Category Archives: Texas Politics

TexWatch 2014: Vote in the Democratic Primaries!

First things first, an explanation…

Many readers may be wondering why Texas Leftist has been so mum on the 2014 Primary circuit. It’s due to a combination of factors… Some personal, and some professional. I wanted to sit back and see how the Primaries play out before endorsing particular candidates. I’m still learning about the statewide political landscape, so rather than dive in head-first like in the municipal elections, this is the decision I made for the primary cycle. Once the primary results come in, Texas Leftist will assume a more ‘active’ role, including sending candidate questionnaires to those that make it to the general election.

This decision was certainly NOT because I consider the primaries to be less important… they are absolutely crucial. For the Democrats, it’s even more important that you vote in this Primary election so that statewide political forces (Battleground Texas, etc.) can have a gauge of how their work is going. Remember that in general, a vote to support Democratic candidates is a vote to expand healthcare for our states poorest citizens, to actually invest in the education of our next generation, and to strive for equality of all Texans. These principles are likely to be part of Democratic Party platform.

There a few races however, that I will go ahead and endorse outright… Texas Leftist supports Wendy Davis for Governor, Leticia Van de Putte for Lieutenant Governor and Kim Ogg for Harris County District Attorney. Recent comments made by Lloyd Oliver, Ogg’s opponent, denying the existence of domestic violence against women are inaccurate and misleading. As a result, I have to leave the fence on that race.

As much as it pains me to do so, there is also one anti-endorsement that must be made. Please DO NOT VOTE FOR KESHA ROGERS. She is a “LaRouche Democrat” that openly advocates for the impeachment of President Obama. Rogers is a danger to the entire Texas Democratic party. If any friends ask you about Rogers, tell them to not to voter for her under any circumstances.

Though not covered at Texas Leftist, I highly recommend the following sources to help guide your voting choices for the Democratic Primary…

The Off the Kuff 2014 Elections Page is information central for Houston-area politics. He has a fantastic breakdown of local races, and a few other contests from around the state.

Another trusted resource is the Texpatriate Blog. They have conducted several candidate interviews for the Primaries, kept up with all of the latest developments, and offer insightful analysis of each race and it’s broader implications.

Early Voting is underway now in counties across the Houston area. Please go VOTE!!

TPA’s 2013 Texan of the Year

Texas Progressive Alliance Names Senator Wendy Davis 2013 Its ‘Texan Of The Year’

AUSTIN—The Texas Progressive Alliance, the nation’s largest state-based association of online and netroots activists, today named State Senator Wendy Davis recipient of its Texan of the Year Award for 2013.

“Senator Davis’ actions this year made her a clear choice. Our vote was unanimous,” said Vince Leibowitz, Chair of the Alliance. Leibowitz said Senator Davis’ June filibuster of Senate Bill 5 on behalf of Texas women and the preservation of reproductive rights was a courageous action that served to galvanize and energize Texas Democrats. “Senator Davis’ courage to stand up and block this outrageous legislation helped raise awareness in Texas of the assault on a woman’s right to choose that our legislature has waged for the last decade, as well as the extraordinary measures right-wing Republicans in Texas will take both to trample the rights of women and their own colleagues in government,” Leibowitz continued.

Not only did Davis’ actions draw national attention to Texas, but her filibuster and subsequent campaign for Texas Governor have galvanized Texas Democrats. “We have not seen this kind of excitement for a non-presidential election in Texas in many years. We see Democrats are energized, organized, and ready to take back our state for the people. To a great extend, we have Senator Davis and her courageous actions to thank for this; she served as a unifying figure for our party to rally around, and her actions will both strenghten the party in the long run and serve to expand our base,” said Charles Kuffner, Vice Chair of the Alliance.

Previous Texan of the Year recipients are: Carolyn Boyle of Texas Parent PAC (2006); Texas House Democratic Leaders State Reps. Jim Dunnam, Garnet F. Coleman, and Pete Gallego (2007); the Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign (2008); Houston Mayor Annise Parker (2009); Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns (2010); and the protesters of the Tar Sands Blockade (2012). There was no award given in 2011.

