Category Archives: Harris County

The Stace Slate – 2022 Dem Run-Off

It’s that time again. Early voting for the 2022 Democratic Run-off begins on Monday, May 16 and continues through May 20. Run-off Election Day is on Tuesday, May 24. You can find your nearest polling location by clicking here. Need a sample ballot? Find yours by clicking here.

And for whom am I voting?

Here’s the Stace Slate:

Lt. Governor – Mike Collier

Attorney General – Rochelle Garza

Comptroller – Angel Luis Vega

Land Commissioner – Sandragrace Martinez

Judge, 185th District – Jason Luong (Incumbent)

Judge, 208th District – No Recommendation

Judge, 312th Family District – Clinton “Chip” Wells (Incumbent)

Judge, County Civil Court #4 – Treasea Treviño

County Commissioner, Precinct 4 – Lesley Briones

Races not on my ballot, but maybe on yours.

Justice of the Peace, Pct 1, Place 2 – Sonia Lopez

Congress, District 38 – Diana Martinez Alexander

State Rep, District 147 – Danielle Keys Bess

Others further away.

Congress, District 28 – Jessica Cisneros

Bexar County Judge – Ina Minjarez

Chou Goes Disingenuous With Briones Attack

Thursday morning, I saw a couple of attack ads on Facebook against Lesley Briones, Democrat for County Commissioner, Pct 4, paid for by her opponent Ben Chou. (Coby has the artwork.)

I really wasn’t sure if I should write about it because I think bringing it up would give it more attention than the ads actually earned, but since it is a race in which I actually vote and the Briones campaign responded, I thought I’d pay attention and say something.

Attacks are nothing new and this blogger (and others) has been known to play “gotcha!” with many a political campaign based on and backed up by actual facts after a hell of a lot of research. But when an attack is not backed up by facts, then, one is just being disingenuous, probably during a fit of desperation, hoping something will stick as Early Voting begins soon.

Each Facebook ad, which were paid by Ben Chou but under the guise of a group that suddenly popped up out of nowhere, had a link to a Houston Chronicle article by Zack Despart regarding “pay to play” on the Commissioner’s Court, while the caption written by the group was an attack on Briones’ fundraising as a judge. The problem is, the linked article had nothing to do with Briones; if anything, the article didn’t even mention her because she is not on the Commissioner’s Court. But the caption by the Facebook group made it seem as if the Chronicle was somehow linking Briones to activities on the Commissioner’s Court.

As Facebook ads go, I’m pretty sure local campaign attack ads are seldom clicked as whatever the caption states is enough for the uninformed voter. Facebook activists will share a caption before they read an article. I’m pretty sure that was the goal of the Chou campaign, which makes it all more disappointing because he’s supported by a few groups and individuals that promote “democracy” and other stuff I support. So, I clicked the link thinking Chou would provide facts about his attack only to be sent to Despart’s article, which I read months ago.

Worse, Chou (or a supporter who once ran for Congress in CD9 and is Chou’s treasurer) seems to have created an organization on Facebook and Twitter that has no members (and 5 likes) and probably isn’t an official political action committee, nor reports any of its expenses or activities as an individual organization supportive of Chou as required by campaign finance laws. Chou’s campaign finance statements show he’s paid Human Age Digital (which is credited on the Facebook page of the new group) a nice amount of cash.

Briones responded stating that Precinct 4 deserves much better than a candidate who spreads lies and violates campaign finance laws. The campaign statement defended her time as a judge pointing to the fact that she cleared her docket backlog and “connected low-income individuals to to free legal representation.”

I have no idea what Chou’s response would be, now, other than backing up his attack with numbers and confusing paperwork. Or, just ignore the backlash and let it ride.

Either way, it’s a cheap attack which lacks substance and really shows a campaign that is seriously tanking or badly advised. Chou’s digital ad had a better message but he fell short of expanding on it given these Facebook ads. “Electing better leaders” takes a convincing argument that captures hearts and minds and simplistic attacks are not a good strategy to achieve that goal.

Early voting begins on Monday.

DCs Weekly COVID-19 Report

Because everyone else seems to be ignoring the COVID-creep that continues.

Houston Health reported yesterday that the 14-day positivity rate is now at 6.1% and the wastewater load is now at 91%. People are still dying. Houston Health still calls it “low,” but at what point does it become “moderate”? I wish they’d tell us so we know how foolish we can act before calming down when it’s too late. (Yes, that was snark.)

