Hanging out with other candidates and volunteers in front of the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center during early voting has been mostly pleasant. These people are there to hand out push cards for their candidates. We don't agree on everything, but most of the crowd seems to enjoy hearing others' opinions and sharing their own. It may surprise some observers that Greens, Democrats, and Republicans can find common ground on a number of issues. Either that, or everyone's being hyper-diplomatic.
One Republican volunteer told me that he voted for me, and based on what we talked about Sunday, I have no reason to disbelieve him. We both agreed that there are problems within our county, state, and nation, problems that government can be used as a tool to solve. There is this tendency for Republican candidates and office holders to take Ronald Reagan's "Government is the problem" pronouncement and extrapolate it ad absurdum. It's refreshing to be reminded that some Republicans, even in Texas, are actually interested in making government serve the electorate.
State Rep. Sarah Davis is in no way to be confused with State Sen. and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. But the Republican representing District 134 (which includes northern and western Montrose) is a genuine supporter of equal rights for LGBT citizens. It springs from her belief in "personal freedom." This and other issues put her more in line with Wendy Davis and Leticia van der Putte than with Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick. She will also tell you how her bout with cancer made her an opponent of "government-run health care." I have mentioned in other corners of the web that I never got an overpowering intellectual vibe from Sarah Davis, but I am impressed with how real she is. She was out there with her mother in the 85-degree heat Sunday afternoon, wearing her elephant-print dress, flip-flops, and shades.
By the way, in no way am I suggesting that we can or should judge candidates, especially women candidates, by what they wear. However, wardrobe decisions reflect just how seriously candidates want to be taken. Green candidates frequently have to raise their sartorial standards to be taken seriously at all, because left to our own devices we would appear in t-shirts and cut-offs.
Chris Carmona is a Republican running for State Rep. in District 148. That district includes most of the Heights, the Near Northside, Oak Forest, and part of Garden Oaks. Its current representative is the formidable Jessica Farrar. In his polo shirt and jeans, Mr. Carmona looked less like a candidate than I did in my button-front shirt, cravat, and slacks—and far less Republican even than I. He came to his brand of Republicanism from reading classical economics texts in college; before then, he considered himself a Democrat.
Probably the most fortuitous encounter with a Republican was chatting with Judge Jay Karahan. He sings in the choir at St. Martin's Episcopal Church, and he officially serenaded the Moonlight Bicycle Ramble with his rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" Saturday night. I told him that his voice impressed me, but shortly after his "Banner" the sound system played the 13th Floor Elevators "Slip Inside This House," and I would have stood in awe if he'd belted out that old psychedelic chestnut.
I have no idea whether the words on Judge Karahan's website about "the integrity of the process" mean anything in his courtroom. I genuinely hope so. The fact that Texas has partisan elections for judgeships appalls people from other states, but a lot of Texas judges wear partisan labels for convenience—i.e., to stand a chance of getting elected. Democrats have been known to run as Republicans in Harris County when the ratio with about 55-45 Republican. Judge Karahan purports to be an open-minded Republican, who has voted (and will vote) for Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, and Independents.
By the way, in no way am I suggesting that I am attracted to conservative ideology, or that there's any danger of my turning into the Republican that some people assume I am as a clean-cut, middle-aged, middle-class white man. However, this whole experience makes me wonder how people of such decency could ever align themselves with the hate-mongers at the top of the Republican ticket. I'm told that Greg Abbott is easy enough to talk to one-on-one. So why do his campaign speeches and policy positions dehumanize millions of Texans?
I could go on at length on the topic of Green candidates' and the party organization, but I must keep this brief for now. Our party's message appears to be catching on in Texas in an unexpectedly big way. However, we do not have the tools and party infrastructure in place to capitalize on that phenomenon.
The main causes are that the party has no paid staff and we candidates are mostly busy working people. We have no paid staff to do the necessary fundraising because we have no money to pay such a person, and that's because we have no paid staff, and that's because we have no money...see where I'm going with this?
The way to fix the money problem is to find more people in Texas willing to invest in the future of the party. Approximately 200,000 people in Texas will likely vote for Green candidates this year, even in races with Democratic candidates. If even 1% of that number actively joins the party and contributes an average of $10 a month, we could not only pay a fundraiser or two, but we could even rent an office for them.
Meanwhile, if you're feeling Green and want to send us some monetary love, I invite you to
Early voting has begun in Harris County, as I noted in my posting Monday morning. Some of you have already voted—good for you! Some of you have voted for Green candidates, or at least you've told me as much—excellent!
If you voted, and if you scrolled all the way to the bottom of the electronic ballot, you probably saw one lonely proposed amendment to the Texas Constitution.
Our State Constitution requires amendments thereto to pass by popular vote. They're easily confused with county and municipal bond elections, but they have greater long-term impact on the state and less immediate impact on your tax bill. These propositions can be among the hardest votes for Texas voters to cast, for a whole combination of reasons:
I have met people who actually consider these votes easy, because they automatically assume that all these propositions are methods for soaking average taxpayers and enriching the financial elite--especially bond elections, which always provide healthy commissions for bond brokers.
