Category Archives: Elections

The Race for County Commish Pct 3 – A Forum

I attended a candidate forum featuring four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Harris County Pct 3 Commissioner. The candidates were Diana Martinez Alexander, Morris Overstreet, Michael Moore, and Kristi Thibaut. The moderator was Charles Kuffner (of Off The Kuff fame) who did an outstanding job of asking some good questions regarding budget priorities, bail reform, flood control and mitigation, city-county cooperation, transportation, climate change, among other topics.

To be honest, all of the candidates offered good answers, whether it was Alexander on Pre-K, Moore on environmental regulation, Thibaut on flood mitigation, or Morris on voting rights. [Watch the video!] There wasn’t much, if any, disagreement.  One thing they all agreed on though, as well as those in attendance, was that all of the good ideas that any of these folks have will only work if Democrats flip the Texas House, thus forcing some bipartisan work from the Texas Senate to do something about revenue caps and the boot that the State of Texas currently has on local government’s necks. Even so, it will be a battle that will require more than some semblance of bipartisanship that republicans refuse to practice. And an even stronger Democratic majority on the commissioner’s court helps.

That said, I usually seek out other qualities from candidates when faced with similarly good answers. For example, when Kuffner asked the question about legislative priorities, it was Diana Martinez Alexander who brought up fighting Greg Abbott’s SB4, the racial profiling and anti-immigrant law that turns local law enforcement into border cops and wastes vital resources. Or, when felony bail reform was brought up, it was the jurist, Morris Overstreet, who provided some clarity to the issue, rather than a cautiously moderate approach to even discussing it.

Of course, political traditions dictate that those that raise the most money and run traditional campaigns have the best chance at beating a republican. But it also takes some good ol’ retail politics to gain this voter’s’ attention, so, kudos to grassroots candidate Diana Martinez Alexander for working the room and speaking to folks she hadn’t met before (me and my sister). Sure, precinct 3 may be too large in which to run that kind of campaign, but last night’s intimate setting filled with activists who GOTV was a good shot at shaking hands and asking for the vote. (And that goes for the other candidates (and office holders) in the room! Stop talking to people you already know!)

As a Chicano voter, I also naturally look for commonalities–with whom do I identify? When Overstreet mentioned he was from West Texas with siblings who had all earned higher education degrees despite their parents’ lack of that kind of opportunity, it spoke to me. Martinez Alexander’s mention that her mother still works cleaning houses was a stark reminder that Harris County’s diversity is both ethnic and economic, thus requiring someone with that kind of life experience who will fight for all of the people without a second thought. It’s not always about polish.

Those that prefer political money and political polish have a couple of candidates, for sure. It’s just not what I’m looking for in this primary election season. That stuff doesn’t impress me if you’re not walking up to a voter and asking for their vote. That said, I’ll be a “D” vote in this race in November, but I’m leaning toward the candidate that best represents me, my issues, and my interests. At least that’s my take after this one forum.

Thanks to the Southwest Democrats (and others) who hosted this event.

Photo:  Erik Manning (Southwest Democrats)

Congratulations, Joe Biden!

Am I the only one experiencing this dark feeling that Joe Biden became the Democratic nominee this week?

I won’t even re-hash the Bernie-Warren spat, but the bottom line is that both campaigns and their supporters have exhibited the worse kind of petty campaign behavior. The kind of behavior that, even if accusations have some speck of legitimacy, goes off the rails rendering both campaigns as childish and immature. The kind of behavior that even though both sides’ points have been made, continues because one or the other continues it and CNN eats it up.

Unfortunately, all this does is make the other guy look stronger, steadfast, and like the image of the granddaddy our country needs, even if he does take us to the woodshed to spank us for questioning anything he might do.

