Tag Archives: Texas Democrats

2016 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire

As Early Voting is literally days away for the Lone Star State, Texas Leftist has once again seeking to grow the information available to voters by asking candidates directly.  For the 2016 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire (TLCQ), candidates across the region  have already been sent information, and each response will be published as it is received.  Texas Leftist will also issue endorsements for select races.  This year, a common set of questions has been sent to candidates, regardless of the office being sought.

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  1. What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot?

 

  1. Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?

 

  1. As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?

 

  1. If elected, what is your top priority in office for the upcoming term? Describe how you plan to accomplish it.

 

  1. Recent years in American Politics have yielded an environment of hyper-partisanship, the results of which have often led to government inefficiency, and sometimes total government gridlock. Describe how you plan to break through this partisan gridlock for the good of your constituents, and work with those from differing political ideologies. 

 

 

  1. What makes you the best candidate for this office?

 

  1. When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?

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Though much attention this cycle has been focused on the Presidential race, it is very important to highlight the races of down ballot candidates.  If elected, they are the ones who will have the most immediate impact on the lives of Greater Houston residents, and all of Texas.  Check here for the responses, and endorsements coming soon.

tlcq-2016

Bye FeLEGEcia: A 2015 Texas Legislative Wrap-Up

Ok everyone sing it with me…

Ding Dong The Lege is Dead!  

Which Ole Lege?  The TEXAS Lege!  

Ding Dong The Texas Lege is DEAD!!

Though I guess it’s up to your point of view on just how wicked it turned out to be.

We’ll turn to Ross Ramsey of The Texas Tribune to give a proper summation…

It was clear after the 2014 elections that Texas voters were sending a conservative political cohort to Austin. It turned out that the officeholders they elected had different ideas about what that meant, and that this group — no real surprise here — could alternately quarrel and cooperate about as well as most of its predecessors.

In the process, issues that might have seemed black and white during the elections were rendered in shades of gray during the session.

It started right out of the gate: On the first day of the legislative session, a group of advocates for legalized open carry of handguns blustered into the Capitol to talk to members. They were so obnoxious about it that their bill — one of the virtual certainties coming out of the elections — didn’t pass until the final weekend 20 weeks later.

Before the session, even Democrats like Wendy Davis were in favor of open carry. After the over-enthusiastic supporters were done, even the sure bets were shaky. It finally did pass, however, along with legislation that will allow licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns on some parts of the campuses of state colleges and universities.

The $209.4 billion state budget, often a source of deep rancor and infighting, turned out to be relatively easy to put together. It helped that the year began with $17 billion uncommitted in the comptroller’s forecast of available money. The people who write political bumper stickers hate it when the superlative is “responsible,” but that word is already popping up in the news releases coming from the state’s leaders.

Of course it’s important to note that the fudge-it budget does nothing to address the state’s growing healthcare needs, still sold many schoolchildren short on their education, and barely took a bite out of the rapid declination of Texas road infrastructure.  If you’re looking for a source to classify this state budget as “responsible”, you’re not going to find it on Texas Leftist.  Choosing not to set fire to house is very different from taking steps to prevent fires from happening.

It’s fair to say that local control got torched.  The Legislature successfully eroded power from the citizens of Denton, and allowed fracking to resume in the city after banning the ability of municipalities to ban any form of extraction.  The unprecedented overreach had a special tier of irony given how most of the elected Republicans at the Capitol have built their careers on protests against sweeping big government action.

Congratulations Denton… If Governor Greg “Grab It” Abbott has his way, your votes will get swept under the rug.

Even with this terrifying result, it could have been much worse, given some of the other bills that were filed to obliterate municipal and county powers.  So as the court battles play out with Frack Free Denton, the issue of local control now comes in to question for future legislative sessions.

This is the bad news, but there were some highlights.  Texas Democrats proved an incredible force to protect much of policy that families across the state depend on.  They successfully defended an assault on in-state tuition, supported infrastructure investment, and defeated dozens of TEA-CON bills that would have eradicated local protections for LGBT citizens.  Of course on that last point, it’s important to note that a broad coalition within the state supports LGBT equality, so it’s far from a partisan cause.  One huge highlight of the 2015 session?  We now have a sense for just how broad that support is, and how successfully they can gather up resources.

So yeah… the things we learned in the 2015 Texas Legislative Session:

1) Don’t count your chickens before they’re fracked.

2) College Professors might think twice before failing their students, especially the ones packin’ heat.

3) The only Medicaid Expansion Texas can hope for is expanded lines at the E.R.

Bye FeLEGEcia… see you in 2017.  

