Texpatriate endorses in State Legislative elections

Editorial note: This board will issue separate editorials in Senate District 17 and in House District 134. State Representatives Dan Huberty (R-127), Alma Allen (D-131), Sylvester Turner (D-139), Armando Walle (D-140), Senfronia Thompson (D-141), Harold Dutton Jr. (D-142) Ana Hernandez Luna (D-143), Carol Alvarado (D-145) and Garnet Coleman (D-147) are all unopposed. We will only issue endorsements for elections Statewide and in Harris County.

We like to be bipartisan and support pragmatic Republicans. We –controversially– endorsed Congressman Ted Poe‘s re-election this year, and last year we named City Councilmember Stephen Costello (R-At Large 1) as the best Councilmember in Houston. We want to believe in a world where the parties can set aside their small-minded ideology and work together to come up with solutions to the State’s problems. A world where extremist rhetoric is just something for the television cameras, and grown-up mentalities arise behind the closed doors of the session.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. Only the willfully naive would actually think those idealistic goals are still feasible for the class running for the Texas Legislature as Republicans, or –for the most part– the Republican incumbents in the chamber. Accordingly, in overwhelming fashion, we endorse the Democrats.

There just are not two reasonable perspectives on all too many of the issues facing Texas today. Giving equal rights to people on the basis of their gender or sexual orientation is no longer an issue that should be seen as having two serious sides. Supporting corporal punishment in school is not something that normal people support, and yet, the Republicans in the State Legislature back it vehemently. While there is a reasonable debate to be had on gun control laws, supporting legislation that would allow for the imprisonment of Federal officials attempting to enforce Federal law is not within its confides.

Senate District 7
Paul Bettencourt, the Republican candidate for this seat, currently held by outgoing State Senator (and GOP Lieutenant Governor candidate) Dan Patrick, served as the Harris County Tax Assessor for many years. To put it lightly, his tenure was egregious. Back then, and still to this today, Bettencourt has demonstrated a troubling unfamiliarity with the taxation system.

Bettencourt supports the heavy reduction of property tax rate, without a legitimate plan to offset the lessened revenue. Such strong rhetoric absent meaningful political policies is truly not needed among those in the Texas Senate. However, we have yet to see any correspondence whatsoever from Bettencourt’s Democratic opponent, Jim Davis. He has no website, and has made no public statements on his candidacy thus far. Accordingly, we simply cannot support him in good faith.

Rather, this board has decided to go with the Libertarian candidate, Whitney Bilyeu. Unlike the Democrat, Bilyeu has been remarkably active both online and in person, campaigning incessantly throughout the community. While she shares Bettencourt’s silly belief to drastically lower property taxes, at least she is under no illusions about the tough spending decisions that would have to be made under such a scheme. A divergent ideology is easier to work with than inconsistency with reality.

Furthermore, we largely agree with Bilyeu’s positions on social issues, namely her opposition to the asinine prohibition on marijuana and her support for the 2/3rds rule in the Texas Senate.

Therefore, this board endorses Whitney Bilyeu for the Texas Senate, District 7.

Senate District 15
John Whitmire has honorably and capably served his constituents in the Texas Senate for more than 30 years, with an over-40 year career in the State Legislature. He currently serves as the Dean of the Texas Senate, a position that garners him a tremendous amount of respect from throughout both sides of the aisle. While we have certainly had some major qualms with Whitmire in the past, as we said last February in endorsing him over his Democratic primary challenger, Whitmire’s myriad strengths outnumber his weaknesses many times over.

Using similar criteria, we will support Whitmire once again over his Republican opponent, Ron Hale. While Hale, who unsuccessfully ran for the Houston City Council last year, has many redeeming qualities, we agree with Whitmire on most of the divisive issues that we have previously noted. Furthermore, residents of District 15 would be foolish to throw away the unmatched representation they can receive from a Senator who commands as much respect as Whitmire.

Accordingly, this board endorses John Whitmire for the Texas Senate, District 15.

House District 126
State Representative Patricia Harless, a Republican who has served in office since 2007, has supported many troubling right-wing causes, including the previously noted corporal punishment bill. She even was a prominent backer of the troubling “Guns on Campus” bill, which this board strongly opined against on numerous occasions.

But her only opponent, Libertarian Cris Hernandez, has no footprint online or in person, and apparently no experience whatsoever in government or politics. We also have a feeling that his political views are not any better than Harless’.

Accordingly, this board endorses Patricia Harless for the Texas House, District 126.

