Horwitz on the Democratic Party

I ticked off a lot of people up here in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts with this one. From my day job at The Justice:

The United States is, by most accounts, significantly skewed to the right in terms of its political positions. What would be considered “conservative” in the United States is significantly farther to the right of the cultural equivalent in Europe, namely the United Kingdom. According to many ultra-liberals within the Democratic Party, this is a tragedy. But is this really a bad thing?

The Democrats, of course, are in one of the best electoral positions they have been in generations. The party has won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, and has demographics on its side, particularly the invaluably increasing Hispanic voting percentage. When most political pundits agree that the only way for the Republican Party to survive is for it to take a leftward step, it would appear that the ostensibly center-left political party, the Democratic Party, holds the leverage in the future of this country’s political discourse.

The Democrats are now attempting to use this newfound leverage to usher in more liberal control of the party, and a much more liberal agenda for this country. Such an attempt, though woul be misguided and unwise. The United States is a center-right nation politically, but this is not because there is no viable left-wing alternative.

The recent mayoral election in New York has been a fine example of this lurch to the left by the party. Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker who was supported by much of the Democratic establishment, came in an embarrassing third-place finish in the Democratic primary as her more liberal opponents berated her alleged centrism. Quinn supported many items of incumbent Michael Bloomberg’s agenda, including those that made die-hard liberals uneasy, such as her support for education reform. Bloomberg, a former Republican, may not have been the best endorser himself for Quinn. The victor of this primary, Bill de Blasio, is significantly more liberal on many of these issues.

Other examples of this phenomenon have been seen in the last month, like when fast food workers throughout the nation went on strike in search of higher wages. Ultra-liberals throughout the country flocked to stand in complete solidarity with the strikers’ demand of a $15.50 minimum wage. While many in this country, including myself, agree that the minimum wage is too low, the amount demanded is somewhat excessive. Similarly, ultra-liberals have fought any and all attempts of military intervention, however limited, in Syria. The new tactic has apparently conflated a desire of the party for only just or reasonable wars with a dovish foreign policy reminiscent of George McGovern.

These cries from the left-wing are growing louder, and are being heeded more often. Cory Booker, the charismatic mayor of Newark, N.J. and Democratic nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey, has been panned heavily by the left for not being liberal enough. Elizabeth Warren, the junior senator from this Commonwealth, is now being talked up by the left as a serious candidate for president in 2016, following an unwillingness by many ultra-liberals to consider Hillary Clinton. In an article from last December, Salon Magazine already castigated Clinton’s future candidacy that blasted her “entitlement” and declared that “the left wing of the Democratic Party has gotten stronger.” However, while Cory Booker and Hillary Clinton are feasible candidates for national office, their significantly more liberal counterparts are not.

The ultra-liberals must face the fact that the United States does not, and will not, support ultra-liberal candidates for office in swing states and on national platforms, just as the American people do not and will not support Tea Party Republicans in those circumstances. One does not have to go beyond the crushing defeats of recent Republican Senate candidates, such as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, who both took ideological extreme positions on social issues, to know how abundantly obvious this is.

A pacifist foreign policy and a $15 minimum wage are wonderful sound-bites for winning a Democratic primary in a blue state, but they are not realistic opinions shared by the majority of a country with center-right political views. Have these ultra-liberals forgotten the era of Richard Nixon & Ronald Reagan, when it was the Republicans who won the national popular vote in five out of six consecutive presidential elections? One of the reasons for this is that the excessively liberal positions of the Democratic Party of the time were increasingly out of touch with the American people.

Candidates in this era, such as George McGovern and Michael Dukakis, lost not necessarily because they ran poor campaigns (though the jury is still out on that question), but because they held positions on issues that were out of step with most Americans. McGovern endorsed dangerously drastic cuts to our military and Dukakis actually allowed a program to continue under his watch that allowed weekend passes from prison to murderers, rapists, and other severe criminals.

We have seen ugly resurgences of these views in recent months, as more and more in the Democratic Party have turned to pacifist positions.

Such extreme ideological positions are what have been tearing the Republican Party apart in recent years. I hope the same fate will not occur in the Democratic Party.

This leads me into the other comment/criticism I have about the Democratic Party, specifically the people therein it. A couple of days ago, I was talking about the basic problems of the world with a contemporary of mine at my college. He identified as a Democrat, though in retrospect, he probably would have felt more at home with the Wobblies or as a de Blasio sandinista.

Anyways, this individual was extolling the qualities of Occupy Wall Street, and discussing the need for direct action in political protests. Further, and this is what truly struck a cord with me, he declared that the United States “is not a democracy.”

