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 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.

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Lege update 7/18

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Shortly after 9:30 this morning, Governor Perry signed HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill, into law. The law is a death warrant for thousands of poor, rural women who will now be denied access to abortion clinics. Democrats had promised a same-day lawsuit to be filed the date of signature, but it looks like they did not follow through on the threat.

At his signing statement, Perry surrounded himself with fellow Conservatives. The Texas Tribune reports that Perry doubled down on the lie that HB2 is about the 20 week ban. ““This is a bill that protects unborn babies after the fifth month of a pregnancy,” Perry said. Once again, that is not the point of the bill. In addition to the 20 week ban, it requires abortion doctors to administer all drugs in person, have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and –& this is the big one– require the clinics convert into ambulatory surgical centers.

Per the above photographs, there were protesters at the capital today. They donned black clothing, carried wire coathangers and chanted “SHAME!” over and over again.

In other news, the House voted to advance HJR2, a transportation funding measure not identical to the one the Senate passed last week. The Senate bill had originally drawn Transportation funding from the Rainy Day Fund. This bill siphons the 25% of the Gas Tax earmarked for education to TXDOT. In order to make up for this, the Rainy Day Fund would be withdrawn for education funding.

This bill, HJR2, was approved 108-25, with only Tea Party Republicans voting against the measure. Debbie Riddle, Jodie Laudenberg, David Simpson, Bryan Hughes: all those people.

The House also approved a companion bill, HB16, by a 124-11 vote. The entire Transportation funding plan will only come into effect if the Senate approves HJR2 with at least 21 votes and the constitutional amendment is approved by a majority of voters.

The Legislature then adjourned until next Thursday, July 25th. At that point, the Legislature will have about one week left.

Lege udpate 5/14

Final Tallies
As I mentioned last night, both the Campaign Disclosure bill and the Michael Morton bill were one step away from being sent to Perry. Well, at end of business tonight, they have both passed roll call votes and been sent to Perry’s desk. The Governor will most likely veto the former and sign the later.

The Disclosure bill passed 95-52, just shy of overriding capability. The only opposition came from far-right Republicans. Debbie Riddle was the only Houstonian I could find opposing the measure. Meanwhile, the Michael Morton Act continued its support in unanimity, succeeding 147-0. If Perry signs it, it will take effect immediately.

TRC lives another day
The Texas Railroad Commission will not be reformed in any way, according to the Tribune. After the Senate passed an ambitious bill that did a lot of good, including stricter regulations for the Commissioners (as well as name change for the organization), the legislation was greeted as dead on arrival in the lower chamber by Energy Resources Committee Chairman Jim Keffer (R-Eastland).

Guns on Campus probably a reality
The so-called “Campus Carry” or “Guns-on-Campus” bill looks like it will be a reality after all. Facing the threat of an ambitious piece of legislation mandating the practice for all institutions of higher learning to be jammed through the Special Session, Senator Whitmire folded and allowed the less ambitious HB972 to be voted out of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

The Committee voted 5-2, with all four Republicans joining Senator Juan Hinojosa (D-Hidalgo) in supporting the measure. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso) and John Whitmire (D-Houston) were the only two opposed. This bill, unlike one the Senate previously shot down, allows public universities to opt-out if they want to. So, as I have said before, this would create Guns on Campus for A&M and Tech, but not UT, UH or TSU.

The Texas Tribune has the full story on this.

In re Riddle

Debbie Riddle, the conservative State Rep from Tomball, is in the news again. She posted a rant on her facebook page about sensitivity training for our soldiers in Afghanistan. Thereafter, a Pakistani-American law student at U of H commented challenging her views. Rep. Riddle responded with a xenophobic rant where she personally attack this man and instructed the American citizen to “go to Afghanistan”. Let me post the exchange below.

Full exchange may be found here.

