San Antonio mayoral update

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As the astute will recall, Julian Castro, the longtime Mayor of San Antonio, left his post over the summer in order to become the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Washington. The San Antonio City Council settled on Ivy Taylor, one of their own, to serve as the interim Mayor until the next regularly scheduled general election in May 2015. One of the reasons for her appointment was that she strongly hinted that she would not run herself next year. This has prompted a wide open field for those interested to take the helm at the country’s seventh biggest city.

If you are left wondering exactly what relevance this has to state politics, the growing list of prospective candidates should clear things up. In addition to a couple of incumbent City Councilmembers, namely Ray Lopez and Ron Nirenberg, names with statewide followings have either already tossed their hats or are thinking intently about the subject.

First up, State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-Bexar County), who has been openly running for Mayor since the summer, announced today that he would be resigning his legislative seat shortly in order to fully focus on the election as well as allow Governor Rick Perry to call a special election as early as December. The Texas Tribune has the full story on that.

Not to be outdone, the San Antonio Express-News reports that State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County) is now also seriously considering a mayoral bid. Back in July, when this subject first came up, she unequivocally denied the rumor. “Under no circumstance will I be running for Mayor of San Antonio,” she told the Express-News at the time. Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor who was handed a 19 point loss last Tuesday, appears to have now had a change of heart.

“Recently, many business and community leaders have asked me to play a new role in service to San Antonio, as Mayor,” Van de Putte tweeted. “I am humbled by their confidence and support. At this time, I am enjoying my family and praying for guidance.”

Van de Putte, the only statewide Democrat to carry Bexar County, is immensely popular in her hometown. If she chose to run, the contest would immediately be transformed into her race to lose. And while she wouldn’t necessarily have to resign her State Senate seat for the run, if it became apparent that she would likely be victorious, an expeditious resignation and succeeding special election would probably occur. Expect individuals such as Villarreal to seriously consider switching to the State Senate race in that case.

Now, I think Van de Putte would make a phenomenal Mayor. She would serve the people of San Antonio competently and courageously. But, selfishly, I desperately do not want her to run, and do not want her to leave the Legislature. Van de Putte, as the individual who went head-to-head with Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick, would be in a unique position to serve as a bombastic and effective Leader of the Opposition next session. Now that Wendy Davis, Tuesday’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, will no longer be in the legislature, Van de Putte has the best name recognition of any Democratic State Legislator. If Democrats lose her too, they will be seriously lacking in the brain trust department.

Additionally, if the 2/3rds rule is preserved in any way, shape or form, the Democrats will only be able to use it if they stay completely unified. Van de Putte’s resignation would only leave 10 Democratic Senators, one short of the requisite third. Of course, Patrick will likely do away with this tradition altogether, making this worry a moot point.

Perhaps Van de Putte sees the writing on the wall. Conventional wisdom was that Van de Putte could perhaps run a competitive — even successful — statewide bid in 2018, but the shellacking that Texas Democrats experienced this cycle likely put those aspirations to bed. I’m sure some pundits more crass than myself will make a variation of the “rats jumping off a sinking ship” joke.

Make no mistake, the loss of Van de Putte from the State Senate would be a devastating blow for Democrats in the state; indeed, it would be debilitating for all those Texans not looking forward to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s reign of terror.

Ivy Taylor, Mayor of San Antonio

The San Antonio Express-News reports that a new Mayor of San Antonio has been selected: Ivy Taylor. As I noted a couple of weeks ago, the previous Mayor, Julian Castro, was recently confirmed by the US Senate as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. His resignation was contingent upon the selection of his successor, who had to be selected from among the ranks of the City Council.

Thus, the selection of Taylor. She has been on the City Council since 2009, and represents a district on the east end. Taylor made news last autumn when she voted against that City’s non-discrimination ordinance. Taylor, an African-American Democrat, will be the Mayor until May of next year, at which time a new Mayor will be inaugurated following a regularly scheduled Mayoral election. Taylor has already announced that she would not run in that election, which promises to be chock full of fireworks.

Among the candidates are City Councilman Ray Lopez, who challenged Taylor today to become the interim Mayor. Unlike Taylor, Lopez freely admits that he wishes to seek a full term as Mayor. State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-Bexar County) is also running a two-barreled campaign for Mayor, and is seen by most observers as the obvious frontrunner. The dark horse, also expanded upon by the article linked in the previous sentence, is State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor. If Van de Putte loses the general election, which she most likely will, the article speculates that she might find herself transitioning into municipal politics, despite the fact that her Senate seat will still have two more years. Personally, I think she could have more fun as the leader of the loyal opposition within the State Senate if Dan Patrick –the Republican nominee– takes the reigns of office.

