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Monday, December 17, 2012

2013 Houston Mayor's Race


Update:  The posting originally stated that Wayne Dolcefino was handling communications for Dr. Hall.  The posting has been updated to state that Dolcefino is handling investigations and opposition research.

The City of Houston mayoral election is not until November 5, 2013, but former City Attorney Ben Hall has declared his intention to challenge Mayor Annise Parker when she seeks a third and final two-year term.  Hall was initially a candidate for mayor in 2009, but withdrew his candidacy early on in February of that year and threw his support behind former City Attorney Gene Locke.  Parker defeated Locke in a December 2009 runoff 52.8% to 47.2%.  Parker was reelected to her second term in 2011 besting a field of six candidates with 50.8% of the vote.

Dr. Hall has a BA in Religious Studies from the University of South Carolina; a M.Div and a Ph.D from Duke University; and a J.D. from Harvard University.  He is a successful and wealthy plaintiff’s attorney and an ordained minister in the congregation of the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  A deeply religious man, Hall has strong ties with many of Houston’s religious leaders as well as deep roots in Houston’s African-American community.

Candidates for Houston municipal offices may not begin soliciting or receiving contributions until February 1, 2013.  As of June 30, 2012, the last available campaign finance report, Parker showed cash on hand of approximately $1.3 million.  I believe the Mayor will end the year with approximately $1 million in her campaign account, and she should easily raise another $1 million in February alone when the restricted period for contributions ends.  Hall indicates that he will spend $3 million of his own money on the race plus aggressively fund raise.

Since the advent of term limits in Houston, no mayor has been defeated and each has served the maximum six years allowed -- Bob Lanier (1992 - 97); Lee Brown (1998 - 2003); and Bill White (2004 - 09).  The last mayor to be defeated in Houston was Kathy Whitmire in 1991, when she finished third to Bob Lanier and Sylvester Turner and failed to make the runoff:  Lanier 43.66%; Turner 35.97%; and Whitmire 20.11%.

It promises to be a tough race, although I give the initial edge to Parker as the contest commences.  Parker, who is fiercely competitive, has said that when you run against an incumbent “it is personal.”  Hall has hired Wayne Dolcefino to handle investigations and opposition research.  Dolcefino recently ended a 26-year career at KTRK-TV, where according to the Houston Chronicle, he was “arguably the most controversial and most accomplished investigative reporter in the recent annals of Houston television.”  Ironically, Dolcefino aired the controversial story in 1991 that blew up Turner’s mayoral campaign and sealed the election for Lanier.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, another expensive race looms for Houston’s political swimmers.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Season’s Over -- Preparations Begin for Opening Day 2013


The 2012 fundraising season ended at midnight December 8 for Texas statewide executive and legislative candidates.  Texas law prohibits the giving or receiving of political contributions beginning 30 days prior to a regular legislative session and continuing through 20 days after final adjournment.  Tex. Election Code § 253.034.  The usual flurry of end of season hunts (fundraisers) were held as officeholders stocked up for the winter (legislative session).

Fundraising shots are still ringing out in Senate District 6, which officially became vacant December 6 when Gov. Perry canvassed the vote.  Perry how has until December 26 to order an expedited election to replace the deceased Sen. Gallegos.  After December 26, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is authorized to order the election.  Tex. Const. Art. III, § 13.  The election must occur on a Tuesday or a Saturday within 21 to 45 days after the writ of election is issued.  I believe that Perry will call the SD 6 election for Saturday, January 26.  Candidates in the SD 6 expedited election may continue to raise money until they are sworn into office.  Tex. Election Code § 253.034(c).

As soon as the 2012 fundraising season ended, preparations began for June 17, 2013, otherwise known as Opening Day.  Ferocious 2014 Republican primary contests are expected for many or all of the Texas statewide offices.  Candidates will have two more fundraising bag counts before those races get underway in earnest in July 2013:  January 15, 2013, when candidates disclose their cash on hand as of December 31, 2012; and July 15, 2013, when candidates disclose their cash on hand as of June 30, 2013.

The following are the last cash on hand numbers for likely 2014 Republican statewide candidates reported as June 30, 2012 (in millions):  Abbott $14.5; Combs $6.7; Perry $3.4; Branch $2.1; Staples $1.6; Hegar $1.3; Patrick $1.2; Dewhurst $.8; Patterson $.7; and Hilderbran $.4.  Each of these officeholders was aggressively raising money prior to the December 8 cutoff and presumably will report increased amounts on January 15.

