Category Archives: Houston Politics

Beto O’Rourke Jumps Into 2018 Senate Race. Can He Win??

If you’re a Texas Democrat, it’s easy to say “we’ve been here before.”

Remember when Bill White was going to roll Rick Perry in 2010?  How about when Wendy Davis was going to sail into the Governor’s Office and “transform Texas” in 2014?  A polished, politically savvy Democrat is once again deciding to take a stab at the “red firewall” of Texas, and this time that politician is Beto O’Rourke, Congressman from El Paso who is challenging Ted Cruz for the United States Senate.

As Abby Livingston of the Texas Tribune reminds us, the odds O’Rourke aren’t just long, but may seem astronomical…

No Texas Democrat has won a U.S. Senate seat in nearly thirty years or any statewide office since 1994. It is hard to find a political operative in Washington or back in Texas who would bet money – or professional credibility – on O’Rourke winning this race. 

But the El Paso Democrat is earnestly bullish that he will go to the Senate through a strategy of bringing retail politics to a state of 27 million people. 

He has no pollster and no consultants at this point, and said he has no interest in hiring operatives of that ilk. 

“Since 1988, when Lloyd Bentsen won re-election to the Senate, Democrats have spent close to a billion dollars on consultants and pollsters and experts and campaign wizards and have performed terribly,” he said.

So that’s where we are.  But eventually, the Lone Star State have to suspend disbelief and focus on where we are going.

Texas Democrats are caught in a chicken vs. egg scenario. If we don’t run strong candidates, we’ll never build the infrastructure needed to win a statewide office. If a good candidate is out there, we would rather see them run now than us continue to wait for the “right moment”.

A Ted Cruz victory isn’t as sure as we may think.  Many folks in his own party would like to see the Senator lose his seat, and he may soon be facing some primary challengers.  When it comes to his actual job of representing 27 million Texans, the esteemed Senator doesn’t have much of a record on which to run.  Heck, citizens are lucky just to see the person they’ve paid over 1 million dollars in salary host a town hall meeting where they can express their concerns.  If O’Rourke can improve on these two paltry statistics, he’s off to a good start.

But the Congressman from Texas’ 16th District has an impressive record and some policy goals that will grab the attention of many young voters. His vocal support for the legalization of marijuana has already proven positive among Millennials. His record in local government proves the ability to work across the aisle and actually earn results for the people of his district.

With such depressing results, it’s easy to write Texas off as a wasteland for Democrats. But the potential of this State to surprise should also not be underestimated. Thanks to Bernie Sanders, and (ironically) the election of Donald Trump, Texas Democrats are energized and ready for change in 2018.  If that same coalition were to unite, reignite and stay energized around a statewide Democratic candidate, it’s more than possible that they could win. Indeed, Mr. O’Rourke has a Herculean task ahead of him, but with an early start and unconventional campaign, he might just take Texas by storm.

 

 

 

Shareholders’ Meeting: ‘Women’s March’ Welcomes New President

Yesterday the National Mall in Washington, DC was the site of one of our nation’s most cherished and important traditions.

And today, the same sacred site hosted another important tradition. The Women’s March on Washington had larger than expected turnout, with some news sources reporting a crowd comparable to attendance on the actual Inauguration Day.  Whatever the final numbers, it is quite possibly the largest inauguration-related protest in American history.

Standing in solidarity with Washington were citizens across the country, with many sites beating expectations.  The Lone Star State was certainly no exception.  The Houston estimate of attendees was north of 22,000, and estimates for Austin are said to have crossed up to 50,000 attendees.

So those are the stats, and here is the why.  Sure some people showed up today because they still refuse to see Trump as a legitimate President.  It was an opportunity for them to let off some steam, and be around like-minded folks with similar complaints.

But for most, today’s march was about more than Donald J. Trump, or any one President.  It was a reaffirmation of the America that has had a place since Barack Obama was elected in 2008.  It was a reminder that one Electoral College result may have chosen a leader, but it didn’t erase the people of this nation.  It didn’t erase their values.  Of the 324 million citizens in the United States (235 million in the voting-age population), 130 million of them participated in the 2016 Election.  Of that sum, state lines and their apportioned Electors determined a winner which only 63 million of those people selected, while 66 million chose the other candidate.  So sure, what happened today across the country was a protest.

