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.

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Texpatriate endorses for Land Commissioner

The Commissioner of the General Land Office, commonly known as the Land Commissioner, has broad powers over relatively random portions of state government. Public land (including beaches), education and veterans’ affairs round out their duties. It is a job that requires both political acumen and considerable policy knowledge. In these categories, the choice that is best for Texas is clear.

Republican candidate George P. Bush is about far, far more than a continuation of a political dynasty. The son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush, he has a lot to live up to in arguably the most visible conservative political dynasty in the country. But unlike the partisan excesses pushed by his family members, Bush is pragmatic in his outlook. And standing in stark contrast to his uncle, the last member of his family in Texas politics, Bush has demonstrated considerable mastery of the issues at hand for the Land Commissioner office.

A former teacher, Bush has a special place to understand the plight of many within the public school system. Overseeing the moneys that would go to many schools, Bush has no power to change standards or increase funding, but he does have the capacity to ensure that funds are spent efficiently and responsibly. We have every reason to think he would capably do this.

On veterans, Bush pushes a plan that is both realistic considering the powers of his prospective office and has the capacity to greatly improve the lives of many veterans affected by debilitating conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder. It’s relatively simple; he would publicize and tout the myriad programs Texas already has in place to assist veterans, such as low-interest loans and subsidies involving healthcare. For all our reputation of being a no-frills state when it comes to social welfare programs, Texas already ostensibly does a great deal regarding veterans; we just do a lousy job advertising that fact. Bush would change that.

Most importantly, regarding public land, Bush would push for programs that respect the integrity of our parks and reserves while still allowing the responsible exploitation of the resources underneath the ground. It’s a win-win situation.

Contrary to many in his party, Bush is an environmentalist. One of the mantras of his campaign is that there is no “false choice between protecting the environment…and promoting job creation.” He acknowledges the reality of climate change, as well as the terrifying phenomenon of rising sea levels. Texas would do well to have such a pragmatic steward of both positions in office.

The former Mayor of El Paso, John Cook, is also running as a Democrat. He is a passionate candidate, but his criticisms are far more pointed at the incumbent Land Commissioner, Jerry Patterson, than they are directed toward Bush. To put it bluntly, Bush commands a mastery of the issues regarding the office that Cook simply does not possess. Despite an impressive resume, he has largely dropped the ball on a serious campaign ahead of the general election.

Educated by the best institutions of higher learning in the state, Rice University and UT Law, Bush is obviously smart. But he is also a passionate and comprising politician as well. Such qualities make him stand apart in Texas politics to most of his compatriots in the Republican Party, much less his family. Texas voters have an easy decision to make, so as long as they do not blame one candidate for the sins of his father.

Or his uncle.

Accordingly, this board endorses George P. Bush for Land Commissioner.


 

Noah M. Horwitz dissented from this editorial, and wrote his own addendum.

My colleague makes some good points in his editorial that urges support of George P. Bush for Land Commissioner. He is, indeed, a pragmatist compared to those within his party, believing in things such as climate change and the need to allocate resources protecting both schoolchildren and veterans from the perils of austerity. Such beliefs were also somewhat evident back in February, when I joined with my colleagues in unanimously selecting Bush as the best choice within the Republican primary. But the points just don’t hold water when Bush is challenged by the reasonableness of John Cook, a Democrat vying for the position.

While it is true, for example, that Bush recognizes the very real danger presented by climate change, he is still willfully ignorant regarding the source of these dangers. Bush still officially doubts the idea that people are the main source of climate change, despite the fact that 97% of pertinent climate scientists agree on that point. Why? The reason is that, like nearly all of the high profile figures within his political party, he has to mollify a zealous, extreme and anti-intellectual faction that dominates primary elections.

What good is a steward of public lands if he does not acknowledge the driving source behind the greatest danger to them? Recognizing that climate change exists merely means you are not delusional as to present realities, but if you think humans are not causing it, there is little you can do besides wring your hands and lament the conundrum while you refill the oversized gas tank in your hummer. He is without any type of actual strategy to deal with the rising sea levels that threaten to eviscerate our beaches.

