Texas will never turn blue

At least not in this political reality. I know, it’s a rather evocative headline, but the charts and stats I show below will hopefully convince you that the only thing that would guide Texas toward the left is huge national trends. As I have said before, I strongly believe that the Republican Party will go the way of the dodo in about 20 years or so, leaving behind a Democratic Party that gets so all-encompassing that it splits in two. Short of that, the GOP could realign in just as much of a substantial way. The great step to the right of the 1980s would be superseded by a step to the left in the 2030s, like the previous leftward step a century previous. The horrendous midterm results for Democrats have not shaken my belief that the Republicans are on a destruction course; in fact, it has only strengthened my resolve. However, the results specifically in Texas have lead me to believe that all the work of groups such as Battleground Texas has been in vain. There is little left to do now, for progressives, than to work together with moderate Republicans to elect pragmatic conservative candidates and to wait for the rising tides to guide Texas away from the rocks. I only wish it will not be too late by then.

State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, lost her race by twenty points, 39-59. Governor-elect Greg Abbott performed better than Governor Rick Perry in all three of his elections. For the downballot elections, all the other Republicans won by comparably margins. The Lieutenant Governor’s race was the closest, with the Democrat losing by just more than 19 points, and the US Senate race being the biggest blowout, with Senator John Cornyn being re-elected by more than 27 points. The Republicans re-took the US Senate, meaning that — all other things being equal — Cornyn will now be the Majority Whip of the Senate.

Locally, Harris County went straight Republican, whereas Bexar County was a reddish shade of purple. Neither showed any improvement from 2010 (I didn’t realize how many judgeships the Democrats won in Bexar in 2010), though, with the big exception being that Nico LaHood (D) defeated Susan Reed (R) and was elected District Attorney in Bexar County. In Harris County, the GOP slate generally beat the Democratic one by about 10 points, though certain races were closer. DA Devon Anderson defeated her Democratic challenger, Kim Ogg, by only about six points. Though it is important to note this was just a special election for the post, and it will be right back on the ballot in just two years.

Davis’ State Senate also fell to the Republicans, specifically a woman named Konni Burton. This puts the party in control of 20/31 seats, just shy of the coveted 2/3rds needed to ramrod legislation through. However, Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick will likely disassemble that rule anyways. In the State House, the Republicans picked up three seats. State Representative-elect Wayne Faircloth (R-Galveston County) prevailed in the district currently held by retiring Democrat Craig Eiland. Meanwhile, State Representative Philip Cortez (D-Bexar County) was defeated by Rick Galinda and State Representative Mary Ann Perez (D-Harris County) was defeated by Gilbert Pena.

Also around the state, voters in Denton approved a measure to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within the city limits. This has prompted the Oil & Gas Associated, as well as the General Land Office, to file suit against the city. Watch out for the Legislature passing a law disallowing these types of referendums next session.

Now, I’ve put together a few charts. First up, I compared the counties won by the gubernatorial candidates in 2010 (top) to those won in 2014 (bottom). Obviously, blue for the Democrat and red for the Republican.

Governor10

Governor14

Obviously, Davis won fewer counties than Bill White, the 2010 Democratic candidate. Most notably, she didn’t win Harris County, although it is important to note that White was a former Mayor of Houston and that Abbott is also a Houstonian. But Abbott also won three southern counties that White triumphed in. I don’t know if you could call locales like Kleberg County (fourth from the bottom on the coast) part of the Valley, but it is more than 70% Hispanic.

Davis did worse than White, worse than Chris Bell (2006 Dem nominee) and worse than Tony Sanchez (2002 Dem nominee). In fact, if you look at the margins of victory in recent gubernatorial elections, it appears as though the trend is for Democrats to do worse as time goes on –quite different than what common knowledge would have you believe.

