Archive for March 3rd, 2016

The Aftermath

I am covering a lot today so I am skipping the MLB.

Let’s see. Four years ago Mitt Romney became the self-deporter-in-chief so he could score points with the far right. Now Donald Trump has kicked it up a notch on folks without papers, so today Mitt will call Trump a fraud and only four years ago Mitt was seeking Trump’s support. Got it?

Rebecca Elliott has a piece about Adrian running for mayor and congress and so now he is an also -ran. All I can say is that I am glad somebody stepped up to run in CD 29. He had the guts to do it.  His campaign was about empowering a community. Who should have a problem with that? That is not my definition of an also-ran. We need to be having a discussion soon on who we support to run in 2018 in CD 29. Now that it has been done, folks won’t be intimidated about having this open discussion.

Here is Rebecca’s article:

In less than a year, former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has gone from being the top Democratic elected official in Harris County to an also-ran in back-to-back elections.

Garcia’s resounding primary loss to U.S. Rep. Gene Green on Tuesday leaves him politically precarious, having alienated several onetime allies by resigning the sheriff’s post last May to run for Houston mayor and later challenging an incumbent in a safe Democratic seat.

“When you take an oath, you run and take an oath to hold an office, it’s supposed to mean something,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, who backed Green. “And to leave in the middle and look like an opportunist and want to run for mayor, and then you don’t make that, and then you run against a congressman that most people felt was doing a very good job, a congressman that actually endorsed you for mayor … I think Adrian’s got real problems.”

Garcia’s campaign said he was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but he said at his election watch party Tuesday night the race was not personal and that he planned to rest before assessing future options.

“Will this be my last campaign? I doubt it,” he said to applause. “I lost two campaigns, but I jumped in always with the idea of doing more. I took a chance. My heart was in the right place.”

Garcia, who finished 19 percentage points behind Green, shaped his campaign around a narrative that the longtime congressman was insufficiently attuned to the district’s needs on issues ranging from educational opportunity to immigration reform.

He also aimed to boost Hispanic participation in the 77 percent Latino 29th District that curls around eastern Houston.

“There’s been the opportunity to cultivate that Hispanic electorate for 23 years, and so that’s one of the things that I look to accomplish,” Garcia said in early January.

Slight uptick in vote

Hispanic-surnamed voters cast an estimated 38 percent to 43 percent of the early vote in District 29’s Democratic primary, according to Hector de Leon, director of communications and voter outreach for the Harris County Clerk. That range increased slightly from the 2012 Democratic primary – when 36 percent to 41 percent of the district’s votes were cast by Latinos – and decreased from 2008.

Green first was elected in 1992, after the district was created to reflect the area’s Latino population.

“The race was far less close than one would have thought looking at the demographics,” Texas Southern University political scientist Michael Adams said.

Financial shortfall

Both campaigns poured money into extensive ground games, and Green turned to television advertising as Garcia aggressively sought media coverage.

Many of the former sheriff’s attacks were biting. “Gene Green perpetuates the cradle to prison pipeline,” read a news release from late February. Another, from January, declared, “Gene Green protects polluters, not Pasadena.”

Facing limited financial resources, as well as opposition from many Democratic officeholders and area unions, however, Garcia was unable to outmaneuver Green, who outspent him $585,000 to $171,000 during the first six weeks of the year.

Those affiliated with Garcia’s campaign framed that financial shortfall as critical.

“We had a lot of factors working against us. We were in an extremely short two-month race against a 23-year incumbent who’d accumulated significant financial resources, and, yet, we made significant strides and held Congressman Green to 58 points,” Garcia campaign spokesman Sergio Cantu said in an email. “The message and the messenger were not the problems. We are proud of what we achieved, and we hope this opens the door to see change on the issues in this district.”

Nature of politics

Several of the former sheriff’s supporters remained optimistic about Garcia’s political future.

“Will he run again? He might if it’s the right place for him to serve,” Garcia consultant Mustafa Tameez said. “That’s the nature of politics. You win some and you lose some. But he’s demonstrated his ability to raise money. He’s demonstrated his ability to get the votes.”

Garcia was the top vote-getter countywide in 2008, when he first ran for sheriff, and outraised last year’s mayoral field by nearly $850,000 as of late October. He finished third in the general election.

Choosing to run against Green, however, put Garcia at odds with many local Hispanic elected officials supporting the incumbent, including state Sen. Sylvia Garcia and state Reps. Armando Walle, Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez.

