An election for District Attorney

The Houston Chronicle reports that Kim Ogg, a longtime prosecutor and former director of CrimeStoppers, will run for the District Attorney’s office as a Democrat in 2014. Devon Anderson, the newly appointed District Attorney, wasted no time in noting that she will run for a full term herself in 2014.

The only policy issue that the Chronicle noted of Ogg was the previous District Anderson, Mike Anderson’s, reversal of the precedent in drug “trace cases,” where a nearly negligible amount of drugs such as crack cocaine would still constitute a felony.  The policy was reversed during the tenure of Pat Lykos from 2009 to 2013, but reinstated upon M. Anderson taking office.

Ogg is the daughter of Jack Ogg, a political legend from a previous generation. The senior Ogg, also a Democrat, served in the State House from 1967 to 1973, and in the State Senate from 1973 to 1983. During his last legislative session in the upper chamber, Ogg served as the President Pro Tempore.

Considering how viscerally negative the response of many in the GOP have been to D. Anderson’s appointment to the DA’s office, it is not a forgone conclusion that she will win the primary. I am not a betting man (Editorial note: That’s a damned lie, Noah), but I would reckon that next year’s GOP DA Primary would feature something of a three person race, between Anderson, a Pat Lykos backer and someone to the very far-right.

When it comes to the Democrats, all bets are off. For those who remember, last year the Democrats defenestrated themselves by nominating a complete loon for the post. That primary season was especially painful for Democrats, however, as our US Senate nominee couldn’t even clear a primary against literal no-names.

This news should also open up the conversation about our Countywide contests. As far as I know, Ogg and David Rosen for County Treasurer are the only Democrats running for all of Harris. The Clerks & County Judge still need candidates. Ann Bennett talked about running for one of the Clerkships last summer, but I have not heard anything recently about.

Big Jolly Politics & Off the Kuff have more.

TPA Roundup (September 30, 2013)

Note: The opinions of other Texas Progressive Alliance blogs are not necessarily aligned with Texpatriate or any of its members.

The Texas Progressive Alliance is ready to stand with Wendy as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff is glad to see more people questioning the purpose of Rick Perry’s job-stealing trips, which do little more than spend tax dollars promoting Rick Perry.

This week, McBlogger tells the story of a man with no plan, who’ll get no pay because he caused a delay. While others worked hard, his head was filled with lard. And then he tried to hide, so now we get to chide.

Somebody is going to have to do some dirty work if Wendy Davis is going to get elected governor, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs nominates the Castro brothers.

Sophia at Texpatriate got a special sneak peak of (Houston mayoral candidate) Ben Hall’s newest television ad.

Ted Cruz doesn’t think waiters and maids deserve health care. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme doesn’t think Ted Cruz deserves to represent Texas.

Neil at All People Have Value made more posts in All People Have Value. All People Have Value is part of Neil’s website NeilAquino.com.

Lightseeker offers another in his continuing investigation of the Education Wars. Check out Three Telling Articles on The Education Wars. Give it a look, I am sure Rick Perry will. [snark]

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John Coby mocks Ted Cruz as only he can.

Jason Stanford, on the other hand, sees Ted Cruz as a great gift for Texas Democrats.

Concerned Citizens stands up for San Antonio City Council member Diego Bernal, author of their new non-discrimination ordinance and much more.

Texas Redistricting reports that True The Vote wants to get involved in the voter ID litigation.

The TSTA Blog asks what “education reform” means to Greg Abbott.

Better Texas Blog points out the mental health care benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

Texas given ‘AAA’ rating

The Spring Observer reports that Standard & Poors has upgraded the State of Texas’ bond rating to AAA, the highest category. Texas, like the United States, held the second-highest rank previous of AA+.

Texas’ imperfect credit rating had been the subject of some big disagreements recently. Recently, when Governor Perry’s nationwide tour of offending people began, Jay Nixon (the Governor of Missouri) pointed out that his State was a safer investment.

The news did not garner any mainstream press, but it is a big deal. For the first time in Texas history, Texas is receiving the highest credit rating from all three major credit agencies.

Comptroller Susan Combs then released the following statement:

“I am pleased with the Standard & Poor’s ratings upgrade. When I made presentations to the ratings agencies this summer my message was very clear. Texas is a business-friendly state with a strong job market and a diverse mix of industries. These bond ratings reflect Wall Street’s confidence in the Texas economy, the state’s revenue growth and disciplined cash management and budgeting.”

