Don’t let the door hit you!

Editorial note: Noah M. Horwitz is not currently employed or contracting with any entities designating a conflict of interest on this topic.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Lyft, the popular taxi service based off of an app, will be ending its services in Houston just days before new laws go into effect regulating its operation. Since February, Lyft has operated illegally in Houston; however, Mayor Annise Parker’s administration tolerated the lawbreaking because she was sympathetic to their proposed changes to the vehicle-for-hire industry, along with those of their chief rival, Uber. In August, the City Council approved regulations largely accommodating Uber and Lyft into the marketplace. Technically, Lyft is still operating illegally, since the new rules do not go into effect until next week.

One of the provisions in the new law is that drivers for these so-called Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, can abstain from city-mandated background checks (ones that involve fingerprinting) for up to 30 days. This was done at the behest of Lyft lobbyists, as Uber doesn’t have a problem with these fingerprinting background checks. Now, Lyft is threatening to leave Houston unless the meager background provision is eviscerated entirely.

Lyft claims they do their own background checks, and that they are superior. Of course, from a municipal regulator’s point of view, I don’t see how secret checks could be evaluated or trusted; we are a little old to use the honor system for something like this. And given that Uber has no problem with the fingerprint background checks, it is obvious that this business model can sustain these types of checks.

Supporters of Lyft showed up en masse at City Hall today and attempted to lobby the City Council into relaxing the rules. Miya Shay, a reporter for KTRK, tweeted a picture of them loitering in the hallway. Personally, if there are people who are this vehement in opposing fingerprint background checks, they honestly freak me out a little bit.

From what I have heard, City Councilmembers are somewhat unenthusiastic about changing the rules, with some of them even pestered by this whole idea. Given how hard they fought over the rules this summer, I doubt many representatives — or the Mayor, for that matter — want to revisit this divisive issue. Additionally, even most of the tribalistic supporters of TNCs could probably not care less about this issue. If Uber is the favorite son of the new entrants into vehicles-for-hire, Lyft is the red-headed stepchild.

You know my overall opinion on TNCs, but I would hope that everyone could be behind background checks that include fingerprints. The risks are just too high otherwise. For the safety of everyone, the Council should stand firm on this issue.

Subpoenas droppped

Yesterday, Mayor Annise Parker finally agreed the drop the controversial subpoenas issued against clergy for supposed comments made regarding the recent Non-discrimination ordinance. I talked up this issue somewhat thoroughly a couple weeks ago when the subpoenas were first issued, so I do not think I will get into weeds of all that again.

First, the Parker administration narrowed the scope of the subpoenas to explicitly make the point that they wished to only cover topics directly related to the petition effort against the NDO, not any broad topics on the underlying issues. Still receiving derision from across the country, Parker and City Attorney David Feldman relented and dropped the subpoenas. However, as the Houston Chronicle noted today, religious and conservative leaders are still up in arms about the actions.

Litigators and others with some familiarity between the city and those religious leaders bringing suit against the city (please see previous post for more on that) will know that these subpoenas are fairly routine parts of the discovery process in a lawsuit. However, the ultra-religious, ironically those preaching hellfire and damnation against some others most obstreperously, are remarkably gifted at feigning outrage and phony persecution. If you ever dare to suggest that Churches stop impeding upon the state, they scream persecution and “War on Christmas” and all that hyperbolic silliness. Nick Anderson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist at the Chronicle, illustrated this very point better than I could write on it.

But, separate from what is legally correct, this whole issue was politically wrong. Actually, that’s an understatement, it was a political atrocity. Parker succeeded in awakening the angry conservative masses that had finally subsided following the “Summer of HERO.” She succeeded even in bringing attention to this delicate issue from all across the country. And the annoying way that the issue was fumbled led even left-of-center outlets to react skeptically to this whole production.

Make no mistake, a referendum will still probably be held on this ordinance. When that day comes, because of the Parker administration’s trigger-happy maneuvering, the contest to save the NDO will be even more uphill. National Republican groups will pour in money against the ordinance. And negative campaigns against Democrats have already started  by dredging up this issue.

I am still a steadfast supporter of this ordinance, which is what makes seeing this boondoggle unfold is all the more troubling. The most vociferous opponents against the NDO engage in slimy tactics; the proponents, particularly those in City Hall, should not sink to that level.

Abbott’s strange doublespeak

Yesterday, Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, released a new 30-second commercial on border security. Ordinarily, this would not be much for news, but a tidbit within the ad caught my attention. Overall, the ad is a garden variety conservative attack on President Barack Obama for apparently not doing enough to manage immigration into this country, while bemoaning the supposed influx of Mexican cartels into this country. I don’t want to really get into the weeds of all that, because it is a very different issues that drew ire from me.

