Incumbent Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriguez has defeated challenger Ramiro Fonseca by just 24 votes in unofficial results.
Rodriguez received 50.25 percent of the vote to Fonseca’s 49.75 percent. (2,401 votes to 2,377 votes), according to the the Harris County Clerk’s Office.
Texas law allows recounts in some cases, according to The Texas Tribune:
A recount may be requested if the difference between the winner and second-highest vote-getter is less than 10% of the votes the winning candidate received.
Rodriguez beat Fonseca by 24 votes and Rodriguez received 2,401 votes, or one percent of Rodriguez's vote total.
A message on Fonseca’s cell phone said his mailbox was full and could not receive anymore messages.
The Tribune also reports that a recount could be expensive:
“The requester must leave a deposit, and laws enacted in 2009 changed how that's calculated. The amount of the deposit is based on the number of precincts involved in the election. For each precinct that used regular paper ballots, the requester must pay $60 plus an additional $100 for each precinct in which electronic voting systems were used. If after the recount there is no reversal, the candidate must pay for its cost. If the outcome changes and a new winner is declared, the deposit is returned.”
Rodriguez distributed a controversial campaign brochure to his constituents last week that many in Houston called “homophobic.” That could be one factor making the race so tight.
Meanwhile, Houston school board President Paula Harris was besting challenger Davetta Daniels by 66 percent to 34 percent (7,953 votes to 4,093 votes), with 100 percent of precincts in District VI reporting.
And in HISD District VIII, Trustee Juliet Stipeche also remained far ahead of challenger Dorothy Olmos with 100 percent of precincts reporting, 58 percent to 42 percent (3,069 votes to Olmos’ 2,568).
HISD is the nation’s seventh-largest school district. HISD has a $1.6-annual billion budget, about 203,000 students and roughly 1.1 million residents.
Turnout in today’s election was low. Just 11.5 percent of the registered voters in Rodriguez’s district went to the polls, the clerk’s office reported. About 15 percent of showed up in Harris’ district, and less than 12 percent voted in Stipeche’s district. Rain and thundershowers blanketed most of the Houston area for much of the day.
Rodriguez’s controversial brochure caused the Houston Chronicle to retract its prior endorsement of him.
“His records show he spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights… not kids,” the campaign brochure says about Fonseca, Rodriguez’s opponent in Tuesday’s election for the District III seat of Houston school system’s Board of Trustees.
The flier states Fonseca has received the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, “the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” (The underlined words are underlined in the flier.)
“A last-minute campaign flier for Rodriguez displays appalling homophobia,” the Chronicle’s editorial board wrote in its retraction on Sunday.
Fonseca, 54, who is head of Houston Community College’s Minority Male Initiative said he was offended by the brochure.
“I wouldn’t want anyone with that mentality representing our children,” Fonseca told Texas Watchdog on Sunday. “I want to protect all students from being discriminated against. I want to provide all students with the knowledge that they’re going to receive an education in a safe environment.”
That brochure also caused Stipeche to demand Rodriguez issue a public apology. Stipeche also requested that HISD Superintendent Terry Grier issue a statement that HISD won’t tolerate any form of discrimination.
Rodriguez, 60, told Texas Watchdog last weekend that the brochure isn’t anti-gay.
“It’s the truth,” Rodriguez said, and added that he is not anti-gay. “I am not bashing gay people.”
He is an eight-year veteran of HISD’s board. Rodriguez served as the body’s president in 2007
He owns a small business that offers services including notary work, personal and small-business taxes, and resume- and letter-writing for Latinos.
Harris, 47, has battled ethics controversies this year, primarily for voting to approve HISD contracts with a company run by a friend.
- Stories by Texas Watchdog in recent months revealed:
- That Harris voted four times to approve HISD contracts that included work for companies run her friends;
- That friends of hers have been paid more than $100,000 in no-bid work for everything from consulting to tutoring to dry cleaning school auditorium drapes;
- Possible violations of HISD’s “silent period,” which forbids board members from speaking with vendors in the days leading up to votes on contract approvals.
This will be Harris’ second term on the school board. She was first elected to the school board in November 2007.
A petroleum engineer by training, Harris is the director of community affairs for Schlumberger, a Houston-based oil-field services company.
Daniels, 59, also lost to Harris in 2007. And she failed to unseat incumbent Houston City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones in 2009.
Daniels retired in 2006 after serving for seven years as principal of Hartsfield Elementary School, near the Old Spanish Trail and the South Loop.
Stipeche is running for the HISD District VIII seat again, just a year after winning the same position by 48 votes in a special election.
Stipeche, 37, is a partner in the Houston law firm Nagorny & Stipeche. Olmos, 52, is an entrepreneur who has run two cosmetology salons during her career. Olmos also has been a theater arts and computer science teacher.
Rhonda Skillern-Jones will become the new trustee for HISD District II on Jan. 12, when she’s sworn in assume the seat being vacated by Trustee Carol Mims Galloway.
Galloway has held the seat for the last four years – and for two prior four-year terms in the 1990s. She announced during the summer that she would not seek reelection.
A full-time mom with five children whose ages range from 10 to 27, Skillern-Jones said she wants to work for quality instruction in every classroom.
“I want us to push kids to what they’re capable of – not just meeting the bar, but extending beyond that bar,” Skillern-Jones said. “I want our students to compete globally, not just locally, in the job market.”
UPDATE: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday: This story was updated to correct a mathematical error in the percentage of victory required to qualify for a recount.
Contact Mike Cronin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.
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