What’s next for Texas Democrats?

A day after the 2014 election, when Democrats all across this country suffered what could generously be described as a shellacking, this publication ran a cover article with the headline “TEXAS WILL NEVER TURN BLUE.” Three months on, as Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick stand ready to assume the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, that sentiment looks true as ever. State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, wishes to abandon the legislature and flee into municipal politics, specifically by attempting to become the next mayor of San Antonio (directly contradicting herself from July). Will Hailer, the longtime executive director of the Texas Democratic Party who was heralded as a prophet to lead them into the promised land, just left Texas. And then there’s Battleground Texas. Oh, Battleground Texas.

In February 2013, a gaggle of former Obama campaign staffers came together to create the organization, which promised to hastily turn Texas blue. Obviously, that was a bit of a stretch, but the idea nonetheless was that they would expedite the progress already underway to make the state politically competitive. Whatever they did, it didn’t work. Actually, that’s a gross understatement; they actively made things significantly worse.

Accordingly, when I saw the article in the Texas Observer entitled “Does Battleground Texas have a future?,” all I could think was “oh my gosh, I sure hope not.” Whatever they did in this election cycle, which is still a matter of open debate, was deleterious and had a net negative effect.

Before I get into this, there is an obligatory disclosure. There were countless people, from the top to the bottom of that organization, who undobutebly did yeoman’s work. Be that spending their whole days volunteering or making numerous sacrifices, there were hundreds — some of which I personally know — who put in a great deal of work striving toward, what I believe was, an honorable cause. But none of that discounts the fact that the strategy employed by Battleground Texas was indisputably awful.

As the Observer article delineates (I highly recommend reading it), Battleground Texas siphoned money away from other deserving beneficiaries, namely the Texas Democratic Party, and appears to have squandered it. Their top-down approach, with its over-reliance on rosy numbers and optimistic prognostications, is eerily reminiscent of the Chinese Communist Party’s bureaucratic management during the Great Leap Forward. Of course, I’m not trying to flippantly make light of a famine by comparing it to a tougher-than-expected loss suffered by Texas Democrats, but the principle is the same. These tactics lead to dishonesty and spin until some type of cataclysm unveiled the truth.

I noted, ahead of the election, that if Wendy Davis, who the Democrats nominated for governor, did not crack 40%, then Battleground Texas would disappear, merely becoming a lamentation of drunken staffers at Capitol Hill bars. Well, Davis didn’t crack 40 percent (she didn’t even make it to 39), and yet Battleground Texas is still here. I suppose it will limp along into the future for perhaps another year or two, but if it is ever taken seriously again, that would be a profound mistake.

With all that pleasantness out of the way, the underlying question pegged in the headline still remains: what should Texas Democrats do? To put it evocatively, give up. Wave the white flag. Forget about competing at a statewide level because, in most of the political class’ lifetimes, it simply will not happen. Rather, instead of humoring the delusions of grandeur within the Austin elite, the concerted effort among progressives in this state should be on grassroots building at the local levels. Specifically, this means turning Bexar (San Antonio), Harris (Houston) and Nueces (Corpus Christi) counties blue. The cornerstone of that is finding suitable candidates to run for all the open offices and then supporting them with money. Battleground Texas actively took money away from these local efforts, especially here in Harris County. Why didn’t they held the overworked and underfunded Harris County Democratic Party fill all the judicial offices?

As an aside, what should be next for Wendy Davis? A few days ago, The Dallas Morning News reported that her big flop back in February to support open carry was just a total lie that she fabricated in a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to curry favor from the pro-gun crowd in the election.  Still, as the Houston Chronicle reported, Davis intends to run for office in the future. Personally, my reaction is “thanks but no thanks.”

Davis has always struck me as a dedicated and effective public servant, but the truth is that she makes a lousy politician. She isn’t articulate, she isn’t especially charismatic in front of cameras and she doesn’t think on her feet very well or quickly. Sound bites are anathema to her, and debates are even worse. Worst of all, she appears to have been ordered around by misguided campaign staff, leading to a ship sailing along with anyone competent at the helm for much of 2014. But all of that pales in comparison to what makes Davis an atrocious future pick: she lost bad. Davis will always indelibly be linked to that 20-point whooping, and it will not do the Democrats any favors. They need to move on.

