4: Bradford wins. He and Noriega should place a wager on their final percentage comparison.

At Large #5: There are two or three different bets here. The easiest call is whether or not there’ll be a runoff. I think there will be. But JoJo and Christie have a slight shot of winning without one. The second call is who makes the runoff. My starting assumption is that Laurie Robinson hits the Greanias Line since her appeal is to Anglo Dems and moderates who JoJo rubs the wrong way. Given a high turnout in C, I think Robinson’s likely range of performance is around 20% after taking a little bit from voters outside that niche. If she can get more than that, it would qualify as a surprise. She’s probably just as capable of surprising as she is under-performing. But there’s also likely to be decent turnout in District B, higher than normal turnout in District K, and between Wanda shoring up some votes in District D and JoJo normally outperforming others there … she could be salvaged if the stars line up. I think her range of performance is pretty broad, though. Like somewhere between 25-50.1% broad. Christie has an easy path to 35-40% and can possibly do better with Bill White’s endorsement.

That leads to the third bet: who makes the runoff. We’ll see soon enough how it all pans out. But I think my starting point is going to be as follows for November: Christie – 40%; JoJo – 35%; Robinson – 25%. What it means for the runoff will come down to whether District C has a decision in December and where Anglo Dems rank JoJo in November. No point in predicting that until we see what November really looks like.

Mayor: Parker barely goes over 60% in the lowest turnout election Houston’s seen. The spinning and interpretation of the outcome occupy the 10pm newscasts for the next two days. Paul Bettencourt uses the opportunity to get quoted in the Chronicle for another two years as if he’s thinking about running in 2013. He won’t.

Footnote: Contested re-election contests for council candidates, with the exception of Jones and Lovell.

Yr Avg   Yr      Contest     Win%
78.52   2009   District B - 81.99
        2009   District C - 81.78
        2009   District D - 76.16
        2009   District E - 74.14

73.33   2007   District B - 76.95
        2007   District C - 76.95
        2007   At Large 3 - 66.09

74.71   2005   District A - 73.00
        2005   District F - 69.22
        2005   District H - 77.93
        2005   District I - 79.53
        2005   At Large 3 - 72.88
        2005   At Large 5 - 75.70

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.

Welcome to My World

» Chron: Hispanic-opportunity district draws three candidates

Southwest Houston was supposed to be the land of opportunity for aspiring Latino city leaders.

Whether it actually starts out that way will be up to first-time candidates Criselda Romero and Rodrigo Cañedo, who currently trail in fundraising behind the lone non-Latino hopeful in the City Council’s new District J.

The district, a contiguous area bisected by the Southwest Freeway and extending from about the 610 South Loop to just south of Beltway 8, has a diverse population, including 63 percent of residents from Hispanic backgrounds and a large contingent of Asian, Anglo and African-American residents.

It was carved out as an “opportunity district” for Latinos in a city where Hispanics comprise 44 percent of the population, but only hold two of 14 seats on city council.

Still, just 17 percent of registered voters in District J have Hispanic surnames ….

Let’s just get this out of the way, shall we? I’ll go ahead and insert Standard Gripe #4,372,162: You cannot talk seriously about electoral prospects in southwest Houston without mentioning citizenship. The numbers aren’t buried in some secret hiding place. Among other places, they’re spelled out right here:

       Total     Hispanic        Afr.-Am.           Anglo           Asian
Tot   181,415  114,532 (63.1%)   32,215 (17.8%)   19,409 (10.7%)  12,946 ( 7.1%)
VAP   128,813   76,434 (59.3%)   23,174 (18.0%)   16,947 (13.2%)  10,728 ( 8.3%)
CVAP   55,150   13,939 (25.3%)   18,545 (33.6%)   16,995 (30.8%)   5,245 ( 9.5%)
RV     44,722    7,717 (17.3%)

To suggest that the district is 63% Hispanic, yet “just 17 percent” are registered to votes leaves the suggestion that simply organizing a Voter Reg drive will fix everything. It won’t. The reason is simple: just over 40% of the district’s voting age population is eligible to vote and eligible to vote. And less than 20% of the voting age Hispanic population are eligible to vote.

What that means for the electorate in an odd-numbered year can be seen here. I don’t think I’m asking too much for an accurate portrayal of the district to be painted in the press at least once during the decade in which this district exists as drawn.

For added emphasis, here’s a bit of Gulfton history from Wikipedia:

In May 1991, Marc Campos of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, expressed concerns that proposed state senate redistricting plans would deliberately re-draw Texas Senate, District 15 to ensure the re-election of John Whitmire. He felt this would hamper the possible election of Hispanic representatives. Campos cited the inclusion of Gulfton in Whitmire’s district would dilute Hispanic voting strength, since many Gulfton residents are not eligible to vote due to a lack of citizenship. A May 15, 1991 Houston Chronicle article reported that some people did not want to see Gulfton included in a mostly Hispanic Texas Senate district citing fears that the residents might not vote.