Minimum Wage Misconceptions

Like most teenagers, I was not only excited to have my first full-time job, but proud to know that I had reached a significant milestone in my life. I didn’t have to rely on my parents for every want and need anymore. By having a job, and making my own money, I was able to contribute (in a very small way) to the household income, even if it was just by asking them for less spending cash directly. The minimum wage was a staggering $5.15 per hour back then, and I thought was really living the life by getting hired at $5.25. A full 10 cents higher!! I’ll never forget going to pick up my first paycheck of thirty-two dollars and fifteen cents. No great sum by any measure, but being my sum it was great to me.

I’ll also never forget the first time I worked the day shift at my job… a Sonic Drive-In in my hometown of Benton, Arkansas. Unlike the boisterous teenagers that ruled the store at night, Sonic’s day crew was very different. Most of them were older women who were at the store all day, working as many hours as they possibly could. I remember times when I would practically beg for extra hours, and asked my manager if I could work on Saturday mornings. She would always say “not unless you’re called in.” When I asked why, and was persistent, she would say “because they need the hours more.”

I didn’t understand it very well back then, but now those situations make a lot more sense. My managers weren’t being mean. They knew that the adult crew’s hours were truly a need, and not just a teenage want. As David Cooper and Dan Essrow of the Economic Policy Institute explain, the experience most Americans had with minimum wage work in their teens does not reflect the reality of those trying to survive on those wages. A full one-third of all persons working for minimum wage are over the age of 40. That means they aren’t just working to earn money for Friday night, but are struggling to support their families and put enough food on the table so that everyone can eat. They are trying to stem the tide of a constant stream of crises… hoping the car will run until payday, praying for their child to not get sick because they can’t afford to go to the doctor, praying that the lights will stay on until the end of the month. What seems to be petty annoyances to most in the middle class are a full-blown catastrophe to those making minimum wage.

No better place to witness these struggles than the Lone Star State. According to the Dallas Morning News, Texas is “king of the crop” for minimum wage earnings. Of the 3.6 million workers making the federal minimum, 452,000 of them are Texans. And though Texas is still one of the cheapest places to live in the United States, it may not be that way for long. The cost of living in cities like Austin has risen rapidly, with the state’s other big metros not far behind. Adding insult to injury is the fact that poor Texans continue to be denied vital assistance with healthcare, thanks to Governor Perry and Attorney General Abbott’s refusal to expand Medicaid. Despite what many say to the contrary, Texas’ working poor are struggling just like those in other states.

As we enter a new year, it’s time for the country to get out of that ‘teen mindset’ on the minimum wage, and start finding the reality around us. Sure, the minimum wage is probably higher than when most of us were in high school. The problem with that? Everything else is too.

Will She Run? Wendy Davis Answers

Texans, if you’re not watching the new MSNBC program All In With Chris, then you missed some serious breaking news for the state of Texas last night. As I read this morning’s blogosphere, there’s a lot of prognostication about State Senator Davis’ next role in Texas politics. Will she run for Governor, or won’t she??

In an exclusive interview with Chris Hayes last night, she answered the question point blank….

Hayes: There is a Gubernatorial election in 2014. Your state has not elected a statewide Democrat for quite some time. Are you going to run for Governor?

Davis: You know, I would be lying if told you that I hadn’t had aspirations to run for a statewide office. I love this state and it’s been an incredible opportunity to represent it in the Texas Senate. I think the real story will be… will the sentiment of people hold? Will they demonstrate their desire for new leadership in this state? If yesterday was any indication, I think chances are good that is going to be the case.

Here’s the clip.

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An interesting answer which sounds quite familiar. In fact, I discussed this same issue with HCDP Chairman Lane Lewis a few months back. After suffering two decades of defeat for statewide office, Texas Democrats have been caught in a particular political conundrum. Here was Lane’s answer when I asked him about the possibility for statewide candidates…

If we expect a Senator, Mayor or State Rep to put their name out to run for state-wide office, the first thing they will look at is their ability to raise money. The second thing they’re going to look at is capacity for voter turnout. Now the problem is this… the only way they can raise money is if the answer to the second question is already there. The big money isn’t going to contribute without knowing voter turnout and engagement (the answer to the FIRST question) is already in place. So when people ask me “who have we got running for Governor?” my question to them is “How many calls have you made today? How many doors have you knocked on today?” Because if the answer to my question is ZERO, then the answer to their question will most certainly be ZERO. The money will come… the candidates will come when we’re doing our job. That job is to raise a dollar, knock a door and make a call.

