Ben Hall’s TV ad

Here it is, 60 seconds in all. Hall starts out by introducing himself before descending into a more portentous conclusion by broadly describing the woes of the City and giving a chilling ultimatum to Mayor Parker of “we’ll talk soon.” But don’t take my word for it, watch video or just read the transcript below:

“I’m Ben Hall. a poor country boy who is surprised and fascinated by the gifts God has given me, because I clearly don’t deserve them. I finished college in three years because I thought I’d run out of money. I finished the seminary and Ph.D. program at Duke University and then I got my law degree at Harvard — oh and $130,000 in debt. Then I came to Oz: Houston. I’d never seen a more beautiful city. I practiced law here at Vinson & Elinks, then Mayor Bob Lanier made me Houston City Attorney, and that’s when I saw the real opportunities we had to keep this a robust and magical place to live. But we have some serious economic challenges coming, and we need to prepare for them. But we can’t get there by hiding the truth, Mayor Parker. We’ll talk soon.”

First of all, I don’t like the whole “I don’t deserve them” line. Dr Hall is a lot of things, but humble is not one of them. This isn’t a fault in and of itself, as most politicians tend to have large egos. But do not pretend you are something you’re not, it rubs me the wrong way. Next, the Oz line was painfully corny.

All of these errors in the advertisement, though, are venial offenses. It is a good quality video that will be sure to give him some much needed publicity, something he desperately needs.

However, if I were in Dr Hall’s campaign, I would have done things a little bit different. He made a mistake by refusing to choose what type of advertisement he wanted to play: an introduction or an attack ad. The introductory segment of his video was stellar. As I have noted before, Ben Hall’s origins and story as possibly his greatest asset in a campaign. At first, I thought the entire video would just be a friendly introduction, like Gene Locke’s first video from 2009. However, as I noted above, Hall becomes quite confrontational near the end of the video.

Hall made a huge mistake in simply foreshadowing the possible debate in the future. Especially in a low interest election like a non-open Mayoral election, far fewer people will specifically go out of their ways to watch a debate (even a televised one), than simply find one’s self stumbling across a Ben Hall for Mayor ad either on television or YouTube.

The Houston Chronicle also reported some further details on the development. Mike Morris specifically asked Hall’s campaign what she is allegedly concealing, while also asking Parker’s campaign for comment. He got two answers:

Hall campaign spokesman Mark Sanders responded with the following list: “1. Parker has no forward looking vision for closing Houston’s budget gaps; 2. We cannot continue to balance city budgets by forcing higher fees on Houston’s businesses; 3. New business requires new infrastructure. We can’t keep putting Band-Aids on an aging and outdated system; 4. Our looming pension liabilities are real. What is Parker doing to address them before it is too late?”

Parker campaign spokeswoman Sue Davis adding her own parting shot, referencing Hall’s previous residency in Piney Point Village: “Mr. Hall has not lived or voted in Houston for 11 years. When Houston was hurting in the recession, Hall offered no vision, no ideas and no leadership. When things got tough, Mayor Parker changed the way our city does business, and now we’re creating more jobs than anywhere in America. So now that things are good, Ben Hall says he wants to be mayor of our city. He just didn’t want to live in it.”

Both very broad comments with few-to-no specific statements. For what it is worth, this video just hit YouTube a few hours ago with the title of “TV AD,” and I have not exactly seen it on the airwaves, nor heard of anyone who has. I will update when I can confirm that. Further, I wonder when this means Parker will go on television?

UPDATE: Per a comment from the esteemed Noel Freeman, I have heard that the commercial is indeed makes rounds on the airwaves.

Six Debates


Evidently, the Ben Hall campaign sent out a press release (please see image) this morning challenging Mayor Parker to six –yes, I said SIX– debates between Labor Day and Election Day. The exact text of the announcement goes as follows:

The Honorable Annise Parker
Mayor of Houston
901Bagby Street
Houston, TX 77002

Dear Mayor Parker,

I am writing to propose that you and I share our contrasting ideas and vision for the
future of this great city through a series of debates.

Three debates should be held after Labor Day but prior to the start of early voting
and three additional debates after the start of early voting and before our November
election. Too much is at stake for us not to share our plans for Houston with her
citizens, and I hope you agree promptly to debating six times this fall.

I have instructed my staff to contact your campaign staff to begin discussions on the

Please accept this invitation.

Ben Hall

I have a few comments on this. First, it makes absolutely no sense to have three debates during Early Voting. That is literally one of the worst ideas I have heard from the Hall campaign this year, and that is saying something. Over half of regular voters cast their ballots before Election Day, so including half of the debates during that time is a bad idea.

Second, and perhaps this is just my own personal preference, but I am disappointed in the no-debates-until-after-Labor-Day suggestion by Hall’s team. I leave for Boston on August 27th, and won’t be back until after the Runoff Election. However, I do tend to recall an August debate in 2009. That splits up the time a little more efficiently.  Cramming six debates into eight weeks reaches a point of diminishing returns.

