Friday, December 16, 2011

African-American and Republican Coalition

There was a fascinating fundraiser last evening for Houston Council Member-elect Andrew C. Burks, Jr. at the home of Republican financier Fred Zeidman.  Burks, an African-American pastor and businessman, was recently elected to an At-Large seat on City Council.  Some have speculated that Burks would be a one-term Council Member because he had determinedly run for office at least twelve previous times without success.  That is not what I saw last night.
In attendance were Democratic elected stalwarts Judge Zinetta Burney, Constable May Walker and State Rep. Ron Reynolds; and Republicans Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel and former Judge Levi Benton (Burk’s treasurer).  Mayor Annise Parker was the Special Guest.  Burks announced that he had hired Sandra Strachan from the Greater Houston Partnership as his Chief of Staff, and former Council Member Mark Goldberg as an Executive Advisor -- two strong hires.
I was particularly fascinated by the mixture of Democratic power players (primarily African-American) and Republican power players.  City of Houston elections are nonpartisan, but they generally tend to break along partisan lines.  Mr. Burks’ winning coalition was comprised of African-Americans, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic in partisan races, and westside conservative/Republicans.  Council Member Brad Bradford was handily reelected with a similar coalition, and, incidentally, was the only incumbent Council Member to endorse Burks.
For years, Republicans have tried in City of Houston Mayor races to assemble a coalition with Hispanics, without success.  It will now be interesting to watch if an electoral coalition of African-Americans and Republicans becomes a viable paradigm for future Mayor races.

Monday, December 12, 2011

SCOTUS Stays Interim Texas Maps

The U. S. Supreme Court issued an order Friday evening granting the State of Texas’ application for a stay of the interim maps drawn by the three judge panel in San Antonio (“San Antonio court”).  The Supreme Court set an expedited briefing schedule and docketed the case for oral argument on January 9. 
The San Antonio court issued an order Sunday afternoon scheduling a status conference for Tuesday at 10 a.m. to address the “filing deadline and all other administrative deadlines and other necessary considerations as they relate to the conducting of the 2012 Primary Election.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott intends to ask the San Antonio court to stay all filing and administrative deadlines relating to the primary election for Texas’ congressional delegation and state legislature until after the court has approved the maps.
What Does This Mean?
There are now no legally enforceable maps for congressional, state house and state senate districts in Texas.  The maps passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature have not been precleared under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”), and thus may not be used.  The interim maps recently drawn by the San Antonio court have now been stayed.
It is therefore highly unlikely that Texas will be able to hold primaries on March 6 to select nominees for its 36 congressional seats, its 150 house seats and its 31 senate seats.  I anticipate that the San Antonio court will suspend the November 15 filing deadline and the March 6 primary election for these offices until after the Supreme Court rules.
Bifurcated Primary?
Unaffected so far are the March 6 Texas primary elections for President, U. S. Senate, Railroad Commissioner, Texas Supreme Court, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, State Board of Education, and county offices.  The State of Texas has discussed continuing with the statewide and county primary elections on March 6, and holding the congressional, house and senate primary elections on May 22, which is the runoff election date for the statewide and county offices.  Runoffs for congressional, house and senate seats would then be late July or early August.
The question before the San Antonio court this week will be does Texas have a bifurcated primary in 2012 by selecting nominees for the statewide and county offices on March 6, and selecting nominees for congressional, state house and state senate districts possibly on May 22 after the Supreme Court rules?  Alternatively, the entire March 6 primary could be delayed until after the Supreme Court rules.
What’s At Stake Nationally
The Supreme Court’s action and Texas’ redistricting is drawing considerable national attention, with some saying that control of the U. S. House of Representatives could hinge on the outcome.  The Democrats need to pick up 25 congressional seats in the 2012 election to have a majority in the U. S. House.  The Texas congressional delegation is currently 23 Republicans and 9 Democrats.  Texas received 4 additional seats under reapportionment.
The Legislature’s map preserved the 23 R seats, split the new seats 3R and 1D, resulting in a projected 2013 delegation of 26R and 10 D -- a pickup of 2 seats for the Republicans.  The San Antonio court’s map imperiled the seat of Congressman Canseco, split the new seats 3D and 1R, resulting in a possible 2013 delegation of 23R and 13D -- a pickup of 4 seats for the Democrats.
This 6 seat swing (+2R to +4D) between the Legislature’s map and the San Antonio court’s map clearly could swing the balance of power in the U. S. House.
Reading the Tea Leaves
A majority of the Supreme Court was required to issue the stay of the San Antonio court’s interim maps.  The Supreme Court clearly recognizes the chaos this will cause with Texas’ scheduled March 6 primary, almost certainly resulting in a delay of some or all of the primary.  I believe it highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will simply affirm the interim maps after its January 9 oral arguments.  At this point, it appears that a majority of the Supreme Court intends to invalidate some or all of the San Antonio court’s interim maps.
The Supreme Court may also examine whether Section 5 of the VRA remains constitutional.  The State of Texas has hinted at possibly bringing a constitutional challenge to Section 5 on the grounds that it usurps Texas’ sovereignty over its election system.  Many observers believe that a majority of the Supreme Court has been waiting for a case to declare Section 5 of the VRA unconstitutional, and this may be it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Harris County Update