House District 128
By remarkably similar circumstances to the previously featured endorsement, this board chooses to endorse the Republican, Wayne Smith, the incumbent State Representative since 2003. His only opponent is the Libertarian, Ken Lowder.

House District 129
After many years, the incumbent State Representative, John Davis, will retire from his position representing a large constituency around the Clear Lake area. Davis was a comparably pragmatic Republican, one whose presence in the capitol will indubitably be missed.

However, in a remarkably strange turn of events, both general election candidates for this post are ideologically consistent. The Republican, Dennis Paul, and the Democrat, John Gay, have Tea Party affiliated political views. Despite his evidently new partisan label, Gay has been active for many years in the bay region as an unabashed conservative. Accordingly, much like a primary election, we will determine who is the best candidate based on his leadership skills.

On that front, the choice is crystal clear. The ostensible “Republican,” Dennis Paul, has years of experience in political wrangling and government affairs. Gay, on the other hand, has always been a fringe observer from afar. Thus, this board endorses Dennis Paul for the Texas House, District 129.

House District 130
By remarkably similar circumstances to the previous featured endorsements in HD126 and HD128, this board chooses to endorse the Republican, Allen Fletcher, the incumbent State Representative since 2009. His only opponent is the Green, Arthur Browning.

House District 132
State Representative Bill Callegari, a veteran of the Texas House since 2001, retired following last session. He was an inconsistent Republican ally for pragmatism and common sense, sometimes coming to the aid of sensible solutions and sometimes not. Unfortunately, in the heated Republican primary to succeed him, it only looks like more of the same. Mike Schofield, the Republican nominee for this position, still advocates for cutting government spending even more. This board pegs the question of, merely, how?

How are we supposed to further cut spending with invaluable government programs, such as transportation infrastructure and education, already cut down to the studs? Especially when the state’s coffers are literally overflowing with surplus funds. Schofield’s small-minded ideology has clouded his ability to see what is, while losing track of what is truly best for Texas. Luckily, there is another option.

Luis Lopez, the Democrat, has not only a greatly-inspiring life story, but a great grasp on the issues that represent deeply divergent points of view from Schofield. An immigrant himself at a very young age, he not only possesses the empathy needed to be an effective representative, but he understands the logistics of the issue itself.

Lopez is supportive of compassionate-yet-realistic immigration positions. He would be a great improvement for the education system, and also supports the repeal of damaging anti-abortion legislation that endangers thousands upon thousands of Texas women. Accordingly, this board endorses Luis Lopez for the Texas House, District 132.

House District 133
State Representative Jim Murphy has capably represented his constituents for a few terms now, first from 2007 to 2009 and then from 2011 to the present. We have found him to be sincere in his convictions and working with good intention to best represents his constituents. However, the political views that he has espoused are dangerously out of step. As noted in many of the previous endorsements, we have a serious problem with legislators who have taken egregious legislative action, such as voting to condone corporal punishment in schools, standing against equal pay for women or denying gays and lesbians some of their basic human rights. Simply put, this board finds no possible way in which we could support Murphy for another term.

Murphy’s opponent, Democrat Laura Nicol, presents plenty of her own concerns. She prompts a few questions about her preparation to hold public office, but we fervently believe that those concerns are heavily outweighed by the qualms we have with the incumbent. We believe that, at the end of the day, many of the positions that Nicol espouses are closer to our point of perspective, and so we will give her our nod.

Accordingly, this board endorses Laura Nicol for the Texas House, District 133.

House District 135
State Representative Gary Elkins kept a rather low profile last legislative session, mostly staying out of the spotlight throughout contentious moments, and merely becoming one of the rank-and-file in the Republican caucus, voting for many of the unacceptable policies.

However, Elkins’ great claim to fame came in the 2011 legislative session, when Elkins was one of the most instrumental forces behind the killing of a bill designed to reign in the usurious excesses of payday lenders. This, despite the fact that Elkins had a financial interest in no fewer than a dozen such lenders. His massive conflict of interest even drew the ire and rebuke of compatriots within his own party. However, this past session, Elkins was yet again a driving force behind the utter lack of any meaningful action to limit the despicable excesses of these loan sharks.

We don’t really know much about Elkins’ Democratic opponent, Moiz Abbas. Frankly, we don’t really care. Either vote for him or undervote if you do not want to play roulette with your ballot. Either way, this board believes that you shouldn’t vote for Elkins.

House District 136
State Representative Tony Dale will be seeking his second term in this suburban district long held by Beverly Woolley, a bombastic Tea Party leader. Dale, a Republican freshman, has continued in her tradition somewhat well –not that it’s a good thing. Dale, like we have said about ten times at this point, is beholden to many of the Texas Republican platitudes that make us apprehensive about supporting him.