Castro, for his part, will take office officially here in the next few days. I have made my points about being skeptical regarding Castro’s new role in Washington DC, and now it is best to just move on. I certainly wish him well in his new endeavor, and hope he can positively affect change within a Federal position of power.

I personally thought that Lopez, who has more experience, would have been the preferable choice for Mayor. I obviously disagree with Taylor on her rationale on LGBT issues, but I think that the greater concern is that she is a divider, and not a uniter. Everyone mentioned in this article is a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party, they do not disagree on most issues. But some try to wedge fights and make enemies. In my limited experience following San Antonio politics, I sincerely do not think that Lopez is one of those people.

Of course, at risking the obvious, San Antonio is not Houston. San Antonio, unlike Houston, has a weak-Mayor system, complete with a powerful unappointed City Manager. Accordingly, much of the Mayor’s power is overstated if a casual follower of this blog, one likely stationed in Houston, were to assume this office is similar to its contemporary down Interstate 10.

Texas Leftist has more.

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!

Secretary Castro?

The New York Times reports that Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, one of the Democrats’ biggest rising hopes for the future of the State, is President Barack Obama’s pick as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The incumbent Secretary, Shaun Donovan, looks to be the next Budget director (the incumbent budget director, meanwhile, has been tapped as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services). The reshuffling is important because Castro is not term limited out of office, as Mayor of San Antonio for another three years. Additionally, he reportedly declined an offer to become Secretary of Transportation.

Castro received the obsequious adulation one would expect from liberal lemmings upon hearing this news. I, of course, wish the best for Castro and honestly believe that he would make a very good HUD Secretary, but I lament the long term implications of such a change. However, first things first, San Antonio will have to choose a new Mayor. The Rivard Report notes that the San Antonio City Council must choose themselves who Castro’s successor will be. Likely a member of the City Council her or himself, but plausibly someone else as well. This successor will serve out of the remainder of Castro’s term, about a year.

Click here to read my take on this move by Castro!

Castro vs. Patrick

This evening, the Texas Tribune streamed a Univision debate between State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Harris County), the likely Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor, and Mayor Julian Castro (D-San Antonio), seen as a future Democratic candidate for high office. The debate, moderated by the Tribune’s Evan Smith, centered around immigration policy. It was sparked a few weeks ago, after a series of confrontational tweets on the parts of Patrick and Castro.

As some have already commented, the debate quickly focused upon political disputes and not too many issues of substance. Much to Castro’s chagrin, Patrick was also successful in infusing his favorite subject –abortion– into the mix. However, overall, the debate saw Castro figuratively wiping the floor with Patrick. Frankly, it was a beautiful sight, considering how long it has been since I have seen a Democrat do well in a debate. I attribute this success in equal parts to Castro, Patrick and the organizers of this debate. Most notably, the format allowed for the candidates to swiftly respond to each others’ points. All too often, the simple and elegant grace of the Lincoln-Douglas debate has been replaced by an ugly abhorrence consisting of sound bite after sound bite. Fortunately, the format of tonight’s debate allowed for Castro to call out Patrick on his –admittedly copious– taradiddles.

Please click here to read my full analysis!

Parker pulls an Obama

This is a few days late, I have had a whirlwind of a weekend in Houston, but I felt that this story was specifically too important to ignore. In a recent speech and press release, Mayor Annise Parker outlined her proposals for a comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT rights. The only problem with this, of course, it is not all that comprehensive. Texas Leftist sums up the position somewhat well, as does Lone Star Q. In short, it covers both public employment and private corporations providing public accommodations. However, it does not cover private employment. This means, simply put, that most people could continue to be fired in Houston just for being gay.

Ostensibly, Parker sold out on this important detail because she did not have the votes on the council. It is important to note, however, that the comprehensive NDOs are not as ubiquitous as many may think. Only Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth fully ban the private employer discrimination, whereas El Paso and San Antonio have ordinances similar to the one Mayor Parker has proposed. For all of Julian Castro’s accolades in his past last year for a comprehensive NDO, it did not actually go all that far in comparison.

Click here to read an analysis of how things stand at City Hall!

Wendy Davis makes it official

At a little after 4:30 local time, Wendy Davis took to a stage in a suburb of Forth Worth –the same stage she received her High School diploma on– and announced her candidacy for Governor.

The speech was full of some good, well-prepared lines, but lacked any good one-liners or sound bites. Essentially what I would expect out of one of President Obama’s speeches, or even Julian Castro. While there will be plenty who will be eager to compare this election to 1990, and Wendy Davis to Ann Richards in the process, I am going to shy away from such a comparison. What made Richards so great is that she was folksy and had was a remarkable orator. What makes Davis great is her inspirational backstory and her ability to put her money where her mouth is. Both are great qualities in candidates, but let us not make the mistake of confounding them.