President Trump is still relatively new to governing, but he has lots of experience in business.  So instead of viewing today’s events as protests, perhaps another way to think about them is a shareholders’ meeting.  Like any major company, the citizens of the United States all have a stake in our country.  As President, Mr. Trump is the only elected official whom serves all of us… 324 million shareholders, 324 million bosses.  Like the inaugural celebrants of yesterday, we have a right to ‘welcome’ the new administration as well, and voice our interests and concerns.  Glad to see that the message is getting out.

Here are a few snaps from Women’s March Houston

 

 

Texoblogosphere: Week of December 12th

The Texas Progressive Alliance can remember a time when Republicans thought Russian meddling into our affairs was a bad thing as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff notes that businesses have calculated the cost of Dan Patrick’s bathroom bill, but wonders if they have calculated the cost of Dan Patrick.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos is grateful to a Houston Chronicle business reporter for exposing Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s rationale for his bathroom obsession. Practicing bigotry to mask fiscal and ethical failures. How we can expose this mal-practice?

Socratic Gadfly looks at Trump’s so-called “generals’ cabinet,” and suggests some additional generals.

The December 7th anniversary nobody in Southeast Texas wants to commemorate was shared by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is alarmed over Trump’s military cabinet choices. This is how a junta starts. He did promise regime change.

Neil at All People Have Value said Oakland warehouse fire victims used alienation to create rather than to attack. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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

The Great God Pan Is Dead contemplates fire codes and art spaces in the wake of the tragedy in Oakland.

Lone Star Ma calls for action to help the women and children released from family detention centers.

Naveena Sadasivam talks to retiring environmental lobbyist Tom “Smitty” Smith.

Juanita gets mad about the latest governmental intrusion into uteruses.

The Lunch Tray notes the likely demise of the pending Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR).

Better Texas Blog highlights how much Texas will lose if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

 

Houston Mayor Names New City Department Leaders

For all of the Federal Government’s turmoil and uncertainty with the impending Presidency of Donald Trump, Houstonians can be assured that municipal leaders have their act together.

As if Mayor Sylvester Turner’s deal with Uber this week wasn’t enough, the Chief Executive of Texas’ largest city had more big news to make this week.  Here it is directly from the city’s Press Release…

In a sweeping announcement, Mayor Sylvester Turner named four new department directors and a reappointment Thursday.  Pending City Council confirmation, Art Acevedo of Austin will assume the position of police chief and El Paso’s Samuel Pena will take over the fire department.

“Acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo and Acting Fire Chief Rodney West have performed exemplary in dealing with some challenges and we are indebted to them for their service,” said Mayor Turner.  “I had said all along that once we reached solution to our pension problems, I would move quickly to fill key positions.  This is the team that will carry us into 2017 and beyond.  We are going to build upon the successes of 2016 and be even more transformative, innovative and responsive.”

Acevedo has served as Austin’s police chief since 2007.  His 30 years of law enforcement experience began as a field patrol officer in East Los Angeles.  In Austin, he oversaw a department with more than 2,400 sworn officers and support personnel and a $370 million annual budget.  He joined the department at a time when relations with minorities were strained due to questionable police shootings.  He has been credited for a commitment to police legitimacy, accountability and community policing and engagement.  His accomplishments include creating a special investigative unit to criminally investigate officer involved shootings and a new disciplinary matrix.  Acevedo holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from the University of La Verne, is a graduate of the FBI’s National Executive Institute and speaks fluent Spanish.

Pena joined the El Paso Fire Department in 1995 and then rose through the ranks to the position of fire chief, which he has held since 2013.  He has previous experience as a fire fighter, paramedic, media spokesperson, advanced medical coordinator, Combined Search and Rescue Team member, Hazardous Materials & Special Rescue Task Force member and academy training chief. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas at El Paso.  He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force where he served for four years as an air control specialist. Like Acevedo, he is fluent in Spanish.

Along with the high profile appointments of Chief Designates Acevedo and Pena, Mayor Turner also appointed Judge Elaine Marshall to preside of the Municipal Court system, while Tom McCasland, currently serving as Interim Director of Houston’s Department of Housing and Community Development, will now ascend to the permanent post.  Municipal court Judge Phyllis Frye, the first openly transgender judge to ever serve in the state, was also reappointed to the city’s Municipal Court.

Once again surrounded by a diverse coalition of Council Members, Mayor Turner was all smiles in naming the “full house” of appointments.