Around the 12-second mark, the ad claims that Abbott would double the budget of the Department of Public Safety. This doesn’t sound that unreasonable, especially considering most of the DPS’ functions involve things like highway patrol and motor vehicle bureaus. The only problem is that the DPS is largely funded out of the State Highway Fund. Since the DPS obviously is different from a highway, the moneys it receives from the fund are considered diversions. And Abbott, in a commercial last month, pledged the end diversions from the fund.

All this begs the question of how Abbott would pay for his projects. Obviously, he — like everyone else in the Republican Party — is pathologically opposed to raising taxes. And yet, drastically expanding money for transportation, public safety and the border, he is proposing a fairly significantly upping of the state’s expenditures. And yet, with no plan to pay for it. I suppose that Abbott could just slash a little more from schools, but at this point he’s writing cheques the State just cannot cash.

Abbott wants to have his cake and eat it too. Sadly, I have not found anyone else around the state that has honed in an this strange doublespeak. The state media has completely abdicated its responsibility to call out bad candidate plans. State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, rightly received immense derision for her outlandish education plan, which likewise lacked a sensible pricetag. It’s only fair that Abbott should be subjected the same.

On another note, I find it strange that Abbott would be wading into this divisive of an issue, especially without attacking Davis by name. The jab at Obama appeared a little misplaced, especially considering his last Obama-centric ad went well out of its way to connect Davis to him.

Don’t vote straight ticket, don’t be stupid

Even though more than half of early voting has already gone by, newspapers are still fielding endorsements for statewide elections. Most of the big newspapers supported State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, such as the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the El Paso Times. The major exceptions, those who supported Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, were the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News, as well as a plethora of small-town papers.

For some of the downballot contests, no such diversity existed. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal was the only paper, of any size, I could find that supported State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Harris County), the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor. And I found not a single paper that supported either State Senators Ken Paxton (R-Collin County) or Glenn Hegar (R-Harris County), the Republican nominees for Attorney General and Comptroller, respectively. Not one.

Needless to say, there aren’t any good reasons to vote for these men. I suppose, if you truly believe in conservative principles, there is a legitimate point to be made in not wanting to support the Democrats, but it is just inexcusable to support these stains upon the GOP ticket. Patrick is a demagogue in the style of Huey Long, though he is considerably less intelligent and less opaque in his nefarious intentions. Paxton is a lousy attorney and likely could be convicted of a felony in the coming months. Hegar openly admits he has no idea what he would do in office as the State’s top financial watchdog.

Not to appear too eager in criticizing the Republicans, Democrats have an exceedingly terrible candidate on their statewide slate too. Actually, many of my compatriots tend to think that David Alameel, the nominee for the Senate, fits that description, but I’m talking about Jim Hogan, the Democratic candidate for Agriculture Commissioner.

I’ve opined previously on my myriad objections with Hogan — he’s a no-name, no-campaigning political novice who is smug in his complacency and total ignorance of state issues. He has some experience as a farmer, which is great, but he knows nothing of school lunch programs, regulating gas pumps or the multitude of other issues that the commissioner must oversee. Here’s the entire article back from July about why I would never vote for Hogan.

Not a single organization I am aware of has endorsed Hogan. All the newspapers or other non-partisan organizations have supported former State Representative Sid Miller (R-Erath County), the Republican, while even the big Democrat groups have suggested undervoting. A few other blogs, namely Brains & Eggs, Jobsanger and Socratic Gadfly, have supported Kenneth Kendrick, the Green nominee, as did this publication.

If you are an otherwise reliable Democratic voter, I have previously made the argument in the past that Kendrick is the only reasonable choice. Unlike many within the Green Party, his political views aren’t to the left of Marx; rather, they are somewhere around the median of what I figure a Texas Democrat would be. But still, some Democrats loathe supporting the Green Party out of principle. For those of you who fit that description, just undervote, but please do not vote for the Democrat.

Unfortunately, my words will fall on deaf ears for most. Admittedly, the absurdly long ballot makes intelligent voting rather difficult. But at least for the statewide races, don’t be afraid to split your ticket. Texas elected some mix of statewide Democrats and Republicans for about 30 years between the 1960s and 1990s. The 1998 and 2002 elections, even though they were GOP sweeps, featured a serious range in how close the challengers got.

In 1998, for example, some Republicans won by 31 points while others won by only 2. In 2002, the range was anywhere from 32 point victory margins to 5 point ones. Fastforwarding to 2010, the range shrunk to only a few points between the high water mark and the low one. The direct cause is straight ticket voting, but the indirect cause is that Texans have gotten less politically astute in the preceding two decades.

At the beginning of this century, people all over the state could subscribe to any number of newspapers. Those in the rural areas had the ability to do so, and those in the suburbs had the will-power to do so. But then the newspapers cut back causing talk radio and Fox News to fill the void. More importantly, Barack Obama, the most divisive President in recent history, came to power and caused a fierce nativist backlash, fueled by racial animosity, known as the Tea Party. Democrats fired back in kind, and solidified themselves into their own camp as well.