Wendy Davis will most likely face Greg Abbott, the Attorney General, as the Republican nominee. The election will be entertaining and intriguing to watch. The advantage, by far, is with Abbott though the momentum lies with Davis. Additionally, all bets are off if a Tea Party backed Independent candidate, such as Debra Medina, decides to run as a spoiler.

But this is the worst kept secret in Texas politics since figuring out the Lieutenant Governors of the 20th Century drank too much. Everyone already knew this, so there are more pressing things to discuss currently.

First and foremost, this sets the ball rolling for other Democrats to announce their intentions. State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) has long been openly flirting with a campaign for Lieutenant Governor (side note: the Republican LG candidates outdid themselves once again tonight) on the condition that Wendy Davis run for Governor. Well, the condition has been met, so I do not know what Van de Putte’s new timeline is.

One of the other names mentioned is State Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio), who is discussing a run for Attorney General. At Davis’ speech today, Urseti told the Houston Chronicle that he is still thinking about it.

But tonight, all eyes should remain on Davis as she launches her gubernatorial campaign:

Burnt Orange Report, Off the Kuff and Texas Leftist have more.

San Antonio approves NDO

The San Antonio Express-News reports that the San Antonio City Council has approved an encompassing non-discrimination ordinance aimed at protecting LGBT people. The vote wasn’t even close –8 to 3– and only saw objection from the most vitriolically homophobic Councilmember, including Elisa Chan.

Julian Castro can now put this elegant feather in his cap, right alongside the ‘Pre-K for San Antonio‘ measure. Houston has neither a comprehensive pre-educational program nor a non-discrimination ordinance. Castro, for his part, released this statement shortly following the votes:

“This ordinance fundamentally is about ensuring whether you’re white or black, Christan or Jew, straight or gay, this city belongs to you. This ordinance is about saying there are no second-class citizens in San Antonio.”

This ordinance is a wonderful example of Castro, and all the representatives of San Antonio, standing quite firm following terrible attacks on all fronts from the right wing. I cannot think of a single Statewide Republican who has publicly condoning/endorsed this measure. However, the conservatives lined up to oppose the measure stretches out the door.Greg Abbott, our Governor-in-waiting, strongly opposed the ordinance. All three Attorney General candidates (Dan Branch, Ken Paxton and Barry Smitherman) also opposed the ordinance. Ted Cruz too.
The Texas Tribune has more on this issue, including the possibility of a court challenge. The Tribune article notes that Greg Abbott and his buddies are planning on to bring a court challenge against the ordinance, arguing it violates the 1st Amendment (Religious Liberty).—From a very personal point of view, I am ecstatic that the ordinance was passed today, as today is the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. It is no secret that I am somewhat secular, but this is one of the two days of the year I go to services and spend my day predominantly in nominally spiritual introspection. For some sort of minor political development, I probably would not have taken the time to follow the news today, research this article or write this article.A number of years ago, when I was getting my “fifteen minutes of fame,” I was interviewed by KPRC. As it turned out, the only day the could fit me in was on Rosh Hashanah. I remember being somewhat apprehensive about the idea at first, but at the urging of my parents, I was told that it would be far more important to live-out the virtues of decency and justice and righteousness that you would have just spent the day promising to do in the upcoming year anyways.
Accordingly, it was an easy decision to write this article today. Again, for what it is worth, I typically do not condone gloating in reaction to political victories, but believe this is an important exception. In a normal election, there is obviously a losing party, who has been hindered. Further, on many policy issues, the same arrangement may exist (e.g., Doctors being harmed by healthcare reform). There are no losers in San Antonio this afternoon. No persons will be discriminated against, whether for sexual orientation, gender identity or religious viewpoint. No money will be lost. Only benefit comes from this issue; it is truly a one-sided issue.

Horwitz on ‘going Blue’

For some reason, there are a large number of people in this State who think that, if Wendy Davis runs for Governor, she will win. Personally, I find that statement to be utterly ridiculous, but admire the optimism from those who believe it. Even more Texans believe, once again foolishly, that Julian Castro can win the Governor’s mansion in 2018. Once again, the optimism is admired from this tired, old cynic. But I do not want to talk about how long our road to victory still is, the Editorial Board has already done that. I would like to talk about how, once Democrats break the losing-streak we’ve had since 1996, serious challenges will persist. Indeed, as long as the road to our first Democratic victory will be, the road to a Texas that is as blue as California will be even longer.

