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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ed Emmett, Don Sumners, and "esperanza"

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has brokered a deal with the Texas secretary of state to restore about $700,000 in funding the state had cut off after the county tax assessor said he would not purge presumed-dead voters from the rolls before the Nov. 6 election.

Tax Assessor-Collector Don Sumners on last week said he would delay the purge after hundreds of very-much-alive voters called his staff, upset about a letter they had received from his office saying they may be dead and would be removed from the rolls if they did not act within 30 days.

Those voters were on a list of about 9,000 names generated by the Secretary of State's Office using data from the Social Security Administration's master death file, as mandated by a new state law.

State officials, saying the purge is required by law, accused Sumners of jeopardizing the integrity of the election and cut off his voter registration funding. Sumners had received about $31,000 of an expected $732,404 this year before being shut off, secretary of state spokesman Rich Parsons said. 

When this news broke last week -- along with the subsequent developments -- my first reaction was the same as everyone else's: "I'll be damned; Don Sumners did the right thing". As I thought about it some more -- given Sumners' inherent Tea Party bias -- I began to wonder if this wasn't some kind of three-dimensional chess game, where Sumners would be able to disenfranchise last-minute registrations, hang a 'Mission Accomplished' banner at the King Street Patriots' headquarters, and avoid being seen as the bad guy. (Texas SOS Esperanza "Hope" Andrade is, after all, appointed by the governor and thus unaccountable to public opinion.)

But then I remembered: this is Don Sumners. He can't be trusted to pull on his boxers with the snap in front. Even Ed Emmett knows this.

Emmett blamed Sumners for the mix-up, revealing the tax office had been sent two lists by the secretary of state, but only acted on one. One list included 9,000 names the state considered "weak" matches to death records. The second list was composed of about 1,000 names considered "strong" matches to death records.

Sumners' office only sent letters to voters on the "weak" list. Sumners, who serves as the county's chief voter registrar, acknowledged his office erred, believing until late last week that the 1,000 names on the "strong" list were among the 9,000 on the other list.

Emmett's deal is based on the "strong" list. The secretary of state has agreed to restore Sumners' funding if the taxman sends letters to the names on the strong list, canceling those whose relatives confirm they are dead and removing from the voter rolls those for whom there is no response after 30 days, Parsons said.

Everybody -- yes, even Democrats -- believes the deceased ought to be removed from the voter rolls. Only a few people who drink too much tea and watch too much Fox News believe it's a good idea to do it the way Sumners did it, especially less than two months before Election Day. He must have gotten a lot of calls from allegedly dead Republicans to have reversed himself so quickly.

To the larger issue of voter disenfranchisement generally -- and the growing franchise operated by Catherine Engelbrecht -- here's an example of what KSP thinks is happening... and what's really happening.

In Houston, the group targeted the Congressional district represented by Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat who is black. Ms. Engelbrecht said the group settled on Ms. Lee’s district because thousands of addresses there housed six or more registered voters, which it took as an indication of inaccurate registrations. The methodology, which the group still uses, could disproportionately affect lower income families. 

Volunteers spent five months analyzing 3,800 registrations in Ms. Lee’s district, discovering more than 500 voters that the group said were problematic. More than 200 voters were registered at vacant lots, prompting Ms. Engelbrecht to later remark that those voters had a “Lord of the Rings Middle Earth sort of thing going on.” 

The reality was far less interesting. 

“They had one particular case I remember very well,” said Douglas Ray, the Harris County assistant attorney who represents the election registrar. “They had identified an address where eight or 10 people were registered to vote. There was no building there.” Mr. Ray found out that the building had been torn down and that the people simply moved. 

This would be another example of conservatives really having no understanding -- and even less empathy -- of how the poverty-stricken live their lives.

My feeling is that most independent voters are as sick of sneering plutocrats and oligarchs as the the rest of us. But we'll have to wait and see what the poll that concludes on November 6 says.

That's moving from esperanza and toward surety every day.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Brainy Endorsements: Ann Harris Bennett

In 2010, Harris County voters had the opportunity to elect Ann Harris Bennett to the office of County Clerk. Given the cartoon aspects of the performance of the extreme conservative who let the Red Tea Tide carry him in two years ago, there is now buyer's remorse even on the part of Harris County Republicans, who turned out his clown car sidekick in the county tax assessor's office, Don Sumners.

Bennett will be the Democrats' nominee for tax assessor/collector in 2012, and the other options... well, aren't.

Former Houston city councilman Mike Sullivan represents "proven conservative values", according to what proven conservative dipshits like Paul Bettencourt say.

Former tax assessor Paul Bettencourt said the ousting of incumbents such as Sumners and District Attorney Pat Lykos showed GOP voters want candidates that have “more conservative perceptions of how the office should be run,” adding voters clearly identified “job performance issues.”

There is no such thing as being more conservative than Don Sumners. There isn't one inch of space to his right. You can stop trying to wedge yourself in there (and please stop talking about how being conservative is a good thing, while you're at it).

“I think that I represented conservative values on Houston City Council, I represented conservative values on Humble ISD board of trustees, and my long history in the party and track record have proven attractive to Republican voters,” (Sullivan) said...

Enough. We have all had enough -- too much, actually -- of 'conservative' in Harris county government. It's time for some balance.

It's time for some common sense. Pamela Crawford at Style:

Ms. Bennett, a native Texan, is no stranger to the county system. She served as court coordinator for 14 ½ years in the 55th and 152nd Civil District Courts for both Republican and Democratic judges in court administration. She also was a 12-year legal secretary for plaintiff and insurance defense law firms in Houston working primarily in tort litigation. Her background with the courts and law firms indicates she understands how integrity, transparency and accountability are a crucial part of a daily routine. Her legal experience tells me she understands how to manage technology andr documents. As an attorney, I appreciate that she clearly understands how the legal process works.

Via Stace, Bennett's press release in the wake of Sumners' breakdown in mailing voter registration cards last spring...

“Harris County seems to have been the testing ground for vote suppression tactics used against minorities and that cannot continue. Restoring faith in the integrity of the voter registration process will be a priority of my campaign and my administration when elected...”.

And from Bennett's website:

It’s been almost fifty years since passage of the Voting Rights Act and yet, from voter registration irregularities to illegal redistricting plans, we too often continue to see examples of the need for the legal protections afforded under the Voting Rights Act. While I could not be more thankful for those protections, I intend to end the questionable practices of the past and restore faith among Harris County voters in the voter registration process. The voter registration process should be simple, secure, accessible and most of all, it should never leave citizens questioning its integrity.