Now, most Texans just get their news from the monitors at gas stations and Instagram. We think of ourselves as belonging to a political party in the same respect as rooting for a football team, and that is the extent of the rational discussion of the issues, if one is even among the 29% of Texans who aren’t too lazy to vote.

Newspapers, blogs, NPR and a couple of other serious sources promote serious debates on the policies, but this is drowned out in the cacophony of partisan chest-bumping. Think of the scenes from Animal Farm when Snowball and the other well-intentioned pigs attempt to make serious policy decisions, but are drowned out by the sheep bleating “FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD.” That is basically what straight ticket voting does. Don’t be a sheep, don’t be dumb. Actually scrutinize your ballot.

Reality Check, Part V

First and foremost, a poll was released by The Texas Tribune today that appears to place the final nail in the Democrats’ coffin. Now, as I have opined time and time again in the past, I’m not really a fan of the Tribune’s polling, so take this with a grain of salt. But with Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, leading State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, by a whopping 16 points, the margin of error is taken care of more than five times over. I’ve attached the polls for all of the statewide non-judicial contests.

TGov

TLtGov

TSenate

TAG

TCompt

TLandCom

LAgCom

LAgCom

Of note, because of rounding errors, the Land Commissioner poll should not equal 100. Excel insisted upon putting Bush’s total at 51% anyways, but the Tribune poll only put 50%.

These polls put the Democratic deficit anywhere from 15 points (Agriculture Commissioner) to 26 points (US Senate). The poll basically insinuates that there are people who are voting for Wendy Davis, yet are splitting their ballots for Dan Patrick. Or thinking that Jim Hogan is a sensible, qualified and tempered candidate for Agriculture Commissioner (he’s none of those things), and yet Ken Paxton is the superior choice for Attorney General. Do these people truly exist? Are Texans truly that inept? I say no, and think those absurdities prove that the poll is just a bunch of stuff, as the Vice President would put it.

The polls also show third parties getting huge percentages of the vote, sometimes nearly 20%. That’s a little bit silly, considering that they rarely surpass 5%. I tend to think the reason for their gross overperformance is that the poll is largely conducted via eager participants on the internet. You know, the people who have the extra zeal to come up with their own outlying political views.

Let’s get something clear, no statewide Democrat is going to win this year. That much I am certain of. But the Democrats don’t have to literally win in order to win, as counter-intuitive as that might sound. The slate needs to outdo Bill White’s performance in 2010, which was roughly 42%. Ideally, they should do well enough to lift the ticket in Bexar County (San Antonio), Harris County and Nueces County (Corpus Christi) enough to elect some local Democrats. But showing progress from the last election is the most important thing. Battleground Texas will keep registering voters, demographics will keep moving in a good direction and Texas will transition inch-by-inch into a purple state. Vox made a similar point today.

Bud Kennedy at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram noted today, though, that the Texas Democrats have a considerable chance on not outdoing their 2010 performance. If the slate is less than 42%, alarm bells will ring. If it ranges from the high to low 30s, as this poll might suggest, it will be Armageddon for Texas politics. Battleground Texas will likely disband. National Democrats will think of the short-lived project to turn Texas blue and shake their heads. In the bars of Manhattan and Capitol Hill, it will be thought of with the same naivete as the New Coke debacle. I really don’t want that to happen.

Through the first four days of early voting, the numbers are negligibly different from four years ago, with some minor differences I’ll note in tomorrow morning’s issue of The Daily Texan. That will be what determines how well Davis does. So please, please, vote.

