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.

Texpatriate endorses in CD2

Editorial note: A previous version of this editorial inadvertently misspelled Mr Letsos’ first name. We have fixed the typo with apologies to Mr Letsos.

Texas’ 2nd Congressional District is a remarkably unique creature. Historically situated in deep East Texas, it has been occupied by some of the great behemoths of Texas politics, namely Jack Brooks and Charlie Wilson. In 2004, under the stewardship of Tom DeLay, the Texas Legislature gerrymandered the district into an entirely new creation, combining swaths of East Texas with not only northeastern Harris County, but the working class neighborhoods of Beaumont. A prominent Criminal District Judge from Houston, Ted Poe, received the Republican nomination and handily defeated Congressman Nick Lampson, the Democrat who had represented the Beaumont area for many years.

This board has always been cautious about Poe’s tenure as a Congressman. All in all and most generously, it is best characterized by relentless adherence to majoritarian principles and interests of constituents. Still, we have historically been impressed by his steadfast dedication to justice. As a District Judge, overseeing felonious cases, Poe was renowned for handing down bizarre sentences that “fit the crime,” including requiring thieves to march around the establishments they store from with signs notifying the public of their crimes.

Perhaps most importantly, Poe has been a tireless advocate against human trafficking. Specifically, this board has been wowed by his introduction of the Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act in this most recent session of Congress. The bill increases appropriations for Federal law enforcement agencies to fight the heinous crimes and increases penalties for all those involved with the despicable practice. It has unanimously passed the House of Representatives, under Poe’s guidance, and is now waiting for action in the Senate.

Furthermore, Poe has incessantly been a valued representative to his constituents, even in areas not necessarily prone to voting for him. During 2011 redistricting, the 2nd District was rearranged once again, with the East Texas and Beaumont precincts being swapped out for inner-city Houston, namely Montrose and Timbergrove, two Democratic neighborhoods. This board has been particularly impressed with how Poe has been receptive to his new constituents desires, unlike their previous Congressman, John Culberson.

While Culberson continues to be at the behest of special interests trying to stymie an invaluable expansion of Light Rail throughout Montrose, Poe calmly polled his constituents and –upon learning they overwhelmingly supported expansion– began fighting for their interests. Poe sets an example for all his contemporaries, Democratic or Republican.

Of course, we are not without our criticisms. Poe is sadly somewhat right-wing on many social issues, and his views on immigration and foreign policy are sadly out of touch. However, even in representing these poor positions, Poe manages to successfully channel the desires of his constituents.

While we like Poe’s Democratic opponents, Niko Letsos, we believe he simply lacks the experience for Congress. The job requires someone without the need for on-the-job training, as well as an individual with a complex grasp of the myriad issues facing this State and this Country. While we may give Letsos the benefit of the doubt on the former, even a cursory glance over his website will show a somewhat superficial grasp of the issues. We likely agree with Letsos on some issues over Poe; predominantly those aforementioned social issues. However, this election ultimately comes down to a decision on experience and engagement. This board believes Poe decisively possesses both.

Noah M. Horwitz wrote an individual addendum to this editorial
I share my good friend Andrew’s views on the positive qualities Poe brings to his district, as well as the concerns over Letsos’ inexperience in the realm of politics. However, I do believe that he undervalued the importance of issues themselves.

Poe is a great representative for his people, but should this publication merely validate what is popular and not what is right? I disagree with Poe on abortion, on gay marriage, on Obamacare, on immigration reform, on taxes and on the general way that Congress should be run. These are significant points for me and, if I were to live in Poe’s district, they would make voting for him difficult.

Obviously, it would be easy for Letsos to say that he disagrees with Poe on the flashpoints while sharing his commitment to ending human trafficking. All the members of the House ostensibly shared that commitment, but it took Poe to actually craft a bill that attempts to solve a very terrible problem. Poe’s go-getter attitude on this issue and others is, in my opinion, his strongest attribute.

I don’t know how I would vote if I lived in Poe’s district. I honestly cannot see myself voting for the Republican in good faith, given their position in national politics. Alas, I don’t live in the 2nd district. My good friend Andrew does, though, so I will listen to what he has to say.

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.

Let’s talk about 2016! (Republican primary, Part 3)

Editorial note: This article is the fourth installment in a series about prospective 2016 Presidential candidates by Noah M. Horwitz. On Saturday, he wrote at length about Democratic candidates. On Sunday, he wrote at length about Republican candidates in a subset he called “Establishment Conservatives.” On Monday, he wrote about Republican candidates in a subset he called “Establishment Tea Party.” This evening, he will write about Republican candidates within the “Fringe Tea Party” subset.

