Category Archives: Politics

TexWatch 2014: Ballot Set

Now that the state of Texas has completed state runoff elections, residents of the Lone Star State now have a set ballot for this November.  Among the top races, State Senator Dan Patrick handily won the GOP’s nomination for Lieutenant Governor over current office-holder David Dewhurst, and will go on to face Democratic standard-bearer Leticia Van de Putte this fall.   State Senator Ken Paxton bested Dan Branch for the GOP nod in the Attorney General’s race, while Sid Miller grabbed the nod for Agriculture Commissioner over fellow State Rep Tommy Merritt.  The runoff election, with its low turnout on a rather damp weather day for much of the state, was a decisive victory for Tea Party forces.  David Alameel easily defeated LaRouche Democrat Kesha Rogers in the US Senate Primary, and now faces Republican incumbent Jon  Cornyn in November.

As Christy Hoppe of the Dallas Morning News observes, the Democratic and Republican ballot choices offer a stark contrast in more ways than just party ideology, as the GOP slate for 2014 turns out to be far more white and male than in previous years…

The Texas Republican Party has a girl problem.

A glance down the list of GOP nominees set after Tuesday’s runoffs makes it look as if U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth has signed up for shop class.

She is the lone woman among the 50 congressional, statewide and top judicial Republican candidates.

In a year when the marquee races for governor and lieutenant governor will feature Democrats Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, the Grand Old Party looks like it’s going stag.

Candidate Lisa Fritsch warned during the primaries of “the party of all these men and the same old recycled candidates.”

And Fritsch is a staunch conservative who was challenging Greg Abbott for the nomination for governor.

State party chairman Steve Munisteri said he’s noticed.

“I would tell you I’ve had discussions with elected officials and party leaders about this very issue,” he said Tuesday. “Frankly, it is a concern.”

Some would say that it’s fitting for the GOP slate to match it’s extreme preferences for the past in both optics and policy.  This overly white, overly male ticket may be just what the doctor ordered to encourage a new electorate in Texas.  Women and minorities show noticeable prominence on the Democratic side of the aisle, and no one should be surprised that they are the ones talking about the issues that matter to most Texans… jobs, healthcare for families and the educational future of the Lone Star State.

Of course with limited resources, whose to say if Davis, Van de Putte, Railroad Commissioner candidate Steve Brown or any of the other Democrats can break through the long-held GOP glass ceiling.  But one thing is for sure… with all Primaries in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to try.

 

Davis Van de Putte

(photo credit:  The Texas Tribune)

 

Julian Castro Tapped for White House Post

In the state of Texas, the options for Democratic politicians are somewhat limited, especially if said persons have aspirations towards a national-level office.  The overwhelming majority of Presidents or Vice Presidents are chosen from the pool of Governors, or Senators.  Democrats in the Lone Star State haven’t been able to break into statewide office in 20 years.  No access to statewide office typically means no ability to enter the national arena.

But there is one alternative route, be it far less traveled… being pushed into the national spotlight as a member of the President’s cabinet.  It appears now that this may be San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro’s way to break the Texas ceiling.  Here’s the scoop from the Washington Post

President Obama is preparing to nominate Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio as his new secretary of housing and urban development, elevating one of his party’s Hispanic rising stars as part of a cabinet shuffle that has possible implications for the 2016 presidential race, Democrats informed about the plans said on Saturday.

Mr. Castro, who has often been mentioned as a potential vice-presidential candidate for the Democrats, would take the place of Shaun Donovan, who is to become director of the Office of Management and Budget. That job is being vacated by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, whom Mr. Obama tapped to be secretary of health and human services and who seems headed to Senate confirmation.

A cabinet-level position definitely has its advantages, even over winning a statewide election.  For one thing, you get to leave electoral politics behind, and focus on affecting real policy changes.  A big reason why Hillary Clinton is viewed so positively today is because she hasn’t had to run for office since 2008.  A White House post will afford Mr. Castro the same opportunity.

There’s been no official announcement yet, but most predict it’s only a matter of weeks.

VA Still Paying Civil War Benefits!

It’s popular in contemporary American politics to question the effectiveness of government. Republicans often cast doubt that Federal agencies will be able to honor their commitments. For example, that reasoning is a popular theme for many state Governors refusing to comply with the ACA Healthcare expansion.

But a shocker of an article in the Wall Street Journal serves as a reminder that the US works hard to keep it’s word. Amazing as it sounds, the VA is still paying out Civil War benefits to a living American…

WILKESBORO, N.C.—Each month, Irene Triplett collects $73.13 from the Department of Veterans Affairs, a pension payment for her father’s military service—in the Civil War.

More than 3 million men fought and 530,000 men died in the conflict between North and South. Pvt. Mose Triplett joined the rebels, deserted on the road to Gettysburg, defected to the Union and married so late in life to a woman so young that their daughter Irene is today 84 years old—and the last child of any Civil War veteran still on the VA benefits rolls.

Ms. Triplett’s pension, small as it is, stands as a reminder that war’s bills don’t stop coming when the guns fall silent. The VA is still paying benefits to 16 widows and children of veterans from the 1898 Spanish-American War.