Speaking of, some locally popular folks are testing positive lately–even a popular doctor who helps develop vaccines and a County Commish. I wake up this morning and find out even Kelly (from Kelly and Ryan) has it! I wish them well. And I also wish they’d stop jumping into unmasked COVID-y crowds.

Me, I wake up with bad allergies and wonder if some unmasked fool at Walgreens coughed on me or if the unmasked woman in the electric cart at Kroger who had a coughing fit in the baking aisle infected me. Because I mask all the time, especially in crowded places with people I don’t know. But you just never know when it’s going to hit you. And while “vax’d and boosted” may save you from the worst, we still don’t know what can happen to a person post-COVID infection. It’s the long COVID and effects of this inflammatory disease that can be scary. And no one seems to take this aspect of it seriously.

Needless to say, Joe Biden needs to send more free tests and Congress needs to fund more COVID-19-related healthcare services for the uninsured. Better yet, universal healthcare all of the time!

Anyway, mask-up. Stay clean. If you call yourself a “leader,” be a freakin’ example and wear a mask if you feel the need to post selfies from crowded events.

And that’s todays COVID-19 report of disappointment.

Abbott’s Antics Lose MX Rail Line to NM

Greg Abbott has done it again with his border antics. After “sticking it to Biden” by jamming up trucks at the border which were delivering goods to the US with additional and failed inspections, Mexico has decided to re-route a rail line that would have benefited Texas to New Mexico.

A friend who is an ex-pat in CDMX alerted me to this during the weekend. Within a couple of days, other news outlets got ahold of the news and even Beto O’Rourke told his supporters about Abbott’s failure.

“We’re now not going to use Texas,” Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier said at a conference Thursday in Mexico City, referring to a planned rail and ports expansion known as the T-MEC Corridor to connect the Pacific port of Mazatlan to the Canadian city of Winnipeg. “We can’t leave all the eggs in one basket and be hostages to someone who wants to use trade as a political tool.”

Clouthier’s message was clear: Mexico is angry about the chaos at the border caused by Abbott’s surprise order a few weeks back to force commercial trucks coming from Mexico to undergo additional inspections. While Texas officials didn’t uncover any contraband or undocumented migrants, they created hours-long delays that left fresh produce to rot and caused havoc with supply chains. 

Some economists question whether this project will actually happen, but it’s a pretty loud declaration by the AMLO government that it is not happy with its trading partner’s leadership. Others question why New Mexico since there isn’t a lot of trade that occurs compared to trade with Texas, but, why not? It’s not a bad idea to expand trade capabilities that will also ease bottlenecks that may be caused by an idiotic Texas governor whenever he gets a bug up his hind side.

Whatever happens in the future, this is about pointing out Greg Abbott’s continued failed leadership, especially at the border. Whether it is blaming migrants for the problems caused by his government, or destroying border economies in the name of border security, Greg Abbott never takes responsibility and neither do Republicans. South Texas is in play because Democrats ignore it despite border businesses being pawns for Abbott and Republicans.

In other words, keep saying it and maybe it’ll stick.

Is COVID-19 Creeping Back Up?

Based on folks running around at various unmasked, high-attendance indoor events, I’m pretty sure no one has noticed the COVID-19 positivity rate creeping up these last couple of weeks. Houston Health Department reported this morning “slight” increases from last week’s rate, but they still call it “low” at 3.5%.

The City of Philadelphia noticed their cases creeping up and has decided to reinstate its mask mandate in a week while hospitalizations remain low in order to keep them that way. As their Mayor Tenney stated, “Our city remains open; we can still go about our daily lives and visit the people and places we love while masking in indoor public spaces.”

And that’s the general attitude that we have needed here in Texas, but leaders–elected and community–have failed us by going around unmasked to mass events as if this thing is over. They have failed to be an example of what leadership is while proclaiming themselves leaders. I always chuckle when I see their social media posts.

The Gridiron Club dinner in DC where 72 attendees, including members of Congress left infected, is an example of what can occur in an instant when one jumps right into an unmasked event. One member of Congress stated he avoided COVID-19 these last two years only to get it by going unmasked while boosted. In other words, if you’re around an infected person, you can get it.

Thank your shots and boosters all you want, the goal should still remain to NOT get sick, rather than getting it and spreading it to vulnerable loved ones, while still surviving yourself.

