As we say goodbye to 2014, it is right to take a moment for reflection. So Texas Leftist wants to answer the ephemeral question…
For the year that was 2014, who had the greatest impact on Texas Politics??
There are of course lots of contenders. Attorney General Greg Abbott handily defeated rival Wendy Davis, and is set to become the state’s second Governor elected in the 21st Century. The reign of Rick Perry will officially come to an end as we ring in the new year. Democrat Davis ran a good campaign and certainly performed well in two debates with her Republican opponent. But in the end, her message was not enough to combat an historically-low voter turnout, and Abbott, along with most other Republican Party contenders, claimed victory once again.
Even with this reality, there were still some bright spots for Texas Democrats, and for Progressivism. The citizens of Denton exercised their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by banning fracking in their municipality, much to the dismay of Big Government Republicans in Austin who have immediately moved to sue the town for working to improve the community.
San Antonian Nico LaHood ousted the Republican Imcumbent to become the next District Attorney of Bexar County. Running on a platform of Bi-Partisanship and reformation of drug convictions, he also rises to the front ranks of the Texas Democratic Party.
But it is another San Antonian that claims the title of of this post… State Senator Leticia Van de Putte. Though her bid to be the state’s Lieutenant Governor proved unsuccessful, Van de Putte certainly gained attention through a disciplined, common-sense campaign that stayed focused on the issues of Texas, and not partisan gridlock. She never compromised or apologized for her principles, whether they be standing up for LGBT equality in her only statewide debate, or pledging to fight for free tuition to Texas Community Colleges on the stump.
The year’s loss was definitive… Dan Patrick will be the next Lieutenant Governor. But rather than play it safe with her Senate seat, Van de Putte found the courage to risk it all once again, resign her Senate seat and run for Mayor of her hometown. It’s a fighting spirit that has been absent from Texas Democrats for almost two decades.
For awakening the fighting spirit with dignity, courage, wisdom and grace, Leticia Van de Putte had the greatest impact of 2014.
If you are a regular Texas Leftist reader, then you have probably come across some posts regarding the Minimum Wage. This blog was even mentioned on the Forbes.com website over the issue.
It’s important to blog about why an increase in the minimum wage is needed. But along with the blogging, I am exploring some options for how to take more substantive actions within the city of Houston. We all know that there is not much hope for a statewide wage increase after the results of this year’s election, but individual municipalities may be able to make more progress.
May is the operative term there, as just this week, we are seeing more disturbing news from the office of Governor-Elect Greg Abbott. For all of the talk he preaches about “small government” local control, he sure is swiping the hand of big government against Dallas County by trying to prevent Commissioners there from raising the minimum wage for their employees and contractors. It’s a preview for what may happen if other counties and cities tried to raise wages as well.
But Abbott’s convoluted ethics shouldn’t prevent Dallas County, or anyone else from trying to do what is right. In the interest of this goal, I decided to create a petition on Change.org calling for a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the city of Houston. Here is the text of the petition…
We the citizens respectfully call for a ballot initiative which mandates that the City of Houston enact a raise of the minimum wage to $15 per hour over a series of reasonable increments. This measure should be taken up by Houston City Council without delay.
The current minimum wage throughout the state of Texas is the federally mandated $7.25 per hour, including Houston, Texas. But for residents in the city of Houston, this wage is not enough for a full-time working individual to support themselves, especially if they would seek to do so without government assistance. The city has experienced astronomical increases in property taxes, which then get passed on to renters, and the entire consumer population. Houstonians deserve to be paid a living wage.
We can’t survive on $7.25!
If you support the cause, please sign the petition, and share it with your friends. With enough interest, we can make this happen for the City of Houston, and hopefully other Texas cities will follow suit.
In the Second installment of the 2014 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire we hear from Ron Hale, candidate for the Texas State Senate, District 15. He is a Republican.