The issue of citizenship that existed shortly after the biggest immigration amnesty program in recent years has not changed in the years since with the absence of any other amnesty program. And again, the numbers for this aren’t hiding under a rock. So can we eventually ever get around to talking about the district in the political terms that actually exist rather than the one that only reside in fantasy-land?

The long and short of it is that the district is truly a multicultural district, but with an electorate that is still majority-Anglo in odd-numbered years. Whoever’s elected from the district will obviously need to contend with the city services and needs of a majority-Hispanic population and that is also majority-non-citizen. But, in terms of strictly political terms, when you have an Anglo State Rep (well … Jewish, to be precise) elected from the area in even-numbered years with substantially higher turnout, that ought to tell you that the area isn’t exactly “more” of an opportunity when you winnow out all the casual voters. Granted, I’m biased, but Mike Laster hits a nail squarely on the head with his quote describing the district: “District J is an opportunity for everybody district …. We are the Ellis Island of this city. We come from every corner of the world. I’m running for City Council to work for everybody.”

None of this is to say that a Hispanic candidate couldn’t get elected out of District J. But a successful Hispanic candidate would still likely need to win a majority of the district’s Anglo population in order to win. And all things being equal, the district would be just as likely to elect an Anglo, Hispanic, African-American, Asian, or just about anything else you can dream up. As things stand, I think there’s three good candidates running and there’s not much reason to believe that the district wouldn’t be fine with any of them representing it. But no matter who wins in this election cycle or who wins it in the future, District J shouldn’t be reduced to a simplistic understanding as a “Hispanic opportunity district” when the opportunity is there for everyone.

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.

Sharpstown Democrats District J Candidate Forum

September 27, 2011 Politics-2011 No Comments

Hard as it may seem to believe, but I’m still uploading video from Sunday’s 80-20 PAC candidate forum. There’s only a few videos left to go. But once that’s complete, I’ll have some segments of last night’s debate/forum of District J candidates from Sharpstown High. It was good to run into a few old friends from the neighborhood, watch Kuff try to moderate a debate, and meet another of the candidates for the first time. And just for good measure, there was an empty lot campaign sign spotted on the way to the event. Making matters worse for that instance was that the sign was outside of the district that the candidate was running in.

On a techie note that doubles as a disclaimer, I now know two things about my phone’s camera that I didn’t know before. For one, there’s a 30 minute limit on video. My guess is that’s due to the enormous file size that’s generated from shooting in 720p HD. I considered using a smaller resolution, but opted to stick with the best my camera could do. That basically drives the issue of having to upload 100MB files to YouTube in the background while I get real work done. The other issue this creates is that, by having to end a video clip and restart it, there are some parts of questions that don’t get included. I have a good clean shot of the opening and the ending. I’ll probably edit some of the middle segments or upload full segments that capture entire Q&A segments. Secondly, the lighting at the event doesn’t seem to have done me any favors. There’s all kinds of light bouncing off of everyone on stage. The Sharpstown AV club was there filming the gig, also. You can see their cameras on the edges of some of my shots. So if anyone is looking for good pro-quality footage, I’ll refer you to them over my amateur, front-row, arm rest-stabilized footage.

As for the debate/forum/whatever, it was a pretty civil affair. That alone is cause for optimism since the district should be fine regardless of who emerges as the winner. Since there was about 60 minutes or so to talk about a range of issues, there were some noticable stylistic differences in terms of the comfort level that each candidate had with this type of setting. I’m obviously partial since I’m known Mike Laster since 2004, supported him in his race for District F in 2009 and support him this time around. The rest of the voters in attendance probably share that since Mike’s been a President of Sharpstown Dems. To the extent that applause levels may mean anything, I feel it means enough to say that the room was Mike’s last night.

The entirety of the event demonstrated Mike’s ease with the format and the nature of the questions. Criselda Romero was fine for the most part. There was some repetition in talking points that came out over the course of the hour, though. Over-use of terms like “stakeholders”, “community”, “dialogue” and others tend to now come across as scripted. Criselda’s bright and I don’t doubt that she’d make a fine councilmember, but the low number of voting-eligible population in the district put a premium on authenticity. Rodrigo Canedo, I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time. Seems like a good guy and there wasn’t much that I could quibble with in his answers. But the nervous laughter in all of his answers is a bit demonstrative of a first-time candidate and probably didn’t help him connect as well as he’s capable of.

As for the issues, there’s a great deal in common among the candidates. All supported the Rebuild Houston proposition and agree that there’s room for improvement on the execution of it now that it’s in place. Romero made a point that she would fight against the use of those funds for purposes it’s not designed for. It sounds good, but there will definitely be some gray areas that come up from time to time that might complicate that stance. The recent drought is a good case in point. The district as a whole supported the proposition (and for whatever it’s worth, I didn’t). Given the nature of the district, the question of apartment complexes came up. As one who resides in an apartment, I do feel obliged to credit Laster’s response, which acknowledged that the apartments are comprised of people and aren’t just structures that generate crime.

