Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Caucus Candidates Lining Up Behind Melissa Noriega

As has been reported on a number of excellent local blogs, Melissa Noriega is kicking-off her campaign for city council at-large position 3 this Friday, 5:30 - 7:30 PM, at Irma's downtown.

Noriega is running against four other declared candidates. The caucus will not endorse anyone until our screening process is completed, but as we start gearing up for these interviews, equally considering each candidate that responds to our invitation to screen, it's interesting to note how many of our previously endorsed elected officials are supporting Noriega by joining her at the kickoff party:

State Representative Dr. Alma A. Allen
Houston City Council Member Carol Alvarado
Honorable Chris Bell
State Representative Ellen Cohen
State Representative Garnet Coleman
State Representative Jessica Farrar
Houston City Council Member Adrian Garcia
State Representative Ana Hernandez
Houston City Council Member Sue Lovell
State Representative Borris Miles
Houston City Controller Annise Parker

I must say, Noriega's keeping good company.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Economic benefits from Same-Sex Weddings in New Jersey

I just came across this extremely interesting study by the Williams Institute. Operating out of the UCLA law school, this research group focuses on issues related to sexual orientation law and public policy. I find the conclusions from this study really amazing:

The direct {economic} effects alone of weddings by same-sex couples are substantial, with added spending of approximately $102.5 million for at least the first three years. That spending would likely create new jobs, higher wages, and higher business profits, as well as $7.2 million per year in additional tax revenue for the state. Opening up marriage to same-sex couples would mean opening up new growth opportunities for the state’s economy that no other state has yet claimed.
Inspired by the article, I did a little googling, and I found some pretty interesting articles that reinforce the institute's claims. Even Forbes Magazine knows gay marriage can help the economy.

Just for Fun, A Look at the Presidential Race

Hillary Clinton's campaign trip to Iowa this weekend has received a lot of media coverage. Like all of the presidential hopefuls, Clinton's position -- or lack thereof -- on Iraq has been the headline of most reports, but it was the senator's slightly unexpected pronouncement on another element of defense policy that caught my attention.

While reviewing a litany of various accomplishments from the Clinton 41 administration, Hillary Clinton stopped herself to note one policy development that she wished she could reverse: "don't ask don't tell."

Meanwhile, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who just this weekend launched his own presidential exploratory committee, seems intent to fully claim the hateful wing of his Republican party. Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney have all famously had a couple moments of tolerance and respect for GLBT folk, moments these Republicans may be regretting now that Huckabee's courting their party's socially conservative base with statements like this one from his website:

"While I respect people having a right to be different and even engage privately in conduct I find unbecoming or even abnormal, I oppose sexual orientation being afforded status as a protected class in the same manner as race, religion, or creed."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Special Election Preview

Last Saturday, during the annual caucus retreat for strategic planning, two upcoming election campaigns were focused on: the special election to fill city council at-large position 3 (relinquished by the infamous Shelley Sekula-Gibbs) and district D’s city council seat, which will be vacated by the term limited Ada Edwards at the end of the year. I will do my best to keep up with developments in these priority races here on the caucus blog.

With the special election just around the corner, I set out to learn a little more about all the recently filed candidates. Being naturally inclined to nerdiness and news addiction, I expected to enjoy this research, but I had no idea! Since the date of the special election was finalized, an extremely colorful cast of contenders has emerged:

1. Melissa Noriega : Given her broad, citywide name recognition, a number of analysts feel that Noriega is the front runner in this race. For those of you who don’t recognize her name, Melissa Noriega is State Representative Rick Noriega’s wife. While her husband, a national guardsman, completed a tour in Afghanistan, Melissa Noriega represented district 145 in his absence during the Texas Legislature’s 2005 regular session and the subsequent special session on school finance. At the completion of these sessions, she was voted freshman of the year by the house democrats. She was HISD’s director of special projects, and she has a long history of civic involvement.

2. Roy Morales: Morales is not a newcomer to city politics, having run against City Councilmen Peter Brown in 2005. He is a retired Lt. Col, who touts the support of conservative coalitions, business associations, police organizations, and veterans. Morales’ campaign website is not yet up and running, but judging from his previous run for council , we can assume he will be one of this race’s most conservative candidates.

3. Andy Neil: Neil is the chair of the Houston Downtown Alliance’s Emerging Leaders Community Outreach Committee. On his website, Neil identifies the three Houston problems that trouble him most: burgeoning homelessness, HISD dropout rates, and violent crime. Neil doesn't have much of a history in Houston politics, and I couldn't dig up that much about him online. I've heard that Neil's been sending out some interesting e-mail though.

4. Noel Freeman: Freeman is the only openly gay candidate in the race. He is president of the Houston Log Cabin Republicans. In 2004 he worked for Congressman John Culberson, who, that same year,
co-sponsored the federal marriage amendment. He also works for Service Corporation International, North America’s largest provider of funeral and crematory services. Noel doesn’t outline any specific initiatives on his website, but -- I'm sure you'll agree -- he’s definitely a unique and provocative candidate.

5. David Goldberg: Goldberg is a senior at Bellaire High School. He is the only candidate with a Facebook profile , and he has lots of friends there too. Compared to the other candidates, Goldberg’s campaign website is considerably more developed. Goldberg says he's running to improve homeland security, fight crime, and improve the city's parks. David Goldberg is former District C councilman Mark Goldberg's nephew. Mark Goldberg represented Montrose until he was term limited out of office in 2005. In 2001 Mark Goldberg pulled a Martha when he abstained from voting on the Mayor Brown's non-discrimination ordinance for city employees. The ordinance passed even without Mark Goldberg's vote. He was also listed as a favored candidate of the Conservative Republicans of Harris County in 2003. Who knows if David Goldberg shares his uncle's right-wing loyalties... I’ll try to track down his student council voting record.

A former state rep, a gay Culberson staffer, a young businessman with an apparent penchant for Playboy, a perennial, conservative candidate, and a web-savvy high school senior – I must say, it’s a very interesting group, and I’m really looking forward to the campaign. It promises to be amusing.

In all seriousness though, winning this seat is one of the caucus’s top priorities for 2007. Of course, each of these candidates will be invited to screen with the caucus, and caucus members will vote to endorse a candidate in March.
Shelley Sekula-Gibbs was certainly not a friend to the GLBT community, and we should work to elect a more progressive, pro-equality candidate to the council. The caucus was very successful in 2006, electing Ellen Cohen and defending Representative Hubert Vo. Let’s reassert our influence in this consequential, high profile council race.