About Last Tuesday

So, this happened …

Candidate      |   Absentee   |      Early    |   Election   |    Total
Gene Wu (D)    |   508 41.78% |  8,771 65.54% | 6,510 69.06% | 15,789 65.72%
M. J. Khan (R) |   708 58.22% |  4,611 34.46% | 2,916 30.94% |  8,235 34.28%
Cast Votes:    | 1,216 95.75% | 13,382 96.16% | 9,426 94.56% | 24,024 95.51%

Registered Voters: 48,003
Ballots Cast:      25,154
Turnout:           52.40%

I’ll now be on an apology tour of my own since I’ve been far more pessimistic of how HD137 would perform. Check the 2008 math yourself, but the best showing from that year was Linda Yanez’s 62.8%. My notes suggested that precincts that turned out abnormally for Obama in 2008 would not repeat at those levels and that the 2004 results were somewhat instructive as a bit of a floor-level performance. To me, that translated to a floor of 55%, with about eight years of demographic change tacked on for good measure. So for the last three weeks of the campaign, I basically told everyone that we could expect to finish somewhere between 57-59% and if we did 60-62, it would be due to Obama more than anything we did. I have no idea where the heck 65% comes from.

Obviously, getting a draft of the county’s canvassed results will help. But I’m really curious how Gene did compared to the President in our district. Next door to us, Hubert Vo similarly beat expectations that I had, but I can chalk up some of that to a track record of swing voters – both from the Vietnamese community and the Alief business community that Hubert has cultivated. So maybe the results in these two Southwest Houston districts are coincidental of a “new normal” for the Obama years. Or maybe there’s more to the story. The numbers will tell more of this story.

I’ll save the remainder of my frenzied number-crunch festival for other posts. For this, I think there’s one point to put on the story of Gene Wu’s first run for political office. When I first met Gene, I was a bit player at a table full of more important people who talked to Gene about possibly running for office some day. I can’t claim instant inspiration as I was busy making my points that there were a few skills needed for successful campaigning that I felt I hadn’t seen in this brief encounter. I’d seen a number of candidates with great resumes hitting the right point in their life for a political run, who had flamed out in single digits because they lacked several of the basics for being a candidate.

The last time I saw Gene before he was a candidate for State Representative was a different story. A few days after Scott Hochberg announced his retirement, I was told that he’d be stopping by the office pretty late in the day. It turns out that our shop was the second stop on Gene’s post-work schedule. The first involved a meeting where he was asked not to run. Ours involved a much more focused and driven Gene Wu than the first meeting we had with him. Whatever concerns I had then were out the window. This was something he wanted and he was committed to doing well.

With the decision set, all I knew was that there was just no way I could be involved in a State Rep race that included my neck of Southwest Houston without winning. Hard to sound like you know something if you can’t even win your own back yard. Our competition included a candidate backed by a State Rep respected for his campaign savvy. Another candidate was backed by one of the two biggest fundraisers in the county and had a ton of connections due to being the former Executive Director of the Harris County Democratic Party. The last candidate was a woman from the Alief ISD Board of Trustees.

At first glance, one woman in a field of four seemed like a legitimate threat. I figured she was capable of getting 20% with little-to-no effort due to any combination of gender and/or her background on the school board. She finished with 11%. The guy backed by the State Rep won the Chronicle endorsement and had some killer fundraising at the end of the primary to spend on anything he wanted. I figured he’d be a given for the runoff. He finished third with 21.8%. The candidate backed by the big fundraiser, I believe, did an effective job of campaigning in the apartments in the district. He may have benefited some from being the only African-American in the district, but he exceeded the numbers that would have fallen his way due to that in both the Primary and the Runoff.

All we had was an unproven Asian kid in a district that’s less than 12% Asian with a primary electorate that very well could have clocked in at under 6% Asian. As simple as it sounds, Gene was committed to blockwalking. I was happy to cut turf for him to talk to voters directly. I was happy to have a budget to send some mail to voters. I was happy that I got my choice of campaign managers for Gene in Beth Martin. But for all that happiness, there were still no guarantees that I wouldn’t be doing non-political work after the May primary.