I opined two days ago that there are four basic categories of prospective Republican candidates for President. The “Establishment Conservatives,” “Establishment Tea Party,” “Fringe Tea Party” and “Outcast.” The main distinction between the outcast and the other categories is the presence of some semblance of political experience. The main distinction between the “fringe” and the “establishment” is how well-renowned the individual is on the national stage. Finally, Tea Party is a bit of an arbitrary descriptor, as there is no monolithic organization to which a member might belong, but I have done my best to weed out the so-called RINOs, to borrow the group’s lexicon. For example, in the 2012 Republican primaries, Herman Cain and Donald Trump would be “outcasts.” Michele ovewas “Fringe Tea Party,” Rick Santorum was “Establishment Tea Party” and Mitt Romney was “Establishment Conservative.” Hopefully, that clears it up.

FRINGE TEA PARTY

1. Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas
Without question, Huckabee will not be the next President of the United States. Sorry to spoil it, but it is the ugly truth. That being said, the State of Iowa has an unmitigated love affair with Huckabee, and the former Governor returns the favor right back to the Hawkeye State. Huckabee, as many will recall, ran for President in 2008 and triumphantly won the Iowa Caucuses that year. He also won contests in Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Even as conservative as Huckabee may have been in 2008, he has moved even further to the right in the eight years since. While he has historically been a big opponent of the teaching of evolution, Huckabee was previously somewhat progressive on environmental and conversation issues. He even backed cap-and-trade in 2007, before President Barack Obama proposed the environmental regulatory overhaul himself two years later. But Obama backed the policy, so it immediately became poison for any Republican to touch with a ten foot pole.

ABC News reports that Huckabee has continued to shuffle in and out of Iowa well into this year. According to the article, one of Huckabee’s closest confidants confided that Huckabee is “seriously considering” running again. The Iowa Republican electorate is dominated by socially conservative evangelicals, who love Huckabee, so he would stand a serious candidate in Iowa. For the rest of the country, much like his 2008 campaign, not so much.

2. Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana
Bobby Jindal infamously delivered the response to the State of the Union in 2009, Obama’s first major speech since taking office. At the time, the Tea Party had not yet been formulated and Obama boasted an approval rating north of 60%. Predictably, Jindal stumbled and was derided overwhelmingly by the mainstream press and the general public. In all fairness, the speech was reminiscent of a patronizing kindergarten teacher, and he made a flippant comment about “Volcano Monitoring,” suggesting it was a wasteful expense. Not two months after the speech, Mount Rebout erupted in nearby Alaska and that “so-called volcano monitoring” was paramount in evacuating people to safety.

The National Review appears indubitably convinced that Jindal will run, but he just has far too much baggage for me to think he will be taken seriously. As the astute will recall, Jindal made waves back in 2012 for harshly repudiating failed Presidential nominee Mitt Romney following his defeat. The Boston Globe had that full story. A few months later, The Washington Post reported that Jindal called the GOP the “stupid party” for things such as rejecting science. But Jindal, in large part, does reject science. He signed a bill into law in Louisiana that condoned creationism in the schools.

All in all, Jindal appears to be much like some of the other candidates vying for this top spot; that is, without a strong base one way or another. His comments about the “stupid party” surely turn off the puritans, whereas his lack of any pragmatism on actual issues will make the more moderate elements cautious against support.

3. Peter King, Congressman from New York
Last September, King, the grandiloquent Long Island Representative, unequivocally announced “I’m running for President.” In the nearly year since, he has backed away from total decisiveness but still looks like quite a likely candidate.

King is also a strange being with complex political views. The New York Times gave a pretty impressive lowdown on some of his stranger escapades a number of years ago, when he launched McCarthy-style investigations into the lives of otherwise law-abiding Muslim-Americans. King has a real knack for making Islamophobic comments, and it is certainly his worst feature.

Otherwise, King is fairly moderate compared to the remainder of the House Republican Caucus. He openly loathes Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his “smug arrogance.” During last year’s Government Shutdown, King blamed Cruz and his lemmings for the entire issue, unlike most other Republicans.

4. Mike Rogers, Congressman from Michigan
The Huffington Post has the full story on this. A seven-term Congressman, Rogers appears eerily similar to a contender from the 2012 election. His name is Thaddeus McCotter. Himself a decade public servant, McCotter brashly entered the fray for President in an ill-fated three month campaign for President. Don’t expect much from him.