Fortunately, Dale’s Democratic opponent, John Bucy III, would be a fabulous replacement. We believe that Bucy has both the experience and the temperament to be good, even-handed Legislator in this peculiar State. Bucy supports all the right progressive causes, such as equal rights for LGBT people, a woman’s right to choose and the urgent need to raise the minimum wage. However, he stops short of the excesses espoused by many in the Austin elite, as he rightly rules out raising taxes.

Accordingly, this board endorses John Bucy III for the Texas House, District 136.

House District 137
State Representative Gene Wu was named by this board as the Best Member of the Texas House in our rankings last session. We obviously believe that he deserves another chance to represent his constituents at the Capitol. At the time, we lauded Wu’s steadfast dedication to both doing the right thing in the House and trying to deliver up-to-the-minute information to his constituents via social media.

As we said last year, the most impression action on the part of Wu –in our eyes– was his fiery pushback against a bill that would have criminalized so-called “ballot harvesting,” essentially making it illegal to be a Good Samaritan seeking others in voting. Thanks to the needed media attention to this bill that Wu was instrumental in orchestrating, the bill’s most draconian sections were nixed in the Senate.

We find Wu’s Republican opponent, Morad Fiki, to be a man with noble intentions, but he is just not right for the 137th District. The people of Sharpstown deserve a true leader who will vehemently defend their interests and fight on their behalf. Thus, this board endorses Gene Wu for the Texas House, District 137.

House District 144
The incumbent State Representative, Mary Ann Perez, a Democrat, faces no credible opposition. We have largely been satisfied with her work as a legislator. Thus, this board endorses her for the Texas House, District 144.

House District 146
The incumbent State Representative, Borris Miles, a Democrat, faces no credible opposition. We have largely been satisfied with his work as a legislator. Thus, this board endorses Borris Miles for the Texas House, District 146.

House District 148
State Representative Jessica Farrar has represented her constituents well for nearly twenty years. As the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, she is the de facto Minority Leader in the lower house. In this role, she has been spectacularly receptive and accommodating to the needs of everyday Texans. From social issues to economic hurdles, the middle class and poor of Texas have few greater advocates in the State Government than Farrar. She has a solid track record on leadership, and her constituents would be wise to send her back to the Legislature once more.

Farrar’s Republican opponent, Chris Carmona, represents a new brand of Republicanism. He is younger, more inclusive and more pragmatic than most of his compatriots who hold high office. We wish him the best of luck in future endeavors and in any campaign to reign in the partisan extremes of his political party, but he is not right for the 148th District. Jessica Farrar is.

As the Vice-Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Farrar nobly leads on both law & order issues and justice issues. She bravely introduced legislation recently that would abolish the death penalty in Texas, a position to which we have concurred to consistently.

Accordingly, this board endorses Jessica Farrar for the Texas House, District 148.

House District 149
Representative Hubert Vo has served as a good representative for his community for many terms. He meets his constituents and is receptive to their concerns. We think the voters of the 149th District would be wise to stick with their advocate in Austin and vote for Vo once more.

By Hoang’s own admission, his candidacy is all about Vo’s opposition to an omnibus anti-abortion bill last year aimed at shutting down abortion clinics. This board proudly stands with Vo against the misguided piece of legislation, but we think that a political campaign should consist of far more than that. Of course, Hoang, who served on the Houston City Council until being thrown out by voters last November, should know that. Vo was right on that issue, but —more importantly— he is right on the way that he effectively governs in the neighborhood.

Accordingly, this board endorses Hubert Vo for the Texas House, District 149.

House District 150
What can we say about State Representative Debbie Riddle, the Tea Party Republican who has represented this district in northwestern Harris County for many years? She is, at the core, a hateful person who all too often seeks to demonize members of the community in order to prove a political point. In 2012, she got into an online feud with a Law Student of Pakistani descent. After he critiqued the current foreign policy of this country, Riddle derided him in xenophobic fashion that he should move to Afghanistan, and a broad array of other sanctimonious and hateful notions.

Unfortunately, this is not the only such incident that Riddle has engaged in. She has lambasted the society-accepted idea of free education, characterizing it as a socialist scheme that came from, and we quote, “the pit of hell.”

Thankfully for the voters of the 150th District, they have another option. Amy Perez, a schoolteacher, is a smart and energetic Democratic candidate that presents herself as a respectful, pragmatic and intelligent alternative to Riddle. She supports offsetting the harmful cuts done to public schools in recent legislative sessions, while Riddle evidently thinks their very existence is inherently hellish.

