Lane Lewis needs to resign the Chairmanship

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The Houston Chronicle reports on a subject that has been brewing no shortage of chatter around Houston among local political types: whether or not Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis, who is also running for the Houston City Council, should resign the chairmanship. Upon some contemplation, my answer to that question is an emphatic yes.

Back in December, when Lewis first announced his candidacy, I was broadly supportive, given his track record as party chair. I have liked what Lewis has accomplished at the helm of the party, and was very supportive when he previously ran for the city council in 2009. In 2012, he was named Person of the Year by Texpatriate. It is my firm belief that if someone less competent than him were leading the party that election, every single Democratic incumbent would have been defeated.

All these qualities, all other things being equal, make Lewis a great candidate for the city council. But none of them justify him staying on as chair. Of course, I recognize that neither pertinent law or party rules compel Lewis to resign, but it is the right and ethical thing to do nonetheless.

Lewis was not the first candidate in this race, not by a long-shot. He was also not the first Democrat; the third, actually. Philippe Nassif and Jenifer Pool, both good progressives, would make fine councilmembers. Both have been outwardly campaigning for the position for many months. My biggest fear is that Lewis or his allies could — even inadvertently — coerce other Democrats out of the race because of the power he has over the party.

The party is not allowed to endorse in non-partisan elections like this one for that very reason. Likewise, salaried employees of the party may not get involved. A big player in the HCDP, Finance Chair Bill Baldwin, has resigned in order to take on a more direct role in Lewis’ campaign. It simply does not pass the ‘smell test’ that the chairman of the party need not adhere to the same standards.

In the Chronicle article, Lewis defended his decision not to run, pointing to the plethora of other politicians in elected office who simultaneously run for another office. However, this ignores the most inimitable quality of Lewis’ office: its constituents are not citizens, but political cadres, including other politicians. Lewis is in a unique position to reward or punish other municipal candidates. One that HCC Trustee Chris Oliver, for example, another candidate for At-Large Position #1, simply does not have the power to do.

As Texas Leftist and John Wright (writing for Project Q Houston) have noted, there have already been spats between Lewis and another candidate (Pool). This is to be expected; it is politics, after all. But what makes political trench-fighting like this so dangerous is that Lewis has weapons at his disposal that his opponents do not. Now, I do not think Lewis has done anything improper hitherto on his campaign, but he should proactively eliminate the possibility of it altogether and resign the chairmanship.

Lewis has been a good chairman, and would make a good councilmember if elected. I want to consider supporting him, but he needs to resign as chair in order to run a feasible campaign. If he doesn’t, there is simply no way that I could support him, all other things remaining equal.

Brains & Eggs and Off the Kuff have more.

The AL4 cast shows up

The Houston Chronicle reports that a few new names have been added to the candidate roster for one of the Houston City Council’s open At-Large seats, specifically position #4, which is held by term-limited Councilmember C.O. Bradford (D-At Large 4). The seat has recently been held by a series of African-American representatives; even lead the standard-bearing Chronicle has noted this. Back in December, I noted that Laurie Robinson — a previous candidate for the city council — will be running for this position. Now, two more names have entered the fold: Amanda Edwards and Larry Blackmon.

Edwards is an attorney at a downtown blue-chip firm, whereas Blackmon is a retired teacher. Both have a number of connections in the local political scene, but they are not especially significant compared to Robinson’s. All three are fairly dependable Democrats, but each have ways of distinguishing themselves. Robinson, for example, ran against a fellow Democratic Councilmember, Jolanda Jones (AL5), when she ran in 2011 (Councilmember Jack Christie (R-At Large 5) also ran, and was the eventual winner). I was not old enough to vote in that election, but I covered the races with some familiarity, and would have voted for Robinson if I had been eligible. She garnered the endorsement of The Young Independents Club of Emery High School, for what it’s worth.

As the Chronicle article notes, this activity is relatively recent compared to the other open At-Large seat, position #1, which is being vacated by term-limited Councilmember Stephen Costello (R-At Large 1), who is also running for mayor. In that race, Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis, HCC Trustee Chris Oliver, Trebor Gordon, Michael “Griff” Griffin, Philippe Nassif and Jenifer Pool will face off.

