Tag Archives: Harris County

EARLY VOTING BEGINS FOR THE 2020 DEM PRIMARY

Don’t ask me about the republican primary, but I’m sure the latest KKK meeting has an event page on Facebook.

Today, Tuesday, February 18, 2020 is the first day of early voting. In Harris County, that means you can vote at any early voting location. By now, you’ve studied every race and filled out your sample ballot to take to the voting machine. Or, you can print out the #StaceSlate and use my suggestions. Or at least some of them. We can disagree on some as long as you vote for Bernie. And Royce West. And Julia Maldonado. And Audia Jones. And Natalia Cornelio. And Diana Martinez Alexander. And Ann Harris Bennett. Obviously, I’ve made it easy with the #StaceSlate.

Anyway, you have until February 28 to bank your vote. Thankfully, our County Clerk Diane Trautman (with the help of a Democratic majority on Commissioner’s Court) is making voting easier and more accessible, so you’ll be able to vote at any polling location on election day (March 3). Need a translator? Diane has made that easy, too. Need curbside voting? Here you go! Get it done early because you never know what may happen to you before election day! And don’t forget your ID.

There really is no good reason to not vote. And in Harris County, the only ones that might keep you from voting are thuggy republicans who don’t want you to vote. But we have Diane Trautman to back you up! And we have Ann Harris Bennett to make sure you stay registered to vote.

Click here for the #StaceSlate! Happy Voting!

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)

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.

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.

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.

 

 

A Short Local Nightmare Is Over

There are plenty of opinions, legal and otherwise, regarding the accidental resignation of Judge Bill McCleod from his County Court at Law #4 post. No doubt, he has quite a fan base that he worked hard to build by literally being everywhere during his campaigns for office over the years. Ultimately, the law is the law and the County Attorney and County Commissioners made the right call–legally and politically. While the Democrats were straight-forward on the decision, the Republicans seemed to want to play political games given how they voted on the matter.

But, as Kuff reports, the appointment of the new judge, Lesley Briones, came quickly and without much discussion or consideration. While there are no questions of legality, there are political and maybe procedural questions, especially from Democratic activists.

Mostly, Democratic activists have never heard of Briones–even Commissioners who supported her appointment. The questions I got from various activists included:

  • Who is she? Well, Briones has worked with a big firm and a major local nonprofit. She taught at-risk kids in South Texas. She’s educated, obviously. And from my research, she has some South Texas roots (that’s always a plus for this transplant).
  • Has she represented clients in local courts? I have no idea, but it was pointed out to me that maybe not. Perhaps her work has been more transactional and advisory given her resume. Still, she’s trained in the law and will receive the same kind of courtroom training as all of our other judges.
  • Is she a Democrat? I don’t have access to that voter info, but it was pointed out that she does have a favorable primary voting record.

Others expect potential candidates to be party activists and wonder if she’s been to club meetings or knocked on doors in the past.

I don’t blame Dems for asking these questions. We vote and expect our votes to be heard. And Dems feel like we weren’t heard or advised on the appointment by Commissioners. Commissioners did not give voters a chance to be heard on the appointment or find out who else was considered. But, they did open up the meeting to those speaking on McCleod’s behalf. We may not have gotten to vote on the appointee, but some participation would have been nice.

But, I’m also of the opinion that we don’t elect County Commissioners to save the political hides of people who mess up. We’ve got real issues that must be addressed:  Recent environmental disasters, voting rights, criminal justice reform, health care, transportation and roads, etc. And this is exactly what we elected them to do. It was an error of ambition that put the County Commissioners in a position of wasting valuable time on this, instead of doing the work for which they were elected. That they wanted to get beyond this situation and get back to work, well, I don’t blame them.

In this case, we trust those we elected to make the right decisions. If you don’t like the decision, well, email them, message them, or show up at a meeting and tell them. At this point, I’d rather just move forward.

For Briones, if she decides to run for the position in the 2020 special election, then she’ll probably need to get through a primary before getting to the general election. At that point, she’ll have more experience, and, hopefully, she’ll have made herself known to activists. But if we’re the Democrats I know we are, then I’d expect it to be a free-for-all because there aren’t many open judicial seats coming up in 2020 and the political bug is obviously nipping at potential candidates.