There is also a Libertarian in this contest, but he seems to be running an invisible campaign. All I could find was this Meetup profile.  Maybe Democrats should e-mail him or call him -- see the first link in this paragraph -- and ask when he's going to get started campaigning.

Once again, as clear a choice as it comes on your Harris County ballot. Let's get it correct, not right, this time.

Earlier Brainy Endorsements:

Nile Copeland for the First Court of Appeals
Alfred and GC Molison for HD 131 and SBOE, respectively
Henry Cooper for HD 148
Keith Hampton for Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Barbara Gardner for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals
Don Cook for Congress, 22nd District
Max Martin for Congress, 36th District
Remington Alessi for Harris County Sheriff

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Turnout remains poor, Dems plead with voters

While the TeaBaggers hold two huge rallies this weekend -- one in The Woodlands with Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, and Jim DeMint, one in DFW with Cruz, Dick Armey, and Glenn Beck -- our local Democratic party is literally begging voters to vote. Sue Mallot, a Spring precinct chair:

I'm working one of only two EV locations in North Harris Co. between Tomball and Kingwood. As of day 3 - Republicans 700+ ...Democrats 22!!!  Really - Yes - Really!!  I don't care that in most precincts there is only 1 election - Senator - it is a pretty darned important one - so Get off your Butt and Vote.  There are no lines...you could drive in vote and drive out in 20 minutes- or less.  And, And all of the voters with Hispanic surnames voted Republican and all of the young people voted Republican...What does that say about our prospects for November???

Yeah Sue, I don't know where enough enthusiasm is going to come from to overcome all the fear, bigotry, and hate these Republicans are fomenting. Maybe this morning's message from Gilberto Hinojosa will stoke a little determination in the hearts of the Dems. Its title: "This is what happens when we lose elections."

Dire. That’s the situation for Texas children. Texas ranks 44th in the nation on the overall well-being for children. More than one in four children in our state lives in poverty. That’s the reality as published by a report from the Annie E. Casey foundation. That’s utter failure.
But it’s also a reminder of what’s at stake. Elections are not just about who wins and who loses. They are about what happens to our loved ones as a result. When we don’t win, the people for whom we fight suffer. And it’s unquestionable that our children are suffering as a result of Republican rule.

These rankings are the results of Perry, Dewhurst, and their Republican buddies turning their back on our children. Republicans betrayed children by shutting down schools and by making it harder for kids to visit a doctor. There’s just too much at stake.

When we don’t win, more than one in four children in our state live in poverty. When we don’t win, neighborhood schools close. When we don’t win, nursing homes are forced to shut their doors leaving seniors with nowhere to go. When we don’t win, women lose access to cancer screenings and other vital health care.

If you didn’t cringe enough by Texas ranking 44 for the well-being of children, read the other shameful statistics and rankings for children in Texas:

  • 1.7 million Texas children – or 26 percent - live in poverty. 
  • Overall for children: 44 
  • Education: 32 
  • Economic well-being: 33 
  • Health: 42 
  • Family and community: 47 

Let's move on from the statistics, and get on with the prognostication.

For the purpose of this posting, let's assume that Ted Cruz and Paul Sadler are the two major party US Senate nominees. Where do moderate Republicans and conservative-leaning independents go? Whom do progressives and liberal independents vote for?

To me this outcome suggests a surge of sorts to the Libertarian and the Green. But how big a surge remains to be determined by the amount of traditional media coverage the two minor party candidates get (probably little to none). Whether they get to participate in the debates, for example.

However many lemmings cast a ballot in November, many will dial in one party and be done with it. What a shame. No election in recent memory cries out for voters to split their tickets than 2012, and that includes the presidential race all the way to the bottom of your ticket.

Downballot races locally will generate similar disgust among Harris County voters. The Republicans have two sheriff candidates in the runoff who have disciplinary records with the HCSO. The GOP lame duck incumbent tax assessor/collector, Don "I was TeaBaggin' Before It was Cool" Sumners, is being sued for the purpose of overturning the ongoing election for school board because he supplied the wrong map. Thus people not eligible to vote in the race did so, and some eligible to didn't have the option on their ballot.

Sumners' conqueror, former city councilman Mike Sullivan, has a worthy challenger, Ann Harris Bennett, opposing him in the fall. But those RWNJ straight-ticket sheep likely won't care. County attorney Vince Ryan has had Wayne Dolcefino broadsides leveled against him, but his opponent is Crazy Bob Talton. That alone should make it possible for Ryan to survive.

Similarly, Democrats who spin the wheel to the D will miss voting in a Texas Supreme Court race that will have either a racist or an arsonist (allegedly) on the Republican side, and an outstanding progressive running as a Green. They'll also miss one of the two Railroad Commission slots, where only an R, an L, and a G are on the ballot -- scroll down at that link to RRC Place 2.

This is both good and bad. By not voting for the Green, they can hold out hope of denying the party ballot access in 2014. Good for Texas Democrats very marginally, very bad for democracy.

It's so much easier to vote your conscience philosophically. Feels better, too. Of course it takes an extra five minutes.

My vote in the ongoing runoff is already in the bank: Grady Yarbrough for US Senate, Lissa Squiers for CD07, Erica Lee for school board trustee. (This last one is the one that will have to be revoted, and it may be in November with a wide open primary according to what I am hearing.) I don't get a vote in HD 137, but either Gene Wu or Jamaal Smith will make a fine representative. There are constable runoffs in the county for which I offer no opinion.

I encourage my readers to do your civic duty, but as you have observed I'm already looking past next Tuesday to November, when the choices don't generate quite so much angst. Or apathy.

Update: Charles Kuffner's case for turnout being fairly good locally in this runoff is well-taken.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The stooges running elections in Harris County *update*

John has been on this since I've been busy offline, and this week HCDP chair Lane Lewis put out the call for a forensic audit of the Harris County elections process in the wake of the recent buffoonery.