Luckily, we know that things are beginning to change in the state. Shifting state demographics are in our favor, even if aggressive gerrymandering and voter suppression are not. Battleground Texas has already made a visible difference with rapid fundraising, organization and training to increase voter turnout. County Democrats across the state are working hard to line up new initiatives and stay active before the 2014 campaign season even begins. And let’s just admit the facts… with Governor Perry waiting less than twenty-four hours to call another Special Session (this time with his Anti-Choice agenda a top priority), the GOP is giving Democrats plenty of fuel for the fire.

Senator Davis has issued Texans a clarion call. Are we ready for new leadership in the state? If so, it’s time to get our act together and work for it. We have to keep raising money, keep knocking doors, and keep speaking out against Rick Perry’s abuses. Don’t let any bad deed be forgotten, or get swept under the rug. There’s 495 days left until the 2014 election. I say we go ALL IN.

SB5 Falls: Wendy Davis, Texas Women Still Standing

American politics is a living, breathing thing. And it is constantly changing. Those changes occur in very small increments… A new people moving to an area, people talking at work, or learning about new neighbors. It’s difficult to actually see that change happening until we take a “snapshot” of it through an election.

But this week in the great state of Texas, we’ve gotten to witness a true political turning point. Like any real movement, it wasn’t cooked up by a couple of money big-wigs, but borne from the concerns of everyday Texans. Texans that were tired of living under the oppression of Perrystan and his minions in the lege. Texans have had enough.

On Thursday night, hundreds of Texans went to the Capitol and staged a Citizen’s Filibuster to slow down the GOP- Dominated House hearing on omnibus anti-abortion bills. After pushing the hearing long into the night, true Republican intransigence prevailed, as Committee Chairman Byron Cook decided that the testimony of his constituents was “too repetitive” and simply shut down the hearing, illegally blocking hundreds of protesters.

That fact was not lost on Texas state House Democrats however. As the Anti-Abortion bills moved to the House floor, Democrats lodged a true fight of their own, challenging Republicans at every turn with amendments to weaken the legislation (and get it caught in Conference. Reps Jessica Farrar, Senfronia Thompson, Dawnna Dukes and others fought valiantly to stall the legislation by keeping the House in session for nearly 15 hours. But true Republican intransigence prevailed, and the bills were finally passed Monday morning and moved to the Senate.

And that’s where this story took an epic turn.

State Senator Wendy Davis, a Ft. Worth Democrat who successfully defended her seat in a majority Republican district, had already proven herself a fighter, and a good politician. But she decided to take up the fight, and defend the rights of all Texas Women by staging a filibuster of the anti-abortion bill… SB5.

And with millions of Texas Women on her shoulders, Wendy Davis took to the Senate floor (in pink tennis shoes), and began one of the most significant 13-hour stands in Texas History. As the last line of defense, she held the floor, reading the testimonies of hundreds of women, including some of those that were originally shut out from that first House hearing. She stood and endured the grueling rules of Texas filibuster, which doesn’t all you to sit or even lean on your desk, and talked all the while. But of course, Republican intransigence once again prevailed, and just after 10pm, they effectively “killed” the filibuster. But with less than two hours to go, Senate Democrats rallied to slow revocation through a slew of Parliamentary Inquiry and Points of Order. As midnight approached, the crowd in the Senate Gallery began to roar with all their might, running down the clock before a vote could be cast. Republicans tried to lie and say that the vote occurred in time, but it was kind of hard to do with the whole world watching. Thanks to the bravery of Davis, Senate Democrats and others in the Chamber, Lt. Governor Dewhurst confirmed this morning… SB5 died.

Thanks to the incessant short-sighted nature of the Texas GOP, that sleeping giant that Democrats have so long predicted in Texas is now awake. Who knows what the next election will hold, but today we celebrate a new political landscape in Texas. Hopefully, as Senator Davis takes a look at that landscape, she’ll want to be sure her next career moves play a prominent role.

Texas Lege DECIMATING Women’s Health Services

Republicans have learned quickly in Texas just how “Special” a Special Session can be.

Late last night in the Senate, the GOP took advantage of unique rules in the Special Session, and were able to pass SB5 against Democratic objections. Senate Bill 5 is textbook amongst TRAP laws, or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. Like the ones already passed in other states, it would place unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers, such as each doctor on staff having admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their practice, or the need to upgrade their facilities to match that of an Emergency Room. Given that Texas is a VERY sparse state in rural areas, and what few hospitals there are have religious objections to abortion, this is basically an eviction notice for women’s health services. These restrictions will effectively end abortion services for Texas women in all but a few select urban areas. Only 5 clinics in the whole state at present meet the rigorous qualifications set forth in SB5, which would cause the shut-down of 42 clinics.