For the other At-Large races, there aren’t many surprises. Former Councilmember Andrew Burks (D-At Large 2) will seek a rematch against Councilmember David Robinson (D-At Large 2), who defeated him in 2013. Councilmember Michael Kubosh (R-At Large 3) will cruise to re-election with minimal or nonexistent opposition. Perhaps the most intriguing contest is the last at-large position. Christie is reportedly running for mayor, or at least seriously thinking about it, even though he is still eligible for one more term. If he does run, it will create a third open seat. I know of one individual who is all-but-officially running for AL5, Christie or not, but I am not sure if she is willing to go on record yet. For those of you asking, my father will not be running again for the post.

As for AL4 in particular, I have two main thoughts. The first is to not be surprised if yet another candidate jumps in. I have heard about one individual in particular who has intently been looking over the race, and could really make a splash. Second, we officially have a citywide contest with more than one female candidate! In a city where the majority of the council was once comprised of women, female participation in elected municipal office has precipitously dropped. Zero women are, at press time, running for either Mayor or City Controller; a frightfully sad statistic.

In the next few days, when I have time, I will create one of my perennial side pages in preparation for the 2015 Election. Stay tuned!

Brains & Eggs, Dos Centavos and Off the Kuff have more.

Laurie Robinson to run for AL4

Texpatriate reports that Laurie Robinson, a local businesswoman, will run for the Houston City Council next year. Specifically, as Houston Chronicle reported Theodore Schleifer reported on Twitter, she will seek out At-Large Position #4. The seat is currently held by Councilmember C.O. Bradford (D-At Large 4), who is term limited. The seat, which was previously held by now-Controller Ronald Green, has historically been held by an African-American officeholder, and this recent history has been noted repeatedly in recent weeks as a plethora of Caucasian candidates have stampeded into At-Large Position #1 and only that position, the other open seat.

A number of other names have popped up for this seat in conversations taking place behind closed doors, but none with enough certainty to be written in ink. Thus far, as noted above, most activity has taken place around Position #1, currently held by the term limited Councilmember Stephen Costello (R-At Large 1), a likely mayoral candidate. As I noted in the article I linked above, Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis will run for the post, as will Jenifer Pool, Philippe Nassif, Trebor Gordon and Griff Griffin. All except Nassif have run for office a few times (Griffin in particular about a dozen times).

Robinson, for her part, is no political novice. Most notably, she ran for At-Large Position #5 in 2011 against both the incumbent, Jolanda Jones, and the eventual successor, Jack Christie. I haven’t always been the biggest fan of either, so Robinson was naturally my favorite candidate in that race. Now, I was 17 at the time of that election, but if I were of age, I would undoubtedly have voted for her. More recently, many attempted to recruit her to run for council in 2013, but she declined to do so at that time.

Speaking of Christie, that is the At-Large Position (No. 5) I have been the most curious about. A two-term incumbent, Christie is eligible to run for re-election once more, but he has been telling many throughout the city that he has opted to run for mayor instead. This would make the position open. Much like AL4, quite a few names have been tossed around for this post, from community leaders to newcomers to my own father (to my knowledge, he’s not considering it; though unlike George P. Bush, I would wholeheartedly endorse my dad if he chose to run), but none on the record. I have contended that Christie may end up running for re-election anyways, but the filing deadline (August) is still a long ways off.

What have you, readers? I won’t humor rumors in my post, but I’m not necessarily averse to seeing them in the comments section.

Lewis will run for Council

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The Houston Chronicle reports that Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis will run for the City Council in 2015, namely At-Large Position #1. The position is currently held by Councilmember Stephen Costello (R-At Large 1), who is term-limited as well as a likely mayoral candidate. Lewis, who has served as Chairman since 2011, previously ran for the City Council in 2009, when he sought an open seat in District A (and lost a runoff election to Brenda Stardig).

It is interesting that Lewis would go so early for the AL1 position, given the dynamics of the other council races. Councilmember C.O. Bradford (D-At Large 4) is term limited yet there are no candidates openly vying for his post at press time. Similarly, Councilmember Jack Christie (R-At Large 5) is a likely mayoral candidate, and thus his seat would be open even though he could ostensibly run again. Similarly, no one is making waves there. But with the introduction of Lewis, there are now three open candidates for AL1. In addition to him, Philippe Nassif has been openly running since at least the State Convention in June.  Jenifer Pool, a favorite in the LGBT community and a three-time candidate, will also seek this specific position. Given that the filing deadline is in August, however, much can change in the flash of an eye.

I must admit that I am unaware of if a County Chair would or would not resign his position to run for a post such as this one. And, if Lewis does resign, who would the favorite be to succeed him? I’m sure I’ll get an answer to both of those questions tomorrow and will update accordingly. According to Theodore Schleifer, the Chronicle reporter who broke this story, Lewis will stay on as chair for the time being, but circumstances may change in the heat of the campaign.

