Battleground Texas Holds Election Debrief in Houston

There’s no way around it.  This month’s election results were tough for Democrats across the country.  But given how much hype was heaped on this year’s races in Texas, and how much attention was generated by candidates like Wendy Davis, the typical drubbing had an especially difficult sting in the Lone Star State.  So many people registered, yet so few of them voted.  So many block walks and phone calls for such disappointing results.

It was this painful reality which set the mood for this week’s special meeting in Houston.  On a very cold evening, volunteers from Harris, Galveston, Brazoria, Montgomery and Fort Bend Counties gathered at a Union Hall southeast of downtown to find out what happened, and what lies ahead for Battleground Texas.

Attendees were greeted by BGTX Executive Director Jenn Brown and several top-level staff members from the organization.  Brown started the meeting with a sincere thank you to all for the hard work, and acknowledged that the results clearly didn’t go the way they intended.

Then there were presentations from team members Victoria Zyp and Ramsey Reid which discussed preliminary post-mortem data from the election.  They shared some of the figures which they considered to be successes from 2014.  Chief among them were the impressive volunteer base that BGTX was able to form, and the number of new voters that were registered.

“Of the new voters that were registered in Texas this cycle, 67 percent of them had never registered  before.  We had huge success in registering voters under the age of 24.”  said Campaigns Director Ramsey Reid.  During their presentations, we mostly learned about the organization’s bright spots.

BGTX post mortem2


Volunteers gather in Houston to hear from BGTX staff members



BGTX post mortem



BGTX Field Director Victoria Zyp shares post-election information.


But the tough work… figuring out what went wrong, was seemingly left to attendees to decipher.  To no surprise, they had a lot of input.

“The biggest issues originated from the top down, not at the volunteer level.  Why didn’t you all partner with the county parties and local organizations to see what works in Texas?” said one man from west Houston.

Another volunteer from Central Houston noticed inconsistencies with BGTX’s internal data.

“From the GOTV training, I was led to believe that we would be contacting more of the infrequent voters… that was supposed to be our ‘GOTV universe’.  So why is it when I look at the list, I see names of people who vote in every election, including my own, and even elected officials?  They are not infrequent voters.”  said the volunteer and Montrose resident.

To their credit, BGTX staff members were there, and they did listen. They reiterated that this was just the first step in a full post-mortem analysis, and that information from the debrief would be sent out to all in attendance.  They also sought suggestions for upcoming events in 2015 and how they could get involved.

The statewide debriefs are an important first step.  It was important that Jenn Brown and other senior leadership be in attendance to hear directly from Texans on how to proceed for into the next election cycle, because that is the only way this organization can truly improve.  Let’s sincerely hope that as the higher-ups are reaching out to their own group, they are also working to strengthen relationships with the Texas Democratic Party, county Parties and existing local groups.  As learned from this cycle, a coordinated effort is what is needed above all else.

Volunteers came to the debrief seeking answers, and although they didn’t get as many as they would have liked, they at least received a firm commitment that BGTX is ready to listen, willing to learn and able to move forward.  From the meeting, volunteers are still left with some questions, but should have much hope for the future of Battleground Texas.

Growing Support For Texas Medicaid Expansion?

Politicians tend to say a lot of things when on the campaign trail.  They make a barrage of promises to different audiences, trying to court voters at every turn.  The 2014 election was certainly no exception for Greg Abbott, who handily defeated Democratic challenger Wendy Davis just weeks ago.

But sometimes what is not said is just as important in politics.  After a resounding victory, Governor-Elect Abbott, who vowed on the campaign trail to never seek any form of healthcare expansion under the Affordable Care Act, has remained surprisingly silent on the issue as he prepares to lead the state.

Meanwhile the chorus of state leaders supporting a Texas solution to healthcare expansion continues to grow louder by the day, even among persons Abbott has hand-picked for the state’s top administrative offices.  Here’s more from the Texas Tribune

Gov.-elect Greg Abbott’s pick for Texas secretary of state voted for a local resolution last year endorsing the expansion of Medicaid — a central tenet of the federal Affordable Care Act that Abbott fiercely campaigned against.