 

 

Texas Leftist Impact 2014

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.

 

Dear Texas Democrats: Don’t Blame All of 2014 On Voter ID

Given how badly Texas Democrats lost last week, few are surprised to see a lot of in-fighting and finger-pointing within party leadership.  As has already been addressed, there were some notable missteps on the part of Battleground Texas, which the group, to its credit, is actively working to address.

But in recent days, a new whipping boy has emerged for the 2014 failures… Texas’ discriminatory Voter ID law.  Here’s more on the argument from Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune

Say this for the state’s new voter ID law — it gave Texas Democrats a patsy for the thumping they took on election night.

[…]

The overall number of votes cast in this year’s election was less than in 2010 — by about 271,000. Although that appears to be part of a national trend, Texas Democrats blamed the state’s voter ID law, which they say discourages people from showing up.

Texas turnout, already the worst in the country, dropped. The state’s population is larger than it was in 2010. More than 14 million Texans registered to vote, according to the secretary of state — up from 13.3 million in 2010. Turnout that year was 37.5 percent. Turnout this year (the numbers are unofficial) was 33.6 percent.

The people who did not show up appear to be Democrats. The Republican numbers were up in the governor’s race, while the Democratic numbers were way down.

At a post-election discussion last week, Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, suggested the voter ID law might be to blame for the decline, implying that Democrats are more numerous among non-voters than Republicans. His opposite on the Republican side — Steve Munisteri — guffawed at that, instead crediting his own party’s turnout efforts, the state’s recent voting history and the national trend against Democrats.

There’s no doubt that the stringent Voter ID law was a contributing factor for Democrats… possibly a significant one.  As Think Progress reported, poll watchers in Houston did see some issues, and the number of Provisional Ballots cast more than doubled from 2010. Because of Voter ID, it is definitely more difficult to vote in Texas than it used to be.

But the party and related organizations need to be careful not to point the finger exclusively at the law, else they risk losing the opportunity for a thorough examination of other factors, including their own culpability.  If all 600,000 of those voters estimated to be disenfranchised had shown up to the polls, wouldn’t we have way more than 16,000 Provisional Ballots cast? Press outlets would have reported on long lines of frustrated voters being turned away.  Had Voter ID been the sole reason that Democrats stayed home, evidence would bear that out.

Instead, many of the Democrats didn’t make it to the polling place at all.  We already know that most Texans are low-propensity and low-information voters.  Getting them to suddenly turn up attention before the election, and then turn out to vote was always going to be a greater burden for Dems than the habitual voters of the GOP.  Then there are the more subtle tricks, like Abbott’s last-minute decision to cancel on his debate commitment with Davis just so he could weasel out of mainline TV coverage for less-noticed PBS.  And of course, the internal friction between the party and other political organizations didn’t help either.

At the end of the day, all of these factors played a supporting role in the issues of 2014.  But let’s hope that Texas Democrats do not try to cast any single one, like Voter ID, as the only star of the show.  Instead, it’s time to live, learn, examine and focus on the battles ahead in the 2015 Texas Legislature.  Dos Centavos has more on what promises to be a long ride.

Battleground Texas: Now With Battle Scars

In a post election email sent to campaign volunteers, executive Director Jenn Brown made one part of those future plans abundantly clear… Battleground Texas may be bruised, but here to stay.

Tuesday was not the result any of us wanted. The national headwinds were stronger than anyone thought, and Texas got swept up in it. But I hope you’ve got your head held high today, because we’re just getting started and there’s plenty of exciting work to do.

The email was not a solicitation for more funds, but actually a request from volunteers to provide feedback on how they thought the organization performed in its first major campaign.  I already provided feedback to the email, but also wanted to share those same thoughts, with just a bit of expansion, on the blog.

As ‘the new kid in town’, it’s no surprise that a lot of excitement surrounded Battleground Texas. But all the excitement in the world could not compensate for what proved to be BGTX’s biggest hurdle in 2014… being new, and unfamiliar with the Texas voting landscape.  Instead of forming a support network around existing local organizations, it seems that BGTX chose to mostly go it alone.  This lack of any coordinated strategy often lead to repetitive outreach efforts to the same voters, or missing critical voters altogether.  In a year filled with so much general voter apathy, everyone knew it was going to be tough to make a difference at the statewide level, but these novice mistakes made the disparity even more apparent.

Criticism aside, BGTX had much to be proud of during this election cycle.  Though the turnout goals were not achieved, at the end of the day there are now more Texans registered to vote than any mid-term year in state history.  Building organization of over 33,000 volunteers was certainly no small feat, and a true testament to the vast potential for making Texas into a swing state.  Better yet, those volunteers are now connected to more people right in their own communities that care enough actualize around important issues.