All in all, the differences between candidates was fairly minor on the big matters. Whichever style or background excites any particular voter, I’ll leave it for them to decide. Personally, I think it’s a good crop of candidates to choose from. You’ve got a guy who’s worked on civic matters with the homeowners association, the management district and so on. You’ve got a woman who’s worked in city government and has experience with the job she’s trying to earn. And you’ve got a business owner who’s been active and involved in the neighborhood. No parachute candidates. We’ll see how nasty things get when the mail starts dropping. But for now, it looks like a can’t miss opportunity for the district.

Anyways, as the video for the event get uploaded, I’ll be adding the links for them. Expect the opening and closing to be the first videos. In the interim, here’s Kuff’s Q&A with each:

- Mike Laster
- Criselda Romero
- Rodrigo Canedo

UPDATE: Finally … one meager (700+MB) video uploaded.

UPDATE 2.0: Closing arguments.

More to come tomorrow ….

The Race for District J

August 24, 2011 Politics-2011 No Comments

There isn’t much visible campaigning that I’ve seen in the new District J yet. But it appears that the three candidates everyone has been expecting to run are now at the starting line. Whether there are more, we’ll have to wait and see. But here’s the three we know:

» Mike Laster: lasterforhouston.com
» Criselda Romero: criseldaromero.com
» Rodrigo Cañedo: canedofordistrictj.com

Laster ran for District F last time around and it’s tempting to think what might have happened with city redistricting had he won. As things stand, Laster did quite well on the Sharpstown side of F in 2009, winning most precincts in the 55-65% range. Then, as now, Laster has been involved in the Sharpstown Civic Association, the Sharpstown TIRZ, and the Greater Sharpstown Management. In 2009, I supported Mike and I’ll be supporting him again. Same reason: the area deserves someone familiar with the district and has a proven record of working on behalf of the area. You don’t have to wait until you’re elected to get involved in your community and Mike’s been doing that for quite a while now.

One positive result of the 2010 Proposition 2 failing at the ballot box, was that candidacies would be limited to those who had already established residencies in the districts. So that seems to have put the brakes on parachute candidates for this election, as the other two candidates have history in the district. I’ve not seen much in the way of legitimate campaign activity in the district yet, but what I’ve seen and heard of Cañedo and Romero indicate that the district itself has a good shot of winning regardless of who we voters in the district select.

They appear to have a lot going for them, although the first round of campaign finance reports don’t show a great deal of money raised thus far. There’s definitely three distinct and different backgrounds for voters to choose from to suit their preference. So I’m eager to see how all of them are hitting the ground throughout the district, as well as what issues they’re talking about in the mailboxes, inboxes, doorsteps, and community forums.

Kuff has interviews posted with Cañedo, Romero, and Laster. So if you’re in the district and want to get to know the candidates a little better, give the interviews a listen.

For some basic info about the district itself, here’s my all-in-one demographic/electorate profile of all the districts. There’s also this post that shows how the district voted in the 2009 Mayoral and 2007 AL#5 contest, and this one that shows what the actual voting electorate looks like in the district for both cycles.

Mike Laster Announces Run for Houston City Council, District J
Expresses optimism for southwest Houston’s future

Today, Mike Laster, longtime civic leader in southwest Houston, filed for the open City Council seat in District J.

Laster, 49, expressed his optimism about the future of Houston.

“The city of Houston, and southwest Houston specifically, faces many challenges in the coming years. But I’m optimistic. The people of District J are as rich in ideas as their cultures are diverse. We are already making progress, but we still have much to do.”

“If I’m elected to the City Council, I will continue working to make our community a better place to live, as I have been doing since I moved to Houston years ago. I’ll work every day to improve our neighborhoods, to give our first responders the tools they need to keep us safe, and to bring more and better jobs to southwest Houston.”

Laster is a longtime leader in the community. As a former chairman and current member of the board of the Sharpstown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, he has helped secure millions of dollars to be used for economic development projects in southwest Houston. During Laster’s years as a leader in the Sharpstown Civic Association, he worked hand-in-hand with neighborhood leaders to improve and promote our neighborhoods.

Laster is a founding member and leader of the Greater Sharpstown Management District that hired additional police officers for the area, cleaned up graffiti, and worked to beautify the area and improve the business climate in southwest Houston.

“The diversity of the people of District J is our greatest strength. Throughout my life I have worked to build bridges and bring people together. As a member of the City Council I intend to do the same thing. We are rich in ideas and culture. We have all the tools necessary to build on the progress that has been made. Working together, we can meet the challenges we face and continue to make Houston a great place to live and raise a family.”

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