Since Gene did manage to earn the nomination, the next step was to go up against a former City Council Member who could write whatever check he wanted to fund his campaign after passing the hat to his just-as-wealthy friends. We knew we’d be out-raised and out-mailed. We were. We knew that MJ Khan was familiar with parts of the district that he represented on City Council. That turned out to be a questionable thesis. We knew we’d be attacked. We were. And we knew that we also had to struggle to get money in the bank just to do some fundamental level of campaigning. All while Gene went off and got married. No problem.

What worked for us despite this time crunch was that Gene got better as a candidate with each passing day. The Gene Wu I first met would be prepping for a new District Attorney as his boss if he hadn’t. By August, Gene had been in fifth gear for quite a while. Still, I figured there would be a few points worth of swing votes that might go MJ’s way. I still pegged the district fundamentals at about 57% Dem. True to form, the attack mail goes out on Gene and is followed by $25,000 worth of cable ads attacking him. We limited our contrast mailer strictly to issue-based items on education and public safety. Gene blockwalked some more. And it was through that that we found out that MJ wasn’t being entirely honest with voters at the door. Gene never shied away from telling anyone he was a Democrat. MJ and his staff were leaving voters with the impression that HE was the Democrat. The more Gene walked, the most MJ Khan signs came out of yards as voters got the facts.

For staffing our three Early Vote locations we needed to worry about, we sent only Gene to one of them. The campaign manager, Beth Martin, did yeoman’s work by begging and pleading for as many E-Day poll workers as possible, knowing there just weren’t enough unemployed friends of Gene to staff all of 22 locations. In short, the final days offered plenty to be paranoid and nervous about.

And in the end, it didn’t matter. We’ll see soon enough how the district performed in other contests. But what makes me happiest is that my little ‘hood is represented well for the next two years. Scott Hochberg is a tough act to follow and there’s no point filling his shoes. Gene’s shoes (and boots) are a little road-worn from the walk lists I handed him this year. But they’ll do just fine.

One coda on worth sharing from the little amount of work that I did on this project ….

A fair amount of the work I did during the Primary and Runoff was air-conditioned campaign work. That’s a luxurious life that I knew wouldn’t cut it in the General. Some of you may be happy to know that I wore out my left knee climbing apartment stairwells. If you see any knee tendons or ligaments somewhere in a Westchase apartment complex … they’re mine. Please return them. I was too busy failing miserably at trying to keep up with a campaign manager who was just a few years past being a college athlete. Physically, I’m sure that I’ll heal from that.

HD137 Mapped Out: Runoff Style

State Rep contest mapped out below. Dark blue is Gene Wu, light blue is Jamaal Smith. Click on a precinct for the results therein.

View HD137 Runoff Results in a larger map

This basically broke down to an asymmetrical contest with Gene chasing voters in single-family homes and Jamaal chasing voters in apartments. Once we saw our level of success in the Primary round, the Runoff was probably one of the smoother and stress-free elections I’ve worked on. Given how the first round played out, there aren’t really any surprises in the second round.

I’m obviously proud to see Sharpstown and a lot of the other neighborhoods I’m familiar with supporting Gene to the extent they did. And I’m even more giddy to see that my precinct full of apartment-dwelling voters did the same (Sorry Stace, but so did yours). I’m pleasantly surprised to see how resilient Gene’s strength was in Alief (the two most southwestern boxes – 503, 508). He did incredibly well there in the Primary, winning a majority in both boxes despite them being a base for Sarah Winkler and having enough diversity there for everyone to get a decent slice of the vote.

With a little luck now, maybe I’ll get around to picking up a shapefile of the county precincts and doing some mapping of the countywide races.

Almost Famous

Apparently, I’m now vaguely alluded to in testimony for a federal trial. That’s certainly better than being named outright. This is taken from my State Representative, Scott Hochberg, testifying about the redistricting process in Austin this year (from DOJ’s pre-filed testimony here) …

Q: Did waiver of the five-day posting rule affect you in any way?

