Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bad week for the local Democrats *updates

First, the city controller stepped in it big time. Then his wife, the justice of the peace, showed up in some of the questionable dealings with the same swindler. Then the former head of the HCDP -- who seems to be having a little trouble transitioning into retirement -- filed a complaint against the voters' pick for District Attorney, trying to get him off the November slate. (The fact is that Lloyd Oliver is a jackass... and not just the four-legged variety.) Today my own first-term city councilman seems to be in hot water over a missing million bucks from the non-profit he ran before being elected a year ago.

But the biggest loss is the retirement of Judge Kevin Fine.

State District Judge Kevin Fine, who triggered controversy in 2010 when he said the death penalty was unconstitutional, announced Tuesday he is resigning from the bench effective immediately.

The Democrat elected in 2008 made headlines and earned the scorn of Republicans, including Gov. Rick Perry, when he declared the death penalty unconstitutional during a routine hearing. That ruling was later reversed, and Fine's continued efforts to see the issue re-litigated in his Houston courtroom came to naught.

The judge, a recovering cocaine addict who ran his first campaign touting his experience with addiction, did not seek re-election this year.

Republicans won't ever understand why it was of a great value to have Judge Fine on the bench. They will just look at two things: "anti-death penalty" and "recovering cocaine addict" and close their minds.

Fine represented people who have been rejected by the system having a voice on the bench. The poor, the disadvantaged, the people most of the rest of us don't want to look at or think about. Not the lazy, not the born-into-privilege, not the "boot-strappers", as conservatives like to say. But the unlucky.

That was very much a minority caucus on the Harris County bench. I for one will miss him a great deal. There are some excellent judges and judicial candidates on the Harris County ticket, but none with Fine's life experience.

As for Controller Green and Judge Green, they are heavily damaged by their own hand. I suspect, as with Marc Campos, that they will draw challengers from among the Blue gang the next time they face the voters (for the controller, that's coming up next year).

Not as fast as Lloyd Oliver's, however.

With only a Republican -- former city councilman Mike Anderson, no stranger to scandal himself -- and a James-Cargas-ish Democrat to choose from, my recommendation in this race is likely to be 'neither'. Further, I believe that Murray assigns Oliver too much weight here...

Any candidate who proudly boasts of his three indictments and then advocates for boxing lessons for domestic violence victims adds an anchor to what many political analysts believe is a sinking ship when it comes to the local Dems' chances in Harris County this year.

I doubt it. Harris County voters simply aren't that well-informed. The judicials can disavow Oliver with confidence.

It will be amusing to see if Lloyd finds himself in the position of having to run against both Anderson and the Democrats. The ultimate outsider. Might be a barrel of laughs.

Update: But it ain't gonna happen. For now, anyway.

The Harris County Democratic Party Wednesday took district attorney candidate Lloyd Oliver's name off the ballot, deciding to go forward without a candidate in November's general election.

Chad Dunn, the attorney for the party confirmed the decision by Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis to sustain a complaint filed by Gerry Birnberg, the former party chair, that Oliver endorsed the sitting district attorney, Republican Pat Lykos.

Birnberg said in his complaint that Oliver told the Houston Chronicle in May that Lykos was such a good candidate that she "would have gotten my vote."

Oliver, a perennial candidate in both Republican and Democratic primaries, said he will fight to stay on the ballot, including appealing to state party officials and, if he loses there, suing in federal court to stay on the ballot.

"I can't believe the state party chairman would be in the same boat as those two goobers," Oliver said. "And I guarantee that I'll do what I have to do to get a federal injunction."

My opinion? This is going to turn out badly, and not necessarily for Lloyd Oliver.

Update: And it gets worse for Ronald and Hilary Green.

Houston contractor Dwayne Jordon, a five-time felon, has remained free on bond since 2009 though he's admitted his role in a major Houston real estate scam and appears to have used his court-granted freedom to continue to cheat consumers, businesses and banks in Harris, Montgomery and San Jacinto counties, according to civil suits, criminal records and officials and victims interviewed by the Chronicle.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Brainy endorsements: Barbara Gardner

Like Nile Copeland, Barbara Gardner is running for the the Texas Court of Appeals, but in the Fourteenth, which also serves Harris and other surrounding counties. She will contend in Place 3 against a fresh-faced and very recent Rick Perry appointee. (The local conservatives seem right proud of him.)

I know Gardner for her work as the president of the Harris County chapter of the Texas Democratic Women, as she invited me and several other local bloggers to participate in a lively panel discussion last year.

Excerpting from the Harris County Democratic Party's profile...

Ms. Gardner is a champion of “persons’ rights.” Growing up in East Texas, early on she was somewhat of a front-runner for women’s rights, which she has always vigorously supported. [...] When she learned that the Harris County chapter of the Texas Democratic Women had fallen into an inactive state, Ms. Gardner single-handedly revived the Harris County chapter of this fine organization. The “TDWHarris” chapter is now thriving under Ms. Gardner’s leadership.