Worse, it’s not even about issues! It’s about what someone else heard someone else say in some candidate meeting. Or some errant staffer on one campaign posting something on a campaign site to which 99% of the rest of us have no access. And that one campaign has talking points on another, as if this kind of thing never happens. Certainly, the only thing we’ve actually heard is whatever CNN’s stage microphone heard after the debate and neither campaign looked good. I guess I just rehashed it.

So, while the facebook arguments will likely continue between Berniestas and Warrenites, I think I’ll spend my time on more productive things. Like, embracing having to vote for Joe Biden. It’s less stressful and a whole lot less petty!

Or, both campaigns can stop the BS and actually campaign so we can let the whitest states in the union decide who will be the nominee. Now, there’s something that should be discussed! Or is race relations in politics just too uncomfortable?

 

 

Primary Controversy Resolved by Judge

Late last year, I wrote about how the local Dem Party ruled that incumbent 351st District Judge George Powell was ineligible for the primary ballot because he had submitted the wrong amount required for the filing fee. Well, District Judge Lauren Reeder heard all of the facts of the case and ruled that Judge Powell should be placed back on the ballot.

Apparently, there were a few more facts to consider beyond the wrong amount and wrong information supposedly given by a party volunteer to the Judge.

Powell gave enough money to the party in a stroke of good fortune – he wrote a second check to the Democratic Party on the Dec. 9 filing deadline, meant as a $2,500 loan for another potential candidate’s application. That woman’s application wasn’t even received because of insufficiencies on her form, but the party cashed both Powell’s $2,500 and $1,500 checks, meaning the organization accepted $4,000 from him, according to testimony.

A lawyer friend in the courtroom told me about other arguments made by the plaintiff that were eye opening, but since there’s nothing written in the press, I won’t get specific. Of course, the plaintiff also gave mention to political intrigue (read the article), but, can anyone name one contested Dem Primary that hasn’t had intrigue? And 2020 has a few intriguing races.

Anyway, the Dem Primary race for the 351st Criminal Court will have Natalia Cornelio challenging Powell. Cornelio helped draft the settlement to improve Harris County’s misdemeanor bail system which was declared unconstitutional in federal court for discriminating against poor defendants. Powell’s actions on the bench do not seem to support the settlement.

Powell was one of 11 current and former judges in the area who were admonished by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in 2019 related to complaints that they instructed hearing officers to deny no-cost bail to indigent defendants. That admonishment has since been retracted for unknown reasons.

Cornelio released this statement:

I remain focused on why I am running and on pushing for the issues that matter in criminal courts, like promoting community centered justice, bail reform, and a commitment to reducing racial disparities in our justice system.

So, it’s off to the races! Kuff has more.

Un Dia Ganaremos: Julian Castro Exits, Endorses Warren

My first and only choice for the Dem nom for POTUS has exited the race. Julian Castro ended his campaign last week after scoring a few points, yet, not being able to build on those points to gain traction against big money and big media.

The reason? Well, that’s up for debate. The DNC set up the primary to help big money candidates in the whitest of states (NH and Iowa). The media virtually ignored Castro, unless he got scrappy and “attacked” Joe Biden. Of course, they’ll point out (because they always point out our failures in defense of theirs) Castro’s Latino numbers weren’t strong, either. With the help of establishment Dems and the media, at some point, the whole self-fulfilling prophesy set in convincing brown folks that it was never to be, so, brown folks went with the others. But enough of that.

Ultimately, I’m pretty sure the giant sucking sound I heard was the establishment unclenching after Castro’s departure because, as his brother Joaquin said:

You said uncomfortable things that needed to be said, spoke up for the forgotten and vulnerable — the people we grew up with. You called on our country to be more just, more humane, more who we’re supposed to be, and gave hope to so many in a dark time.

And I commend Julian Castro for not being the brown candidate that was anything but. Someone had to speak strongly on issues that affect brown folks and the others were not going to sound as sincere as Julian. Or even well-studied on those issues, as always is the case. Julian made history in running and I’m proud of his run. No matter who gets the nom, Castro should be #2 on the ticket as a much needed energizing figure. (We could have used him in 2016.)

