What I’m looking for tomorrow

For the most part, Texpatriate endorsed Democrats this election cycle. An absolutely contemptible slate of statewide non-judicial Republicans, along with Harris County courts that are — all too often — corrupted or being run inefficiently, led us to disproportionately back the Democratic challengers. In editorial squabbles, especially compared to last year, I found myself seldom in the minority. In fact, only in one contest, the Land Commissioner election, did I dissent from the endorsement. If you still haven’t voted yet, please do so, whoever you will support.

If you have ever read something on this publication before, you are likely familiar with my skepticism as to Battleground Texas’ short-term feasibility, as well as the statewide Democratic slate. I’m not holding my breath for any statewide Democrats to win, but I’ve never insisted that their victory should be the number one priority. Since mid-2013, I have been writing that even a loss could be a win for Texas Democrats, and the rationale rests upon three main items.

First, State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, and the rest of the ticket need to move the needle. Bill White, the Democrats’ 2010 gubernatorial nominee, garnered 42% of the vote. Davis needs to do better in order for the pipedream of Texas turning blue to be taken seriously. She doesn’t need to do much better. After all, 2014 is shaping up to be a bad year for Democrats nationwide. But she needs to do better.

Second, the rest of the Democratic slate needs to do better. White significantly outperformed his compatriots because, as a popular former Mayor of Houston, he received many crossover votes, but also his running mates were lousy candidates. With downballot choices this time around such as State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, and Mike Collier, the bombastic and stellar Comptroller candidate, the same simply cannot be said again in 2014. Oh yeah, and the Democratic candidate for Attorney General is named SAM HOUSTON! In all seriousness, he is a talented lawyer and a good candidate, but his rockstar name will ensure he probably does better than any other Democrat. The Democrats running statewide in 2010 not named Bill White received anywhere from 34-37%. That number’s median needs to be raised to at least 40%, in my opinion. That is comparable to how statewide Democratic candidates not named Barack Obama did in 2012.

Third, and most importantly, Davis needs to lend her coattails to Democratic pickups in Bexar (San Antonio), Harris and Nueces (Corpus Christi) counties. She also needs to have a strong enough performance in Dallas County to ensure the countywide elected Democrats politically survive there. I’ve seen no evidence that Nueces County is in play, but the other counties (including Dallas) look to be tossups. This is perhaps the most important.

If Democrats pick up anything in either Bexar or Harris Counties, it will largely justify some progress and otherwise good news for Democrats. This could be as simple as merely winning the DA’s office in Harris County. If they, by some lucky maneuver, can win all the way down the ticket in either county, it would be a truly cause for celebration. But going Zero for whatever once again in both counties would, similarly, cause alarm bells to ring. Losing in Dallas County would cause hell to break loose.

I have opined before that, if the Democrats do really, really poorly, as in less than 40% of the statewide vote, Battleground Texas will pack up and go home. Talk of “turning Texas blue” will be a one-time debacle only uttered in Washington DC bars, with the same lamentations as soft drink executives recalling New Coke. For the record, I don’t think that will occur, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility.

That is why it is so important to vote. Statewide races will almost certainly not be decided by close margins, but in Harris County they certainly could. Judge Kyle Carter, a Democrat in the 125th District Court, got re-elected by fewer than 2000 votes last time. Mike Sullivan, a Republican, was elected Tax Assessor by a similar margin. On first count, President Barack Obama carried the county by TWO votes. TWO votes. That’s you and one friend.

 

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The Harris County GOP Chairman race

The Houston Chronicle reports that County Judge Ed Emmett has endorsed Paul Simpson in his race for chairman of the Harris County GOP, against incumbent Jared Woodfill. Emmett, a Republican, is the highest ranking member of the county party, holding the de facto executive leadership role over Harris County.

The news was broken last night on Quorum Report, where it was also reported that Emmett had donated a generous $10,000.00 to Simpson’s campaign. As the astute may recall, this is Simpson’s –a local attorney– third bid against the incumbent chair. However, unlike a previous race, this year’s election simply features the two candidates, making Woodfill somewhat more vulnerable. Emmett blasted Woodfill as being out of touch and implicit in the recent losing streak of the party. Ronald Reagan would probably not be welcome in today’s Republican Party. I would like to see the base in Harris County to be 400,000, not 150,000,” Emmett says.