Please note: Responses have been received directly from the candidate, and have been posted ver batim from the email received. This is done out of fairness to all candidates. Publishing these responses does not constitute an endorsement, but will be considered during the endorsement process.
TL: What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot?
RH: Ron Hale
TL: Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?
TL: As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?
RH: Government is important to the point of protecting the god given rights we are all given.
TL: If elected, name your top 3 priorities you hope to accomplish for 2015 legislative session. Describe how you plan to accomplish them.
RH: Property Tax Reform
Abolish property taxes and replace them with reformed state sales tax that includes an adjusted tax rate base.
Ideally, the reformed state sales tax would closely resemble the option with an 11% sales tax rate and an adjusted base that includes all services taxed in at least one other state, including the sale of property
Municipal Pension Reform
We have to fight to bring pension control back to our cities, so we do not have another Detroit situation on our hands.
Freeze enrollment in the current defined benefit system and enroll newly hired or unvested employees in a 401(k) style defined contribution pension plan.
Implement either a hard or soft freeze of the system for vested employees.
Replace current employee health care plans with Health savings accounts.
We must maintain our role as world leaders in educating our youth to be the workforce and future of our great State of Texas, and for America.
I believe in having options when it comes to school choice, and that our tax dollars should have the ability to follow each student to their selected school of choice.
There needs to be an end to standardized testing in Texas, and no longer should teachers be teaching an evaluation exam to students in order to achieve higher evaluation scores for that school.
We need to encourage corporations and small businesses to partner up with local schools in their area so that they may provide workforce training during high-school, ensuring our graduates will have better career training and job opportunities.
TL: A 2013 survey found that 54 percent of Texas voters support Medicaid Expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Expansion is also supported by the Texas Hospital Association. Without Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution, Texas Hospitals are having to provide over $5 billion dollars annually in uncompensated care to patients who lack insurance. This leaves Texas taxpayers paying not only for the uncompensated care of our residents, but also paying for expanded health care benefits in other states. If elected, would you support Medicaid Expansion or an alternate solution for the state of Texas, so we can bring our tax dollars back where they belong? If not, please explain why. If so, please explain how you would work to pass such a measure.
RH: No I do not support Medicaid expansion. It is tax payer who fund Medicaid now and growth in the program means higher taxes. We need to figure out a way to lower health care cost in Texas to provide the best care possible and the lowest rates available.
TL: In the coming years, the state of Texas is projected to have a population boom of historic proportions. But with more people and more opportunities comes an ever-increasing strain on Texas roads and infrastructure. Describe your thoughts on what needs to be done to improve Texas infrastructure now so we can plan for a bright future for the state.
RH: We need to open the bidding process to more companies with the tools to complete the jobs. this will bring to light the ability of lower cost construction through competitive bidding.
TL: What makes you the best candidate for this office?
RH:My ability to work well with others and the will to do the right thing for Texas not matter what the issue.
TL: When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?
RH: Reading and watching the history channel. Also, spending time with my wife and the rest of my family.
Libby Shaw now posting at Daily Kos is both shocked and pleased that the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board spanked Greg Abbott hard for his disingenuous and exaggerated claims about voter fraud in Texas. Texas: “Voter Fraud? What Fraud?”
In a state with a rapidly growing population and the mounting set of challenges associated with that growth, Texas Leftist can’t even believe how much money Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick and other TEA-publicans are leaving behind in their refusal to expand Medicaid. Trust me, you won’t believe it either.
Over the weekend Texans received something of a campaign season bombshell that has now turned into a national story. In advance of her book’s release date, Wendy Davis revealed that she, like many other Texas women, has had to terminate two of her pregnancies due to severe fetal abnormalities. Here are more details from the El Paso Times, via AP…
Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who became a national political sensation by filibustering her state’s tough new restrictions on abortion, discloses in her upcoming memoir that she had an abortion in the 1990s after discovering that the fetus had a severe brain abnormality.