Texpatriate Voter Guide

US SENATE David Alameel (D)
US HOUSE, DISTRICT 2 Ted Poe (R)
US HOUSE, DISTRICT 7 James Cargas (D)
US HOUSE, DISTRICT 9 Al Green (D)
US HOUSE, DISTRICT 18 Sheila Jackson Lee (D)
US HOUSE, DISTRICT 29 Gene Green (D)
GOVERNOR Wendy Davis (D)
LIEUTENANT GOVERNORLeticia Van de Putte (D)
ATTORNEY GENERAL Sam Houston (D)
COMPTROLLER Mike Collier (D)
LAND COMMISSIONER George P. Bush (R)*
(*-Noah M. Horwitz dissented and supported John Cook (D))
AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER Kenneth Kendrick (G)
RAILROAD COMMISSIONER Stephen Brown (D)
TEXAS SUPREME COURT, PLACE 1 Bill Moody (D)
TEXAS SUPREME COURT, PLACE 6 Jeff Brown (R)
TEXAS SUPREME COURT, PLACE 7 Gina Benavides (D)
TEXAS SUPREME COURT, PLACE 8 Phil Johnson (R)
COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS, PLACE 3 Bert Richardson (R)
COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS, PLACE 4 Kevin Yeary (R)
COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS, PLACE 9 David Newell (R)
TEXAS SENATE, DISTRICT 7 Whitney Bilyeu (L)
TEXAS SENATE, DISTRICT 15 John Whitmire (D)
TEXAS SENATE, DISTRICT 17 Rita Lucido (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 126 – Patricia Harless (R)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 128 –
Wayne Smith (R)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 129Dennis Paul (R)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 130Allen Fletcher (R)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 131Alma Allen (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 132 – Luis Lopez (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 133 – Laura Nicol (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 134 – Sarah Davis (R)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 135 – NO ENDORSEMENT
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 137 Gene Wu (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 139 Sylvester Turner (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 140 Armando Walle (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 141 Senfronia Thompson (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 142 Harold Dutton, Jr. (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 143 Ana Hernandez Luna (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 144 Mary Ann Perez (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 145 Carol Alvarado (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 146 – Borris Miles (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 147 Garnet Coleman (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 148 Jessica Farrar (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 149 Hubert Vo (D)
TEXAS HOUSE, DISTRICT 150 Amy Perez (D)
14th COURT OF APPEALS, CHIEF JUSTICE – Kyle Carter (D)
1st COURT OF APPEALS, PLACE 3 Jim Sharp (D)
1st COURT OF APPEALS, PLACE 5 – Laura Higley (R)
14th COURT OF APPEALS, PLACE 4 Marc Brown (R)
14th COURT OF APPEALS, PLACE 7 Gordon Goodman (D)
55th DISTRICT COURT – Jeff Shadwick (R)
113th DISTRICT COURTSteven Kirkland (D)
157th DISTRICT COURT – Jim Peacock (D)
180th DISTRICT COURT – Randy Roll (D)
182nd DISTRICT COURT – Jeannine Barr (R)
183rd DISTRICT COURT Vanessa Velasquez (R)
184th DISTRICT COURT – Mark Thering (D)
185th DISTRICT COURT Mack McInnis (D)
189th DISTRICT COURT Bill Burke (R)
190th DISTRICT COURT – Farrah Martinez (D)
208th DISTRICT COURT Denise Collins (R)
209th DISTRICT COURT Mike McSpadden (R)
228th DISTRICT COURT Marc Carter (R)
230th DISTRICT COURT Greg Glass (D)
232nd DISTRICT COURT Mary Lou Keel (R)
234th DISTRICT COURT Barbara Gardner (D)
245th DISTRICT COURT Roy Moore (R)
246th DISTRICT COURT Sandra Peake (D)
247th DISTRICT COURT Chip Wells (D)
248th DISTRICT COURT – Shawna Reagin (D)
257th DISTRICT COURT – Judy Warne (R)
262nd DISTRICT COURT Jules Johnson (D)
263rd DISTRICT COURT Herb Ritchie (D)
269th DISTRICT COURT George Arnold (D)
270th DISTRICT COURT James Hippard Jr. (D)
280th DISTRICT COURT Barbara Stalder (D)
281st DISTRICT COURTTanner Garth (D)
295th DISTRICT COURT Latosha Lewis (D)
308th DISTRICT COURT Jim Evans (D)
309th DISTRICT COURT Kathy Vossler (D)
310th DISTRICT COURT NO ENDORSEMENT
311th DISTRICT COURT – Sherri Cothrun (D)
312nd DISTRICT COURT David Farr (D)
313rd DISTRICT COURT – Tracy Good (D)
314th DISTRICT COURT – Natalia Oakes (D)
315th DISTRICT COURT – Mike Schneider (R)
334th DISTRICT COURT Daryl Moore (D)
DISTRICT ATTORNEY Kim Ogg (D)
COUNTY JUDGE Ed Emmett (R)
COUNTY CIVIL COURT #1 Debra Mayfield (R)
COUNTY CIVIL COURT #2 Scot Dollinger (D)
COUNTY CIVIL COURT #3 Gloria Minnick (D)
COUNTY CIVIL COURT #4 Damon Crenshaw (D)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #1 Paula Goodhart (R)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #2 Harold Landreneau (D)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #3 – Natalie Fleming (R)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #4 Niki Harmon (D)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #5 Ramona Franklin (D)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #6 Linda Geffin (D)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #7 –Pam Derbyshire (R)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #8 Jay Karahan (R)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #9 Analia Wilkerson (R)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #10 George Barnstone (D)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #11 Diane Bull (R)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #12 Robin Brown (R)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #13 Don Smyth (R)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #14 David Singer (D)
COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT #15 Raul Rodriguez (D)
COUNTY PROBATE COURT #1 Kim Hoesl (D)
COUNTY PROBATE COURT #2 Josefina Rendon (D)
COUNTY PROBATE COURT #3 Jerry Simoneaux (D)
COUNTY PROBATE COURT #4 NO ENDORSEMENT*
(*-Noah M. Horwitz personally will support James Horwitz (D))
DISTRICT CLERK -Chris Daniel (R)
COUNTY CLERK Ann Bennett (D)
COUNTY TREASURER David Rosen (D)

Texpatriate endorses for Governor

Governor Rick Perry, the longest serving chief executive in Texas’ history (by far), will finally leave office next January. A whole lot has happened in the fourteen years since Texas had a different Governor. To put it in perspective, the members of this board were roughly in the 1st Grade when Perry assumed office.

