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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:
Retirements
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? 
Redistricting
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.