The last U.S. World War I veteran died in 2011. But 4,038 widows, sons and daughters get monthly VA pension or other payments. The government’s annual tab for surviving family from those long-ago wars comes to $16.5 million.

Spouses, parents and children of deceased veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan received $6.7 billion in the 2013 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Payments are based on financial need, any disabilities, and whether the veteran’s death was tied to military service.

Two things come to mind from this… War is much more expensive than people realize, and the US honors its commitments.  It’s quite mind-boggling to think that we still have living connections to the Civil War, but Ms. Triplett serves as proof.  Her situation also begs to wonder how long we’ll be paying for the war in Iraq or current conflict in Afghanistan.

Triplett VA

Time to Kill Obamacare

Perhaps this isn’t the post title that one expects to see on a left-leaning blog, but just bear with me.

When suggesting that we  kill Obamacare, it is not suggesting that the law and new practices be actually killed, like some of the theories Conservative writer George Will has put forward.  He thinks the Affordable Care Act can be struck down arguing that it is unconstitutional, but this is simply inaccurate.  Though it’s true that the law originated in the Senate, and it definitely incorporates monetary elements, those do not describe the crux of the legislation.  The purpose of the ACA is not to raise revenue, but to facilitate the ability for more Americans to have health insurance.  Though taxes share many commonalities with penalties, they are fundamentally different.  A tax is something that is owed under any circumstance… everyone pays taxes simply because they are citizens.  But a penalty is only paid when someone doesn’t comply with an existing law.  Jim gets a traffic ticket for running a red light, but Suzy stops at the light.  Was Jim taxed because he operates a vehicle??  No… he was issued a fine.  Suzy complied with traffic laws, and because she did this, she was not fined.  If George Will or anyone else tries to assert this argument that the ACA can be struck down, politely remind them of the difference between taxes and penalties.  It’s constitutional… deal with it.

But even with the law being constitutional, here’s why we should kill Obamacare.  Poll after poll suggests that while Americans typically agree with provisions of the ACA, they still don’t like Obamacare.  If you’re someone that follows politics on a regular basis, then the conflict here is blatantly obvious… the Affordable Care Act is Obamacare… we’re talking about the same thing!!  Just remember that the majority of Americans could tell you much more about Real Housewives than they could about the Houses of Congress.  Even after 4 years of wrangling, there are some genuinely intelligent people that still have no clue how the health insurance market has changed.  But thanks to an effective messaging blitz by the GOP, they do know that they don’t “like” the word “Obamacare”.

Here’s the big secret folks… before the ACA was signed into law, we had a wide array of health insurance options.  Today, more than 6 months after its full implementation, we still have a wide array of health insurance options. Despite the many lies that are out there, Obamacare isn’t some scary big government program.  It’s just a law that looked at our country’s health insurance market, determined what works and what doesn’t, and set some ground rules so companies would offer better plans to more people.

Obamacare is all politics.  But the policy of the Affordable Care Act is what’s changing people’s lives.  That’s what the Left needs to be talking about.  Let people know that the ACA made insurance more affordable, easier to obtain and much easier to understand. Give voters examples of how health insurance can improve their lives and take away the fear of the uncertain.  Instead of trying to sell negative terminology, let’s discuss why the insurance market of today is better than when Obama took office.

Long after President Obama’s term ends, the only ones that will remember the term Obamacare will be those reading politics and history books. Democrats can’t win the messaging war on this one, but they can stand by their record of having helped over 8 million people find more affordable healthcare.  It’s time to evolve past the politics debate, and let people know about the real policy and its real results. 

 

More Evidence: Texas Doesn’t Vote

If you know one thing about Battleground Texas, you know that their organization is taking on a huge task… re-make the voting electorate of the Lone Star State.

And as Ross Ramsey from the Texas Tribune writes, they’ve still got a long way to go to be able to do it.

Senate District 3, the most populous in the state in 2012, had 843,567 people; the least populous, Senate District 28, had 778,341. But look at the differences between populations of voting-age citizens: Senate District 3 had 603,385, while Senate District 6, now represented by Garcia, had 372,420. Even with identical percentage turnouts, one district would have more votes than the other.

That is the basis for one argument against the current districts in Texas, but it doesn’t account for the biggest disparity. Texans in one district do not seem to have the same urge to vote as their counterparts in other areas. Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, won in District 25, where 64.6 percent of the voting-age population cast ballots. Hers was one of three districts where more than 60 percent of adult residents voted. Garcia’s district, in that 2012 election, had a 37.1 percent turnout — one of three Senate districts with less than 40 percent.

The turnout numbers were low not just because of the low voting-age population — the number who got off their sofas to cast ballots in those districts was also abysmal. Those numbers offer a peek into the design of the political maps drawn by Republican legislators: The districts that turn out the most voters tend to favor Republicans by a wide margin in statewide elections, while the lowest turnouts are typically in Democratic districts.

Similarly large disparities show up on congressional and House maps.