In a phone interview, Carlos Cascos, a Republican judge from Cameron County, said that as secretary of state he was “not just going to go along to get along” with Abbott, and that on health care issues there would be “policy disagreement” among Republican officials.

Last year, when Cameron County officials endorsed expanding Medicaid, Cascos told NPR, “It’s contrary to what the leadership in Austin is recommending, but we thought it was important enough to take a position.”

On Thursday, Cascos qualified his support for extending Medicaid coverage to more than 1 million low-income Texans, saying, “At the time, I was looking at it from a local perspective in terms of the uninsured we have here in the [Rio Grande] Valley.”

Abbott’s very selection of Cascos seems to suggest that the opinions of RGV Republican leaders are important.  The Secretary Of State Designate’s opinons come on the heals support from another influential group, this time appointed by Governor Rick Perry.  Again, more from the Trib

A board of medical professionals appointed by Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that the state should provide health coverage to low-income Texans under the Affordable Care Act — a move the Republican-led Legislature has opposed.

The 15-member Texas Institute of Health Care Quality and Efficiency recommended that the state’s health commissioner be authorized to negotiate a Texas-specific agreement with the federal government to expand health coverage to the poor, “using available federal funds.”

“We’re trying to look at actions whereby more Texans can be covered,” said board chairman Steve Berkowitz, the president and founder 0f SMB Health Consulting. “We’re trying to take the politics out of it.”

As if advocates for Texas citizens themselves were not enough, don’t forget that Texas hospitals, tired of losing billions of dollars to uncompensated care costs, are also facing some tough choices if the state continues to ignore the situation.  This is exactly why the Texas Hospital Association also renewed its call for the legislature to find a Texas solution that helps them, and those seeking medical care.

For Abbott to remain silent when so many groups are speaking out is telling.  Is he listening to the bi-partisan coalition to help Texas families?  Will he change his position on the issue and allow our Texas tax dollars to come back where they belong?  Even if Abbott were to come out in support, what are the chances of finding support withing the legislature, or of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick even bringing such an issue to the Senate floor?

The answers to all will be revealed soon, but for now, the best thing Texans can do is keep talking.  At least then, there is a small chance that our voices will be heard as well.


(photo credit:  Travel Trip Journey)

New Campaign For Marriage Equality Targets Texas

Over the last couple of years, marriage equality has spread across the United States like wildfire.  At present, it is the law of the land in 33 states and the District of Columbia.  A clear majority of United States citizens now live in states where same-sex couples can legally marry.

But not Texas.  Not yet.

With a sweeping record of victories under their belt, one national equality organization has now set its sights on Texas to try and advance the cause.  Here’s more about the Texas for Marriage campaign from Lone Star Q

The national group Freedom to Marry plans to spend $200,000 on the campaign launched Tuesday, in advance of oral arguments before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January in a federal lawsuit challenging Texas’ same-sex marriage bans.

The campaign will be led by Ward Curtin, three-time deputy campaign manager to Houston Mayor Annise Parker, and Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to President George W. Bush.

“Nearly every state and federal court from last year on, more than 50 – with judges appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents and governors – has ruled in favor of the freedom to marry and moving the country forward,” Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson said. “Texas families should not be left behind. Government has no business interfering in important freedoms like who Texans marry, and no business putting obstacles in the path of families and employers trying to do the right thing. Our new campaign will show that Texans are ready for the freedom to marry, and so is America.”

In addition to a website unveiled Tuesday,, the campaign will feature statewide TV ads, townhall meetings and a Republican-led effort by young conservatives.

“Gay marriage was barely a blip on the radar this past election cycle in Texas, as it was in the rest of the country,” McKinnon said. “That’s because discrimination doesn’t sell like it used to — and because Texans from all walks of life, from big cities to small towns, believe strongly in freedom and family. Supporting gay couples marrying is squarely in line with these Texas values.”

The group’s coordinated approach combines the personal stories of LGBT Texans with a strong case for why marriage equality makes sense for state business leaders.  All valid reasons that will hopefully strengthen the state’s growing coalition in support of equal marriage rights.