To further make this point about caring about the vulnerable–the elderly, the immunocompromised, those with comorbidities–here’s a good op-ed from the NYTimes, which points to the lack of caring for vulnerable populations at all levels of government and now in both parties in this race to re-open.

After a couple of weeks of watching the positivity rate go below 2%, I dove into society a little, attending a lunch with friends in a nice uncrowded restaurant, I ate lunch at Dot’s with family on the way to Hobby (a little scarier because it was packed), and I ate lunch at a restaurant in Sharpstown (Taqueria Mexico Lindo) to enjoy some menudo and tripas tacos. I walked into all places masked, masked up when the staff came to the table, but unmasked while eating. It’s still a scary experience for me because I tend to trust no one. Still, I enjoyed myself. But I think I’m done once again while this creep-up occurs. At the very least, I’ll stay masked wherever I go.

I was hoping to time my 2nd booster for the next color-code change, but I may need to do it sooner.

If you’re indoors, mask-up. Get double boosted. Keep clean. No one is telling you to shut things down, but just be cognizant of how you can affect your loved ones. It’s about personal responsibility.

Kuff has more.

Abbott Calls For Volunteer Migrants to Self-Deport From Texas

Another Abbott border boondoggle? Or is it a show of bigotry and idiocy? Probably both.

Greg Abbott called a press show to announce a new program to bus migrants to Washington, DC to drop them off at Joe Biden’s (and America’s) front yard so that he can deal with them.

What sounded like a pretty bigoted shit-show worsened when reality set in.

The governor’s office clarified that the program is completely voluntary for migrants and would happen only after they had been processed and released by the Department of Homeland Security. And in addition to buses, Abbott also ordered the state to charter flights to transport migrants to the nation’s capital. The migrants would have to show documentation that they had already been processed by DHS. Many immigration advocates have noted that providing transportation services for asylum-seekers to reach their final destination is something the state should invest in.

Abbott’s announcement led to immediate criticism from both his left and his right. Immigration rights groups said his rhetoric was still dangerous.

No doubt, when I thought about it, I thought it a great idea. These are recently released migrants, not migrants caught by Abbott’s border initiative, which includes local Sheriff’s offices. Because one way or another, migrants must be released by the yokels and the smokies to DHS/Border Patrol for processing. DHS then releases them from border area facilities to the towns in which they are located. A free ride to parts east where there is a need for exploitable and cheap labor would be a big help all-around, right?

Still, the underlying reasons are obvious and the whole program is a dangerous one.

Small border towns have been having a freak-out as the Trump/Biden Title 42 rule, which blames migrants for COVID and not Abbott’s unmasking and unvax’ing of Texas, is on the verge of ending in the next few weeks; thus, a surge is expected at the border and from DHS releases of processed migrants. So, it’s obvious this is part of a “response” from Abbott.

Fortunately, both the left and the right are calling it an empty gesture.

State Rep. Mary González, D-El Paso, vice chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus denounced Abbott’s announcement as a political stunt.

“Instead of using our tax dollars to drive economic growth and build infrastructure, Governor Abbott is funding political stunts at the expense of Texas families and our troops.”

Let’s get serious, though. The Biden administration has had every opportunity to continue making changes by executive order to our Nation’s asylum process and the overall immigration process. Lawsuits from the right, be damned! Meanwhile, Congress and Justice continues lollygagging with another failed prosecution attempt of Trump, instead of pushing immigration legislation, even in piecemeal fashion.

What some call a immigration crisis, or worse, an “invasion,” is caused by migrant’s home countries run by dictators and drug kingpins who on the daily threaten innocent people. They are left with no choice but to leave their home countries for land considered safer. So, it is not an immigration crisis as much as it is US foreign policy that bolsters right-wing and corrupt government in Latin America. Ultimately, it all becomes a human rights crisis when migrants go hunted by people like Greg Abbott and Biden’s corrupt border patrol for profit.

Wholesale change is needed, but no one wants to do anything substantive. So, this kind of crisis at the border will continue while borders are open for other lighter skinned folks from other violence-torn countries on the other side of the world.

Isabel Longoria Resigns As Elections Chief

After County Judge Lina Hidalgo made it clear that she preferred someone else in charge of elections, Isabel Longoria submitted her resignation, effective July 1.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Houston Chronicle reported that Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat, said she wanted a change in leadership and intended to replace election administrator Isabel Longoria. Shortly after, Longoria announced she would step down on July 1.

