This is Part II of a series that I started yesterday. Part I looks at elections for statewide and legislative offices in Texas. Part III looks at the broader, nationwide picture.
Whether the old guard in Harris County likes it or not, the county has a new chief executive. It also has a Commissioners Court with a Democratic majority for the first time in decades, Democrats in nearly all executive positions, and Democrats presiding over the courts. But the face of this evolution/revolution is County Judge-elect Lina Hidalgo.
Congratulations to Ms. Hidalgo, her campaign team, and a county Democratic Party apparatus that has returned from the mostly-dead.
Check out these election results (PDF), and then compare them to 2014's. (Also check out the new-jack HTML version of the results page.)
Does anyone know a good voting rights attorney who will work for beer money? Because if I were a more litigious lefty, I'd be licking my chops at the prospect of a history-changing lawsuit. By suppressing any mention of political parties that, for whatever reason, do not hold primary elections, the Harris County Clerk's Office is effectively partisan in nature—and that's unethical at best, unconstitutional at worst.
Longtime HCGP apparatchik Alán Alán Apurim noticed something about the information presented on the HCCO's Harris Votes website. Well, to be more precise, he noticed what information is not on the site: that voters may exercise an option other than voting in a primary or abstaining entirely.
Apurim sent a message to the appropriate administrator at HCCO about correcting the oversight. From the resulting correspondence, it seems that the County Clerk's staffers need to be, shall we say, deprogrammed out of the notion that our political activities must remain confined to donkeys and elephants.
Early voting begins Monday 24 October in Harris County and much of Texas. So it's time to whip out some completely unsurprising endorsements for my dozen or so readers.
The main point that I want to highlight in this post is my support for non-Green candidates in Harris County. There may be some Greens who vote a straight Green ticket and walk out, but I don't know any. Many of us push buttons for Democrats in local, district, and even statewide races.
Texpatriate never got back to me to let me know that they had published my responses to their questionnaire. They put this up almost four weeks ago. I finally thought to use the search box on texpate.com, & whoa, look what I found!
A lot of readers will wonder about my response to this question:
Texpatriate: Do you believe that the incumbent has specifically failed at her or his job? If so, why?
DBC: I don’t.
I wish that I had taken the trouble to elaborate. Judge Ed Emmett has not been an abysmal failure. Running county government in a rapidly growing county is a difficult job. The county's problems pre-date Emmett's tenure as our chief executive, and many of them will still be there after he ends that tenure. No elected officials can fix everything.
The problem with the job that Emmett and his Commissioners are doing is this: They are doing exactly what their sponsors and the two major parties have put them there to do. The county provides some services, taxes get collected, and the business climate stays friendly to businesses, especially large businesses. They do just enough, in other words.
But the county deserves more and better than just enough.
I would like to see the county provide more and better services; that requires broader and deeper levels of taxation, a far less regressive scheme for property taxes in particular. I would like the large businesses in this county to pay more toward those services that make a high quality of life possible for their employees.
Let's do what we can to attract manufacturers of alternative-energy and energy-saving technology to the county. West Texas may have a tracking boom in progress, but it is also witnessing a proliferation of wind farms on the high plains and in the Permian Basin. Could we get companies to build windmills and photovoltaics right here? In fact, could we convince all those energy companies downtown that their best play for the post-boom world is to start building solar and wind infrastructure now? I believe so.
Houston has established Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones to attract businesses and encourage startups; it's not a perfect plan, but it's something that county could adapt. The city and county also have vacant manufacturing facilities into which startups could move fairly cheaply. We have one of the busiest ports in North America ready to ship out the goods. We have a diverse, multi-national workforce; we have a network of community colleges to retrain workers for these new processes.
I would keep preaching, but it's time to put this blog and myself to bed. See you on the 22nd.
September 22: Harris County Green Party candidates' forum, 7 pm
Trinity Episcopal Church Fellowship Hall, 1015 Holman Street, near Ensemble/HCC MetroRail stop. If you want to know what the Greens really stand for, please join us, and invite lots of friends.