This is a strong start, but as Texas for Marriage moves forward, let’s hope that they do not leave out other important voices in this argument… the religious community itself.  Perhaps it is likely that the group wants to maintain a direct posture that steers clear of religion in all of its forms.  A large part of existing arguments for marriage equality stem from the view that it is strictly a secular institution from the government’s standpoint, and therefore leaves religious entities to make their own decisions about how to view same-sex marriage.

But it’s still important to recognize that many religious entities do support marriage equality, and as such, those voices continue to be noticeably absent from the conversation in Texas.   Dynamic congregations across the state are now supporting equality, some at similar rates to society at large.  Even if the push for marriage is mostly about government recognition, the religious community can still be of great use to change hearts, minds and overall public opinion.

At any rate, let’s hope the new push merits some results.

Texoblogosphere: Week of November 17th

The Texas Progressive Alliance continues to look forward as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at some pro- and anti-equality bills that were pre-filed for the 2015 Legislature.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and for Daily Kos notes that although the Republican voter suppression efforts had its intended effect of keeping so many of us away from the polls, Texas Democrats share some of the blame for voter apathy. Voter Suppression did the Trick in Texas.

Evidence from around the country emerged in the wake of the 2014 election drubbing that change is going to have to come to the Democratic Party from both within and without. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs understood early on that if they cannot regain relevance in midterm elections, then we are all destined to ride the partisan see-saw every two years… and let gridlock reign.

Social Media has been great at blowing up narratives generated from republican think tanks and published in mainstream newspapers, magazines and TV Shows. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to help: No, the new set of Republicans in Congress aren’t less crazy and more pragmatic than Todd Akin or Sharron Angle.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. One more time on some post-election commentary, Williamson Democrats, Battleground Texas, And The Way Forward.

Neil at All People Have Value said that there is not very much to say. APHV is part of

Texas Leftist offers an insider’s view of Battleground Texas… What went right, what went wrong and how the organization moves forward from here. Square one?? Get to know Texas, and don’t mess with what already works.

Easter Lemming, in one of his rare and even popular posts outside of Facebook, covers a Republican blogger who shows how the Republican victories of 2014 set them up for defeat in 2016. There is a Democratic state firewall that would be almost impossible for Republicans to breach to get the presidency and the only question is how many seats will the GOP lose in the Senate and House. Easter Lemming now mainly posts on his Easter Lemming News Facebook page.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Concerned Citizens scouts out the San Antonio Mayoral race.

Lone Star Q has a surprising report about Westboro Baptist’s involvement in the recent Houston anti-gay protests.

Nonsequiteuse examines the cult of Mommy and the cult of the fetus.

Unfair Park wants to know why Ted Cruz wants to slow down their Netxflix streaming.

Texas Watch is hiring.

Juanita relates the worst Veterans’ Day story ever.

Scott Braddock documents a teabagger slap fight in North Texas.

Fred Lewis sums up the evidence that wasn’t presented at the San Jacinto waste pits trial.


(Photo of the Old Red Museum, the former Dallas County Courthouse in Dallas, Texas.  Credit:  Masonry Systems)

Actress Diane Guerrero Tells Her Story: “My Parents Were Deported”

To most Americans, Immigration reform is just a debate topic.  We hear about it all the time, from the comforts of our home television set, computer or tablet.  On a days we’re feeling bold, we may trade barbs back and forth between friends.  It’s just another issue to enliven the conversation… talk a little bit about tax rates, street repair, the undocumented.

But to those that are directly affected, immigration reform is all too real.  Families across this country are living in a constant state of fear that life as they know it could change drastically at the next door knock.

Over the weekend, one American actress decided to share her story of those fears realized with the whole world.  Here is an excerpt from Diane Guerrero’s powerful piece in the Los Angeles Times

In “Orange Is the New Black,” I play Maritza Ramos, a tough Latina from the ‘hood. In “Jane the Virgin,” I play Lina, Jane’s best friend and a funny know-it-all who is quick to offer advice.

I love both parts, but they’re fiction. My real story is this: I am the citizen daughter of immigrant parents who were deported when I was 14. My older brother was also deported.

My parents came here from Colombia during a time of great instability there. Escaping a dire economic situation at home, they moved to New Jersey, where they had friends and family, seeking a better life, and then moved to Boston after I was born.

