Thursday, October 20, 2011

Your voter's guide for November 8, 2011 Part 3: AL3, A, D, F

At Large #3: Melissa Noriega

Councilwoman Noriega has two opponents, neither of whom have achieved any particular positive distinction. Chris Carmona is the conservative's choice -- at least according to Amy Peck -- and Brad Batteau is running apparently to try and draw off some of Noreiga's Democratic support (HCGOP lists him as a D but does NOT list Carmona as an R).

Noriega's talent and skills as a problem-solver and council moderate and mediator easily merit her re-election.

District A: Bob Schoellkopf

Republican incumbent Brenda Stardig's most significant claim to fame remains the Long Point road rage incident with her 2009 runoff opponent, Lane Lewis -- who's now poised to become the chair of the Harris County Democratic Party. I just have to excerpt this again ...

The two have not debated face to face — unless you count Lewis' version of them shouting at each other from separate cars while driving down Long Point.

According to Lewis, he attended a Spring Branch West super-neighborhood meeting on Nov. 12 (2009). Attendees asked aloud why Stardig was not present and speculated that she was at a nearby bar.

After the meeting, Lewis went to the bar and photographed the license plate on what he believed to be Stardig's car, he said.

While driving home, he said, Stardig pursued him, honking her horn, swerving to both sides of his vehicle and shouting questions at him. Lewis said he shouted answers back.

“It was an irresponsible choice that a candidate for a district race for City Council would choose a bar instead of a neighborhood meeting,” Lewis said.

“I've been everywhere I need to be,” Stardig said. She would not comment on specifics of the encounter.

Helena Brown is challenging Stardig from the right, as in the far, farther, farthest TeaBagging right.  Check this out:

Helena Brown of Houston is not pleased.

A lifelong Republican — and a precinct chair at that — she also identifies with the Tea Party movement and was a Debra Medina supporter. Now she and her fellow Tea Party Republicans must decide whether GOP candidate Gov. Rick Perry is worthy of their support or perhaps look for an independent write-in candidate. (Brown says she thinks actor Chuck Norris might be interested.)

Schoellkopf is a loyal Democratic activist. How hard is this?

District D: Wanda Adams

Incumbent, good Democrat, hard-working. The HGLBT Caucus has criticized her, but that has seemed a little harsh to me. Challenger Larry McKinzie seems like a nice enough fellow, though ...

District F: Peter Rene'

Incumbent Al Hoang has been savaged by his Vietnamese constituency in this way-out-west district. The local newspaper even describes the tussle between Hoang and challenger Hoc Nguyen as the "Vietnam War Revisited" (the Google cache still has that headline; the article has been changed). But I'll excerpt instead from the Chron a few days ago:

Councilman Al Hoang pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in donations meant for the local Vietnamese community organization he headed prior to his election as District F councilman, a lawsuit by a group of Vietnamese civic activists claims.

Hoang denies the charges and has countersued the plaintiffs for what he considers libel.

The lawsuit is another step in what Hoang sees as a persistent campaign of harassment against him. Detractors have been so aggressive, he said, they once mailed him a photograph of themselves urinating on the graves of his parents.

He is a target not for any legal improprieties, he said, but for his maturing attitude toward Vietnam, one that has evolved from focusing on the regime's violent overthrow to one of promoting change from within the country through trade and dialogue.

"They want me to use this seat as a base to overthrow the Communist government" of Vietnam, Hoang said.

Outside of court, Hoang is being challenged for re-election by Hoc Thai Nguyen, a businessman who claims Hoang's sister-in-law threatened to poison his children, calls Hoang "the Gadhafi of Houston," and says he fears for his life because he believes Hoang is capable of killing him. Nguyen is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

That's pretty spicy stuff. There's more at the link regarding the investigations of Hoang's alleged impropriety since he was elected two years ago. A proud Republican, Hoang defeated Democrat Mike Laster in the runoff for F in 2009; Laster is running in Sharpstown's new J district (I'll cover that contest tomorrow). Back to the Chron for the reasons why you should stand well back from this Vietnamese food fight and vote for Peter Rene':

After a series of controversies involving incumbent Al Hoang divided his Vietnamese-American base, Hoang indicated he would not stand for re-election. Though he later changed his mind, we think his initial decision was the right one. The district, which has demanding infrastructure and economic development needs, requires new, focused leadership at City Hall.

Fortunately, voters have the opportunity to elect such a person, businessman and community activist Peter "Lyn" René. Born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, René came to Houston in 1979 and graduated from Westbury High School and UH-Downtown.

The Westchase resident is the CEO of the Caribbean American Foundation of Texas, which organizes events that bring together Houston's sizable and vibrant Caribbean-heritage community.

René is an integrated technology project manager who owns and operates Consumer Information Services, LLC. He is a certified mediator who does volunteer work at the Harris County Dispute Resolution Center and is the founder of Singing from the Soul Foundation. It provides talented but economically disadvantaged high school students classical voice training and preparation to seek college musical degrees and future professional careers.

René promises to be a strong voice at City Hall for street repair and district beautification. To counter budget cuts that have closed community centers and after-school programs, he says he would use his skills as a grant writer to solicit funds from corporations and foundations to continue vital municipal youth services.

Greg and Charles, who follow these things day-to-day closer than I do, were both a little surprised by the endorsement and went out on limbs to guess that the Chron would also not back Jolanda Jones (bad prediction there, guys).

I really don't get why they were so shocked; the district has been redrawn significantly and seems wide open to this casual observer. Throw in the controversy swirling around Hoang and you have yourself a contest.

With two Asian names and one French-sounding, it's hard to know which way the Anglo Republicans will go -- maybe for their fellow traveler the stained incumbent. This district's vote will be split, and all bets are off.

In any case, Rene' is the best (really the only) choice.

Continuing this series tomorrow.

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