John Cook for Land Commissioner

The El Paso Times reports that John Cook, the former Mayor of El Paso, will seek the Democratic nomination for Land Commissioner next year. The news comes as a good sign for Democrats in the State, who are still without a single Statewide Democratic candidate for 2014.

In a video procured by the Times, Cook expressed his disdain for fellow El Paso Democrats, reminding everyone that the city, which is the Sixth largest in the State (and 19th largest in the Nation), has never elected a Statewide officeholder. “”I think it’s an embarrassment to the city of El Paso, being one of the largest cities in the United States, that we’ve never had a candidate elected to a statewide office,” Cook said.

Cook was first elected to the El Paso City Council in 1999, serving until 2005, when he defeated incumbent Mayor Joe Wardy in the municipal election. Cook was then re-elected in 2009, and left office last month due to term limits. Perhaps most famous for Mayor Cook’s tenure is his zealous support for gay rights.

There was a great Huffington Post article about all this. Long story short, in 2009 Cook pushed through domestic partnership benefits for the municipality. However, in 2010 a ballot measure overturned these benefits. Thereafter, Cook pushed through yet another round of the domestic partnership ordinance. This was the straw that broke the ignoramuses’ backs.

Cook fired back, saying “To me this was always about bigotry. Intolerance is bigotry.” This is when the recall effort began, immediately before the Special Municipal election in 2012. Social conservatives, livid over Cook’s support of gay rights, began circulating petitions and collecting signatures. However, from what I could find in an article from the Times, tax-exempt churches illegally participated in the recall effort and the Eighth Court of Appeals declared the recall effort null and void.

Recently, Cook has been in the news for two new issues. First, pertaining to the failed recall effort, Cook has filed a claim for the City to reimburse him for the $700k used defending himself against the recall, stating both the recall and the initial referendum on domestic partnerships to be illegal.

Doing research on this actually opened up a whole new can of worms I was not familiar with. Evidently, one of the more controversial things Cook did as Mayor was help to usher through a new deal demolishing El Paso’s City Hall and putting up a Baseball Stadium in its place. Evidently, this ticked off a lot of people. And the deal allegedly involved some shady business.

So John Cook may have a few skeletons in the closet. But he is unabashedly progressive, and surely will not equivocate his position on “being a liberal” when some Tea Party crazy confronts him. While he would be like Bill White in the being an old, White Mayor part, he could be oh so different in other ways. We’ll see how he does against George P. Bush.

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Statewide texting ban passes House

I got the news first hand on this one (from Rep. Gene Wu), but the Tribune has a full story on it, so I suppose you check that out too.

The State House has passed a statewide texting-while-driving ban by insufficient margins. 98-47, to be clear; a few votes shy of the supermajority required to overcome Governor Perry’s promised veto. HB63, Tom Craddick’s bill, was split along rather unorthodox lines.

Lots of Democrats voted against the measure (there is some discussion on this in greater detail below). The chief Democratic opponent was Harold Dutton. Dutton feared the law would allow for widespread racial profiling by the police under the guise of pulling someone over for violating this rule. His amendments would make the violation a secondary offense, and it was defeated.

The Tribune mentions two successful amendments. The first prohibits police officers from confiscating one’s mobile phone and the second prevents the seizure of cell-records without a warrant. No word on who proposed these or what the roll call was. I could figure it out, but I just don’t find it very important.

Finally, this bill would overrule and pre-empt local measures, including those stronger than the statewide proposal. Joe Pickett successfully got an amendment in that would exempt El Paso, which has a total cell-use ban, from the statewide proposal, which provides exceptions for “looking up numbers” and using a GPS or other map system. The bill now heads to the Senate, which, to my knowledge, still hasn’t passed this out of committee.

Part II
The roll call vote was 98-47. Of the 98 in support, 43 were Democrats and 55 were Republicans. Of the 47 in opposition, 10 were Democrats and 37 were Republicans. 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans were absent (one of them, Ryan Guillen [D-Rio Grande City], was a big proponent but his wife went into labor), and, of course, the Speaker does not vote.