Accordingly, this board endorses Amy Perez for the Texas House, District 150.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston, Luis Fayad of College Station and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority opinion of the board.

Texpatriate’s Questions for David Rosen

Editorial note: This is the fourteenth in our series of electronic interviews with candidates for Statewide and Harris County offices. We have sent questionnaires to every candidate on the ballot, given we could find a working email address. We have printed their answers verbatim as we receive them. If you are or work for such a candidate, and we did not send a questionnaire, please contact us <info@texpate.com>.

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David Rosen, Democratic candidate for Harris County Treasurer

Texpatriate: What is your name?
DR: David Rosen

T: How long have your held this post? What number term are you seeking?
DR: I am a challenger to an incumbent. I do not hold this post, and I am seeking what would be my first term.

T: Please list all the elected or appointed POLITICAL (including all Judicial) offices you have previously held, and for what years you held them.
DR: I have never held an elected or appointed political office.

T: What is your political party?
DR: I am a Democrat.

T: What do you think the role of the County Treasurer should be?
DR: You deserve to know where your money is going. As your Harris County Treasurer, I will create an online portal where anyone with an internet connection can see money going in and out of our local government coffers in as close to real-time as possible. This data is currently uploaded once a month by the incumbent in the form of a gigantic PDF file. I want to make this data searchable and user-friendly, similar to how former District Clerk Loren Jackson made the data flowing in and out of that office more navigable. This information should be available to any person at any time for any reason. If elected County Treasurer, I will act as if I was the Chief Transparency Officer of Harris County.

Harris County government is in desperate need for more transparency. In the last six years, three of our Constables have been indicted and a County Commissioner and County Budget Officer both resigned their offices, all because of alleged financial improprieties.

In other counties, the County Treasurer may also have some finance, auditing, forecasting or budgeting responsibilities. The office of Harris County Treasurer has largely been relegated to serve in an accounts payable/accounts receivable function. I would like to see Commissioners Court restore some of the responsibilities to this office that were stripped from the County Treasurer in the mid-1990s, when Don Sumners held the position.

I also want to use this office to do some social good – to partner with local non-profits that teach basic personal finance and financial literacy to young people in Harris County’s roughest neighborhoods.

T: Do you believe that the incumbent has specifically failed at her or his job? If so, why?
DR: The longer my opponent remains in office, the less relevant and the less visible this office becomes. Most people have never heard of the County Treasurer unless they received a check for serving as a juror. So far as I know, in my opponent’s eight years in office, he has only publicly issued two official opinions: first, he spoke up against interest rate default swaps (years after the interest rate default swaps went sour), and secondly, he said the scrolling marquees on Metro buses should not display the words “Go Texans!”

I would challenge anyone who is thinking of voting for my opponent to go to the County Treasurer’s new website and see for themselves how our monthly expenditures are displayed.

You deserve better. You deserve to know where your money is going.

T: Why you, as opposed to your opponents?
DR: I am a lifelong Houstonian, the son of two local public schoolteachers and a former Student Body President at the University of Houston. I work in communications at an offshore engineering company and at night I am earning my MBA from the University of Houston’s C.T. Bauer College of Business. I am set to graduate in May of next year.

I am the only candidate in this race who is campaigning on a specific platform of changes to be made to this office and to local policy. I am running with the support of hundreds of Democrats, independents and Republicans from across Harris County.

My opponent is an entrenched part of the system that I am trying to change.

I am the only candidate in this race who has not been sanctioned by the Texas Ethics Commission on four separate occasions. I am the only candidate in this race who has not run for office ten different times for four different positions. I am the only candidate in this race who is not named Orlando Sanchez.

T: There has recently been talk of abolishing this office, much like the former position of State Treasurer. Is this a good idea? Why or why not?
DR: Former Republican primary candidate for County Treasurer Arnold Hinojosa and former Democratic County Treasurer nominee Richard Garcia have both publicly said that they support abolishing this position. I believe that such criticism from both sides of the political spectrum is more of a reflection on the guy who holds the office rather than a reflection of the office itself.

We need more people, not fewer people, watching our public money. If used properly, this office can be a powerful tool to shine a light on local government spending.

The office of State Treasurer was abolished in 1995 and its duties were absorbed by the State Comptroller, a similar office that is directly answerable to the voters. There is no similar public elected office in Harris County that would absorb the duties of the County Treasurer if the position was abolished.

