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.