Texpatriate endorses in District A runoff

When this board first examined District A in October, we split 2-2 on who would be the best choice in the election for the voters and constituents of the district. What we were unanimous on, however, was that Councilmember Helena Brown needed to be replaced. Accordingly, this board endorses Brenda Stardig for District A.

As we wrote last month, District A holds a special place in our hearts, as a majority of Texpatriate‘s contributors have, at one time, represented the area on the Houston Mayor’s Youth Council. During this time, we saw the District in the capable and competent hands of then-Councilmember Brenda Stardig, who held the post from 2010 to 2012.

Click here to read the entire endorsement!

2013 results and analysis

We’re working on trying to abridge the hours and hours of livestreamed Texpatriate election return coverage into about 20 minutes of the top hits. Yesterday, our all-time view record was demolished as thousands of people appeared to come to our website to read up on candidates before they voted. Additionally, Richard Nguyen, the victor in District F, had little impact on the internet besides his interview with Texpatriate.

First and foremost, Mayor Annise Parker was decisively re-elected to a third and final term as Mayor of Houston. She cruised to over 57% of the vote, far outpacing the amount of the vote she received in 2011. Meanwhile, Controller Ronald Green also was re-elected, albeit by a much smaller margin. The only surprises amongst City Council races were in At-large 3 and District F, respectively. Otherwise, most incumbents cruised to re-election.

All nine Statewide propositions passed, as did Harris County Proposition 1 (the joint processing center/jail). The Astrodome referendum, however, did not pass, as the iconic 8th Wonder of the World now looks condemned to demolition.

Click here to see full results and read more!

Election Watch Parties

Texpatriate will be offering comprehensive election night coverage tomorrow evening. Noah M. Horwitz will begin the evening at 5:30 (Houston time), live from Boston, offering color commentary and predictions for the final 90 minutes of Election Day. At the conclusion of voting, he will be joined by George Bailey to begin a full program, where the two will switch off between reading results and analyzing numbers. Texpatriate will be calling races and projecting victories in certain races before all votes will be counted.

Bailey & Horwitz will be joined in intermittent commentary throughout the proceedings by Andrew Scott Romo in New Orleans and Olivia Arena in Austin. Additionally, Texpatriate‘s Staff Writer Sophia Arena will be livestreaming from Annise Parker’s watch party in Downtown Houston.

We will provide a link to this livestream coverage on our website. Starting tomorrow afternoon, the first link on texpate.com should be an embedded video. Pre-coverage starts at 5:30, full program begins at 7:00 and the full program will end no later than 11:00. If there are any races still undecided at that time, Horwitz will stay on air as long as they are counting votes.

Click here to read about Candidates’ watch parties!

Brown and Hall agree on taxes

The Houston Chronicle reports on a futile effort by a City Councilmember, Helena Brown, to continue her one-person crusade against the Government. This is a typical Wednesday at City Hall, except to note the strange ally Brown garnered today.

As the council was set to approve the property tax rates for the year at today’s meeting, Councilmember Brown used a strange set of numbers to note that, as opposed to City data showing a 6% “revenue increase,” the Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD) notes the number is closer to 10.5%. It is important to note that a “revenue increase” just means that more money is being collected, not that the percentages have increased. This is actually, in some ways, a good sign, as it shows that property values have recovered from the economic downturn.

Councilmember Brown then proposed two amendments, one to decrease the property tax by two cents, and one to decrease it by one cent. Both measures failed, as the rest of the Council voted in unanimity against Councilmember Brown. Very conservative individuals such as Councilmember Christie, Martin and Pennington voted in favor of the measure. Accordingly, it would be unwise to conflate this with a normal left-vs-right measure.

To read about Brown’s unlikely ally, click here!

Texpatriate endorses in District A

In a truly fortuitous occurrence, three members of Texpatriate have served as the representative of District A on the Houston Mayor’s Youth Council over the years, despite the fact that none of us lived within the District (though, to be fair, two of us lived in the district before the 2011 redistricting). This adopted home, therefore, has led this board to find a special interest within the District.