All incumbent state representatives have filed for reelection as of 5 p.m. yesterday except:
129 John Davis (R)
137 Scott Hochberg (D) who has announced his retirement
144 Ken Legler (R)
147 Garnet Coleman (D)
Rep. Ken Legler is undecided whether he will file for reelection in his court drawn district, which is not winnable for a Republican.  Rep. John Davis and Rep. Garnet Coleman are expected to seek reelection.
Democratic Primaries

137 No one has filed so far, although Brandon Dudley, Sen. Ellis’ Chief of Staff; Joe Madden, Rep. Coleman’s Chief of Staff; and Jamaal Smith, former Executive Director of Harris County Democratic Party; have all expressed interest in the race.
144 There are now two candidates for the Democratic nomination:  Orlando Ybarra, Pasadena City Councilman and Pearland police officer; and Kevin Risner, son of Judge George Risner.  HCC Trustee Mary Ann Perez is also looking at the race. 
The following incumbent state senators have filed for reelection as of 5 p.m. yesterday:
  6 Mario Gallegos
13 Rodney Ellis
15 John Whitmire
17 Joan Huffman
18 Glenn Hegar
The following incumbents have not filed yet:
4 Tommy Williams
7 Dan Patrick
11 Mike Jackson, who is vacating his seat to run for Congress
Sen. Williams and Sen. Patrick each intend to file for reelection.
SD 6 Democratic Primary?  A SD 6 push poll has been conducted in the last few days testing various opponents against Sen. Gallegos.  Team Gallegos believes that Bill King is the instigator of the poll, acting on behalf of HISD interests and perhaps anti-public employee pension interests.  Former Commissioner Sylvia Garcia continues to indicate that she will not run against Sen. Gallegos.
SD 11 Republican Primary  Rep. Larry Taylor and Daniel McCool, Harris County Deputy Sheriff, have each filed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Status of Harris County State House Filings

Unless stayed by the U. S. Supreme Court, candidate filing for Texas House seats is under way and continues through December 15 under the San Antonio court’s interim map.  Harris County now has 24 State Representatives, and the status of these seats as of 5 p.m. Friday is:
Democratic Incumbents Filed for Reelection
131 Alma Allen
140 Armando Walle
141 Senfronia Thompson
143 Ana Hernandez-Luna
145 Carol Alvarado
146 Boris Miles
148 Jessica Farrar
149 Hubert Vo
Republican Incumbents Filed for Reelection
126 Patricia Harless
127 Dan Huberty
128 Wayne Smith
130 Allen Fletcher
132 Bill Callegari
133 Jim Murphy
134  Sarah Davis
135 Gary Elkins
138 Dwayne Bohac
150 Debbie Riddle
The following incumbents had not filed as of 5 p.m. Friday:
129 John Davis
137 Scott Hochberg announced his retirement
139 Sylvester Turner
142 Harold Dutton
144 Ken Legler
147 Garnet Coleman
Democratic Primaries
137 It appears that Brandon Dudley, Sen. Ellis’ Chief of Staff, will square off with Joe Madden, Rep. Coleman’s Chief of Staff.
Republican Primaries
133  Grant Johnston is challenging Jim Murphy
150  James Wilson is challenging Debbie Riddle
General Election Match-Ups
134  Ann Johnson has filed to run against Sarah Davis
144 No Democratic candidate has filed so far for this seat, which now appears very difficult for Rep. Legler to win.