As much as I would love the peaches & cream belief that a single Democratic victory ushers in an unprecedented era of Democratic dominance, it simply won’t happen. Here’s why:

Let us assume, arguendo, that Julian Castro is victorious in his campaign to deny Governor Greg Abbott a second term in 2018, the same year his twin brother, Joaquin Castro is elected to the United States Senate by defeating first-term Senator Ted Cruz. The election will be quite notable, because while the pundits and Democratic activists had been saying it all along, the real establishment had been far more pessimistic about the entire ordeal. Accordingly, Democrats ran really poor candidates against the Agriculture Commissioner, Brandon Creighton; the Land Commissioner, George P. Bush, and; the Comptroller, Harvey Hilderbran. All these officeholders crushed the mediocre, placeholder Democratic opposition. Meanwhile, some of the Statewide spots on the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals lacked even a single Democratic opponent.

Democrats made only meager gains in the State Legislature, though one bright spot was Texas Democratic Party Chairwoman Wendy Davis defeating Konni Burton and winning back her old Senate seat.

Democrats wouldn’t make such a mistake more than once, so they will probably start running competent candidates in all the Statewide seats thereafter. They won’t win, though, for at least a few more election cycles.

The other reason a Democratic governor’s election in 2018 would be invaluable is that she or he could veto the redistricting plan. Under current maps, it would be almost impossible for Democrats to win more than 65 seats in the House, and I cannot image them winning many more than that by 2021. Accordingly, a heavily Republican Legislature will draw the maps for the 2020s. For these reasons, I cannot image Democrats taking over the State Legislature until the 2030s.

Another problem is something that the Democrats will surely face in their first defensive position, say 2022:

By 2022, the national mood will have turned against the Democrats in full force. Despite President Clinton’s re-election just two years earlier, the nation had grown weary of the 14 years of continuous Democratic rule in Washington. The frustration was taken out on the local level as Land Commissioner George P. Bush soundly defeated Governor Castro in the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans, still controlling back majorities in the State Legislature, pushed for another mid-decade redistricting plan–the second in the past three decades.

Things still hadn’t turned around by 2024, when Republicans take back the White House after 16 years, and the new Republican President’s coattails sweep a creationist into the Senate, denying Joaquin Castro a second term.

Once the Democrats start taking Statewide positions, they will be fighting hard with the Republicans to keep them for the foreseeable future. To give some background, Illinois has voted Democratic in the past six Presidential election, but the Land of Lincoln will probably elected a Republican governor next year. To this Bostonian, need I say more than Scott Brown?

So make absolutely no mistake, Texas is not going blue any time soon. The State will go purple at some point in the next 10-15 years, but I will have grey white hair before the pigment is blue.

Darkest before the dawn

About two months ago, the Editorial Board wrote that “it’s going to get worse,” that Democrats and progressive politics will continue taking blows, instead of the conventional wisdom that we have already reached the bottom. Simply put, we haven’t reached the bottom yet, and I have found some evidence of this continued decline.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram published an op-ed this morning discussing the plight so-called “moderate” Republicans like David Dewhurst have been along. My colleague summarized Dewhurst’s recent saga yesterday, but he by far not the only such official to find himself in such a predicament.

Avid readers of the Texas Tribune would have noticed that Jim Pitts, the only Republican to ever chair the House Appropriations Committee, is retiring. Pitts is often remembered as not-the-worst of the Republicans, being willing to work across the aisle and being able to go after Rick Perry, especially his regents. I would not be surprised if Pitts was deathly worried about facing a primary challenge from the Tea Party. This is because, after two insurgent-fueled Tea Party-dominate primary cycles, 52 of the 95 (55%) Republicans in the State House were elected in either 2010 or 2012. A mere 15 Republicans are left who take office before 2003, when Republicans took over the lower House. Of those 15, two (Hilderbran & Pitts) are already not seeking another term. Considering the rural areas these individuals represent, they will no doubt be replaced by far-right Tea Party types.

Kennedy’s opinion piece at the Star-Telegram continues by mentioning the sour place Senator John Cornyn was put into after Ted Cruz refused to endorse his re-election bid. The Dallas Morning News has the full story on that. The hypothetical primary opponent for John Cornyn at this time would be Louie Gohmert, the foul-talking Congressman with birther-tendencies. Again, the Morning News covered the issue in greater detail, as did Off the Kuff.

The op-ed uses the general theme of cynicism and doom & gloom I have been talking up for years. The night is always darkest before the dawn, and it is certainly still getting darker.

As much as I dislike David Dewhurst, Dan Patrick will almost certainly be worse in an executive position. As poorly as John Cornyn serves this State in the U.S. Senate, Louie Gohmert would be exponentially worse. The place where I break with Kennedy’s op-ed is at the end, where he has the bodacious temerity to assert the sun may be rising sometime soon:

The danger for the GOP,” he wrote, is that by the time Republicans realize they have swung too far, “it will be too late, and [Democratic San Antonio Mayor] Julian Castro will be celebrating his election as governor.”

That might be in 2018.

That’s three House election cycles away.

2018 is a very long five years away, but unless a lot of things go very right, it still won’t be a competitive election.