“Truthfully, I was surprised, caught off guard like everybody else,” Walle said of Garcia’s decision to get into the race.

Asked if he thought Garcia had skipped over those who may have been eyeing Green’s seat, Walle said, “From my perspective, it wasn’t necessarily about him jumping anybody. At the end of the day, this was about Congressman Green’s record and the good the Congressman has done in the community. Anything outside of that is just – it’s noise.”

Adams, the TSU professor, said the impact of Green’s support from Walle and Alvarado should not be understated.

“They worked tirelessly for him, and it looks like they, not Garcia, will likely be the future of Hispanic politics in Houston,” Adams said.

Alvarado, a Democrat whose district overlaps with Green’s, said that, at some point, the district would elect a Latino to Congress.

“But we should not punish someone who has represented us very well in Congress,” she said.

Green is favored in November, when he squares off against Republican Julio Garza.

Mike Morris and Lomi Kriel contributed to this report.

Commentary said this yesterday:

Yesterday’s delays at a few voting locations here in Harris County merit an investigation. I hope we don’t just move on and forget about it. What happened? I hope we really get an explanation. That was an embarrassment for sure. Who screwed up?

Well, Doug Miller from KHOU-TV and Mike Morris from the Chron looked into this.   From what I can tell, it looks like the folks in charge did not think Latinos would vote.

Here is Doug’s piece:

Last fall, before Donald Trump exploded into a political phenomenon, before Hillary Clinton realized she had serious competition from Bernie Sanders, election officials in Texas asked individual counties to estimate how many voters might go to the polls on Super Tuesday.

“We begin that process in October,” said Lane Lewis, Harris County’s Democratic Party chairman. “The final budget is usually finalized by November or December.”

But as this year’s presidential campaign has proven: a lot can change in a few months.

In Harris County, the turnout estimates turned out to be way too low.

As a result, an unexpectedly high turnout forced Houston area voters to spend hours waiting in line outside polling places to cast ballots in the Texas primaries.

Hours after the polls closed at 7:00 pm, voters were still waiting to exercise their franchise in their party’s primaries.

“Lots of voters showed up, a lot more than anybody planned on,” said Stan Stanart, the Harris County Clerk. “And also they were in the polling booth a long time.”

Election officials reported some voters spent more than a half-hour standing in front of voting machines, slowly working their way through a lengthy ballot that included everything from presidential candidates to state district judges to symbolic party resolutions.

Some of those voters clearly had never before cast ballots in primaries, asking election officials why they couldn’t cast votes for candidates in both parties.

One election official reports a voter threatened to sue him because the law required him to declare his party preference before voting in its primary.

“Obviously, the lines were long,” said Lewis. “But that is based on a formula from the secretary of state where they take the last presidential cycle and estimate turnout based on that. And then, we’re allotted a certain amount of money to open a certain amount of polls, and each poll gets a certain amount of voting booths.”

The long lines were reminiscent of what Harris County voters encountered in 2008, when more than 580,000 ballots were cast in the year that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton turned Texas into an unanticipated political battleground.

Although this year’s crowds were smaller – about 586,000 voters – the numbers were still higher than elections officials and local party leaders expected.

“I don’t think there’s anyone to blame here,” said Bob Stein, Rice University political scientist and KHOU political analyst. “If you’re trying to estimate turnout back in September and October for an event that’s constantly changing as a result of the dynamics of the primary, you’re going to probably miss it.”

A number of unexpected phenomenon raised turnout.

Former Harris County sheriff Adrian Garcia’s challenge against longtime Congressman Gene Green brought out more voters in north and east Houston, for example.

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign made an unprecedented push for Houston area voters.

“We could not have expected that one of our presidential candidates would make not one, not two, but three campaign stops in the last month or so to gin up her base,” Lewis said.

A larger than usual number of voters waited to cast their ballots until Election Day itself, avoiding the polls during early voting.

Officials say they tried to make last minute adjustments in deploying their resources, but the crowds defied expectations.

“As we began to see problems come up, as the voter turnout was significantly higher than expected, we contacted the county clerk,” Lewis said. “They made every effort to send us more booths because they saw the problem as well. But who could have predicted?”

Harris County officials are discussing an idea that could alleviate the problem by establishing a so-called “vote center” system, allowing people to cast ballots not just at their neighborhood polling place but also at centers throughout the county.