When the fundraising season reopens on June 17, 2013, each of these candidates will try to bag as many big donors as they can in the two week period prior to June 30.  Strong cash on hand numbers reported July 15 will either scare potential opponents out of their race, or allow them to convince donors that they are the likely winner and thereby raise more money than their opponent.

Texas fundraising is over (mostly) for 2012, but plans are already being drawn up to maximize the June 2013 hunt.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Republican Voters are Key


The race to replace the late Sen. Gallegos is in full swing in Houston.  There are three announced candidates:  State Rep. Carol Alvarado; R. W. Bray, the Republican nominee in the November 6 general election posthumously won by Sen. Gallegos; and former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia.  Two other significant players are considering the race:  Col. Rick Noriega, the Democratic nominee for the U. S. Senate in 2008; and HCC Trustee Yolanda Navarro Flores.  Flores received 46.07% of the vote when she ran against Sen. Gallegos in the 2004 Democratic primary.

It is my understanding that Gov. Perry is planning to canvas the votes of the November general election on December 6.  The canvas will trigger the vacancy and start the 20-day time period for the Governor to issue a writ of election.  The election must be held on a Tuesday or Saturday between 21 and 45 days after the Governor orders the election.

At this point, the likely date for the election appears to be January 22, although it could be as late as February 5.

The Governor’s writ of election will also set the deadline for candidates to file to run in the special election.  Texas Election Code Sec. 201.054(a) requires that the filing period be at least five days.  Candidates will all be listed on the same ballot, although they will have a D or an R after their name.

The two clear frontrunners are Rep. Alvarado and Comm. Garcia.  They are evenly matched and equally credentialed Democrats.    The outstanding question is whether a runoff will be necessary to determine the winner because neither Alvarado or Garcia receives more than 50% of the vote in the election.

Although Senate District 6 is heavily Democratic, there are pockets of Republican vote comprising about 30% to 35% of the electorate.  Rep. Wayne Smith, for example, resides in SD 6.  I expect that 5 or more candidates will ultimately file to run in the SD 6 special election, and that Republican voters will not support either Alvarado or Garcia in the first round.  The number of candidates running plus the Republican vote will likely require a runoff between Alvarado and Garcia.

It is ironic that in this heavily Democratic district, there will be an opportunity for the Republican voters to determine the runoff winner.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Procedure for Expedited Election to Replace Sen. Gallegos


Sen. Gallegos passed away last month, but his name remained on the ballot because the deadline to remove it had passed.  The Senator was posthumously reelected on November 6 receiving 70.94% of the vote to 29.05% for Republican nominee R. W. Bray.  Under Texas law, the votes cast for Sen. Gallegos count and a vacancy in Senate District 6 (SD 6) occurs when the votes are canvassed.  Texas Election Code Sec. 145.005.  All Sec. references hereafter are to the Texas Election Code unless otherwise noted.

Gov. Perry must conduct the state canvas for the November 6 election no earlier than November 21 and no later than December 6.  Sec. 67.012.  After the canvas, Gov. Perry must call a special election within 20 days to fill the vacancy in SD 6.  Texas Constitution Article III, Section 13.

Because the vacancy occurs within 60 days of the convening of the 83rd Legislature, the special election is an expedited election.  Sec. 203.013.  An expedited election must be held on a Tuesday or Saturday between 21 and 45 days after the date the election is ordered.  The Texas Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act does not apply to this election.  Sec. 101.104.

Candidates will all be listed on the same ballot, although they will have a D or an R after their name.  The canvas of the special election results occurs between 8 and 11 days after the election.  Sec. 67.003.  If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the special election, the Governor orders a runoff election.  Sec. 3.003.  The runoff election must be held within 25 days of the Governor’s ordering the election on a Tuesday or Saturday.  Sec. 203.013.

Already announced candidates for the SD 6 special election include Rep. Carol Alvarado, Mr. R. W. Bray and Comm. Sylvia Garcia.  Col. Rick Noriega is also contemplating the race, and I ultimately expect 5 or more candidates on the ballot.  A runoff is a virtual certainty.  The following is my calculation of the earliest and the latest date for this decisive runoff.

Earliest scenario:  If the canvas occurs November 21 and the Governor issues a writ of election the same day, the special election could be held Saturday, December 15.  The local canvas could occur December 26, and the runoff election could be set for January 8.

Latest scenario:  If the canvas occurs December 6, the Governor could issue the writ of election on December 26.  The election could be called for February 5.  If the local canvas then occurs February 15, the Governor could wait until March 6 to order a March 30 runoff election.

