Monday, June 22, 2015

Costello getting flooded out of mayor's race *Updated w/press conference details*

Charles also has this topic covered for you; as is custom here, I speculate on what the political after-effects may be.  First, Rebecca Elliott with the latest.

When the most conservative candidate in the Houston mayor's race dropped out two months ago, the battle to win over right-leaning voters became a two-man show: former Kemah Mayor Bill King versus City Councilman Stephen Costello.

Both candidates bill themselves as moderate fiscal conservatives chiefly concerned about the city's finances - pensions in particular - and, by all accounts, neither is an ideal choice for the far right.

Nonetheless, support among local Republicans has begun to coalesce around King, who has taken a hard line against ReBuild Houston, the city's controversial streets and drainage program.

Now, with Houston recovering from severe flooding and the state Supreme Court ruling against the city in a lawsuit over ReBuild, program mastermind Costello only looks to be in trouble.

"The timing of this couldn't be worse for Costello," said Rice University political scientist Bob Stein, adding that King now has a window to break through.

I would swear somebody said something precisely like this a week ago.

As for Costello and King, political observers say either could make it into a runoff, but that it would require one of them falling out of the running. Otherwise, they likely split the conservative vote, leaving neither with enough support to make it past November.

Broadly speaking, Costello and King's campaigns are similar, their top issues the same: pension reform, public safety and road repairs.

Their policy positions do diverge in two key areas: pension reform and infrastructure funding.

While they both have identified Houston's rising pension costs as a primary concern, Costello, who chairs the city's budget and fiscal affairs committee, is a proponent of a modified defined benefit plan in which city employees would continue to receive a set pension. King wants to switch to a defined contribution model for new hires.

However, it is more difficult to engage potential voters on pensions than take photos of potholes, and a recent string of storms has only intensified the candidates' obsession with the condition of Houston's roads.

Yes, the worm has turned against Costello in this regard.

(Costello)'s support of the drainage fee has put him in a tough spot with some on the right.

"For him to say he's conservative, I don't see it. I don't see it at all," said Joe Slovacek, co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the ReBuild lawsuit and a member of the conservative Houston Realty Business Coalition and C Club.

For conservatives, Slovacek said, "There's no other choice but Bill King."

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Houston Republican who led the effort to sue the city over ReBuild, said King has staked out the strongest position of those in the field.

Bettencourt's brother co-chairs King's campaign.

Pretty clear where this is going, isn't it?

Houston's chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies offered Costello an early endorsement in March, referencing his "first-hand" knowledge of how to fix Houston's streets.

Even so, local engineer Truman Edminster said doubts remain.

"There's a certain amount of reservation about 'Can he really make it over the top? Can he really make it into the runoff?'" Edminster said.

Houston Democrats would greatly prefer that Costello and King split the conservative vote, because that could mean a runoff between two Ds.  But with Costello faltering this early, your handicapping for this race today is Sylvester Turner, Bill King, and one of Chris Bell and Adrian Garcia with enough potential remaining to push himself in and one of those top two out of a runoff.  And since the Latinos in San Antonio couldn't get Leticia Van de Putte over the hump, I cannot see "the community turning out in historic numbers" for the former sheriff.

With about 4.5 months to go, I'll place a bet today on Turner to win (with a plurality, not a majority), King to place, and Bell to show.  But there's still plenty of track left to run.

Update: Chris Bell held a press conference yesterday to call for an outside investigation into the severe flooding in the Meyerland area.  (Bell's own home took in three feet of water.)  The nearly-$2 billion ongoing project to remediate Brays Bayou through the southwest part of the city, in the wake of Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, apparently saved much of the Texas Medical Center this go-round.  But the construction work has been implicated in the West Loop/South Loop corner flood damage due to long delays.  Councilman Larry Green first pointed the finger at the lack of progress as a culprit in the floods.

1 comment:

Katy Anders said...

I hope so. Turner seems to know his stuff.

Costello talked real numbers, too, when I saw the first debate. Of course, Costello has neither the demeanor nor the political bent to do much in this election, but he does appear to have a grasp on what he's talking about.