A: Things moved quickly, as I’ve said. I hadn’t even picked up the fact that they split down the middle a minority apartment complex until we were on the floor and one of my constituents made me aware of it. A single apartment complex. I had no time to do a detailed analysis while the issue was still pending before us.

The split in question is seen here.

There’s more good testimony reading in all of the links provided by Michael Li. I definitely recommend a full reading of Hochberg’s testimony if you’re pressed for time and/or interest level in the arcana of redistricting law.

Along those lines … no word from the Supreme Court so far. Not sure if that’s good or bad in terms of possible outcomes. But it’s definitely irritating for those of us trying to get campaigns underway.

HD137: Scott Hochberg Not Running for Re-Election

Things that aren’t making my day: Announced via email, Scott Hochberg is not running for re-election in 2012.

As I’ve written before, I’ve known Scott for a fair amount of time and it’s always impressed me that there are so many politically active people who a) are still actively involved, and b) have known Scott far longer than I have. It was easy to see Scott make the transition to State Rep back then and it’s inversely difficult to see him hang it up. To put it succinctly: he was the best and it was great to have him as my State Rep for the last decade.

The new district is safely Democratic-leaning, so if there’s anyone interested in running, give me a ring.

Scott’s statement in full, below the fold …

UPDATE: Trib on the story.

UPDATE 2.0: Names in the mix so far … Joe Madden, Chief of Staff for Garnet Coleman. At first glance, he’ll need to move quickly to establish residency. There are a few others in the district that are good hypothetical candidates, but since the filing period is underway, the time to get the name in the hat is now.

UPDATE 3.0: Abby Rapoport of the Texas Observer bemoans the loss of the lege’s resident nerd.

Dear friends,

After much consideration, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2012.

I am deeply and sincerely grateful to all my friends and supporters who have allowed me to hold this position of honor for what will be twenty years, especially those of ordinary means and busy schedules who, year after year, gave their time and financial contributions to my campaigns.

I especially thank those who have worked so hard on my district and capitol staff throughout the years, providing our constituents with the service and attention that they should expect from their government, and always going the extra mile. Whatever success I have had has been in a great part their making.

I thank my friends in all levels of government for their support, encouragement, and even their challenges, with special appreciation to Speaker and Mrs. Pete Laney for their guidance starting from my first days as a member-elect.

My decision should not be thought of as any commentary on the current political environment, the challenges ahead, or, for that matter, the disappointment of soon having to endure the designated hitter rule when watching hometown Houston baseball. It’s simply my desire to move on to new challenges, and find some other ways to be of service to our community and state.

I plan to serve the remainder of my term that runs until January, 2013. With the Legislature not in session, I will continue to work with local business leaders to complete the establishment of the new Gulfton Management District, as well as on other local matters. Beyond that, I have no specific plans.

Best wishes for a joyous and safe holiday season, and again, thank you.


Scott Hochberg
State Representative
District 137 – Southwest Houston

Plan H298 Almanac Update

I’m off to a slow start on reviewing the House Districts from the court’s plan, H298. But here are some updates to the almanac for some of the more interesting Houston-area changes. If luck and time permit, I’ll eventually get around to the DFW area and beyond during the weekend. For whatever its worth, HD107 is started already. If anyone’s interested in helping out, drop a line my way.

HD26 … No, Harris County didn’t gain a new district. But Fort Bend just got a lot more exciting with a district that is as close to 50-50 as it’s ever seen. It also looks like the courts took to heart the complaints about the division of Asian population in the county, as this one checks in at about 30% Asian. With the strong Asian concentrations in neighboring HD149 and other nearby House Districts, expect this to be the starting point for consideration of an Asian Congressional District in 2021.

HD144 … Legler’s district is a lot more Hispanic, but the electoral returns are still competitive. This will be target #1 for Dems in 2012 and the nominee should be favored. Whether it’s an Anglo Dem or Hispanic Dem that can carry it will be interesting to see.