Today, Jared Woodfill hit back by announcing some big name supporters of his own. Two of the three Republican Harris County Commissioners (Jack Cagle and Jack Morman) endorsed Woodfill’s candidacy, as did both Emmett’s predecessor (Robert Eckels) and the Tax Assessor (Mike Sullivan). Given that Woodfill is the incumbent, it would be a waste of time to really dig in too deep as to why an officeholder might support him. Simply put, it is far safer to support an incumbent out of habit then warm up to the challenger (if [s]he wins) than to support the challenger then face a victorious incumbent.

Click here to read more!

In re Redistricting Hearing

Last Saturday, I attended the Senate Redistricting Hearing. Perhaps something of a misnomer, the committee was not only considering the approval of Senate district maps, but also both the State House and U.S. House district maps. The Congressional maps were by far the most contentious, and the one I testified on.

The ratio of supporters to opponents of these interim, court-ordered plans was roughly 1-to-9. The vast majority of those who spoke did so critically, challenging the allegedly discriminatory elements of the map.

The most controversial aspects of the plan, and those two which I personally testified upon, were the butchering of Lloyd Doggett’s district and the horrendous gerrymandering of Blake Farenthold’s district such that he could remain in office.

Among the politicians I saw at this hearing, besides those on the Committee, were Sheila Jackson Lee, Al Green, Ronald Green, Mike Sullivan, Gene Wu and Larry Green. Numerous candidates were also in attendance.

My opinion on all this is that it will mean zilch when all is said and done. The Republican majority in both Houses of the legislature enjoy the current situation, which obviously benefits the GOP. Perhaps they are motivated by racism, but that isn’t important, because the Supreme Court will probably kill off the Voting Rights Act in the next couple days.

Tax Office update

I met with a plethora of public officials this past week, both in Houston and Austin. Mainly Democratic officials, though. The one exception, however, was this past afternoon, when I had the pleasure of meeting with Mike Sullivan, the Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector. Sullivan has always been extraordinarily non-controversial in comparison to many other Harris County Republicans. I endorsed Sullivan last year, and was happy that he won.

Sullivan talked to me about a variety of subject relating to his office, but two topics stood out. First, he told me that his office is working on allowing the use of credit cards for transactions at the Tax Assessor’s office. It actually took me by surprise that it wasn’t already like that–you can use plastic at the District/County Clerk and for most City transactions. Allowing the use of credit cards for such an operation, that is, in a place where the rubber really meet the road on Government (taxes and titles), is a good no-nonsense first step that reminded me of Mayor White synchronizing the lights downtown.

Second, Sullivan went to lengths talking to me about making the Voting Registrar segment of his office more accessible to the public. This was done by some symbolic gestures (such as opening the blinds on the office’s windows), as well as more concrete steps (making it easier to find out how to register and stopping the dead-but-not-dead voter purges). The way I see it, the Voting Registrar’s office (if it has to be an elected office), should be quite visible to the community. Sullivan is making good inroads to do that.

The beauty of a County or City office, be it even the partisan ones, is that the issues are very local. Far too many Democrats in local offices lost in 2010 because they were wrongly connected with all of Obama’s policies. That was wrong, and it would be wrong to write-off all local Republicans because of the bad apples in the Tea Party. I would have a little reluctance to Sullivan’s candidacy to the State Legislature or Congress, as we disagree on some more national issues (gun control, for one), but as long as he is managing the Tax and Voter departments, I have no disagreements.

But, anyways, back to Boston tomorrow.

Voting now open for the Texpatriate Person of the Year

I have, in some way or another, been awarding “Person of the Year” for Houston politics for a few years. From the vaults, let me bring up some of the editorials from the past:

2009–Annise D. Parker
This is a real no-brainer. Even though my original allegiances were, in fact, for Gene Locke, I have no ideological quarrels with the Controller, and am certain she will do a fantastic job in office.

