A few initial thoughts

Just to sum up the results for those of y’all who have not been paying much attention to things, I will recap some of the big things that have happened. First, the expected winners were, by and large, the winners on Tuesday night in Statewide elections. Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis won their respective bids for Governor, John Cornyn easily beat back challengers for another nomination to the Senate, George P. Bush got the GOP nod for Land Commissioner and Stephen Brown got the Democrat nod for Railroad Commissioner. All three incumbent Supreme Court Justices who saw right-wing primary opponent were able to easily prevail.

In a few other races, the expected result happened, but in a very different manner. This was largely due to the fact that the Texas Tribune poll released about a week ago was total garbage. It was not worth the fictional paper it wasn’t printed on, to quote a friend. In these races, David Alameel and Kesha Rogers indeed will proceed into a runoff for the US Senate Democrat primary, as will David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick for the Lieutenant Governor Republican primary. However, the Tribune poll seriously miscalculated who would come in first and by how much. Instead of Rogers holding a commanding plurality lead, she hovered near 20% while Alameel was just a few perilous points so close to winning outright. Instead of the preconceived notion that Dewhurst would receive 40-something percent compared to Patrick’s 20-something, the roles were reversed.

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Lies against Kirkland continue

Texpatriate has learned that the horrendously misleading attacks and outright lies about Judge Steven Kirkland have reared their ugly head once again in his current campaign. Kirkland, who served as a Civil District Judge from 2009 to 2013, was infamously defeated for re-election in the 2012 Democratic primary after his opponent, financed by a disgruntled lawyer, promulgated both the aforementioned libels as well as homophobic tactics. Admittedly, this new round of attacks have not crossed the threshold of bigotry against the openly gay Kirkland. This year, Kirkland is once again running for a Civil District Bench, against yet another candidate bankrolled by the same disgruntled attorney.

Just a few days ago, a robocall made its rounds throughout the City. Today, a new mailer was delivered to homes around Houston as well. On the front side of this mailer, a broad image is simply presented of a man’s wrists shackled with handcuffs. “When it comes to drunk driving, you be the judge,” the mailer reads. “And say no to Steve Kirkland in the Democratic primary.”

The back side opens up with an ominous phrase designed to mislead meek readers down a rabbit hole. “Judicial candidate Steve Kirkland has been jailed and arrested twice for drunk driving,” the headline reads. While this is not per se untrue, it is highly misleading, as it occurred over thirty years ago. After the DWIs, Kirkland received treatment for alcoholism, turned his life around and has not had a drink in over 30 years.

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Texpatriate endorses in 113th District Court primary

Do you know what the 113th District Court does? What about just a Civil District Court in general? Therein lies the problem that hoodwinked voters in 2012, and we sincerely hope does not negatively corrupt them once again in this year’s primary.

In the year 2008, voters elected a Democrat named Steven Kirkland to a Civil District Bench in Harris County. Kirkland is openly gay, but that definitely was not the reason he got elected. Contrary to some of the stories you may have heard, it wasn’t the reason he was defeated for re-election in 2012 either. Instead, the story bears a much sneakier and nefarious orientation. Shortly before the 2012 primary, Judge Kirkland presided over a suit against a prominent attorney accused of overcharging his clients. When all was said and done, the attorney –George Fleming– had been cost $13 Million by the lawsuit.

Fleming ultimately appealed the decision, but that was not enough. He was out for blood. Buying a general election is hard, particularly when so many voters select a straight ticket option in the Presidential year. But buying a primary election, where turnout hovers only in the single digits, is significantly easier. Fleming recruited an attorney by the name of Elaine Palmer, almost exclusively bankrolled her campaign, and let the cards fall where they may.

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I voted today

I drove into Houston this morning for a productive weekend to take care of some personal and professional business. Needless to say, one of the first things I did was to go to the West Gray Multiservice Center and fulfill my civic duty to vote. Regardless of what I may have said about the value of voting in the Republican Primary, I voted in the Democratic contest. I voted for the following candidates in contested races, which I have enumerated bellow the jump. Additionally, I cannot help but to note the good feeling I got out of voting for a fellow Horwitz for the second time in my life. My father, James Horwitz, is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination in County Probate Judge #4. These are only the races I personally voted in, and they may feature races Texpatriate has yet to field an official endorsement in.

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Texpatriate’s Questions for Steven Kirkland

Editorial note: This is the fifth in our series of electronic interviews with candidates in contested primaries at both the Statewide level and throughout Harris County. We have sent eight open-ended questions to each of the candidates. The following are verbatim copies of the questions sent out and the answers received.

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Steven Kirkland, candidate in the Democratic Primary for the 113th District Court (Harris County)

Texpatriate: What is your name?
SK: Steven Kirkland

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The Harris County lineup

Laziness heralded the day for the Texas Democrats shooting themselves in the foot at the close of the filing deadline, but it is unbridled stupidity carrying the banner for the Harris County Democrats next year. Again, not from the leadership, but from the average people. I will post a full list at the bottom of the post, but would like to talk about a few things first.