HD149 … Welcome back, Hubert Vo. The new 149 picks up right about where the old 149 left off in terms of electoral performance. It should still be competitive, but one where Hubert is favored with swing voters from the Vietnamese community. Personally, I like that Team Vo is now tasked with working Precinct 620 every two years. Keeping that large swing precinct blue is a good step toward making the county blue.

HD137 … An interesting alteration on the idea of how to draw a more Hispanic district in SW Houston. This version is a lot less hollow than the previous district, thanks to removing Gulfton. There were 62,458 registered voters and 32,538 votes cast in 2008 compared to the old district’s 29,916 registered voters and 18,166 ballots cast in the same year. That’s still fairly hollow, but it’s an improvement of sorts.

HD146 … Meet my new State Rep: Borris Miles! I’m not sure what was going through the map-makers’ mind when they paired part of Sunnyside with Gulfton. But if that’s the price to pay for having two whole districts covering SW Houston, I’m fine with it.

HD134 … It’s still only an Obama and Bill White district among statewide election returns. That’s not terribly different than what it was before, but the overall shift is that the GOP incumbent, Sarah Davis, gains nearly a point more of a GOP lean than the existing district. Given the concentration of Anglo Dems in this district, it should be the epicenter of competitive contests for much of the decade.

HD135 … Obama 42.8%, Bill White 43.0%. If the voters in the district continue to shift as they did during the last decade, this is competitive by the end of the decade.

HD138 … this starts off about one point more GOP-friendly than the existing HD138 ended the decade as. But that’s a lot more Dem-friendly than the district started the district as. In the previous decade, the district moved nearly 10 points more toward Democratic candidates. If there’s another 10-point swing this decade, it’ll be competitive by 2016 or 2018.

HD148 … politically, this one is on par with the existing HD148. I guess my only amazement over this is that it doesn’t get drawn more politically favorable in trying to shore up Hispanic communities of interest within the district as it cuts out much of the Heights and extends more into Spring Branch. If nothing else, this is a substitution of a shrinking Hispanic population base with one that’s more likely to grow over the decade.

Yes, We Have (Some) Interim Maps

Looks like the San Antonio court is rolling out some maps for comment tomorrow. So much for my cartographic break. Below is the view from Harris County, with an underlay of 2008 and 2010 results for Obama and Bill White respectively. Read up, look around, and explore to your heart’s content.

Some particulars of interest: Woolley’s old district (she’s retiring) is essentially folded into Jim Murphy’s. Scott and Hubert each have their own district. Legler is toast. Bohac would go another decade with a bullseye on his back. And HD134 got bluer on the Obama numbers, so it looks like that one could come back to the D column. HD136 is outsourced to Waller County, so it’s a 24-district map for the county.

Even more impressive is a just-below 50-50 district in Fort Bend County that’s over 30% Asian. Beyond that, I’ve seen at least a couple of WD40 districts that might be regained. No time to get into Dallas, but I’m hearing three seats from there could come back.

As always, follow Michael Li for updates. Tomorrow is probably one of the most interesting days of the year for political junkies. Hopefully we’ll have a sense of how much of a chance this map has of holding up for 2012 elections. And this is just for the House. There’s a Senate map that looks like it would maintain Wendy Davis’ ability to get re-elected out of Tarrant County. No major changes either way on that one. Nothing Congressional yet. But if this is any kind of indicator, that should be even more interesting.



House Redistricting: The Hispanic Districts

Not a whole lot to explain here, but here’s the election math and before & after maps for the five Hispanic districts in Harris county …

                    08PRES       O8SCOTX        10GOV
                    R - D         R - D         R - D
HD137  paired    36.6 - 62.8   33.4 - 64.4   34.7 - 63.7
HD140  Walle     33.2 - 66.2   27.4 - 71.0   27.9 - 70.7
HD143  Luna      35.0 - 64.3   27.7 - 70.4   29.4 - 69.1
HD145  Alvarado  37.7 - 61.4   32.8 - 64.4   31.7 - 66.6
HD148  Farrar    40.7 - 58.3   35.3 - 61.8   34.8 - 63.0