Next, the same comparison for Lieutenant Governor:

Lt Gov10

Lt Gov14

Now, in 2010, the Democrats had a rather unremarkable candidate for Lieutenant Governor: Linda Chavez-Thompson. With only slightly more resources than Jim Hogan, she ran a truly awful campaign. And when she went up against Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, she did even worse than the Democratic nominee this year. State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate, did win a net 2 more counties in the south, including Kleberg.

Moving onto Attorney General:

Attorney General10

Attorney General14

Sam Houston, the Democratic candidate for Attorney Genera, won a few more southern counties. He carried Jefferson County, the home of Beaumont (that blue speck in the right corner), the only Democrat by my calculations to do so.

Last, and probably least, the US Senate election:

Senate12

Senate14

Granted, this map compares David Alameel’s, the Democratic Senate candidate, performance to the 2012 election, but it is still striking. Alameel was the worst contender of all the Democratic ticket, and for good reason.

All in all, the Democrats did worse than four years ago. Downballot, they didn’t necessarily do as bad as some are claiming, mainly because Bill White outperformed the Democratic ticket in 2010 by A LOT. Davis outperformed them by a statistically insignificant amount, in comparison. Below, I have attached a line graph demonstrating the margins with which Republicans have won the non-Judicial statewide offices since 1998. I have omitted the 2000 Railroad Commission race and the 2010 Comptroller race because they lacked Democratic candidates and the 60 or 70-something margins would have skewered the graph:

Ranges

The other major point is that ticket-splitting has decreased rapidly. The range of the losses was about 37 points in 1998, decreased to about 25 points in 2002, 16 points in 2006, 17 points in 2010 and only 8 points last Tuesday. Like I have opined in the past, this is likely because of the growing stupidity of the average Texan, and the rise of “FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD” style straight-ticket voting.

Finally, I wanted to look into how much Democrats have improved in Bexar and Harris counties. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet for finding just how Republican an election is in these counties before 2010, back when ticket-splitting was still commonplace. Ultimately, I settled on straight party voting, which is a rather bad barometer, but it beats nothing.

Bexar County

Harris County

These are bad measurements for a couple of reasons, namely that they overstate Democratic support. While Democrats received more straight ticket votes than Republicans in 2006 in Harris County, they still loss the whole county and all the positions. And 2000 wasn’t a close election either. But these graphs should just illustrate, rather unscientifically, that there is no meaningful improvement for Democrats in either county in midterm elections. If I have an abundance of time, I will average the margins of victory for all the countywide elections in a given election year to find a more accurate number.

As I have opined before, since Davis and the pack did not crack the 40% mark and did convincingly worse than 2010, Battleground Texas will be no more. Snuffed in its infancy. Either it will just fold in the next few weeks or its budget will be slashed so significantly that it will become a non-entity in practice. Most of the people running that rolling calamity will likely be out of a job. I’m going to leave my rationale for why the Democrats got whupped so monstrously to a latter post, but let’s just say there are quite a few reasons.

The most important reason, however, is that the average Texan is evidently both too stupid and too lazy to be bothered to participate in the political process. A pitiful 1/3 registered voters participated. Campaigns can do what they want to drive turnout, but until young people put down the blunt and the funyuns long enough to “occupy” a voting booth, nothing will get any better for the Democrats. Until other non-voters get up off their butts and stop being worthless, ‘poor and puny anonymities,’ politics will continue being dominated by the far-right. At the end of the day, however, in a democracy, people get the government they deserve. Lazy Texans will get that government many times over in the succeeding years.

Big Jolly Politics, Brains & Eggs (Parts I, II, III, IV), Eye on Williamson, Off the Kuff and Texas Leftist all have more.

Texpatriate endorses for the US Senate

We tend to swing back and forward on prioritizing issues and prioritizing experience & leadership skills when it comes to campaigns, elections and endorsements. Most of us agree that Senator John Cornyn, the Republican incumbent who has been in office for twelve years, is a strong choice in the leadership department while his Democratic challenger, David Alameel, beats him in the policy arena. All in all, though, this board believes its squabbles on policy with Cornyn outweigh our preferences with him on leadership, and we therefore will support his competitor.