When she learned that there were 10 openings on the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals, and that there is an opportunity in 2012 to have a majority of Democrats on both courts, she decided to run for Hon. John Anderson’s bench, who (retired) from the 14th Court of Appeals. While this is a huge challenge since the race covers 10 counties, most of which are dominated by Republicans, it is the very type of task that motivates Ms. Gardner. There is a great opportunity at stake to create more balance on the courts.

Here's Gardner in her own words.

Gardner takes the "have fun while you kick ass" approach -- in the style of the indomitable Molly Ivins -- as seriously as possible.

"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”

Gardner is hosting a "Fun Fundraiser" on August 31st at the Black Finn; to the left is the flyer with all the details. Earlier this month she hosted a similar event, also with singer/guitarist Clory Martin, at Numbers.

Now how many other judicial candidates can you name that have held campaign events at one of Houston's most famous metal/punk/alternative bars?

That all but itself would be enough to qualify for my endorsement, but Barbara Gardner obviously represents a great deal more than just extraordinary judicial temperament, in the way that progressives might define it.

Go to Gardner's Facebook page to keep up with her campaign, and follow her on Twitter.

The past week's Brainy Endorsements have included...

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

More to come.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is still recuperating from the sales-tax-free weekend as it brings you this week's roundup.

 Off the Kuff has an analysis of the Democratic legislative target list for 2012.  

BossKitty at TruthHugger keeps waiting for any candidate to stop mudslinging long enough to help Americans navigate the stresses caused by natural climate changes. America, the wasteful, can't seem to find a candidate brave enough to do anything but collect rewards from the same industries trashing America's natural resources. America is consumed by Greed, Denial and Bad Water. Our transportation infrastructure is being neglected and will only cost more in the long run.  

WCNews at Eye on Williamson also writes that the cost of neglect keeps rising.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs began his November endorsements early, with a couple of Democrats -- Nile Copeland and Keith Hampton -- and a few Greens: Alfred and GC Molison and Henry Cooper.

Guess what Tom DeLay is up to?  CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know The Hammer is now lobbying on sex trafficking.

Neil at Texas Liberal took the opportunity offered by the dumb comments about rape made by Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri to remind folks that state-mandated rape is the law of the land in Texas with the forced sonogram legislation, and that three Texas state Senate Democrats played a role in passing the forced sonogram law.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Brainy endorsements: Keith Hampton

Keith Hampton is the Democrat running for Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. His opponent is the most reprehensible Republican serving in the entire judicial system in Texas, Sharon "Killer" Keller. There is no Libertarian or Green on the November ballot. In Hampton's own words, here is one sentence about the incumbent.

(Keller) is the judge who shut the courthouse doors promptly at 5PM to a death-sentenced inmate, and agreed that poor people aren’t entitled to lawyers who remain awake during trial

Keller tried to get Hampton removed from the ballot by challenging his petition signatures, but that effort failed. Hampton has outraised Keller over 60 to 1 in the most recent fundraising period. When Hampton ran for the CCA in 2010, he received broad bipartisan support, and that is once again the case in 2012. We have previously seen what happens when Republicans publicly reject Republican judges who betray the public trust.

Here's Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast, outlining the pitch-perfect strategy Hampton must pursue if he is to win.

Judge Keller, the self-styled, "pro-prosecution" judge, has so much baggage coming in it'd be hard to know where to attack first. The findings of facts against her by the Commission on Judicial Conduct were damning and provide ample fodder for campaign attacks. (Her punishment was overturned as illegal but the findings of fact on the merits remained untouched in a circus-like tragi-comedy that embarrassed the court and the state.) Keller was also fined by the Ethics Commission $100,000 for failing to disclose a vast web of financial entanglements. (See the ruling [pdf].)

Even more than those dark moments, though, many of her opinions and dissents contain jaw-dropping pro-government assumptions that could be mined for anti-populist material that would make any good Tea-Party type cringe. Just as Governor Perry's greatest political achievement has been to maximize power over state agencies through appointments of political allies, creating a (relatively) strong executive where Texas historically had a weak one, Judge Keller's principal achievement as the CCA's Presiding Judge has been to oversee (and arguably principally author) an expansionist accumulation of government power by law enforcement and prosecutors over nearly two decades. A comprehensive vetting of her opinions by a campaign researcher would yield lots of attack fodder. But (Hampton) must undertake that work, then use the information to construct and deliver political attacks: That's the piece that I'm not sure is going to happen, though there's still time.

Most recently, the state of Texas executed a man whose IQ of 61 defined him as retarded. Though the United States Supreme Court has ruled that mentally incapacitated people are not to be executed, Sharon Keller -- and Antonin Scalia -- made sure he was put to death anyway.

Keith Hampton is the only sane option for Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, and Republicans. Period, end of story.

Hampton has a Facebook page, and here's his Twitter feed. Do what you can: volunteer, donate, advocate. We can't begin to change much in Texas until we rid our government of fiends like Sharon Keller.