View House Redistricting: HD137 in a larger map


View House Redistricting: HD140 in a larger map


View House Redistricting: HD143 in a larger map


View House Redistricting: HD145 in a larger map


View House Redistricting: HD148 in a larger map

House Redistricting: Done

» Chron: Texas House passes contentious redistricting plan

After all the hours of mapmaking on state stuff, it looks like I now have one miniscule accomplishment to take a sliver of credit for:

Two Democrats would also be paired in the Houston area. One of them is Rep. Scott Hochberg, who said map drawers creatively split the 5401 Chimney Rock apartment complex, hoping for his demise. If the map became law, inhabitants of the complex could be in different state House districts depending on which unit they live in, Hochberg said.

I didn’t catch the final, thrilling 6 hours of the session while some of the hammering-out got done. But reviewing the amendments that were adopted, it’s not immediately clear to me where the fix got made. But my thanks to Hochberg and Carol Alvarado for seeing that it got the attention it deserved.

Here’s how the voting went. I broke it out by party, but I may have missed a few in my haste. Feel free to fact-check it.

Yeas – 92
(D) Eiland; Lozano

(R) Aliseda; Anderson, C.; Anderson, R.; Aycock; Beck; Bohac; Bonnen; Branch; Brown; Burkett; Button; Callegari; Carter; Chisum; Cook; Craddick; Creighton; Crownover; Darby; Davis, J.; Davis, S.; Eissler; Elkins; Fletcher; Frullo; Garza; Geren; Gonzales, L.; Gooden; Guillen; Hamilton; Hancock; Hardcastle; Harless; Hartnett; Hilderbran; Hopson; Howard, C.; Huberty; Hunter; Isaac; Jackson; Keffer; King, P.; King, S.; Kleinschmidt; Kolkhorst; Kuempel; Landtroop; Larson; Laubenberg; Legler; Lewis; Lyne; Madden; Margo; Miller, D.; Miller, S.; Morrison; Murphy; Nash; Orr; Otto; Parker; Patrick; Peña; Perry; Phillips; Pitts; Price; Riddle; Ritter; Schwertner; Scott; Sheets; Sheffield; Shelton; Simpson; Smith, T.; Smith, W.; Smithee; Solomons; Taylor, L.; Taylor, V.; Truitt; Weber; White; Woolley; Workman; Zerwas

Nays – 52
(D) Allen; Alonzo; Alvarado; Anchia; Burnam; Coleman; Davis, Y.; Deshotel; Dutton; Farias; Farrar; Gallego; Giddings; Gonzales, V.; Gonzalez; Gutierrez; Hernandez Luna; Hochberg; Johnson; King, T.; Lucio; Mallory Caraway; Marquez; Martinez; Martinez Fischer; Menendez; Miles; Muñoz; Naishtat; Oliveira; Pickett; Quintanilla; Raymond; Reynolds; Rodriguez; Thompson; Turner; Veasey; Villarreal; Vo; Walle

(R) Berman; Cain; Castro; Christian; Driver; Flynn; Harper-Brown; Hughes; Lavender; Paxton; Zedler

Present, not voting – Dukes; Howard, D.; McClendon; Mr. Speaker(C); Strama

Absent – Torres

Maps coming up shortly …

House Redistricting: The Pre-Liveblog

I’m doing some prep work for the big redistricting debate today. Here’s one example of an area that’ll get some mention: the pairing of Hochberg & Vo. That’s partly due to the decision to grant Harris County 24 districts instead of 25, but given the inclination, I’m guessing that it might come up even if there were to be 25 districts.

The outline in red is the proposed district in the plan that passed through the Redistricting Committee (Plan H153). The blue blobs in this case are the existing HD137 (east) and HD149 (west). So you get a sense of what was taken apart from whom in order to create this monstrosity. Of even more particular interest with this map is that one of the lines this map makes is to split an apartment complex (5401 Chimney Rock) right through the middle. If you zoom into the far northeast corner of the proposed district, it’s pretty glaring.