And they also need to move on from statewide politics, for the time being. Breitbart Texas recently accused the Democrats of “abandoning” said politics while “retreating” to municipalities. It evoked strong reactions from the usual suspects. But perhaps it isn’t that bad of an idea.

No matter how many marathons you participate in, if you only run marathons, you won’t ever do all that well. You have to start small, running shorter distances, and only moving on when you have mastered those simpler tasks. Texas Democrats need to do the same thing.

Texas Senate changes

The Texas Tribune reports that Comptroller-elect Glenn Hegar, also a member of the State Senate, has resigned his seat in anticipation of assuming high office. Governor Rick Perry has called a special election for December 6th, which will likely have to be resolved by a runoff election some point after the 84th Legislative session convenes at the start of next year.

The three candidates for the State Senate district, which stretches from Katy (Hegar’s hometown) to Corpus Christi to the outskirts of Austin (map here), include Gary Gates and Charles Gregory of Fort Bend County as well as State Representatives Lois Kolkhorst (R-Washington County). Needless to say, the huge district will continue to be dominated by its Greater Houston subdivision. No Democrats have, at print time, announced their interest in the district, and it is not outside the realm of possibility that none will run (the last time the district held an election, in 2012, Hegar ran unopposed).

Perhaps the bigger piece of news is some convincing evidence that State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), this year’s unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, will in fact resign her senate seat to run for Mayor of San Antonio. I went over most of the odds-and-ends involving this possibility last week, when I emphatically opined against the decision. Selfishly, I think Van de Putte could continue being an asset for Democrats in this state as an articulate and highly-visible leader of the opposition against Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick in the next session.

The source for this is Robert Miller, a lobbyist in Houston who has a history of breaking these types of stories via Twitter. The tweets were immediately confirmed by former staffers of Van de Putte. Miller, as you may remember, correctly pointed to Wendy Davis running for Governor in August of last year (Back when I thought she would only lose by eight-to-ten points, how naive of me).

With Van de Putte out, another special election would have to be called. The Houston Chronicle has suggested that both State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer and State Representative Jose Menendez, both San Antonio Democrats, would throw their hats in the ring to succeed Van de Putte in heavily gerrymandered (for the Democrats) district. Meanwhile, State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-Bexar County), who recently resigned his House seat to run for Mayor of San Antonio, may still end up switching races.

The San Antonio Express-News has a great profile out that discusses the “friction” between Van de Putte and Villarreal. In 1999, Villarreal had succeeded Van de Putte in the State House when she was first elected to the senate, defeated her hand-picked successor in the process. Ever since, the relationship has been tense. Accordingly, the two might have a nasty campaign ahead of them, though I would think Van de Putte (the only statewide Democrat to carry Bexar County) would be heavily favored.

But the optics about candidates and what not can wait until we have more information. Perry and Governor-elect Greg Abbott, when he takes office, are just petty enough to purposefully drag their feet on a special election to ensure the Democrats start the session with one fewer voice, short of the 1/3 needed to block legislation. Although, as I have previously mentioned, the 2/3rds rule is likely doomed anyways.

Off the Kuff has more (regarding Hegar).

San Antonio mayoral update

https://i2.wp.com/www.workplacerantings.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Leticia-Van-de-PutteTWITTER.jpg

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.

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.

What I’m looking for tomorrow

For the most part, Texpatriate endorsed Democrats this election cycle. An absolutely contemptible slate of statewide non-judicial Republicans, along with Harris County courts that are — all too often — corrupted or being run inefficiently, led us to disproportionately back the Democratic challengers. In editorial squabbles, especially compared to last year, I found myself seldom in the minority. In fact, only in one contest, the Land Commissioner election, did I dissent from the endorsement. If you still haven’t voted yet, please do so, whoever you will support.

If you have ever read something on this publication before, you are likely familiar with my skepticism as to Battleground Texas’ short-term feasibility, as well as the statewide Democratic slate. I’m not holding my breath for any statewide Democrats to win, but I’ve never insisted that their victory should be the number one priority. Since mid-2013, I have been writing that even a loss could be a win for Texas Democrats, and the rationale rests upon three main items.