All of this said, four days passed and Castro has endorsed Elizabeth Warren, whom he says will “fight like hell” in 2020. I was not surprised. I highly doubt Joe Biden would offer Castro the VP nod, and I have a feeling that Bernie is not Castro’s cup of Chocolate Ibarra. So, Warren is his path to VP (or something in a Dem administration or visibility for a future Texas run), and a lot of Dems are excited about it. Me? Not so much as I think he should have waited.

I’m leaning Bernie based on his platform and the inclusive movement he has created. And since it’s always been about “electability,” I think Bernie is the only one with a shot at creating a big enough movement inclusive of the poor, the vulnerable, and the targeted (those who never get excited by what Dems usually offer) that will oust the Cheeto Jesus. I don’t feel that from Warren at this time; perhaps, Castro will change that. Yet, any Bern I may feel has its limits because of various political realities (DNC, big money, Wall Street, the establishment, neoliberals, a weak media, warmongers, you name it) that will force us to end up with Biden.

How involved will I be during the primary and convention season? At this point, there is a lot about the Dem Primary I’m not enjoying, whether it be the race for Prez, the race for Senate, or the local races. So, I’m not feeling it. But that’s for other blog posts.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Isabel Longoria Falls Short After Complete Count

As was reported on Run-Off election night, District H was too close to call as provisional and mail ballots needed to be counted. Karla Cisneros led Isabel Longoria by 12 votes. By the end of the week, it looks like incumbent Council Member Karla Cisneros was re-elected by 16 votes.

The outcome of the runoff had remained in some doubt after the Dec. 14 election, when unofficial results showed Cisneros leading Longoria by 12 votes: 5,283 to 5,271. After the addition of 40 provisional and mail ballots, however, Cisneros’ lead widened to 16.

Longoria announced it on Friday after pushing the County Clerk to ensure a complete and timely count by releasing the names of individuals who needed to cure their provisional ballots.

As a local expert with experience on the ballot board told me, when a race is this close, provisional and mail ballots do not move the needle much in either direction. Usually, the ballots left to be counted end up being split between the two candidates.

Bottom line:  Your vote matters. I mentioned on Facebook on election night that either candidate, or either of us reading this, probably know 20 people who did not vote last Saturday. And that’s just sad, as much as we remind people in various ways to go vote.

Congrats to Council Member Cisneros. And congrats to Isabel Longoria. Let’s hope those that sent a message to the incumbent with their vote experience some change from it.

In District B, a trial date has been set to decide whether a candidate with completed prison sentence should be eligible to run and serve in office. The third-place candidate sued to remove and replace that candidate. Because of this delay and trial, and because of election schedules, it could be that the District B election will not be held until May 2nd. The people spoke in November, yet, Democracy is still delayed.

 

It Wouldn’t Be A Dem Primary Without A Filing Controversy

If you haven’t heard, an incumbent Democratic Criminal District Judge incorrectly filed for re-election and had his candidacy rejected by the Harris County Democratic Party, as reported by Miya Shay at ABC13. Judge George Powell of the 351st District Court filed for re-election as the deadline neared on December 9 and paid the wrong filing fee. Once his paperwork was checked, and the check was short, he was rejected.

Any candidate (and especially incumbent) should know to read the rules for filing for office. You learn this in a Candidate 101 class given by any friendly consultant or blogger. Or, at least on the Texas Secretary of State’s website.

The rules are simple. Those filing for Criminal District Judge should file with the County Chair. The candidate has the option of collecting 750 signatures in lieu of the filing fee, or collecting 250 signatures and paying a $2500 filing fee (in large counties, including Harris) as is stated in Sections 172.024(10), (12), of the Texas Election Code.

Powell is stating that he was told it was $1500 by someone at the Party. But this isn’t his first rodeo and the rules have not changed. Also, the Harris County Democratic Party isn’t a grocery store with a checkout counter. They collect the paperwork and the decision is made by the County Chair. And, finally, the SOS Candidate Handbook states all of this stuff quite specifically.