This country elects its leaders. While we have disagreements about who are the better campaigners, or who is given undue advantages, we have free, fair and open elections. This country is a democracy, I would like to get that out in the open before I continue analyzing this pinko diatribe.

It is true, however, that we do not live in a very functional democracy. Often times,the needs and desires of the people are not adhere to. Campaigns slave away to money, and spent a disgusting amount of time groveling for it. But this is not the fault of our government, or even our institutions. This is the fault of our lazy populous.

Two out of every five voters are too lazy to vote in Presidential election. Three out of every five voters are too lazy to vote in a Midterm election. The number reaches a shocking level of apathy when applied to off-year elections, which is what the City of Houston exclusively deals with, or Primary election.

With very few exceptions, if you choose to not vote in an election, you are lazy and you are part of the problem. Last year, I shared a room with a young man from a little town outside of Beijing, in China. I distinctly remember him gazing in amazement as I filled out my absentee ballot. The concept of a contested election, wherein candidates are not recruited but may run on their own desires, was completely foreign to him. What I do on Texpatriate, writing my thoughts on a public forum, often criticizing high government officials in the process, is a serious crime where he lives. As much as the domestic pinkos like to complain about our system, the United States is still one of the only countries in the world with such vivid constitutional rights protecting civic participation.

This individual I was interacting with, when backed into a corner by reason and logic, declared the tired old cliche of, “If voting could change anything, it would have in 2008.” The only issue with this is that much of the recalcitrant responses of the US Congress in President Obama’s first few years of office stemmed from the fact that Obama’s base was too lazy to support him in the Midterm election as turnout fell below 40% in many States, including Texas.

For the vast majority of people, voting is not very hard. Astute readers of this blog will  be quite familiar with my opposition to Voter ID laws. However, this is not because I find it will be a huge impediment to millions of voter. I simply oppose the bill because it does little protect those older individuals without Driver’s Licenses, who have already been voting without-a-hitch for years.

Otherwise, it is remarkably easy to vote. When I turned 18, and renewed my Driver’s License, I simply checked a box. Poof, I was registered to vote. When I moved to Boston, I simply mailed a letter to the County Clerk, and was returned a full absentee ballot.

When I am home, I am given two workweeks and one weekend of early voting (12 days in all) to vote in addition to election day. Additionally, during early voting, I may cast my ballot at any location throughout the city. As much as people like to discuss the alleged backwardness of Texas, we make it significantly easier to vote than Massachusetts.

I believe that the Government still must do more make it easier to vote. Whether this includes expanding early voting, no-excuse absentee ballots, same day voter registration or making Election Day a Federal holiday, I am fully in support. However, the American people need to meet its Government half way, and put a little effort into upholding this nation’s most basic and most central theme: the consent of the governed.

Texpatriate endorses in At-large position #4

When this board first met one another in 2009, we spent many a night at City Hall comparing our choices in the upcoming Municipal election. The open election that year in At-large position #4 saw two qualified Democrats run for the office, including C.O. Bradford. In the four years since taking office, this board has continued time and time again to be impressed with Councilmember Bradford’s integrity, service and dedication to his office.

This board’s first interaction with Councilmember Bradford, likewise, came well before the creation of Texpatriate. In December 2009, the Mayor’s Youth Council, of which the members of this board were all members, hosted a town hall event at a local high schools pertaining to juveniles issues.

Bradford, who was still a Councilmember-elect at the time, was one of the main panelists at the event. Among the dozens of Municipal officials contacted for this event, Bradford remained the only one to return the calls of this board. He diligently answered questions on the topic at hand, and met with people regarding their concerns.

At the time, this board believed that it was possible that Bradford had simply not yet developed the unfortunate sanctimonious attitude prevalent among many officeholders in politics. However, we were soon proven wrong, as the genuineness of Bradford did not decrease upon taking office. Rather, this board has observed him taking many steps to remain connected with his constituents and true to their concerns.

Upon commencement of Bradford’s second term, he was given the lucrative title of Vice-Mayor Pro Tem. However, this has not stopped him from continuing to do what is right, despite who he opposes. In 2012, Councilmember Bradford was the only Democratic member of the Houston City Council to vote against an asinine, punitive measure that criminalized giving food to the homeless. Bradford embodied the views of his constituency, that was opposed by many otherwise progressive individuals, including the members of this board.

The Vice-Mayor Pro Tem has also fought for far less controversial items, such as expanding much needed property tax relief for seniors. Additionally, this board was very pleased when Bradford recently spoke out in favor of a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance protecting the LGBT community.