Her resignation came after Harris County Democrats called for a comprehensive post-election review, while Republicans — regular adversaries of the county’s Democratic leadership — simultaneously sued the county and demanded Longoria’s resignation.

Also…

Ultimately, the county commissioners court voted to bring in a third-party consultant to review the county’s elections operations and make recommendations for improvement for the remaining 2022 elections.

I guess that the consultant will work double-time so the office can be ready for November. That’ll be a nice vendor contract.

County Commissioner Adrian Garcia supported Longoria’s resignation and defended the creation of an election administrator’s office stating the current system allows for accountability. Also, that an elected official running the elections would have an unfair advantage in their own race.

County Commissioner Rodney Ellis expanded on the fact that Longoria had to face an “unprecedented amount of obstructions aimed at her office and Harris County voters.” That would include anything from frivolous lawsuits to SB1 to no guidance from the Secretary of State. Ellis also stated that the real threat to voting rights are barriers to voting and other voter suppression tactics.

Back when the office was created, I defended our Democratic majority doing so since we elected them, and despite opposition from the Tax Assessor-Collector to the idea. What I did prefer at the time was a lengthy discussion on how it should be created and run and that a national search be done for someone to lead the office. Someone who knew the new voting system and could hit the ground running. Something that would not have taken two years, as Garcia mentioned in his statement. And look at where we are now.

Like Kuff, I was happy with the choice of Longoria because I knew her as a hard-working, open-minded person who would get the job done, if given the freedom by all sides. So, I appreciate Isabel Longoria’s commitment to remaining for the next two elections in May, though, I do remind her that this is a right to work state and loyalty is a two-way street. Whatever errors occurred happened within the entire office, so, I hope that all those involved are held accountable. That’s if all the hubbub wasn’t “political,” right?

Something else I said about the creation of a “non-partisan” elections office that would take out the politics from elections is that these offices are always political, no matter who is in charge. And with republicans continually tossing around voting conspiracy theories, it will be hard for anyone to run this office. And that’s exactly what Republicans want. So, best to keep a Democratic majority at Commissioner’s Court.

Kuff has his take and smacks the local news a bit for basically misleading viewers on how the “missing” votes could have affected the outcomes of some close races without context on the data. As Kuff (and many of us who follow vote counts as hobbies) expected, no outcomes were affected.

Those Litigious GOPers

Republinuts have been lawsuit filing fools recently. One lawsuit against Beto O’Rourke because of a billionaire’s hurt feelings and the other against Harris County because they didn’t like the election.

[Kelcy] Warren, the co-founder of Energy Transfer and chair of its board, filed the lawsuit last month in state district court in San Saba County, accusing O’Rourke of a “relentless and malicious attack” on him. The lawsuit alleges defamation, slander and libel, and it seeks over $1 million in damages.

At first, I thought it said “definition” of character. I agree with O’Rourke, it’s frivolous and pretty whiny. Kelcy is just a poor little rich man.

Speaking of whiny, the local republinuts filed a lawsuit against election chief, Isabel Longoria, for a variety of reasons.

The lawsuit, which lists Longoria by name, claims she interfered with the Republican chair supervision of the primary election by “failing to abide the county chair’s appointment of Presiding Judges and alternate judges” and interfered with “the county chair’s supervision by electing to treat a 10,000 vote discrepancy in the county as a matter ‘for further investigation rather than providing the county chairs and the presiding judges the underlying data suggesting that Defendant could not get those votes counted before a court-imposed deadly.”

So, instead of trying to seek facts, the GOP is putting out all sorts of conspiracy theories to see what sticks, or not. It’s the usual playbook of questioning the legitimacy of elections, including the republican primary which was run by the republicans. All of this with the purpose of attacking County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Democrats. I hope the lawsuit is dismissed.

Bottom line: The votes are being counted and finalized, including the 10,000+ that were scanned but not tabulated. A review of the process is being done. The County Commissioners will get to question the election administrator this week. Answers are coming. Anything else the local republinuts do is just to add a very annoying smokescreen to the facts and more delays.

Kuff has more.

Are You Ready for the Democratic Run-Offs?

Well, the vote counts are in, despite the whining of the Trumpy, Abbott-appointed Secretary of State and republinuts who probably started all the whining, and we can see who will be facing off in the run-off in a couple of months. This is what we see, so far, locally.