Today’s news comes at the end of an unprecedented sweep of progress for the new Administration’s 1st year in office.  After the announcement of an historic pension reform plan last month, and a city budget that was passed unanimously by Council in the Spring, Mayor Sylvester Turner seems to be living by his mantra that Houston is “a can do city”.  If the game of politics is won with leadership by example, then Mayor Turner appears to be nothin’ but net.

Of course one final showdown is yet to come.  We’ll see what the State Legislature has to say about the pension deal next year.

Check out the Mayor’s Press Conference here.

 

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Center, Incoming Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.  

President Obama Urges Black Community to VOTE

In case you forgot Texas, today is Election Day.  Across the Lone Star State, voting is already happening like never before.  As of Thursday evening, over 3.7 million Texans had already voted.  This shatters previous records from 2012 when 3.1 million residents voted early, and there’s still one full day of early voting results to go!!

But even in this era of historic voter turnout, important questions remain, like who is turning out to vote at such high numbers?  According to the Washington Post, this turnout does not appear to be driven by the African-American community…

By most accounts, Hillary Clinton’s path to victory relies on substantial turnout among black and Latino voters. And while early voting numbers so far appear to favor the Democrats, reports in recent days have suggested that although Latino participation may be up, African American turnout may be lower than in 2012. How concerned should the Clinton camp be?

[…]

In 2012, African Americans overperformed in states such as North Carolina and Texas. But this year, black voting rates are trailing other groups relative to their size of the electorate, with some swings on the order of 5 to 10 percentage points.

Per the Texas Tribune, African-American Texans led the state in 2012, voting at a higher percentage of their total population than any other racial or ethnic group.  This is a very interesting fact given all of the negative stereotypes out there which suggest that the Black community is ‘uninformed’ or ‘uninterested’ in elections.  But so far in 2016, Black voters appear to be trailing other parts of the state in the early vote, and are significantly behind their landmark participation rates from 2012.

This lack of voter enthusiasm should be an alarm bell to Democrats.  How is it possible that a candidate as divisive as Donald Trump has not inspired huge turnout in all minority communities??

One prominent African-American is highly concerned, and that is President Obama.

This week on the Tom Joyner morning show, he had this to say, via Black America Web

If you really care about my presidency and what we’ve accomplished, you are going to go and vote. And if you don’t know where to vote, go to www.iwillvote.com .If you’ve already voted, but your mama hasn’t voted, your cousin hasn’t voted, your nephew hasn’t voted, I need you to call them and say that the President and Michelle personally asked you to vote. It’s not that hard. And I know it’s not that hard because we’ve done it before.

But if we let this thing slip and I’ve got a situation where my last two months in office are preparing for a transition to Donald Trump, whose staff people have said that their primary agenda is, to have him, in the first couple of weeks, sit in the Oval Office and reverse every single thing that we’ve done – all the work we’ve done to make sure people get overtime, all the work we’ve done to make sure women get paid the same as men for doing the same job, all the work we’ve done so that 20 million people get healthcare, all the work we’ve done to make sure we’re doing something about climate change, so that we don’t have a situation where the whole world is not scrambling to figure out where they’re going to live and where they get enough water and crops failing and bigger hurricanes – if I’ve got to look at that the last two months, because folks stayed home, even going on the Tom Joyner cruise won’t help me then. If I’m on the cruise, I might jump off.

So yes Black America, sadly the nation’s first Black President is not on the ballot.  It is a difficult fact to accept, but that should not be an excuse.  Donald Trump’s policies on education, banking, the economy and a myriad of other aspects of American life would decimate the black community.  He has promised time and again to pass on massive tax cuts to the wealthy, which will lead to divestment in minority communities.  If a President Trump were to actually scrap the Department of Education and end student financial aid to college, it would bring about the swift demise of universities across the country, with Historically Black Colleges and Universities among the first to close their doors.  Even if President Obama himself is not on the ballot, America needs to know that in 2016, Black Votes Matter.

Early Voting may be over for Texas, but there’s still a chance to vote this Election Day.  Don’t wait until it’s too late!!

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Texoblogosphere: Week of November 1st

The Texas Progressive Alliance asks if you have voted yet as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff compares current and older poll results to evaluate the argument that Texas Democrats should not get too giddy.