In this era of Tea Party upstart leaders who come out of nothing rather abruptly, Cornyn has been an exception to the rule. He is a slow but steady growing leader for Republicans in Texas. Before he entered the Senate in late 2002, he served for one term as Attorney General and about one-and-a-half on the Texas Supreme Court. Originally, Cornyn’s experience was in the judiciary, as he started out electorally as a District Judge in his home of San Antonio. Furthermore, Cornyn has spent his years in the Senate somewhat productively, moving up the food chain ever-so-efficiently until he recently became Minority Whip, the second highest ranking Republican. The country faces the distinct, though very real, possibility that Cornyn could even be the Majority Leader of the Senate come January.

All this is to say that, if Texas voters choose to repudiate Cornyn in his quest for a third term, the state would lose a lot. But it would also lose a consistent voice against everyday Texans, one indubitably without their best interests at heart. Despite what Cornyn’s many extreme Republican primary challengers may have suggested earlier this year, the incumbent is indeed a true conservative. So true, in fact, that his positions should not continue to have a home in the United States Senate.

Cornyn continues to be a driving force behind the asinine movement to amend the constitution in order to ban same-sex marriages. Once, he likened the idea to a man loving a box turtle. He also has stood against even the most reasonable gun regulations or bipartisan accommodations designed to keep the government afloat when Tea Party zealots were extorting Washington into austerity. After vanquishing rightist challengers in this year’s primary, you would think that Cornyn could move toward the center, but instead he has sadly doubled down on the very same type of partisan rhetoric.

David Alameel, the Democratic challenger, is not a strong candidate. His considerable largess allowed him to bully the state’s top political brass into supporting him over more qualified and more interesting candidates in the Democratic primary, with the ultimately false assumption that he would be amenable to spending some of his fortune during the campaign. Unfortunately, he has been missing in action from heavy politicking for many months now. We’re not holding our breaths for a sudden reversal.

We have some serious reservations about his qualifications, temperament and other characterizations. But on policy, there is a night and day difference. Alameel is pro-LGBT rights, wants to end neoconservative foreign policy elements and supports reasonable gun regulations.

It is still an open question as to if Alameel would make an effective Senator. But Cornyn has, without a doubt, lost our confidence as one, so we are willing to take a chance on a replacement, specifically one who we agree with on principle. Accordingly, this board endorses David Alameel for the United States Senate.

A dissent to the Editorial was also published
I largely agree with the platitudes espoused by the remainder of the editorial board, and their assessment of strengths and weaknesses among the candidates. We just disagree on which one should be prioritized.

Cornyn’s positions likening bestiality with reptiles to marriage equality are offense and indefensible. Similarly, his general demeanor on the issues as a member of the Senate is somewhat poor. But our friends, we fear, drastically understate the value of Cornyn’s leadership positions. The Senate is not a collection of fiefdoms. One freshman Senator would not be very effective in shaking things up. Texas is much better served by a tried-and-true statesman like Cornyn, with what he could affect for the people.
–Andrew Scott Romo

Noah M. Horwitz also published an individual addendum
I agree with the editorial’s positions, but I would like to clarify the role of experience. Being in the Senate is not very hard, it’s not a job that requires a lot of advanced brain power; anyone who ever met Dan Quayle could testify to that. Obviously, David Alameel is no LBJ, and neither is John Cornyn. It’s useless to try and romanticize or aggrandize their power or influence. The most important thing a Senator can do is to write and advocate for her or his bills. And, for that, it is beyond debate in our circle that Alameel would do a superior job.

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 are comprised of a majority opinion of the voting board.

Reality Check, Part IV

The Houston Chronicle reports that YouGov, in conjunction with both CBS and The New York Times, has conducted a nationwide poll of gubernatorial and senatorial elections. Overall, the poll shows that Republicans are doing very well throughout the country, and stand a significant chance (in their minds, 60%) of retaking control of the US Senate. As expected, the results paint a gloomy picture for Democrats right here in Texas.