Though such an assertion might be unpopular given our state’s booming economy, we think that Perry has been a poor governor. He wasn’t responsible for putting the shale in the ground, nor was he behind George Mitchell’s innovations in efficiently extracting it. And, despite what his straw-man arguments may have you believe, his support of this energy boom did not put him in a unique place compared to Democrats. While Texas’ economy has boomed under Perry, it has mostly been unrelated to his sloppy tenure.

That tenure has been filled with corruption, cronyism and ineptitude of the highest magnitude. Now, Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, looks likely to continue along that same misguided path. Recent headlines have shown Abbott was either complicit in the sloppy administration of the Texas Enterprise Fund, which allotted grants to friends of the Governor without any formal application, or was totally checked out of his job as an ostensible watchdog for the state.

Most importantly, Abbott looks like he will not only continue but expand Perry’s rotten legacy of mollifying the Tea Party above actually solving the state’s problem. We have crumbling highways, but Abbott appears complacent with maintaining the ludicrously low gas tax. Our schools are failing, but Abbott is perfectly content with the deleterious effects of 2011 cuts he repeatedly defended.

On a plethora of other issues, Abbott espouses rhetoric that, generously, belongs in the 20th century. He opposes a statewide ban on texting-while-driving, supports the evisceration of the Voting Rights Act and opposes abortions even in cases of rape and incest. He supports the terrible idea of allowing college students to bring their concealed handguns on campus. We could go on like this for a few hundred more words, but we digress.

For Abbott and others, the legacy of Lyndon Johnson and Bob Bullock is only a distant memory. Pragmatism and otherwise working together to reach consensus on the serious problems facing our state has almost become passe, compared to getting a soundbite in on Fox News or for the next Tea Party meeting. Abbott is no statesman, just another demagogue who will try his hardest to run Texas into the ground.

State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate, is not perfect either. She has run a rather mediocre campaign, with grandiose plans that lack specifics or funding targets. Some of the specific ideas, such as allowing the Top 20% of High School students to receive automatic acceptance to the state’s public universities if they pledge to major in education, are just comically terrible. Her commercials have been off-key and her debate performances abysmal. Sadly, in many situations, Davis has evidently developed a penchant for dancing around the truth. But no matter the roughness of her campaign, she is a significantly better choice than Abbott. Simply put, while our objections to Davis are based on her — or, quite likely, her campaign’s — incompetence, our objections to Abbott are based on his unmitigated malice. We find the former quality to be the lesser of the evils.

Davis cares more about helping Texans than necessarily implementing her ideology; Abbott is the opposite. Despite what some frustrating newspaper editorials from around the state may have insinuated, Davis would work well with Republicans if elected. She has done so on both the Texas Senate and in her previous position as a member of the Fort Worth City Council. To think that her respect and open-mindedness would  subside abruptly at this time is without any rationalization.

Like most of the other statewide choices this year, the race for Governor presents a fairly easy question. Only one candidate wants to protect women by ensuring health clinics that provide a wide variety of services stay open. Only one candidate recognizes LGBT people as worthy of dignity and respect. Only one candidate unequivocally would not defend a ban on interracial marriage (yes, we did not mis-type there). That candidate is Wendy Davis. And despite some serious concerns about her campaign and the depth of her platform, she is just the right choice over Abbott for Governor.

Accordingly, this board endorses Wendy Davis for Governor.

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.

Texpatriate endorses for Lieutenant Governor

 

The post of Lieutenant Governor, serving as the President of the Texas Senate, holds remarkable power over the state. Long thought to be the most powerful post in state government, even more than the Governor, its power has waned in the past dozen years as a result of both Governor Rick Perry centralizing power and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst’s milquetoast leadership. Dewhurst, long a steward of bipartisan statesmanship, has tacked far to the right in recent years because of pressure from the Tea Party wing of his party. State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Harris County), who defeated Dewhurst to become the Republican candidate for this post, embodies this extreme wing frighteningly effectively. Divisive, grandstanding, rabble-rousing and without any core principles, Patrick embodies all the terrifying aspects of James “Pa” Ferguson, Huey Long and George Wallace rolled up into one.

He would make a poor Lieutenant Governor, not only because of his political ideology, but because of the very way he operates. Mean-spirited and a pathological liar, Patrick has a poor working relationship with many of even his Republican colleagues in the Senate. Observers opine that there is a possibility that the Senate may revolt against Patrick’s leadership, and strip away most of the Office of Lieutenant Governor’s duties. To do so would be a mistake; a statewide elected position to reign over the Senate is an effective guarantor that regional squabbles will not dominate the agenda. But that might just be what happens if Patrick is elected.