Invite your friends who are inclined to vote Green, perhaps as a protest vote, perhaps because they are true embodiments of the Green Vision.
Invite your friends who are considering not voting at all because "both major parties suck," but who don't know about the Greens beyond the occasional joke on late-night TV.
Invite your friends who will likely vote for Democrats, but maybe don't know that I am the only alternative to Ed Emmett on this year's ballot.
In a press release, Blogmeister Perry Dorrell of Brains & Eggs has actually referred to the Harris County Judge election as the most significant for Greens in this area, owing to the lack of a Democratic candidate in the race. I take that as a profound compliment on my long-considered decision to put my name in for the position.
The County Judge gig was not my first choice, I will admit with all due frankness. I am much more the legislator type than the executive type. At the 2012 Green Party of Texas convention, in my nomination speech I told those assembled that I would be willing to run again in 2014. However, when Emily Sánchez indicated that she wanted to run for the US Senate seat currently housing the tush of John Cornyn, I yielded to her because I relished the thought of our running a smart Latina for such an exalted position.
My next thought was to run for Sheila Jackson-Lee's Congressional seat in District 18, where I have lived for nearly three years. Last fall, however, Remington Alessi and I worked it out where he would run against Sheila. He's really the better choice for that, because it takes someone with Remington's raw irreverence to challenge SJ-L: She occupies one of the safest seats in the nation.
I told Remington the story of my traveling to Palm Center for the only Sunday of early voting in the 2012 General Election, when the women who came out to represent SJ-L were telling voters to vote a straight Democratic ticket. That made him even more eager to run in District 18.
I don't pin the blame for the Palm Center episode on SJ-L herself. There were not many cameras on the scene, so she did not appear. Let the Democratic Party Culture of Inevitability wear the blame.
There's this tragic notion in low-income and African-American neighborhoods that the Democratic Party and its candidates are actually working for them; that there are only two political parties, and no matter how unresponsive and ineffective the D's are, the R's are openly hostile and therefore worse. Anything or anyone challenging the Democrats is a mere annoyance to be ignored or swatted away. Democrats keep getting elected, but even though many of those elected are black or brown, racism and de facto segregation don't go away. Good jobs don't come running to the neighborhoods. We still get government of, by, and for the corporations.
If Sheila is guilty, it's guilt by association with a party that continues to run interference for corporate titans, to support the US "all I got is a hammer" foreign policy, to talk about the changing climate but (to paraphrase Mark Twain) not do anything about it. Whatever the Green Party is, it's not that.
See you at Trinity Episcopal on the 22nd.
This is my official coming out to the electorate of Harris County as a Burner. I have never been to Burning Man, a week-long party in the Nevada desert that requires a huge amount of fossil fuels to get everyone there and back. However, I am a veteran of two Burning Flipsides, the Central Texas regional Burn.
Over Labor Day weekend, I helped stage a Houston-area event called the Playa Pity Party, an intimate gathering of folks who would like to have gone to Black Rock City, Nevada, but lacked the time or money. (The Playa, Spanish for "beach," refers to the sand flats of the high desert. Read more at burningman.com.) We spent the weekend outdoors, at an unofficial campground in muggy southeast Houston.
In a small gathering of Playa Pity Party guests, I sat under a pop-up tent and mentioned to people I had just met that I was a candidate for Harris County Judge. These folks who barely knew me were delighted to learn that there was an alternative to Ed Emmett on the ballot. Once they got to know me better, they were even happier. Some will register and vote just so they can vote for me.
One of the reasons I am attracted to the Burner crowd is that they strive to relate to each other on a deeply personal level. It's much more than mind-blowing art, mutant vehicles, and costumes laced with flashing LEDs. For someone like me, introverted and somewhat repressed, such relating can be challenging, sometimes irritating, but eventually profoundly liberating.