FINAL INSTALLMENT TOMORROW!

Castro confirmed by the US Senate

The San Antonio Express-News reports that Julian Castro, the Mayor of San Antonio, has been confirmed by the US Senate to serve as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The Senate vote was overwhelming, 71-26, and Castro will take office upon his resignation from the Mayorship, which he has held since 2009. I wrote extensively on this topic back in May when President Barack Obama first nominated Castro for the post, and suffice it to say I was not really a fan of the move. But more on this later.

First things first, the obvious question is who will be the next Mayor of San Antonio? The City Charter holds that the Mayor Pro Tem, currently Councilmember Cris Medina, would immediately become Acting Mayor in the case of the Mayor’s death, resignation or removal from office. However, in San Antonio, the Council would then choose a new permanent Mayor from amongst its ranks until the next regularly scheduled election, which is in May 2015. A number of Councilmembers have expressed interest in the appointment, and a couple outside actors –namely State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-Bexar County)– have also announced their tentative candidacies. I am not very well-versed in any of the inside politics of San Antonio, so I cannot offer any truly educated predictions about what will happen. Just expect fireworks.

Click here to read more!

Majority Leader race

None of these old dudes hold a candle to Jackie Sharp!

As I wrote about a few days ago, US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) lost his primary to a disgruntled member of the Tea Party. Ostensibly, he would continue in that post until January of next year, but Cantor made headlines shortly thereafter by announcing his tentative resignation from the leadership post, effective upon the election of his successor, likely in the next six weeks. Immediately, a leadership scramble ensued between the “next in line,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and a slew of opponents, both more conservative and (possibly) more pragmatic.

First, the National Journal reported that Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Rep. Pete Session (R-TX), both Texas Republicans, had tossed their hats into the ring for Cantor’s post. Both are prominent members of the Tea Party and have not pulled many punches against the establishment. Accordingly, it did not make much sense the next day when both Texans promptly pulled out of the leadership race, leaving McCarthy as the only candidate. As the Majority Whip of the House, McCarthy holds the same position as Frank Underwood on the first season of House of Cards. However, unlike Underwood, who was (Spoiler Alert!!!) notoriously ruthless and even murderous to achieve his goals, McCarthy likes to compare himself to a camp counselor more than some sort of nefarious, Machiavellian villain.

But McCarthy WILL NOT be unopposed. Click here to see who is running against him!

Cantor loses

The Washington Post reports that Rep. Eric Cantor, the US House Majority Leader, has lost the Republican primary for his seat, thus being denied re-election. Cantor, a Virginia Republican, widely presumed to be a future Speaker of the House, fell short to David Brat, a Tea Party backed right-winger. Arguably, Cantor ran to the right of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on many issues, though I had always seen him as more moderate, as I’m sure the Tea Party also thought.

Cantor had supported a limited version of the DREAM Act, and this ended up being an Achilles’ heel of sorts for him. Among other flash points in his primary fight were support for ending the government shutdown, votes to raise the debt ceiling and support for what was left of the Voting Rights Act. While he had stooped low in right-wing campaign tactics in previous weeks, most had not expected Cantor to lose out in tonight’s primary. In fact, the loss came as a devastating surprise for Democrats and Republicans alike. Most Democrats were excited that the renowned arch-conservative would be out of a job, though many of the more pragmatic liberals realize that this spells nothing but trouble, as it virtually guarantees that the Republican leadership will shift to the right.

Click here to read more!

On Net Neutrality

POLITICO reports that the FCC commissioners have approved a controversial new plan that eviscerates the principle of net neutrality for websites and internet service providers. Net neutrality is the long-honored belief that the internet should not have a “fast lane,” that is to say that service providers should not be able to slow down service for a specific person or website. To premise is actually quite simple, as a completely deregulated internet would surely cause fasting internet for those who could pay more. This would obviously stifle innovation and hamper one of the best things of the internet: its inherent equality.

Like so many other items, when President Obama was first running for office, he was a vociferous supporter of net neutrality. Now that he is in office, of course, this sentiment has been defenestrated, so to speak. The FCC is guided by five commissioners, all of which were nominated by Obama. Of those, three are partisan Democrats and two are Republicans. The final vote in favor of the new rules gutting net neutrality was 3-2, you guessed it, along partisan lines. However, Republican opposition was due far more to a proposal to classifying broadband services as a utility, which has great implications for the overarching regulations.

Click here to see who supports Net Neutrality!