During the Senate hearings, Republicans said that they were passing the legislation out of “concern for women’s health care”, but that reasoning was a total lie, as revealed by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. After the Senators spent hours trying to say otherwise, he proudly boasted such news on Twitter by tweeting out the map showing how many clinics would be forced to shut down…

Given that the Texas House is dominated by Republicans, the measure will likely become law tonight. At the same time, Texas women from across the state are headed to Austin for rally in protest.

This is truly a new low for the Texas Congressional GOP.

—-UPDATE—-

9:10am June 21st— Though the Senate has done it’s dirty work by passing SB 5, House Bill 60 (HB 60) is still in committee. And thanks to the bravery and true dedication of 700 Texans last night and into this morning, HB 60 did NOT get a vote. They descended upon Austin and staged an astonishing Citizen’s Filibuster as everyone present signed up to speak about the bill. It was a total takeover of what the GOP House members expected to a “rubber stamp” hearing.

Here’s part of the first-hand account from Andrea Grimes at rhrealitycheck.org

We’re here as part of a citizens’ filibuster against a bill added to the Texas house’s special session calendar at the last minute by Republican Gov. Rick Perry. They spent the day anxiously waiting for their names to be called by House State Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Byron Cook (R-Corsicana). They’ve been poring over testimony, timing themselves on smartphones, practicing their statements in the hallway with quavering voices.

Seven hundred people registered to testify today. Tonight. Into the wee hours. They were prepared to wait as long as it took.

At midnight, Rep. Cook told us that, after nearly seven hours of testimony against HB 60, our words were getting to be “repetitive,” and he would allow just one more hour of testimony.

That’s when the yelling started.

“Let her speak!” chanted women and men who gathered in the room as one woman was escorted away from the podium by a Texas State Trooper.

Shortly thereafter, citizens took over the hearing room and decided to testify with or without the committee members present.

That’s when #HB60 began trending worldwide on Twitter. That’s when people stopped tweeting about getting coffee delivered to the James H. Reagan building here in downtown Austin, and started tweeting about bail money.

Eventually, Rep. Cook and his colleagues called the hearing back to order and gave the gathered citizens another half-hour to speak against HB 60.

“Our words are not repetitive,” testified Lesli Simms, a first-generation American. “Our government’s attacks on our choice, on our bodies, is repetitive.”

There are hundreds of people still waiting to have their voices heard. But it may be their silence, engineered and ensured by Rep. Cook and right-wing lawmakers, that will speak loudest of all.

These courageous Texans fought for all of us last night. And for that, I thank them.

Why We Celebrate Juneteenth

As people living in the age of instant information, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine the significance of Juneteenth today. Any news out of Washington DC is known across the country instantaneously. But for Americans in the 19th Century, news only traveled as fast as human hands could carry it, especially to areas of the country that were far removed from the East Coast. The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect at the height of the Civil War… January 1st, 1863. But that news took some two and a half years to reach the entire country.  From the Texas State Historical Association, here’s a brief history of Juneteenth

 On June 19 (“Juneteenth”), 1865, Union general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and issued General Order Number 3, which read in part, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.” The tidings of freedom reached the approximately 250,000 slaves in Texas gradually as individual plantation owners informed their bondsmen over the months following the end of the war. The news elicited an array of personal celebrations, some of which have been described in The Slave Narratives of Texas (1974). The first broader celebrations of Juneteenth were used as political rallies and to teach freed African American about their voting rights. Within a short time, however, Juneteenth was marked by festivities throughout the state, some of which were organized by official Juneteenth committees.
Today, Juneteenth is much more than political rallies. Communities across the country commemorate the day through concerts, parades, readings of the Emancipation Proclamation and lectures. And in Galveston, Juneteenth has grown into a week-long festival, with events at the original site of Ashton Villa. This year marks the 148th anniversary of the event.
As Americans in the 21st century continue struggle to find their way towards greater equality and freedom, the event of Juneteenth serves as a shining beacon from our nation’s past.  In a world of great suffering and sacrifice, the Emancipation Proclamation was a huge advance in progress.  And indeed, it was a reason to celebrate that which all Americans hold most dear today… Freedom.
Happy Juneteenth to all.