Summary:  The SD 6 special election could occur as soon as December 15 or as late as February 5.  The runoff could occur as soon as January 8 or as late as March 30.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Early Vote Analysis

An reputable analysis of early vote for competitive races in Texas shows the following partisan affiliation of the early voters.

District
Republican
Democrat
Republican
Democrat
Independent
HD 23
Wayne Faircloth
Rep. Craig Eiland
36%
45%
19%
HD 34
Rep. Connie Scott
Abel Herrero
20%
61%
20%
HD 45
Rep. Jason Isaac
John Adams
46%
29%
25%
HD 54
Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock
Claudia Brown
48%
30%
23%
HD 78
Rep. Dee Margo
Joe Moody
24%
52%
23%
HD 102
Rep. Stefani Carter
Rich Hancock
38%
33%
19%
HD 105
Rep. Linda Harper Brown
Rosemary Robbins
45%
34%
22%
HD 107
Rep. Kenneth Sheets
Robert Miklos
47%
36%
18%
HD 114
Jason Villalba
Carol Kent
50%
35%
15%
HD 117
Rep. John Garza
Philip Cortez
33%
52%
25%
HD 134
Rep. Sarah Davis
Ann Johnson
45%
34%
21%
HD 136
Tony Dale
Matt Stillwell
51%
26%
23%
HD 144
David Pineda
Mary Ann Perez
35%
43%
22%
HD 149
Dianne Williams
Rep. Hubert Vo
28%
38%
34%
SD 10
Dr. Mark Shelton
Sen. Wendy Davis
48%
36%
16%
CD 14
Rep. Randy Weber
Nick Lampson
41%
42%
17%

I do not have good data on HD 43 (Lozano) or CD 23 (Canseco).

It is about what I expected.  The Democrats appear poised to pick the following Republican seats:  Scott; Margo; Garza; and Pineda (Legler).  Assuming that Sen. Davis is receiving some crossover Republican vote, that race is going to be as close as expected.  However, Dr. Shelton has got to be happy with what he is seeing.  The Weber/Lampson race is going to go down to the wire.

Election Day is Finally Here!


The voting phase of the 2012 election comes to a close today.  Hopefully, the presidential results will be clear cut, and the inevitable post-election litigation phase will be brief.

The popular vote for president appears razor close, although polls show President Obama with an edge in the Electoral College.  At this point, I would give the President a 70% chance of reelection and Governor Romney a 30% chance.  However, there was also a 30% chance of rain last Saturday for my son’s soccer game, and it was rained out!

The Democrats are expected to retain control of the U. S. Senate, and the Republicans control of the U. S. House.  If so, 2012 will be a status quo election after 3 national wave elections in a row in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

In Texas, all eyes will be on the state senate race in Fort Worth between Sen. Wendy Davis and Rep. Mark Shelton.  A Shelton win would give the Republicans a 2/3rds majority in the Texas Senate until the Gallegos vacancy is filled.  In the Texas House, the Republicans are expected to remain firmly in control with +/- 95 seats.

There are a number of interesting local referendums around the state, such as the proposition to establish a medical school in Austin; the METRO referendum in Houston; and the pre-K referendum in San Antonio.

Early voting has been heavy in most areas of Texas.  When the early vote results are released shortly after 7 p.m., we will be able to call many of the Texas races and referenda.  Stay tuned, and if you haven’t already done so, go vote!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

RIP Sen. Gallegos


Sen. Gallegos was laid to rest this week.  I first met him in 1996 in American Leadership Forum Class XVI, and he and I climbed the mountain together in Colorado during the wilderness experience.  The Senator was warm, engaging and, in many respects, larger than life.  He will be missed:  May he rest in peace.

Sen. Gallegos is on the November 6 ballot and has a Republican opponent, R. W. Bray.  However, it is a solid Democratic district, with Sen. John McCain receiving only 35.8% of the vote in SD 6 as the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.  Any votes cast for Sen. Gallegos will count, and assuming the Senator receives the most votes a vacancy in the office will occur when the votes are canvased in late November or early December.

Gov. Perry will then call a special election to fill the vacancy in SD 6.  The Governor has up to 20 days to call the election, and the election must be held on a Tuesday or Saturday occurring not earlier than the 21st day or later than the 45th day after the date the election is ordered.  If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the special election, a runoff election will be necessary.  Bottom line is the special election will occur some time between early January and early February, depending on how quickly the Governor believes the election should occur.  