The proposed amendment concerns maintenance and repair of our state's roads. It does not specifically address the building of new roads, but it may imply it. It asks that the state use oil and gas revenue to pay for enhancing our infrastructure by diverting half the petro-revenue that would normally wind up in the Rainy Day Fund (aka Economic Stabilization Fund) to the State Highway Fund.
That's it. There are no new taxes involved. The Comptroller would be responsible for making the transfer every year until the amendment's repeal.
There are plenty of reasons to vote for or against the measure. The first obvious con is the sheer amount of dollars lost to the Rainy Day Fund, and anyone who has been following the increase in disaster attributable to climate change knows that we may have some very Rainy Days on the horizon. Other principled objections might involve priorities: Let's use this money for public transit projects or education, you might say, and I might agree.
The lists of officials and organizations advocating this measure do not fall into any specific ideological camp, although Chambers of Commerce are heavily represented. I wish Ballotpedia had listed some officials and organizations opposed to it, because there are bound to be some. To my knowledge, the Green Party of Texas has not released any statement supporting or opposing the proposition.
After some deliberation, I have decided to vote Yes. My reasoning is complicated. The timeliness of the amendment is paramount: Texas is in the midst of a fracking boom. Besides driving housing prices in Odessa sky-high, and besides sickening everyone living within half a mile of a well, one of the boom's most obvious impacts is the sheer number of heavy trucks hauling gas around the state, from the shale fields to the refineries and elsewhere. They're also hauling equipment, fracking fluid, and fracking wastes, and they're tearing up Texas roads in the process.
As ugly as fracking may be, I believe our state would be foolish not to maintain its existing network of highways, on which people and goods will travel even after the boom goes bust. Unless someone finds a major loophole, this is a way of making energy companies fix the roads they are chewing up.
I'll be interested to read your comments below.
First, I'm sorry I didn't make it to Better Block Houston yesterday. It was a combination of family commitments and sheer fatigue that kept me away.
Second, it's time to whip out that well-worn phrase, "Vote early, vote often!" By often, of course, we mean "at any occasion during which it is legal to vote once." This is one of those occasions: Early voting in Harris County, and other metro areas in Texas, begins right now, 7 am on 20 October, for this year's midterm general election.
I work for a living, but I plan to make appearances after 5 pm during next week, at a few different early voting locations inside Loop 610. I will also be out & about on the weekend. See y'all at the polls.
UPDATE: The official 2014 League of Women Voters Guide is available as a free download. Also, early voting hours during the first five days are 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. Saturday is from 7 am to 7 pm; Sunday, 1 to 6 pm. This is not widely known!
No politician wants to be caught with laryngitis. Good thing I'm not really a politician. I acted like on Sunday, glad-handing and chatting with the people on West 19th Street, Houston Heights, even though I had awakened with a scratchy throat. Since I haven't yet heard about a laryngitis epidemic in Houston, I probably didn't spread any microbial nuisances among the attendees at Sunday Streets.
So since I am a person of few spoken words this week, enjoy the picture at left, which I cribbed from Emily Brown's campaign page on Facebook.
Confession time: Your Green candidate for Harris County Judge serves on the board of the Houston Peace and Justice Center. However, I do little more than attend quarterly board meetings. That was the primary reason I agreed to represent my church on the board: it would not overtax my already busy schedule. Occasionally a volunteering opportunity presents itself, and I cannot refuse. This time it was a lick-and-stick party at the home of Green Party stalwarts Deb Shafto and George Reiter.
About a dozen board members, spouses, and friends showed up at Deb & George's Saturday afternoon and evening. Including the pizza dinner, we stayed a little more than four hours. The work consisted of assembling the invitation materials in pink envelopes, sticking on mailing labels, sealing and stamping the envelopes.
Why pink? Not for the typical reason during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As it happens, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin will be in Houston as the primary honoree at HPJC's annual Peacemaker Awards Dinner on 8 November at the UH Hilton.
Together we stuffed close to a thousand envelopes, and some of us stuffed ourselves on veggie pizza. There was also plenty of enjoyable, informative conversation over the pizza and pink envelopes. In other words, it wasn't the usual Progressive Gripe Session: We discussed a variety of topics, including our families, our home towns, and the popular movements that inspire us. Yes, we also griped a bit about the state of the nation and the world.
Today's adventure took place at Sunday Streets, a monthly program co-sponsored by the City of Houston, this time on West 19th Street in Houston Heights. The seven long blocks from Heights Blvd. to N. Shepherd Drive were closed to gas-powered traffic for most of the afternoon; pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, and people riding motorized coolers with wheels on them took over. I got to hand out some campaign material, some to the many people there I can claim to know, and some to folks who looked hungry for electoral alternatives. The local merchants on 19th were ultra-gracious hosts: Special mention must go to venerable establishments Carter & Cooley & Co., Vinal Edge Records, Replay, and Venus Hair.