Conservative icon Grover Norquist went to Burning Man this year. He wrote an op-ed afterward that seems to indicate that he gets it. He's even OK with the indisputable fact that Radical Self-Expression includes violating the laws of the local, state, and federal governments—in particular, ingesting illegal substances, mostly cannabis and hallucinogens.
My own progressive ideology holds that society progresses primarily, if not exclusively, when people challenge laws that are unjust or make no practical sense. Sometimes challenging these laws means having the courage to violate them, to risk arrest for smoking a joint in public, for demonstrating against the predations of Big Capital, for standing up to institutional racism, for daring to vote while female or dark-skinned.
Our mini-Burn had guests who identify with various political parties, some who are non-partisan, and some politically apathetic. That embodies the spirit of Radical Inclusion, another principle of the Burner movement that Norquist seems to respect. We had people like me, happy with a few beers, jammin' tunes, and scintillating conversation. We had others who took the opportunity to ingest some hallucinogens. We had no serious injuries, and as far as I know no conflicts resulting from guests getting too wasted.
This event was not perfect, but it was a living illustration of peace. Two other Burner principles are Radical Self-Reliance and Communal Effort; these are not contradictory or mutually incompatible! We exhibited both! I heard more than one attendee say, "I wish we could all just live here." It wouldn't be easy, but we could, especially if we could turn part of the campground into a garden. Living in community is challenging—and so very worth it.
This is the transformation of society that Greens advocate:
And that's just the beginning.
(NOTE: I composed this entry some time in June, before I was able to put this website together. I never finished it, but it's long enough as it is, don't you think?--dbc)
I'll be quite candid with you, Dear Reader. I didn't especially want to run for Harris County Judge. Much of county government in Texas revolves around tax policy, and my understanding of tax policy is best described as "intuitive." County taxation and expenditure is as nuts & bolts as it gets.
When I ran for the open US Senate seat in 2012, the office of Senator fit my big-picture orientation on the world; I have a much deeper understanding of and appreciation for the philosophical questions that guide the deliberative house of Congress. I made several trips to various spots in Texas, some of which I had visited previously, some not. It was easy to connect with voters in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas-Fort Worth, Laredo, Midland-Odessa, Lufkin-Nacogdoches, and West, as well as Houston; most of the voters knew a thing or two about he US Senate.
I saw myself running for Senate again in 2014, this time against the incumbent John Cornyn. However, I made my move a little too late, and Emily "SpicyBrown" Sánchez of Del Rio filed for that position first. I could have run against her—sometimes we do have contested nominations in the Green Party of Texas—but I saw that my schedule in my new job would be less flexible about traveling during the work week and thus demurred.
My next choice would have been to run for US House District 18, occupied since 1995 by Sheila Jackson Lee. Yes, as much as I have touted Rep. Jackson Lee as a Progressive ally, it was time to give her some competition. However, Remington Alessi proved himself much more enthusiastic about taking on this challenge. Whereas I have trepidations about alienating potential allies in the Democratic Party (going back to 2000), Remington has none.
OK then, how about County Judge? I have lived in Houston itself, as well as in the unincorporated wilds of Cy-Fair and Clear Lake. My total time living in Harris County adds up to more than 40 years. I wasn't born here, but destiny brought me here at age 3. My first home here was in Bunker Hill Village, where my grandparents had bought a house during the great oil & gas migrations of the 1960s and '70s. As much as I love Houston itself, I love this sprawling county that is larger than Rhode Island and four times as populous. I have seen examples of good and bad county government: I lived in Precinct 3 when Bob Eckels had his legal difficulties. I have seen 40 years of unguided growth, flood maps redrawn in secret, real estate developers getting too wealthy and powerful, people and small businesses getting the shaft.
It's well past time to bring smart, sensible growth to Harris County.
Side note: Why run against Sheila? For one thing, she's not as Progressive as she would like her constituents to believe. It's hard to be consistently Progressive in the House of Representatives, so I completely understand that: Sometimes you have to engage in horse-trading, and sometimes you have to follow the path that will best serve your district regardless of your ideology. What galls me even more, though, was an incident having to do with Sheila's campaign troops in 2012.