First, State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, and the rest of the ticket need to move the needle. Bill White, the Democrats’ 2010 gubernatorial nominee, garnered 42% of the vote. Davis needs to do better in order for the pipedream of Texas turning blue to be taken seriously. She doesn’t need to do much better. After all, 2014 is shaping up to be a bad year for Democrats nationwide. But she needs to do better.

Second, the rest of the Democratic slate needs to do better. White significantly outperformed his compatriots because, as a popular former Mayor of Houston, he received many crossover votes, but also his running mates were lousy candidates. With downballot choices this time around such as State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, and Mike Collier, the bombastic and stellar Comptroller candidate, the same simply cannot be said again in 2014. Oh yeah, and the Democratic candidate for Attorney General is named SAM HOUSTON! In all seriousness, he is a talented lawyer and a good candidate, but his rockstar name will ensure he probably does better than any other Democrat. The Democrats running statewide in 2010 not named Bill White received anywhere from 34-37%. That number’s median needs to be raised to at least 40%, in my opinion. That is comparable to how statewide Democratic candidates not named Barack Obama did in 2012.

Third, and most importantly, Davis needs to lend her coattails to Democratic pickups in Bexar (San Antonio), Harris and Nueces (Corpus Christi) counties. She also needs to have a strong enough performance in Dallas County to ensure the countywide elected Democrats politically survive there. I’ve seen no evidence that Nueces County is in play, but the other counties (including Dallas) look to be tossups. This is perhaps the most important.

If Democrats pick up anything in either Bexar or Harris Counties, it will largely justify some progress and otherwise good news for Democrats. This could be as simple as merely winning the DA’s office in Harris County. If they, by some lucky maneuver, can win all the way down the ticket in either county, it would be a truly cause for celebration. But going Zero for whatever once again in both counties would, similarly, cause alarm bells to ring. Losing in Dallas County would cause hell to break loose.

I have opined before that, if the Democrats do really, really poorly, as in less than 40% of the statewide vote, Battleground Texas will pack up and go home. Talk of “turning Texas blue” will be a one-time debacle only uttered in Washington DC bars, with the same lamentations as soft drink executives recalling New Coke. For the record, I don’t think that will occur, but it is certainly within the realm of possibility.

That is why it is so important to vote. Statewide races will almost certainly not be decided by close margins, but in Harris County they certainly could. Judge Kyle Carter, a Democrat in the 125th District Court, got re-elected by fewer than 2000 votes last time. Mike Sullivan, a Republican, was elected Tax Assessor by a similar margin. On first count, President Barack Obama carried the county by TWO votes. TWO votes. That’s you and one friend.

 

Reality Check, Part V

First and foremost, a poll was released by The Texas Tribune today that appears to place the final nail in the Democrats’ coffin. Now, as I have opined time and time again in the past, I’m not really a fan of the Tribune’s polling, so take this with a grain of salt. But with Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, leading State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, by a whopping 16 points, the margin of error is taken care of more than five times over. I’ve attached the polls for all of the statewide non-judicial contests.

TGov

TLtGov

TSenate

TAG

TCompt

TLandCom

LAgCom

LAgCom

Of note, because of rounding errors, the Land Commissioner poll should not equal 100. Excel insisted upon putting Bush’s total at 51% anyways, but the Tribune poll only put 50%.

These polls put the Democratic deficit anywhere from 15 points (Agriculture Commissioner) to 26 points (US Senate). The poll basically insinuates that there are people who are voting for Wendy Davis, yet are splitting their ballots for Dan Patrick. Or thinking that Jim Hogan is a sensible, qualified and tempered candidate for Agriculture Commissioner (he’s none of those things), and yet Ken Paxton is the superior choice for Attorney General. Do these people truly exist? Are Texans truly that inept? I say no, and think those absurdities prove that the poll is just a bunch of stuff, as the Vice President would put it.

The polls also show third parties getting huge percentages of the vote, sometimes nearly 20%. That’s a little bit silly, considering that they rarely surpass 5%. I tend to think the reason for their gross overperformance is that the poll is largely conducted via eager participants on the internet. You know, the people who have the extra zeal to come up with their own outlying political views.