Harris County and political leaders Tuesday called for an audit and reforms to improve public confidence in local elections in the wake of problems in last week's primary runoffs that included contests run on the wrong boundaries, delayed results and inaccurate tallies posted online.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said he will ask the Texas Secretary of State's Office to examine his office's election processes after a "human error" in his office caused erroneous primary runoff election results to be posted online for hours last Tuesday. The error made the Democratic runoff for Precinct 2 constable appear to be a blowout for one candidate when, in fact, the correct count had his opponent ahead.

Democratic Party chairman Lane Lewis also called for an audit of election procedures. Lewis referenced delays in the posting of results in May and July, and a Democratic primary race for the Harris County Department of Education run on outdated boundaries. County tax assessor-collector Don Sumners has accepted some blame for the error but says the Department of Education was required to notify him of the change; the department disagrees.

As Charles has documented, County Judge Ed Emmett is mumbling and shuffling his feet and not actually showing any management skills, as usual.

(Emmett) revived his proposal that an elections administrator, an appointed official outside the clerk's office and tax office, be considered. Emmett said 85 Texas counties, including most large ones, use the system.

"I'm not saying we need to go to what they do, but if there are improvements we can make, I think we ought to consider making those improvements," Emmett said. "If there is an error, then at least you have somebody who is a professional election administrator. Nobody reads into it that this is an elected person that's partisan one way or the other."

This is as lame as his leadership on the "rusting ship in the parking lot" that is the Houston Astrodome. If it weren't for so many other incompetents among the county's Republicans, Emmett's worthlessness might draw some scrutiny.

Fortunately for him, there are bigger fuckups of the elected variety spread around town. Thanks, TeaBaggers!

Regarding Stan Stanart, he simply does not need to be by himself anywhere near any more elections. There need to be multiple observers from both parties -- perhaps even Greens and Libertarians as well, maybe even the DOJ -- present in the county ballot cave on Election Night in November.

A non-partisan appointed elections administrator is officially and badly needed NOW in the nation's third-most populous county. At the very least, Commissioners Court should appoint someone without reproach to the position at once to observe Stanart as well as Sumner's activities during the voter registration process, and that person should assume the office and the control of all Harris County elections in January, 2013.

If the King Street Patriots were serious about vote "fraud", they would give up their vile suppression tactics and just concentrate on watching everything Stanart and his clown sidekick Sumners are doing for the next 90 days. But as a district court has ruled, they are ribald partisan flacks themselves.

Those are actually the three greatest threats to an honest election in this county in 2012: KSP, Sumners, and Stanart. Don't expect any Republican to take any serious ethical action against any of them. They all love their power more than they do honesty and transparency in government.

Update: Campos wants to know...

I wonder why local Dem Party leaders won’t come out and support an Election Administrator?

And via Carl W, former HCDP chair Gerry Birnberg tries to set us both -- mostly me -- straight.

The Elections Administrator idea falls into the "better watch out what you ask for, you just might get it" category.. Perry apparently doesn't realize who appoints an Elections Administrator: under Texas law, the Elections Administrator is appointed by a fiver person committee consisting of (1) the County Clerk (yep - Stan Stanart), (2) the County Tax Assessor-Collector/Voter Registrar (currently Tea Party crazy Don Sumner, but after Januayr [sic] 1, hopefuly Ann Bennett, and if not her, then Mike Sullivan), (3) the County Judge (Ed Emmett), (4) the Chair of the Harris County Republican Party (Jarrod [sic] Woodfill), and (5) the Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party (Lane Lewis). Even if you could somehow hop [sic] that Ed Emmett would vote for a reasonable, competent, not-partisan Elections Administrator, do you think Jarrod [sic] Woodfill, Stan Stanart, and Don Sumner would?

And once you appoint an Election Administrator, that person cannot be replaced -- even for cause, unless four of the members of that committee vote to remove him or her. So, as a practical matters, once appointed, it's essentially a lifetime appointment. (Commissioners Court can abolish the position by majority vote, but they cannot fire the Administrator and obtain a replacement).

So until Democrats win at least one of the countywide elected spots on the committee (voter registrar, count clerk, or county judge) and really, two of them, it could be electoral suicide to put the entire elections apparatus (voter registration and elections administration) in the hands of one un-elected, permanent, un-replaceable person selected by Don Sumner, Stan Stanart, and Jarrod Woodfill (to say nothing of Ed Emmett).

The best way to clean up the mess is to elect Ann Bennett voter registrar in November and some other Democrat as county clerk and/or county judge in 2014.

Gerry gets it a little right and a little wrong here.

He's right that I didn't know it was those five who appointed an elections administrator, and wrong that it wouldn't be an improvement. ANYTHING and anybody would be better than leaving things they way they are... until hopefully Harris County voters elect another Democrat in November AND in an off-presidential year two years hence, when Democrats traditionally avoid the polls.

A little too much hope meeting cold hard reality there for me, Gerr.

Way back when Beverly Kaufman retired, she also tried to hand-pick her successor, and I criticized that. Kevin Mauzy looks like a whiz-bang stinkin' genius at this point of course, and might be the perfect fit. Certainly seems competent; might even be from the moderately sane wing of the GOP (since Stanart whipped him in 2010's primary). This would be a fat slice of humble pie for Stanart to eat, that's for sure.

Today's little effort to appear moderate myself, not to mention bipartisan, hopefully won't go overlooked.

Did Gerry answer your question, Marc?

Update: Charles Kuffner has deeper background (but no secrets).

Friday, September 17, 2010

LWV's I-Day Houston, with 150 candidates and 2 debates

The League of Women Voters' Infrastructure Day is tomorrow afternoon, with townhall meetings and more than one hundred fifty candidates -- D's, R's, L's, and G's -- on the Harris County November ballot meeting and greeting the attendees, followed that evening by two debates. Details below from the press release, and at their site.

============

The League of Women Voters of the Houston Area and the American Society of Civil Engineers are set to host two debates, a candidate meet-and-greet, and infrastructure townhall meetings during the Infrastructure Day Houston (I-Day) event at the George R. Brown Convention Center (Entrance C, 3rd Floor) on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2010.  The first of two debates will begin at 6:00 pm.  Candidate meet-and-greet opportunities and infrastructure townhall meetings will begin as early as at 3:00 pm.  The event is free and open to the public.