Nick Lampson, a Democrat who ran in the 14th Congressional District, received 24,583 more votes in 2012 than Democrat Marc Veasey, but they were in different districts. Veasey went to Congress. Lampson went home. This is even more dramatic: Veasey won the 33rd Congressional District seat with 85,114 votes. His colleague Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, received 194,043 — more than twice as many.

Ramsey tries to be diplomatic here, but to be even more specific, Texas DEMOCRATS don’t vote.  Congressman Veasey represents a heavily Democratic district, while Lampson competed in a district that leans GOP.

But Texas Democrats are definitely out there.  We know this because we’ve seen them before.  The 2008 Texas Primary garnered 2,868,454 Democrat voters to a mere 1,384,663 on the GOP side.  Great candidates, in combination with the right message can drive Democrats to the polls, even in the Lone Star State.  Hopefully Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte and others will find that formula for the 2014 election.

2008 Primaries

Texoblogosphere: week of April 28th

The Texas Progressive Alliance strongly favors net neutrality as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff notes another redistricting lawsuit, this one filed by people who think our Senate districts aren’t white enough.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos discovers Rick Perry and Greg Abbott were for the right of eminent domain before they were against it. Rick Perry and Greg Abbott want to play Cliven Bundy in Texas.

Horwitz at Texpatriate reports that a majority of Houston City Councilmembers support a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston reports on Greg Abbott calling for drug testing 4 year olds.

Greg Abbott tried to ride Cliven Bundy’s coattails in a land dispute with the feds at the Red River, but after Bundy “told us what he knew about the Negro”, the attorney general was forced to jump off. (Are those figures of speech insensitive to a man in a wheelchair?)

Neil at All People Have Value said most folks correctly realize that the poor are just trying to get by and do well in a tough world. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

DosCentavos tells us that more cities are thumbing their nose at SCOMM, and that El Prez/ICE is just about done with their deportation review–but it may not be what activists want to hear. Plus DC has a new font for the logo!

Texas Leftist has a new website!! Introducing the NEW texasleftist.com!!!

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme calls out Democrat John Whitmire for sounding like a soulless, heartless, Republican.

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

The Rivard Report documents the history of pay discrimination and legislation to outlaw it.

The Lunch Tray reports on new research concerning the effect of using food as a reward in classrooms.

The Bloggess writes about a threat letter her daughter’s school received, and the importance of talking about such things with our kids.

Juanita takes the Statesman to task for a misleading headline about the grand jury that is currently investigating Rick Perry.

The Texas Green Report considers whether Tesla will build its battery plant in Texas.

Ride On Metro celebrated Lights Out Houston.

Finally, the TPA congratulates Randy Bear for being named the City Skeptic of San Antonio.

DGA Has Little Faith in Wendy Davis

A central part of the Democratic Party fundraising apparatus, the Democratic Governors Association is a group devoted to the nation’s gubernatorial races.  They pour in millions of dollars each year to turn the highest state offices around the country blue.

But if you’re a Texan, don’t expect much from them to help Wendy Davis get to the Governors’ Mansion.  Apparently because Texas Democrats have gone so long without a major win, the big money group have little faith that she can pull an upset. Here’s the take from the Wall Street Journal

 

Despite the hype surrounding Texas Democrat Wendy Davis’ run for governor, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association didn’t include her state in a list of top targets in 2014.

Ms. Davis, a state senator, gained national acclaim for filibustering a bill last year that increased regulation of abortion clinics and banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Polls show Republican nominee  Greg Abbott with a double-digit lead in the state, which hasn’t elected a Democrat since 1994.

“We’re hopeful in Texas but we all understand that Democrats haven’t won Texas in a long time,” DGA Chairman and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin told reporters Tuesday at the Third Way think tank. He added,  “We hope this will be our year.”

Mr. Shumlin singled out Paul LePage in Maine, Rick Scott in Florida and Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania as the most vulnerable Republican incumbents. In the second tier are a trio of Midwestern governors  who also represent states won by President Barack ObamaScott Walker in Wisconsin, John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Snyder in Michigan.

 

It’s worth noting that Governor Shumlin’s assessment seems like an initial one, and as the 2014 season heats up, this could certainly change.  But if I were the Davis campaign, this should be a clarion call to help fund raise and further motivate Texas’ ‘sleeping giant’ Democratic base.  You never know… an email titled “Even Washington’s against us” may play better with Lone Star Independents than had she earned firm DGA support.  It seems like Davis has already figured this out.  From the San Antonio Express News, here’s the response from Davis campaign manager Karin Johanson…

 

“The uninformed opinions of a Washington, DC desk jockey who’s never stepped foot in Texas couldn’t be less relevant to what’s actually happening on the ground.

 

I couldn’t agree more.  This race isn’t going to be won because of something a Washington organization does anyway.  In Texas, the only Washington that Davis needs to care about is Washington-On-The-Brazos.  This state can only be won by re-making the Texas electorate, and getting people to come off from the sidelines to vote.  This is Davis’ most important goal, and they should keep their eyes on the prize.  In recent week’s she has done an excellent job of letting her independent spirit shine through, and that is what truly matters.