In “Forgetting to be Afraid,” Davis also writes about ending an earlier ectopic pregnancy, in which an embryo implants outside the uterus. Davis says she considered revealing the terminated pregnancies during her nearly 13-hour speech on the floor of the Texas Senate last summer — but decided against it, saying “such an unexpected and dramatically personal confession would overshadow the events of the day.”
The Associated Press purchased an early copy of the book, which goes on sale Tuesday.
Both pregnancies happened before Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, began her political career and after she was already a mother to two young girls. Davis catapulted to national Democratic stardom after her filibuster temporarily delayed passed of sweeping new abortion restrictions. She’s now running for governor against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is heavily favored to replace Republican Gov. Rick Perry next year.
After the news broke, Davis sat down with Robin Roberts for an interview on Good Morning America, where she was pressed about the interesting timing of her book release less than 60 days before the 2014 election.
The timing factor is interesting for sure, but interesting is not the same as illegal or unethical. Politicians write and sell books all the time. Politicians also do all sorts of other types of work while campaigning… you know, like not stepping down from being Attorney General and not excusing yourself from cases that could have a direct effect on your upcoming election.
For the Abbott campaign, Davis’ book presents a perilous quandary of how to respond. So they chose to go the path of ethics. Here’s more from the Houston Chronicle on that…
Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott asked the Texas Ethics Commission on Monday to rule whether opponent Wendy Davis’ book deal and tour crosses the line on illegal corporate campaign contribution because it is tied to her ongoing campaign.
Davis’ campaign immediately labeled the filing a “frivolous stunt.”
In a three-page letter requesting an advisory opinion, Abbott campaign manager Wayne Hamilton asked whether a book tour paid for and promoted by a corporation constitute in-kind political contributions. Under state law, corporate contributions to a campaign are illegal.
While the request for an ethics opinion makes no mention of Davis, the name of her publisher and details of her book deal are the same as those in the letter.
“Because of the proximity of the book’s publishing and the election, the candidate will be using political funds on voter contact at the same time the publisher is using corporate funds to promote the book,” reads the letter, insisting that political observers “seem to agree that the promotion of the book essentially equals promotion of the candidate’s candidacy.”
Davis’ campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas said the campaign was “very careful to follow every legal guideline.
“This frivolous stunt by the Abbott campaign is the clearest sign yet how worried they are about the power of Wendy’s story,” he said.
Were Greg Abbott running a more ethical campaign himself, this line of attack may garner more teeth. But unless he’s planning to resign from office early, relax Voter ID laws reveal the locations of dangerous chemical locations, the request to the Texas Ethics Commission is little more than a small stone within Abbott’s magnanimous glass house. Plus, what can the Republican really yield from trying to stop the tour anyway? At best, attacking Davis for the timing of her book can motivate a few more people in his base… ones that really care about the “inside baseball” of politics and were solid GOP supporters anyway. At worst, the attack makes Abbott look like a hypocrite.
On the other hand, Davis has nothing to lose from releasing her book now. Scoring an interview on GMA rockets her name ID back to the forefront of the news at a time when she most needs it, and motivates the Pro-Choice base of both parties to really show up and show out this November. Yes… in the real world, there are still Pro-Choice Republicans in Texas, the very people who Wendy Davis is counting on to win in 2014.
One more calculus that may have been made by the Davis campaign here. Even more important than what and who everyone is talking about, guess who they are not talking about? The correct answer is Greg Abbott. In a critical time for the Republican to be connecting with voters over his personal story of tragedy followed by triumph, Davis has managed to stop Abbott’s momentum dead in its tracks. As the old saying goes, ‘All politics is local’. But Wendy Davis is proving right now that the best politics is personal.