The only other candidate for this office is Issa Dadoush. In this board’s interview with Dadoush earlier this month, he repeatedly stated that “my campaign is not about the incumbent.”This board finds such a statement to be a whimpering equivocation systemic of a campaign that lack substance. While this board believes Dadoush brought up some good points about how to run the City’s utilities, we believe that, in campaigns involving incumbents, the election serves as a referendum on the incumbent’s record. If the challenger fails or declines to show how the incumbent may have failed, it is the responsibility of the voter to determine this on her or his own.

This board, however, finds that Councilmember Bradford has done a truly superb job in his four years on the City Council. While he often opposes the Mayor’s administration, often on issues we disagree with him about in part, he always does so respectfully and pragmatically. These are among the best features one looks towards in a public servant.

Accordingly, this board endorses C.O. Bradford for another term on the Houston City Council, At-large position #4.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board consists of Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey & Noah M. Horwitz of Boston and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans.

Hall’s second TV ad

This afternoon, I attended a press conference for the release of mayoral candidate Ben Hall’s new campaign television ad. The email inviting Texpatriate to the press conference entertained the idea that the media reporters who attended the press conference would see the ad much earlier than the general public. The campaign walked back the ad’s release date later in the week and decided to publish live soon after our viewing. Hall’s Press Secretary, Julia Smekalina, led the event with a few opening words about the video and closed by answering questions about Hall’s campaign. Questions were raised over some of the controversial statements of the campaign, including the finances of Mayor Parker. Specifically, Hall’s assertion of the Mayor’s “hidden millionaire status acquired while in public office,” which Smekalina failed to support very convincingly. In a handout, the campaign also accused Mayor Parker of mishandling city finances and of multiple Texas Ethics Commission violations, both without any specific citations. The campaign claims to have further evidence on their new website , AdiosAnnise.com. While it has a catchy name, only time will tell whether it provides enough legitimate evidence to sway voters in favor of Hall.

Moving onto the main attraction itself, the ad focuses solely on a close up of Hall, who in few words describes his upbringing form a poor family, to gaining scholarships and going to college. He compares himself to Mayor Parker, but differentiates himself from her by claiming that, once in office, she “became a millionaire, while getting cited for multiple ethical violations.” This negative campaign ad fails to clearly state the position Hall is running for, except for a small excerpt at the bottom screen in the last few seconds. While only a minor aspect, it was noted by those in attendance. In summary, the ad aimed to explain how Hall encompasses the “American Dream” while Mayor Parker does not. However, can one really qualify the American Dream? Ben Hall surely thinks he can.

The ad can be found here:

A basic overview of the Candidates (Part 1)

Mark Twain once said that, while history does not necessarily repeat itself, it does, in fact, rhyme. This starts with the candidates for the Municipal elections. Upon analysis of the candidates for basically any of the offices (Mayor, Controller, City Council), one may see just how similar they are to the other candidates.

POINT #1: The Mayor’s election is like a ‘lite 2009’

In 2009, the Houston Press took its most political stand of the year in publishing this cover article. Humorously and simplistically, the Press reduced the candidates into “BLACK GUY” (Locke), “RICH WHITE GUY” (Brown), “LESBIAN” (Parker) and [in small print] “Hispanic Republican” (Morales).

More than just being funny, this article gave great insight into the separate, distinct groups that make up a Mayoral election. Parker’s key constituency consists, more than just LGBT groups, of the progressive, yuppie residents of locations such as Montrose, Midtown and the Heights. Young people also love Parker.

Locke’s key constituency was pretty much limited to African-Americans. While he certainly received extensive support from communities throughout the city, none constituted his power base except the Black Democratic establishment.

Brown, meanwhile, got a great deal of support from what I call the “bourgeois intelligentsia.” While Brown was certainly further leftward than a candidate like Bob Lanier, Brown sought to emulate his power base. These voters are the liberal residents of River Oaks, Tanglewood, the Museum District, et al.

Last, but…well…actually least too, was Morales. It was somewhat of a useless point on the part of the Press for Morales’ ethnicity to be brought into it. His candidacy never included meaningful support from the Latino community. Instead, he was the token candidate for the Republicans, those unable to bring themselves to vote for the “lesser of the evils” among the major candidates.

This translates into 2013 somewhat well. Parker, obviously, retains control of the “LESBIAN” category, consisting of the aforementioned yuppies that were not all necessarily members of the LGBT community. Hall, not surprisingly, becomes the equivalent of Locke. Brown’s group has almost exclusively flocked to Parker. This much has been abundantly obvious since Brown endorsed Parker in the runoff all those years later.