His big priority appears to be what he calls “border security;” in actuality, a dog-whistle for xenophobic rhetoric directed toward the Hispanic community. He wants to put up a big wall and, in the style of Mitt Romney, make life a living hell for the undocumented immigrants already here. To accomplish this goal, Patrick just makes stuff up. The allegation that immigrants carry “third-world diseases” such as leprosy cross our borders? Completely fabricated. Those commercials of his that contend ISIS terrorists are plotting to swim the Rio Grande? An outright lie. We think he might blame them for the Kennedy assassination soon too.

Patrick believes that abortions in all case should be disallowed, equates homosexuality with a mental disorder and supports the teaching of creationism in public schools. Most importantly, Patrick supports the abolition of the 2/3rds rule in the Texas Senate, which mandates that consensus must be reached before bringing a bill to the floor. Patrick, in a desperate attempt to mollify his Tea Party brethren, would seek to turn the chamber into a more dysfunctional mock-up of Washington DC.

No matter your politics, this board strongly urges you, as a matter of principle, to not vote for Dan Patrick. If you are otherwise conservative, please consider the Libertarian candidate, Robert Butler, or just undervote. But we think that the Democratic candidate, State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), is the exact type of pro-business and centrist Democrat who could attract support from across the aisle.

Van de Putte placates all the liberal causes by being supportive of gay marriage and opposed to onerous and unnecessary restrictions on abortion. But, more significantly, she is big on pro-business policies, be it simplifying the tax code, promoting a strong public school system or keeping Texas friendly for immigrant labor. Van de Putte is obviously the pragmatic and sensible choice in this year’s election.

Some of Van de Putte’s policy proposals have been lacking in specifics, and she has taken actions — particularly when it came to aligning with the Democratic gubernatorial nominee — that we have disagreed therewith. But nobody is perfect and Van de Putte, at her core, is a very good politician who appears to legitimately care about her constituents.

Van de Putte wants to calmly, and with great restraint, address many of the problems facing Texans in coming years. Patrick wants to burn down the barn to deal with the roaches, so to speak, and he would be willing to do it five times over to appease his extremist base. We have talked time and time again about clear choices in this year’s general election (indeed, there are a plethora of lousy candidates), but this one might just be the most clear. It’s definitely the most important.

Accordingly, this board endorses Leticia Van de Putte for Lieutenant Governor. If, for whatever reason, you can’t bring yourself to support a Democrat, please consider voting third party or just undervote.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwtiz & 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.

Texpatriate endorses for Civil District Courts

In our last but not least series of judicial endorsements, this board takes a took at Civil District Courts. Typically, these courts deal with disputes over large sums of money, but they also consider general cases regarding the constitutionality of state laws or action at the most local level. Once upon a time, they bustled with activity of individuals trying to seek justice against those who had wronged them. Sadly, since the advent of so-called tort reform, which we believe has mercilessly slammed the courthouse door shut on many, much activity in these courts has ground to a complete halt. Compared to these courts’ brethren across the street in the Criminal District Courts, which are always popping with filled dockets, the load over here is relatively light. It’s not unheard of to only have a few things all day. Our first recommendation, simply put, is to disband many of these courts for inactivity. But it’s not the Judge’s call, so we digress.

Looking at these benches, we need individuals who will be fair, knowledgeable and experienced. Those who will not be afraid of doing what is right, even if it is isn’t popular or helpful to re-election.

Additionally, we need to stipulate a general rule in our endorsement process that we broke repeatedly when coming to these decisions. Generally, we defer to incumbents unless a challenger can prove how they fail. We did not do that in this election, given not only the vast number of relatively new incumbents, but how many uniquely qualified challengers were running for benches. Many of the incumbents we did not endorse are still good Judges — who have definitively not failed at their jobs — nonetheless.

There are 11 Civil District Courts up for election this year. All of them are contested.

55th DISTRICT COURT
Our pick is Judge Jeff Shadwick, running for his second full term after getting elected in 2010. He previously served an appointee from 2007 to 2009. A Republican, he runs with courtroom with a pristine sense of fairness and equity nearly unheard of around the courthouse. Among the plethora of attorneys we contacted in our research for this race, Shadwick’s name repeatedly came up as a fair and just arbiter of the law. He is a good judge who should be rewarded by Harris County voters with another full term in office.

Kay Morgan, the Democratic candidate, is an equally well-qualified and well-tempered opponent. She would also make a good judge, but Shadwick already does his job remarkably well.

Accordingly, this board endorses Jeff Shadwick for the 55th District Court.

113th DISTRICT COURT
Judge Michael Landrum, a Republican appointee of Governor Rick Perry in 2013, has a short record a judge. Thus far, he’s done a pretty good job, but much remains to be seen. We think Harris county should go with the bird in the hand, and return Steven Kirkland to the bench instead.

