Sunday, August 02, 2009

Reports Confirm the Obvious: Locke Is the Undisputed Insider-Establishment Candidate for Mayor (Not That There's Anything Wrong with That, Per Se)

We held off on mowing the grass last weekend--it's still too hot for a delicate flower such as our self to venture out in the fearsome daylight--and instead killed some precious time skimming the July 15 campaign finance reports of the major candidates to replace the apparently indispensable, irreplaceable and downright saintly Bill White as mayor. (We know this is "olds," not "news," but, as we've often noted, we're not on the White Man's Clock here at Slampo's Place.) We'd digested the earlier media reports on the disclosures, but scanning the reports our own bad self left us with a greater appreciation of Gene Locke's role as the chosen candidate of Houston's loose-knit establishment (as much as anything is really "established" in Houston) of insider lawyers, civil engineers, old-school developers and contractors, port interests and so forth. It's quite a distinct branding for a black guy from East Texas who initially came to public attention (sort of) when as a student activist at the University of Houston he was tried and acquitted on a hoked-up charge of inciting to riot. (What this all says about Our Town or Our Post-Racial Future or life in general we'll leave to journalists who get paid for that sort of nut-scratching; we're working strictly on a volunteer charity basis here, and while we're at it we might as well note that we have no horse in the race as of yet--we're in the undecided column between Locke and Annise Parker but listing slightly toward the controller, although if, say, Anne Clutterbuck were to temporarily abandon reason and declare for mayor we'd have to reconsider all options. )

The individual players who as of mid-July had forked over the maximum $5,000 to Locke run right along the Bob Lanier-Ned Holmes money-raising axis: the former Mayor Bob himself and his loverly Missus, the port commissioner (that is, $5k each); longtime port and hospital power/developer/banker/erstwhile potential mayoral candidate Holmes and his Missus; Meredith Long, whom we believe is traditionally identified as a "gallery owner," so we'll go with that; former Houston city attorney, Metro attorney and and Andrews Kurth big hat Jonathan Day and the Missus Day; investor Fayez Sarofim, father-in-law of the Lanier stepdaughter; Herbert Stewart of Camden Property Trust; lawyer Dan Arnold, formerly of the Metro and hospital district boards; John Nau of Silver Eagle Distributors, Kase Lawal, chairman and CEO of CAMAC* (also a port commissioner, as well as a board member of the Houston Airport System Development Corp., at least as of 2007, according to Houston's new leading information source, Texas Watchdog), and Kamaru Lawal, CFO of CAMAC (no relation, of course); engineer James Dannenbaum and his wife; ubiquitous GOP moneybags and homebuilder Bob Perry and wife; JSG chairman James Simmons and his Missus; Rockets owner Les Alexander; Astros owner Drayton McLane; celebrity lawyer (that is, lawyer-of-choice for local celebrities) Rusty Hardin, etc. and so on. (We noticed that Helen Chang, head of Mayor White's Office of International Affairs and Development, also anted up $5,000--of this we know not what to make. And, in what we can only interpret as a gesture of daughterly love, newly acclaimed mystery author Attica Locke made two donations to her dad totaling $700--ain't that sweet? )

Among the large institutional investors in the Locke campaign were the political arm of Landry's, purveyor of indigestible seafood and downtown Ferris Wheel rides ($3100); the PACs of the Andrews Kurth law firm, where Locke is a partner, and the Lockwood, Andrews, Newnam engineering firm, which both gave the maximum $10,000; substantial contributions from the PACs of the Teamsters and Longshoreman's locals; $5,000 from the PAC of Charles Hurwitz's MAXXAM; $5,000 each from the Fund for the Future and the Centerpoint Energy PAC, and $6,500 from the PAC of the Vinson & Elkins law firm, one of whose partners represents that Houston Airport System Development Corp. in its legal quest to remain unaccountable to the public (as detailed by Texas Watchdog).

Notable but somewhat less generous contributors were Oliver Luck, president of the panhandling Houston Dynamo (formerly the 1836---we think it's a soccer team, or maybe a lacrosse outfit), who could spare but a mere $1K; Jason Yoo, the Korean-American beneficiary of affirmative action whose JDDA Concession Management received that no-bid extension of its lucrative food-concession contract at Bush Intercontinental two years ago ( also good for a single grand); and a $2,500 chip from the campaign fund of Beverley Woolley, the westside GOP state rep.

Despite the big-money bent of the Locke effort, there were two humble $100 contributions that caught our eye, one from a Jim Westmoreland. Could this be the former councilman of the same name who lost his seat after it was revealed that he allegedly had privately joked that Intercontinental Airport should be named "Nigger International" when the city was considering naming the facility after Locke's old friend, the late Mickey Leland? The other was from Taylor Branch of Baltimore, Md., the former Texas Monthly writer who won a Pulitzer Prize for one of his three-book series on Martin Luther King and who must have known or interviewed Locke during his agitatin' days (days, we needn't add, that appear to be long past ... ). Perhaps there's a slogan in this: "Gene Locke, Bringing Together White Folks of Diverse Backgrounds and Interests." Or something.

UPCOMING: MORE OF THE SAME, Plus CORRECTIONS, UPDATES, ADDENDA, ASIDES And TENUOUSLY RELEVANT DIGRESSIONS (that is, if we can ever finish perusing Parker's July 15 report, which is almost as long as Thomas Pynchon's last novel).

*Claimed to be "the largest black-owned business in the world" in this 2006 Ebony profile.

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