Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sparks fly in last debate before early voting

Some real action among the debaters running for mayor last night.  The newspaper picked the former sheriff's awakening as the best rumble.

Mayoral hopeful Adrian Garcia, hoping to retain what polls have showed is his slipping grasp on a second spot in a likely December runoff, used Friday's televised debate to go on the offensive for the first time.

Just days before early voting begins, the generally amiable former sheriff of Harris County especially took aim at rival Bill King, who polls have showed is in a dead heat with for second place behind frontrunner Sylvester Turner. Garcia highlighted King's former role atop a politically connected tax collection firm and the 1980s bankruptcy of a bank he ran.

"You drove a savings and loan into bankruptcy while other CEOs across the country were able to save theirs, and then you were out there trying to take the homes of veterans," Garcia said to King, referring to tax collection efforts of Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson.

I always thought it was going to be Barzini err, Chris Bell that Garcia would lash out at.  What this suggests is that Garcia thinks his only rival for the right to square off against Turner in the runoff is King.  (He might be right about that, he might be wrong.  We'll see.)

The brief exchange represented the only new talking point or tactic from any of the top seven candidates, who have attended so many forums together that some have jokingly offered to answer questions in place of an absent rival.

I don't know about that.  Seems to my POV there were a handful of new angles.

Frontrunner and state Rep. Turner again stayed above the fray - despite being a longtime subcontractor for the Linebarger tax collection firm himself - as the candidates vying for the second runoff spot jostled, sending occasional barbs each other's way.

"All of the candidates jockeying for second were more aggressive than we would normally see, in part because of the exposure of the debate," said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, naming Garcia, King, Bell and Costello.

See?  Even a blind partisan red hog found an acorn.

Garcia and Bell revisited their squabble over whether Garcia's tenure at the sheriff's office saw declining or rising crime rates, and whether the office came in over- or under-budget during his six years.

Bell's campaign compares spending at the sheriff's office to the county's initial adopted budget figures, while Garcia's uses the ones after budget office adjustments later in the year.

Costello defended ReBuild Houston, the city's fee-driven street and drainage repair program of which he was a key architect. Polls have shown street conditions are voters' loudest complaint.

"Only the city of Houston could have come up with a 24-step process for filling potholes," Bell said, repeating his frequent call for the city to better use technology. "If you can watch your pizza being made at Domino's in this day and age, you should be able to watch a pothole being filled in your neighborhood."

A better summary from KPRC (watch their 3-minute report from last's night's newscast):

"I've learned from Adrian Garcia that you can run up a budget up over $82 million during your six-year tenure as sheriff, but then come before a crowd such as this and still claim you saved $200 million," mayoral candidate Chris Bell said. 

"I'm a little shocked to hear Adrian's statistics, because actually, during his watch of the county, crime was up," candidate Bill King said. 

"If those who want to attack my record that I worked hard for and risked my life for, then let's look at their records," Garcia said."

Bell had a very good night.  Costello, not so much.  Hard to tell about Garcia or King, but King's rise probably isn't going to be slowed by last night's shots.

Those four and Turner, as the latest poll released just before last night's match showed, is where the action is going to be as we start voting next week.  Nobody mentioned Turner's questionable business affairs, a development that has broken late in the cycle, and it was mostly consultants on the Twitter feed last night spinning it for their respective clients.

So it's still anybody's game for second place.  Fun (as one lobbyist likes to say).


Gadfly said...

Saw you retweeting Bell. Contra the cockamamie PR of the current mayor on growth issues, Helltown itself, not just Galveston, could be in some degree of difficulty on flooding if climate change is bad enough. Did Bell, or anybody else, talk specifically about this issue, on flooding?

(Or that groundwater pumping has parts of Houston below sea level? Hello, NOLA!)

PDiddie said...

Bell's primary and somewhat personal issue -- his own home took 3 feet of water during the Memorial weekend deluge -- has been flooding and associated infrastructure (but not so much climate change).

Rebuild Houston is Councilman Costello's baby. It's been having growing pains, and Costello is getting slammed for it. Costello is the moderate Republican in the race, and self-funding his campaign with the millions he's made on engineering contracts with the city in previous years.

Gadfly said...

Well, even without climate change, if the next Ike steers 10 miles further west, lots of Houston is like a shallower version of New Orleans' bowl. I'm not sure what exactly the answer is. That said, I think the experts are right; even with that buildout on infrastructure, Houston can't handle rains that big.

That's why Parker is laughable on Houston passing Chitown. It will be a mosquito-invested hellhole in 30 years, with climate almost as bad as New Delhi is now and gridlock like Dallas plus Austin combined. And, who would want to live there? (Setting aside the whole no-zoning issue,)