Finally, the whole thing smells. Not the Texas Senate smell, but you get the point. I recall something similar back in 2008, when John McCain challenged Barack Obama to 10 town hall debates. The debates, of course, never happened, but there was one town-hall style debate between McCain & Obama. As I recall, Obama wiped the floor with McCain in that debate, as the old opponent had nothing memorable to say, with one key exception.

But the main point is that McCain was desperate, and so he blurted out this unrealistic goal of myriad debates, knowing Obama would have no choice but to rebuff his offer. For the record, McCain made the offer in June, not the last day of July. Ben Hall could be employing a similar tactic here.

I am looking forward to the Mayoral debates, though–although I would much prefer three debates: 1 in August, 1 in September and 1 in October. Parker has never been an especially adept speaker or talented debater. Ben Hall, on the other hand, is a somewhat good debater. I supported Gene Locke in 2009, based in large part, to his debate performance. In that election, however, all three candidates were an equal footing when it came to other issues. In 2013, that is simply not the case between Hall and Parker.

One other major point is who will be included within this debate. The 2009 debates included Brown, Locke, Morales and Parker. In that election, only three other candidates existed, and all of them were far fringe. It is arguable that Eric Dick, Keryl Douglas and Don Cook should be included in these debates.

Texas Leftist has more.

Parker endorsed by AFL-CIO

From another one of those Press Releases that somehow doesn’t find its way into my inbox:

Annise Parker has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO. The labor organization lauded Parker for not being too austere with city services and for helping the Middle Class. With the disappearance of labor support, the paths to victory for Hall keep getting smaller and smaller.

I believe the time has come and gone for a competent Republican to run for this office. Any GOP candidate that would enter over the summer would probably only put up token opposition (a TJ Huntley of sorts). Accordingly, we are going to have to start discussing the reality of an election with only two major candidates. Such an election could easily be solved in November if the fringe candidates don’t take away too many votes. Hall still has a chance, but he would have to do quite a few things first.

The Mayoral election of 1991 brought the idea that Mayors would have to be “moderate” in order to win the election. This was allegedly evident by Bob Lanier’s defeat of Kathy Whitmire after so many years in office. Throughout the 90s and most of the 00s, Houston retained an identity as a broadly centre-left city, which would still elect some real conservatives to citywide positions (Michael Berry and Shelly Sekula-Gibbs, to name a few). Accordingly, Lee Brown faced some excruciatingly tough and close elections, and Bill White retained the identity of Lanier’s moderation.

I posted a while back about why Parker seemed to be imitating Brown, but I think I was a tad mistaken in that assertion. The demographics and politics of Houston have significantly changed then. Conservatives can only win citywide in three very distinct possibilities:

The first is that they are such a RINO that nobody even knows or can tell they are Conservative. This was my experience with Stephen Costello. I wasn’t very in 2009 because of his political affiliation, but by 2011, I didn’t really care what letter he chose to put next to his name.

The second is that the candidate’s opponent is either incompetent or horribly unpopular (or both). Jack Christie is the perfect example of this.

Last but not least, if the Republican/Conservative is just so then there is still a chance of victory. This is what I call the “Kubosh Coalition.” Michael Kubosh has a very god chance in November, mainly because of all of the support he may garner from the African-American community. Now, the vast majority of Houston Conservatives can’t say the same, so this is a very special occurrence.

Hall isn’t a Conservative by any means, but the consensus is that he will have to masquerade as one if he wants to win. White Progressives aren’t going to vote for him when they like the incumbent. With Labor now out of the question, Hall has to become a “Kubosh Conservative” if he wants to win.

Hall lists his supporters

Perhaps I missed this, but it is news to me that Ben Hall now has a gigantic list of his supporters on his website. Many of these names stood out to me. I have taken the liberty of creating a Wikipedia page for this year’s mayoral election, which lists most of this info, but I would like to go over some of the more surprising supporters.

It is no surprise that Dr. Hall would receive the bulk of his politician endorsements from the African-American community, but it did catch me off guard how pervasive his support was. There were rank-and-file politicos like Jarvis Johnson and Carol Mims Galloway who were listed, which is almost expected. However, the three African-American politicians who were on the list, and three who were off the list, which I would like to talk about a little bit. C.O. Bradford, Lee Brown and Al Green were all listed as supporters of Dr. Hall’s candidacy. However, Dwight Boykins, Ronald Green and Sheila Jackson Lee are all conspicuously absent.

Now, Bradford did support Parker in 2009, but got into a somewhat high profile feud with her before the 2011 elections, during which rumors actually floated about him challenging the Mayor in the election. I cannot remember if he ever came around to Parker’s candidacy in 2011 after nobody feasible ran against her, but it makes some sense that he would immediately jump on the bandwagon to endorse Parker’s opponent. Ronald Green, on the other hand, never really had a rocky spell with Parker, and, by all accounts, the two still get along pretty well. However, Ronald Green and Bradford have something in common: they both have higher ambitions. Personally, the first time I met both of them, I felt a very strong inkling that they wanted to be the Mayor, sort of like when one meets the Castro brothers, you know they want to be Governor/Senator/President. Accordingly, I find it interesting that Bradford would endorse Hall, who will probably lose, if he might be interested in running in 2015.

