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.