US Rep, District 38 – Diana Martinez Alexander, Duncan Klussman

Lt. Governor – Mike Collier, Michelle Beckley

Attorney General – Rochelle Mercedes Garza, Joe Jaworski

State Comptroller – Angel Luis Vera, Janet Dudding

Land Commissioner – Sandragrace Martinez, Jay Kleberg

SBOE – 4 – Staci Childs, Coretta Mallett-Fontenot

State Rep, 147 – Danielle Keys Bess, Jolanda Jones

Judge, 185th District – Jason Luong, Andrea Beall

Judge, 208th District – Beverly Armstrong, Kimberly McTorry

Family Judge, 312th District – Clinton “Chip” Wells, Teresa Waldrop

Judge, County Civil Court #4 – Treasea Trevino, MK Singh

County Commissioner, Pct. 4 – Lesley Briones, Ben Chou

Justice of the Peace, Pct 1-2 – Sonia Lopez, Steve Duble

Those in italics are not on my ballot, but maybe they are on yours. Either way, all of us will have a busy run-off ballot. Those in bold are folks I’m voting for and/or rooting for. Those races I haven’t picked, well, I haven’t learned anything about them, yet.

Outside of Harris County, eyes will be looking toward South Texas where there will be some interesting run-offs, including CD28 where Jessica Cisneros gets one more chance to unseat the old, searched-thru furniture that is Henry Cuellar. Kuff has a good round-up on all of the run-offs in Texas.

Kuff also expands on the coverage of the printer/paper ballot issues at Harris County. I agree that more voter education and election worker training is needed to ensure people don’t scuff their paper ballots while voting. Hell, even I held my paper ballot sheets gently and from a corner while voting on the machine because I worried about it folding or whatever. Ultimately, less that one percent of ballots were damaged, but counting them just added to the delays in results because Longoria and her staff are trying to ensure actual vote security.

What we really need less of is voter suppression from the Lege with laws like SB1, whose mail ballot issues caused even more delays for election staff. And maybe local news media that treats this story in an educative manner (Miya Shay), rather than in a sensational manner (the other reporters).

Back At Orange; CDC Unmasking

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has placed us back at COVID-19 Level Orange.

BREAKING: I’ve just lowered our COVID19 Threat Level Indicator from Level 1: Red to Level 2: Orange, as cases/ICU populations are decreasing. We’re moving in the right direction but we can always see another wave. Please get vaxxed and boosted, and help us keep the virus at bay.

Just in time for the OmicRodeo! Not that any warnings or suggestions would have done anything to keep people masked or distanced at crowded places like NRG. We’ve been on our own the whole damn time to do the right thing and have failed miserably, especially Texas-wide.

Today, the CDC begins to unmask America.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday will announce a change to the metrics it uses to determine whether to recommend face coverings, shifting from looking at COVID-19 case counts to a more holistic view of risk from the coronavirus to a community. Under current guidelines, masks are recommended for people residing in communities of substantial or high transmission — roughly 95% of U.S. counties, according to the latest data.

The new metrics will still consider caseloads, but also take into account hospitalizations and local hospital capacity, which have been markedly improved during the emergence of the omicron variant. That strain is highly transmissible, but indications are that it is less severe than earlier strains, particularly for people who are fully vaccinated and boosted. Under the new guidelines, the vast majority of Americans will no longer live in areas where indoor masking in public is recommended, based on current data.

No doubt, there will be more confusion. That’s OK, even the bluest of states and cities want to pretend the pandemic is over and are getting rid of masks. Or, at least confusing people as to whether masks are required, recommended, or go fuck yourself.

Anyway, we’re still at CODE RED at DC HQ. We wear N-95, KN-95 and KF-94 masks in all places with breathing people, sometimes with a cloth mask over it just because we have some pretty cool cloth masks that we still want to show off. And we breathe just fine and don’t whine about it. We work in places with weak masking and vaccination regs thanks to the bad leadership of Greg Abbott and others, thus, keeping us on a testing regimen whenever some unmasked fool breathes on us. All these threats with no support for our family members who are immunocompromised–whether from workplaces or our government, or even friends/family who insist on going to mass events unmasked.

Yes, COVID-19 is here to stay, they just haven’t thrown the word “endemic” at us locally like they have in California; at least, not officially.