Eric Dick represents the “Republican” in microfont, of course. Although last night’s poll put him in the territory of “negligible candidates,” I still think he will get a decent* share of the vote (*-Decent in the same way the Democrats do decently Statewide compared to Libertarians).

Hall, very much like Locke, is betting on a runoff, and will put his cards into attracting Republican voters if it comes to that. However, the bad news for Hall is that, if Locke’s performance is any indication, it will not be enough. The math was pretty simple from 2009. Parker got 31% and Brown got 22%, put them together, and one gets 53% (one point below how much Parker got in the runoff). Locke 26% + Morales 20% = 46% (exactly how well Locke did).

POINT #2: The Controller’s election is an early runoff
Novices in Houston politics often find it overwhelming (okay, that’s a joke), especially after learning of all the complicated nuances of what really constitutes left vs right or good vs bad in local politics. The Controller’s election in 2009 was especially confusing, considering the blatant disregard for the 11th Commandment among the two Republican candidates. However, one of these conservative candidates was eliminated, and the runoff election in 2009 resembled a typical partisan election. Then-councilmember Ronald Green, a Democrat, faced off against then-Councilmember MJ Khan, a Republican. Green was ultimately victorious with about 53% of the vote.

Green, a citywide official who arguably holds the second most power of any City official, was completely unopposed in 2011. This year, he was not. Bill Frazer, a Republican, is challenging him in what is proving to be a competitive campaign. Frazer, however, is the only candidate. With only two candidates, the race is assured to be over following the November election. Thus, it resembles a runoff.

Specifically, it resembles the 2009 runoff. An almost identical copy, as far as the similarities between MJ Khan and Bill Frazer go.

POINT #3: The election in At-large 1 is 2011 again
This one is somewhat self-explanatory. Costello, more or less, flew under the radar as a Republican to get elected to the City Council in 2009. However, he largely redeemed himself to the liberal majority by being a moderate and pragmatist during his tenure upon the Council. While in 2011, Costello drew three opponents, he only has one challenger this year. However, the basic theme still remains the same. In 2011, Costello’s main opponent was Scott Boates, a Tea Party favorite, who siphoned votes away to the right of Costello. His victory came as a result of progressive support, which I suppose explains why he has become more amicable to such issues now.

This year, Costello’s only opponent is Michael Griffin, the perennial candidate. Griffin is, however, somewhat conservative. Accordingly, the same fate will surely come to Costello as it did to him two years ago. Griffin with siphon off anywhere between 20%-30% of the vote, with Costello receiving the majority remainder.

POINT #4: The election in At-large 2 is a ‘bizarro 2009′
Andrew Burks shocked the movers and shakers of Houston politics last election when he squeaked out a tiny victory over Kristi Thibaut in the open election for AL2. Burks had run for the City Council an embarrassingly high amount of times, most recently in 2009 against Sue Lovell. That election also featured two other candidates: (the aforementioned) Michael Griffin and Rozzy Shorter.

Lovell represented the incumbency, as well as Parker’s broadbased Yuppie/LGBT group. Burks represented Locke’s African-American faction, albeit with more Republican support. Shorter was pretty much in the election for her ego, and the mere 9% of the vote she garnered showed some proof of this. Griffin, meanwhile, represented the interest of the futile, token Republican.

Now, Peter Brown’s basic constituency supported Lovell in the 2009 runoff against Burks, propelling Lovell to –you guessed it– 54% of the vote. In 2011, the two constituencies merged, and then split between Kristi Thibaut and Jenifer Pool. Neither of which were very competent candidates in that election, which combined with depressingly low turnout, caused Burks to inch out a victory by a hair.

Now, Burks is largely put in the same place that he put Lovell therein just four years ago. David Robinson, his main opponent, looks like he is running with the combined support of the Parker and Brown constituencies. Two other candidates, Trebor Gordon and Moe Rivera, represent the obvious Republican token candidates.

The fundamentals in this election are definitely in Robinson’s favor. However, given that Burks is the incumbent, Robinson must do a lot more work to bring up his name recognition. Further, the token Republicans may very well force Burks & Robinson into a runoff. At this point, Robinson should pray that the Mayoral election goes into a runoff. That will probably give Robinson the requisite 53%-54% that Lovell received in 2009. Otherwise, given how inflated African-American turnout is with the District D inevitable runoff, Burks will cruise to victory in a runoff is Annise Parker is not concurrently on the ballot.

