From the mail…

For those readers of this blog who are not also Facebook friends with me, one may not know that I am in Houston this weekend. Among other reasons, I wanted to do a little bit of campaigning for my father (James Horwitz) as well as attend the Johnson-Richards-Rayburn dinner.

I have seen a variety of familiar faces at the early voting locations, including (but not limited to) Roland Chavez, Eric Dick, Michael Kubosh and Assata Richards. Also, as I was walking out of the polling place yesterday (after voting), I literally walked into Ted Cruz. But that is another story for another day.

When I got home today, I found some campaign literature by the front door (most of which, my dogs did not eat/destroy). Among these were fairly unexciting mailers from the “Save the Dome” people and the Ronald Green campaign. The “Texas Conservative Review” came in the mail as well. Again, somewhat unexciting. The only surprise was the endorsement of Ben Hall for Mayor, and that is simply because of the sheer ubiquity of Eric Dick advertisements throughout the booklet.

Click here to read about the vicious mailer attacking a Councilmember!

Texpatriate endorses for Controller of Houston

Within the City of Houston, there are few positions more complex and less understood than the City Controller. The position was created over 100 years ago, but was somewhat ill-defined for the first era of its existence. In 1977, when Kathy Whitmire was first elected to the post, the modern era of the Controller first began. At that time, Mayor Jim McConn was spending large amounts of money from sometimes unscrupulous sources. Whitmire fought this spending tooth-and-nail, and ultimately won the war when she succeeded McConn as Mayor in 1982.

Shortly after that time, the conflict between the Mayor and the City Controller perpetuated. Whether that was George Greanais or Lloyd Kelly, Mayors often found themselves at odds with the City’s fiscal watchdog. All this unpleasantness, however, ended in 1998.

The concurrent tenure of Mayor Lee Brown and Controller Sylvia Garcia, as well as Mayor Bill White and Controller Annise Parker, saw unprecedented cooperation that helped to solve some of the biggest problems facing this City. Likewise, this board believes that Mayor Annise Parker and Controller Ronald Green have worked remarkably well together.

Please click here to find out our selection

Chronicle endorsements in ‘D,’ Controller

The Houston Chronicle fielded its first two municipal endorsements over the weekend, which included Anthony Robinson for District D and Bill Frazer for Controller.

I have previous interviewed each of these candidates, and was somewhat impressed by their answers. That being said, the Chronicle endorsement of them really surprised me.

Starting with the post of City Controller, it is worth noting that the Chronicle endorsed Green in 2009. Though he ran unopposed in 2011, the paper also was quite content to see Green be re-elected. The similarity of the 2009 editorial compared to yesterday’s is somewhat amusing, as it includes nearly identical language on the role and responsibility of the Controller, with both noting Kathy Whitmire as the gold standard later Controllers should be measured against.

Differing itself from four years earlier, however, the Chronicle scrutinizes the office and all the responsibilities thereof. They allege that incumbent Ronald Green has not been a very effective “watchdog.” Further, the Chronicle lambasts his seemingly endless scandals over the last year. Therefore, by the process of elimination in the very uncrowded race, the Chronicle supports the challenger, Bill Frazer. Specifically, the enjoy his credentials as both a CPA and promise to be more of a watchdog.

Continue reading

Harris County Young Democrats endorse

Yesterday, the Harris County Young Democrats met for their endorsement meeting. I must say that it was the closest I have ever followed a breaking political event exclusively on Twitter.

The organization’s executive board recommended a slate of candidates, which a lot of opts to not endorse, many of which were overruled by the general body of the organization. The body began by endorsing Annise Parker for Mayor, followed by supporting the unopposed Democrats on the council: Ellen Cohen, Ed Gonzalez, Mike Laster and Larry Green. They went on to support some more Democrats in races where they were the only Democrat, specifically Ronald Green and C.O. Bradford.

The organization decided not to offer up endorsements in all seats where only Republicans were running, At-large 1, District A, District E, District F & District G. They then, after contentious fights, decided not to field endorsements in half the races involving multiple Democrats, namely in At-large 2, At-large 3 & District D. Although, in District, Dwight Boykins received plurality support, though still shy of the threshold to receive the endorsement. Similarly, David Robinson and Rogene Calvert received the pluralities, respectively, in AL2 and AL3.

The HCYD did, however, make some endorsements in races with competitive Democratic presences, specifically endorsing James S. Horwitz in At-large 5, as well as Jerry Davis in District B and Ben Mendez in District I.

The endorsements are somewhat noteworthy, as the group has taken a far-less cozy relationship with the Conservative members of the City Council, unlike, for example, the LGBT Caucus (I do know the caucus is officially non-partisan, but I also know its members are overwhelmingly Democratic) or the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats.

Further, the lack of an endorsement in AL2, AL3 or District D is somewhat surprising, given they could make up their mind on AL5, District B & District I. Plenty of liberal groups have supported Assata Richards in the past, so it is somewhat surprising to not even see her in the plurality there. Similarly, the straight-up endorsement of Ben Mendez turned a lot of heads, including Stace Medellin of Dos Centavos.