The League is hosting and facilitating two debates for the offices of the Harris County Judge and Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector.  Elisabeth MacNamara, National President of the League of Women Voters of the United States, is introducing the candidates.  Laurie Johnson, host of NPR’s All Things Considered, is moderating the debates.  The Tax Assessor-Collector debate with Don Sumners and Diane Trautman is from 6:00 to 7:00 pm.  The County Judge Debate with Ed Emmett and Gordon Quan is from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Prior to the debates, the candidate meet-and-greet and the infrastructure-related townhall meetings will run from 3:00 to 5:30 pm.  Voters will be able to meet over 150 candidates running for public office in Harris County for the election being held on November 2, 2010.  The townhall meetings will focus on topics including: Transportation, Energy, Ports and Airports, and Storm and Waste Water.  Experts, including Dr. John Lienhard, host of the Engines of Our Ingenuity program on National Public Radio, will lead the discussions and information sessions.

Free t-shirts will be given at the door for the first 100 attendees.

===============

Town Hall Meetings on Infrastructure

Co-sponsored with American Society of Civil Engineers
Talk about problems and solutions with experts, such as Dr. John Lienhard,
host of The Engines of Our Ingenuity
Session One: 3:00–4:00 pm
1a. Transportation
1b. Energy
Session Two: 4:30–5:30 pm
2a. Storm & Waste Water
2b. Ports & Airports

Candidate Meet and Greet

Brought to you by the League of Women Voters
of the Houston Area Education Fund

Talk to candidates seeking federal, state, and county offices. Ask them why they deserve your vote.
Open to the public at 3:00–5:30 pm

Candidate Debates

Co-sponsored with KUHF and the American Society of Civil Engineers.
See the candidates for Tax Assessor and County Judge debate live.

HARRIS COUNTY TAX ASSESSOR
Don Sumners and Diane Trautman: 6pm–7 pm

HARRIS COUNTY JUDGE
Ed Emmett and Gordon Quan: 7 pm–8 pm

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Reading the tea(bagger) leaves

-- First let's note Governor MoFo's pollster's contention that the 45% of early GOP primary voters in 2010 -- who had no prior Republican primary history -- put the governor over the top in Tuesday's election.

Now personally I believe that's hogwash. People in Texas who have a voting a history, just not a Republican one, turned out in the tens of thousands to vote for Rick Perry?!? LMAO.

There thousands of people with no prior Republican voting history who voted in the Republican primary, all right, and they were Democrats who voted for Kay Bailey ... and Debra Medina. Yes, we have our share of low-information voters too, and they're almost as ignorant as any conservative. Almost.

Baselice wants you to believe that TeaBaggers are legion, especially in Texas. That's partly right; they're just a whole lot smaller in number than he is spinning. I can't look at the full story on QR but that is ludicrous on its face. This is more of the Perry team trying to drive a narrative; don't fall for it. Moving on ...

-- Incumbent Texas Railroad Commissioner Victor Carillo laments his loss to David Porter ...

" ... an unknown, nocampaign (sic), no-qualification CPA from Midland residing in Giddings filed on the last day that he could file while I was waiting in Abilene to bury my dad. He has never held any elected office, has no geoscience, industry, or legal experience other than doing tax returns for oil and gas companies. ...

Early polling showed that the typical GOP primary voter has very little info about the position of Railroad Commissioner, what we do, or who my opponent or I were. Given the choice between “Porter” and “Carrillo” -- unfortunately, the Hispanic-surname was a serious setback from which I could never recover ...

Carrillo is, of course, precisely right and one of the commenters has a suggestion for him:

Message to Mr. Carrillo - why would you stay in a political party that votes out a qualified person just based on their surname?!?

If ever there was a poster child for the racist attitude that pervades the Republican party, to the point of kicking out a qualified incumbent with a hispanic surname, this is it.

Please join the Democratic party. This will not happen to you there!

But -- at least in Harris County -- that suggestion's closing point is also inaccurate. Hispanic judicial candidates on the Democratic ballot lost to non-Latinos by the bushel.

Everybody knows what this is all about, and you don't have to be a regular consumer of FOX or local talk-radio to get it.

The Texas Blue has an even better suggestion:

If (Carillo) is truly interested in supporting the candidate with the most oil & gas experience, he and all Texans should cast their votes in November for Democratic candidate Jeff Weems, a former roughneck and energy lawyer. I don't know about y'all, but I'd rather see an oil & gas person do an oil & gas person's job rather than leave it up to a candidate whose most germane qualification is that he lives near oil & gas infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Porter has hired former TRC member Barry Williamson -- a former finance chair for the RPT -- to raise money for him. I posted a lengthy bit of data on Porter here in January that tells you money is going to be the least of his concerns.

And look for more discussion on this surname topic, here and elsewhere.

--  Kuffner ...

Meanwhile, Harris County Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez suffered the same fate as Victor Carrillo.


Don Sumners won the Republican nomination for county tax assessor-collector Tuesday, ousting incumbent Leo Vasquez on his promises to continue the anti-tax crusade that characterized his tenure as county treasurer in the 1990s. 

Sumners campaigned on a slogan of "I was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool."
As treasurer, he publicly criticized Commissioners Court for increasing the tax rate and was an outspoken opponent of a bond measure that approved hotel and car rental taxes to fund football, basketball and baseball stadiums.

I think teabagging has been pretty cool among certain segments of homosexual men for ... what, decades maybe? Centuries possibly?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An elections administrator for Harris County (?)

Harris County should consider appointing a bureaucrat to take over election duties from two elected officials who currently split the job, County Judge Ed Emmett said.

Emmett said he plans to ask Commissioners Court next month or in July to authorize a study of the costs and consequences of such a change.

Harris County's tax assessor-collector registers voters, a job that accompanied its duty to collect poll taxes. The county clerk runs elections. Both are elected.

Thus, taking voter registration out of the tax assessor/collector's office and elections management out of the county clerk's office and combining them into an elections administration department, under the supervision of an appointed county official, is the idea. And I like it.

Proponents of an elections czar say an appointee would be insulated from accusations and lawsuits alleging partisanship in carrying out the duties of the office.

In late 2008, the state Democratic Party said in a lawsuit that then-Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt, a Republican, had illegally blocked thousands of people from registering to vote. The lawsuit was settled last fall. Bettencourt resigned in December 2008 to work in the private sector, just weeks after being elected to a third four-year term.

“The Democrats' lawsuit against the tax office and Paul Bettencourt's abrupt departure were game changers,” Emmett said. “It brought to everybody's attention that any time you have partisan offices running elections, you're just sort of leaving yourself open to lawsuits.”