I suspect the timing of the special election will depend on the outcome in SD 10 where Sen. Wendy Davis (D) is being challenged by Rep. Mark Shelton (R).  If Sen. Davis prevails on November 6, the Democrats will have 11 Senators, the Republicans 19, with 1 vacancy (Gallegos seat).  However, if Sen. Davis loses, the Republicans will have 20 Senators to 10 for the Democrats, with 1 vacancy.  In that case, the Republicans will have a 2/3rds majority in the Texas Senate until the vacancy in SD 6 is filled.

The Texas Constitution provides that the first 60 days of a legislative session shall be devoted to the introduction of bills, the holding of committee hearings, and the consideration of emergency items submitted by the Governor.  If Sen. Davis is defeated, Gov. Perry will be able to control the agenda in the Senate by designating items as emergency matters.  Until Sen. Gallegos’ replacement is selected, the Republicans would have the necessary 2/3rds votes to pass legislation on a party line vote.

Based on the election results on November 6, we will know 1) whether there will be a vacancy and resulting special election in SD 6; and 2) whether the Republicans will have the necessary 2/3rds votes to pass legislation on a party line basis until the vacancy is filled.  If both Sen. Gallegos and Rep. Shelton win on November 6, expect the election to fill the Gallegos vacancy to occur as late as possible during the session.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

New Texas Senate Committee Chairs

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst announced the appointment of new Senate committee chairs this morning.  Reappointed are:

·         Administration – Sen. Kevin Eltife
·         Agriculture, Rural Affairs & Homeland Security – Sen. Craig Estes
·         Business & Commerce – Sen. John Carona
·         Criminal Justice – Sen. John Whitmire
·         Natural Resources – Sen. Troy Fraser
·         Veterans Affairs & Military Installations – Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

An appointment and reappointments that were previously announced last month are:

·         Finance – Sen. Tommy Williams
·         Health & Human Services – Sen. Jane Nelson
·         State Affairs – Sen. Robert Duncan

Four committee chairs did not seek reelection, and their replacements are announced as follows:

·         Economic Development – Sen. Bob Deuell replacing the retiring Sen. Mike Jackson
·         Education – Sen. Dan Patrick replacing the retiring Sen. Florence Shapiro
·         Finance (previously announced) – Sen. Tommy Williams replacing the retiring Sen. Steve Ogden
·         Jurisprudence – Sen. Royce West replacing the retiring Sen. Chris Harris

Shifts in committee chairs are:

·         Government Organization – Sen. Judith Zaffirini replacing Sen. Rodney Ellis
·         Higher Education – Sen. Kel Seliger replacing Sen. Zaffirini
·         Intergovernmental Relations – Sen. Juan Hinojosa replacing Sen. West

A new Committee on Open Government was created to work on rewriting appropriate sections of the Open Government laws and increase transparency in state government operations, and Sen. Rodney Ellis was named Chair.

New committee chairs are:

·         Sen. Glenn Hegar as Chair of Nominations
·         Sen. Juan Hinojosa as Chair of Intergovernmental Relations
·         Sen. Robert Nichols as Chair of Transportation, with Homeland Security responsibility being moved to Sen. Craig Estes

·         Sen. Dan Patrick as Chair of Education

Three committees are eliminated:

·         International Relations and Trade previously chaired by Sen. Eddie Lucio
·         Subcommittee on Flooding and Evacuations previously chaired by Sen. Mario Gallegos
·         Select Committee on Redistricting previously chaired by Sen. Seliger

If there was any doubt that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst intends to seek reelection in 2014, it was put to rest by his committee appointments.  According to his press release, realigning the committee appointments will allow “more time to focus on conservative solutions to issues.”  The press release further states that rotating the assignments will require “fresh conservative thinking and conservative solutions.”

Sen. Patrick regularly states that the 83rd Texas Senate, with at least five new members, will be the most conservative in history.  Lt. Gov. Dewhurst has realigned the committees to match that conservative shift.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Libertarians and Greens, Oh My