Abolishing the County Treasurer’s office would require an amendment to the State Constitution. It is not as simple as pressing a button or flipping a switch – it would be a long, expensive process that would require a statewide vote.

The office of County Treasurer has been abolished in eight Texas counties, but none since the 1980s. In the past, Commissioners Courts around Texas have threatened to abolish the office when those Commissioners have clashed politically with the person holding the office of County Treasurer. This happened in Fort Bend County in 2005, for instance, in Harris County in the 1990s when Don Sumners was County Treasurer, and again more recently in 2007. All three of those attempts failed.

T:  The Democratic nominee for this position has advocated creating same-sex partner benefits for the employees of Harris County. Is this desirable? Furthermore, is this an appropriate issue for the County Treasurer (if so, why)?
DR: My parents are the reason that I got involved in politics. They taught me that if I had three meals a day to eat and a roof over my head, that I should consider myself lucky, and that I owed it to my community to try to make things better for other people.

My parents retired last year after working for more than 70 combined years as public schoolteachers in the Houston area. They have been together 28 years and they are married, but because of their sexual orientation they are still not able to share health insurance. This is a tremendous financial hardship that was placed on my working-class family for no reason other than because my parents are gay.

I have been calling for marriage equality and insurance equality since long before I ever became a candidate for County Treasurer, and I will continue talking about this issue until couples like my parents are finally treated equally under the law.

T: What are the three most important issues to you, and what is at least one thing you have done to address each of them?
DR: 1)      Equality for my GLBT friends and family members – the fight for GLBT equality can only be described as my generation’s civil rights movement. This is an issue that is also tremendously important to me and my family, since I was raised by two Moms. Earlier this year, I released a campaign video featuring my gay parents and touting my support for gay rights – so far as we know, this is the first time that an American political candidate with GLBT parents has featured their family in an advertisement. From the outset of this campaign, I have called for same-sex partner benefits to be offered to the employees of Harris County. In May, I had the privilege of sharing our story in OutSmart Magazine. Later that month we appeared as a family on KPFT’s radio show Queer Voices. 

2)      Getting the next generation of activists involved in local politics – I am thrilled to campaign alongside volunteers from the Lamar High School Young Democrats, the Rice Young Democrats, and a group called West U for Progress.

3)      Mentoring young people in my former neighborhood of Alief – joining the debate team in 7th grade at Killough Middle School changed my life for the better. My former coach, Mrs. Sandra Jones, was one of the most important people from my childhood and she is still a good friend. I have mentored students on the debate team at Killough as a volunteer debate coach, 15 years after I was captain of the same debate team.

 

Complaint filed against Judge Franklin

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The Houston Chronicle reports that Greg Enos, the prominent attorney who was behind a series of criminal complaints that ultimately brought down Family District Judge Denise Pratt, has now filed yet another complaint against her successor. Judge Alicia Franklin, who defeated Pratt in a Republican primary after she abruptly resigned, was appointed by Governor Rick Perry in June to fill out the remainder of Pratt’s term. She is also the Republican candidate for a full four-year term in the post this November, where she faces Sherri Cothrun, an attorney who is her Democratic opponent.

Enos alleges that Franklin abused her power as a court-appointed attorney on CPS related cases, as she did extensively prior to her assuming judicial office. Enos’ detailed each and every one of his allegations in somewhat meticulous detail in his intermittent newsletter, The Mongoose. I cannot state strongly enough have vehemently I urge you to read the full newsletter and the explanation for the allegations made in painstaking detail.

First, Enos accuses Franklin of billing exorbitant hours for individual days, often much more than 10 hours and –on one occasion– 23.5 hours. Typically, billings for ad litem appointments such as this one exclude what is called an “administrative task,” such as driving, postal work, etc. Only legal work should ostensibly be included.

Second, Franklin allegedly charged for work after she became a Judge, which –if true– would be a huge violation of State law and ethical codes. Third, when she received one of these neutral appointments, she allegedly received a campaign contribution from one of the interested parties.

Fourth, as I explained above, she allegedly billed for many –as Enos put it– “non-lawyer” tasks, such as going to the post office, electronically filing documents or merely printing the documents. Lastly, Enos found an issue with Franklin adorning her campaign placards with pleas to be “re-elected,” even though she is merely the appointed incumbent. After checking with the relevant authorities at the Commission on Judicial Conflict, Enos confirmed that it would be an ethical violation to do so.