In the race for Governor, the Republican candidate, Attorney General Greg Abbott, leads the Democratic candidate, State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), 54%-37%. A mere 9% are still apparently undecided. Similarly, in the Senate election, Republican incumbent Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) holds a 55%-38% lead, with an even smaller 7% still split between the two. The margin of error in both polls was small enough, given the huge lead one candidate commands, to be statistically insignificant.

govrace

The methodology in this poll, however, was suspect. The methodology used something called the “online panel,” which is rather new and untested form of polling. By randomly selecting internet users and then correcting for non-response in a way similar to most other telephone-based polling, Davis’ campaign has accused YouGov of being biased against Democrats since it excludes poorer, less educated and more Hispanic populations. Indeed, by YouGov’s own estimation, only 86% of Americans may be reached using the internet, far less than the 98% reached by comprehensive telephone polls. Landline only polls,  however, only reach 63%. YouGov, however, has a decent track record when it comes to accurately predicting Statewide elections.

senate

The important takeaway point from this poll is that some online sources can produce arguably reputable results. The Texas Tribune, for example, uses glorified opt-in online polling that is only slightly more accurate than drawing names out of a hat. Accordingly, while I will take this poll with a grain of salt, I will not wholly discount it the way I assume many of my Democratic establishment friends might.

All in all, the results are not especially surprising for me. Both Alameel and Davis are down 17. For comparison, Bill White (D) lost to Rick Perry (R) in the 2010 gubernatorial election by 13 points and while there was no Senate elections, Democrats lost the downballot races by, on avergae, about 17 points. According to this poll, Democrats are on track for another shellacking of 2010 downballot proportions.

I don’t really think that the race is quite for desperate for Davis; I tend to agree with PPP that her deficit is closer to 14 or 15 points. It is certainly still possible to catch up from that, but not probable.

As I have said ad nauseum over this summer, Davis (and Alameel too, for what it’s worth) needs to run TV ads. She just does. I recognize that conventional wisdom holds that, in order to conserve a political war chest, you do not go on the air until Labor Day, but conventional wisdom is going to deliver Davis a double-digit loss in November if it keeps calling the shots. The way I see it, she needs to double down and go big right now. A media blitz not only would deliver quite a lot of earned media, but it would present the opportunity for her to be put back into contention.

I am aware of the terrible downsides to this strategy. It could not be effective, and Davis runs out of money in late September or early October. She loses by north of 20 points. But the upside is that she could gain some traction. If Davis does not run ads until Abbott has already resigned himself to blanketing the airwaves, the result will be a wash.

Democrats can continue being smug in their ivory towers about polling methodologies and this, that and the other, but at the end of the day, Wendy Davis and David Alameel are at a tremendous disadvantage statewide going into the last 100 days. We –Democrats– have a choice to make. We can bury our heads in the sand and lament our best efforts when we are beat by 13-18 points in November. Or we can go for the gold and take a chance. I choose the latter. Do you?

 

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!

Unaccompanied Minors

First things first, there are a few items in need of stipulation. Over 50,000 unaccompanied young people have illegally crossed the US-Mexico border, for a multitude of reasons. While a key rationale surely has been a humanitarian crisis throughout Central America (where the migrants have originated therefrom), and it is worth noting that many of these migrants have sought out asylum in other nations such as Mexico, part of the problem has been exacerbated by lenient deportation rules for those who illegally come to this country as minor children.

Second, and this stipulation is probably the most significant, my own personal philosophy on these matters is to welcome these children into this country with open arms. Asylum seekers should always be welcomed in this country, particularly those who strive out to seek a better life. As I have said many times in the past, I believe in generally reforming the immigration system to provide for open borders. When you look at actual science –and not the right-wing conspiracy theories– one will see that the civilized world is facing an unparalleled demographic disaster. The “Greying of Europe” or the “Greying of Japan” is threatening to tear those regions apart at the seams as the nations face the prospect of a rapidly declining population. The only reason that the United States does not face the same grim fate is because of healthy and vivid immigration. Furthermore, because of an awesome thing called “the Melting Pot,” our immigrants are largely assimilated into the culture after one generation, and their children are full-fledged American citizens. Heck, one of them could even become President.

