Justice Meyers switches parties

The Houston Chronicle reports that Justice Larry Meyers of the Court of Criminal Appeals has switched to the Democratic Party and will run on the Democrat slate for the Texas Supreme Court. Meyers, originally a Republican, first served on the 2nd Court of Appeals from 1989 to 1992. That year, he was elected to the Court of Criminal Appeals (and was re-elected 1998, 2004 and 2010).

Meyers, who comes from the court’s more moderate wing (4 members), has flirted with this possibility before. As Grits for Breakfast reminds us, he briefly ran against Sharon Keller in the 2012 Republican primary. He was also heavily lobbied to run the race as a Democrat, via The Dallas Morning News. Ultimately, neither of these fantasies for the anti-Keller crowd came to pass.

Today’s bombshell announcement came as Justice Meyers made no formal announcement. Instead, the news broke from a press release of the Texas Democratic Party, which briefly touted Justice Meyer’s record, with quotes from TDP Executive Director Will Hailer and TDP Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa–but not Meyers.

Click here to read more!

Chronicle reprimands Cruz

A year ago, the Houston Chronicle endorsed Ted Cruz for the US Senate. While the editorial largely felt like a reluctant admittance that Cruz was guaranteed a win, this did not prevent the paper from endorsing Keith Hampton’s insurmountable and futile bid to defeat Sharon Keller as presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals. All in all, the endorsement was the Chronicle’s biggest dabble in unmitigated idiocy in a very long time.

I don’t want to tell the Houston Chronicle Editorial Board, ‘I told you so,’ but…well, actually, I do. I told you so. Ted Cruz, who perhaps gets most of his hate nowadays from mainstream Republicans, is the most dangerous Government official who holds office in this country. Accordingly, I was pleased to see a harsh repudiation of Ted Cruz in this morning’s Chronicle Editorial.

The editorial, which is titled “Why we miss Kay Bailey Hutchison,” lambasted Cruz for being “part of the problem.” The editorial also took a swipe at Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, call his lurch to the right “painful to watch.”

Click here to read more!

Uresti for Attorney General?

The Houston Chronicle reports on the growing need to find suitable Democrats to fill the statewide ticket. As the Democratic establishment has largely reached the consensus that Wendy Davis is running for Governor, the conversation has now shifted onto who will be running for Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Land Commissioner, Agriculture Commissioner, Comptroller & Railroad Commission, as well as 3 seats on the Court of Criminal Appeals and 4 seats on the Supreme Court.

The Chronicle article mentions Mike Collier, a local businessman who is running as a Democrat for Comptroller, as the only declared Democrat. However, this is untrue, as fmr El Paso Mayor John Cook was announced a run for Land Commissioner. Since that announcement in July, Cook has even created a website for his candidacy.

The article then notes Keith Hampton, a favorite Judicial candidate of mine who run unsuccessfully last year against Sharon Keller. Hampton appeared to rule out another candidacy himself in the near future.

The article then mentioned some names that keep coming up, specifically Leticia Van de Putte for Lieutenant Governor, as well as Royce West, Kirk White and Rafael Anchia. The article must not have done their research, but Anchia is definitely running for re-election. From what I understand, White & West have not ruled out the run themselves, though White’s run would be highly unlikely.

The name that surprised everyone, however, was Carlos Uresti. The State Senator from San Antonio who has served since 2007, previously served five terms in the State House. At a young 50 years of age, he probably has some higher ambitions in him.

When asked by the Chronicle about a possible statewide run, Uresti hinted towards Attorney General. Specifically, he said “Politics is about timing. And I certainly think it’s the right time for the Democratic Party, and for myself as well.” To me, that sounds like someone planning on throwing his hat into the ring. Uresti, like Van de Putte, is not up for re-election in 2014. This means that he would not lose out on his Senate seat if he would lose (an almost certain probability).

The ballot is starting to shape up a little more now, with Davis, Van de Putte Uresti & Cook all at the top of the ticket. Each one is a very powerful figure sure to attract more pull than the average Democratic retread.

Brains & Eggs has more.

3 Open Seats on Court of Criminal Appeals

The Texas Tribune reports that all three seats up for election on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2014 –all Republican– will be open. The incumbents, Cathy Cochran, Tom Price and Paul Womack, are all opting to retire.