Kirkland, a Democrat who served as a Civil District Court from 2009 to 2013 and has served as a Municipal Judge in the interim, ran a remarkably just and efficient courtroom throughout his years on the bench. Those who practiced in his court never had an ill-word to say. Most pressing for us, Kirkland even has a record of making rules that were right, even if they were not fair. One such ruling, a $13 Million judgment against prominent attorney George Fleming for gouging his clients, even cost him his job.

Fleming poured millions into an unqualified opponent to run against Kirkland in the Democratic primary in 2012 — as well as another in 2014 — who used homophobic and other caustic tactics in a despicable attempt to knock the noble Kirkland off of the bench. The strategy worked in 2012, but not in this year’s primary. Voters should correct this injustice, and return a great jurist to the bench.

Accordingly, this board endorses Steven Kirkland for the 113th District Court.

157th DISTRICT COURT
Judge Randy Wilson, a Republican who has served in office for three full terms, has in some respects forgot the true meaning of being an impartial adjudicator. In case after case, attorneys who practice in his court tell us that he favors big interests over smaller ones. Nothing against him personally, but that style of Judging just isn’t right for Harris County.

Jim Peacock, his Democratic opponent, is a well-respected civil litigator, who would better understand neutrality on the bench. Attorneys from across the political spectrum note his non-partisanship and objective approach to complicated disputes. He would make an all-around better judge.

Accordingly, this board endorses Jim Peacock for the 157th District Court.

189th DISTRICT COURT
Judge Bill Burke, a twelve year veteran on the court, is a fair and neutral jurist who treats all parties with respect while objectively considering their cases. An active Republican, he notoriously checks his politics at the door and fairly considers all the cases before his court.

Ursula Hall, a longtime Municipal Judge and the Democratic candidate for this bench, is indubitably well-qualified to be a fantastic Judge. Hall also is active in promoting fairness throughout the entire legal system, embodying progressive values in a way that is constructive but not detrimental to her impartiality as a judge. The choice between her and Burke is a tough one.

On the balance, we tend to think that if the court isn’t broken, don’t fix it, so we will stick it out with Burke. But we fully encourage our readers to consider if your priority is a progressive mindset on the bench rather than merely a well-tempered Judge. If that is the type of official you are looking for, Hall is your candidate.

Accordingly, this board endorses Bill Burke for the 189th District Court.

190th DISTRICT COURT
Judge Patricia Kerrigan often makes her courtroom a hostile place for plaintiffs small in size, sometimes playing irresponsible favorites for the corporation or insurance company. However, our misgivings with her do not end just at her service as a jurist.

Kerrigan has been on the bench since 2007, but she had a long career before that in private practice. The attorneys with whom we consulted with to reach these decisions all similarly lamented the cases they worked on involving Kerrigan, deriding her as dishonest in the practice in law. We have some serious concerns that this dishonesty may not have subsided following her transition to the judiciary.

The Democratic candidate, Farrah Martinez, is a well-qualified and tempered attorney. She would honestly and fairly uphold the law if elected. We strongly encourage Harris County to make that a reality.

Accordingly, this board endorses Farrah Martinez for the 190th District Court.

234th DISTRICT COURT
Judge Wesley Ward was first appointed to the bench by Perry in 2012. Much like Judge Landrum before him, we have nothing but nice things to say of Ward, but he is still largely untested as a jurist. In the limited circumstances we can judge so far, though, Ward has demonstrated himself as a force to be reckoned within the Civil Courts. If your priority is the efficient operation of the courts, and for competent judges to serve, Ward is your choice.

But we also like Barbara Gardner, the Democratic candidate. She brings up a few troubling points about the incumbent’s operation of the court, including resetting cases for trial a few too many times and possibly being too reluctant to adjudicate disputes. All in all, though, her strongest points are her long resume and experience as a civil litigator. Gardner makes good points about the courts in general being too anti-consumer, which we absolutely agree with her about. She also points to the surplus of experience she has compared to her competitor. Thus, we think she would be the superior Judge.

Accordingly, we endorse Barbara Gardner for the 234th District Court.

269th DISTRICT COURT
Judge Dan Hinde is arguably known as the most intellectual of any Civil District Judge in Harris County. However, what he possesses in brainpower, he evidently lacks in certain judicial ethics. A few years back, Hinde got in trouble for improperly finding the addresses of candidates in the jury pools, then sending campaign materials to their homes. A columnist at the Houston Chronicle opined that he may have committed a felony. Many around the city may have forgotten, but we surely remember. Hinde, a Republican, also has a reputation, like many other Judges, to improperly favor big defendants over little plaintiffs.

George Arnold, a Democrat, would be a fairer and more ethical judge. With more than two decades of the practice of civil law under his belt, he would be able to capably interpret the law and fulfill his judicial activities. He fully expect him to be a fairer adjudicator, as well one who will not abuse his office for political purposes.

Accordingly, this board endorses George Arnold for the 269th District Court.