Additionally, even though this was not a major theme of the campaign, no one can doubt the historical significance of Controller Parker’s election to be the Chief Executive of a city of Houston’s size. For the first time in many years, we have been getting national coverage for a good reason
.” –Published 12/29/09

2010–The Houston Public Employee
The decision would have been clear if Mayor White would have won the election, or at least not suffered the shellacking he did. At any rate, even though I have always opposed abstract designations for “person of the year”, I find it necessary today.

So, in giving this award to the civil servant, we stand in solidarity with their struggles. We stand with HOPE, the local AFSCME and SEIU, we stand against furloughs for the working class while our city and county wastes their money, our money, on outlandish parks.
” –Published 12/26/10

2011–Andrew C. Burks, Jr.
The 2011 gave mixed messages to the perennial candidates among us. Griff Griffin, after his umpteenth campaign, finally called it quits, while Andrew Burks, after his, finally claimed victory. Though I supported Representative Thibaut, and am cautious about just how liberal Mr Burks is, it is a milestone for our city that a candidate, once dismissed as not serious, has finally won.

In closing, I wish Mr Burks luck in this pursuit of his, and for a city with a newly re-elected Mayor.
” –Published 12/31/11

So, therefore, I introduce the candidates for Texpatriate Person of the Year, 2012:

Ted Cruz
While probably despised by the vast majority of my readers, no one can doubt just how amazing Mr Cruz’s primary victory over Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst was. In addition, he will now be the first Latino Senator from Texas, and is set to become a national figure.

Julian Castro
Much like Mr Cruz, Mayor Castro thrust this state into the national spotlight, though with good effect. As the first Latino keynote speaker at the DNC, he showed the nation a new face for Texas.

Sylvia Garcia
After being one of the many casualties of the Republican landslide of 2010, Commissioner Garcia has come back from the political dead to run for the late-Senator Gallegos’ seat. If she wins, this will be much more pressing, if she loses, it will be moot, and if the election does not occur until next year, I would probably also advise against the selection.

Mario Gallegos
Senator Gallegos unified the entire Houston-area Democratic establishment at the time of his death, something not easily done. While in office, he was a tremendously powerful figure, looming larger than life.

Annise Parker
Parker once again was a major figure in the news this years, providing over a non-contentious start to her second term. Considering the issues abound throughout her first term, that is quite an accomplishment.

Lane Lewis
After surviving a nasty, bitter fight to be the Chairman of the HCDP, Chairman Lewis has been unbelievably successful at his job, keeping Judicial losses this year to a minimum, while loosing neither Countywide office up for election.

Adrian Garcia
Speaking of countywide offices, the Sheriff did an impeccable job of fending off his re-election battle. Rumors of higher office are already abound.

Mike Sullivan
Being one of the few big Republican successes in Harris County this year, Councilmember Sullivan was the first CM to make the successful switch to higher office in nearly four years, on the heels of aborted or failed quests by Lawrence, Johnson, Adams, and Khan. Sullivan, as the new TAC, also did quite an admiral thing in his early retirement announcement, which set up a cheap, concurrent special election.

The “Dead” Voter/Voter Fraud
In honor of all those invisible people who commit voter fraud, and, according to the King Street Patriots, showed up to steal the election for the Democrats.

Also, add your own poll option. To stay in the style of Houston politics, we may or may not have a runoff poll.

https://texpate.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/poll-link/

Musings on the election

First up, Congrats to President Obama! Four more years! The President won Harris County by a few hundreds votes. Democrats expand their majority in the Senate to 55 and lessen the Republican majority in the House. All fantastic news.

Statewides
Republicans keep the Railroad Commission and the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals–no surprise there. However, Keith Hampton got clobbered, which is upsetting.

Courts of Appeals
1st and 14th stay all Republican, which is not surprising.

State Senate
Wendy Davis got re-elected. The composition stays at 19-12. Mario Gallegos re-elected posthumously, which means we will see a special election.

State House
Democrats pick up six or seven seats. Composition is at 95-55. Ann Johnson was defeated, again disappointing.