Friday, November 18, 2011

2008 and 2010 Election Results by Proposed Texas House Districts

Eppstein: Court Ordered SD 10 More Republican Than Current SD 10

Re: Correction Requested
Are you drinking Democrat Matt Angle's Kool-Aid?
What is your statistical basis to say: "Sen. Wendy Davis will become a favorite for reelection in SD 10"? 
Davis was actually trying to pick up ALL of EAST Tarrant County to make SD10 more Democratic---- the federal CT map did not do this! 
Additionally, the ACTUAL past voting history of SD 10 contradicts your statement: 
* In 2002-2004-2006-2008-2010 No Democrat has EVER reached 50% in current SD10 
* In 2008, Davis won on plurality with less than 50% 
* The average GOP % in current SD10 in 2010 was 57% 
* The average GOP % in current SD 10 in 2008 was 51% 
* MCain pulled 52% in current SD10 in 2008 
* Perry pulled 53% and Abbott pulled 60% in current SD10 in 2010 
* The Federal Court map SD10 may actually be more Republican than the current SD10 map (I was told this and will try to confirm this morning). 
Based on the above, I respectfully ask that you make a CORRECTION to your statement on Davis being a "favorite" in SD10. 
Your consideration is appreciated. 
Bryan Eppstein

Confirmed this morning: 
The Federal Court Ordered State Senate District 10 is MORE Republican than the current SD10.... both McCain's 2008 % (52.2%) and Perry/Abbott's 2010 %s (52.7% and 60.1% respectively) are slightly higher in the Federal Court Ordered State Senate District 10 than the current SD 10. 

San Antonio Court Proposes Speaker Reelection Map

The three judge panel proposed interim redistricting maps for the Texas House and Senate late yesterday and gave the parties until Noon today to file comments and/or objections.  At first blush, it appears that the Democrats will pick up about ten seats in the Texas House under the court map, and that Sen. Wendy Davis will become a favorite for reelection in SD 10.  The partisan balance of the 83rd Legislature likely would be +/- 90 Republicans - 60 Democrats in the Texas House, and 19 Republicans - 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate.
Twelve House incumbents are paired, although with announced retirements, plans to run for another office, or residence relocation, the actual incumbent pairings appear to be two:  Hunter (R) and Morrison (R) in HD 32; and Scott and Torres in HD 33.  Three other Republican incumbents look to be in trouble because their district becomes significantly more Hispanic:  Aaron Pena in HD 40; Dee Margo in HD 78; and Ken Legler in HD 144.  There are thirteen open seats.
Assuming that the proposed maps are in place for the 2012 elections, immediate winners appear to be:
    • Speaker Straus -- He is much more insulated against an attack from the right with a 90 - 60 House than in a 101 - 49 House.
    • A Senate presiding officer to replace Lt. Gov. Dewhurst selected by both Democrats and Republicans, instead of only the Senate Republican Caucus.
    • Gaming -- The more Democrats in the legislature, the better the chances for gaming in 2013.
    • Texas Trial Lawyers Association -- They will be in a stronger position to combat Texans for Lawsuit Reform.
    • Texans for Secure Retirement -- Efforts to eliminate defined benefit plans for public employees in Texas will face a much more uphill battle.
The court will issue a congressional map shortly, and it seems to be the next shoe to drop.  The Republican legislature divided the four new congressional seats 3R - 1D, while preserving seats for Congressmen Canseco and Farenthold.  It would not surprise me for the court map to divide the new seats 3D - 1R, and for the court to imperil the reelection chances of Canseco and Farenthold.
Filing for office begins November 28 and ends December 15.  Residency for Texas House and Senate seats will now be required to be established by December 15 (instead of November 6).  Especially for the Texas House, fire up those moving vans!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rep. Jerry Madden to Retire

Rep. Jerry Madden will not seek reelection to HD 67.  Already running in that seat are Jon Cole and Jeff Leach.  This brings the number of House retirements to 9, with an additional 12 House members running for other offices.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