POINT #5: At-large 3 is Michael Kubosh’s to lose, and he’ll probably win
Open seats typically only resemble one another in that there are a plethora of candidates. While the broadly defined aforementioned “constituencies” are pretty good at not having overlapping candidacies in elections featuring incumbents or challengers, or elections of high profile (such as the Mayoralty), all bets are off in open City Council elections. At-large 3 is one of those races.

J. Brad Batteau easily cancels out, as he is a perennial candidate with no natural base. Jenifer Pool is a natural choice of the Parker group, but Rogene Calvert is also a possible candidate therefor. Calvert also has the added bonus of being endorsed by the Houston Black American Democrats.

Then there is Roland Chavez. Politicos in the hispanic community typically run for District Seats, and not citywide positions. Since there has never been a major Hispanic Democrat to run for Mayor, there is little data on what type of support they would receive. One hopes, for Chavez’s sake, that he is not limited to the pitiful performance of the last Hispanic Democrat to run a citywide campaign: Rick Rodriguez in 2009.

Roy Morales has only a fraction of the “token Republican” vote, considering Kubosh’s presence. To Morales’ benefit, his fellow Republican, has some pragmatic positions that probably make the GOP establishment somewhat uneasy. Additionally, Kubosh’s spell as a Democratic candidate probably turns him off to many hardline Republicans. This will probably be a 7%-10% performance, rather than a 20% one.

Then, there is Michael Kubosh. He looks to be saving his money for a runoff, which is not surprising in the least. Kubosh’s strategy thus far has been to compile a coalition of Republicans, African-Americans and civil libertarians. The strategy is a good one for garnering a plurality of the vote, but a majority in the inevitable runoff will be dependent upon a couple of factors.

First, any lack of a Mayoral runoff would tremendously help Kubosh, especially if his support from the Black community continues holding (ideally if Rogene Calvert is not the other runoff candidate). Second, the identity of the competitor candidate will have a huge impact upon the final results. Chavez, because of his perceived more moderate stances, will most likely be the toughest opponent for Kubosh. Alternately, as I just mentioned, a Rogene Calvert candidacy supported strongly by African-Americans would provide troubles for him. Calvert would otherwise be a moderately challenging candidate. For better or for worse, Jenifer Pool would be the easiest candidate for Kubosh to defeat. While I do not necessarily think she is all that much more liberal than her fellow Democrats, she definitely gives of the impression of such. Additionally, her campaign is being supported by lots of high-profile liberals, and one of the rules of politics is that you are judged by the company you keep.

All in all, Kubosh has a slightly better chance than not of winning. It is not a coincidence that those are the same odds I gave to the probability of a Mayoral runoff. If there is a runoff, Kubosh’s chances fall below 50%, whereas if they is not a Mayoral runoff, the chance go up an equal amount over 50%.

POINT #5: The election in At-large 4 has two explanations
C.O. Bradford, a Democrat, was first elected in a 2009 election that saw no other competitive campaigns. He won without a runoff, something largely unheard of at a Citywide level. His biggest opponent in that election was Noel Freeman, another Democrat. In 2011, Bradford’s biggest opposition similarly came from Amy Price, who ran significantly to the left of him.

This year, Bradford must deal with a Republican challenger for the first time in a Municipal election. His opponent, Issa Dadoush, is a Republican. At first glance, there is an easy explanation to this election: left vs right, specifically with a popular, pragmatic incumbent. The prevailing wisdom would state that Bradford wins with 55% of the vote or so, though that probably won’t actually be very far off.

The complications arise as some on the right allege that Dadoush is somewhat close to the Mayor. I am inclined to not actually believe that the Mayor “recruited” Dadoush, but it makes sense that the two may have a somewhat amicable relationship, given that it was Parker who first hired Dadoush.

The Mayor and Bradford have historically not gotten along very well. Parker, at one point, flirted with the possibility of prosecuting Bradford for illegal sign violations. Bradford, in turn, endorsed Ben Hall this year in the Mayor’s race. However, despite having low support from Parker’s constituency, I cannot imagine her supporters choosing a Republican.

Given that there are no people more liberal than Bradford in the race, all the Democrats should rally around Bradford, propelling him to a somewhat comfortable victory margin.

Given my conflict-of-interest, I will not be making an analysis of AL5, but highly encourage my fellow bloggers to do so.

Analysis of the District races to come later.

Poll supports Astrodome bond

Yesterday, KHOU released a poll on the Mayoral election. Tonight, it has released a second poll, specifically pertaining to the Astrodome bond referendum.

Any many will recall, all the voters of Harris County will see a $217 Bond measure on the ballot this November, that will seek to convert the Astrodome into a convention center. The ballot measure already has some somewhat zealous opponents, mainly hailing from the Tea Party (and others with a pathological hatred of the government). However, a broad coalition of supporters have emerged as well.

