Monday, December 16, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is grateful for a pause in political activity so it can enjoy the holidays.  (Which doesn't include impeachment proceedings and presidential debates ...)

TXElects summarizes the municipal results from Houston, El Paso, and a SCOTX decision regarding last year's election in Mission.

Mayor Sylvester Turner and the three at-large council incumbents won their runoff races. Turner defeated Tony Buzbee, 57%-43%, and at-large council members Mike Knox (56%), Michael Kubosh (61%) and David Robinson (59%) easily turned away their challengers. As of our midnight (12/14) press time, the Dist. H race between incumbent Karla Cisneros and Isabel Longoria was too close to call. Cisneros led Longoria by 25 votes with 18 voting centers yet to report, 50.1%-49.9%.

[Update from the Houston Chronicle: District H contender Longoria yet to concede in Houston council race won by 12 votes]

Leticia Plummer (53%) and Sallie Alcorn (53%) won the open at-large seats, and the other open seats were won by Amy Peck (70%), Abbie Kamin (59%), Carolyn Evans-Shabazz (62%), Tiffany Thomas (56%) and Edward Pollard (58%).

The final vote percentages could shift by a point as the final votes are counted.

Following tonight’s results, the Houston council will not have an Asian-American member for the first time since 1993, according to Rice University’s Mark Jones. He also noted that the incoming council will have just one (if Cisneros wins) or two (if Longoria wins) Hispanic/Latino members despite the population being 45% Hispanic/Latino.

[PDiddie adds: Jones also reached to find a 'symbolic victory' for Buzbee.]

The District B runoff remains on hold. Judge Susan Brown (last) Wednesday said she would wait for the Texas Supreme Court to rule on a related case before proceeding. Third-place finisher Renee Jefferson-Smith has filed two lawsuits challenging the eligibility of Cynthia Bailey -- who finished second behind Tarsha Jackson -- over Bailey’s 2007 felony theft conviction. The delay likely means that the B runoff will not be held January 28, (when) it would coincide with the HD148 special runoff election.

El Paso: Former council member Cassandra Hernandez, who was deemed to have automatically resigned when a Facebook page for a possible mayoral campaign went live, has been returned to the council. Hernandez defeated Will Veliz, 53%-47%. In the D6 special election, voters sent Claudia Lizette Rodriguez (32%) and Debbie Torres (28%) to a runoff.

Mission: The Texas Supreme Court declined to review the results of 2018 mayoral runoff that was won by Armando O’Caña over incumbent Beto Salinas, who contested the result. A trial court sided with Salinas, finding that it was impossible to determine the outcome of the runoff due to voter fraud. The 13th Court of Appeals reversed that decision after determining that the evidence did not support a sufficient number of illegal votes to overturn the election results.

Kuff is still looking at 2020 Democratic filings for Congress and state offices.  The Dallas News gathered up all the names of the people who want to help run Texas next year in their post-filing deadline report.  John Coby at Bay Area Houston saluted Briscoe Cain's primary opponent.

SocraticGadfly offers a twofer related to world affairs, first saying goodbye to Jeremy Corbyn then calling out Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales for his sliming of Corbyn and other general rot.  Paradise in Hell fears we are in the Clown Era of world leadership.

The shooting death of an HPD LEO reopened the gun debate nationally.

Last (week's) killing of Houston police Sgt. Christopher Brewster prompted Police Chief Art Acevedo to call out U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas for their part in blocking legislation that would ban sales of guns to dating partners convicted of domestic abuse or subject to restraining orders for abuse. Such a ban exists for abusers of family members, but not for boyfriends and girlfriends.

“I don’t want to see their little, smug faces about how much they care about law enforcement when I’m burying a sergeant because they don’t want to piss off the NRA,” Acevedo said. "Make up your minds. Whose side are you on? Gun makers, the gun lobby or the children that are getting gunned down in this country every single day?”

Acevedo's courage in calling out our corrupt politicians notwithstanding, this Wrangle has more than the usual number of accounts of cops behaving badly.

A (Bexar County) sheriff’s deputy has been arrested for performing unlawful strip searches of at least six women in an 11-day period, authorities said.

Texas prison officials violated a judge’s order to provide inmates with air conditioning, and that means, among other things, that the prisoners' lawyers get to investigate.