Most notably, District A is on pace to host its third consecutive runoff election, a distinction no other District in recent memory has been able to do. After serving the district well for six years, the longtime Councilmember, Toni Lawrence, became term limited before the 2009 election.

That election hosted a bitterly-fought contest between Brenda Stardig, a Republican, and Lane Lewis, a Democrat. Stardig ultimately won out in the very Conservative district. She served, however, as a pragmatic and compromising Councilmember, often aligning herself with the Mayor. Most notably, she supported the Mayor’s drainage tax. In a season riddled with Tea Party primary challenges, Councilmember Stardig was defeated for re-election in 2011 by Helena Brown, an ultraconservative activist.

To find out who we endorse, read more below the jump!

State of the Municipal Races

Daily Commentary has a somewhat exhaustive list of municipal candidates, but I felt like I needed to do the due diligence myself. Accordingly, this morning, after I left the Federal Courthouse for the day, I walked across the street to City Hall and visited Anna Russell’s office to see the Campaign Treasurer files for myself. Luckily I got out of both buildings before things went to hell. But you can watch the 6 o’clock news about all that. Anyways, I want to list the candidates and discuss each of the candidates’ financial records.

Mayor
First up, the two new candidates for Mayor. Keryl Douglas, the homophobic, bigoted unsuccessful candidate in last year’s campaign for Harris County Democratic Party Chair, has thrown her hat into the ring.  Douglas’ website is still a shell, containing nothing about the infamous Douglas Plan or her supporters. Like Eric Dick’s entrance into this race, I do not think this is really going to affect Parker’s chances. Douglas is just going to turn votes away from Ben Hall, because none of the Parker’s voters would go for the homophobe. Pardon my tone, but I will be pulling no punches against candidates for Mayor on this issue.

The other new candidate for Mayor is Victoria Lane. I found a telephone number on her from the treasurer form, but no website and no hits from I Googled her name.

The self-proclaimed Green Party candidate, Don Cook. Cook raised a little more than $10k, of which a negligible amount is still on hand. The self-proclaimed Socialist Worker, Michael Fitzsimmons, did not submit a form. I guess private campaign donations are sort of anathema to the glorious proletariat revolution, or what not. The self-proclaimed Republican, Eric Dick, did not file a form delineating his donations. He did, however, have about $11k in expenses. Victoria Lane raised about $4k.

Annise Parker’s campaign, meanwhile, raised a total of $2.2M, and only spent a fraction of that amount. But the real story is Ben Hall’s farce of a campaign. Hall raised a measly $300k or so, going significantly in the red, including a $1.5M loan. This is a far cry from his claims to be raising so much money. Oh well.

Controller
No new candidates for this race. Still a classic one-on-one fight between Green and Frazer. In this race, Green has raised about $70k, with most of it still on hand. Frazer, a Republican CPA, raised about $50k and spent close to 80% of the total.

AL1
Costello is still unopposed, as of now. The Councilmember raised a whopping $156k. Perhaps he has higher ambitions. Speaking of Costello, what the heck is his political affiliation nowadays? Once upon a time, I remember thinking he was a Republican, but between his common alignment with the Mayor and liberal takes on social issues (pro-choice and pro-gay marriage), I do not think the GOP would ever support his candidacy in this State.

AL2
Councilmember Burks has three opponents: David Robinson, Trebor Gordon and Carolyn Evans-Shabazz. Burks, for his part, raised $41K and only spent a fraction of it. Robinson raised over $80k, but, as Dos Centavos points out, he probably has to retire some old campaign debt. Accordingly, he only has about $50k fit for spending. Still more than the incumbent.

Trebor Gordon is not a name I had heard in connection with this race before. He has a website as http://www.treborgordon.com/ and is an avowed Republican. It will be interesting to see what he does. The other name is Carolyn Evans-Shabbaz. A cursory Facebook search reveals a deep dissatisfaction with the Trayvon Martin case and close frienship with Assata-Nicole Richards, both tell-tale signs of a Democrat. Gordon raised about $1500, while Evans-Shabbaz did not submit a return.

