Tag Archives: Harris County

Race For Precinct 4 Is Almost Over, But…

The Precinct 4 race for County Commissioner continues its negative track as Leslie Briones responded to Ben Chou with her own attack ad, which called out Chou’s self-crediting statement as the inventor of drive-thru voting. In addition, Briones offered up some receipts regarding Chou’s alleged acceptance of money from folks who work for Harris County vendors. Also, Briones pointed out that Chou and his supporters created a fake organization that violated all sorts of campaign finance rules. Though the receipts didn’t really resonate with me since they were small, personal donations to Chou, the rest of the ad did because everything else Briones states is true.

Unfortunately, a doctored photo of Chou on the headline of the ad is what has caused the race to go rather ugly, with charges of racism against Briones. Briones has apologized and gotten rid of the designer of the photo and ad, but Chou continues his attack against the Latina candidate, while not accepting the apology. As if either community isn’t under real attacks by forces who will effect racist and bigoted public policy if we don’t win this seat in November.

If Chou and his supporters were offended by the doctored photo, Chou’s use of an unflattering, grainy, black and white photo of Briones, a highly successful, professional Latina leader, may be equally offensive to some. It is to me as our Latina sisters are under relentless attack. But it’s part of the business as one campaign tries to paint the other as sinister and bad in order to convince voters to decide for whom to vote by way of artwork, instead of actual words. I mean, have you seen the imagery the Republicans create as they tear each other apart?

In this case, both campaigns are guilty of going negative. And both campaigns are guilty of trying “gotcha” politics as the election winds down because it may be that close of an election. Ultimately, it’s about who one believes and who presents a better story of themselves to convince whatever voters are still undecided. And, yes, doctored and grainy, unflattering photos are something that Democrats should avoid. Both campaigns are guilty of this. Above all, we seem to be bad at it.

I voted for Lesley Briones because she has a track-record as an executive, educator, attorney, and as a member of the judiciary. She has given of herself to her community and the community at-large. She is proven in all facets of leadership, whether as a decision-maker or as a paper-pusher. Above all, she makes herself accessible and is responsive. These are qualities we need on the Commissioner’s Court and Lesley is the only candidate who offers these qualities.

Vote on Tuesday!

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.

Update: Rumor was that the ad was taken down, but it looks like he decided to keep attacking as another ad with a campaign-connected link popped up that provides a list of donors. He provides no proof that rulings were made in favor of donors. He’s grasping at straws, again. I guess Chou’s saying no judge should accept money from lawyers?

Thoughts on Viernes 04152022

Still With Judge Lina

Speaking of political performance art, the local DA seems to be going too far in the use of her office to wage a political vendetta against Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

While local purveyors of sensationalist reporting are having a field day while reporting whatever the local DA tells them, which mostly serves as porn for anti-Latina right-wingers, it is other news sites that report more of the story, such as Texas Monthly.

Beyond its potential legal consequences, the contract investigation reflects long-standing tensions between Hidalgo and Ogg, the Democratic district attorney who has found an alliance with the two Republicans on the five-member commissioners’ court, chaired by the county judge. In recent months, the Republicans, Jack Cagle and Tom Ramsey, have generally supported Ogg’s requests for funding beyond the annual increases her office has received, while the three Democrats—Hidalgo and Commissioners Adrian Garcia and Rodney Ellis—have resisted her entreaties. Ogg also increasingly finds herself estranged from the progressive wing of her party, which has faulted her for not embracing reform of the cash bail system.

Sounds like a political vendetta to me and quite the political performance. It’s not a secret that the local DA has even supported a slate of anti-reform assistant DAs to defeat incumbent judges. From what I hear, she was even part of the failed attempt to primary the County Judge. Her failure in playing political games has resulted in her using the office of the DA to pursue and finish this vendetta, it would seem. Where is the local reporting on this?