Cards on the table, I’m a fan of Lewis. He was selected as the 2012 Texpatriate Person of the Year and I think he did a great job of attracting some good Democratic candidates this past cycle. That being said, I really like Nassif as well as Pool too. I think all three would make good candidates and look forward to some of the points they raise in the campaign.

I’ve heard quite a few other names as rumor and hearsay, but have decided not to repeat them here, given the unreliability of some of my sources. I’ll have more when I can make confirmations.

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!

Why “a runoff” is good

Contrary to majority opinion, a Mayoral runoff –at least for a nominally liberal individual such as myself– is good. In recent days, we have been hearing the news from the Chronicle and other blogs that Parker has begun to pull away from Hall, and could very well garner over 50% in the November election. Robert Miller recently wrote that Parker has a “better than 50% chance” of winning outright. If you are a Parker fan, as I suspect many readers of this blog are, it would appear to be logical that this is good news. However, one could not be further from the truth.

Democrat voters are lazy. The preceding statement, while often controversial, is extremely true nonetheless. Presidential elections, those with higher turnout, see outcomes significantly more amicable to the Democratic Party in this State. As voter turnout drops into the low single-digits, Republicans become more and more successful in the heavily Democratic city of Houston.

For example, in the 2011 At-large position #5 election, the incumbent Jolanda Jones garnered a full 39% of the vote. Laurie Robinson, a likewise Democrat, earned a further 20% of the vote. According to reasonable inferences, Jones should have crushed her opposition in a runoff with close to 60% of the vote. However, when runoff election day came, Jack Christie defeated Jones with over 54% of the vote, rising over 21-points in the polls in the interim. The rise of 21 percentage points, however, was offset by actually about receiving 5000 fewer votes. This was possible because of a devastating drop in voter turnout. Without the Mayor’s race at the top of the ticket, over 1/3 of the electorate stayed home, allowing candidates severely out-of-touch from the interests of Houstonians to get elected.

Click here to read more about how this affects this year’s election!

Texpatriate endorses in At-large position #3

When it comes to elected officials on the City Council, Councilmember Noriega is the dean of the delegation. She also happens to have the most experience. First elected in the middle of 2007, Noriega has served the community well in her six and a half years of service on the City Council. This November, five candidates, four we have deemed worthwhile, will be running to replace her.

This board did not reach a majority conclusion in this race, though we have unanimously eliminated one candidate from consideration: Roy Morales. Mr Morales is a perennial candidate, who has run for too many offices to count. The only office he ever successfully won, on the Harris County Board of Education, was done so because of the lack of opposition–he was unopposed. However, instead of spending even a moment’s notice on educational concerns, Mr Morales simply continued to run for other offices. Other than towing the line of the Republican Party, Mr Morales offers no unique leadership, plans or opinions reflecting the needs of our City. Accordingly, this board strongly recommends against casting a vote for him.

Accordingly, Texpatriate will not endorse in At-large position #3, but three members of this board have selected their respective endorsements. Our reasoning is listed below the jump.

Continue reading

Texpatriate’s Questions for Jenifer Pool

Editorial note: This is the twenty-fourth 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.


Jenifer Pool, Candidate for the Houston City Council at-large Position #3

Texpatriate: What is your name?
JP: Jenifer Rene Pool

T: What is your current occupation?
JP: Business Owner

T: Have you run for or held public office before?
JP: Yes. City Council 2011

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)?
JP: Democrat

T: Open seats typically attract countless candidates. Why are you specifically running for this seat?
JP:  Having run for an At-Large position in 2011, my campaign was designed for Citywide. Melissa Noriega has been a friend and good progressive and I want to maintain the progressive status of this seat.

T: Are you in contact with the incumbent Councilmember for this position? Would the two of you have a good relationship for a possible transition?
JP: Yes and yes.

T: What do you hope to get out of serving on the City Council?
JP: Opportunity to serve and be a strong voice for those citizens who feel they have not been heard; thus making the City better where it matters

T: What is an ordinance you would introduce in your next term?
JP: One to make the City responsible for the maintenance of sidewalks; A non-discrimination ordinance;

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?
JP: Strong: LGBT Community
Leak [sic]: Religious Right Conservatives

T: What has been the most important thing you have learned in your campaign?
JP: It’s important to listen and truly hear what people are saying

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.