The Trump Administration knew that separating migrant children from their families would be harmful -- duh -- but they ramped up the practice anyway.

“Not only was it inhumane,” said Robert Carey, a Refugee Resettlement director in the Obama administration, “it was extraordinarily poorly managed.”

And the DPS is getting more money to keep us all under its watchful eye in the sky.

Though the surveillance centers provide a means of coordination during times of crisis like Hurricane Harvey, (Dallas News 'Watchdog' columnist Dave) Lieber says they operate full time, and are able to gather and share information from a variety of sources.

Lieber gives the example of a tourist visiting the Alamo, taking pictures and acting suspiciously. He says a system called TrapWire can take pictures of the tourist and transmit those images back to a fusion center.

“They could use facial recognition software, for example, to find out who you are,” he says “(whether) you’re there just taking pictures as a tourist, or if you’re taking pictures because you have some kind of nefarious act you want to commit ...”

Lieber says his theory is that rather than create gun restrictions, the state is using the fusion centers’ surveillance capabilities to keep an eye on places and people who might be a threat.

Lieber says there has been little focus on safeguarding Texans’ privacy.

A mercury spill occurred along Houston's busy west Beltway 8 yesterday, scrambling hazmat units.

Officials said the risk to the public is "extremely low" after mercury spilled Sunday afternoon in west Houston.

According to officials, a "small amount" of the chemical spilled around 1 p.m. Sunday at a Walmart, a Sonic and a Shell station across from Sonic near the intersection of Beltway 8 and Westview Drive. Houston Fire Chief Sam Pena said the amount of mercury at each location is less than a pint. Houston fire department officials initially reported more than 60,000 gallons of mercury spilled, but later corrected the amount. [...] 30 to 60 people were processed for decontamination, including one pregnant woman who was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

In other climate news, Rice University has launched a research initiative called Carbon Hub, aiming to reduce carbon emissions by using ... wait for it ... oil and natural gas to create clean energy and materials.  The work has been funded intially by a $10 million grant from ... wait for it ... Shell Oil.

And Downwinders at Risk welcomes its new board members.

In a round-up of the kind we can expect more of here at year's end, Steve Young at the Dallas Observer has a collection of the funniest unforced social media errors by Texas officials.  I'll add Greg Abbott's "Get a Rope" joke to his list.

Speaking of bad jokes, Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly informs us that Alex Jones has always known exactly what he is doing.

Save Buffalo Bayou links to Mother Jones, telling us we should save a little room in our hearts for the lowly opossum, heroes of the southeast Texas animal kingdom.

Not a picture of Alex Jones (or Tony Buzbee)

The Alliance wishes Mr. and Mrs. Juanita Jean of the World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon a speedy recovery after they were rear-ended in Austin.

And the TPA also hopes Tony Buzbee enjoys a nice long vacation far, far away.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

To 2020 and beyond (and back again)

The March 2020 primary ballots are set, barring a couple of past-the-post changes.  There will be a Green slate of statewides and more, eventually.  Kuffy's handling the deep Donkey dive and Stacey's endorsing his friends as usual, so I'll focus on the fun.  We have one more election here in H-Town to conclude this year, and here's the relevant data point on early turnout.

Early voting in Houston’s runoff elections ended Tuesday with 115,204 ballots cast in Harris County, producing a higher turnout than the first round despite two fewer days to visit the polls.

Keir Murray points out that the H- Town electorate is, demographically if not almost precisely, the same good citizens who voted last month (visit the Tweet thread for the comparison).

It's remarkable how closely this matches this morning's fresh poll.  And as we know, these/those folks nearly put Mayor Sly back in without this pesky runoff, gave the purplish District C two Democrats to choose from (see below), and will -- hopefully -- sweep out the Kubosh/Dolcefino/Dick conservo-trash from Council's At Large seats.

I'm not going to spend my holiday Saturday evening refreshing for late-arriving election returns, and I may not even Tweet much about them depending on the quantity of alcohol imbibed.  Likewise I encourage you to go forth and make merry this weekend, and check your favorite source for the final results on Sunday morning.

Onward to the new decade.

There will be amusing developments on the right, and far right, and extremely far right (and fascist right and OMG GOP WTF right) in this snapshot, as I bounce around from city council to the statehouse, Congressional, county commissioner, and time-travel to the past and then back to the present day.  So if this post reads disjointedly ... well, strap in and enjoy the ride.