The legacy of Quittencourt. He now runs a company that negotiates with the Harris County Appraisal District to get property taxes lowered for homeowners, marking time for his next electoral opportunity.  Continuing with Chris Moran at the Chron ...

There was talk of tinkering with the county's elections machinery at the time. County Clerk Beverly Kaufman and newly appointed Tax Assessor-Collector Leo Vasquez opposed it. No formal proposal emerged.

“I was glad because I didn't want to lose a lot of my people,” Kaufman said.

But Kaufman is retiring, and her endorsed successor lost the March primary election for the nomination to succeed her. Vasquez lost his Republican primary.

That opens a window for proponents in which they can largely avoid the turf war over taking money, people and power from the tax assessor and clerk. Kaufman herself restarted talk of an administrator when she sent Emmett information about it a month ago. Now that she is leaving office she supports an elections administrator, she said.

“This is the ideal time, when you're not pulling the rug out from somebody that's already doing it,” she said.

No incumbent owns any turf to lose, but the challengers bidding to replace them are howling:

Democrat Ann Harris Bennett and Republican Stan Stanart, the November candidates to succeed Kaufman, both said they oppose an elections administrator.

“The voters don't have any way of removing (an appointee) when they're not happy with the performance,” Stanart said.

Democratic tax-assessor candidate Diane Trautman agreed with Stanart, though her released statement had a more partisan bent.

“Now that his hand-picked appointee for tax assessor and Beverly Kaufman's chosen successor for county clerk have been rejected by voters, Ed Emmett wants to change the rules,” Trautman said. “He wants to make sure that the next time he appoints someone to oversee elections processes in Harris County, that person cannot be removed by the voters.”

Republican tax-assessor candidate Don Sumners said, “It's not broken. We don't need to fix it.” He said he suspects the plan is retaliation for his past public criticism of Commissioners Court.

The partisan PDiddie would love for this crucial bit of democracy to fall under the control of Diane Trautman and Ann Harris Bennett. But the (perhaps utopian) idea of a non-partisan, unelected official has great appeal -- assuming it could actually happen.

Statewide, an administrator is used in 77 of the 254 counties, including Bexar, Dallas, El Paso and Tarrant. By state law, an election commission consisting of the county judge, the tax assessor, the county clerk and the heads of the local political parties hires and fires an elections administrator.

The leaders of the county's Republican and Democratic parties condemned the idea.

GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill said the party took a stand against an administrator two years ago. “It's another level of bureaucracy that we didn't need,” Woodfill said.

Democratic Chairman Gerry Birnberg said there is no party position on the matter but that he may take it up if the idea gets traction at Commissioners Court.

Charles Kuffner has more, including these questions:

Does this person have to be periodically re-appointed, or re-confirmed? Under what conditions can he or she be fired? How can you isolate this person from political pressure, yet ensure they are accountable?

All important considerations. I think my condition would be someone with prior metro county experience outside of Texas -- thus somewhat removed from the Republican Party of Texas' unique view on what constitutes free and fair elections. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Greg Abbott. Update: ... and so is Kuffner.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Stanart chokes again

As of 9:15 p.m.(Election Night), Harris County still had not posted any voting data from Election Day on its website; only early voting data was available.

Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said the delay appears to be due to technical problems in relaying the data via phone lines from Reliant Park, the drop-off location for all Election Day data, and the clerk’s election hub in downtown Houston.

“It’s a connectivity issue between here and Reliant,” Stanart said. “We’re trying different phone lines. Apparently Reliant gave us some garbage phone lines out there. That’s what it looks like right now.”

Stanart said, at this point, he’s not sure of the specific problem or who in particular is to blame. ...

Reliant never gave anyone garbage phone lines when Beverly Kaufman was the county clerk. Besides, I thought AT&T was in the phone line business, not Reliant. The morning -- or maybe afternoon -- after...

Stanart blamed delays in posting results on a Reliant Park contractor, saying his office had been given "garbage" phone lines over which to securely transfer voting data downtown.
He said the equipment had been tested, but the Reliant phone lines had not because they were not activated until Tuesday.

Reliant's phone line contractor got it wrong, then. At least that's not as cheesy as blaming the Democrats, as Stanart did in May after the primary election. 'Garbage phone lines', however, doesn't resolve the confusion in the Precinct 2 contest.

The discovery of an error in which some votes were counted twice appears to have changed the result of the Harris County Precinct 2 constable’s race.

County Clerk Stan Stanart said this afternoon he will know more detail about what happened, but said an updated report that went online at 10:12 p.m. displayed incorrect vote tallies for Democratic candidates. One batch of precinct data appears to have been counted twice, he said, while stressing that the final tallies posted at 12:43 a.m. are correct. 

So now we have computers tabulating votes that can count them twice. And the King Street Patriots are worried that Mickey Mouse or the Dallas Cowboys might try to vote.

“When we merged the databases there was an error that was not caught by my people and was not caught by the election judge. We ended up with a double count of one of the databases,” Stanart said, adding he has met with (Precinct 2 Constable candidate Zerick) Guinn and assured him they’ll have a meeting to go over the situation in more detail.

[...]

Guinn said Stanart had no answer when he asked why the number of total votes in the race appeared to drop by 478 between 10:12 p.m. and 12:43 a.m. while his person vote total dropped by 634 votes. 

More on this clusterf:

Stanart said he saw problems in a not-yet-published report of GOP results shortly before midnight, and began running both parties' results from scratch. Stanart said he initially thought the problem was isolated to the report he had just run on the computer he was using, and, thus, did not pull the faulty numbers off the county website and did not inform Democrats because their numbers were being generated by a different computer.

By late Wednesday, Stanart said, he had learned both parties' results online from 10:12 p.m. until at least 12:43 a.m., were wrong, though he stressed only the outcome of Guinn's race had changed.

Do you believe him?

"The Republican Party keeps screaming about voter fraud, but it seems the mistakes, year after year, are happening in the tax assessor's office and the county clerk's office," (HCDP chair Lane) Lewis said.

Stanart and tax assessor Don Sumners, whose office botched the boundaries for the department of education primary, are Republicans. Sumners maintains the department was required to notify him of the boundary changes; the department disagrees.

Stanart said voters should have faith in his office, adding he is going to develop software to verify that the numbers coming from the counting machine and the reporting machine match.