“It’s early voting, but on Election Day,” said Stein, who has studied the idea as it’s been rolled out in other Texas counties. “A lot of people will say I want to vote on Election Day in my neighborhood, but research that we’ve been doing at the university seems to suggest that voters really do like these Election Day vote centers. They like early voting. They just want to do it on Election Day.”

And from Mike Morris of the Chron:

An unexpected surge in turnout and late-deciding voters contributed to long lines at polling locations across Texas that left some casting ballots hours after polls were supposed to close.

In Harris County, residents who got in line by the 7 p.m. deadline still were casting ballots after 10 p.m. in some areas, while others gave up and headed home after spending hours in line. The delays left some votes uncounted until after midnight.

Statewide, more than 4.2 million people voted in the Texas primaries, two-thirds of them Republicans, as voters bested the previous primary record set in 2008.

In Harris County, about 329,000 Republicans and 227,000 Democrats voted, a combined tally that exceeded County Clerk Stan Stanart’s estimates by nearly a third, or about 130,000 ballots.

The political parties decide where polling places will be and how many voting precincts will be assigned to each location, Stanart said. Those decisions, he and county Democratic Party chair Lane Lewis said, are driven by state rules that use historical voting data to estimate expected turnout and assign the number of voting machines per polling place.

Stanart set aside more election day voting machines for Democratic sites as early voting numbers came in and turnout projections increased, and his office deployed two to four additional machines at 55 polling places on Super Tuesday amid reports of heavy turnout. It was not enough to prevent the last voters leaving polls after 10:30 p.m.

By 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, said Hector De Leon of the County Clerk’s office, there still were 26 Democrats in line at De Zavala Community Center and five voters waiting at another site.

“Some of the people were very upset,” said Rachel Cardenas, the presiding election judge at De Zavala. “They said we didn’t know how to handle it, that we didn’t know what we were doing. People were just tired, and we couldn’t say anything except that it wasn’t our fault, that’s all we had to work with. It was a very long day.”

The Democratic and Republican parties consolidated four voting precincts at De Zavala, a park in the East End, and the county’s formula assigned four voting machines for each party there. While GOP folks had no wait, Cardenas said the Democrats were backed up all day, even after the county brought her two more machines at 5:30 p.m.

‘Something went wrong’

City Councilman Robert Gallegos cited De Zavala as evidence that “something went wrong yesterday, terribly wrong,” alleging that the county “is not looking after our voting rights.” Unsuccessful congressional challenger Adrian Garcia also posted a video to social media Tuesday night from De Zavala, charging that “someone’s incompetence” had given the same number of voting booths to both parties in a heavily Democratic area.

Stanart and Lewis stressed that the formula governing how machines are assigned used 2012 primary results. That year, De Leon said, just 130 voters showed up in the Democratic primary in the four precincts assigned to De Zavala on Tuesday, when hundreds more cast ballots.

Rita Robles had the same complaint when she waited more than two hours to vote in equally Democratic Denver Harbor and said she found four Democratic booths and seven GOP ones.

“There were a lot of people who turned away because they were tired of waiting,” she said. “The elderly had to wait, and there were not enough chairs for them to sit. It was really nuts.”

Some GOP strongholds saw similar trends, including Zwink Elementary in Spring, where election judges said Tuesday that roughly twice as many Republicans had voted as Democrats, though there were four voting machines for each party. By 6 p.m., Republicans were waiting roughly 40 minutes to vote while Democrats cycled through in about 10 minutes, election judge Marcie Fessler said.

Stanart said the election was an anomaly driven by voters making up their minds late in the process. In recent years, more people have tended to vote early, with half of ballots consistently cast before Election Day. About 60 percent of both parties’ votes, however, were cast in person on Tuesday.

“I don’t think anybody predicted that huge, last-minute surge. This thing just blew the doors off,” Stanart said. “The voters deciding to come out and vote can mess with the model. I can’t predict individuals.”

Indecisive at polls

Voters also took an unusually long time making up their minds once in the voting booths, Stanart and others said, which they attributed to the lengthy ballot and to the inability to vote straight-ticket, as many voters do in general elections.

“We’re going to study what happened in this election, and that will go to ensure that people don’t have these kinds of lines again,” Stanart said. “We don’t want people to have this, I assure you.”

Harris County was not alone.