There will be six Court of Appeals slots up for election to a 6 year term, between the seats on the 14th Court of Appeals and the 1st Court of Appeals. These elections were remarkably close in 2008, meaning that changing demographics should probably make them just as competitive –if not more– in 2014. But will they be competitive? No. Because the Democrats, once again, were too LAZY to contest half of the slots. One candidate, Jim Sharp, actually won in 2008. He will be running for re-election, and Kyle Carter, a good District Judge, will run for another post. These two men will be great candidates! Another candidate, Gordon Goodman, has filed but I do not have any info on him yet, nor do any of my attorney sources have information on him.

When it comes to District Courts in Harris County, there are a full 36 posts up for election, between Civil, Criminal, Family and Juvenile courts. In 2010, every single one of these posts had a Democratic candidate, and as I recall most every candidate was well qualified and overall competent. Only 27 of these will be contested by the Democrats this time around, including four races where Democrats will be fighting one another instead of the incumbent Republican judges.

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Horwitz on City Council candidates

The following was a proposed Editorial that failed to receive enough support to be published under the board’s authorship. The author of the rejected Editorial has now elected to share his opinions individually:

With the 83rd Legislature now out of the way, all eyes are upon Municipal politics, specifically the City Council elections. By my count, there are currently 53 candidates for City Hall offices this November. Among these candidates are extremely diverse political ideologies, creating odd coalitions on many different issues. However, at the end of the day, partisan affiliation is still the best indicator of voting patterns and ideology on the ostensibly non-partisan City Council.

There is a Democratic Mayor, a Democratic City Controller, At-large City Councilmembers consisting of 3 Democrats & 2 Republicans and District Councilmembers consisting of 7 Democrats and 4 Republicans. While Houston has had a Democratic Mayor since the 1970s, the partisan makeup of the City Council was not always so simple, and sometimes took on odd shapes of its own. For example, between the 2007 and 2009 elections, all five At-large City Councilmembers were Democrats, while a smaller assortment of District Councilmembers consisted of 5 Republicans & 4 Democrats. This could have been easily attributed to gerrymandered maps, which, in turn, were gerrymandered for the (white) Democrats preceding the 2011 elections.

All this aside, the most perplexing idiosyncrasy of Houston’s municipal politics is the rampant, unyielding and plain troubling disregard for the 11th Commandment: Thou Shall Not Speak Ill of Any Fellow Democrat. Instead of uniting against Republicans, the best and brightest tend to just go after each other, sometimes to the detriment of other, more important, contests.

For too long, two Democratic groups in Houston have gone at each others’ necks: African-Americans and White Upper-Class Intelligentsia, dominated by Gays & Lesbians. Both groups have engaged in horribly homophobic and/or racist tactics. Most Democratic-dominated contests in Houston tend to be a contest between groups, whether it be Annise Parker vs. Ben Hall, Lane Lewis vs. Keryl Douglas, Steven Kirkland vs. Elaine Palmer, Kristi Thibaut vs. Andrew Burks, Noel Freeman vs. C.O. Bradford, or old contests between Burks & Lovell or Locke & Parker.

To me, the conflict is most exemplified this year by the race in At-large #2, where incumbent Councilmember Andrew Burks is being challenged by David Robinson, a local architect. While I have had plenty of quarrels with Councilmember Burks in the past, and may very well end up supporting Robinson in November, it pains me to see such a race, not because of what decision Robinson made, but because of what decision Robinson did not make.

Burks has not been a perfect Councilmember, but he is still a nominally liberal Democrat. The at-large section of Houston’s City Council is home to not one, but two, Republicans: Stephen Costello and Jack Christie. While the former, Councilmember Costello, is extremely moderate if not progressive, the latter, Councilmember Christie, is not. Christie served for years on the State Board of Education, you know, that same organization that believes the world is 9000 years old and other such gems as the redaction of controversial, anti-Christian characters like Thomas Jefferson.

Christie is untruthful as well. In preparation of his 2011 campaign, he libeled my friend Neil Aquino of Texas Liberal, incorrectly claiming his endorsement, in a spectacle that was rebuked by the Houston Chronicle. Christie is also well-versed in the Republican tradition of uttering asinine statements, such as that “you don’t die” from influenza, and inoculations should be resisted.

Councilmember Christie, despite this troubling past and frightening tenure on the City Council, is currently running unopposed in November for a second term. This tells me that serious, legitimate candidates like David Robinson were specifically coaxed into challenging fellow Democrats such as Burks rather than Republicans like Christie.

Unfortunately, the trend is not limited to this race. Keryl Douglas, the homophobic attorney who unsuccessfully challenged Lane Lewis’ chairmanship at the Harris County Democratic Party, recently announced she would be running for Mayor, though I have yet to find one concrete piece of her platform. Again, rather than challenge the unopposed Republican on the City Council, Douglas felt it most compelling to challenge the Democratic mayor.

What is it that these Democrats find so offensive about their fellow kind? I do not want to think that, within Democratic politics, that members of the African-American community are homophobic or that members of the GLBT & Friends community is racist, but I fear it may be the case. For the sake of our city, I hope I am wrong.

UPDATE: I added a few filler words to clarify my last statement. I was not attempting to insinuate that the institutions are actively discriminatory or prejudicial, but that action of individual members of the respective communities may be based, in part, by animus.