I went to Palm Center on the Sunday of early voting in October 2012. Palm Center, at the corner of Griggs Road and Martin Luther King Boulevard, combines commercial and community facilities between the Third Ward and Sunnyside districts of southeast Houston. It's a great place for early voting, and on that one Sunday locals turn out after church, dressed in their finery, and they socialize before and after they vote. I was encouraging voters to vote for Green candidates in races where the Democrats had no nominees, and to look farther down the ballot for the bond issues (such as $2 billion for fixing HISD school buildings). A few of Sheila's crew showed up and started encouraging voters to vote straight-ticket Democrat, which would have deprived them of voting in two statewide races and on the bonds.
If it were just me, the middle-aged white dude, affected by this, it would have been bad enough, as they made me feel like an outsider bringing in complex foreign ideas like multi-party democracy. But it wasn't just me: Dozens of high schoolers were already there as well, trying to convince voters to approve the HISD bonds, which they couldn't do if they just voted Straight D and walked out. I truly believe that Sheila's campaigners did the people of the MLK Corridor a grave disservice by telling them that voting anything other than Straight D was too complicated for them.
Let's begin the first blog entry on this site by expressing gratitude toward Houston's most astute political blogger, liberal/progressive division, Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff. A few years ago, Chuck's analysis of local events caught the eye of someone at the Houston Chronicle, who asked him to contribute to the online edition. In this posting, Chuck actually remembered that two candidates remain in the 2014 race for Harris County Judge after Ahmad Hassan dropped his candidacy, whereas the Chron's reporter had not remembered.
Let's continue our spate of gratitude with thanks to another Chuck, namely Jones, for inspiring the title of this entry. Yes, it's rather politically incorrect humor, but the cartoon Hassan isn't stupid because he's a stereotypical Middle-Easterner. He's a stereotypical Middle-Easterner who just happens to be stupid (or at least unable to outsmart a rabbit).
According to the Harris County Clerk's campaign finance figures, Ahmad Hassan had neither raised nor spent a single dollar on the campaign. What a coincidence! Neither had I! But then, I am the candidate for a "minor" party, with very little disposable income of my own, a full-time office job, and no time to go out shaking money trees. Hassan was the nominee of one of the two name-brand parties. It leaves one to wonder why
"Alleged," you ask? Judge Emmett is officially a Republican. Until recently it was difficult for a Democrat to win county-wide office here, and, well, he does have some conservative leanings. But as the Republican Party nationally grows more outrageous and Medieval in its ideology, Emmett stands out as a Republican in the mold of New York Mayor John Lindsay back in the 1960s, or even Harris County Judge Jon Lindsay in the 1970s without the crooked dealings.
Hassan better fits the label "alleged Democrat" because of his electoral history: He was the Republican nominee for US House District 18 in 2006. (That's Sheila Jackson Lee's seat.) Perhaps it's more appropriate to refer to him as a part-time Democrat.
Emmett clearly understands the importance of government and doesn't crack jokes about drowning it in a bathtub. In 2008, at the time of Hurricane Ike, he embodied the importance of government. This is part of why Hassan dropped out of the race. And when Hassan dropped out, even though I share his respect for Emmett, I concluded that I could serve Harris County better by staying in.
Am I going to win this race? Not likely. Can I be the non-Republican alternative for yellow-dog Democrats and true progressives who will bother to vote this November? You bet.
My next report to the County, due in a few weeks, will have fewer naughts on it, because now that I've actually begun this campaign, I have raised a few bucks. I also believe that I understand the issues of importance to this county better than Hassan, according to Kuffner's diagnosis after their 2010 interview.
I also understand that Harris County will not be best served by a "business as usual" approach to county government. The Green Vision arose because "business as usual" has always served the top 1% well and left the rest of us to fight over scraps. Here is a small portion of that vision as it applies to our county:
Donate, if you please.
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.