We are less than six weeks from the November 6 general election.  Nationally, President Obama is beginning to open statistically significant leads in the swing states and the race is tilting towards him.  The President has opened up a 5.4% average lead in Ohio over Governor Romney according to Real Clear Politics.  No Republican has ever been elected President without carrying Ohio.
The race remains close, however, and is far from over.  Nevertheless, the President is the clear favorite to reelected:  74.9% probability according to Intrade; 81.9% according to FiveThirtyEight.
Democrats are gaining ground in U. S. Senate and House races as well.  In Texas, the polling is beginning to show an uptick for Democratic legislative candidates.  We are also seeing the Libertarians poll strongly in Texas this cycle.  Normally, a Libertarian candidate will pull 2% to 3% of the vote in a competitive race between a Republican and a Democrat.  In 2012, we are seeing the Libertarians in the 3% to 5%+ range.
Every cycle, there are a handful of races where the Libertarian candidate receives more votes than the margin of victory for the Democrat over the Republican.
Year
Dist.
Candidates
Party
Winner
Vote %
2006





HD 17
Tim Kleinschmidt
REP
47.88%
Robby Cook (i)
DEM
X
48.91%
Rod Gibbs
LIB
3.19%
HD 32
Gene Seaman (i)
REP
46.15%
Juan Garcia
DEM
X
48.25%
Lenard Nelson
LIB
5.58%
HD 93
Toby Goodman (i)
REP
46.94%
Paula Pierson
DEM
X
49.60%
Max Koch
LIB
3.44%
HD 118
George Antuna
REP
44.3%
Joe Farias
DEM
X
48.2%
James Thompson
LIB
7.5%
2008





SD 10
Kim Brimer (i)
REP
47.52%
Wendy Davis
DEM
X
49.91%
Richard Cross
LIB
2.56%
HD 11
Brian Walker
REP
49.05%
Chuck Hopson
DEM
X
49.28%
Paul Bryan
LIB
1.65%
HD 105
L. Harper-Brown
REP
X
48.72%
Bob Romano
DEM
48.67%
James Baird
LIB
2.60%
2010





HD 48
Dan Neil
REP
48.51%
Donna Howard (i)
DEM
X
48.53%
Ben Easton
LIB
2.94%


Philosophically, one would believe that if a Libertarian candidate is not on the ballot, the Libertarian vote is much more likely to go to the Republican.  In general, Republican legislative candidates did a good job of getting Libertarians not to file or to withdraw from the ballot this cycle.  Below are what I consider the most competitive Texas legislative races.
Dist.
Republican
Democrat
Libertarian
Green
ORVS
ODVS
SD 10
Mark Shelton
Wendy Davis (i)
55.2%
46.7%
HD 12
Kyle Kacal
Robert Stern
59.9%
44.0%
23
Wayne Faircloth
Craig Eiland (i)
51.0%
52.4%
26
Rick Miller
Vy Nguyen
65.8%
36.1%
34
Connie Scott (i)
Abel Herrero
47.1%
56.8%
43
J. M. Lozano (i)
Y. Gonzalez Toureilles
51.7%
52.4%
45
Jason Isaac (i)
John Adams
Yes
57.5%
45.4%
47
Paul Workman (i)
Chris Frandsen
Yes
60.4%
41.6%
48
Donna Howard (i)
Robert Thomas
Yes
43.9%
58.2%
54
Jimmie Don Aycock (i)
Claudia Brown
57.0%
46.8%
78
Dee Margo (i)
Joe Moody
47.0%
56.0%
85
Phil Stephenson
Dora Olivo
59.9%
43.1%
102
Stefani Carter (i)
Rich Hancock
56.0%
46.1%
105
L. Harper Brown (i)
Rosemary Robbins
Yes
55.3%
47.2%
107
Kenneth Sheets (i)
Robert Miklos
54.9%
47.5%
114
Jason Villalba
Carol Kent
56.7%
45.1%
117
John Garza (i)
Philip Cortez
50.8%
52.0%
134
Sarah Davis (i)
Ann Johnson
58.1%
42.9%
136
Tony Dale
Matt Stillwell
Yes
59.1%
43.2%
144
David Pineda
Mary Ann Perez
Yes
49.2%
53.4%
149
Diane Williams
Hubert Vo (i)
46.7%
55.4%


Libertarians in the Austin area generally run stronger than any other area of the state, and this could be problematic for Isaac and Dale.  The Libertarian in HD 144 further strengthens Mary Ann Perez’ position.  However, the lack of Libertarians in the DFW house races and SD 10 is a significant benefit for the Republicans.  Finally, the Green candidate could provide the margin of victory for Harper-Brown in a close race, presuming all of the Green vote would otherwise be Democratic. A Green candidate can be expected to receive about 1% of the vote in a legislative race.
Although there are not that many competitive legislative races in Texas this year, the presence or absence of a Libertarian on the ballot is likely to have a major impact on the end result.