The judges, two of whom have served since the State first went unanimously Republican (1997) and one (Cochran) who has served since 2001, are not by any means the deans of the Court. Distinct from the Texas Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals has been remarkably consistent in its members of the years.

Only two members of the court, including Cochran, took office during Perry’s administration. Five were selected or elected during George W. Bush’s governorship, with two more taking office when Ann Richards was the Governor. This is remarkable, considering how long Perry has been Governor and how extensive his influence has been in just about every other part of the State’s bureaucracy.

The Court of Criminal Appeals is absolutely just as bad as any court comprised of 9 elected Texas Republicans would be (Sharon Keller, anyone?), but it could still be a lot worse. As the Tribune article reminds us, those same three Justices made up a bare majority that forbid the execution of a mentally ill man earlier this month, specifically the forced medication of a mentally ill man for the purposes of execution.

Given that Cochran, who took office in 2001, is the second most recent addition to the Court, the Tea Party holds minimal influence. All of this could change with the THREE open seats that the Court now has leading into the 2014 primaries. The Tribune article notes that eight people are eying running for these seats, but do not provide the names. I will have to do some research on this in the next day or two.

As I have said before, I have very little faith in the ability of Democrats to run candidates for these Statewide seats, ESPECIALLY the Statewide seats. I have been asked recently if this means I have a diminished faith in the leadership of the State party, and, simply put, that is not the case. I am still just as optimistic that Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa is making the inroads to turn the party around, but have always maintained that this is not the fault of leadership, but of the people themselves. There is a profound enthusiasm gap.

Both the Texas Supreme Court & the Court of Criminal Appeals saw three seats up for election last year. Democrats only contested two seats, one in each court. The candidates recruited, Michele Petty & Keith Hampton, respectively, were very good candidates who had everything going for their campaigns except that it was the wrong year for a Democrat in Texas. It was the other seats that are the most obvious examples of the gap, however. If the Texas GOP failed to recruit an establishment candidate for the same seats, you would see droves of conservatives vying for the post on ego alone. The same is missing from the Democratic Party in this State.

This enthusiasm gap is what, more than anything, makes life so frustrating for people like Hinojosa. There are only so many well-versed, liberal lawyers in this State with political talent. If they all turn down, there is not so much Party leadership may do. I noticed the same thing in Houston’s municipal politics, although the enthusiasm gap encompasses both sides of the aisle there.

Simply put, Democrats need to hit the ground running NOW to contest these seats. I sound like a broken record now when I say it, but 2014 is important not because we can win, but because we can never win until we put up a fight in an election. Because our record in 2012, 2010 & 2008 was more of a whimper. I truly hope that, when I find out who the 8 people already vying for the seat are, I find out at least one is a Democrat.

Musings on the election

First up, Congrats to President Obama! Four more years! The President won Harris County by a few hundreds votes. Democrats expand their majority in the Senate to 55 and lessen the Republican majority in the House. All fantastic news.

Statewides
Republicans keep the Railroad Commission and the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals–no surprise there. However, Keith Hampton got clobbered, which is upsetting.

Courts of Appeals
1st and 14th stay all Republican, which is not surprising.

State Senate
Wendy Davis got re-elected. The composition stays at 19-12. Mario Gallegos re-elected posthumously, which means we will see a special election.

State House
Democrats pick up six or seven seats. Composition is at 95-55. Ann Johnson was defeated, again disappointing.

County Judges
11th–Mike Miller (D) re-elected.
61st–Al Bennett (D) re-elected.
80th–Larry Weiman (D) re-elected.
125th–Kyle Carter (D) re-elected.
127th–R.K. Sandhill (D) re-elected.
129th–Michael Gomez (D) re-elected.
133rd–Jaclanel McFarland (D) re-elected.
151st–Mike Engelhart (D) re-elected.
152nd–Robert Schaffer (D) re-elected.
164th–Alexandra Smoots-Hogan (D) re-elected.
165th–Josephina Rendon (D) defeated by Elizabeth Ray (R).
174th–Ruben Guerrero (D) re-elected.
176th–Shawna Reagin (D) defeated by Stacey Bond (R).
177th–Ryan Patrick (R) re-elected.
178th–David Mendoza (D) re-elected.
179th–Randy Roll (D) defeated by Kristin Guiney (R).
215th–Elaine Palmer (D) elected. Damn.
333rd–Tad Halbach (R) re-elected.
334th–Ken Wise (R) re-elected.
337th–Herb Richie (D) defeated by Renee Magee (R). Again, damn.
338th–Hazel Jones (D) defeated by Brock Thomas (R).
339th–Maria Jackson (D) re-elected.
351st–Mark Ellis (R) re-elected.
County Court 1–Debra Mayfield (R) re-elected.
County Court 2–Theresa Chang (R) re-elected.