 

Thoughts on Viernes 03082019

Big Win For Voters, Trautman

County Clerk Diane Trautman ran on a platform to expand voting opportunities and two months in, she has achieved one part of that platform. Harris County voters will now be allowed to vote at any polling location in the County, rather than only being able to vote in their home precinct location. The plan was approved by the Texas Secretary of State. Voting precincts will still be open, but voters will have the opportunity to vote close to home, work, or school. Thanks to Dr. Trautman and her staff for leading on this, to a Democratic majority on the County Commissioner’s Court, and to Harris County voters for making this happen.

State Rep-Elect Morales

Congrats to Christina Morales who ran the table winning ballot by mail, the early vote, and election day on her way to a 61-39 victory over Melissa Noriega. I know I have a bunch of happy friends and acquaintances on the Morales side. From the get-go, it was going to be a race about turn-out and not necessarily about issues, especially with two Dems on the run-off ballot. Marc Campos has been doing some writing about his victorious client all should read. Interesting stuff!

What About Anti-Hate Policies?

So, the Democratic community sent a strong enough message to the Democratic establishment that the US House not condemn Congresswoman Omar for comments critical of AIPAC and the Israel lobby. Instead, they voted on a resolution to condemn hate rhetoric. One would figure that it’s a given. It’s too bad they didn’t pass a resolution to condemn hate policies, like caging children, warehousing immigrants, militarizing the border, allowing abuse to happen at the border and in immigrant prisons, etc. Too many blue dogs to save from the Republicans in 2020, I guess? Let’s hope the DREAM/TPS bill, which will be introduced on March 12, gets a floor vote as quickly as the cosmetic stuff gets a vote.

 

Harris County Commissioners Court: First Meeting of 2019

County Judge Lina Hidalgo reminds us that Tuesday, January 8, 2019, 10AM is the first County Commissioner’s Meeting of 2019. And there is lots to discuss and debate:

Looking forward to an historic day tomorrow for Harris County. Tomorrow is the first Commissioners Court meeting of the year. Flood mitigation, $15 minimum wage for county employees and voting centers are some of the issues up for debate. You may watch in person at 1001 Preston St Houston TX 77002, or online at http://www.harriscountytx.gov/Gov…/Court-Agenda/Court-Videos

Once again, that’s Tuesday, January 8 at 10AM.

For a copy of the agenda, click here.

We may have a Democratic majority on the Court, but accountability still matters. Pay attention!

 

Democrats Sweep Harris County!

Most countywide Democratic candidates in Harris County knew they looked good after the early voting tally was released. But it was the race for Harris County Judge that had many on the edge of their seats until Lina Hidalgo was suddenly leading 11-year incumbent Ed Emmett by 6,000 votes. Things got a little more comfortable a little later, then, Hidalgo became the first Latina to be elected to the County’s executive post.

No doubt there were Democrats who were supporting the Republican, given that Hidalgo didn’t enjoy the extra percentage margin that some of the other Democrats enjoyed. Some of our Latino statewides were going through something similar for some reason.

Congrats to Lina Hidalgo. She came out strong when she announced her run, whether the issue was flood control and response, County services, bail and justice reform, or even immigration. So strong that she was left with no opposition in the Primary. Bottom line:  Hidalgo held progressive policy positions on these issues, while Emmett did not. So, Democratic naysayers, please stop insulting voters’ intelligence and that of the County Judge-elect. We know which political party is on the side of the people, especially locally.

The Harris County Commissioner’s Court now has a Democratic majority as former County Sheriff Adrian Garcia defeated incumbent Jack Morman by around 1800 votes. The outcome wasn’t final until the very end as Garcia was able to overcome a gerrymandering play that changed Precinct 2 to a Republican-opportunity district. A good and disciplined ground  campaign defeated Morman’s negativity and attacks-based campaign.

For those naysayers, a reminder that a Democratic majority at County will actually address the issues that are important to the people. We need action, not just a pat on the head during a hurricane to make us feel warm and fuzzy.

Kudos should go to Penny Shaw who turned Precinct 4 into a more palatable challenge against Republicans. Penny worked hard from Day 1 and deserves Democrats’ thanks for running.

Along with new faces in black robes on the bench and new administrators like Diane Trautman as County Clerk, Marilyn Burgress as District Clerk, and Dylan Osborne as County Treasurer, Harris County has two new Congresswomen in Sylvia Garcia and Lizzie Fletcher.