City of Houston Election Wrap-Up

As I predicted in my blog posting on September 6, it was generally a successful night for incumbents and for frontrunners in the open seats.  Eleven out of thirteen incumbents were reelected outright:  Mayor Parker; Controller Green; and Council Members Adams, Sullivan, Hoang, Pennington, Gonzalez, Rodriguez, Costello, Noriega, and Bradford.  Two incumbents are in a runoff:  District A Council Member Brenda Stardig and At Large 5 Council Member Jolanda Jones.
In the five open seats, again as predicted, Alvin Byrd is in a runoff for District B with Pearland resident Jerry Davis; Ellen Cohen won District C outright; Kristi Thibaut is in a runoff for At Large 2 with perennial candidate Andrew Burks; Mike Laster won District J; and Larry Green won District K.
There will be four Council runoffs, with the election most likely called for December 10. My current analysis: 
District A -- Incumbent Brenda Stardig trailed Helena Brown 41.1% to 47.2%.  This race could go either way.  Stardig is taking a lot of heat for voting for Renew Houston, which failed in District A in the 2009 vote.  As the incumbent, Stardig should be able to raise the money to be competitive.  Additionally, to the extent that Schoellkopf’s voters (11.7% of the vote) return to the polls, you would expect them to break for Stardig.  Rating:  Tossup.
District B -- Alvin Byrd led an eight candidate field 25.1% to 24.4% over Jerry Davis.  Davis will be better funded in the runoff, but Byrd has stronger grassroots.  Rating:  Leans Byrd.
At Large 2 -- Andrew Burks led Kristi Thibaut 17% to 15.9% in a ten candidate field.  Thibaut will pick up all of the establishment endorsements; Burks will continue to have strong support in the African-American community and will attempt to appeal to Westside Republican voters. Rating:  Leans Thibaut.
At Large 5 -- Incumbent Jolanda Jones led Jack Christi into the runoff 38.3% to 33.4%.  This will be the third consecutive runoff for Jones, and the second straight against Christi.  In 2009, Jones defeated Christi 50.24% to 49.76%.  Jones will turn this into a Democrat/Republican race, and in a 60% Democratic city that should give her the edge.  Rating:  Leans Jones.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Elizabeth Ames Jones to Challenge Wentworth

Railroad Commission Chairman Elizabeth Ames Jones has decided to run for Texas Senate District 25, which is currently held by Sen. Jeff Wentworth.  Jones began making calls to San Antonio supporters late last week gauging support for the race, and on Friday called Sen. Wentworth to advise him that she was running.
Jones previously was seeking election to the U. S. Senate, and as of September 30, 2011, reported $304,067 in cash on hand.  She will be able to transfer all of those funds to her state race.  
Jones represented San Antonio in the Texas House from 2001 until Gov. Perry appointed her to the Railroad Commission in 2005.  Speaker Joe Straus subsequently won the special election in February 2005 succeeding Jones in HD 121.  Jones’ San Antonio ties are wide and deep, and she will be a formidable competitor to Sen. Wentworth.  Dr. Donna Campbell has recently moved into SD 25 and is also in the race.
Jones is the latest candidate to exit the U. S. Senate race, following in the footsteps of Michael Williams and Roger Williams, who are now running for Congress.  A Mike Baselice poll conducted and released by the David Dewhurst campaign last week tells us why.  The survey of 600 likely Republican primary voters shows David Dewhurst at 50%; Tom Leppert at 9%; and Ted Cruz at 6%.
As of September 30, 2011, Mayor Leppert has raised $2.5 million and loaned his campaign $2.6 million, and had $4.17 million cash on hand.  In other words, he has not had to dip into the money that he loaned the campaign, and is still spending the money he raised.  Leppert went up with paid advertising on television two weeks ago.  I suspect that he is trying to move his numbers to see if it is worthwhile for him to stay in the race and begin spending the $5 to $7 million in personal funds required to compete with Dewhurst. 
If Leppert ultimately exits the race before the filing deadline, Cruz will be one on one with Dewhurst in a high turnout primary election.  Game, set and match.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Most Texas political eyes are currently focused on the interim congressional and legislative maps soon to be issued by the San Antonio court, the Republican presidential contest and the U. S. Senate race.  However, there is already a lot going on with the 2014 Texas statewide races.
If Governor Perry is not elected President, it is impossible to predict whether he would run for a fourth term in 2014.  Assuming that he does not, Attorney General Greg Abbott has positioned himself as the favorite for the Republican nomination.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett is also quietly contemplating a possible run for Governor in 2014. Texas Republican Party Chairman Steve Munisteri recently named Emmett Chairman of Victory 2012, the party's statewide fundraising effort for the 2012 elections. Judge Emmett previously ran statewide in Texas in 1986 and 1988 for the Railroad Commission.  Harris County, the largest county in the state, is a significant base to run from.  However, the county’s share of the statewide Republican primary vote has been steadily declining from 13.3% of the votes cast in the Republican Primary for Governor in 2002; to 11.7% in 2006; to 10.6% in 2010.
For the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor, Comptroller Susan Combs, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples have all announced.  State Senator Dan Patrick has decided to run for Lt. Governor in 2014, with an official announcement anticipated late this year or early next.  Finally, Rep. Dan Branch has indicated that he too intends to throw his hat into the ring for Lt. Governor.
I expect Cong. Michael McCaul to seek the Republican nomination for Attorney General in 2014.  Ted Cruz, if he is not successful in his U. S. Senate race, could revive his 2009 campaign for Attorney General and square off with McCaul.
So far it is very quiet on the Democratic side with no one to date moving around on these 2014 races.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Smitherman Breaks $1 Million in Railroad Commission Race

Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, who was appointed by Governor Perry on July 8, began fundraising in August for the March Primary.  With a strong Houston reception last night, Smitherman has now broken the $1 million mark in contributions received.  Smitherman’s goal is to raise $1.5 million by December 31, and he appears likely to exceed that amount.
Commissioner Smitherman will be on the ballot for the two-year unexpired term as Railroad Commissioner next year, and he is currently unopposed.
Also on the ballot next year will be a six-year term as Railroad Commissioner.  This position is currently held by Elizabeth Ames Jones, who is running for the United States Senate and not seeking reelection to the Railroad Commission.  State Rep. Warren Chisum and Christi Craddick, attorney and daughter of former Speaker Tom Craddick, are the leading candidates for this seat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vandergriff Not Running

Victor Vandergriff has decided not to run for Texas SD 9.  If he had announced, he would have had to immediately resign as Chairman of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.  He could not get comfortable with leaving the agency at this time with the various issues in play before it.
Rep. Rodney Anderson remains the only announced candidate in the race, although former Rep. Toby Goodman has indicated that he may run.  I expect business donors to start rallying behind Anderson to try to head off another divisive and expensive primary such as we are seeing in SD 10.  Anderson, who has been running hard for several months, appears to be gaining traction, and this development will certainly boost his campaign.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pre-Filing Update on Texas Senate Races

Four state senators have announced their retirement, a fifth senate district is anticipated to flip from Democrat to Republican if the redistricting map is upheld, and one incumbent is likely facing a stiff primary challenge.  Twenty-five senators appear to be breezing to reelection.
On average over the last ten years, there have been three new senators each legislative session.  In 2003 (78th Regular Session), there were four new senators; 2005 -- two; 2007 -- five; 2009 -- two; 2011 -- two.  In 2013, it appear that there will be at least five new senators.  My assessment of the races:
SD 5  (Ogden) -- Rep. Charles Schwertner will win the race.  At this point, no one else has filed, although Ben Bius continues to talk about it.
SD 8 (Shapiro) -- Rep. Ken Paxton is the heavy favorite to defeat Scott O’Grady, a motivational speaker and retired Air Force pilot who was shot down in Bosnia.
SD 9 (Harris) -- Victor Vandergriff will face off against Rep. Rodney Anderson.  Vandergriff is Chair of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, and the immediate past Chair of the North Texas Tollway Authority.  He has long and deep roots in Tarrant County, which is where the majority of voters in SD 9 live.  Rep. Rodney Anderson is a solid member, a strong campaigner and a very likeable person.  He will give Mr. Vandergriff a run, but it starts out as Vandergriff’s race to lose.
SD 11 (Jackson) -- Rep. Larry Taylor is the heavy favorite to defeat Dave Norman, a Seabrook insurance agent, and Daniel McCool, a Harris County Deputy Sheriff.  Rep. Taylor chairs the House Republican Caucus, and has virtually unanimous support from the Republican elected officials in the district.  There are two outstanding questions on this race.  First, do the lines of the new Congressional District 36 change because of the redistricting litigation?  If so and if Sen. Jackson believes that the revised district is not winnable, Sen. Jackson will seek reelection to the Senate and Rep. Taylor will seek reelection to his current House seat.  Second, how much money will Attorney Steve Mostyn spend against Rep. Taylor? 
SD 10 (Davis) -- I expect the new Senate lines to be upheld and not changed by the redistricting litigation.  If so, SD 10 becomes a Republican district not winnable by Sen. Davis (D - Fort Worth).  Rep. Kelly Hancock and Rep. Mark Shelton will square off for the SD 10 Republican nomination.  Rep. Hancock was first out of the gate and is a strong campaigner.  Rep. Shelton is a solid member who is asking the Fort Worth business community to back him.  I see this as a very competitive Republican primary, although at this point I would give the edge to Rep. Hancock.
Primary Challenge
SD 25 -- Sen. Jeff Wentworth is being challenged by Dr. Donna Campbell, who ran for Congress against Lloyd Doggett in 2010.  Dr. Campbell recently moved to New Braunfels to run.  The race remains fluid, and other challengers may get in.  I expect San Antonio money to rally around Sen. Wentworth against a non-Bexar County candidate.  A complete assessment of this race cannot be made until after the filing deadline.  However, it is always risky to bet against incumbents, and I rate Wentworth as the current favorite.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Texas Redistricting Litigation Time Line