AL3
Here comes the mess.

First up is Michael Kubosh, who raised over $100k ($108k, to be exact). Right next to this total is Rogene Calvert, who raised $84k and retained most the cash.

Roland Chavez raised about $27k, and only spent a couple thousand. Chris Carmona is completely destitute. Roy Morales raised $37k and spent $35k of that. This is surprising, and not just because Dos Centavos originally called him broke as well. Morales did not run for anything in 2011 or 2012. That’s like a new record for him or something.

Jenifer Pool, who seemed to have filed late, raised $34k and spent most of the total. Al Edwards, who still in unofficially officially in the AL3, did not file a return.

AL4
Bradford, presumably running for re-election, raised $54k with most of it still in the bank.

AL5
Jack Christie raised a whopping $95k, with over 2/3 still on hand. Even worse, he has not a single opponent. Personally, I think Robinson should run against Christie. Sure, Burks is a little odd and sometimes frustrates progressives, but Christie is legitimately a Conservative Republican who goes on anti-vaccine rants.

Once upon a time, I had heard of quite a few possible candidates for this race, from former State Reps, former City Councilmembers, activists to lawyers. I think I even read my father’s name mentioned for this one. Alas, no one will step up. I’d put my own name on the ballot if push comes to shove, but I feel there will be at least token opposition.

District A
This race really boils down to a third-person race between the incumbent, Helena Brown, the former one-term Councilmember, Brenda Stardig, and Amy Peck.  Ron Hale, Mike Knox and Catarina Cron are the other candidates I have hard from in this race. This is still no Democrat in the race.

Brown raised about $67k, spending a little under half of the total. Stardig, meanwhile, did not report raising any money. Peck  raised a pitiful $4k. In this regard, it looks like the incumbent may not have that hard of a time after all.

Ron Hale picked up $2.5k, while Knox took in a whopping $41k. Cron did not submit a report.

District B
The incumbent, Jerry Davis, will be facing some opposition next year within his own party. For his part, he raised about $53k and spent a negligible amount.

He has two declared opponents: Joe Joseph & Katherine Blueford-Daniels. I can’t really find anything on the former candidate, but Blueford-Daniels does come up with a few searches. She is being supported predominantly by Carol Mims Galloway, the former Councilmember and School Board member in that district and NAACP leader. This, of course, begs the question of how much other support Blueford-Daniels has.

Joseph did not file a return, but Blueford-Daniels did. However, she only raised $5k.

District C
Ellen Cohen could very possibly draw some opponents, including Brian Cweren, her biggest 2011 opponent. However, the only other candidate who has filed a campaign treasurer or campaign report is Pete Sosa. For the life of me, I cannot find a Facebook page or other meaningful internet footprint.

Cohen raised $128k, with most of it still on hand. Sosa did not file any sort of report.

District D
The District D race might actually have more people in it than the AL3 one. Dwight Boykins, who is backed by much of the old guard political establishment including Mayor Brown, raised $150k with over $100k left unspent.

There are a few other well-known candidates, Assata-Nicole Richards and Georgia Provost. The former raised $37k with half on hand, while the latter raised $21k with little on hand.

Onto the new candidates, the first is Kirk White. White has a Facebook page for his campaign, but it doesn’t go into very much detail about anything. I have no idea if he’s a Democrat in the Democratic district, or not. He filed a report of less than $1k in contributions.

Then there is a Keith Caldwell. Caldwell is an activist in the Democratic Party, serving positions at both the Precinct and Senate District Level. He has a website and big social media presence already. His campaign, however, raised a measly $2.75k with full expenses.

Travis McGee, the past Sunnyside Civic Group President, has also been conducting a campaign. He’s raised nearly $5k and spent about all of it.