Second, I find it very intriguing that Dwight Boykins,who is running for the City Council with some very high profile support, is not listed among Hall’s supporters, but his honorary campaign treasurer, Lee Brown, is. For that matter, some of Boykin’s supporters, like Borris Miles, have also stayed out of the race. I am going to assume it has something with the fact that as someone who is probably getting elected, Boykins won’t want to be on the Mayor’s bad side.

Third, Al Green is a public supporter, while Sheila Jackson Lee is not. Green, if you might remember, was the one who made Hall stand down and endorse Locke back in 2009. I guess Green felt obligated to help Hall this time around. I suppose that Jackson Lee is more tepid to support Hall as some of her former political opponents (e.g., Jarvis Johnson and Craig Washington) are in Hall’s column.

Another point I would like to make is that Bob Lanier is quoted and prominently featured on Hall’s website, as providing a testimonial that reads “He is exactly what Houston needs at this time.” However, Lanier is not mentioned among Hall’s official list of supporters, and the quote isn’t dated, leading me to think that, maybe, he said this back in 2009.

Finally, I was surprised by how many people in the Jewish community support Hall. Alan Rosen, the recent Constable for Precinct 1, and Alvin Zimmerman, his campaign strategist, aren’t really surprises, but I saw a few names of the parents of people I went to Hebrew School with (PLEASE NOTE: The “Hurwitz”s that endorsed Hall are not related to me, I have an “o” in my last name).

Just as an aside and a blast from the past, Rod Paige, Bush’s 1st term Secretary of Education, is listed as a supporters. Also, someone is listed with the name “Drayton McClane,” which may or may not be a typo for Drayton McLane, as in the former Astros owner.

Parker doesn’t have a supporters page, but I assume it will be a priority now. Can’t wait to see who I find on her list!

Bill Frazer to run against Ronald Green

Welp, Controller Green won’t get the free ride this year he got in 2011. Bill Frazer, a Republican CPA, has officially thrown his hat into the ring for City Controller. Big Jolly breaks the news, and informs me there is a press release (why I am never included in these things, I’ll never know).

Why not zoidberg? - sending out press releases? why not horwitz?

Anyways, Frazer, in an extended interview with Big Jolly, lambasted Ronald Green and everything he stands for in loquacious fashion. I’m looking forward to the race, personally, because I believe Green to be quite a formidable opponent. Remember, he’s the lone Democrat who took 36% in November, and somehow managed to win the runoff. Green is in the unique position to be poised to ride both Parker and Hall’s coattails. He both appeals to the African-African community, and is satisfactorily supported by Parker’s middle-class white intelligentsia base. Either way, he’s got an advantage going into this race, that is, unless he @%&#s up again. No word on what this means for Don Sumner’s hypothetical campaign.


Houston City Council moves to amend rules of expulsion

The City Council took the unilateral step to re-engineer the steps for reprimanding and expelling members, taking the Mayor out of the equation and replacing it with some convoluted panel or what not. The move was passed by all those present, those not present only including the esteemed Councilmember Helena Brown. Brown has seen her fair share of issues in the nine months she has served so far, including allegedly tampering with her staff’s timecards (which I think is a felony), and wasting city money on an extraneous trip to Asia. Councilmember Brown let out a harshly worded press release in response to this measure, which is all but aimed towards her.

Brown condemned the measure as “dirty crony politics” and tantamount to making the Council the “judge, jury, and executioner”. Although I think she should be worried about the REAL executioner, the ballot box. With former Councilmember Brenda Stardig publicly musing and Amy Peck all in, Brown’s prospects for the future do not look great.

Now, I think it is time to go on one of my famous rants. I really do not like Helena Brown, and she does not belong in government. I’ve never understood why ultra-conservatives would ever run for government positions if they hate the government so much. “I need to get inside the beast to kill it”…yeah that sounds like what the one nerd friend who gets tapped to join a final club says to the other one. Ayn Rand would never in a million years have run for elected office, so why do all those self-described disciples of hers do? But this isn’t even about Rand or objectivism, it is about Brown.

2009 was my first year at City Hall, and I was assigned to work with people from District A, which at that time was still Toni Lawrence’s. Like any good liberal, I supported Lane Lewis all the way through the runoff and was somewhat disappointed at Stardig’s election. But I am a professional so I gave an open mind to the new Councilmember/my new boss and was pleasantly surprised. Stardig is what a Republican SHOULD be: conservative but not afraid of moderation or compromise. Alas, the idiots have taken over the asylum and Stardig lost re-election in her uber-conservative district to Brown. Brown ran on a take-no-prisoners, scorched earth approach to politics. Luckily, I don’t think it is going to last.