The poll showed 45% in favor of passing the bond measure, 35% oppose and 20% undecided. As the lead spokesperson for the Save-the-Dome PAC, Dene Hofheinz, mentioned, that this only means 1/4 currently undecided voters need to be convinced, somewhat good odds.

The poll’s full demographic results have yet to be released, though. KHOU notes that, unlike previous polls and snapshots on the matter, younger people were more open to the idea than older voters. The stark differences that do remain, however, are that Whites & Hispanics are far more supportive than African-Americans and that those optimistic about the city’s future are more supportive than those pessimistic. I cannot speak in any more than those generalities, as I do not have the detailed information.

The poll is a welcomed development for me. I have long been a tad bit suspicious of the referendum as something that was doomed to fail, thus ushering in the demise of the eighth wonder of the world. This, however, gives me a slight amount of hope.

In re Runoff election dates

The Houston Chronicle reports that a City Council committee, the Elections Committee, discussed a proposal to move election day in runoff elections to a Tuesday, and not the current system of Saturday election dates. This would not affect the 2013 election dates.

Early voting includes two days of weekend voting, with some pretty generous hours. In a wonderful irony regarding voter suppression, Texas actually has pretty great laws involving early votes. Massachusetts, by comparison, has no early voting, and absolutely no attempts are made to synchronize elections (e.g., there is a congressional special election in October three weeks before a regularly scheduled municipal election). However, one of the highlights of our runoff election system has been a Saturday election.

This is because, even though it is possible to otherwise vote on a weekend, some people really, really enjoy voting on election day. There is something special to them about being able to walk down the road and interact with everyone in the community. It is significantly easier to do this on a Saturday than on a Tuesday.

The Chronicle article notes that, because most voting locations (such as schools) are closed on Saturdays, the City must reimburse these locations for keeping the building open. David Feldman, the City Attorney, makes the note that shifting the election day could save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Additionally, last night’s poll also evidently measured support for this possible changes. 56% of respondents favored this change, and the number rose to 71% when the monetary effects were brought into the question.

Bob Stein of Rice, interviewed by both the City Council and the Chronicle, noted that this could depress voter turnout, most likely because of the aforementioned reasons.

The meeting showed rare harmony between the Parker administration and its biggest critic, Vice-Mayor Pro Tem C.O. Bradford. Feldman, assuming he is speaking on behalf of Parker, and Bradford were the proposals biggest backers, while Melissa Noriega and Mike Laster, two of the Council’s more liberal members, were far more opposed.

For what it is worth, I believe that any proposal like this that sacrifices voter turnout for a reduction of expenses is a repugnant action on the part of any Democrat. I agree that these “hundreds of thousands of dollars” spent is a problem, but perhaps it would be better to solve the source of the problem rather than assuaging its demands. It is absurd that HISD would charge for these elections, especially since the Board of Trustees holds concurrent elections. The real solution to this problem would be a negotiation between the City of Houston, HISD and Harris County that drastically lowers the amount paid for use the election facilities.

Devon Anderson appointed D.A.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Governor Perry has appointed Devon Anderson, former Judge and widow of previous District Attorney Mike Anderson, has been appointed the new District Attorney of Harris County.

Yesterday, Jared Woodfill (Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party) wrote an open letter to the Governor recommending Devon Anderson (hereafter, “Anderson”) to the post. Anderson has a longtime prosecutor over the years, and served as a Judge in a Criminal District Court for one four-year term.

My colleague David Jennings at Big Jolly Politics has some words to say on this topic earlier today, back before Governor Perry made the official appointment. Jennings, who reminded everyone that Woodfill actually supported Pat Lykos (Mike Anderson’s primary opponent last year), published an open resolution from the Harris County Republican Party’s Executive Committee that showed they definitively took no stance on who should be appointed by the Governor. I will give him credit for pointing at the Chronicle article yesterday, which insinuated the “Harris GOP” was behind the push, was somewhat misleading. It was Woodfill in an individual capacity, not on behalf of the larger party.

This, however, begs the question of what about Anderson, a former Republican officeholder, is so offensive to the Republican establishment. Jennings insinuates that Anderson is pro-choice, which I have no information on.

I did not have much of a preference on the new District Attorney, given that all of them were Republicans. In fact, I was completely unaware of the candidates other than Belinda Hill until yesterday. I suppose I would have preferred one of the Lykos allies such as Rachel Palmer (she got exonerated today, by the way) in the office, but it is all a moot point now.