"Election night reporting is just a small portion of the process that goes into ensuring the integrity of the final count," Stanart said. "I understand the importance of having an accurate count for the public. This will never happen again."

Do you believe Stanart? If so, I've got some teabags to sell you. They're only a little rotten around the edges. And to the core.

My friend Keir Murray, FTW.

"You're talking about an election with essentially nobody voting," said political consultant Keir Murray. "If they can't handle this, what's going to happen when we have 1.2 million people voting in November?"

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A four-year-old tale of corruption finally told: Greg Abbott and Houston Votes

The Texas attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weekend just got a whole lot worse.  From James Drew at the Dallas Morning News...

On an overcast Monday afternoon, officers in bulletproof vests swept into a house on Houston’s north side. The armed deputies and agents served a search warrant. They carted away computers, hard drives and documents.

The raid targeted a voter registration group called Houston Votes, which was accused of election fraud. It was initiated by investigators for Attorney General Greg Abbott. His aides say he is duty-bound to preserve the integrity of the ballot box.

His critics, however, say that what Abbott has really sought to preserve is the power of the Republican Party in Texas. They accuse him of political partisanship, targeting key Democratic voting blocs, especially minorities and the poor, in ways that make it harder for them to vote, or for their votes to count.

A close examination of the Houston Votes case reveals the consequences when an elected official pursues hotly contested allegations of election fraud.

The investigation was closed one year after the raid, with no charges filed. But for Houston Votes, the damage was done. Its funding dried up, and its efforts to register more low-income voters ended. Its records and office equipment never were returned. Instead, under a 2013 court order obtained by Abbott’s office, they were destroyed.

And the dramatic, heavily armed raid never was necessary, according to Fred Lewis, president of Texans Together, the nonprofit parent group of Houston Votes. “They could have used a subpoena,” he said. “They could have called us and asked for the records. They didn’t need guns.”

The previously unreported 2010 raid coincided with agitation by a local tea party group and Lewis’ testimony in the trial of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. Lewis had filed a complaint against DeLay that, in large part, led to his indictment on corruption charges.

Abbott, the Republican candidate for governor, declined interview requests. A spokesman, Jerry Strickland, said the attorney general does not recall being briefed by staff members on the Houston Votes investigation.

This is a lengthy piece, and you should set aside some time to read every word. I have a vested interest because Mo Haver (the former head of Houston Votes, mentioned prominently) is my friend, Fred Lewis is an acquaintance, and I was present at the kickoff for their mobilization four years ago.  The efforts of Houston Votes turned into a massive brouhaha -- as the article reveals -- involving three previous Harris County tax assessor-collectors: Paul Bettencourt (he's now poised to be elected state senator, replacing Dan Patrick), Leo Vasquez, and Don Sumners; the head of the now-notorious King Street Patriots/True the Vote, Catherine Engelbrecht; and a handful more of some of the most corrupt and venal Republicans in the state of Texas.

Here it might be useful to point out, via a very handy GIF, the entire substance of voter fraud in the United States.

You should read the entire DMN article, particularly for the backstory on this.

(OAG investigator Jennifer) Croswell said a Houston Votes employee had told her that scanned copies of voter registration applications were given to Lewis and several of them didn’t have personal information redacted.

That, Croswell said, was a felony violation of the Penal Code.

“You are not allowed to copy, scan, reproduce a voter registration application, period. Nobody is allowed to,” Croswell told Haver.

Haver responded that Houston Votes had received voter registration cards from the county in 2008. Printed on the cards was a note directing that copies should be kept for 18 months.

Haver’s attorney said Vasquez, the Harris County tax assessor-collector, had given copies of voter registration applications to King Street Patriots. Haver said Vasquez also displayed them during a news conference. Was that not illegal?

Croswell did not respond.

Croswell left the attorney general’s office a few months after her interview with Haver and is now an Austin police officer. She declined to comment.

And to the end.

Haver, who resigned for reasons of poor health from her job with Texans Together in January 2011, said she believes there was no prosecution because there was no “credible evidence of voter fraud or criminal behavior.”

“From the [voter] registrar to the attorney general to the district attorney, all the players were Republicans, so no one can point to partisan protection from indictment. Instead, one can point to a lack of evidence,” she said.

When Haver was interviewed by Abbott’s office in late 2010, her attorney asked if Haver could get some folders returned to her. They’d been taken in the Houston raid and contained research Haver had done on possible irregularities in how GOP officials in Harris County were handling voter registration.

Haver told the attorney general’s office that the research had no relationship to the Houston Votes investigation. “We kept following up, and they kept giving us the runaround about getting it returned,” she said recently.

In late 2013, Abbott’s office asked judges in Harris and Travis counties for permission to destroy the records seized in the two raids. The request said records contained the names of people who were not suspects, partial Social Security numbers and forged voter registration applications.

When the attorney general’s office received a green light from judges, Haver’s research, which did not contain personal identifying information, was among the materials destroyed.

As is historically the case, this development isn't likely to damage Abbott much with his true believers.  It will provide extra motivation to all those folks working with BGTX to mobilize Democratic turnout, registered and still-unregistered.

It helps everyone understand why Abbott doesn't want to do any debates.  He can't respond 'no comment' when the media asks him about things like voter "fraud" -- and Ted Nugent, and Dr. Murray, and CPRIT, and the Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman rape case, and "driving around" to ask if explosive chemicals are stored near your house, and all of the rest of his myriad of scandals -- in a debate.

And it also reveals once more the depth of the immoral, craven, opportunistic sociopath who sits in the OAG, and who hopes to sit in the Governor's Mansion next January.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Bloglunch with Mike Sullivan

Last Friday, the Harris County tax assessor/collector's new media and communications manager, Justin Concepcion -- he recently moved over from Mayor Annise Parker's office --  arranged a sit-down with us blogger types.

John filed a brief report about it already, and Noah has been a fan of Sullivan's for some time.

Sullivan's term as TA/C so far is in marked contrast with his way-too-high-profile predecessors Paul Bettencourt, Leo Vazquez, and Don Sumners.  (Between the three of those assholes, it seems I have written more than fifty blog posts.)  Sullivan appears to have figured out that the tax office doesn't need to make headlines, and that's to his credit.

Sullivan really wanted to brag a little on the improvements in customer service he's made, which include shortening the queues at the 16 branch offices and taking credit cards as payment for vehicle license registrations.  We wouldn't let him, however; much of our focus was on the voter registration side of things.