Not filing reports but registered as candidates anyways are Anthony Robinson, Larry McKinzie and Lana Edwards. Robinson just has a shell of a website. Though his Facebook page is more active and suggests he was involved in the big Trayvon Martin protests yesterday. I guess it is safe to assume he is a Democrat.

McKinzie, who now has a website, previously ran against Adams in 2009. Another Democrat.

Edwards has a little shell thing here, but I can’t figure out much else.

District E
At this point I think Councilmember Martin is just running unopposed. He has raised $53k with $23k on hand.

District F
Likewise, Councilmember Hoang has yet to draw any opposition. He raised just $13k with just $11k on hand.

District G
Councilmember Pennington is not unopposed, however. Pennington raised a very impressive $189k for his campaign, so it will probably not be a credible threat.

I had been wondering if Clyde Bryan would make another run for his seat, again with the bandit signs and such. He is not, Bryan will be working on Dick’s campaign. But a candidate named Brian Taef is running. I could not find any trace of him on Google, but Taef did file a campaign report. He raised $150, for the record.

District H
At this point, it looks like Ed Gonzalez will be unopposed for yet another term. He raised close to $80k with most of it still on hand.

District I
We start things off with the pseudo-favorite, Graci Garces, Councilmember Rodriguez’s Chief of Staff. Garces raised about $19k with most of it still on hand. Her main competitor, Ben Mendez, raised a huge $94k.

Robert Gallegos, yet another Democrat in the race, got about $17k. The lone Republican, Leticia Ablaza, got $27k with about $16k on hand still.

As Dos Centavos points out, until March Garces, and Gallegos were competing with the SD06 race for donors. Accordingly, their numbers may have been retarded in comparison with the Republican candidate. Although that does not explain Mendez.

District J
Councilmember Laster, with $66k in donations and $81 on hand, is unopposed.

District K
Councilmember Green, with $93k raised and most still on hand, is likewise unopposed.

That’s all, folks. Off the KuffDos Centavos and Greg’s Opinion all have a lot more. They’ve been doing this stuff since before my Bar Mitzvah, so I highly suggesting consulting their work too.

Budgets, domes and energy

First up, today was a big day for the City. The 2013/2014 Budget was approved by the Houston City Council in an unanimous vote. Dos Centavos has a very detailed, quality piece on the process and the outcome, so I suggest consulting it if you want to see exactly what happened and come about from it. I want to –just briefly– discuss some of the political ramifications thereof. Helena Brown, nor Andrew Burks, voted against the measure, which means they are tied to it. They can’t run against the institution in their re-election bids, though I suppose they still could, it would just make them a hypocrite (like that doesn’t happen in politics).

Second, the Houston Chronicle reports that the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation has announced they will not be following any of the 19 proposals submitted by the public for dealing with the Astrodome. Instead, they will be going their own way. The board advocated turning the Astrodome into a new convention and event center. They estimated it would cost nearly $200 Million and would be ready by the start of 2016.

The proposal will be confirmed or rejected at a Harris County Commissioners meeting on June 25th (next Tuesday). However, passage looks somewhat likely, as County Judge Ed Emmett was an enthusiastic supporter of the idea. The “perfect solution,” he told the Chronicle. Brains & Eggs has the full story, as does Off the Kuff.

Third, from a Press Release on the City Hall website, the City of Houston has signed a contract with Reliant to purchase 50% of the City’s electricity from renewable, green sources. These include both wind and solar power. The Mayor, in announcing this policy, stated “Houston is already known as the energy capital of the world, but we are committed to becoming the alternative energy capital of the world as well.” This only applies to electricity used by the municipal government, but it will make Houston the “largest municipal purchaser in the nation.”

 

Houston texting ban moves forward

After announcing a few days ago that Houston would do a texting ban in the event that the State Legislature did not successfully pass the bill this session, Mayor Parker seems to have gone in a complete other direction.