Socratic Gadfly calls Mark Miller, the Libertarian candidate for the Texas Railroad Commission, a dangerous alternative, and calls out any and all state-level Democratic fixtures endorsing him instead of Green Martina Salinas over Grady Yarbrough.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos learned that elections are rigged in a certain way. The rigging is called voter suppression and gerrymandering. Where the Real Rigging Takes Place.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why Texas Republicans hate women and children so much. Funerals for miscarriages? Giving tax cuts to corporations while stiffing health care for children.

Turnout in Harris County and across Texas and the country swelled as Americans chose to end the 2016 presidential election as early as humanly possible. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wrote about his personal experience voting early at one of Houston’s heaviest polling places.

Neil at All People Have Value said that if you see a gap, you should fill it in yourself. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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

Lone Star Ma wants to know what your voting plan is.

Grits for Breakfast despairs over the degraded state of Texas high criminal court elections.

The TSTA Blog calls on Dan Patrick to put his money where his mouth is on special education.

Mimi Marziani argues that Texas still has a long way to go to get it right on voter registration.

Paradise in Hell wonders how many more Republican judges will switch parties.

 

And Just for Fun…

Via 270 to Win, here’s the election prediction for 2016.  While I certainly see a Blue Texas for the future, I’m not sure that it will be happening next week.  Though I would be very happy to be wrong about that, and see Hillary win in a landslide!!

 

2016-prediction

 

Do you have an Election prediction?  If so, share yours in the comments.

Think SWING Texas– 2016??

If you’ve followed the blog, it’s been a frequent subject of discussion, and frankly, a sincere hope…

Will Texas ever become a Swing State?? 

 

Back when I first discussed the topic in 2012, here was the rationale:  With over half of the state’s population now concentrated in the 13 largest counties, the potential for Texas to be competitive is abundant.  But it remains a reliably Red State because of low voter turnout.  After the 2012 elections, these ideas seemed to be confirmed.

That’s the problem for Texas, but finding solutions has proven more challenging.  In 2013, Battleground Texas formed to with that very goal in mind.  After being written off by national Democratic organizations for over a generation, suddenly the state was abuzz with left-leaning political activity.  Of course we know that the end result wasn’t in BGTX’s favor, as neither Wendy Davis or Leticia Van de Putte were able to win their statewide races.  But even in losing the battle that year, BGTX played a huge role in an historic new high of voter registration, helped to connect and unite Democrats across the state, and gave us all something to fight for.

After laying a foundation, will 2016 finally be the year that sees this elusive house get built?  If the first week of Early Voting is any indication, the results appear promising for Democrats.  

How promising is still anyone’s guess.  But what we do know is this…

Voter Registration has reached another historic benchmark across the state, led by minority communities in urban counties. The state of over 27 million residents is now up to 15.1 million registered voters.

Early Voting is running a full 6 percentage points higher than in 2012, and nearly 800,000 more people at the polls.  More Texans have already voted than ever before, with most of the state’s 13 largest counties seeing one quarter or more of their voters at the polls. Exciting numbers, but it’s not yet clear whether this represents an actual increase in turnout (and a possible change in the makeup of the electorate), or simply a shift in behavior from voting on Election Day to voting early.  In any event, the answers will be revealed soon.

tx-counties-2016

The other X Factor in the 2016 race (besides the candidates themselves) is the interesting structure of campaigns.  While Hillary Clinton has certainly not made Texas a focal point of her election strategy, the state is not being totally ignored by Democrats.  Even miniscule investments can serve to motivate voters that may have otherwise stayed at home.  But oddly enough, the Trump campaign has also largely ignored the Lone Star State, instead opting for little organization and some social media activity.  As always, there is a strong network of Republican organization here, but it’s not from the top of the ticket.

So with such interesting conditions at play, could Texas voters yield an historic turn of events for Clinton?  The answer is ‘yes’, and even with a loss.  The last time a Democrat actually won the state was in 1976 thanks to President Jimmy Carter.  Since then, no Democrat has even garnered 44 percent of the vote statewide.  If polling is consistent with actual vote totals, Clinton should break this 40 year old glass ceiling with ease.

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If past is prologue, we’re far from celebrating an huge sea change in Texas politics.  But if anything, 2016 will serve to move Texas ever closer into that competitive column, and hopefully give Democrats some needed momentum into 2018.

So hold on to your blue boots, and shine ’em up for Election Night!

 

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