Throughout my childhood I watched my parents try to become legal but to no avail. They lost their money to people they believed to be attorneys, but who ultimately never helped. That meant my childhood was haunted by the fear that they would be deported. If I didn’t see anyone when I walked in the door after school, I panicked.

And then one day, my fears were realized. I came home from school to an empty house. Lights were on and dinner had been started, but my family wasn’t there. Neighbors broke the news that my parents had been taken away by immigration officers, and just like that, my stable family life was over.

Not a single person at any level of government took any note of me. No one checked to see if I had a place to live or food to eat, and at 14, I found myself basically on my own.

As the only U.S. Citizen in her immediate family, Ms. Guerrero suddenly found herself an orphan.  As she shares in this heartbreaking interview on CNN’s New Day, her parents and brother are still in Colombia, and she had to depend on friends and neighbors through high school and college just to make it.

Guerrero also spoke to why her family came to the United States in the first place. They were fleeing an unstable situation in their home country, and tried to do things the legal way first…

What people don’t realize… it is so difficult for people to come here, get their papers and become documented.  My parents tried forever, and the system didn’t offer relief for them.

Under current law and an immense backlog, legal immigration to the United States can take as long as 24 years to be fully realized… literally an entire generation of one’s life.  For all of the people arguing for folks to “go to the back of the line”, they’re not talking waiting for a new toy at CostCo.  Would any American citizen be willing to wait that long to do… well, anything??

As the country waits to hear President Obama’s plans for sweeping Executive Actions that would set to prioritize how deportations are to be handled, let’s get yet another thing clear. Comprehensive Immigration Reform or not, we MUST have a plan for prioritization.  We all know that it is impossible to deport every single undocumented person at once.  We also know that the vast majority of these persons pose no threat to the communities that they are already living and working in.  The country’s law enforcement agencies continue to waste valuable time and money pursuing people that are doing nothing wrong, while the real criminals are left to do as they please.

For the sake our citizens and their loved ones, it’s time to act on these misguided deportation policies.  The health and safety of real families shouldn’t be up for debate.


Pride Houston Board Vs… Juneteenth??

It’s been a tough couple of months for Houston’s LGBT community.  What should be a hopeful and inspiring celebration of Pride has once again been mired in drama, thanks to secret meetings and surprise decisions from the Pride Houston Board.  Here’s the latest saga, from ABC 13….

The date of Houston’s 2015 Pride Parade has changed to June 27 after an uproar from some GLBT activists.

“You do not speak for me — ever,” said one woman at a meeting of about 100 at the Montrose Center Thursday night.

Her comments were directed at Pride Houston’s Board, which, in an about-face, moved the Pride Houston festivities in an effort to avoid conflict with Juneteenth celebrations. At the meeting, the board members admitted they did not fully understand the significance of Juneteenth.

“If they didn’t understand it then, they do now,” said community activist Jolanda Jones.


The same board recently received harsh criticism about moving Houston’s Pride Parade downtown from its home in Montrose. President Frankie Quijano said this date debacle is an innocent oversight and they are now moving forward.

“We decided to change it to June 27 so it wouldn’t conflict and we could respect the African American community,” said Quijano.

Texas Leftist attended the meeting this week, and to say that community frustrations were high is a gross understatement.  People were downright angry and tired of being ignored by Pride Houston.  The conflict with Juneteenth marks the second time that the board has made a major decision without input from outside organizations or their leaders.

Reasons given for moving the date?  The Pride Board claimed that the decision was originally made to attract more visitors to the Houston festivities, and not conflict with other major city pride celebrations that are held in the final weekend of June.  They then proceeded to claim total ignorance about the city’s Juneteenth traditions.

As one of Houston’s most prominent festival organizations, it seems nearly impossible for Pride Houston to be totally unaware of Juneteenth.  But even if this were the case, why would that be proper justification for them to sever their own traditions of holding Pride on the last weekend of June to commemorate the original Stonewall Riots?