Speaking of beaches, Bush supports an abominable ruling of the Texas Supreme Court that guts the state’s venerated Open Beaches Act. While the law mandates that all of Texas’ beaches are state parks, to be used by anyone, the high court has adulterated the state constitution to fit their bizarre interpretation that an exception may be carved out if a property owner’s previous non-beachfront land becomes the “first in line,” so to speak, as a result of erosion. With the state’s rapidly eroding coastline (which, not to keep beating the same point, is not a result of mysterious circumstances, but the obvious byproduct of the rising sea levels and increased tropical activity that come with man-made climate change), this terrible ruling will affect more and more parcels of land in the forthcoming decades.

Bush supports this misguided ruling. On his watch, Texas beaches could easily find themselves like the northeast, where the rich and powerful monopolize all the good locations, hogging these pristine landscapes from the public. Now, Bush can just go to his family’s compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. But for most honest Texans, the state beaches are all we got.

John Cook opposes this silly ruling, and recognizes the very real threat that man-made climate change poses to the state’s beaches and other public land. With years of experience as both the Mayor of El Paso and a member on the El Paso City Council, Cook is not a political novice. Since my colleagues evidently values policy acumen so highly, it should be worth mentioning that Cook also knows the nitty-gritty intricacies that this office faces remarkably well. Cook doesn’t have Yankee family money underwriting his travels around the state, so he may not be quite so ubiquitous of a presence around our humongous state this general election. But that just should not be important.

Be it the editorial board of this publication, or those of just about any newspaper in the state, it appears everyone has lost sight of their priorities this election. Obsequious adulation is directed toward Bush for his passion, campaign skills and the size of his war-chest, as if those are things any articulate person would prioritize in an endorsement. We’re better than that, we’re better than the sophomoric illogic used in picking the student council candidate with the prettiest posters; at least, I think we are.

What far, far too few people have done is actually look at the policy disagreements between the two, albeit well-qualified, candidates. Bush ascribes to the fairy tale that climate change is not caused or affect by people, whereas Cook thinks we should be vigilant in trying to stop it. Bush thinks the One-Percent should be entitled to steal state parks along the ocean from the average Texan to ensure their million-dollar second homes are protected from eminent domain; Cook thinks this 55 year-old law is valid and should remain enforced. Most importantly, Bush simply will go through the motions of this office for four years while he plots his campaign for Governor, as everyone in this state fully expects him to do. Cook actually wants to get into the weeds and leave his mark on the General Land Office.

I don’t punish Bush for the sins of his father, or his uncle. I punish him for his own. Respectfully, but sternly, I urge you to disregard the majority’s opinion and vote for John Cook for Land Commissioner.
—Noah M. Horwitz

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.

Terrible, terrible poll

The Texas Tribune has released its newest poll, and the results continue to paint a bleak picture for the campaign of State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. The poll has her down 12 points to Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate. The poll also examined Statewide races up and down the ticket and found that Democrats were doing miserably bad in all of them. Most all of these polls included Libertarian and Green candidates, for what it is worth. Additionally, undecideds boasted pretty good showings in all of these races, and the number only got bigger the further down the ballot one traveled.

As many will remember, the Tribune commissioned an extensive poll in February that was not worth the non-existent paper that is was not printed upon. Among the many terrible predictions it made was that Kesha Rogers and Debra Medina led the plurality in their respective primaries. Rogers barely squeaked into a runoff and Medina came in a distant last place in a race where one candidate (Hegar) won outright. I went after the Tribune with a wrench in the Daily Texan a couple days after the preliminary primary completely discredited their polling, noting that we should not waste our breath analyzing something so unreliable anymore.  As my friend Charles Kuffner noted yesterday, the Tribune polls should be “in time-out,” meaning that we have to very look at what they have to say quite critically.

Click here to read more!

Reality Check, Part III

Public Policy Poling has another poll out today that examines the horse-race in the Statewide elections, the first of its kind from PPP following last month’s primary. In short, the Democrats have a lot of work to do, with huge deficits for Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, David Alameel and John Cook, among others. Just from a cursory review of the recent pollsters and evaluations, I am prepared to say that, in some ways, 2014 will be a worse year for Texas Democrats than 2010 was, ceteris paribus.

