Texpatriate endorses in Attorney General primary

Editorial note: We originally published this editorial on February 2nd, ahead of the March primary. We reiterate our support for Rep. Dan Branch in preparation for the May primary runoff by reprinting it today.

We would like to pose a question to our readership: What does the Texas Attorney General do? If you believe the incumbent, Greg Abbott, the job chiefly revolves around suing the President of the United States. If you believe one of the Republican contenders for this post, Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, the job is simply a stepping stone to conservative, red-meat social issues. And if you believe one of the most recent Democrats to run for the post, David Van Os, the office is about providing liberals a soapbox to rant and rave against “Big Oil” and the energy sector.

Obviously, none of these are really correct answers. The Attorney General serves as the lawyer for the State of Texas, both representing the Governor and other agencies as official counsel and as the official defender of laws that are challenged in court. However, despite being the most flashy duties, this only represents a small fraction of the position’s responsibilities. In addition to those aforementioned duties, the Attorney General’s office also investigates a plethora of crimes that are especially heinous or damaging to public integrity. Finally, the office secures child support payments, which perhaps is its most time-consuming duty. When taking into account these responsibilities, this board is hard pressed to find a candidate in the Republican primary who will competently and capably fulfill these duties.

Click here to read more!

In re Ken Paxton

In yet another instance of the Texas Tribune’s poll not being worth the fictional paper it wasn’t printed on, it was State Senator Ken Paxton –not State Representative Dan Branch– who finished in the plurality in the Republican primary for Attorney General. Paxton got 44% of the vote, while Branch got about 33%. Given that the third candidate, Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, is an ultra-conservative alongside Paxton, the Senator looks ripe to defeat the more establishment Branch in the resulting runoff election. In fact, calls are already abound to force Branch to step aside, much like Harvey Hilderbran did in the race for Comptroller.

Smitherman, for his part, has not endorsed either candidate, though one could not deny that he is more ideologically aligned with Paxton. The office of Attorney General holds a powerful position that looms heavily over the State, as an independent top lawyer for the State with the responsibility to both litigate pertinent suits for the jurisdiction and enforce child support laws. Both Branch and Paxton look to the incumbent, Greg Abbott, as an example for their possible administrations. Abbott has transformed the office from behind-the-scenes technocrat to an upfront counselor constantly getting in high profile spats with the Federal Government.

Click here for a county-by-county map!

A few initial thoughts

Just to sum up the results for those of y’all who have not been paying much attention to things, I will recap some of the big things that have happened. First, the expected winners were, by and large, the winners on Tuesday night in Statewide elections. Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis won their respective bids for Governor, John Cornyn easily beat back challengers for another nomination to the Senate, George P. Bush got the GOP nod for Land Commissioner and Stephen Brown got the Democrat nod for Railroad Commissioner. All three incumbent Supreme Court Justices who saw right-wing primary opponent were able to easily prevail.

In a few other races, the expected result happened, but in a very different manner. This was largely due to the fact that the Texas Tribune poll released about a week ago was total garbage. It was not worth the fictional paper it wasn’t printed on, to quote a friend. In these races, David Alameel and Kesha Rogers indeed will proceed into a runoff for the US Senate Democrat primary, as will David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick for the Lieutenant Governor Republican primary. However, the Tribune poll seriously miscalculated who would come in first and by how much. Instead of Rogers holding a commanding plurality lead, she hovered near 20% while Alameel was just a few perilous points so close to winning outright. Instead of the preconceived notion that Dewhurst would receive 40-something percent compared to Patrick’s 20-something, the roles were reversed.

Click here to read more!

Predictions and hopes

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that I am not much for predictions. Well, to be fair, I used to predict things all the time, but I was notoriously wrong too many times to count. Accordingly, in an effort to save face, I will  not field my own electoral predictions, which are only slightly less reliable than the Tribune polls.

Rather, I want to note what I am looking for and what I am hoping for; admittedly, they are nearly mutual exclusive categories. Within those categories, I would like to look most specifically at both the Republican & Democratic primaries, as well as both Statewide races and those in Harris County. Within these four categories, there are quite a few overlapping key points, however.

1. HOW BIG IS THE STUPID VOTE?

This is one for the Democratic primary. I am using the official academic term, of course, to describe these so-called stupid voters. They are the voters who will cast their lots for Kesha Rogers (US Senate), Lloyd Wayne Oliver (District Attorney) and Lori Gray (115th District Court), in that order. Albeit, plenty of otherwise unintelligent voters may coincidentally vote for the non-egregious candidates, but there is no way to discern them from Adam.