The next "episode" of Sunday Streets will take place on 2 November along three streets in Third Ward:
That's more than 20 blocks with no automobiles for one afternoon. More exciting, the route passes within a block of uRth HAUS co-op, my place of residence since 2012. You can bet that HAUS Project will be participating that afternoon, and that I'll be promoting the Green Movement in my usual laid-back campaign mode.
Either nobody told me, or somebody did tell me and I forgot. We had a third out-of-town candidate drop in at the Loes' residence Saturday, Green Senatorial nominee Emily "Spicybrown" Sánchez. It was wonderful to see Emily, along with Railroad Commission candidate Martina Salinas and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Kenneth Kendrick.
A physical therapist's assistant by day, slam poet by night, Emily opted to include her nom de slam "Spicybrown" in her ballot moniker. Texas allows the use of nicknames and even pseudonyms on the ballot, and thus Republican Sam Fayad now runs under the same Sam Texas. Back in December 2013, when I first heard about her intent, I wondered at first whether the nickname would turn out to be a liability. As it turns out, it has brought her all kinds of credibility with audiences in heavily Latino South Texas, not just among fans of competitive poetry or hearty mustard. Even with her limited campaigning, the phenomenon of Laredo has extended deeper into the Rio Grande Valley and up to Emily's current city of Del Rio (Val Verde County).
Other statewide candidates in attendance, but not on the bill to speak, were Deb Shafto (Comptroller of Public Accounts) and Jim Chisolm (Supreme Court, Place 8), both from Houston. None of the local folks were on the bill to speak: The 30-40 local voters who filled the Loes' living room have heard Deb and me speak plenty. I'd like to have heard Jim make a speech, but there's something I find very dignified about not actively campaigning for a judicial spot.
Hardy and Lee Loe made us all very comfortable as usual. Laura Palmer was a serenely welcoming mistress of ceremonies. I'm sorry to report that nobody, including professional videographer Laura, captured the proceedings on video, but Laura was busy with her other duties.
David Wager just called and reported that contributions to the three visiting candidates totaled just over $2,200. That will cover a couple of day-trips for each of them. Thank you, our generous Green and Progressive friends!
Completely unscientific (and slightly narcissistic) number-crunching time! This stuff can keep me occupied for hours. Sources: Harris County Clerk's Office (http://www.harrisvotes.com/ElectionResults.aspx) and Texas Secretary of State's Office (http://elections.sos.state.tx.us/elchist.exe).
How many of the 420,000 likely Democratic voters are true Yellow Dogs (or Green Dogs) who, lacking a Democratic candidate, will vote for a Green rather than for Republican Ed Emmett? Based on the numbers above, about 250,000 Democrats will choose NOT to choose in this race.
I know Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans, and Independents who say they'll vote for me for County Judge. I know a lot of people in this county, but I don't know 420,000. Not yet, anyway.
This is all a way of saying: "I'm not stupid. If you vote for me, you'll be in the minority. But you'll be making a statement against 'Bidness As Usual' in Harris County. That's brave statement to make."
* Democrat Paul Sadler came within 1.5% of winning Harris County and got about 40% of the vote statewide (compared to Ted Cruz's 56%). Obama/Biden won Harris County in 2012 by less than 1,000 votes, garnering 587,044 to Romney/Ryan's 586,073.
It was a thrill to appear on GreenwatchTV Wednesday night, mostly because of our out-of-town guests Kenneth Kendrick and Martina Salinas, candidates respectively for Agriculture Commissioner and a seat on the Railroad Commission. The former appeared via Skype, the latter by phone. Please watch this lightly edited recording of the program, and you will see why Kendrick picked up an endorsement from Texpatriate. I also enjoyed Salinas's vision of Texas's energy future, post–fossil fuels. She brought up the dangers associated with fracking (hydrofracturing), including earthquakes in places that have never known earthquakes.
The most important part of appearing on a public affairs program like Greenwatch is explaining the functions of the office one is seeking.
Ask Texas voters what the various state-level officials do in their jobs, and most will not answer correctly. This may contribute to such large number of Texas voters sitting out the midterm elections: Statewide turnout ranges from 33 to 38 percent of registered voters.
Today is a two-fer. See the Calendar page for more information. The real event is the fundraising meet-and-greet at the home of Lee and Hardy Loe. The post-game is at Discovery Green, where I'll be hanging out with some other Greenies as the Fab 40 take the stage. Chandrakantha Courtney, our candidate for Lieutenant Governor, and her husband David Courtney, our candidate for State Senate in District 17, will also be performing. I'll be there to say howdy and remind people to vote one month from today. Get to the Green by 7 pm to get a good spot on the hill and catch all the flavor.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.