The last time PPP created one of those polls, it put State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic nominee for Governor, 15 points down against Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate (ABBOTT 51, DAVIS 37). In the five months since, a whole lot has happened of consequence. First, there was the whole “Trailergate” thing, then deeper questions about the competence of Davis’ campaign. However, starting about six weeks ago, a funny thing happened. Abbott began stumbling unprovoked, first with the Ted Nugent scandal then with a flareup over Equal Pay. In recent days, the controversy has centered on the fact that Abbott’s education plan not only aims to extend standardized testing to four-year olds, but also relied upon the commentary of a Charles Murray, once cited as a white supremacist by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Seriously.

Click here to read more poll results (spoiler: they’re all bad)!

Texpatriate endorses in Land Commissioner primary

In the race for Land Commissioner, voters must choose a new steward over the vast public holdings of the General Land Office, managing acres upon acres of land both rich in minerals and value. The Commissioner must figure out how exactly to do this, but he also is tasked with presiding over a plethora of important State Boards, specifically a pair managing broad issues relating to Education and Veterans, respectively.

First, this board examined George P. Bush, an attorney from the Dallas area. However, what readers will most notably know Bush from is his extended family pedigree. His father, Jeb Bush, was the Governor the Florida. His uncle, George W. Bush, was the 43rd President. His grandfather, George H.W. Bush, was the 41st President. We have serious misgivings about a political amateur running for such a powerful, Statewide post, and we do not think Bush makes up for these weaknesses because of his family (whom this board has never been so fond of in the first place).

However, our strongest objections with Bush end at his short resume. We believe that he has run a great campaign, especially when juxtaposed against his compatriots in the Republican party. Whether this has been his strong mastery of educational issues or those affecting our veterans, or finding a reasonable voice in those disputes of environmental concern, Bush has continued to surprise us as a new leader in perhaps a more centrist wing of the party, one we so desperately long for.

Click here to read the full endorsement!

The Democratic slate

UPDATED 11/30: David Alameel to run for Senate; scroll to bottom.

About a month ago, we ran a tombstone on the cover and declared that “Democrats have surrendered the capacity to run competitive races for 2014 offices.” Perhaps that was a little harsh, and the jury might still be out on how competitive at least some of these races will end up being. Please note that I do not believe that any Democrat could actually win next year in a statewide race, but multiple races could end up being closer than 5 points, a far cry from what I was willing to admit just 30 days ago.

Since then, three major actions have occurred,all of which have renew a limited sense of optimism towards the future. The first is that State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), who announced she would run for Lieutenant Governor next year. When our “Tombstone article” was published in October, Van de Putte had been painfully silent for a very long period of time, and many had concluded that she would not end up running to lead the Senate. At that time, Maria Luisa Alvarado, the Democrat’s 2006 nominee for Lieutenant Governor and a political novice, had just announced her candidacy. At a time when the Republican candidates –all White men– keeping sliding further and further to the right, the right Democrat could have a very successful impact. While Alvarado would be sure to lose by double-digits, Van de Putte has the ability to make this a competitive election (within 5 points). This was more or less the point of Ross Ramsey’s recent Texas Tribune column on the Lieutenant Governor’s campaign.

Click here to read more about why some elections might be competitive!

Existent and non-existent Democrats

Texas Democrats are giddy at the prospect of Wendy Davis running for Governor. The astute will remember that I was very excited when she first announced, but with all due respect, that was nearly two weeks ago. Democrats might do worse than ever before –oh yes, mark my words– in the 2014 elections if something does not change quick.

Most importantly, the Democrats need to find candidates to run for the Statewide offices. As I have said before, even a State that is 80% non-White will not elect a single Democrat if they do not run. Buckpassing is perhaps Texas Democrats biggest problem, as everyone is so satiated with this abstract concept of a future victory that they are unwilling to do anything today. The reason why Wendy Davis’ candidacy is so extraordinary is that she put the good of the party and the State above her immediate political future. Rick Noriega did this in 2008, but it is a rare occurrence otherwise.

Democrats do have a serious candidate for Land Commissioner, John Cook, the former Mayor of El Paso. Serious candidates have also been suggested for Lieutenant Governor (State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte) and Attorney General (State Sen. Carlos Uresti) as well. However, the latter two individuals have been painfully silent recently, prompting some concern about the rigor of Democratic candidates.

Click here to read more on other candidates