270th DISTRICT COURT
Judge Brent Gamble, who has served four terms in office, is ready to retire. A Republican, he regularly rules against the little guy and is just not a good jurist for the people of Harris County.

The Democrat, James Hippard Jr, should sound familiar to every lawyer in Houston. His father, James Hippard Sr, was a hero in the local integration movement and a venerated Professor at the University of Houston School of Law. Like his father, Hippard strives to fight for the everyday Texan throughout his practice of law. Seeking deference for neither rich or poor, Hippard would be a fair and noble Judge if elected. With many decades of experience as both an attorney and law professor, he would also be ready to hit the ground running on day one.

Accordingly, this board endorses James Hippard Jr. for the 270th District Court.

281st DISTRICT COURT
Judge Sylvia Matthews, a Republican who has served for six years, is an adequate Judge. But her Democratic opponent, Tanner Garth, would likely be an even better Judge. With decades of experience, Garth would be both just as qualified as the incumbent but compassionate and open-minded in ways she just would not.

A business-litigator by trade, Matthews has a history of representing the big entities looking to clamp down on activity at the courthouse. A personal injury trial lawyer, Garth seeks the opposite. He has a history of helping people who have been wronged by seeking out justice for those who have been wronged. It is a noble background, one Harris County could simply use more thereof.

Accordingly, this board endorses Tanner Garth for the 281st District Court.

295th DISTRICT COURT
Judge Caroline Baker has a passable record on the bench. On the bench for about six years, she has developed the same reputation for arguably being a little preferential to bigger business interests. Harris County definitely has a good judge with Baker, a Republican, but they could have a great judge if they selected her Democratic opponent, Latosha Lewis.

An environmental lawyer by trade, Lewis has direct experience in litigating torts for those who have been wronged by malice or negligence. She understands that these cases are about more than just numbers and statistics; they are about people. Recognized by Texas Monthly as one of the top lawyers in the State every year for the past seven years, she would — without a doubt — be a fantastic addition to the courts.

Accordingly, this board endorses Latosha Lewis for the 295th District Court.

334th DISTRICT COURT
We find both the Republican incumbent, Grant Dorfman, and the Democratic opponent, Daryl Morre, to be rather well qualified and well versed contenders. Our preference of one over the other one is somewhat hard, as they are both good options. Ultimately, we think that Moore, a plaintiff’s attorney and son of a prominent labor activities, would be the better choice. We recommend a vote for Moore.

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.

Texpatriate endorses for Attorney General

This should be a long and intellectual editorial about the political history of the Attorney General’s office, about the nuanced policy disagreements between the major candidates and the different criteria one should use before making a decision on whom to support for the state’s top lawyer. But this decision is just not complex enough to warrant all that. One candidate is an admitted crook, and should stay far away from high office.

State Senator Ken Paxton (R-Collin County) has admitted to engaging in securities fraud, a felony in Texas, when he solicited clients to a capital management firm without properly registering himself, despite being paid to do so. He has been officially reprimanded and fined by the State Securities Board. The Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office has even initiated an investigation against Paxton, though any indictments that might be issued would not occur until after the November election.

Now, if Paxton wins the election but still gets disbarred for his unethical behavior and just shoddy lawyering, he would still be able to continue on in office (our state’s founding fathers, in their grand wisdom, decided you don’t have to be an Attorney to be Attorney General). But if convicted of a felony, he would be removed from office. This is not that small of a possibility.

In our opinion, Paxton is already a confessed crook. Someone like him is either too nefarious or too mindless to follow the law; either way, he should not be rewarded with the privilege to help enforce it. And Texas should not have to relive the excitement of the 1980s when it comes to dealing with public officials who have been found guilty of felonies.

The Democratic candidate, Sam Houston, has a great deal of problems himself that make us think perhaps he is also not ready for prime time. But being camera shy and perplexed on some more complicated issues is a far cry from a felonious crime-spree.

Houston specifically has a rather unclear stance on what criteria the Attorney General should use when determining to defend a state law or not. We don’t know exactly what he believes, and this ambiguity troubles us to some extent. However, we do agree with Houston on many of the underlying principles, such as personal opposition to Texas’ strict anti-abortion laws and homophobic constitutional amendments.

In our view, the second-most obvious difference between Houston and Paxton is their legal experience. Paxton is a second-rate lawyer who has been propped up merely by his skills in Tea Party rabble rousing. Sam Houston, on the other hand, is a well-respected attorney in the City of Houston area, focusing on litigation as a named partner in a major firm.

Though most of all, Houston is willing to approach the issues of the Attorney General with an open mind. This stands in contrast to Paxton’s small and petty ideological approach, which results in the exact type of hubris that can lead to the aforementioned hubris.

What type of laughing stock will Texas be when it has the only Attorney General in the country who is no longer an attorney? We’re not sure what the punch-line would be, and we don’t care to find out by electing Paxton.

Accordingly, this board endorses Sam Houston for Attorney General.

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.