View House Redistricting: HD137 in a larger map


It’s House Redistricting Day

Today’s the day that we’ll have the State House debate their own redistricting plan. I’ll be all over that once in the office. In the meantime, I’m still trying to catch up on all the maps. As time permits during the debate, I’ll be google-izing those that are relevant for discussion. It’s a very good problem this time around that there are so many plans introduced for consideration. If there are any plans of interest, feel free to drop a comment or an email my way.

Here’s the working list of maps that are likely to be debated at some length today:

Plan H153 – The House Redistricting Committee Plan. This is basically the starting point for consideration … and probably the plan that makes it through the finish line.

Plan H212 – The infamous “Nixon/Traynor” map. The “Nixon” in the duo is former Houston State Rep. Joe Nixon. The plan will be offered as a substitute by State Rep. Erwin Cain, who’s among the paired (and hence, unhappy) GOP incumbents. It’ll be curious to see if the plan gets any more votes among the un-paired GOP members.

Plan H226 – Carol Alvarado’s Statewide Substitute

Plan H232 – Garnet Coleman’s Statewide Substitute

Many of the plans submitted are for individual counties, or subsets of the major urban counties. If they come up in the convo, I’ll get to ’em then.

Closer to home, the Democratic locals in the lege have opined that Harris County warrants 25 seats based on historical precedence. And Kuff notes that Mayor Parker and County Judge Emmett are in agreement on this one.

Having Fun Storming the Castle, Wish You Were Here …

I’m in Austin today doing some work around the redistricting hearing in the House. That kicks off at 9am. I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for live-blogging it, but that’s the dream for the day. In the meantime, here’s some recent events that may or may not be of interest …

» Statesman: Emotional voter ID bill debate ends in passage

The big news of the day, of course, is that the House GOP has now voted for the single most authoritative restriction on citizen rights of this session. So far. Wait and see if the Obama DOJ approves it.

Also … remember all those times our friends on the right would claim media bias anytime there was a photo of some anointed GOP elected because they swear the shadow was too eerie for their liking, or that they used a photo of the elected with too much 5 ‘clock shadow (male or female), or it was during a certain astrological period while the elected had a hangnail, or if it was just a Tuesday and there was nothing better to do? Yeah, take a look at the contrasting photos of Harless and Dukes in this story and tell me why all I hear from them now is crickets chirping.

» Chron: Dairy Queens but no DPS offices (Gary Scharrer)

Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine represents a sprawling district that covers 38,000 square miles and includes plenty of Dairy Queens.

Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, represents a dense district covering about 14 square miles of Houston.

There are no Dairy Queens in his district…..just an occasional Sonic, Hochberg told Gallego during debate on the Voter ID bill.

I’m not sure how you go about operating “an occasional Sonic,” but the absence of a Dairy Queen in HD137 has been a central guiding principle of all my complaints with the area. I may be the only native born Houstonian or Texan in the district … and probably one of a small handful of native-born Americans. But I have a pretty strong record of keeping certain dining establishments operating on a profitable basis on the strength of my disposable income alone. I want a gosh dang Dairy Queen within at least a 10-mile radius of where I live. That is all.

» Chron: Will Parker get a tough opponent? (Rick Casey)

The things those crazy bloggers say …

“At end of the day a credible Republican can get 35-40 percent of the vote and an African-American maybe 30-35,” said Greg Wythe, an excellent political numbers cruncher, although he cautioned that some think his estimate of the black vote may be high.

He noted that this was the dynamic 20 years ago when businessman Bob Lanier and state Rep. Sylvester Turner squeezed out incumbent Mayor Kathy Whitmire, another former city controller presiding in tough economic times. That forced a runoff between Lanier and Turner, which Lanier won.

» Chron: Tactical approach can keep scorers in check

Elite scorers can be a coaches’ worst nightmare. Whether it’s a great ball-handler, a dead-eye shooter or a force in the paint, guys who pile up points give opposing coaches headaches. How do you diminish the impact of scorers such as Jimmer Fredette or Kemba Walker? We asked Houston Cougars coach James Dickey for his thoughts and strategies.

You’re kidding me, right?