HD-140 is a wedge shaped district in north Houston including the neighborhoods of Aldine and Northside. Hispanic residents make up seventy three percent of the district, but historically low voter turnout among Hispanics compared to smaller blue-collar Anglo and African American populations in the district has blunted Hispanic influence on politics in the area.
Unfortunately, like many of the districts represented by Craddick Ds, District 140 is one with a lot of need. Per-capita income is around $10,400 (nearly half the state average) and roughly three-fifths of the district population over 25 never graduated high school. It's a district that benefits tremendously from forward-thinking policy in state government like the Children's Health Insurance Program, the Top Ten Percent Law, TEXAS Grants and low college tuition.
The Cost of Fealty to Tom Craddick
Kevin Bailey is not a great state representative. Recently in the news for taking a (potentially illegal) $50,000 contribution from a PAC whose largest donor is Tom Craddick, Bailey has a been a stalwart supporter of the embattled Republican speaker since 2003. It's not that Bailey doesn't have a progressive voting record; it's that when votes came up to deregulate tuition and send the cost of higher education skyrocketing, or to pass budgets that cut funding for a wide variety of social services, or to fully restore CHIP to its pre-2003 state, Bailey sided with Craddick over the needs of his constituents.
The Challenger - Armando Walle
It is my fundamental belief that the best legislators are those that live the spirit of their district, that understand the place of their district. My position on Craddick D's has always been, "the constituents in those districts can have their say as to who best represents their needs." More so than any other challenger this cycle, I think Armando Walle fits that bill.
Raised in the district by a single mom and the first person in his family to graduate high school, let alone college, Armando got his start in public life working as an intern through Senator Rodney Ellis' Texas Legislative Internship Program. For the past six years, he worked as an aide to Congressman Gene Green, who has represented the area as a state representative, state senator and congressman for nearly thirty years and is immensely popular in the district.
I've talked with Walle's supporters, and I hear a passion for their candidate I don't hear in even many incumbents' races. They swear to me that he's serious about helping kids who have to wait thirteen hours in an emergency room just to get medical treatment, or making sure seventeen year old juniors don't out of hand dismiss the chance of ever going to the University of Houston simply because they can't afford it (tuition has gone up 70% at UH since 2003, thanks to Speaker Tom Craddick), because he's a guy who was in a similar place himself once.
Armando Walle gets his district, and I'm not convinced that Rep. Bailey does.
Bailey's support is isolated to long time residents who have supported him since he was first elected, but even these voters will be in question due to Congressman Gene Green's strong support of Walle. The conventional wisdom is that low voter turnout (an anemic 1,300 voters in the 2006 Democratic primary) has been his strongest electoral asset as an office holder. Bailey's been counting on Craddick et al. for his financial support, receiving a $25,000 contribution from Texans for Lawsuit Reform in January in addition to the above mentioned Craddick money. But as Ron Wilson and Talmadge Heflin have both proven in Harris County, you can have all the money in the world and still lose for your ties to Tom Craddick.
Walle's been blockwalking since October of last year, and a strong, serious grassroots effort by his campaign to reach out to new voters and increase Hispanic turnout, combined with the gigantic turnout predicted for Harris County as the Obama and Hillary campaigns come rolling through Texas (up ninefold in the first day of early voting compared to 2006), means Kevin Bailey is in serious trouble.
On the web: Armando Walle for State Representative.