Overall, I thought the endorsement process was very open to the group, though many Democrats are probably disappointed by the lack of recommendations in the hard, crowded races. The Texpatriate Editorial Board has yet to begin discussing endorsements, but given our rules requiring 3/4 of the members to agree, I would not be surprised if we decline to formally endorse in some of the races.

I don’t know about my colleagues, but speaking for just myself, I know that, if any such situations arise, I will write an individual endorsement in that race.

HOPE endorses Parker

Ok, the “phony scandal” is officially dead.

The Houston Chronicle reports that HOPE, the Houston Organization of Public Employees (the municipal employee union covering all those city servants outside of HPD and HFD), has endorsed Annise Parker for re-election. This is a huge endorsement, as her main opponent, Ben Hall, had previously tried to make an issue out of her alleged tepid support for municipal workers.

Longtime followers of Municipal politics will remember that HOPE –which typically endorses exclusively Democratic candidates– supported Annise Parker in 2009. From what I understand, the union declined to endorse anyone in 2011, simply opting to make selections in City Council elections. I have left a message with HOPE to confirm this fact, however.

The union also endorsed other candidates this afternoon, including Ronald Green, Stephen Costello, Andrew Burks, Roland Chavez, C.O. Bradford, Jerry Davis, Ed Gonzalez, Mike Laster and Larry Green. Accordingly, they opted to not make selections in AL5, as well as Districts A, D, F, G and I. Ellen Cohen and Dave Martin were specifically snubbed from getting a nod, despite running unopposed.

The endorsement is –and I will say this multiple times– is a huge blow for Hall’s campaign. Hall had been walking a fine line, attempting to run simultaneously to the left and to the right of Parker. While he espoused many somewhat fiscally conservative ideas that made him a big hit at the Pachyderm Club, the real prize would be going after those on the left –specifically the unions– by cozying up to the Firefighter’s Union, followed by HOPE. That is why Hall’s response to the ‘phony scandal’ could have mattered so much more.

Without the monolithic support of the unions, Hall is left in a delicate, dangerous position. At this point, he is getting perilously close to his core supporters: Establishment Republicans, prominent African-Americans and the Firefighters. That doesn’t really make up more than about a quarter of the electorate, especially once you factor in how many African-Americans will vote for Parker. I tend to believe that number has been underestimated thus far. Any move to go further right (and therefore snatch votes from Dick) would alienate his African-American base even more.

Hall now faces a daunting task, while Parker’s job keeps getting easier. No longer will Hall be able to bring up “the 747” [laid off workers], for the Mayor has atoned, and been forgiven, for the move. The Mayor’s opponent will need to find another card to bring to the table.

Texpatriate’s Questions for Ronald Green

Editorial note: This is the third 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.

Houston City Controller Ronald Green

Texpatriate: What is your name?
RG: Ronald Green

T: What is the position you currently hold?
RG: Houston City Controller

T: What number term are you seeking? Have you held or run for previous public office?
RG: I am seeking my third and final term. Prior to being elected City Controller, I served three terms as an At-Large Houston City Council Member.

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)?
RG: I am a Democrat.

T: What was one action you have taken as City Controller you found the most meaningful?
RG: My office has championed the Bank on Houston program, which seeks to improve financial literacy and move more Houstonians into the banking system.

T: Why do you deserve another term?
RG: I have served effectively for the people of Houston. Our office has refinanced debt to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in interest payments; we have used the audit process to identify tens of millions of dollars recoverable by the City; and again, we have championed the Bank on Houston program to increase financial security for Houstonians.

T: What is an action you would take at the City Controller’s office in your next term?
RG: I would continue to use the audit process to identify recoverable dollars for taxpayers.

T: What has been the most rewarding experience in serving as the City Controller?
RG: Making sure that funding is available to deliver valuable city services to the people of Houston.

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?
RG: I am fortunate to have a broad base of support from Labor (AFL-CIO, Houston Police & Fire), Business (Houston Contractors Association, Apartment Association), and Democratic/Progressive groups (Houston Black American Democrats, GLBT Political Caucus, Young Stonewall Democrats, etc.)

T: What has been the most important thing you have learned in your campaign?
RG: Houston is a large and diverse city, but ultimately people want the same thing from city government — high quality services that make the wisest use possible of their tax dollars to improve quality of life.

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.

Pay hikes for City Council

The Chronicle reports that, for Bagby Street officials, salaries will soon be going up. Under current laws and ordinances, the salaries of the Mayor, City Controller and City Councilmembers is directly pegged to that of District Judges in Texas. Specifically, the Mayor makes 150% of the Judge’s salary, the Controller makes 100% and the City Council makes 40%.

The Mayor’s salary will increase to $232,500 from her current salary of $210,000. Meanwhile, the City Controller, Ronald Green, will see  pay hike to $155,000, from $140,000. Finally, the City Council will see a similar 11% raise to $62,000 from $56,000.

The usual suspects in the whole Government-Is-Satan cartel (e.g., Orlando Sanchez), of course, find such an action to be utterly repugnant. This stems from the quintessential conservative belief that politics and public service is an exclusive club for only the independently wealthy. But I digress.

When asked to comment on the matter, according to the Chronicle article, Mayor Annise Parker simply stated “We don’t vote on our salaries. We have nothing to do with thatWe don’t vote on our salaries. We have nothing to do with that.”

 

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.