With all this in mind, I find myself walking a very narrow line on this issue. On one hand, I have been very disappointed by President Barack Obama’s response to this issue. On the other, I hate myself for seemingly agreeing with such reactionaries on this issue as Governor Rick Perry. To be perfectly clear, I’ve come to the same conclusion as Perry –that Obama has screwed up– for a very different reason.

The Austin American-Statesman highlights some background on the spat between Obama and Perry. Later this week, Obama will visit Texas. In a lengthy statement released to the press, Perry noted that he would not give a “quick handshake on the tarmac” to the President, which he stated would “not allow for a thoughtful discussion regarding the humanitarian and national security crises enveloping the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.” As an alternative, he gave a suggestion for Obama and him to have a heart-to-heart on serious solutions to the matter.

Perry’s points are very valid, but they are not much use given his insincere alternative. If you actually think that Perry wishes to foster a collaborative and productive conversation with Obama, given Perry’s inane hatred and presidential aspirations, I would like to sublet my ocean-front apartment in Austin to you! A wolf in sheep’s clothing, indeed.

The valid points, however, deserve repeating. As The Dallas Morning News reports, when Obama comes in town, he will attend fundraisers in Austin and Dallas, but will not visit the border. Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX), a denizen of Laredo who represents much of the border, berated Obama for his aloofness and unfavorably compared him to former President George W. Bush.

“I hope that this doesn’t become President Obama’s Katrina moment,” Cuellar said, referring to the infamous incident in 2005, when Bush merely flew over a flooded and desperate New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, rather than coming to help.

In a bipartisan effort by Texans of all stripes, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) joined in on the critiques of Obama. “The problem speaks for itself when the president, who would prefer to hang out with campaign donors and other political supporters, would decide not to have any interaction with those that are directly affected by his failed policies,” Cornyn said.

Make no mistake, Obama has seriously erred in not taking a decisive stand on this issue. Coming to that conclusion is not necessarily a Democratic or a Republican position. It is merely the acceptance of a reality on the ground. Doing nothing earns you no accolades from the left or the right.

Convention recap

Editorial note: I apologize for this getting out a day late–Wordpress has been absolutely terrible, corrupting over 2500 words of meticulously well-crafted opinions that I put together yesterday. This is my second stab at it. In the meantime, please give me a suggestion of a blogging software that is not completely worthless.

On Saturday, the 2014 Texas Democratic Convention came to a close after a number of productive days. I drove up to Dallas, where it was held, after work on Wednesday and stayed until late afternoon on Saturday. What I found, first and foremost, was a party that had the lights turned back on, one that was significantly more optimistic about the future than it had been in the past. That being said, there were number of things that I truly took exception to, which I will definitely delineate here. But for the most part, the convention was a rousing success.

I was absolutely overjoyed to see the excess of young people there, which felt significantly more numerous than my first convention experience, back in 2012. This could be for a number of reasons, among them that this a gubernatorial election cycle as well as one where refocused attention has been applied on Texas Democrats. The first convention after the formation of Battleground Texas as well as the Wendy Davis filibuster was bound to bring some more young people to the table. Finally, it may be that the last biennium has seen me expand my idea of who a “young person” was, so while a 25 year old might not have sufficed as a contemporary when I was 18, they would at 20.