While Garcia’s road to victory was a little easier and more about ensuring turnout to bolster the bottom line, Fletcher’s team ran a strong field campaign to earn every vote to take out the Republican incumbent. Attacked often on immigration and Nancy Pelosi, Fletcher kept a disciplined message on health care and took it to the finish line.

No doubt, the Beto effect helped turn counties blue or bluer, but in races that were in tough to win districts, it was the field campaigns that put them over the top.

Other surprises included victorious finishes in HD132 (Gina Calanni) and HD135 (Jon Rosenthal) out in the ‘burbs. Adam Milasincic came up 80 votes short in HD138 (Spring Branch) which tells me that district can be taken in 2020. Adam didn’t run away from right-wing attacks on immigration and held his own against an entrenched Republican. Out in Pasadena’s HD144, State Rep. Mary Ann Perez won re-election in huge fashion due to another excellent field campaign.

Update from Milasincic campaign: Unofficial totals show us behind by 137 votes out of 48,000+ counted so far. We have learned that provisional and some mail ballots remain under review.

While Beto was the lead Democrat in the bunch, closer to the bottom of the ballot was Richard Cantu who soundly defeated his opponent by posting Beto-like percentages. So, I don’t know why some losers are complaining about being close to the bottom of the ballot. Richard did great!

It is pretty embarrassing that some would simply blame straight ticket voting. You know, people actually think about Party AND policy when they go into the booth. Most of us actually went back to check our selections since Stanart’s relic voting machines were switching Beto to Cruz, according to reports. To insult our intelligence after losing, well, folks doing that need to hunker down.

Congrats to the Party, the campaign pros, the volunteers, and the voters! Harris County is blue!

Little Joe Headlines Houston GOTV Event

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Around 200 East End voters and activists attended a Get Out The Vote Rally at the East End Events Center on Saturday afternoon. Headlining was the legendary Little Joe y La Familia, with Dallam County Band opening the event with some toe-tapping country tunes.

Little Joe has endorsed Lupe Valdez for Texas Governor and was part of this event which also showed off Sylvia Garcia for Congress, Lina Hidalgo for County Judge, and Adrian Garcia for County Commissioner, Pct. 2. But beyond the political speeches, it was good mix of multi-generational fun and celebration of cultura–all a great combo when it comes to Latino GOTV.

There was no doubt as to the progressive nature of the event–the Harris County Democratic Party was among the driving forces behind the event, so Party Chair Lillie Schechter deserves kudos for this. But it was the candidates and their stories which energized the crowd. Whether it was farm worker kid Lupe Valdez going through the ranks to become Dallas County Sheriff or Lina Hidalgo’s trek from a drug-torn Colombia to the United States and a life of public service, the crowd was energized by all of the candidates.

Little Joe Hernandez, the King of the Brown Sound, also spoke on the importance of this election, giving a rousing endorsement of Valdez while also declaring victory after viewing Valdez’s debate performance against Greg Abbott. “I had never been prouder of a candidate for representing us and fighting for us. As Dolores and Cesar said, “Si, Se Puede!”

Valdez spoke regarding the uphill battle, as Abbott is running anti-Latino ads on TV paid for by wealthy friends who then get appointed to choice positions in the government. “This campaign will be fought, not bought,” has become theme for all Democrats. Valdez added that she’s fought uphill battles all her life–in life, in the military, and in politics. “One more battle is nothing!”

Lina Hidalgo reiterated her theme that she’ll show up to work as County Judge every day, and not just when it floods, noting that the people of Harris County need a proactive leader that gets ahead of problems, rather than waiting for problems to arise.

Adrian Garcia, vying to upend an entrenched Republican who has cut various program that benefited families and the community stated that his opponent and the current administration play off the same sheet of music and that new leadership is needed. He also pointed to the campaign of Penny Shaw, running in Pct. 4, as a need for change and a new majority in Harris County.

Leading the charge was State Senator Sylvia Garcia, who for all intents and purposes, will become the next Congresswoman of the 29th District. Still, she hasn’t stopped getting out the vote for Democrats. “Vote Straight Democrat and we’ll elect the right people–all of them,” she stated. It should also be said that she arrived after an afternoon of blockwalking in the East End.

Also at the event were judicial candidates Raul Rodriguez and Alex Salgado; Richard Cantu for Harris County Dept. of Education Trustee; Carol Alvarado for HD145 and SD6; among other elected officials.

Hopefully, this is the first of many GOTV events targeting Latinos.