I assume Anderson will be running for the remainder of the term in 2014, so the Democrats need to find a new candidate. The Democrats fell on their sword last year when it came to selecting a nominee, and yet that nominee received 48% of the vote. Just think what we could do if someone who wasn’t a maladjusted perennial candidate had been nominated?

Texpatriate’s Questions for Richard Nguyen

Editorial note: This is the thirtieth in our series of electronic interviews with City Council, City Controller and Mayoral candidates. We have sent 10 questions based on seven different templates: (1) incumbent City Council, (2) challenger City Council, (3) open seat City Council, (4) challenger Controller, (5) incumbent Controller, (6) challenger Mayoral and (7) incumbent Mayoral. The following are verbatim copies of the questions sent out and the answers received.

Campaign Photo

Richard Nguyen, Candidate for the Houston City Council District F

Texpatriate: What is your name?
RN: My name is Richard Nguyen. I am running for the District F Councilmember position.

T: What is your current occupation?
RN: I am an employee of the City of Houston, Solid Waste Management Department, Combustible Waste Storage Permitting and Inspection.

T: Have you run for or held public office before?
RN: No, this is my first attempt.

T: What is your political affiliation? We understand that City Council elections are nonpartisan, but this is a point many voters find important. If you are not comfortable currently identifying with a political party, what was the last Political Party’s primary election you voted in (a matter of public record)?
RN: It is true that City Council elections are nonpartisan.  However, I voted with the Republican Party because I believe strongly in the United States Constitutions.

T: Typically, this board will defer to incumbents unless we are convinced the incumbent has failed in some way. Do you believe the incumbent has failed at her or his job? If so, why?
RN: The incumbent has poorly represented District F.  The district is underserved.  However, the incumbent took credits for Capital Improvement Projects that were in progress before he took office.  Instead of representing the constituents in City Hall, the incumbent has been too busy either suing someone or defending himself in court.  He closed his door on his constituents and forgot why he was placed in office.

T: Why are you specifically running against this incumbent?
RN: District F does not need a Councilmember who is self serving.  District F needs a Councilman who serves EVERYBODY.

T: What do you hope to get out of serving on the City Council?
RN: Since I was young, I have always been taught that you must learn to serve in order to be a good citizen.  I want nothing more for me than to be a good citizen and give back to the community that I call home.

T: What is an ordinance you would introduce in your next term?
RN: One of my pet peeves is to see our neighborhoods trashed with unused furniture and appliances.  I would like to see our city become of the cleanest places to live in.  We have scheduled trash pick ups that we must adhere by.  We have depositories that our citizens can use to dispose items they no longer need at no cost.  We cannot just dump our trash anywhere we please.  Perhaps an ordinance that further deter illegal dumping and encourage the use of our city facilities, or an incentive for clean ups is needed to keep our city sparkling.

T: Obviously, an officeholder strives to maintain a diverse core constituency and political base, but all candidates have interest groups they have been traditionally strong with and traditionally weak with, respectively. For you, what would be one example of each type of group?
RN: Surprisingly, I have been weak with the Asian groups, perhaps because I have mistakenly considered them the traditionally “Model Minorities” and that they do not need more attention than other groups.  However, as an officeholder, especially one who represents the “International District” (District F), I will be representing the most diverse district in the city.  I will be striving for equal representation in every ethnicity, groups, or base.

T: What has been the most important thing you have learned in your campaign?
RN: Humility wins over hubris.  Honor your voters, not hustle them.  By surrounding myself with sincerity, not sycophants, I have received more affection from my supporters.  Although I have little money to run this campaign; I make up for that with motivation.  I am driven by compassion and when a decision has to be made between head and heart, I chose to not split the two.  Go with conviction.

Texpatriate endorses in At-large position #1

Although Councilmember Costello failed to disclose his partisan affiliation in his interview with this board, it is a well-known fact that he is a registered Republican. The Harris County Republican Party claims him as one of their own, citing his membership in a “Republican Leadership Council.” The Harris County Democratic Party notes that Costello has voted without fail in the three most recent Republican primary elections.

In his interview with this board, Costello cited the non-partisan nature of the City Council as his reason to conceal partisan affiliation. While Costello is absolutely correct in that the Houston City Council is a non-partisan institution, the excuse is rarely valid as officeholders continue to tow the party line on most  city issues. Fortunately, Costello has proved to be a great exception to that rule.

In his first term in office, Costello became a tremendous ally of the Mayor, as the two worked together for a solution to the city’s drainage issues. Proposition 1, now known pejoratively by some as the “drainage tax,” was passed by City voters in November of 2010. The bill was incredibly unpopular among Republicans, leading some to speculate it was the reason for Councilmember Brenda Stardig’s defeat in the following election. Costello, for his part, saw a populist challenger in the next election strongly against the drainage measure.