Just a few hours ago, the Chron reported that Parker was proposing an ordinance to the City Council TODAY about texting while driving. The ordinance, which the Chronicle incorrectly linked (the real one is –> here), would prohibit texting while driving throughout Texas’ largest city. Again the Chronicle seems to think it is a $500 fine, but the actual text of the ordinance says it is a misdemeanor with a fine “not less than $1.00 nor more than $200.00.” I have no idea if this is a primary or secondary violation (if Cops can pull you over just for allegedly texting), I have no idea how such an offense would relate to one’s insurance or driver’s license points or what not. This ordinance really seems to have come out of nowhere.

Based on the online PDF of the actual ordinance, it was initially proposed by Ed Gonzalez. I don’t know what other members of the City Council think of it, but I would not be very surprised if the final vote was either 16-1 or 16-2 (Brown and maybe Burks being opposed). But, then again, this really came out of nowhere and blindsided me. If this were the Summer or last year, I would have immediately gotten in my car, gone to City Hall and figured out what was going on. However, seeing as that the car ride now would last about four days, that probably isn’t feasible. I will make some phone calls, and tell all (two) of my readers when I find any more news about this.

UPDATE: The Public Safety Committee, which is led by Ed Gonzalez, discussed but DID NOT VOTE on the bill today. No timeline present as to when it will be voted on.

But suddenly, a new contender has emerged

As was put so eloquently by another blogger on his Facebook page yesterday, somebody said something stupid at the City Council, and it wasn’t Councilmember Brown.

Councilmember Jack Christie has Houston politicos scratching their heads over how someone who used to be on a School Board could say something SO ignorant and just plain stupid.

The Chronicle reported that he voted against allocating money for flu vaccines because the federal money being appropriated was “borrowed” and because, and I quote–“You don’t die from the flu.” I don’t even. Christie went on to say that the flu shots create “synthetic immunity” and urged people to not take the flu shots, just like he does.

For the record, even though “Dr. Jack Christie” holds himself out as one, he isn’t a real doctor, not a “MD” or “DO” anyways. He’s a chiropractor. The Chronicle article goes on to quote ACTUAL doctors who totally repudiate Christie’s claims. Almost nothing of what he said is true.

This brings me back to what I was discussing last week. Why is nobody running against this guy?? He was the lone dissenter in a vote that Helena Brown voted for. He has taken the crown, at least for the week, of “craziest Councilmember” from Ms Brown. For context on the title of this post, see the youtube link below.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nduf8_iCTOs

Texpatriate Person of the Year, 2012–Lane Lewis

2012 was not a good year for Democrats in Harris County. However, it was not the horrible butchery many were expecting for the Democrats, and it was not a repeat of the debacle of 2010. We here at Texpatriate believe that, more than anyone else, Lane Lewis has been the embodiment of this Democratic resilience.

When the year began, people had been predicting another horrible shellacking at the ballot box for the Democratic Party. Lane Lewis, the (at that time interim) was facing an uphill challenge for his office from Keryl Burgess Douglas, a prominent attorney. I don’t know if the LGBT political community is allegedly racist, or if the African-American political community is allegedly homophobic, but the two political communities always seem to have to run against each other. In May 2012, the two high profile elections were Lewis vs. Douglas, and the Elaine Palmer/Steven Kirkland contest. In a split result, Palmer and Lewis won. However, stakes looked pretty bleak for the Democrats. They even managed to nominate a sketchy, Republican loser as the Democratic Party’s candidate for District Attorney.

Then came the election. The Democrats retained a majority of the Judgeships up for election, including 2/3 of the incumbent Democratic judges. They retained the County Attorney and Sheriff. Additionally, the Democrats also picked up a few seats on the County Board of Education, now commanding a majority. We must admit that we were very pleasantly surprised by the results, and were considering at first giving the award to the “Harris County Democrat.” However, we soon realized that the Chairman of the Party is a better recipient (I do not like abstract awards).

Some would argue that Helena Brown had a more individual impact upon City affairs, but I do believe that the Chairman has certainly had the most insightful, long-lasting impact.