Of the nineteen Democratic Judges: 14 win re-election and 5 lose.
Of the six Republican Judges: 6 win re-election.
Final Tally: 14 Demorats, 11 Republicans.

County Officials
DA–Mike Anderson (R) wins. No surprise.
Sheriff–Adrian Garcia (D) re-elected. Again, no surprise.
County Attorney–Vince Ryan (D) re-elected. Great News!
Tax Collector–Mike Sullivan (R) wins. However, it is close and Bennett hasn’t conceded yet.

Referendums
METRO Prop passed, City props passed, and all the Bond measures passed.

City Council
Martin wins without a runoff.

Discussion comes later.

What I think will happen

Keeping in touch with my self-imposed moratorium upon Presidential election coverage, I will not even mention that race (You can see what I had said previous in my post “Cynic“). However, I think this will be a good way for progressives to brace ourselves for what may come next.

Every statewide seat (except Keller’s): SAFE Republican
I think this is a no-brainier here, considering that the Democrats did not even bother to field candidates in some of these races. I really do like Michele Petty and Paul Salder, but this is not going to be a repeat of 2008, and even in 2008 we got our butts kicked.

Court of Criminal Appeals, Position 1: TOSSUP
Keith Hampton, especially in the (unlikely) event of a major Obama victory, could build enough of a coalition between Democrats, Independents, and pragmatic Republicans to victory. Keller is relying on people to simply vote straight Republican, which they probably will.

14th Court of Appeals, 1st Court of Appeals: SAFE Republican
Same logic as the statewide seats.

134th State Representative: LEAN Republican
2012 will not be as good of a year as 2006, which is the last time an incumbent in this district was unseated. Also, Davis is a much more civil campaigner than Martha Wong.

215th District Court: LIKELY Republican
Ken Shortreed is depending upon enough angry Democrats (like me) to vote for him. It will probably push him over the top.

Remaining local judicial races: LEAN Republican
Harris County will probably go red, especially in downballot races.

Sheriff: LEAN Democratic
I think Garcia can put together enough of a coalition with moderate Republicans to avoid defeat. The endorsement of the “C club” didn’t hurt either.

District Attorney: SAFE Republican
Self-explanatory.

Tax Collector: LIKELY Republican
Even in 2008, tax czar and DA went Republican. Additionally, CM Sullivan is a popular incumbent who has attracted quite a few Democrats (even endorsed by the JHV).

County Attorney: TOSSUP
Vince Ryan has some cross-party support, but again the Republican tilt on the election does not help.

City Council, E: LIKELY Martin
Martin has the establishment support from Sullivan, who is still quite popular.

 

Again, Democrats need to donate to Garcia, Ryan, and Hampton–NOT Obama. Obama has enough money, he is out-raising the Koch brothers!

Keith Hampton’s growing momentum

In my last post, I talked about how Keith Hampton’s race against Sharon Keller for the Court of Criminal Appeals might be the most important of this entire cycle (except, I guess the President). At the State Convention, Hampton discussed how he had the greatest chance of victory this year of any statewide Democrat. He outlined the three reasons he could be elected: 1. it was a Presidential election year 2. it was a Judicial race 3. the incumbent Republican was despicable. He articulated quite clearly that all three of these parameters were applicable.

Now, Hampton has been endorsed by The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Houston Chronicle, and San Antonio Express-News. I find it highly likely that he will also be endorsed by the Austin American-Statesman and El Paso Times, both reliably liberal papers. This would mean a Democrat would be endorsed 6 for 6 by the major papers. I cannot remember the last time this happened.