Governor Rick Perry, meanwhile, sent out the following, brief press release:

“S&P’s decision to raise Texas’ credit rating to AAA is no accident, but further proof that the Texas model of conservative fiscal discipline is a key element of our strong economy, and a stark contrast to the out-of-control spending and rising debt ceilings of Washington, D.C. In Texas, we adhere to the powerful combination of keeping taxes low and government spending in check, ensuring Texas remains the best place in the country to live, work, raise a family and build a business.”

The news is a major event for the State. Holding a perfect bond rating both lowers interest rates for borrowing money, thus alleviating the deficit. Additionally, it encourages more investment, as more individuals find the investment to be one of the safest there is.

Republican or Democrat, Texans should celebrate this news.

Medina might run for Governor

The Texas Tribune reports on possible huge development for the 2014 Gubernatorial race. Debra Medina, the former Wharton County Republican Chair and Tea Party favorite 2010 gubernatorial candidate, is flirting with the idea of running for Governor in 2014…as an independent. Medina, who was previously somewhat sold on running for Comptroller, has a reputation for being a Ted Cruz-style insurgent type candidate well before Ted Cruz was a household name in Texas politics.

Medina ran for Governor in 2010 to the right of Rick Perry, running against both him and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Ultimately, she finished in third place with 19% of the vote, a full 11% behind Hutchison. However, at one point, she was at 24%, well within striking distance of forcing a runoff with Perry.

The article in the Tribune insinuated that Medina would rather run for Comptroller in the Republican primary, but has trouble getting off the ground when it comes to raising any significant amount of money. Alternatively, she has discussed the possibility of running as an Independent candidate for Governor, to which she insinuated donations would be somewhat larger.

By no means is it a done deal, or even especially likely, that Medina will choose this path. However, let us assume arguendo that she decides to run for Governor as an independent. The situation would be greatly beneficial to the Democrats for a number of obvious, and a few non-obvious, reasons.

If 2010 is any indication, Medina would run to the right of Abbott. While the Tea Party influence in most of the country is somewhat tepid compared to where it was three years ago, the opposite is probably true of Texas. Back in 2010, people of the right-wing were content to believe the institutional GOP had their best interests at heart. That all changed with Ted Cruz, and now has produced a domino effect with Dan Patrick (& possibly Louie Gohmert). If Medina decides to run for Governor as an independent, she would receive more Republican primary voters than she did in 2010.

Medina would also have some issues to run on. Specifically, the US Airlines-American merger, which Greg Abbott famously opposed. The Texas Tribune just reported, a few hours ago, that the Texas Association of Business, a nominally conservative organization, has harshly repudiated Abbott for this stance. Medina would have a major leg to stand on with this issue.

The benefit for Democrats is somewhat obvious. Texas does not require majorities to win, so Wendy Davis could get elected Governor with 44% of the vote if Medina takes a serious chunk of the right-wing away from Abbott. As opposed to other “mavericky” Republicans to recently run for Governor as independents (e.g., Carole Keeton Strayhorn), Medina does not risk taking any votes from moderates.

Hall alleges corruption

The Houston Chronicle reports on the Ben Hall campaign’s recent allegations of corruption at City Hall. Perhaps this is what he was referring to when speaking broadly, in innuendo, of Parker’s “multiple ethics violations.” Hall’s campaign sent me a press release outlining what his plan would be, in regard to solving the evident crisis of corruption. I have to give him some credit for outlining an actual problem –more later on if the problem actually pertains to the Mayor, however– and having some specific, concrete solutions to the problem. As Hall delineates in his press release, his 10-point plan on corruption:

  1. Two-year moratorium on accepting campaign contributions after vendors receive city contracts.

  2. Two-year moratorium on accepting campaign contributions from municipal appointees.

  3. A candidate may not accept any contributions over $250.00 from an officer, director, or employee of a city contractor.

  4. When a contract is awarded or a person appointed, all campaign contributions given by that individual and/or company during the previous municipal election cycle must be disclosed immediately.

  5. Two-year moratorium on any city employees registering as lobbyists or working for a lobbying firm. 

  6. Requiring lobbyists to file reports and creation of a searchable online database showing information (i.e. names of companies they lobby for, amount paid, amount spent, amount spent on contributions, etc.)

  7. No gifts will be accepted by the Mayor within the six months preceding an election.

  8. Create a searchable online database of city contracts awarded by all departments.

  9. Create a searchable online city check register.

  10. Increased accountability through improving search capability for ethics reports.

Some of the points are not as specific as they should be, but it is a start. Point No. 6, which essentially requires lobbyists to file the equivalent of a campaign finance report, seems somewhat arduous and excessive. As does Point No. 7, which is greatly arbitrary. That being said, I really do like a lot of his ideas on moratoriums, specifically Point No. 5, which has been pushed for most prominently at the national level. The phenomenon is typically referred to as the “Revolving Door problem,” and is an issue in any place of government, be that Washington, Austin or Houston.