Update: For the record, I posted here in advance of Hooks, so if anybody took inspiration from somewhere, it was him from me.

It is my belief that the further starboard the conservatives move, so go the Donks in trying to appeal to the so-called centrists, which at this point are essentially Republicans who tolerate gays and abortion.  I'm so old I can remember the phrase "I'm a social liberal and a fiscal conservative".  The GOP-ers who allegedly gave a large, steaming shit about federal government deficit spending, i.e. the Tea Party, seem to have gone extinct.

Now you might prefer to call these folks 'ticket-splitters', because what they believe and who they vote for may not be in perfect alignment.  Here's some evidence.

Hillary Republicans in west Houston just couldn't stretch to Jenifer Rene Pool four years ago.  Likewise in 2018 for Beto/Dan Crenshaw voters.  (Crenshaw has drawn a better D challenger than 2018's inept Todd Litton, but EyePatch's heavy national following thanks to his SNL appearance makes him a more formidable obstacle.)  With respect to Harris County Precinct 3, and evolving electorate aside, it may be an easier flip if next spring's primaries give us a fall match between, say, Brenda Stardig and Kristi Thibault or Morris Overstreet.  We'll wait and see.

The African American dynamic in the Democratic primary should prove captivating.

-- Jerry Davis v. Harold Dutton (HD-142)
-- Jolanda Jones v. Ann Bennett (Harris County Tax Assessor/Collector)
-- Ashton Woods v. Shawn Thierry (HD-146)

It isn't quite accurate to describe these races as 'progressive challengers to (slightly more) conservative incumbents'.  Of the three, Dutton is the most endangered.

Manny Fernandez for the New York Times profiled Dutton and his quandary.  <<-- This is the best read in this post, particularly for those who have missed the controversy.

I made no recommendations on whom to vote for in HISD races in 2019 because of the state's imminent takeover.  I don't have children or grandchildren in the school system; my expectation for these representatives of the public trust is that their decision-making, such as spending taxpayer money, won't be crooked or stupid.  That very low bar has rarely been cleared.  So I really have no idea as to whether Greg Abbott's appointees will do any better, but despite our governor's own long-standing reputation for rock-bottom ethical conduct, it seems difficult to project that he/they might do worse.  Some of us understand that Abbott is dippin' in the koolaid that he doesn't know the flavor, and it's a crine-ass shame that he gets the chance to do so.  HISD is an uber-clusterf, and Dutton is likely to be the fall guy for it.  And probably not the last one.

I got a lot more but let me stop with two HTX city council runoff races that get decided this Saturday.  First, from nonsequiteuse.  She mad again, y'all.

I get it, Andrea, but I just see it more as a distinction without much of a difference than you.  And I actually prefer Abbie Kamin's position on guns more than I do Shelley Kennedy's.  It's not cool that Kennedy called Kamin's stance "leftist" and "wants to take away" guns, for sure.  And donating to Bill King smells bad too, although there are a lot of voters who think Sylvester Turner is nothing but the lesser of two evils *raises hand*.

This contest has the Democratic establishment and progressive organizations split all over, with Kennedy claiming, as nonseq has noted, a good bit of conservative support.  Kennedy got my recommendation to District C's voters due to her closer-to-the-people grassroots effort, including some activist Democrats I respect.  That's compared with Kamin's large fundraising apparatus and establishment backing, something I find myself increasingly leery of.  I don't see any losers here; Kamin will make a fine CM if she prevails.

And if hindsight from four years in the future reveals I made the wrong call here, then I probably made a bigger mistake endorsing Edward Pollard over Sandra Rodriguez, based on his bragging about being a conservative Democrat.  I hate that shit.

Pollard pushes a centrist message -- “That pothole could care less whether you’re a Democrat or Republican” -- and touts endorsements from the Houston Police Officers Union, business groups like the Houston Realty Breakfast Coalition and industry groups representing city contractors, engineers and Realtors.


Rodriguez stresses the need to engage new immigrants and improve the district’s poor civic engagement, and is backed by SEIU Texas and other labor groups, the Texas Organizing Project, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, and a host of Democratic politicians at the federal, state and local level.

