Archive for February 15th, 2016

They Did

Commentary went to a very lovely wedding this past weekend out of town. The ceremony was a tad unusual but certainly nothing to complain about. It was held outdoors with the sea as the backdrop. I tweeted a couple of photos of the newlyweds. Beth and Ryan are now hitched. Congrats!

It looks like we will be with an eight-member Supreme Court for the rest of the year and part of next. It is what it is in these divided times. The court will also be with one less conservative vote. The Dems will for sure win the debate with the public on this because the obstructionist label now easily fits the GOP controlled senate. Hey, they drew the line in the sand.

Only three ‘Sros pitchers got a base hit last season. Each had a single. Name the three?

Well, Early Voting In Person starts tomorrow.  We are going to find out soon if there will be a significant increase in voter turnout in CD 29 due to the presidential primary dropping in on Texas. Here is Rebecca Elliot’s article from yesterday on the CD 29 race:

On a Gulfgate-area side street lined with union halls, Hillary Clinton’s Houston field office and U.S. Rep. Gene Green’s congressional re-election outfit sit mere doors apart, a coincidental marker of the anticipated link between their races.

Green is squaring off against former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia in the region’s marquee congressional primary, the outcome of which is expected to be swayed by the strength of the Democratic presidential fight in Texas.

The increasingly competitive contest between Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stands to boost turnout in the 77-percent Latino 29th Congressional District, political observers said, likely shifting the electorate more Hispanic.

“Typically in Democratic primaries, the vote is only about 45 percent Hispanic,” local Democratic strategist Keir Murray said of the 29th District. “However, if you have something, an external factor like a hot presidential race that increases the overall turnout … because of the makeup of the population and the list of registered voters, the percentage of Hispanic voters is going to go up. There’s almost no way it can’t.”

Such a boost in Hispanic voting is expected to help Garcia.

“If this were a nonpresidential cycle, the advantage would clearly be with Green because of the historical turnout in the district,” Texas Southern University political scientist Jay Aiyer said.

However, he said, “The increased turnout is disproportionately low-propensity Latino voters.And so that benefits Garcia over Green.”

Democratic participation in the 29th District, which curls around eastern Houston, hit a high-water mark in 2008, when nearly 54,000 voters cast a primary ballot, up from 5,000 two years earlier.

Anticipated votes

Few expect this year’s turnout to be quite as high.

Green’s campaign is anticipating between 35,000 and 50,000 Democratic primary voters, while Garcia’s expects between 12,000 and 54,000, the turnouts in 2012 and 2008, respectively.

Both said they will be monitoring the Nevada and South Carolina Democratic presidential primary results.

“We’re watching what happens in the primaries to see what will happen here,” Garcia campaign manager Ian Rivera said. “That will inform what we think will happen in terms of turnout, and we’re planning accordingly day to day.”

Sanders and Clinton both have set up shop in Houston, and the campaigns are deploying volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls ahead of next Tuesday’s start to early voting.

“We’ve been ramping up very methodically,” Sanders’ Texas director Jacob Limon said, noting that the campaign has been on the ground in Texas since last November. “Just in Harris County, we’ve been mobilizing thousands of volunteers.”

Last Thursday evening, about a dozen Sanders supporters gathered in the senator’s Montrose campaign office to call voters on his behalf.

“His virtual tie in Iowa and most recently his success in New Hampshire … it really legitimized for me his campaign,” Austin Bond, 28, said between calls. “It showed me that Hillary wasn’t the only candidate in the race that could win.”

Behind Bond hung a calendar with the locations of upcoming area campaign events, scheduled every day until Super Tuesday on March 1.

Clinton’s campaign opened its Houston office just two weeks ago after admitting to getting a “slow start” in Texas.

However, spokesman Carlos Sanchez emphasized the importance of the Lone Star State for the campaign.

“Texas is a key state on Hillary Clinton’s path to the nomination, and Houston is a big part of her efforts here in Texas,” Sanchez said in an email.

Clinton volunteer Bill Kelly, 35, brushed off concerns about the former secretary of state’s comparatively late start in Texas, where she has maintained a large lead over Sanders in the polls.

“I can definitely see how Clinton wanted to make some investments in earlier states because of the existing infrastructure with supporters she has here in Texas and Harris County,” said Kelly, who worked for the Harris County Democratic Party in 2008.

Clinton won the state’s popular vote that year but received fewer delegates than Obama, thanks to a now-defunct hybrid nominating process known as the “Texas two-step.”

Deploying supporters

Latino voters, who composed 32 percent of the 2008 Democratic primary vote in Texas, favored Clinton by about 2-1, according to the Pew Research Center.

Sanchez again pointed to the importance of Texas’ Hispanic vote for Clinton.

“She has a long record fighting on behalf of Hispanics and African Americans and getting results, and voters here know that, which is why she enjoys such broad and enthusiastic support in Houston,” Sanchez said.

As Clinton and Sanders ramp up their efforts in the city, Green and Garcia have continued to deploy their supporters across the 29th District, which has not seen a contested Democratic congressional primary in two decades.

Green’s campaign, which has a field staff of four and 30 to 40 paid block walkers daily, is about to finish its second pass through the district, spokesman Jose Borjon said.

“We are working on increasing turnout, too,” Borjon said in an email. “We are trying to bring new people in, whether they voted in a previous general election or previous primary election.”

Rivera declined to say how many paid and volunteer field staff Garcia has, but said the campaign is making calls and knocking on doors daily.

“We feel strongly confident, regardless of what turnout looks like,” Rivera said.

Like I said, let’s see what happens tomorrow.

Mike Morris has a take on new H-Town Council Member Steve Le’s residency issue. Of course, what can the city do about it? Absolutely nothing! Here is Morris’ article:

Houston City Councilman Steve Le last month became the fourth man to represent District F in the last seven years, and the third to face questions over whether he actually lives in the Alief-area district.