Hall’s campaign ideas on this subject are chock full of interesting ideas, but that leaves one question conveniently unanswered. How does this pertain to the incumbent? My basic, underlying philosophy on elections featuring an incumbent is that the challengers must convince the electorate that the incumbent has failed. It seems that Hall largely agrees with this premise

A lengthy report was also published by the Hall campaign, noting all of Parker’s major campaign donations featuring city contractors. The report, which is about 13 pages long full of names, features two possible ethics violations. The analysis by Mike Morris at the Chronicle also was somewhat indecisive, bordering on dubious, vis-a-vis these allegations. I tend to agree with him.

Morris then interviewed Dave Feldman, the City Attorney. He noted that many of the contracts that Hall lambasts, those involving $50k or more in expenses, are the City Council’s job to approve, rather than the Executive Branch’s. On the greater issue, Feldman criticized the assertions as “absurd.”

While I certainly do not believe that the Mayor acted in bad faith in regard to campaign finance issues, I was somewhat surprised and perplexed to see how the Parker campaign responded to the issue. Rather than fully deny any wrongdoing on Parker’s part (again, not alleging they are hiding anything), the Mayor’s campaign simply responded by casting an aversion of their own. The Mayor’s spokesperson, Sue Davis, simply deflected the subject to Hall’s past allegations of impropriety, his tax liens and his tax returns. While those are all valid topics of discussion, they were not the issue at hand, but I digress.

Ben Hall would be wise to knock off his ridiculous claims of Parker being some sort of corrupt politician. And Annise Parker would be wise to not stoop to that low level by not responding with mudslinging, simply addressing the issue and moving on. The campaign really needs to be talking about substance, and this is where the points Hall alleges come into play.

I would like to know, without any sensationalism, without any editorializing, what Parker’s campaign thinks of these issues. To be such a proponent of campaign finance reform and strict regulations seems more systemic of the actual Ben Hall, the Democrat, rather than the faux, Republican-friendly one. I am curious to also know what Hall’s Republican supports think of this idea. As a Democrat, I have historically supported ideas such as closing the revolving door. It would be the height of hypocrisy for me to now oppose those beliefs because of which candidate is attached to them. I hope my colleagues may see it that way as well.

 

 

Brown to replace Hecht on Supreme Court

In an odd piece of news that the Texas Tribune did not seem to cover, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Governor Perry has tapped Jeff Brown, a Justice on the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston, to the Texas Supreme Court. Brown will replace Justice Nathan Hecht, who Perry recently selected as the new Chief Justice of the court. The shakeup first started a good number of weeks ago, when Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson announced he would step down effective October 1st. Hecht will replace him at that time, making his seat open then as well. It is unclear when Brown will take the new job.

As this “trickle-down judiciary” continues, all eyes will be upon who Governor Perry chooses to replace Brown on the 14th Court of Appeals. The astute will remember that I did not support Jeff Brown the last time his name came up for election.

This pick solidifies the fact that the Texas Supreme Court will become even more conservative now. While Hecht and Brown are somewhat ideologically similar, one was hoping that a more pragmatic pick would be made by Perry to offset the increased conservatism coming to the Chief Justice’s seat. Jefferson was far more bipartisan and overall reasonable than his successor will be.

Brown did previously run for the Supreme Court in 2010, coming in a distant spot within the Republican primary. Hecht must run again in 2014.

Lawsuit filed against HB2

The Austin American-Statesman reports that HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill signed by the Governor last July, will see a lawsuit (probably not the last) filed against it.

The bill, known in a previous session as SB5 when Wendy Davis filibustered the bill to death, does four main things. First, it moves up the general ban on elective abortions from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. Second, it requires all abortion clinics adhere to somewhat onerous standards known as an “ambulatory surgical center” requirement. Third, it requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. In this case, “nearby” is defined as thirty miles, and somewhat strict regulation for rural locations. Fourth, the bill requires the inducing drug, RU-486, to be administered in person. This, in practice, means the woman would be forced to travel to the clinic on two separate days.

Whole Women’s Health, being backed by the ACLU, has now sued the State of Texas in Federal Court to enjoin the latter two components. The suit was filed, as I predicted, in the Austin sector of Texas’ Western District Court. It alleges that these two regulations and unnecessarily burdensome, and they are the two slated to take effect in about one month’s time.