State Senator Leticia Van de Putte continues with another huge step in her historic campaign to be Texas’ first Female, Hispanic Lieutenant Governor. Today the Democratic candidate released her first major statewide TV ads. Here’s more from the Van de Putte campaign via press release…
San Antonio, TX — This weekend, Leticia Van de Putte is releasing her first two television ads, one in English and a separate ad in Spanish. The 30-second spots are a significant buy in multiple major media markets, as well as markets with a dominant Latino population.
In “Twice,” Leticia Van de Putte directly calls out Dan Patrick, who voted twice against our kids. Patrick’s cuts to our neighborhood schools in 2011 resulted in the loss of 11,000 teacher jobs. In 2013, Leticia worked across the aisle with many Republicans to put Texas first and support our students. Despite bipartisan support for our neighborhood schools, Dan Patrick voted against our kids — again.
In “Respeto,” Leticia Van de Putte shares about the respect that every Texan deserves. Leticia introduces her immigrant grandmothers; as well as the service of her mother, a teacher, and that of her father, a veteran. Texans never give up, and Leticia — a mother of six, grandmother of six, pharmacist and a State Senator — commits to continue the fight to protect the future of our kids.
The aspirational nature of “Respeto” speaks deeply to a community whose voice has long been lacking in Texas statewide politics. “Twice” does a great job of straddling the lines of presenting negative information on the opponent, while managing to be a net positive ad. Touting her strong bipartisan record and unique family story, these ads seem to have all the right ingredients for success.
With six weeks to go before the first votes are cast, it’s impossible to predict just what kind of impact will be had from these spots. But by getting out ahead of her opponent Dan Patrick with strong ads, Leticia has assured that the first “big move” is hers.
In most statewide election cycles, the typical focus is going to be on some key races… the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and state legislature. The first two because they are the highest elected officials in the state, and the legislature because they are the ones who represent constituents at capitol, and those who make the laws.
But in Texas, there is another race that sometimes matters more than any of these others, especially for citizens that have to deal with a court of law. Once elected, the Attorney General set important and far-ranging legal procedures that have a huge effect across the state. It’s an Attorney General that chooses how and to what extent that punishment for law breakers (or convicted of being a law breaker) will be pursued. Will the person caught with an ounce of hash have to pay a fine not unlike that associated with a traffic ticket, or will that ounce mean that they have to lose their job, their home, and completely change the trajectory of their life after serving a prison sentence? More often than not, these life-altering decisions are made by attorneys, and the Attorney General is the most powerful amongst that group.
For all of those listed reasons, it is imperative that Texans know their candidates for the state’s highest legal official. But as Democratic candidate for Attorney General Sam Houston points out, it’s been quite difficult to locate his Republican opponent Ken Paxton in 2014. Here’s more from Lauren McGaughy of the Houston Chronicle…
Democratic candidate for attorney general Sam Houston wants his opponent, state Sen. Ken Paxton, to agree to a debate ahead of the November general election.
Houston is expected to issue the challenge Wednesday at a news conference in Austin, demanding his Republican opponent “quit hiding from the media and the voters,” spokeswoman Sue Davis confirmed.
“To me, this is fair. He’s either going to debate me or explain to somebody why he hasn’t,” Houston said Friday. “How is this guy going to be attorney general if he won’t even address the issues?”
Houston contends his opponent hasn’t made a public appearance in months, ever since Paxton admitted to repeatedly soliciting investment clients over the last decade – a service for which he pocketed up to a 30 percent in commission – without being properly registered with the state as an investment adviser representative.
Paxton’s campaign called Houston’s demand for a debate “desperate”. But what is so desperate about wanting Texans to know your views on particular issues? Just like Greg Abbott last week, Ken Paxton’s excuse to avoid a debate sounds like it’s motivated purely out of fear that if Texans learn the truth about him and his views, they won’t agree.
The art of debate and argument is critical to being a lawyer. If Ken Paxton can’t agree to one debate, then he doesn’t deserve to be the state’s top lawyer. Let’s hope the Sam Houston campaign and Texas Democrats keep up the pressure.