Houston’s city charter requires district council members to have lived in their districts for at least 12 months immediately preceding Election Day.

Le said he began renting a room from his cousin at her Alief home in January 2014. On his sworn application to appear on the city ballot last fall, Le said that by Election Day he would have lived there 20 months, which would date back to March 2014.

The new councilman, who ousted one-term incumbent Richard Nguyen, has more formal links to an address in Kingwood than to the Alief address on Wildacres Drive, however.

That angers Barbara Quattro, a longtime Alief civic leader who, with a few others, held signs outside Jones Hall questioning the new councilman’s residency when he and the rest of City Council were inaugurated last month.

“A candidate’s not actually being a resident has become so commonplace in District F that it’s turned into an inside joke,” said Quattro, who supported Nguyen’s reelection. “Piney Point? Pearland? Kingwood? Close enough to Alief.”

Accusations over a candidate’s residency are not new to District F.

Former councilman Al Hoang, whom Nguyen defeated in 2013, claimed to have lived in his District F home for longer than he had owned it during his first council campaign, and transferred his voter registration to the address less than three weeks before Election Day that fall. Hoang had transferred ownership of a Pearland home to his wife, who continued to claim a homestead exemption there.

Hoang’s predecessor, M.J. Khan, faced similar accusations, after he listed two different addresses on official documents, one inside District F and the other in Piney Point Village, on which his wife claimed a homestead exemption.

‘Active’ in community

Houston political consultant Mustafa Tameez, who did outreach to Asian voters for former mayors Lee Brown and Bill White and has done work for state Rep. Hubert Vo, whose district overlaps District F, said part of the residency accusations stem from the multicultural nature of the district.

Many international communities have strongholds in the area, heavy with apartments and low-cost housing, Tameez said, but the political candidates representing these communities tend to be wealthier and reside outside the area.

“It hasn’t affected the voters or the outcome of elections,” Tameez said. “I also think that the notion of community is different in multicultural communities than traditional neighborhoods. I think in the past people identified as, ‘I live in Sharpstown.’ Today they may say, ‘I’m a Vietnamese-American.’ And so that boundary line as to where you live may not matter to the Vietnamese-American voters.”

Le, a physician whose practice is in Cleveland, reports owning no property on his city financial disclosure form. His business is registered to a home his parents own in Kingwood, and he is one of five people listed on the deed of trust for that property.

Three of the four vehicles currently registered to his name are listed at the Kingwood address; the fourth, purchased in December, is registered to the Alief address.

Le did not move his voter registration to the Alief address – where his cousin still claims a homestead exemption – until March 26, 2015, after he had begun campaigning.

“We’ve been active in that community for a long time, almost 10 years now,” Le said. “My children, ever since the two older daughters moved out, we had more flexibility in relocating to where we really wanted to be. The law doesn’t require you to be full-time anywhere.”

He acknowledges often staying at the Kingwood home, such as days when he works at the clinic in Cleveland, because it is a far shorter drive than Alief. However, he said he has stayed in the District F home more since first renting it in January 2014, and said he activated a rent-to-own clause in his lease when he decided to run for office.

Le said he delayed moving his voter registration because he was not politically involved until he decided to run for council.

Why have rules?

Patti Tristan, who has lived across the street from the Alief home since May, said last week that she had never seen Le at the property.

The home appeared to function as a campaign headquarters for some of the fall, she said, with a dozen cars lining the street and the garage full of yard signs.

Tristan said the only person she ever has seen at the house is a man, who introduced himself to a reporter as Le’s brother-in-law, Steven, last week but declined to give his surname; a Steven Luong is registered to vote at the address. The man said Le was at a meeting and would be back later that night.

Quattro twice has addressed City Council on the residency issue, arguing that the city should screen candidates’ applications and stop accepting sworn statements about their residency at face value.

“If you cannot or will not enforce the rules,” she told council last week, “then why do we have them?”

The legal authority to act on the residency allegations against Le rests with the Texas Attorney General or with the Harris County Attorney’s office, which has been fighting a court battle to remove Houston Community College trustee Dave Wilson from office in another case regarding the office-holder’s actual residence. The county has challenged Wilson’s claim that he resides at a warehouse in northwest Houston.

First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said his office is “reviewing” a complaint about Le’s residency.

Texas law requires an elected official to have a residence within the given jurisdiction he represents, Soard said, but the law does not clarify what maintaining a residence means; for instance, Soard said, the law does not require an official to live in any one house full time.

City Attorney Donna Edmundson said the city has no investigative or enforcement role once the outcome of an election has been certified.

“I feel that he should live in whatever district that he’s running for,” Tristan said. “Alief does need a lot of things. We need to have safe communities and people who are our proponents who will help us.”

Le said he interprets concerns about his residency as being driven in part by political opponents and by some residents not knowing him.

“I represent everybody, including the 49 percent of the people who didn’t vote for me,” Le said. “Regardless of what the supporters of my opponent want, our goals are the same, and that goal is to make our community and our neighborhood better.”

I wonder if he ever goes around the district and says “hi, neighbor!”

And Ericka Mellon has a story about the HISD School Board fixing to get rid of the search firm in charge of finding superintendent candidates. Here is from the article:

“Already the district process is off the rails,” the union’s business manager, Andy Dewey, posted Sunday on Facebook. “Houston Federation of Teachers is the only group doing meaningful research on the qualities needed in the next superintendent.”

That is all I am going to say on this.

Scott Feldman, Dallas Keuchel, and Collin McHugh of course are the only ‘Stros pitchers to get a base hit last season.

Pitchers and catchers report on Thursday.



Read Full Post »