Click here to read all my other points!

2014’s first big poll

The Texas Tribune reports on a very comprehensive poll they conducted over just about every competitive primary in the State. The poll has a fairly substantial margin of error (upwards of 6% in the Democratic primary, specifically), so that is something to bear in mind when analyzing the results.

Simply put, the results paint a bad picture for the Democrats. Back at that time, Greg Abbott lead Wendy Davis by only five points; today, Abbott’s lead has grown to Eleven points. Other polls paint a similarly bleak picture for the Democrats, especially considering that these Texas Tribune polls have historically been overly generous to the Democratic candidate. Just a few days after that original Tribune poll, Public Policy Polling (a historically very accurate pollster) estimated Abbott’s lead at a whopping fifteen points. Accordingly, I am eager to see just how bad off the Democrats are doing when PPP releases its triannual February poll any day now.

Also of note here is that these polls were largely conducted before the Ted Nugent scandal really blew over regarding Greg Abbott’s campaign. Therefore, one could plausibly assert that this poll overvalues Davis’ problems emanating from “Trailergate” while simultaneously not taking to account Abbott’s recent woes. Among other issues with this poll was a misleading discrepancy between “registered” and “likely” voters. Additionally, the polls completely disregarded the portion of the electorate still undecided. I have recreated these polls with the undecideds built into the poll, as well as only taking note of the “registered” voters.

Click here for full results and graph!

Another 2014 Tribune poll

The Texas Tribune, in cooperation with the University of Texas, has released a new 2014 General election poll. As far as I could figure, this is the first poll the institutions have released for the 2014 campaign. The results paint an interesting picture of the political landscape that could foster competitive elections for the first time in nearly 20 years.

First and foremost, let us look at the results:

Click here to view results and analysis!

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.

Sine die, MoFos!

My general thoughts at the moment. The term “83rd Legislature Special Session” is such a taint upon this State, that I am ecstatic to delete it from my memory.

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The Texas Tribune reports that, just after 10PM last night and final passage of the Transportation funding legislation of HB1 and SJR1, the Dean of the Senate, John Whitmire, made the comment “Let’s adjourn this mutha [sic].” These bills passed by bipartisan margins, and earned praise from the Governor for not raising the gas tax. However, as has been pointed out to me, the gas tax hasn’t been raised in about 20 years, and any and all monetary tricks that do not involve raising it will not solve the problem. The Tribune lays out this problem:

“The latest version is estimated to raise $1.2 billion a year for TxDOT, a fraction of the more than $4 billion TxDOT has said it needs in additional annual funding to maintain current congestion levels as the state’s population grows.”

SJR1 ended up finally passing the House 106-21. Unlike last time, the vast majority of the dissenting votes were Democrats. In fact, most of the liberal Democrats (Burnam, Collier, Farrar, etc) voted against the measure. Additionally, the journals finally came out in the Senate and we can see their final roll call on the joint resolution: 22-3, with Dan Patrick, Ken Paxton and Charles Schwertner voting nay. I understand, trying to appeal to a Tea Party base in a Statewide primary, why the cupcake cadets voted no, but Schwertner is a mystery.

On HB1, the House passed the bill with only David Simpson objecting and the Senate with only Kel Seliger against.

If you are curious what this bill does, I invite you to consult my prior work on the matter. HB1 is a bill, so Perry still must sign it, but SJR1 is not, and it simply goes directly to referendum. However, as you may recall, it will not go before voters in 2013, but rather in 2014.

As for the 83rd Legislature, it is dunzo. After passing both bills, they adjourned sine die. No more. That’s it. Sayonara. What this means, however, is that all the other issues possibly to be added to the call must wait until the 84th Legislature, due to convene in January of 2015.

What this means for me is that I can now focus, nearly exclusively, on Municipal elections. Of course, there will still be some issues pertaining to the 2014 Primaries, but the Mayoral election will now be sure to heat up. I have been asked multiple times to start making predictions, but I had been holding off until the Legislature adjourned. Well, now that they have adjourned, I guess I have run out of excuses…

Off the Kuff has more.

Lege update 8/1

There are three words I would have never thought I’d be piecing together. But here we are, three Special Sessions into the summer. Thus far, Transportation funding is the only issue on the call, though Campus Construction & Guns on Campus could still appear. As one may recall from my previous post on the issue, the Senate has already approved SJR1. At press time, the journal has still not been uploaded, so I have absolutely no idea how the vote went down.