[There’s a reason I tell candidates to file early, and not at the last minute. Just in case.]

There’s no telling what will be decided. A temporary restraining order was granted by a judge and a hearing will be held in early January. My experience in this (having worked on a campaign which challenged sloppy signatures, yet still approved by the County Chair at the time), is that judges aren’t too keen on even deciding these cases, or deciding against a party’s decision. But we have a whole different crop of judges, now. So, ay veremos.

The bigger question is:  Can a judge who interprets the law be taken seriously when he doesn’t read the laws pertaining to his own candidacy?

Anyway, thankfully, a well-qualified attorney had filed to challenge the incumbent. Natalia Cornelio did follow the rules and made it on to the ballot and is currently the only candidate running for the 351st. She champions fairness, civil rights, and criminal justice reform. We need more of that in our courts.

KHOU Poll Has Mayor Turner Leading. Vote Anyway!

KHOU, et al, released the results of what is probably the final public poll of the Houston Mayoral race and Mayor Sylvester Turner leads with 56%, with 6% undecided and another 4% refusing to say for whom they would vote. The millionaire, access-buying, Trumpista has the rest (34%).

While Mayor Turner has over 90% support from Democrats, he has made some significant inroads with other groups, such as Bill King voters (37%), and even Republicans (20%). Independent voters are split in the 40s, which isn’t surprising. Turner is also polling strong with young and seasoned voters alike.

The poll is of likely voters who voted in the first round (234 out of 516 responded). The live interviews were conducted with cell phone and landline voters.

So, we can feel good while we down our coffee this morning, but we must still vote on Saturday, 12/14 to ensure Mayor Sylvester Turner keeps his seat. Polls are just a snapshot of any given day and the only poll that matters is on Saturday.

Voters may vote at any polling location (find one here www.HarrisVotes.org), 7am to 7pm. According to Diane Trautman – County Clerk, over 115,000 Houstonians voted early already, which is more than in the first round. So, let’s close the deal on Saturday. Get out and vote the #StaceSlate: 

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Raj Salhotra – At Large 1

David Robinson – At Large 2

Janaeya Carmouche – At Large 3

Letitia Plummer – At Large 4

Sallie Alcorn – At Large 5

Tiffany Thomas – District F

Others

Isabel Longoria – District H

Sandra Rodriguez – District J

Carolyn Evans-Shabazz – District D

Abbie Kamin – District C

Monica Flores-Richart – HCC District 1

We Have A 2020 Dem Primary!

Well, there were few surprises at the end of the final filing day, but we do have some contested races all the way down the ballot. Here’s my take on some of the local races on my ballot.

US Senate. There are a lot of Dems in the running, but I will say that I am currently interested in Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez and State Senator Royce West. West has been going around the state, while Ramirez has earned the support of Beto O’Rourke’s staffers. The big question of voters will be:  Who can beat Cornyn?

Texas Railroad Commish. I’m glad to see my friend and former State Rep. Roberto Alonzo (of Dallas by way of Crystal City) in the running.

State Rep. Gene Wu (137th) seems to have been virtually re-elected. No challengers in May or November as of my last look at the SOS site.

State Senate District 13. My State Senator Borris Miles has a couple of challengers. I’m sure we’ll get to keep him at the end of the Primary.

Commish Pct 3. The biggest (non-)surprise was that Pct. 1 Constable Alan Rosen did not sign up to run for this race and decided to run for another term. I was hoping he would jump in since I thought he’d have the fundraising and campaigning abilities to win in November. We’re left with a list of relatively unknown (or who haven’t been around for a while) persons to duke it out in the primary. Stay tuned. I know I’ll be since I really don’t know for whom to vote. The Republicans will have their own battle which will hopefully be fun to watch (who outrepublicans the other).

