SD13 open: Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) is expected to announce tomorrow whether or not he will seek the seat being vacated by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston). The other announced candidates are Reps. Borris Miles (D-Houston) and Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and former Houston City Controller Ron Green. Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), Houston council member Dwight Boykins and former Houston council member C.O. Bradford have indicated they are not seeking the seat.
Fundraising deadline looms. Tomorrow is the deadline for candidates and office-holders to accept contributions and have them count toward their July semiannual campaign finance reports (or July quarterly, for federal candidates). Reports are due July 15.
For candidates who were unopposed in the primary, this will be the first opportunity since January to measure their fundraising success, which can be a measure of their competitiveness in November.
Houston increases contribution limits. Without discussion, the Houston City Council approved changes to its campaign finance ordinances intended to settle issues arising from a court-ordered end to the so-called “blackout” period and conform to voters’ approval of four-year terms.
The mayor, council members and candidates will be able to raise a maximum of $5K from individuals and $10K from PACs in each two-year period. Essentially, the new rule treats each half of a four-year term as a fundraising period. Current rules limit the mayor and each council member/candidate to those $5K/$10K maximums per term, but they were crafted when all terms were two years.
The new rules also increase by tenfold the amount of personal loans single-member district council candidates are allowed to repay themselves. Current rules limited repayment to $5K. The new rules raise the limit to $50K. Candidates running for at-large council seats or city controller can repay themselves $75K, up from the current $15K. Mayoral candidates keep the existing $75K limit.
Runoff elections are treated like a new campaign cycle, potentially increasing the limits during a four-year term to $15K from individuals and $30K from PACs.
The new rules take effect July 1.
County officials suspended. The county judge of Smith Co. and the county judge and two commissioners of Montgomery Co. have been suspended for alleged violations of open meetings laws.
In Smith Co., the commissioners court met for the first time since County Judge Joel Baker was suspended. Commissioners discussed several potential replacements, including accountant John Furlow (who ran against Baker in 2014) and former Smith Co. Republican chair Tim McCormick. The court is expected to make a decision by July 19.
Grassroots America We the People filed initial complaints against Baker, alleging he violated open meetings laws regarding approval of a contract authorizing camera enforcement of school zone speed limits. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct suspended Baker without pay following his indictment on three charges of official misconduct.
In Montgomery Co., a grand jury indicted County Judge Craig Doyal and Co. Comms. Jim Clark and Charlie Riley on criminal charges arising from a transportation bond package. The grand jury also indicted the husband of the county treasurer. The $280 million bond proposal was approved by voters in November after a similar $350 million proposal was defeated six months earlier. Doyal and the two indicted commissioners are accused of meeting toether without proper public notification to discuss the bond package. They would represent a quorum of the commissioner’s court if they were to meet together. Doyal has since been suspended by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. There is no expectation that an interim county judge will be selected.
Baker and Doyal may appeal their suspensions. All indictments are for misdemeanor offenses. None of these elected officials are on the ballot in 2016.