Franklin has reportedly retained a PR firm, Begala/McGarth, and has been somewhat silent on this issue to all involved. Last month, Franklin defended her billing practices as a collaborative total number of hours which included work accrued by her associates. Of course, according to the law, allowing others’ work to be included within your ad litem billing is prohibited as well. Franklin also defended the pay vouchers submitted while she was a Judge as work that had occurred before her appointment. Of course, the Chronicle notes that some of the pay vouchers show work apparently done after she was sworn-in.

My friend Greg at Rhymes with Right defended Franklin somewhat vigorously, employing the same strategy of work done by associates. He also goes further in stating that she received a phone call to be appointed rather hastily, and her associates needed time to close down shop, explaining the post-Judge hours billed. I suppose that is logical, but Franklin explicitly chose not to invoke it when confronted on the billings made while she was on the bench. Additionally, given that the incumbent had resigned and Franklin had won the Republican primary, was anyone actually surprised by her appointment? It was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

All in all, I think there is enough evidence for the District Attorney’s office to begin an investigation. Beyond that, I don’t think I know enough about the situation one way or another. Enos did reveal that much of the dirt he obtained occurred as a result of Sherri Cothrun, the Democrat in the race. Cothrun, for what its worth, recent brought Burt Levine onto her campaign. Levine, of course, formerly had extensive ties to Denise Pratt.

Additionally, it should be noted that Cothrun’s law partner, Rita Lucido, who you may recognize as the Democratic candidate for the 17th Senate District, was the attorney that represented the man who allegedly donated to Franklin in the aforementioned case. The one where the donator was an interested party and Franklin was a neutral court-appointee.

If you thought The Mongoose‘s involvement at the courthouse was done, think again!

Big Jolly Politics and Off the Kuff have more.

How much is Davis losing by?

This appears to be the big question. The Houston Chronicle reports that a few polls have come out in the gubernatorial election, each painting a successively worse picture for State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. First, an internal poll from the campaign of Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, that showed him beating Davis by 18 points. Davis fired back with one showing her deficit to only be eight points. Meanwhile, YouGov –in conjunction with both CBS and The New York Times– released its second poll for this race, confirming Abbott’s lead at 18, actually one point higher than the previous YouGov poll from over the summer.

The first poll, Abbott’s internal memo, was conducted by a firm called Wilson Perkins Allen. The firm typically has a sizable Republican bias, but with a result this overwhelming, there should be little doubt of who is up by double digits. The poll showed Abbott leading with a majority of both women and Hispanics.

Internal Poll

The second poll, Davis’ internal poll, paints a far rosier picture, with the deficit being a comparably mere eight points. Both of these internal polls, as best as I can figure out, exclude both Kathie Glass (the Libertarian) and Brandon Parmer (the Green). This poll, effectively, has the same result that Rasmussen Report offered up last month. Granted, this poll may offer some improvement for Davis, since Rasmussen pegged the race at 48Abbott-40Davis and this poll offers 46Abbott-38Davis, meaning that Abbott is further from the all-important 50-percent mark.

However, there have been some Pro-Davis groups that have latched onto this poll as some type of “momentum” for the Democrats. Obviously, such characterizations are unwise.

Internal Poll2

Finally, we come to the YouGov poll. They have a rather haphazard track record, but the new 18 point deficit that Davis faces has actually grown since July. As I wrote at length about YouGov when their previous poll came out, they should be taken with a grain of salt, but not be so wholeheartedly discounted like a Texas Tribune poll.

YouGov

As I have explained ad naseum in the past, Public Policy Polling (PPP) and Rasmussen Reports are the only two polling houses worth their weight in paper that actually poll Texas.

If I stopped ten people on the street in Houston and jotted down the results on this publication, that might be the worst poll in the history of Texas polling. But, statistically speaking, there would be a noticeable chance that 5 support Abbott, 4 support Davis and 1 currently undecided. That doesn’t mean I have a good poll, it means that –for lack of a non-cliched phrase– my broken clock is right on one of its obligatory two instances throughout the day.

Accordingly, I share the sentiment of many Democrats in discounting the apocalyptic tone that the YouGov poll would seem to prompt from the Davis campaign. If I had to guess, I would think that Davis currently trails at about 8-10 points, with an insignificant portion of the electorate still undecided. All other things being equal, that is where she will probably end up, losing to Abbott around 53-43, with the remainder split amongst the fringe candidates.

The Davis campaign appears complacent with the eight-point deficit to a worrisome extent. I observed much of the same complacent-with-mediocrity attitude a couple weeks back when one national pundit moved the gubernatorial race from “safe Republican” to “leans Republican.” You would have thought a poll had put the Democrat ahead by their gleeful attitudes.