Furthermore, communications sent by Pride Board member Jason Gallegos seemed to suggest little concern or respect for events being held in the African-American community.  Here’s an excerpt from a conversation obtained by Texas Leftist where a fellow community member tried to warn Gallegos that this would be a problem…

Jason Gallegos

At the community meeting, Gallegos apologized for his insensitive comments.  To their credit, the Pride Board pledged to form a Cultural diversity committee so they could become better informed and integrated within Houston’s diverse community.  At this point, all can agree that better integration is needed on all fronts.

But the verbal apologies and quickly-worded promises are not enough.  These actions have caused a severe strain among the GLBT and African-American communities… groups that were mostly united in last year’s fight for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.  The burden of proof now rests on Pride Houston’s Board to be a better and more sensitive community member.  As Edward Pollard, president of the Houston Black American Democrats said, “We shouldn’t have to go through all of these hurdles just to do what’s right.”

Let’s hope that Pride Houston will learn from this experience.  As the leader of another organization stated at the meeting, they can’t afford any more high-profile mistakes.

Questions From a Houston Conservative

This was a real occurrence from the week, but it seemed worthy of being published.  Basically this person and I got into a rather heated discussion on Twitter, and he demanded that I answer this group of questions.  It’s quite apparent that he is something of a hard-line Conservative, but even still I gave the questions my best attempt.

The Twitter battle originated from the City of Houston’s decision to invest in cycling infrastructure through a variety of sources, so that is what these first few questions address.


  1. How do you justify spending money towards bike trails before repairing our city streets, many of which are in horrible shape?

At no point have I ever suggested such a thing.  I simply stated that choosing between cycling and automobile transportation in a growing, changing city like Houston is a false choice.  The city is already spending money to re-build our road infrastructure through dedicated funds.  It would be a bad business decision for them to NOT consider the growing cycling community as they rebuild these roads.  A great example is the bike lane being constructed on Lamar street in downtown.  This lane is needed because of popular trails that already exist on the eastern and western sides of the CBD.  Currently, cyclists have no clear path to cut across downtown, but this plan will fix that issue.  Houston already has lots of street collectors and partial bike trails, so it makes sense to connect them into existing but currently disjunct network.

Just so we’re clear, the city is not spending money dedicated for roads on bike paths.  Much of the off-street bike network (trails) is being funded through grants, a $166 million dollar voter-approved bond measure, and a massive public/private partnership that is already underway to reconstruct the bayou network.  This serves as both an enhancement of the community parks system, and much needed repairs for our primary flood control plan.


  1. Why do you not support a plan that first secures funding and contracts to fix the roads, and then use any surplus to add bike lanes and trails?

Because such a plan represents a fallacy which suggests that Houston builds roads are exclusively for automobile usage.  The only roads which can claim such a distinction would be freeways and toll roads, whose construction has little to do with city funds in either building or maintenance.  City streets are meant to be used by all forms of transit, which include pedestrians, cyclists, persons with disabilities and animal-powered transit.  As such, it is the responsibility of our municipal government to consider all possible forms of transportation when building and maintaining public roads.


  1. How many people in Houston rely on vehicles versus how many rely on bike transportation?

It’s a good question… according to the American Community Survey from 2012, 0.4 percent of Houstonians commute to work by bicycle, which is roughly 40 to 50,000 residents.  As to whether they rely solely on cycling as their primary transportation option is tough to tell.  For most people living in the city proper, they have access to public transportation even if they don’t have a car.  The use of bikes on buses has grown significantly in the past few years according to METRO.


  1. On your blog post you claim that this group called ‘Battle Ground Texas’ is responsible for all the newly registered voters in Texas. How accurate is that and what proof do you have? I am pretty sure that is as far from truth as can be, and that there were numerous reasons and groups who had a hand in the increased voter registration.

Nowhere on my blog have I explicitly stated that BGTX is responsible for ALL newly registered voters in Texas.  But they did lead a significant voter registration effort, as did the Texas Organizing Project, Mi Familia Vota and several other groups.  As it stands, there are a record number of voters registered today in Texas, even if they didn’t end up voting.  2014 is also the first year in recent history that voter registration hasn’t decreased from the previous presidential year, and we topped a record 14 million registered voters. Population has grown every single year in Texas, so these groups must be the ones making the difference.


  1. In regards to raising the minimum wage, which mostly affects low-skill level jobs, jobs that are not meant to sustain an independent adult, much less a family, do you understand what will happen if the minimum wage is raised?