Voters were still casting ballots at 10 p.m. Tuesday in San Antonio. An hour after the polls were supposed to close, lines remained at dozens of Bexar County locations, the county’s election administrator said. Under state law, anyone in line at 7 p.m. when the polls are supposed to close can still vote.

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen attributed the long lines there to people showing up after work to vote, as well as an influx of some people, typically recent arrivals to San Antonio, who were not registered to vote.

On Wednesday, Callanen took responsibility for some of the delays, saying her office had miscalculated the number of voters it expected. She also said there was not enough voter education to help avoid last-minute snags, such as voters not knowing where their poll locations were or that they could vote in only one party’s primary.

Early Tuesday, Callanen had predicted 65,000 to 75,000 people would cast ballots in person. By 5 p.m., she increased her projection to more than 100,000. By the end of the night, more than 130,000 had shown up to vote, according to the Texas secretary of state’s elections division.

In Fort Bend County, Elections Administrator John Oldham said that Tuesday marked “the biggest single-day election turnout ever,” surpassing the most recent record set in November 2012 by at least several thousand voters and surprising county officials. Cinco Ranch, a community in the Katy area facing steep population growth, seemed the hardest hit, he said; the last Fort Bend voter cast a ballot at about 9 p.m.

Not ‘ignored’

In Travis County, lines were long at many polls through the day and voting at a few sites continued until 10 p.m., officials said.

“We were between the turnout for the presidential primary in 2008, when turnout was 41 percent, and in 2012 when it was under 32 percent,” said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir.

In Houston, Steven Zeffert, an election judge at Gleason Elementary near West Road and Beltway 8, did not get his last voter through until 10:15 p.m.

“To a large extent, it was keeping everybody upbeat,” he said, adding that his wife bought a dozen pizzas for the crowd. “Standing around in a schoolroom for a few hours is nobody’s idea of a good time, but at least they didn’t feel like they were ignored.”

Still, Zeffert said, he counted 23 voters who signed in but left before casting ballots.

“It was one of the heaviest voting days I’ve ever had,” he said.

Anita Hassan and Emily Foxhall contributed to this report.

This is a part of what the Chron E-Board said today:

Something went wrong yesterday.”

That’s what District I Councilman Robert Gallegos had to say about Super Tuesday’s primary elections. He wasn’t talking about perennial candidate Grady Yarbrough beating out former state Rep. Lon Burnam in the Democratic primary for Railroad Commission. It wasn’t voters failing to boot Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, from his state representative seat despite his misdemeanor conviction for barratry. It wasn’t Silvia Treviño winning outright in the Democratic primary for her convicted felon husband’s former position as constable for Precinct 6. It wasn’t even Hillary Green, whose divorce from former city controller Ron Green was the stuff of soap opera plotlines, making it to the runoff for her justice of the peace position in Precinct 7.

Gallegos’ complaint was aimed squarely at the long Election Day lines in his east Houston district. According to his office, people had to wait until 10 p.m. to cast their ballots Tuesday. Normally the polls close at 7 p.m.

There were anecdotes of Election Day delays all across Harris County, and Gallegos’ chief of staff, Leah Olive-Nishioka, joined several Democratic activists by putting the blame squarely on County Clerk Stan Stanart, a Republican.

Electoral snafus have become routine on Stanart’s watch: Voting results are often delayed, information is released at the last minute, and his office published an inaccurate manual for election judges during the Nov. 2011 city races. The full results of Tuesday’s primaries weren’t even available until nearly 4 a.m.

However, ask the head of the Harris County Democratic Party, Lane Lewis, and he’ll say that the long lines in Gallegos’ district were a “good problem to have.” After all, who could have predicted such high turnout when the number of ballot machines and poll workers were set months ago?

In a phone conversation with the Houston Chronicle editorial board, Lewis said that the Democratic Party and Harris County did the best they could, and that the long lines could have been avoided if folks had only voted early or by mail.

“It is an end user solution,” he said.

With that kind of attitude, no wonder Democrats are losing to Grady Yarbrough – let alone the Republican Party.

I really don’t think the Latinos that stood in line for a couple of hours or so Tuesday night thought it was a good problem to have.  I kind of think that says it all if you ask me.

I said this on Election Day:

Commentary really doesn’t like to make predictions on races. I will say that in Harris County, more Dems will vote early than vote today – E-Day. Combining precincts does not help.

I was wrong. That is all I have.

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