Mike Sullivan knew he had a big job ahead even before he was elected TA/C of Harris County. He just didn't know HOW big.
(photo courtesy Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle)

Let's get some advisories out of the way first: it's too late, as of yesterday, to register to vote in Houston's municipal elections on tap.  You still have time to make sure you have the proper photo identification in order to do so, and here's everything you need to know about that.  Make sure you get that done, and do it now.

Sullivan was avuncular and candid in our hour-long meeting.  He makes a good impression as an administrator and his record so far seems to reflect that competence.  I'm still not bowled over by his efforts to be bipartisan (or non-partisan, as the case may be).  He demurred when asked about things connected with the controversies of the recent past in regard to voter registration; he said that purging of the voter rolls is continuous and ongoing and in coordination with the Texas Secretary of State, John Steen.  But he dodged my questions about whether he favored or disfavored the creation of a county elections administrator.  The topic of True the Vote and Catherine Engelbrecht unfortunately did not come up.

And I am not at all impressed with his appointment of voter registration manager Albert Cheng.  Greg has a couple of posts on Cheng's testimony during this past summer's redistricting hearings, and how badly he misunderstands the concept of "candidate of choice".

But overall, like John and Noah, I admire Sullivan's work ethic and his efforts to improve the county's tax office are apparent.  I just won't ever be a fan of the man's politics.  He does, however, set an example that other Republicans would be wise to follow: leave the BS about Obama outside and do your job.

I'd like to see a lot more of that.

Update: Greg and Charles were also in attendance.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Late last night (and more musings about election results)

-- Glitches push final tally into early morning hours:

There were a few problems coming up with a final tally on Tuesday’s election because of a political party oversight and mostly technical difficulties, pushing the night’s last count to at least 2 a.m. Wednesday.

After a few early-evening hiccups that led to the first results posting 90 minutes after polls closed Tuesday, midnight-hour issues emerged.

First, the Republican primary in precinct 256 had its results stored on a corrupt card, which meant workers had to pull results from another database or, as a last resort, from each e-Ballot station.

An unidentified Democratic precinct had a faulty machine, creating the need to merge results from more machines than planned to arrive at a final total.

Then around 11 p.m., Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart revealed that 1,500 to 2,000 mail ballots that had arrived since Friday still had not been processed.

As well, there’s the possibility that some of the tightest races may turn when ballots from active-duty service members arrive since they have an additional five days past the election for their votes to show up and be counted. Provisional ballots also take a few days to process.

So, there’s a huge asterisk on the Harris County results at this point early Wednesday.

It’s been a rough night.

Yes, and Stan Stanart is an incompetent fool. As you will recall, I observed this process a handful of times during Beverly Kaufman's tenure. She always had EV results posted within one minute of 7 p.m., and she always had enough ballots counted for the local network affiliates to call all but the closest races by their 10 p.m. newscasts.

Unless Stanart fired all the people who used to work for Kaufman (doubtful), the real evidence here is that the brand-new Harris County Clerk doesn't know how to run an election that ran on autopilot in the years before he was elected.

We could have had Ann Harris Bennett in that slot, who in November will challenge the guy who knocked off incumbent Don Sumners last night. Ignore the ramblings of Gadfly Bettencourt in that link.

-- It was a good night for the slate mailers and Super PACs last night. And a bad one for some of Joe Straus' henchmen (aka the 'moderates' in the Texas House).

(E)lection night results brought bad news for some key Straus lieutenants in the Texas House, including Rep. Rob Eissler, R-the Woodlands, chairman of the House Education Committee. Eissler, who lost to challenger Steve Toth, may have suffered from complacency as his campaign latest finance reports showed an unspent balance of $650,000.

In North Texas, Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Irving, another Straus chairman, also fell to a tea party challenger, Giovanni Capriglione. And in East Texas, Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton, another Straus ally paired in a redrawn district with an incumbent, lost to Rep. James White.

All the defeated incumbents were targeted by Empower Texans, a conservative group which spent close to $120,000 trying to defeat Straus by portraying him as too moderate to lead the Texas House. Financed by Midland oilman Tim Dunn, the group was behind the 2011 effort to oust Straus from the Speaker’s office.

There will be more Mucus involved in the Speaker's race in the run-up to January 2013 and the opening day of the Texas Lege, but my early guess is that the Democrats provide Straus enough cover to get re-elected.

-- Ted Cruz wants five debates with David Dewhurst between now and the runoff on July 31. And Paul Sadler wants in on them, too.

First of all, nobody wants to be tortured with a debate every two weeks between these two conservatives. Not even the most hardcore TeaBagger could stand it.

Secondly, Sadler himself only got 35% of the vote in a 4-way race, so his runoff opponent Grady Yarbrough should be included if Sadler gets in. That by itself is a travesty, as the Austin Statesman notes...

Yarbrough is a perennial candidate who has run as a Democrat and a Republican in previous elections.

Yarbrough has barely any online presence, yet he ran second in the Democratic statewide primary for the US Senate. Apparently the Mensas who voted for him thought he was Ralph.

And unless this a one-party red state like Communist China, the debates should include the Green, David Collins, and the Libertarians -- all six of them. (Unless you want to hold off on the debates until they elect one of the six at their state convention, the second week of June.)

-- Lissa Squiers led wire-to-wire, finishing with 40% of the Democratic vote in CD-07. James Cargas trailed with 34, and Phillip Andrews had 24.

The absolute best results of the evening, IMHO.

-- Highs and lows locally: Lane Lewis prevailed but Steven Kirkland did not. Two bright spots in Texas House races: Lon Burnham won, Leo Berman lost.

-- I'm not going to give a damn so hard about the DA race in Harris County it will be profound.

-- These Twitter compilations must stop. If I want to read a Twitter feed, I'll go to Twitter.

More as always from the Godfather.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

EV totals: First impressions

After a delay of nearly one hour past poll closing, the Harris County Clerk managed to post some of the early-vote (EV) tallies from the Texas primary held today, and here's some first impressions of the races I have previously focused on.

-- Paul Sadler appears to be headed to a runoff with one of the two African American candidates in the race for Democratic nominee to the US Senate. Sean Hubbard is trailing in 4th statewide, and fairly badly. On the Repub side, David Dewhurst will be in a runoff with Ted Cruz. There will be blood.