Tax Assessor-Collector. Our friendly and awesome incumbent Ann Bennett ended up with a couple of challengers. Ann Bennett has done a great job with voter registration, increasing the number of trainings in multiple languages and the overall promotion of the task, while vastly improving customer service levels around the county. No doubt, we need this incumbent on the ballot to beat the well-known GOP candidate in November.

Other Positions.

As expected, County Court at Law #4 appointee, Judge Lesley Briones, who managed to not accidentally resign during her more than three months in office, got a challenge from the guy who accidentally resigned after less than 3 months in office.

The JP Pct 5-1 race will be interesting, since I live in it. Both Roel Garcia and Israel Garcia worked the signature-collection hard and I ran in to them several times. The other two candidates, I’ve never seen.

Constable Pct 5. I’m glad to see Dem interest in running for this post. There are three candidates running in this one–none that I’ve met. So, I look forward to learning more about them.

One thing I have always mentioned is that when the Democrats took over the County, contested primaries would become a thing, and it is happening in this one. The hardest working District Judge in District 80, Larry Weiman, is now challenged. Alexandra Smoots-Thomas (164th) is challenged by Cheryl Elliot-Thornton, who has run a couple of times for other courts. My friend Ursula Hall (165th) has a couple of challengers. Nikita Harmon (176th) and Robert Johnson (177th), Randy Roll (179th), Daryl Moore (333rd), Steven Kirkland (334th), and Julia Maldonado (507th) have opponents, most who I’ve never even heard of. I look forward to seeing the reasons they are challenging some of these incumbents and hopefully, it’s more than just ego (or some objection they lost in their courtroom).

Of note, should be the Democratic judges that were left unchallenged by Republicans. If the GOP didn’t fill their ballot, well, it shows their self-confidence has been weakened. Let’s hit them hard in November!

Texas House District 85. This district represents a big chunk of Fort Bend and all of Wharton and Jackson counties. A Democrat from Fort Bend came within 7 points of the incumbent in 2018. This time around, Louise (Wharton County) native Joey Cardenas, III, a teacher for over 25 years in Wharton and Jackson counties, will take on the challenge. Beyond his years of creating the next generations’ leaders, Cardenas has been a statewide leader on issues like public education and redistricting, walking the halls of the Texas Capitol advocating for students, teachers, and voters. Plus, I’ve known him for 27+ years since our days at SWT (TXST).

We will have more on the Primary as the days go by. March is just a few of months away. For now, vote in the City of Houston election! Today (12/10) is the last day of early voting. Saturday is run-off election day. Vote anywhere in Harris County! And Vote the StaceSlate of Turner-Raj-Robinson-Carmouche-Plummer-Alcorn!

Kuff has more.

 

 

#StaceSlate – 2019 Run-Off Edition

The 2019 City of Houston Run-Off Election, scheduled for December 14, has shaped up into easy choices for truly progressive-minded voters. There is one of each (Dem and ‘Nut), for the most part, in the running on my ballot. I would have felt more warm and fuzzy with two Dems in each race, but progressive-minded folks have yet to realize that there are a lot more of us here in Houston to make that happen. That said, the easy choices on my ballot are:

Mayor Sylvester Turner

District F:  Tiffany Thomas

At-Large 1:  Raj Salhotra

At-Large 2:  David Robinson (inc.)

At-Large 3:  Janaeya Carmouche

At-Large 4:  Dr. Letitia Plummer

At-Large 5:  Sallie Alcorn

In those districts in which I don’t reside, I’m rooting for:

District H:  Isabel Longoria

District J:  Sandra Rodriguez

HCC1:  Monica Flores-Richart

District B:  Tarsha Jackson (ELECTION DELAYED)

The Special Election for Texas House District 148 will be held on January 28, so, I’m rooting for Democrat Anna Eastman to win the run-off in HD148. As people keep telling me, they are doing it all over again in March in the Dem Primary, but I agree with some of my friends who say HD148 voters can’t give away the seat to a right-wing, anti-Latino Latino just because their person didn’t make it to the run-off. Campos reports on Anna’s endorsements and they all look pretty good and diverse to me.