You say this in ideal, but not in fact.  The reality is that there are more adults working for minimum wage than there are teenagers… far more.  The average age of a minimum wage worker is 35, and 88 percent of all minimum wage workers are over the age of 20.  Nearly 1/3rd of all minimum wage workers are the primary income earners for their family.  But since they don’t make enough in their wages to feed that entire family on the minimum wage, the cost burden is shared by tax payers through SNAP (food stamps), WIC, housing assistance and other government programs.

      a. If I am a business owner, such as fast food restaurant owner, why would I not just automate as many of those jobs that I can?

I suppose you could, but as many grocers have discovered, it leaves a negative impression from a customer service standpoint, and the business owner risks losing business from such a move.  Most consumers expect to interact with employees when they pay for a service or business.

     b. If I am a business owner, why would I not make as many of those employees as part-time employees, thus having no obligation to provide insurance?

That’s already happening with wages at current levels as is.  Business owners are hiring employees under the guise of a job that will become full-time, and then working them as little as 5 or 6 hours per week.  I’m sure if the minimum wage is increased, it will still happen.  But there are plenty of good business owners that wouldn’t be affected at all because they already pay much higher than the minimum wage, and give their employees access to enough hours where they can make ends meet.  Ever been to Buc-ee’s??  They’re business is booming across Texas right now, and a big part of that success is the fact that they have great employees.  Starting pay for Buc-ee’s?  $11.00/hr.


  1. Instead of raising the minimum wage and raising someone earning floor, why not advocate for more free education so we can equip people with skills to raise their earning ceiling?

We need both!!  Education is essential for people of all ages that want to move to the next step in their careers, and it’s more critical today than ever.  People also need to understand that industry has experienced seismic shifts since the start of the 21st century, many of which were simply revealed by the 2008-2009 Great Recession, but were already coming.  As you rightly mentioned, many business owners now have access to digital technology that they have never had before.  So many gadgets and knick-knacks that we used to use in common life have now either been replaced by an app on our phones, or we just have less need for them.  And of course on the production side, factories are completely different than they were 25 years ago.  A part that was once manufactured by an assembly line of 50 workers is now done at the push of a button by 3-D printers.

As a community, it’s important for us to recognize that there are simply fewer “entry-level jobs” that are going to pay the types of wages that they used to.  The only way to give our workers a chance at higher earning potential is through increased access to education.  Which is precisely why it makes no sense that federal and state leaders have cut our education budgets so severely in the past few years.  As tax payers, we all should place more value in education and training, because the success of our society depends on the success of our educated workforce.


  1. Do you understand that less jobs, and less full-time jobs, that the tax base shrinks, and thus all your programs that fund things like bike trails dries up?

I suppose this is still related to the minimum wage question?  If so, I understand that by raising the minimum wage, you actually create jobs.  When workers have more money, they spend more at area businesses, which creates higher sales and demand for everyone.  That’s why raising the minimum wage works.  All of this said, I do believe in common sense policies.  If Texas’ current minimum wage is $7.25/hr, it would be foolish to raise wages to $15/hr overnight.  But an incremental increase is needed as soon as possible.


  1. Lastly, please explain to me how Texas is a swing state when the Republicans won just about every state seat up for grabs, and increased their margin of victory over the Democrats?

Republicans won the 2014 elections with 34 percent of the state’s voting-age population showing up at the polls.  66 percent of voters (an overwhelming majority) didn’t make their voices heard at all, so we honestly don’t know how they would have voted.  Though it’s true that Republican turnout increased above 2010 numbers, total voter turnout was significantly lower than 2010.  Republicans won in part because overall voter participation was at an historic low for the state of Texas, which in my opinion isn’t exactly something to be proud of.  Until we have an election where a majority of the actual voting-age population shows up to vote, it’s going to be tough to say exactly what Texans believe one way or the other.  All we know from 2014 is that among the Texans that cared enough to vote, a clear majority of them were Conservative Republicans.  But that does not mean that a clear majority of Texas shares the same views.


So there you have it… some basic answers by a Texas Liberal.  Tough to find us sometimes, but we’re out there.