Given her office’s failure to prosecute a killer cop who assisted in the choking murder of a man, or failing to indict other killer cops who murdered an emotionally unstable man by shooting him 22 times, or her railroading of a local doctor accused of stealing COVID-19 shots that were about to expire only to fall on her face, voters were given plenty of reasons to defeat her. Now that she is using her office for political vendettas, it is high-time that Democrats did something about it and stopped living in fear of her actions.

Abbott’s Border BS

Greg Abbott is also pretty good at performance art as he increases state inspections of trucks delivering fruits and veggies from Mexico in the name of anti-immigrant policies and Texans’ thirst for Fentanyl, thus causing trucker protests (that actually work), supply chain issues, and cost rises at the grocery store. We’re talking about food that is rotting as soon as it is cut off the vine, so it needs to get to the warehouses and stores ASAP. And people are freakin’ out and politicians are doing their own bit of performance art in showing how inept Greg Abbott is.

But let’s talk about a better reason to increase prices of food being imported on trucks from Mexico. Did you know that farm workers make on average less than $200 a month (acc to The Wilson Center) to pick the fruits and veggies that we’re freaking out about right now? Is it any wonder prices are actually cheap as profits are going to corporate farmers and shipping magnates? I mean, who’s doing the complaining on TV if it isn’t the corporate types who are affected by Abbott’s idiocy?

Imagine paying a living wage to poor and indigenous farm workers. Would people be willing to pay more for fruits and veggies from Mexico if workers were paid more? Because, let’s face it, trade deals do more to ensure profits for corporations, rather than pay people fairly for their work. Thanks to NAFTA and other trade deals, Mexicans are really screwed, while we Americans benefit from cheaper prices. And people wonder why we have migration issues? We need trade deals that ensure fair pay for workers. Unfortunately, when the trucks start rolling again, people just enjoy whatever is normal.

I guess I want to see how the pro-Ukraine, “I’ll pay extra for gas to save democracy” folks react to paying more for food to save a family from poverty and violence that causes them to escape to the US.

Happy Easter

Enjoy your Easter holiday.

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.

10000 Ballots?

I guess the first question is: How does an elections office miss 10,000 ballots?

KHOU reports

“The oversight occurred between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m. as the political parties that make up the Central Count Committee were reviewing ballots,” Longoria’s office said in a press release.

They said the votes were scanned into the tabulation machines but not transferred, which meant they were not being counted in the unofficial count on Election Night. The votes are set to be added to the final count when the Central Count Committee next meets on Tuesday, according to the elections administrator’s office.

The good news is that the elections folks at the Secretary of State’s office caught the error when the reconciliation forms did not match between votes tabulated and the number of actual votes. So, it’s not like the votes were “lost” or “missing.” They just didn’t get tabulated once entered into the system. But the question remains: How was this not checked at Harris County before anyone clicked [SEND} to the Secretary of State’s office?

While the buck stops with whomever is in charge of the elections office, there needs to be a full accounting as to procedures and employee actions occurring throughout the vote count. Staff involved in this should also be held accountable in one way or another. No doubt, republican whining didn’t help, but the focus should always stay with the vote count.

From a political sense, I’m pretty sure there is no turning back from this. The Republicans whined enough that something simple, yet so major, will stick when calling for resignations, now. In other words, the elected officials who created the office and hired the election administrator will need to decide which direction to go. And in an election year. With two elections happening soon and a major one in November. It’s not really a good time for upheaval in the elections office.

Dem Primary Part 1 is Done, On To Part 2

Looks like County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s strategy of ignoring her opponent (and the naysayers who put up the opponent) worked quite well. After the mail and early votes were tabulated, Hidalgo had amassed a healthy lead with almost 70% of the vote which continued all night. I didn’t have a doubt she could win, but my worry was about her taking hits from awful Republican ads and how that could affect the Dem vote. It didn’t. Those that put up an opponent against Hidalgo better watch out in a couple of years when their seats come up. And those who fought to keep her in office did a great job in the field, where it really counts.