Anyways, the Texas Tribune now reports that the House Select Committee on Transportation has taken up SJR1, and purposefully chosen not to move forward with the legislation. The Committee then took up HJR1, which is Joe Pickett’s plan, and passed the measure 6-1 with the lone dissenting vote coming from Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Harris County). Sergio Munoz (D-Hidalgo County), the only other Democrat on the committee, voted yes, as did all four Republicans.

There are a few different circumstances, however. First, Comptroller Susan Combs announced that Oil & Gas taxes would come into the coffers at levels $900 Million higher than previously expected. Second, there were some changes to Pickett’s proposals. From the Tribune:

Pickett added a provision to the plan that would require the Texas Department of Transportation to find $100 million in “efficiencies” over the 2014-15 biennium and put that money toward paying the agency’s multibillion-dollar debt. Paying off that much debt early would save the agency $47 million in debt service payments, Pickett said.

[…]

The other key difference in Pickett’s new proposal would be in the way the Legislature could ensure that the plan wouldn’t drain the Rainy Day Fund’s balance beyond a level with which state leaders are comfortable. A previous version required the Legislative Budget Board to periodically set a minimum balance, or floor, for the Rainy Day Fund below which tax revenue could not be diverted to transportation. Pickett switched out the LBB with a select joint committee of five House members and five senators.

Also, at the start of each legislative session, lawmakers would have the opportunity to file bills proposing that the floor selected by the committee be adjusted, Pickett said. Such a bill would need to pass both chambers within the first 60 days of the session to be enacted. 

This bill, most likely, will be approved by the full House. At that point, HJR1 and SJR1 would have to be battled-out in Conference Committee, just like last time. It is unclear what the end game here is.

In other news, the Texas Tribune reported that Sen. Ken Paxton (R-Collin County) officially announced his candidacy for Attorney General. Paxton will be facing off against Rep. Dan Branch and Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman in the GOP primary. It will be quite the contest. Paxton, by the way, has a two-year term, so if he loses the primary, he will be unemployed.

A few more candidates

First off all, I would like to apologize for the two day absence. I was up in Washington for a conference, and my nighttime schedule unexpectedly filled up. Further, the 3 hours I was planning to dedicate to writing, on the plane, was a non-starter because I got booked on the one Southwest flight still without WiFi. Oh well.

These past few days have seen three major contenders enter the fray for the 2014 Republican Primary for statewide elections, as well as one more candidate for the 2013 City Council election in District D.

As expected, Dan Branch made an official announcement to enter the Attorney General’s race. As The Dallas Morning News reports, the State Representative announced his candidacy, surrounded by family, at the SMU Law School. Branch, like Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman and Senator Ken Paxton, had been running a pseudo-official campaign for Attorney General in the past weeks. However, after Abbott’s big announcement last week, Branch quickly began making his way towards a formal announcement.

Next, I got a press release (THANK YOU) announcing the candidacy of a man named Ray Keller for Railroad Commission. I’ve never heard of Keller, a former State Representative from the Dallas area, and I soon learned the reason. Keller served in the Legislature from 1979 to 1987, well before I was born.

The Legislature was heavily Democratic during that time, and half of the years included a Democratic Governor, so I take the claim he made of being a “Conservative Republican” in his press release with a grain of salt. He is a bit of an unknown, I guess you could say. It would not surprise me in the least. I will leave the diagnostics on this new candidate to one of my older contemporaries, perhaps old enough to remember the 80s.

Finally, in State news, Representative Brandon Creighton, the Conservative Republican who has an odd love-affair with guns, has announced his intention to make an announcement at some point in the future. Creighton, long rumored to be eyeing the spot of Agriculture Commissioner, announced on his Facebook that big day will come on August 9th. No word if it will be in San Antonio like all the other big announcements.

Back to municipal elections, there is yet another candidate in District D: Christina Sanders. She is the State Director of the League of Young Voters. She doesn’t really have a website or social media set up, but does have this shell of a donation page. I am always overjoyed when a fellow young person gets involved with politics, especially when they have experience as well. Sanders will be a good addition to an already interesting race.

If you are following my previous article on District D, you will note that one such candidate has decided to go out of his way to call me a liar. I don’t have any ill-will towards this individual, but the malice and untruthfulness on his part are somewhat important to note as one weights candidates’ integrity come election day.

Dos Centavos has more on Sanders.