 

2019 Elections: How Done Are We?

One thing is for sure, we will have plenty of run-off races in December. That’s what we get when our elections look like that T-rex race we’ve been watching on social media.

The Results Delay

Local news seems to be blaming County Clerk Dr. Diane Trautman for the delays, but the reality is that orders came from Greg Abbott’s minion at the Secretary of State. Instead of using multiple secure counting stations to report the results, Abbott and minions required Harris County to bring all 750+ ballot boxes to downtown–and brought in by law enforcement! (I actually saw cops taking ONE box out of an SUV.) With hard-working poll workers having to run the election all day, close up and put away all of the materials, and then take them to one of 30 drop-off locations and only to have them brought into downtown by a few constables, and then basically reported manually, well, there were delays.

Was this a planned thing by the Republicans? I think so. One way or another, it’s an attack on democracy. Kudos to County Clerk Trautman on opening up voting opportunities around the county. And kudos to her staff for all of the hours they have put in to ensure we have results.

The Republicans are showing us they don’t like to lose in the big cities,  and that we’ll just have to wait on our victories a few extra hours.

Mayor

The push toward 50% plus 1 that we hoped materialized didn’t, yet Mayor Sylvester Turned did earn over 45% of the vote. Bottom line, Mayor Turner ran a great race against a couple of of no-idea naysayers who only complained about the Mayor and offered nothing to vote for. And topping the list is Tony Buzzkill whose “disjointed” (I’ve heard drunk) speech last night showed us what we’d get. So, we know what we must do:  Vote Turner!

Controller

Chris Brown defeats an annoying mosca. Congrats!

At-Large

Looks like we are in for run-offs in all of the At-Large races. Raj vs Knox; Robinson vs Davis; Carmouche vs Kubosh; Dolcefino vs Plummer; and Alcorn vs Dick. I’m sure they are all relieved with the Mayoral run-off at the top of the ballot.

Districts

I’m looking forward to continuing my support of Tiffany Thomas in District F who had some great numbers last night (around 39%). I’m still rooting for Isabel Longoria in H, Sandra Rodriguez in J, and Tarsha Jackson in B. And a big congrats to Robert Gallegos who handily defeated his opponent and a bunch of bigoted episodes from naysayers.

Houston ISD

Like I’ve said, I live in Alief ISD but just barely. Still, the kids HISD pumps out affect me, so, something must be said. Two Latino incumbents will be replaced by newbies. At least one of those incumbents offered up toxicity that has basically reached other incumbents, especially the one who lost last night. There are a couple of other incumbents who have been affected by this toxicity, but they aren’t up for re-election for another couple of years. I’m hoping the crud dries up and flies away as this new board begins to work–if given the chance by the State of Texas. If anyone had asked me, I would have advised to stay away from the toxic crud, but no one asked. Being pro-Latino is a good thing, but you need to watch for who is leading the way.

Alief ISD

The incumbents were leading, some barely. I’m not sure about run-offs here. If no run-offs, then the incumbents win.

HCC Dist 1

Monica Flores-Richart is the obvious choice in this race against a bigot. She has worked hard for a long time–I’ve known her since she was working Diane Trautman’s campaign out in the ‘burbs and wish her a decisive victory,.

HD148

With so many running, who would be the top two was always up in the air–at least until the early vote was announced. The end-result is a run-off between Democrat Anna Eastman and Republican Luis La Rotta. A couple of other Latinas who I expected to have a bigger showing did not. And, now, I’m thinking about changing my name to Adrian Garcia and running for County Commissioner Pct 3. Anyway…

That’s it for now. Ay los watcho!

Kuff has his own thoughts on the election. Thanks to him for all of the interviews and work he puts in to keep us informed.