The Chronicle article that I linked at the top of this post makes much the same point. This is not 2012, where both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were arguing over polls that showed either one clinching victory. The only argument here is how much Davis is losing by, and it is a rather depressing argument over semantics for her to make.

Brains & Eggs and Off the Kuff have more.

Texpatriate endorses in CD7

In previous editorials, this board has lamented the sorry state that Congress is in today. Invariably, we criticized the Republican majority for their hypocrisy, malice and obstinate attitude. We think Congressman John Culberson of the 7th District exemplifies all three of these poor qualities, and that voters would be wise to toss him out of office in favor James Cargas, the Democratic candidate.

In this western Houston suburban district, which was once held by former President George H.W. Bush at the start of his political career, Culberson has held office in 2001. Previously, Culberson served in the Texas House of Representatives for fourteen years.

Now, if you were not aware that Culberson has been present in Houston politics for well over a decade, you would be forgiven. Culberson apparently no longer lives in Houston, given how little time he actually spends in the district. Nor is his participation in Congress especially noteworthy; in his seven terms in Congress, he has only introduced a handful of bills, and even fewer have actually gone anywhere of consequence. As Texas Monthly would call it, Culberson’s level of participation in the political process is virtually indistinguishable from his tables and chairs.

Of course, when Culberson does participate in the process, it isn’t much better. Perhaps the most infamous example of Culberson’s meddling is with the expansion of the Metro Light Rail on Richmond Avenue. Despite overwhelming community support, Culberson has stood in the way of expansion for the needed mass transit project. He cloaked his small-minded opposition to mass transit as faux-grassroots support of the community. Culberson has even taken this position to its absurd extreme by passing a specific amendment in a transportation bill that denies Federal funding for the expansion project, an action that even drew the ire of fellow Republican Congressman Ted Poe.

And, it almost goes without saying, this board strongly disagrees with many of Culberson’s core political views, including those on social policies, immigration and foreign policy.

Considering all these grievances we have with Culberson, it was a welcome respite to find such an experienced, qualified and sensible opponent in James Cargas. An attorney with the City of Houston, Cargas has a broad background in Oil & Gas that makes him an ideal representative for the centrist district. Furthermore, Cargas shows an expansive and impressive breadth of political knowledge on the pertinent issues. We thoroughly believe that he is more than ready for prime time.

We agree with Cargas on Metrorail expansion, as well as the typical laundry list of political flashpoints. However, perhaps most importantly, we think that he would be an amazing communicator with his prospective constituents, a very welcome change from the incumbent. In a possible Cargas tenure, the people –and not the special interests– would be put above all else.

The residents of District 7, including three members of this board, have a very simple choice to make. Either continue along with a Congressman that shows minimal-effort and maximum-malice on most issues, or pick an alternative that does not. We are wholeheartedly going with the latter.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston, Luis Fayad of College Station and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority opinion of the voting board.

It’s time to stop Houston City Council prayers

Most of the longtime readers of this publication will be familiar with how I, as well as everyone else affiliated with Texpatriate, first got my start in local politics. For three years throughout High School, I served with 33 other young people in an organization called the Mayor’s Youth Council. We would meet in Council chambers a few times a month, after hours, and debate the pertinent issues of the day in a way that mirrored the real City government. This included the agenda itself, complete with ordinances, pop-off debates and introductory pleasantries. These pleasantries included the pledge of allegiance and a prayer. Ostensibly, the prayer should have been non-sectarian, but given that each member of the Council would receive an opportunity to participate, many had inherently Christian messages. The very same thing happens at the Houston City Council. Of course, this is where the similarity ended.

Under the stewardship of a few people, namely Luis Fayad (the Mayor-equivalent of the MYC my first year and a current Texpatriate Editorial Board member), the prayers were removed from youth council proceedings. As you might imagine, individuals in the Mayor’s office had some fairly strong words for us as a result of our new policy. But we proceeded with it nonetheless. The world did not end because the church had to stop its influence at the town hall’s doors. In fact, the protections of religious liberty from our Constitution were made all the stronger because of it. It is past time for the Houston City Council and the Mayor to follow suit.

Ironically enough, the constitutionality of this miscarriage of justice is likely in a much stronger position today than it was in 2009 when my contemporaries first challenge the procedure. Last year, the Supreme Court held 5-4 in Town of Greece v. Galloway that a local municipality did not transgress the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment by holding sectarian prayers. However, more than a constitutional or legal point, these prayers should be done away with from a moral point of view.