Riddle:Our soldiers do NOT need to be taught how to be sensitive to radical Muslims. They do not need to be worried about blowing their nose wrong or using their left hand and offending someone. They need to just be focused on winning wars & protecting our country. Our soldiers are willing to fight and die for our freedoms – they should not be concerned with being PR agents or community organizers. They should not be bothered with being sensitive to people who want us all dead! We need a true leader in the White House – a vote for Obama is a vote to destroy our country. We can no longer afford to be politically correct or politically polite to people who choose to kill our citizens & disrespect our flag. Mr. President – if folks kill our citizens and trash our flag they don’t need our money – they need to see our full military strength and force.

Abdul Pasha:I would rather have Robert Poppenhusen be given sensitivity training on not sounding like a bigot. It might make this thread a bit more civil…but probably not.

Go educated yourself, if yall have real guts. http://www.examiner.com/article/report-recommend-u-s-soldiers-get-sensitivity-training-afghanistan

Riddle:Abdul, if you are so offended by our soldiers then you don’t need us or our money in Afghanistan. As an American I am greatly offended that we have had American soldiers killed by the very ones we were attempting to train and help – Afghanistan soldiers. Get a grip fellow – if you want to be an American act like one and be proud of our country and stand up for our military. If you can’t do that then go where people are sensative enough for you – I guess that would be Afghanistan – where they still live like they are in the Stone Age – but still very sensative.

Pasha:Im not offended by our soldiers. They are the most underpaid and unappreciated members of our society. With that being said, there is nothing wrong with being critical of our policies and military industrial complex. Furthermore, Im offend by yall, who are so close minded that, its your way or get the hell out of here. The amount of xenophobia is incredible! A society does NOT work that way. All this does is alienate people. I would go to Afghanistan but only if all of yall come with me and see the truth rather than relay on what Fox News feeds yall. And, I don’t have to “act” like an American. I am an American and I’m not going anywhere.

Riddle: OK – Abdul – I guess it is OK that the Muslims kill and torture people when they get their feelings hurt. I guess we should not have 1st Amendment rights – we might hurt your feelings. I guess we should all bow and scrape to Muslims because we don’t want to be politically incorrect. Well, I suggest that you step out of your easily offended world and appreciate those of us who pay the taxes and provide your education and your freedom. We provide benefits for you and you call us names because we are angry at the Muslim world for killing our citizens. So, be proud of your country and stand against people that murder our people. I would also advise you that it is not nice to insult those of us who are old enough to be your parents or grandparents because we have lived more life and know a little more about the real world than you do. It is called respect and you will do far better in life appreciating what others have done for you. I won’t burn a building or kill someone because you are insulting – I just consider it ignorance on your part and you will growup someday.

Notice the egregious misspelling of “sensitivity” on the part of Riddle. The Houston Chronicle broke this story and evidently followed up with a phone call to Pasha. He remarked was not offended personally but rather amused. I also noticed how Riddle’s immediate reaction was that because Pasha was vaguely Middle-Eastern, that he was Afghani and responsible for the taliban or what not. However, I want to highlight what I feel is a growing trend.

Riddle is a bigot; I think that is abundantly clear. But did she grow up learning to hate Muslims? Probably not. Riddle, 63, is a baby boomer, which is not a generation that grew up learning anything about Muslims besides “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Aladdin”. Riddle’s hatred of Muslims is what I predict is because of a void far too many Americans have, to hold prejudice and hate against a group of people. Since 9/11 it has become acceptable to hate Muslims in many circles, which is quite unfortunate. In fact, now a days, you can openly hate three groups of people in conservative circles: Atheists, Homosexuals, and Muslims. There was not very much hate towards these groups a long time ago (there was some, yes), so it can’t be just because it is learned to hate these people.

What happens, I feel, is that one learns to hate on people in particular. When Riddle grew up, there was plenty of hate, but it was directed towards Blacks and Jews. If Facebook existed back when Riddle was my age, I can almost assure you that the she would have plenty of racist and anti-Semitic remarks if such people ever confronted her views. You see, it is no longer acceptable to publicly mock someone for being Black, Latino, Jewish, or Catholic. So the people like Riddle, the closet klansmen of society, have learned to hate on new people.

This hatred is a disease that permeates deep into one. It can only be cured through education, which may be why people like Riddle have always been in favor of cutting education funding and in favor of privatization.