I am advised that the following is the current time line for the Texas congressional and legislative redistricting litigation, although obviously the courts can change it.  I expect the November 12 candidate filing date to be delayed, with the possibility that the candidate filing period is simply shortened from four weeks to one week, still ending on December 12.
October 7:  The parties’ post-trial briefs were due by this date in the consolidated San Antonio case.  The parties also were supposed to file an advisory with the court by this date setting forth their positions on whether the San Antonio panel should go ahead and decide the issues before it or wait for a definitive resolution of the preclearance case in D.C. And last but not least, the parties were supposed to submit briefs to the San Antonio panel with their respective positions on the process for drawing temporary maps.

October 17: The parties in the San Antonio case are to submit proposed temporary state house and congressional maps, together with briefing and supporting data, by this date.

October 24:  Objections due in the San Antonio case to proposed temporary maps.

October 25:  The Justice Department and intervenors must file their responses in D.C. to the state’s motion for summary judgment on section 5 preclearance issues.  Fact and expert discovery also ends on this date in the D.C. case.

October 28:  Pre-hearing advisory, including list of witnesses and exhibits and time estimates, due in the San Antonio case in connection with the drawing of temporary maps.

October 31:  Deadline for the State of Texas to file a reply brief in the preclearance case.  Also the discovery cutoff in the Davis/San Antonio case.

November 2:  Oral argument in the D.C. case on the state’s motion for summary judgment on preclearance.  This day also is the deadline for dispositive motions in the Davis/San Antonio case.  Meanwhile, this day also is the start of a hearing on temporary maps in the San Antonio case.

November 10:  The pre-trial conference in the Davis/San Antonio case.

November 12:  Candidate filing opens in Texas under the current schedule.

November 14:  Trial starts in the Davis/San Antonio case.

December 12:  Candidate filing period closes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Harris County: Sullivan vs. Sumners

Houston City Council Member Mike Sullivan will challenge Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners in the March 2012 Republican Primary.  Sumners, who had only $6,700 cash on hand as of his July 15 report, would appear to be very vulnerable.  From January 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011, Sumners raised a total of $12,293.
Sullivan had $67,000 cash on hand as of July 15, and has raised more since that time for his city council reelection campaign.  Because he did not draw an opponent (the only member of city council who is unopposed for reelection), Sullivan will be able to transfer all of his funds into the race for Tax Assessor.
Court Koenning, who was considering the race, will not run, clearing the way for Sullivan to have a clear shot at Sumners.  If Sullivan defeats Sumners in the March primary and wins countywide in the November general election, Sullivan would resign his council seat and take office January 1, 2013.  This would most likely set up a special election for his District E council seat in May 2013.
However, winning the Republican nomination is not tantamount to winning the general election.  Most observers currently assess the Harris County races in November 2012 as tossups, with Democrats winning some and Republicans winning some.  

Friday, September 30, 2011

Commissioner Cactus Jack

A Harris County Commissioner is one of the most powerful public officials in Texas because of their absolute control over their precinct’s road, bridge and park budgets. A rare vacancy on the court occurred with the resignation of Commissioner Jerry Eversole, and County Judge Ed Emmett has the exclusive power of appointment.

Numerous elected officials and prominent individuals have applied or been considered for the position, and Judge Emmett has conducted an exhaustive search. The challenge that Judge Emmett faces is finding someone who would both meet the Judge’s criteria and objectives for appointment, and who can win a March 6 Republican Primary. The Judge has indicated that he will announce his appointment on Monday.

It appears that Harris County Civil Court-at-Law Judge Jack Cagle, a/k/a Cactus Jack Cagle, is the likely appointee. Judge Cagle was first elected countywide in 2000, and has been reelected three subsequent times. He and Judge Emmett are longstanding friends, and both graduated from Rice University.