From UT Democrats, Kirk Watson Campaign Academy, Davis campaign interns, Battleground Texas fellows to Texas Democratic Party staffers, I felt like the convention was literally filled with young people. It was not a rare sight at all to see people obviously younger than me, and my own Senate District (SD17), a ferociously suburban district where the median age is easily in the 50s, boasted over a dozen young people, including a couple who had just graduated High School. My point on all this is that the demographics, just on age alone, continue to work in the Democrats’ favor. Of course, there was racial and ethnic diversity, but that is not a new item at State Democratic Conventions. The young people were, though.

The only serious politics that transpired on Thursday was one last meeting of the State Democratic Executive Committee before new elections were called during the convention to fill it. While most of the SDEC’s acts that day were rather mundane, they did get to some pretty controversial business involving VAN. For those unfamiliar, VAN (Voter Activation Network) is a program run by the Democratic Party and used by Democratic primary candidates in order to ascertain the partisan affiliation of a specific voter.

In case you didn’t know, whether or not you voted, and which primary (if any) you voted in, are both public knowledge. Thus, in a State like Texas where Democratic primary campaigns are very, very specific, it is of great advantage to selectively campaign with certain people, thus not wasting money sending your direct mail to a registered Republican.

This brings us to the SDEC resolution. A number of members, led by former State Representative Glen Maxey (D-Travis County), pushed to disenfranchise certain Democratic primary candidates from VAN. Specifically, those who have voted in the most recent Republican primary or donated at least $1000 to GOP candidates or causes would be excluded.

Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa objected to this  proposal because he felt it was detrimental to rural Democrats. Hinojosa explained that, in many smaller, rural counties, the Democratic Party is virtually non-existent, so there is no Democratic primary to vote in. Accordingly, many otherwise very liberal people there would have no choice but to participate in the GOP process if they wished to remain politically active, as it would be tantamount to election.

The SDEC narrowly overruled Hinojosa and adopted the proposal. I agree with the Chairman’s comments, but I thought there was a greater issue at play that no one thought to talk about. As I have said countless times in the past, what type of message are we sending moderate Republicans and Independents if we do not welcome them to our parties. Beggars can’t be choosers, and these are the exact type of people the Party needs to attract in earnest to win elections.

Of course, the inconsistency advanced by the small-minded ideology is noted as well. Wendy Davis, David Alameel, Mike Collier, Jim Hogan, Larry Meyers; the Democratic slate is quite literally filled with former Republicans. I am not being facetious when I say that I truly do not understand the arbitrary standards used by the Austin intelligentsia to determine who gets a pass into the Sapphire City and who is left at its gates. Do you understand?

If, for whatever reason, you want more of my opinions on this controversy, check out the column I penned in this morning’s issue of The Daily Texan!

When it came to the platform, rules, credentials, etc, there were not very many actual surprises. As many will remember from 2012, the platform took a huge step to the left two years ago, endorsing gay marriage and marijuana decriminalization, as well as calling for the abolition of the death penalty. Those three planks still got some press two years later.

Dos Centavos notes that the immigration plank was kind and humanitarian, as opposed to the cruel, Hobbesian planks advanced by the GOP. While they nixed a guest worker program, the Democrats remained steadfastly supportive of comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship. However, one of the interesting new tidbits was a provision calling for the end of the “287g program,” which has been implemented in cities such as Houston. The program calls for law enforcement officials to look into the immigration status of all those arrested –not convicted– within the jurisdiction.

I have always been somewhat disappointed by Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s support of this program, given that he is a Democrat. Back when it truly flared up, in 2010, I was working at City Hall. One of the most heated debates I ever had there was on this program. My opinion back then was the same as it is now, and it still points back to my rather laissez-faire view of immigration. Thus, I’m happy that this plank was inserted.

Other new items of note included an unequivocal call to ban on so-called “reparative therapy,” which the GOP endorsed in their own convention. The Republicans have received an astounding amount of bad publicity for this, including from their own Chairman.

However, the biggest item involving the platform that I could find was that the party offered no leadership on the issue of marijuana legalization. At a time when two States have already legalized marijuana (Colorado and Washington), Texas Democrats truly made a mistake of not taking a bold stand on this issue. The sluggish reaction of the old guard is troubling, and eerily reminiscent of all the resistance to gay rights. To me, the biggest issue is that the platform still includes sentences such as “Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.”

