Photos by Blake Whitaker ELECTION FEVER!!!!!! You probably won't catch it.
Outside the East End's Settegast Park Community Center this morning, the situation was getting out of hand. Annise Parker and Gene Locke campaign workers were engaged in a shouting matching over one of the myriad issues that have caused bitter rifts between the mayoral candidates and their supporters. A Peter Brown campaigner looked ready to join the fray; a Roy Morales volunteer even glanced up from his Sudoku puzzle to see what the fuss was about.
We wanted to remain impartial, but Hair Balls was forced to become part of the story when one woman pulled out a box cutter, waving it menacingly. We fell back on our Special Forces training and disarmed her -- barely. It took all of our 200 pounds of lean muscle and extensive martial-arts skills to restrain her. The campaigner worker's strength, heightened by adrenaline, was some very physical proof of the incendiary turn this election has taken.
Of course, this is all true, as long as you consider weird daydreams to be fact. (It technically did happen in our brain as we were leaving the polling location.) In "reality," the scene outside the center included elementary school kids running around a playground; the lone campaigner, who was working for an HCC trustee candidate, seemed to be enjoying the weather.
We had just spoken to Precinct 9 election judge Gloria Moreno, who said things were going "a little slow." By 11:30 a.m., 30 people had voted. "It's what I expected, given the lackluster attention paid to the city election this year," Moreno said. At least the empty voting machine booths meant we were able to take pictures:
Over at the UH University Center -- a polling location for precincts 389 and 871 -- people had trouble actually getting to the site. An election judge who asked we identify her as "Ms. Anderson" told us of the few voters who had come out by 10:30 a.m., several had complained about the notoriously frustrating parking situation at UH. (You can park in the garage near Calhoun and Wheeler, vote and get out in time to avoid the minimum charge, but most area residents probably don't know that.)
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"If we had called ahead, they would have blocked an area off [for parking]," Anderson said. She added that she'd been an election judge at several different locations over the years, but hadn't anticipated this issue at UH.
(ATTEMPT TO SPICE UP THIS SNOOZER OF AN ELECTION: Could these "difficulties" have been a Parker campaign ploy? The precincts voting at UH are predominantly black. Brown and Locke have both bought the support of black ministers, but Parker didn't really enter that fight. So how do you negate the boys' advantage? If you're a crafty controller, you just prevent black people from voting at all!!! We're almost positive this is what's going on.)
Things were going a little better at the last location we visited, Hogg Middle School in the Heights. At 11:30 a.m., 131 voters had turned out. There was even a line when the polls opened at 7 a.m., Precinct 3 election judge Helen Tuch told us.
That was a pleasant surprise for her: "I thought hardly anybody would come."