County Judges
11th–Mike Miller (D) re-elected.
61st–Al Bennett (D) re-elected.
80th–Larry Weiman (D) re-elected.
125th–Kyle Carter (D) re-elected.
127th–R.K. Sandhill (D) re-elected.
129th–Michael Gomez (D) re-elected.
133rd–Jaclanel McFarland (D) re-elected.
151st–Mike Engelhart (D) re-elected.
152nd–Robert Schaffer (D) re-elected.
164th–Alexandra Smoots-Hogan (D) re-elected.
165th–Josephina Rendon (D) defeated by Elizabeth Ray (R).
174th–Ruben Guerrero (D) re-elected.
176th–Shawna Reagin (D) defeated by Stacey Bond (R).
177th–Ryan Patrick (R) re-elected.
178th–David Mendoza (D) re-elected.
179th–Randy Roll (D) defeated by Kristin Guiney (R).
215th–Elaine Palmer (D) elected. Damn.
333rd–Tad Halbach (R) re-elected.
334th–Ken Wise (R) re-elected.
337th–Herb Richie (D) defeated by Renee Magee (R). Again, damn.
338th–Hazel Jones (D) defeated by Brock Thomas (R).
339th–Maria Jackson (D) re-elected.
351st–Mark Ellis (R) re-elected.
County Court 1–Debra Mayfield (R) re-elected.
County Court 2–Theresa Chang (R) re-elected.

Of the nineteen Democratic Judges: 14 win re-election and 5 lose.
Of the six Republican Judges: 6 win re-election.
Final Tally: 14 Demorats, 11 Republicans.

County Officials
DA–Mike Anderson (R) wins. No surprise.
Sheriff–Adrian Garcia (D) re-elected. Again, no surprise.
County Attorney–Vince Ryan (D) re-elected. Great News!
Tax Collector–Mike Sullivan (R) wins. However, it is close and Bennett hasn’t conceded yet.

Referendums
METRO Prop passed, City props passed, and all the Bond measures passed.

City Council
Martin wins without a runoff.

Discussion comes later.

What I think will happen

Keeping in touch with my self-imposed moratorium upon Presidential election coverage, I will not even mention that race (You can see what I had said previous in my post “Cynic“). However, I think this will be a good way for progressives to brace ourselves for what may come next.

Every statewide seat (except Keller’s): SAFE Republican
I think this is a no-brainier here, considering that the Democrats did not even bother to field candidates in some of these races. I really do like Michele Petty and Paul Salder, but this is not going to be a repeat of 2008, and even in 2008 we got our butts kicked.

Court of Criminal Appeals, Position 1: TOSSUP
Keith Hampton, especially in the (unlikely) event of a major Obama victory, could build enough of a coalition between Democrats, Independents, and pragmatic Republicans to victory. Keller is relying on people to simply vote straight Republican, which they probably will.

14th Court of Appeals, 1st Court of Appeals: SAFE Republican
Same logic as the statewide seats.

134th State Representative: LEAN Republican
2012 will not be as good of a year as 2006, which is the last time an incumbent in this district was unseated. Also, Davis is a much more civil campaigner than Martha Wong.

215th District Court: LIKELY Republican
Ken Shortreed is depending upon enough angry Democrats (like me) to vote for him. It will probably push him over the top.

Remaining local judicial races: LEAN Republican
Harris County will probably go red, especially in downballot races.

Sheriff: LEAN Democratic
I think Garcia can put together enough of a coalition with moderate Republicans to avoid defeat. The endorsement of the “C club” didn’t hurt either.

District Attorney: SAFE Republican
Self-explanatory.

Tax Collector: LIKELY Republican
Even in 2008, tax czar and DA went Republican. Additionally, CM Sullivan is a popular incumbent who has attracted quite a few Democrats (even endorsed by the JHV).

County Attorney: TOSSUP
Vince Ryan has some cross-party support, but again the Republican tilt on the election does not help.

City Council, E: LIKELY Martin
Martin has the establishment support from Sullivan, who is still quite popular.

 

Again, Democrats need to donate to Garcia, Ryan, and Hampton–NOT Obama. Obama has enough money, he is out-raising the Koch brothers!