-- In CD-07, Lissa Squiers has a small lead over James Cargas. Phillip Andrews is well back in third. This race will go to a July runoff.

-- In the contest for 215th District Court, Judge Steven Kirkland is losing by a 2-1 margin to the libelous Elaine Palmer.

-- The voters of Harris County weren't fooled by Keryl Douglas, however; she is losing to Lane Lewis for Democratic Party County Chair by a margin of about 55-45.

In other races of note...

-- In the GOP race for Harris Co. District Attorney, Judge Mike Anderson is trouncing incumbent Pat Lykos. And on the Democratic side, buffoon Lloyd Oliver leads Zach Fertitta.

-- Harris County tax assessor/collector TeaBaggin' Don Sumners is getting turned out by the Republicans in his race against Mike Sullivan, also by a 2-1 margin.

-- Supreme Court Justice David Medina is leading in his 3-way primary battle, but with just 39%.

-- Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, Beto O'Rourke leads incumbent Congressman Silvestre Reyes in the Dem primary. A true upset in the making.

-- At the HouChron's live-blog, the odious Texas Sparkle reports that several Republican Texas House committee chairs are losing their races: Tuffy Hamilton, Vickie Truitt, Sid Miller, Chuck Hopson, and Rob Eissler. 

-- All three state referenda on the Democratic ballot are passing handily; casino gambling by the smallest margin at 73%.

-- Romney has clinched, Obama appears to be avoiding a primary embarrassment.

Again, these are mostly EV totals only; as of 9 p.m. the Harris County Clerk's office has barely counted any votes cast today. Having worked this beat previously, I can say this has all the earmarks of a major malfunction.

We'll find if I am right or wrong about that in a few days. You can go follow the results on into the night elsewhere; I have a big day tomorrow and won't be back here until early in the morning.

Update: I should have guessed. Clerk Stanart blames the Democrats for the "technical difficulties".

What a POS.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Houston's Top Political Bloggers Holiday Happy Hour tonight, and the Weekly Wrangle

Join "Houston's Top Political Bloggers'" at their Holiday Happy Hour for mirth and merriment (despite those who would rather focus on gloom and doom) this evening at the Flying Saucer, beginning after work and lasting as long as you can stand it. Remember: no bottoms, please. And the rest of the Texas Progressive Alliance is stocking up on figgy pudding as it brings you this week's blog roundup.

Off the Kuff covered a shoddy attempt by new Harris County Tax Assessor Don Sumners to disallow voter registration efforts at naturalization ceremonies.

Letters From Texas projected out the grim possibilities for state representative Aaron Pena as he contemplates switching to the Republican Party.

Now is the time to ask Larry Summers to do something REALLY useful. You know, for the good of the country. So says McBlogger.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks Barack Obama is a putz and Bernie Sanders is a hero. UT professor JK Galbraith says it all.

Edmundo Rocha at Xicano Power pays tribute to the passing of civil rights activist and former San Antonio Express-News columnist Carlos Guerra. An unsung hero who never gave up hope for a better Texas.

Aaron Pena's impending party flip is tied directly to his 2012 Congressional ambitions. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs explains.

Bay Area Houston dogpiles on State Representative Aaron Pena. He could get with this. Or he could get with that.

lightseeker at TexasKaos reports on Rick Perry's latest foray into half-truths and self-serving opportunism. This time he is whipping up a big batch of whacked out claims about the cost of providing health care to uninsured Texans. Check out the details here: Rick Perry, Rabble Rouser .

Public Citizen Texas over at TexasVox wants to remind everyone to show up to testify at the Sunset Advisory Commission meeting Dec 15th on the Railroad Commission and TCEQ. Details are at their blog.

Neil at Texas Liberal ran a post with pictures he took last spring at the Houston Ship Channel. Neil's view is that if the world around us is at times not ideal, there are still many things to consider, learn about, and maybe even embrace. This does not mean we should be resigned to a polluted landscape. Neil has been stressing the need for action by average people in the face of the newly empowered Republican party in Austin and Washington. We know from the TPA posts listed here this week that things are a mess. The question is what are we going to do in response to this mess?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Best, worst, and most surprising results from yesterday

-- Perry won without a run-off and Kay conceded fairly early, before it was known for certain whether there would be one. At least she's a quitter in that respect.

-- Bill White got 76% of the vote against his five challengers. Farouk Shami appears to have paid about $10,000 per vote with less than 13%. No one else even got to 5%.

I am both amazed at the result and disgraced in my prediction. Humble pie for a month.

-- Hank Gilbert salted away Kinky Friedman and it was as close as I thought it would be: 52-48. Linda-Chavez Thompson cruised past Ronnie Earle 53-35; Marc Katz had 12.

-- Hector Uribe barely got past Bill Burton for GLO commissioner. The percentage was 51.6 to 48.4 and Uribe trailed late into the evening.

-- Borris Miles defeated Al Edwards by eleven votes. Another incumbent in the Texas House, Fort Bend-area Rep. Dora Olivo, lost her primary challenge to Ron Reynolds.

-- Sheila Jackson Lee thumped her two rivals and drew 67% of her district's vote. I'm convinced she can have that seat for life if she wants to, and she deserves it. I hope some day I get gerrymandered back into the 18th.

-- Keisha Rogers will be the Democratic nominee for US Congress in CD-22, besting two challengers with 52%.

-- And Ann Bennett topped Sue Schechter in the race for County Clerk. 63-37, in my personal biggest shocker.

Worth noting: Reynolds, Burton, Rogers, and Bennett are all African American candidates and may have benefited from increased AA turnout across the state. Jackson-Lee's contest and the Miles-Edwards battle certainly boosted tallies in Harris County for Burton and Bennett.

Bennett will square off against TeaBagger Stan Stanart for Beverly Kaufman's old job. He trounced the establishment candidate, Kevin Mauzy 60.5-39.5. This race was already at the top of my list, but because the two expected participants were both upset, big, it becomes impossible to predict in November.

-- In other Republican results, Ed Emmett-appointed lackey Leo Vasquez got pummeled by Don Sumners 57-43 in the race for Harris County tax-assessor/collector. Oh, the woe of a having a Latin surname in a GOP primary. And beleaguered HCRP chairman Jared Woodfill enters a run-off for his job with reform candidate Ed Hubbard.