Thomas Jefferson said it best that there should be “a wall of separation between Church & State.” Obviously, when a City Councilmember or the Mayor in their official capacity espouse religious rhetoric, the wall has not just been breached, but totally leveled.

One of the arguments used in Town of Greece to argue for the prayer’s illegality was that a City Council is quite different from, say, a State Legislature because of the inherent differences in the ways those bodies do business. Whereas a State Legislature simply meets and deliberates lawmaking, a City Council has tons of direct interaction with townspeople. Thus, Greece’s prayer, they argued, was directed at the entire town instead of just a pseudo-private interaction between individual lawmakers.

While the Supreme Court was not persuaded by that argument legally speaking, I still find it hard to argue against on a right/wrong level. When a City such as Houston has a Christian-themed prayer before an official meeting of its City Council, it inherently says that it is endorsing Christianity to its citizens.

Now, perhaps you would argue that there is nothing wrong with the government endorsing Christianity. Or, more expansively, merely endorsing religion over irreligion. The problem with this is that it goes against the multi-century history of this country. The faux religious influences in public life, such as “In God We Trust” on money or “Under God” in the pledge of allegiance, have not been around since time immemorial. Despite the claims of historical revisionists, both were only added in the 1950s.

Both the church and the state work immensely better when they are separated from one another. When, as Jefferson suggested, a great wall is erected between them, they can both work without outside adulterations. Stopping prayers, especially those of a sectarian nature, from occurring within the walls of City Hall would be great start.

For whatever reason, those advocating for the entanglement of church and state have always resorted to name-calling in order to demonstrate their point. I’ll likely be called Godless or Anti-Religion for espousing these points of view, when, in reality, I am neither. As a Jew, I have never subscribed to the ludicrous point of view that my religion should be thrust upon everyone else. The same should go for the belief in God or of any organized religion whatsoever. It’s an important part of my life, but it should have no place in the seat of government. It just shouldn’t.

I have attended a broad array of parochial schools in my life. St. Regis (Catholic), St. Stephen’s (Episcopalian) and Emery/Weiner (Jewish) come to mind rather immediately. All of those schools combined some element of religious classes with either mass, chapel or Jewish prayer sessions. Growing up, my Mother would often wish to pray before eating, a custom which is still mandatory among functions with my extended family. I never have had, nor do I now, any problem with any of these influences in my life. If I ever have children, I will even likely seek these religious influences out as invaluable facets of the child’s upbringing. But none of them should be in the public square. For, just as easily as my family may have had our specific religious persuasion, other family could have their own. Still others could choose to observe no religious instruction or influence. The beauty of the United States is that we are free to pursue our religious goals ourselves, independent from an encroaching, burdensome government.

As Justice Robert H. Jackson, a devout Anglican, wrote in a 1950s dissent on religious instruction during the school day: “My evangelistic brethren confuse an objection to compulsion with an objection to religion. It is possible to hold a faith with enough confidence to believe that what should be rendered to God does not need to be decided by Caesar.” And as Justice William Brennan said in his famous dissent to Marsh v. Chambers, the aforementioned case from 30 years ago that upheld legislative prayer, “If the Court had struck down legislative prayer today, it would likely have stimulated a furious reaction. But it would also, I am convinced, have invigorated both the ‘spirit of religion’ and the ‘spirit of freedom.'” Here’s for that spirit of freedom!

2015 Mayoral election

Since the beginning of the year, I have been intermittently trying to sit down with the prospective candidates for Mayor in 2015. Mayor Annise Parker, of course, is term-limited at that time, meaning that the election will be an open race. At this time, there is only one candidate openly running for Mayor, complete with signs and social media presence, and that is City Councilmember Oliver Pennington (R-District G). However, there are typically about nine other names that keep coming up as likely Mayoral candidates. These individuals range from being completely ready to go, to simply intently looking into the situation. Additionally, there are about two or three other people I have heard mentioned in passing as possible candidates, but never by anyone willing to go on the record. I will only be discussing the former category.

The eight other candidates, in addition to Pennington, are former Congressman Chris Bell (D-TX), City Councilmember Jack Christie (R-At Large 5), Eric Dick (R), City Councilmember Stephen Costello (R-AL1), METRO Chairman Gilbert Garcia (D), City Councilmember Ed Gonzalez (D-District H), former City Attorney Ben Hall (D), City Councilmember Michael Kubosh (R-At Large 3) and State Representative Sylvester Turner (D-Harris County). Among those I have heard passing on the race are Sheriff Adrian Garcia (D), City Controller Ronald Green (D), Laura Murillo and County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez (R).

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