“I just want to do the work. I’ve been doing the work for 20 years, I enjoy what I do, and if this will help me push policies and move our district forward in Southwest Houston, to change the image -- because you hear Sharpstown, Gulfton, Westwood, you think crime, you think prostitution, all the negativity -- if this will help me serve the district, then I’ll run. That was the ultimate decision-maker.”
She's exactly the kind of candidate I like, and Pollard, as it turns out, is not.  Let this be a lesson to me that more due diligence is necessary over the course of the next 90 or so days.  If you still can in District J, vote for Ms. Rodriguez.  Mea maxima culpa.

And do vote, please.  There is evidence it does your body good.

Monday, December 09, 2019

The Weekly Filing Deadline Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is watching the 2020 spring ballot filings on today's deadline, as well as the turnout and trends in the ongoing Houston city and educational runoff elections' early voting period (Election Day is Saturday).

There's also the sixth Dem presidential debate happening in nine days, so it's a busy time for those of us who are political junkies.

Here's the round-up of the best blog posts, Tweets, and lefty news about and around Texas, our Texas from last week.  First, TXElects.

(Today) is the deadline for candidates to file for a spot on the March 3 primary ballot as a Democrat or Republican, or to be eligible to receive the nomination of the Green or Libertarian Parties at their conventions. It is also the deadline for candidates to file to run under the banner of a political party not currently having ballot access.

It will take at more than a week to determine with certainty all of the candidates who filed and were certified to be on the ballot. County parties have until December 17 to electronically submit their candidate rosters to the Secretary of State, and state parties have a December 18 deadline. Candidates seeking to have their names removed from the ballot must withdraw by Tuesday.

There are still ways to reach the ballot if a candidate fails to file by the close of business Monday. There may be chances for partisan candidates to file past the December 9 deadline in specific cases of vacancies or the withdrawal of the lone candidate. Independent candidates must file declarations of intent to run by December 9. Write-in candidates must file their declarations of candidacy by August 17, 2020.

Noted by Ballot Access News, the state has appealed the ruling it lost in Dikeman v. Hughs.  The law at issue compels minor party candidates to pay a fee to run for office; it was struck down by a lower court a week ago.  And in filing developments ...

Progress Texas also has a list of candidates who've placed their names on the March 2020 Democratic primary ballot.  Kuff looked at the initial Congressional race ratings in Texas.  Howie Klein at Down With Tyranny profiled TX-25 hopeful Heidi Sloan.  And Jeremy Wallace at the HouChron examined the race to replace retiring Cong. Pete Olson in TX-22, with twelve Republicans aiming to be the nominee.  (In 2018, Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni almost knocked off Olson.  Kulkarni is running again, along with Pearland city council member Derrick Reed, and possibly one other Democrat filing later today.)  The statehouse district in the same Fort Bend County area just lost its Republican representative due to his unforced racial error, underscoring the shifting political sands in the nation's most ethnically diverse region.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs had his regular weekly update on the Democrats running for the White House.  Mike Bloomberg made an appearance at the Texas Dems' quarterly meeting on Saturday.

Texas Monthly will be doing a regular political roundup.

SocraticGadfly collected all the huzzahs and handsprings for the Texas Tribune turning 10, and offers up a pretty contrarian take.

Meredith Lawrence of the Dallas Observer reports on the sad state of affairs with refugee asylum.

Robert Rivard at his self-titled Report urges the University of Incarnate Word to settle the Cameron Redus wrongful death case.

And here's some environmental developments.

Axios reports that the rural healthcare crisis is costing lives, a story the Texas Observer has recently been covering extensively.

Closing this Wrangle with some lighter news ...

Americans of certain age are mourning the passing of Carroll Spinney, who brought Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life for Sesame Street for nearly fifty years.  And Mean Green Cougar Red posted an appreciation of the children show's countercultural cartoons.

Paradise in Hell is here for the blood red White House Christmas trees.

Alice Embree at The Rag Blog posted about Houston's iconic '60s-'70s underground newspaper, Space City!, getting new digital life.  And there will be a fundraiser for TeXchromosome this coming Saturday at the Peace House Farm in Austin, with music, a flea market, and silent auction.

Last, Jessica Huseman, ProPublica's Texan at large, emphatically explains why she loves Texas.