As the Statesman article notes, the ambulatory surgical center requirement does not go into effect for another 11 months, and the protocol regarding that segment is not even finalized until the beginning of next year. I am sure that a further lawsuit will be filed challenging that requirement, which perhaps is the most odious and effective part of the bill, which is obviously designed to close the clinics.

The former regulation, the 20 week-ban, as I have previous discussed, is not even all that controversial to me. However, 40 years of precedent suggest it is unconstitutional none the less. Accordingly, I am disappointed that this segment was not challenged as well. The reason it was, most likely, not challenged at this time was the independent nature of the provision. If the 20 week ban is struck out, the rest of the law would remain just fine.

But among the other three regulations, the legislation comes to resemble a three-legged stool. If one leg is removed, the entire structure comes crashing down.

Wendy for Governor

But we all knew this. The New York Times, among other locations, reports that “sources close to Wendy Davis” have leaked information confirming that she will, in fact, run for Governor of Texas in 2014.

A few more details have been unearthed as well about Davis’ future candidacy. She will make the big announcement, as I had partially predicted, in her hometown of Fort Worth. That would also be where the future campaign will be based. This is some very good new for her part. The meticulously astute might remember one of my first posts on this blog, wherein I roundly criticized Paul Sadler’s statewide campaign for being based in Austin. While I maintain that San Antonio would have been a better headquarters, Fort Worth is an important place as well.

As Davis’ campaign is analyzed by the Times, the paper interviews pertinent individuals who reflected upon her future candidacy. Matt Angle of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic activist grassroots force that has largely been historically impotent, offered somewhat obligatory commendable remarks vis-a-vis Davis’ candidacy. However, what surprised me more was the Times’ interview with Mark White, the former Democratic Governor. White, who is 73, stated:

“I think her chances are very good. I compare it to my chances of winning when I decided to run for governor. Everybody said it was impossible to do, and I was able to do it, and they’re probably telling her the same thing. She’s got the advantage that David had over Goliath.”

Davis, of course, was mum on the leaks. She will still be making her announcement on October 3rd, and will not be publicly saying anything before then. However, the announcement will be somewhat anticlimactic, like the faux-suspensful drama leading up to statements on the future candidacies of Greg Abbott, Brandon Creighton and Harvey Hildenbran before.

There is a lot to be said right now about whether or not Davis may actually win. I have discussed this issue at detail in the past, and I am sure I will do it again sometime soon. Loyal readers of Texpatriate know that my position is that, while Davis cannot win, she could come closer than any before, and set the stage for a victory down the line. Accordingly, I am very happy to see this announcement (though I had known this was coming for awhile).

The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and Austin American-Statesman have more. Also, Politico.

A place of their own

The Houston Chronicle reports on a story that has its roots over twenty years in the making. 21 years ago, actually, Rodney Ellis penned a famous op-ed in The New York Times entitled “Jim Crow Goes to College,” that lamented the nasty vestiges of Jim Crow still present in Waller County. The County, which was a majority white at the time, fought to disenfranchise and dilute the power of the 37% Black minority of the time, heavily concentrated at Prairie View A&M University. Among the many obstacles facing the students was a lack of a polling place on campus. Students “have had to walk or drive more than a mile” to vote. While having a polling place a mere mile away from your residency is often not an issue, everything changes when a college or university is involved.

In a collegiate environment, a disproportionate share of the students lack adequate transportation into the outside world. This is true of any college, from Prairie View to UT-Austin. That is why most colleges have no shortage of polling locations for the students. But Travis County doesn’t mind the students voting. Waller County, a historically White Republican county, has minded the historically Black Democratic students voting.

Fortunately, today cooler heads prevailed as the Waller County Commissioners approved the creation of both a polling place and an early voting location on the campus. The change will be sure to elevate turnout among the students, who have historically felt disenfranchised. Today, however, the County’s African-American population is significantly lower. comprising only 24% as of the 2012 estimate of the Census bureau. The Hispanic population, however, was grown sharply to 20%. A mere plurality, 44% of the County, remains Caucasian.

The numbers give Waller County the capability to turn into a Democratic county with a little bit of foresight. In the blended average of the last few elections, roughly 15,500 people voted in the County. Of those, 7k voted Democratic, while 8.5k voted Republican. The two voting districts encompassing PAMU are 309 & 310, respectively. In just one of those precincts, 2.5k Democratic voters resided, while the other one housed a further 500. This means that, excluding PAMU students, Democrats are 3,000 votes short of victory. The university holds more than 8.5k students. The math is clear, Waller County SHOULD turn blue.