My Commish Precinct 4 seems to be headed to a run-off between Leslie Briones and Ben Chou. In an open seat race with seven in the running, that’s to be expected. Briones edged out Chou 35-23 in early numbers in our recently redrawn district and that margin remains. What used to be a precinct that took up most of the west side is now a lot more sprawling. I think we’ll find that Briones did well enough on the west side to be the top vote-getter, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be quite the competition to earn the votes of those who voted for the five other candidates. I’m sticking with Briones.

One race that caught my interest was a 10-county race for the 14th Court of Appeals between Cheri Thomas who ran in 2020 and Kyle Carter, a current district judge with a good stack of campaign cash. Thomas, who is the DC-supported candidate, had an 18,000 vote lead after the mail and early votes were announced and her lead continued to get healthier as the first election day votes were announced. Thomas held good leads in Fort Bend and Harris Counties, which still had many votes to be counted. By this morning, Thomas’ lead of around 20,000 votes was holding as more votes in Harris County were counted.

More than a few court benches will be changing occupants one way or another as a good bunch of Dem incumbents are being taken out by challengers. Hopefully, those new Dem candidates will work hard for the party’s bottom line in November and not just ride whatever wave is caused by the strong candidates at the top of the ticket, like Judge Hidalgo and Beto O’Rourke.

One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of run-offs to keep us busy for the next couple of months, including Lt. Governor and Attorney General, which I expect to be spirited. I expect the local run-offs for Commissioner and some court seats to provide much of the energy.

Where there will not be run-off is the race for Precinct 2 Commish in which Adrian Garcia reclaimed the Dem nod for re-election in explosive fashion. As I stated yesterday, it would seem that his opponent’s angry white guy strategy probably won over some of the target audience, but Garcia actually ran a good campaign that reached all voters by selling his actual accomplishments. He probably carried other candidates to victory in the process. Congrats to the Commish.

State Senator and Houston Mayoral candidate John Whitmire will continue to be both, though Molly Cook did put herself on the map for anything, but specifically for what will be a crowded SD15 if Whitmire moves to a downtown office in 2023.

One outcome I did not like at all was that of the County Treasurer’s race in which incumbent Dylan Osborne was defeated. As I said after some good judges were taken out in the 2020 primary, when someone wants to play the odds, or play the latest in scare tactics, and the voters feel like it, they were surely oust you without much effort. That seemed to happen a lot in this primary.

In other areas of the state, it was Greg Casar rolling over several opponents in a Congressional District 35 that runs from San Antonio to Austin. In CD28, Jessica Cisneros was giving FBI-searched incumbent Henry Cuellar an excellent run. As the votes from Bexar, Zapata, and Starr Counties were finally counted, Cuellar came out in the lead. By this morning, Cuellar was just under the 50% mark, so we may have a run-off in this one pending any additional ballots coming in, and thanks to a third candidate who got a little less than 5%.

We’ll have more on local run-offs as the numbers continue coming in in Harris County. There is one race for County Civil Court #4 which still has 2nd place to be decided for the run-off. Rooting for Treasea Trevino in that one.

That’s all I got. Happy Wednesday! Also, thanks to the folks at Harris Elections for their work. Problems will happen as things get perfected, but a dumb tweet from a Trumpy Secretary of State will always cause even more problems.

Kuff has more.

UPDATE:

Another race likely headed for a run-off is the race for the Dem nomination for Congress District 38, where Dem activist Diana Martinez Alexander has the lead against her opponent. Fingers crossed.

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.

The Other Side of the Stace Slate

My voting experience went pretty flawlessly at Tracy Gee on Day 1 of the Primary. The TDL was scanned, my information appeared, and I was given excellent instructions before heading to my station to vote. And I wasn’t even asked to remove my mask to prove my identity.

All in all, I think there were 89 candidates that I picked, though, some were unopposed. But those contested races did add up to a few minutes of clicking through the ballot and ensuring I clicked the right person. A few minutes. Not bad at all if you go prepared.