The 10 Democrats voting against the bill were Lon Burnam (Fort Worth), Terry Canales (Brownsville), Joe Deshotel (Port Arthur), Harold Dutton (Houston), Naomi Gonzalez (El Paso), Roland Gutierrez (San Antonio), Eric Johnson (Dallas), Borris Miles (Houston), Senfronia Thompson (Houston) and Hubert Vo (Houston). I will most definitely remember them next year.

This actually means that the Texting ban isn’t quite as dead as we figured it to be. If Guillen is present at the next vote, the number is at 99. The other Democrat missing was Rene Oliveira (Brownsville), who is recovering from an automobile accident. The options for getting the one more vote is to get Oliveira there (assuming he is a supporter), or trying to peel off at least one Democratic holdout. My money is on Burnam, for what it’s worth.

It is worth nothing that just because all but one of the 10 Democratic holdouts is a racial minority, doesn’t mean that African-Americans or Hispanics are any less supportive of this measure. That is just the typical makeup of the House Democratic Caucus nowadays.

Raymond Telles, 1915-2013

Raymond Telles, the first Hispanic Mayor of El Paso, who served from 1957 to 1961, died on Friday at the age of 97. Telles, a Democrat, would go on to become the Ambassador to Costa Rica under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations from 1961 to 1967. In 1967, he became the Chairman of the United States-Mexican Border Commission, and in 1971 he became a commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (which is distinct from the Chairman of EEOC, that the LA Times, in their continuing disgrace of journalism, seems to think), serving until 1976.

Telles was the first Hispanic elected Mayor of a major US City (population of El Paso at that time was about 150,000). His election came a full 24 years before that of Henry Cisneros, and 8 years before Alfonso Cervantes of St. Louis, who is erroneously sometimes called the first Hispanic person to the elected Mayor of a major US City. If and when Texas ever turns blue, it will be because of the hispanic community, and one of the first milestones will be Mayor Telles. An inspiration to all.

In re Marquez

The El Paso Times reported last night that the EPCDP had taken the action to banish State Reps Marisa Marquez and Naomi Gonzalez from the county party after supporting a Republican candidate for the State House of Representatives.

The incident involved State Representative Dee Margo, a Republican fighting a tough fight this November against  Democrat Joe Moody. Margo distributed fliers about a week ago that touted kind words from the women, though the statements stopped short of an explicit endorsement.

Last night, the El Paso County Democratic Party took the unusual action to expel Marquez and Gonzalez from the organization. This will technically not affect their standing as State Democrats. Additionally, Chairman Giberto Hinojosa had some very strong words for the lawmakers. “An absolute aberration”, keeping in tune with the County’s words upon putting the integrity of the State Party in jeopardy.

For my part, I would like to defend these State Representatives. This is not Israel, this is not the United Kingdom, this is the United States of America. Our elections are about people, not parties. This is why we have Primary elections, so people, not party bosses, select the candidates. For pete’s sake, they did not even endorse the candidate, just complimented another member of their delegation!!!

This reminds me of the Republican congressman defeated in primaries by the Tea Party after not identifying President Obama with socialism or terrorism. There is something called common decency. Now, were the actions of Marquez and Gonzalez dumb? Absolutely. But should they warrant expulsion from the party? Absolutely not. That is not, nor should it ever, be what the Democratic Party should stand for.

El Paso blues

Former El Paso County Judge Anthony Cobos has been very directly implicated to bribery, reports the El Paso Times. Cobos had been arrested in December of 2011 for suspicion of defrauding the federal government and mail fraud. Evidently, it goes something like this:

LKG was a service that evaluated Children’s Mental Health organizations. LKG was not doing their job well, so they bribed county officials, including Cobos, to get a pass. This is the exact same thing it seems that Cobos’s predecessor, Dolores Briones, committed. It is always sad for a community to see a public official commit malicious transgressions of moral turpitude, but when someone with similar politics does it, it really angers me. El Paso is about as blue as a county can get in Texas. But perhaps the real issue is when we have a one party system, it eliminates accountability. Whatever the reason, I have a few words to say to the voters of El Paso, which are strikingly similar to the relationship advice I give some of my female friends: Stop picking losers! There are a lot of good, honest people who would probably love to be in that position, but you have to always choose the lying cheats. You can do better!