Marijuana is actually far less dangerous than either of the other drugs. Alcohol directly kills something like 80,000 people a year, while Tobacco kills over 400,000. Marijuana has directly killed ZERO people since time immemorial. As far as hallucinogenics go, it is the safest option out there. Once again, I’m just disappointed with the lack of leadership that was shown on this issue.

Then, of course, there is the mandatory discussion over the Chairman’s race. The astute will surely remember that I did work on the campaign of Hinojosa back in 2012, though I did not work for any candidate this year. Hinojosa, a former Judge from the Rio Grande Valley, was re-elected with over 95% of the vote, winning at least five Senate Districts unanimously, including my home district, SD17!

Texpatriate endorsed Hinojosa for reelection, and for good reason. To borrow a line from Racehorse Haynes, one of my father’s old legal mentors, I would like to plead in the alternative. First, I think that the Texas Democratic Party is on the right track. Second (if I did not think the TDP was on the right track), I do not think that changing the Chairman would have a significant effect. Third (if I did think changing the chairman would have significant effect), I do not think that Hinojosa’s opponent, Rachel Van Os, would be a suitable replacement.

Van Os’ speech was an exercise in “not ready for prime time” if I ever saw one. Woefully unprepared and scarce on specifics, Van Os failed to give me a good reason why Hinojosa did not deserve a second term and she definitely failed in demonstrating why she would be any better.

As unbelievably harsh as I often am on Democrats and the Democratic establishment, individuals often find it surprising that I am such a resolute supporter of leadership, be it TDP Chairman Hinojosa or Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis. As my friend Carl Whitmarsh says about such leadership positions, they are the jobs “that everyone wants, but no one wants to do.”

It is remarkably easy to criticize someone in the leadership positions, and I will be the first to admit that I have criticized those local party leaders countless times, but it is significantly harder to actually change things in a meaningful way. Constructive criticism should never be misinterpreted for a lack of support, and I got the feeling that most delegates agreed with such sentiment.

I tried to find someone –anyone– from the general public who would go on record supporting Van Os, but I was unsuccessful. My friend Perry Dorrell, of Brains & Eggs fame, was a supporter of hers, but I have a policy not to interview other members of the press–it’s too insidery.

The race for Vice-Chair, however, had significantly more sparks. Under a gentleman’s agreements, given the demographics of the current Chair, the Vice-Chair must be an African-American woman. I’m not necessarily sure that I’m comfortable with those types of requirements, but that is a discussion for a later day. Accordingly, the battle was fought at the Black Democrat Caucus, where incumbent Tarsha Hardy –first elected in 2012– would run for a second term.

Challenging her were Fredericka Phillips, a Houstonian, and Terri Hodge, a former State Representative from Dallas. Some may recall that Hodge resigned under scandal in 2010, following allegations of impropriety and bribery. Under a plea deal reached with prosecutors, Hodge accepted a charge of tax evasion and spent one years in prison. After working on a number of campaigns since getting out, she finally threw her hat into electoral politics once again this past weekend. That being said, she got clobbered in the running, coming in a lonely and distant third place.

Phillips was the eventual winner, defeating Hardy by just two votes. Graciously, the two stood on stage together at the Convention and pledged to work with one another for not only a smooth succession of power, but for the betterment of the entire party. The respectful tone of the entire event was truly a sight to see and one that I was proud to witness.

The speeches themselves were a whole other amazing event. Speaking to many people in the know, I was told time and time again that the convention was the first time since the Ann Richards era that all the speakers had so invigorated the crowd for such a long period of time. From the small time-filling speakers to the headliners, the convention hall was FULL and people were on the edge of their seats. That simply did not happen in 2012, and I was told it did not happen in the years before either.