Organization is a skill that can be applied far beyond just particular candidates or elections. Building momentum around issues like raising the minimum wage or equality is just as important, if not more so than political aspirations.  Battleground Texas should “keep going” in off-election years.  Even if it is just a bi-monthly service project like a health fair, community garden or an immigration law workshop, BGTX has room to grow and join the true fabric of the state. No one is going to awake the “Silent Majority” overnight. But now that we’ve lived through an election, the real work can begin.

On the political campaign side, 2015 presents a vast opportunity with local races. BGTX leaders should be working with local candidates because they are the ones that know not only the needs of their communities, but also how to best engage them.  All of these strategies carry into the next.

Organizing in the digital space is important too.  How are those in the 33,000 member volunteer base supposed to connect with each other after the latest campaign ends??  Much of this work can be done through a more website that contains forums, a community page to post events and ways for people that care about common causes to find one another.  A better, more comprehensive web presence would be another step in the right direction.

Ask any of the greatest politicians to ever live.  If Bill Clinton had given up after being ousted as Arkansas Governor in 1980, he wouldn’t have ascended to the Presidency just 12 years later.  Barack Obama knew the sting of defeat in 2000 when he lost out on a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, but he didn’t give up.  The greats take a defeat, and learn from it. BGTX has been introduced to Texas, but now is the time to truly become part of Texas.  Once that happens, the Lone Star state will have some real contests at the ballot box, and beyond.

Congratulations to all the staff members and volunteers with Battleground Texas.  We finally have some real battle scars.

BGTX Epic Flag

 

 

UPDATE:  BGTX Executive Director Jenn Brown has published a letter to supporters via the Battleground Texas website.  In it she addresses next steps for the organization and what they will be doing to move forward, including reaching out to people to find out why they didn’t vote.  It looks like internal feedback is simply the first step.

Leticia Van de Putte: Earning Every Vote

If State Senator and Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor Leticia Van de Putte really is behind by double digits in the polls, you wouldn’t know it if you see her in person.

In the final days up to what is sure to be an historic election, the candidate spent her time racing across the state on a grueling, 30-city Bus Tour.  Van de Putte hit virtually every corner of this state, including many places where she knew she wouldn’t be winning everybody’s vote.  Here’s more from Alexa Ura of the Texas Tribune who joined her for the Bus Tour…

LUFKIN- When state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte’s campaign bus drove up to the Goodwill Baptist Church here on Wednesday, she was greeted by an unusual sight in this Republican region: a lively group of Democrats.

“As Democrats here, we just try to keep the lights on and the flag up and say, ‘Yeah, we’re still here,’” said Glenn Donnahoe, a retired veteran active in Lufkin’s small Democratic community. But he added that the group gets energized when candidates like Van de Putte campaign here.

Van de Putte’s Lufkin appearance, attended by more than 50 people, was one of four East Texas campaign stops Wednesday for the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate’s statewide bus tour.

It could seem unusual for Van de Putte, a decided underdog against Republican state Sen.Dan Patrick, to be here the week before Election Day. But she said splitting the homestretch of her campaign between Democratic strongholds like the Rio Grande Valley and conservative hotbeds in North and East Texas is key to increasing voter turnout to give her a chance to propel Texas Democrats to their first statewide win in 20 years.

“We’re different in regions, but we’re no different in the way we dream big,” Van de Putte told the Lufkin crowd, as she attempted to forge a last-minute connection with voters many miles from her Senate district in San Antonio.

This type of “shoe leather campaign” is exactly what people expect from the political underdog. All year, Van de Putte has run an open, honest campaign, well-evidenced by her impressive slate of endorsements.  Her willingness to talk to voters, even in places like East Texas where she’s unlikely to win.  Have you seen Dan Patrick campaigning and holding press events… well anywhere lately??

The campaign bus rolled through Houston last week, and Texas Leftist was there to take pictures and even grab a short video of the candidate’s speech.  Check them out here…

LVdP Tour Bus

LVdP Hou2

LVdP Hou3

LVdP Hou1

 

Through the course of this campaign, Leticia has proven why she is the smart choice for Texas.  As great as glitzy TV ads may make a candidate look, they are very little on substance, and far inferior to the type of personal interactions that truly good politicians strive for.  Van de Putte made it her mission to greet voters across the state, and sit with every media outlet possible, whether they are titans like the Texas Tribune and Dallas Morning News, or simple bloggers like Texas Leftist. This level of commitment and dedication used to count for something in politics, and I for one sincerely hope it pays off for Van de Putte tonight.  Sure Dan Patrick can buy a lot of votes, but Leticia Van de Putte has done the true work of earning Texas votes, and she should be commended.