This board, however, is supportive of the drainage measure and saw the push by Costello as evidence of the Councilmember’s lurch to the left. In his second term, this board witnessed the realignment continue as Costello became a key partner of Parker’s administration, leading the powerful City Council Committee on the Budget. Costello has gone on to receive support from many liberal organizations, including the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats and Planned Parenthood, indicating a progressive stance on both LGBT rights and abortion.

The only opponent Councilmember Costello has this election is Michael “Griff” Griffin. This board remembers Griffin as a perennial candidate, now on his eleventh election, who has never run a serious campaign. Given that Mr Griffin lacks a website, we are not inclined to take his candidacy especially seriously.

This board, therefore, endorses Stephen Costello for another term on the Houston City Council, At-large position #1.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey & Noah M. Horwitz of Boston and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans.

KHOU releases Mayoral poll

KHOU has released a poll on the Mayoral election, the first of the season. The date of the poll, before the end of September, is earlier than any equivalent municipal poll from 2009.

The results of the poll have yet to be released in longform, Accordingly, I do not have much raw data to analyze along the lines of the racial, demographic or partisan trends of the voters questioned, now how likely they were to vote. The poll surveyed exactly 424, however, and the margin of error was 4.76%.

From the preliminary information, we see that the results go something like this:

Annise Parker 34%
Ben Hall 14%

Eric Dick 2%
Derek Jenkins 1%
Michael Fitzsimmons 1%
Keryl Douglas <1%
Charyl Drab <1%

Don Cook <1%
Victoria Lane <1%
Undecided 48%

For what it is worth, my gut tells me most of the “undecided” voters won’t bother to vote at all. If one were to, say, assume 3/4 of those roughly 204 people stay home, the results are somewhat different:

Annise Parker 53%
Ben Hall 22%
Eric Dick 3%
Derek Jenkins 1%
Michael Fitzsimmons 1%

Keryl Douglas 1%
Charyl Drab <1%
Don Cook <1%
Victoria Lane <1%
Undecided 19%

The Houston Chronicle has significantly more info on this topic, including an interview with Mark Jones at Rice. Both the Parker campaign and the Hall campaign released statements on the polls, wherein both declared victory. Sue Davis, representing Parker, declared:

“As the voters learn more about Mr. Hall, I think his numbers are not going to improve that much. Annise Parker is well-liked by Houstonians and voters believe the city is moving in the right direction under her leadership. We are confident she will beat Mr. Hall handily.”

Julia Smekalina, representing Hall’s campaign, wasted no time in responding to the poll herself. They declared victory, saying in no uncertain terms that the campaign believed that Parker had been harshly repudiated by the voters:

“These numbers show what we hear every day – Ms. Parker’s tenure has been repudiated by the people of Houston and she will not be reelected as the next Mayor. The slim margin that got her elected last cycle has evaporated and it is clear that Houstonians are searching for new leadership to set the city on track.

As Houstonians are beginning to see the vision Ben Hall has set forth, they are rallying behind his ideas for the city’s future. The grassroots momentum that we see supporting Ben’s candidacy is growing and will secure his election as Mayor.”

Unfortunately for Hall’s team, the record does not support this view. While one could certainly make the argument that Parker herself was tepidly received by voters in the poll, her Mayoralty itself received high marks throughout the city. 56% of voters believed “Houston’s economy will get better in the next 2-3 years,” 57% approved of Parker’s job as Mayor and a huge 62% believed Houston is “on the right track.”

One of the things that REALLY stood out to me was Dick’s nonperformance. Even Roy Morales, another notable token Republican candidate in a field full of Democrats trying to attract the conservative vote, received 20% of the vote in 2009. Many of those undecided voters are Republicans still choosing between Hall & Dick. In fact, the tiny insights into the poll’s demographic background showed that more Republicans were undecided than the average, whereas fewer African-Americans were undecided.

I still think Parker’s 20 point lead is much more of an advantage to her than the incredibly high “undecided” rate is to Hall. A runoff is certainly possible, and I think there is a greater-than-50% probability of one at the end of the day, but there is still an absolutely likely scenario that Parker can wrap everything up on November 5th.

Lastly, for what it is worth, if 2009 is any indication, KHOU has a history with some untrustworthy polls. That year, the channel showed Peter Brown with a plurality approximately one week before Election Day, ten points ahead of being disqualified from the runoff. That, of course, did not happen.