When it came to specific speeches, I thought State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, and Mike Collier, the Democratic nominee for Comptroller, delivered the best presentations by far. State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic nominee for Governor, and Daivd Alameel, the Democratic nominee for Comptroller, meanwhile, also delivered speeches worthy of examination.

First, Alameel’s speech struck me as good on the writing but a little iffy on the delivery. His speech, more than any other I heard, was literally filled to the brim with one-liners. Alameel, a veteran, lambasted his opponent, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), as a draft-dodger who sought deferment after deferment. That was probably the most intense attack line of the weekend.

However, his delivery is still lacking. Alameel, an Israeli-born immigrant of Lebanese ancestry, still has a very heavy accent. His speeches at the podium seem almost unnatural and somewhat forced. While his intentions are certainly good, I fear that this may not play out very well for him on the stump. The general public does not devote much time to trying to normally comprehend a politicians’ words, but definitely does not do so through a thick accent.

When it came to Davis, meanwhile, I similarly liked her speech but –as usual– was disappointed in the delivery. As I have said many times in the past, Davis is famous for dedication and perseverance, rather than any specific oration abilities. That same point of view was definitely put on display this weekend in Dallas, when she truly poured her heart out in a speech that blasted the “insiders” and “good ol’ boy” culture of Texas, both of which she referenced to slam her opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Mike Collier, moving on, probably had the second best speech of the weekend. Collier, a very pragmatic Democrat who was a Republican as recently as a couple years ago, could easily be my favorite downballot candidate on the Democratic slate. As an aside, there were these funny T-shirts being sold by the TDP that said “Nerd out with Mike Collier.”

Anyways, Collier’s big push the entire campaign has been about taxes. His opponent, State Senator Glenn Hegar (R-Harris County), made some news earlier this year when he said that the property tax should be abolished and replaced with an upped sales tax, probably around 25-30%, to be exact. I wrote a column in The Daily Texan back in April about how absurd this is, and about how spot-on Collier’s reaction has been. Rightly so, Collier has blasted Hegar as a Big Government tax-and-spender, even deriding him with the nickname “The Tax Man” in a recent campaign commercial.

Accordingly, when Collier went on stage and expressed his disgust for taxes, saying that he thought it would be wrong to hike up any margins, I was on the edge of my seat seeing how the crowd would react. There might only be 2000 people in Texas who support a State Income Tax (all of them living in Austin, obviously), but they were probably all in that room at the Dallas Convention Center. But Collier explained how we can provide many of the services this State needs simply be closing loopholes and accurately forecasting revenue. He was very specific and yet casual in his speech, reminding me of a less comely version of Bill Clinton on the stump.

Last, but certainly not least, there is Van de Putte. What can I say that has not already been said in obsequious adulation of the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor. But in all seriousness, she gave hands-down the best delivery of any of the speeches, combined with some darn good speechwritng. More than anyone else, Van de Putte had everyone on the edge of their seats.

Some other miscellaneous points to note included the personalities who went above and beyond to let themselves be known. Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer (D-Bexar County), colloquially known as TMF, both set up huge booths in the convention hall and the latter even hosted one of the three official afterparties. I thought the vulgarity in his speech was an unforced fumble, but there were far worse things that could have happened.

Also, there was exceedingly spotty wifi at the convention, or you could choose to pay $13 for nominally less awful internet connection. This was rather annoying, but worse things could have happened I suppose. An anonymous source at the Democratic Party told me that it would have cost over $6000 to furnish free wifi at the convention, and it was a charge they simply could not come up with.

Finally, it was truly a pleasure to see fellow TPA Bloggers there, including (but not limited to) Harold Cook (Letters from Texas), Perry Dorrell (Brains & Eggs), Vince Leibowitz (Capitol Annex), Trey McAtee (McBlogger), Ted McLaughlin (Jobsanger) and Karl-Thomas Musselman (Burnt Orange Report). Interacting with these fellow bloggers made the entire trip worth it in and of itself.

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.

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