If you haven’t voted yet, be sure to get in line at your polling place before 7pm tonight. And hopefully when you get there, you will support smart, savvy candidates like Leticia Van de Putte.

 

 

Lone Star Rising: Voter Registration Soars Across Texas

“Texas isn’t a Red State.  It’s a non-voting state.”

When most people hear this, they tend to laugh out loud.  Much of contemporary American politics hinges on the stalwart truth that Texas is and will always be a Red State.  The national Democratic Party, including President Obama, haven’t spent a lot of time in Texas because of this “truth”… they view the state mostly as a fundraising tool for more competitive races in other states.  Even with strong candidates like Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, the majority of the country has written off the quiet, but persistent work of groups like Battleground Texas.  After all, who cares how many Tweets you post saying you are doing something?  It’s not real until official numbers start to come in.

Well this week, the Lone Star State got its first indicator of whether the coordinated efforts of BGTX, Texas Democrats and other groups have made any sort of difference. It is not unfair to say that many around the country may be in for a shock.  Here’s what’s going on, starting with the Houston Chronicle

The number of Texans registered to vote in the state’s five largest counties increased by 2 percent since 2012, a reversal of the decline in total voter registrations that was seen before the last midterm election.

Nearly 150,000 more Texans in these counties are eligible to vote in November’s election between Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis than could vote in the 2012 presidential election, according to tallies released by Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar and Travis counties midday Monday, the last day to register.

[…]

Voter registration groups hailed the uptick in registration before a midterm election, which traditionally sees much lower turnout than during presidential years, as evidence that their efforts to register low-propensity voters had paid off. Five percent of those voting in Harris County are new registrants.

The Chronicle is comparing totals from the last presidential year, but a much clearer comparison to 2014 would be the non-presidential election year of 2010.  This was done by venerable blog Off the Kuff, who added in El Paso County and aggregated the numbers.  He found that the 6 largest counties in Texas now account for a whopping 373,000 more voters registered when compared to 2010 (the last non-presidential election year).  Kudos to blog author Charles Kuffner on this, whose research just became national news.

Kuff’s numbers aren’t even the end of the story, as one quick virtual trip to the Rio Grande Valley will reveal.  Here’s more from Zachary Roth of msnbc.com on that…

It’s not just the state’s most populated counties that have seen registration increases, either. Hidalgo and Cameron counties in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas saw increases since 2012 of 15,000 and 6,000 respectively, according to a local news report. The area has long had low rates of political participation, but was a focus of Battleground Texas’s campaign. According to Sackin, officials with both counties told Battleground volunteers that the group had registered more new voters than any previous effort they’d seen.

And the number of registered voters in the six counties that make up southeast Texas increased from 2012 by 8,000, the Beaumont Enterprise reported.

[…]

“If Latinos and Hispanics in Texas came out to vote, we’d be talking about a completely different electorate in Texas,” Daniel Lucio, Battleground Texas’s deputy field director, told msnbc earlier this year.

If you’re noticing a pattern with these counties, then you might be familiar with this blog’s Operation Think Swing Texas post, which lines out the counties that Democrats have to focus on if they want to win this year’s and any future elections in Texas.  So here’s some research on one more of those critical counties:  Fort Bend.  Here are their numbers from previous elections, including the 2014 number obtained as of October 1st (there were so many registration forms, they are still counting)…

2010 Registered Voters: 308,985

2012 Registered Voters:  341,523

2014 Registered Voters:  362,711

Even Lubbock County, home of Texas Tech and the panhandle city of Lubbock, has seen a substantial boost from 2010 to 2014…

2010 Registered Voters: 150,291

2012 Registered Voters:  156,140

2014 Registered Voters: 157,275

That’s 22,323 more registrants than in 2012, and 60,710 more than the last gubernatorial election in 2010, with more to go.  Add Fort Bend and Lubbock to Kuff’s total without the actual numbers from the RGV, and you’re up to 433,000 more voters on the books in Texas than in 2010.  The numbers in Texas’ largest counties are now surpassing 2008 registration levels, setting the stage for possibly historic turnout in the Lone Star State.

Those living on the front lines of Texas politics can definitely tell you that something special is going on right now.  We have to be careful of making too many assumptions before the votes are actually cast.  But one thing is for sure from these totals… the first goal of groups like Battleground Texas and state Democrats has been met:  register more voters.   Now that all of these citizens are on the books, they at least have the option of making their voices heard this election day.

Let’s see just how loud Texas’ “silent majority” can get in 2014.

 

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