Assuming that Judge Cagle is appointed, this will continue the trend of Rice University graduates assuming the reins of government in Houston and Harris County. How about them Owls!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sen. Chris Harris to Retire

Word is that Sen. Chris Harris will not seek reelection.  This will bring the number of Senate retirements to four:  Harris; Jackson; Ogden; and Shapiro.  Rep. Rodney Anderson  has already declared for SD 9.  I expect other candidates will now look at getting into the race.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Update on Texas Legislative Races

Filing for office in Texas begins November 12 and ends December 12.  So far, at least 24 State Representatives will not be seeking reelection to their current seat.  There were 35 new members in 2011.  I believe that we will have 35 - 40 new members in 2013.  There are 3 open Senate seats, and there will be at least 4 new Senators in 2013.
Texas House
Announced Retirements - 6
Fred Brown HD 14
Charlie Howard         HD 26
Rick Hardcastle         HD 68
Lanham Lyne         HD 69
Jim Jackson HD 115
Beverly Woolley HD 136
Announced for Congress - 4
Randy Weber         CD 14
Pete Gallego CD 23
Barbara Caraway CD 30
Joaquin Castro         CD 35
Announced for Senate - 5
Charles Schwertner  SD 5
Ken Paxton SD 8
Rodney Anderson SD 9
Larry Taylor SD 11
Kelly Hancock         SD 10
Announced for Other Office - 2
Warren Chisum         Railroad Commission
Jose Aliseda District Attorney
Open Seats - 7 (will discuss candidates in subsequent post)
HD 3 - Montgomery and Waller
HD 12 - Brazos et al.
HD 33 - Collin
HD 85 - Ft. Bend, Wharton and Jackson
HD 101- Tarrant
HD 106 - Denton
HD 149 - Williamson
Current Status of Pairings
Erwin Cain is paired with Dan Flynn in HD 2, but he is not going to run against Flynn.
James White and Tuffy Hamilton are paired in HD 19 and only one will return.
Raul Torres, paired with Connie Scott in HD 34, is expected to move into HD 35 and run.
Warren Chisum, paired with Jim Landtroop in HD 88, is running for the Railroad Commission.
Rodney Anderson, paired with Linda Harper Brown in HD 105, is running for the State Senate.
Joe Driver, paired with Cindy Burkett in HD 113, is expected to retire.
Scott Hochberg, paired with Hubert Vo in HD 137, has not announced his plans.
Other House Notes
Will Hartnett is contemplating retirement, and a decision could come as soon as this week.
Chente Quintanilla is contemplating a run for El Paso County Commissioner.
Texas Senate
SD 5   Sen. Steve Ogden announced this morning that he will not run again, and Rep. Charles Schwertner will announce for the seat this afternoon.
SD 8   Sen. Florence Shapiro announced her retirement yesterday.  She is unhappy that Rep. Ken Paxton is the favorite to replace her, and has recruited Scott O’Grady into the race.
SD 9   Sen. Chris Harris has announced for reelection, and he will be challenged by Rep. Rodney Anderson.
SD 10  The Justice Department pre-cleared the Senate map under the Voting Rights Act yesterday, and it now appears almost certain that the new Senate lines will be upheld.  If so, SD 10 becomes a Republican seat and Rep. Kelly Hancock will win it, replacing Sen. Wendy Davis.
SD 11  Rep. Larry Taylor has announced that he is running to replace Sen. Mike Jackson, who is running for Congress.  Rep. Taylor is the early favorite. John Nau is hosting a major Houston fundraiser for him October 18, with every Republican member of the Houston legislative delegation listed as a Host.
SD 25 Sen. Jeff Wentworth has announced for reelection.  Donna Campbell, who ran against Cong. Lloyd Doggett last cycle, will challenge him in the primary.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Predictions for 11/8/11 Houston Municipal Elections