Now, some have asked who I’m picking in other races. Hell, I don’t live in those districts! But some are my friends and I know they appreciate the support. Others probably despise me for making picks, so, con mas ganas I’ll make a pick! More than anything, just vote…in the Democratic Primary! Find your sample ballot and your polling location.

So, here is The Other Side of the Stace Slate:

Congress, District 38 – Diana Martinez Alexander

SBOE, District 4 – Larry McKinzie

State Senator, District 17 – Titus Benton

State Senator, District 15 – Molly Cook

State Rep, District 131 – Alma Allen

State Rep. District 132 – Chase West

State Rep., District 142 – Candis Houston

State Rep, District 147 – Reagan Flowers

County Commissioner, Pct 2 – Adrian Garcia

JP, Pct 1 – 2 – Victor Lombraña (Sonia Lopez is also a good choice.)

JP, Pct 2 – 2 – Dolores Lozano

The Stace Slate featuring those for whom I could vote is right here.

JP 1-2 Candidate Victor Lombraña Featured on Univision

The local Univision station did a short story on Victor Lombraña recently.

Victor is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1-Place 2 and is the son of Judge Julia Maldonado (507th Family Court), who will be a Dem candidate for the Supreme Court of Texas.

Lombraña lives with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment. Despite the challenges, he has achieved much success in life professionally and personally as a husband and as a father of two boys. But one challenge he overcame was running the Aramco half-marathon this past weekend, which was the reason for the story.

I’ve known Victor for around ten years having worked on his Mom’s campaigns. He’s been an avid volunteer on her campaigns despite a busy career and home life. And he’s just a genuine, good-hearted, service-oriented person who would be an excellent JP.

The Chron told us in 2017 that he’s also a big Astros fan.

Victor’s in a six-way race, so it’ll be a busy race. I’ll be following his journey–a quick one as early voting is set to begin February 14th!

Y’all Suck! We Are Back At Orange!

Looks like we are back at Code Orange in the COVID-19 threat level in Harris County.

“Due to the explosive growth of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus across Harris County, public health officials are strongly urging all eligible Harris County residents, especially individuals 65 and older, to get their booster shots as soon as possible,” county officials said in a statement released Monday. “Residents who are not vaccinated are cautioned to do so immediately. Regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask and get tested before attending holiday gatherings.

I don’t like to second guess leaders that I support, but the masking/testing suggestion for all should have continued, instead of going “Yellow.” Instead, we’ve seen so many maskless mass events attended by the unmasked, yet vaccinated, as holiday parties and graduations have been celebrated and, unsurprisingly, the numbers took a turn for the worse in a very bad and quick way. Some of our Democratic stars are getting breakthrough infections. My worry is also with workplaces who have “fully opened” and have gone unmasked as they follow Greg Abbott.

Let’s not forget that when we went to “Yellow” the other day, word of Omicron surfaced. And what we know about Omicron now is that we will have more breakthrough infections. And the worry is that many of those breakthrough infections will hit hospital and medical staff.

We should have remained careful. Hell, I did and continue double-masking and avoiding maskless crowds, but that’s because I have my own comorbidities and I have family members who are immunosuppressed that I’d much rather hang-out with than all other humans. I’m not going to risk them.

I know leaders want to provide citizens some sort of incentive or reward or relief from masks for bringing numbers down, but, with so many still unvaccinated and unmasked scoffing at our leaders who are trying to do something good, well, idiocy should not be rewarded. Certainly, the maskholes didn’t feel the need to vax and mask while those of us who have done our part were the ones who were actually being rewarded.

President Biden will speak on Omicron on Tuesday. While I hear chatter from some considered experts that “COVID-19 is here to stay” and that “we will all get it, eventually,” I hope leaders at the very top don’t listen to them and actually lead. Some of us just don’t want to get sick, no matter how “mild” the symptoms.

For more, here’s Kuff.