Houston voters adopted terms limits in 1991, and since then only one council incumbent has lost while seeking reelection to the same office. I see that precedent remaining unbroken this cycle.   Labor Day is still considered the traditional start of fall campaigns, and tomorrow is the deadline to file for a spot on the November 8 ballot. Even though there is one more day to file, I believe we can safely predict the following races:
Mayor -- Annise Parker will be easily reelected to her second term.
Controller -- Ronald Green is unopposed for his second term.
District Council Members -- Brenda Stardig; Wanda Adams; Mike Sullivan; Al Hoang; Oliver Pennington; Ed Gonzalez and James Rodriguez; will all be reelected.
At Large Council Members -- Steve Costello; Melissa Noriega; and Brad Bradford; will all be reelected.  Council Member Jolanda Jones is the one competitive race (see below).
Open and New Seats -- There are three open seats and two new seats on the ballot.  Here is how I see them today:
District B -- There will be a runoff between Alvin Byrd and someone.
District C -- There may or may not be a runoff, but it is irrelevant:  Ellen Cohen wins this seat.
District J -- There will be a runoff and Mike Laster will be in it.
District K -- Larry Green wins this seat.  Today, he is unopposed.
At-Large 2 -- The top three candidates are Bo Fraga; David Robinson; and Kristi Thibaut.  Two of these three will be in a runoff.
At-Large 5 -- Widely disliked by her Council colleagues, brash, outspoken and flamboyantly attired, Council Member Jo Jones is the The Most Interesting Member of Council.  In 2009, she barely survived a runoff with Jack Christie. With an ongoing Harris County District Attorney investigation, many had written off Jones’ reelection chances earlier this year.  
Jones then reported raising $113,586 on her July 15 report. She deftly handled and capitalized on the Red Light Camera court ruling and City Council vote.  She has proven to be a tireless campaigner, and is showing the competitive drive of the world-class athlete that she was.  Love her or hate her, she is likely coming back to City Council in 2012.

Correction:  I originally stated that no incumbent had lost since the advent of term limits.  That is incorrect:  Sylvia Garcia defeated Lloyd Kelley for Controller in 1997 when he was the incumbent.  It is true that no incumbent Council Member has lost since term limits were adopted in 1991.

Second Correction:  Robert -- I think the one exception is when Burt Keller defeated (recently-deceased) Jean Kelley, wife of former Councilman John Kelley. She was running for a second term when Keller beat her in 1999. Great blog!  Andy Teas

Friday, September 2, 2011

Surf's Up!

Brazoria and Galveston County are active this weekend, and not just at the beach!

Yesterday, Rep. Larry Taylor announced that he is running for State Senate District 11 to replace Sen. Mike Jackson, who is seeking election to Congress. At this point, Taylor is unopposed and appears to be a heavy favorite to win the seat. When Mike Jackson was first elected to the Senate in 1998, winning a promotion from the State House, he was unopposed. History may very well repeat itself.

Rep. Randy Weber appears to be a nearing a final decision to run for Congress to replace Cong. Ron Paul, who is retiring. If Weber does run for Congress, Pearland Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Thompson appears to be the overwhelming favorite to replace him in HD 29. Expect Mayor Thompson’s announcement for the State House to come shortly after Rep. Weber declares for Congress.

In Friendswood, Dr. Greg Bonnen is nearing a final decision to run for Rep. Taylor’s HD 24. Dr. Bonnen is a board-certified neurosurgeon who lives in Friendswood and has offices in Southeast Houston and Lake Jackson. If he runs, Dr. Bonnen will commit an initial $200,000 to the race and begin raising money from there. A graduate of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Dr. Bonnen is also the older brother of Rep. Dennis Bonnen who represent the adjoining HD 25.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Will McCaul Run for Senate?

Congressman Michael McCaul has recently gotten serious about running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate from Texas. With Labor Day fast approaching, it appears the campaign needs to quickly make a go/no go decision. If he runs, he is reportedly prepared to spend $4 to $6 million of his personal fortune on the race. He will have to because as of June 30, McCaul only reported $143,256 cash on hand.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is now fully engaged in the race, with a goal to raise $3 million before the September 30 FEC reporting deadline. I anticipate that Dewhurst will be a strong fundraiser because donors know he is either going to be U. S. Senator or Lt. Governor, both extremely powerful offices.

Dewhurst intends to raise $7.5 million for the primary and spend whatever it takes to win. Of course, both Dewhurst and McCaul will have to weigh that under federal law a candidate can only be repaid a maximum of $250,000 for personal loans to the campaign.

If McCaul does announce for the Senate, that will also set off a scramble for his Congressional District that runs from Austin to Houston. However, I think it is more likely McCaul runs for reelection to the House, and then seeks an open Texas Attorney General seat in 2014.

8/31 CORRECTION: I originally stated that Dewhurst intends to spend $7.5 million on the primary. I was in error. He intends to raise $7.5 million for the primary, and spend whatever it takes to win.