Let’s get something clear, no statewide Democrat is going to win this year. That much I am certain of. But the Democrats don’t have to literally win in order to win, as counter-intuitive as that might sound. The slate needs to outdo Bill White’s performance in 2010, which was roughly 42%. Ideally, they should do well enough to lift the ticket in Bexar County (San Antonio), Harris County and Nueces County (Corpus Christi) enough to elect some local Democrats. But showing progress from the last election is the most important thing. Battleground Texas will keep registering voters, demographics will keep moving in a good direction and Texas will transition inch-by-inch into a purple state. Vox made a similar point today.

Bud Kennedy at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram noted today, though, that the Texas Democrats have a considerable chance on not outdoing their 2010 performance. If the slate is less than 42%, alarm bells will ring. If it ranges from the high to low 30s, as this poll might suggest, it will be Armageddon for Texas politics. Battleground Texas will likely disband. National Democrats will think of the short-lived project to turn Texas blue and shake their heads. In the bars of Manhattan and Capitol Hill, it will be thought of with the same naivete as the New Coke debacle. I really don’t want that to happen.

Through the first four days of early voting, the numbers are negligibly different from four years ago, with some minor differences I’ll note in tomorrow morning’s issue of The Daily Texan. That will be what determines how well Davis does. So please, please, vote.

Texpatriate endorses for Lieutenant Governor

 

The post of Lieutenant Governor, serving as the President of the Texas Senate, holds remarkable power over the state. Long thought to be the most powerful post in state government, even more than the Governor, its power has waned in the past dozen years as a result of both Governor Rick Perry centralizing power and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst’s milquetoast leadership. Dewhurst, long a steward of bipartisan statesmanship, has tacked far to the right in recent years because of pressure from the Tea Party wing of his party. State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Harris County), who defeated Dewhurst to become the Republican candidate for this post, embodies this extreme wing frighteningly effectively. Divisive, grandstanding, rabble-rousing and without any core principles, Patrick embodies all the terrifying aspects of James “Pa” Ferguson, Huey Long and George Wallace rolled up into one.

He would make a poor Lieutenant Governor, not only because of his political ideology, but because of the very way he operates. Mean-spirited and a pathological liar, Patrick has a poor working relationship with many of even his Republican colleagues in the Senate. Observers opine that there is a possibility that the Senate may revolt against Patrick’s leadership, and strip away most of the Office of Lieutenant Governor’s duties. To do so would be a mistake; a statewide elected position to reign over the Senate is an effective guarantor that regional squabbles will not dominate the agenda. But that might just be what happens if Patrick is elected.

His big priority appears to be what he calls “border security;” in actuality, a dog-whistle for xenophobic rhetoric directed toward the Hispanic community. He wants to put up a big wall and, in the style of Mitt Romney, make life a living hell for the undocumented immigrants already here. To accomplish this goal, Patrick just makes stuff up. The allegation that immigrants carry “third-world diseases” such as leprosy cross our borders? Completely fabricated. Those commercials of his that contend ISIS terrorists are plotting to swim the Rio Grande? An outright lie. We think he might blame them for the Kennedy assassination soon too.

Patrick believes that abortions in all case should be disallowed, equates homosexuality with a mental disorder and supports the teaching of creationism in public schools. Most importantly, Patrick supports the abolition of the 2/3rds rule in the Texas Senate, which mandates that consensus must be reached before bringing a bill to the floor. Patrick, in a desperate attempt to mollify his Tea Party brethren, would seek to turn the chamber into a more dysfunctional mock-up of Washington DC.

No matter your politics, this board strongly urges you, as a matter of principle, to not vote for Dan Patrick. If you are otherwise conservative, please consider the Libertarian candidate, Robert Butler, or just undervote. But we think that the Democratic candidate, State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), is the exact type of pro-business and centrist Democrat who could attract support from across the aisle.

Van de Putte placates all the liberal causes by being supportive of gay marriage and opposed to onerous and unnecessary restrictions on abortion. But, more significantly, she is big on pro-business policies, be it simplifying the tax code, promoting a strong public school system or keeping Texas friendly for immigrant labor. Van de Putte is obviously the pragmatic and sensible choice in this year’s election.

Some of Van de Putte’s policy proposals have been lacking in specifics, and she has taken actions — particularly when it came to aligning with the Democratic gubernatorial nominee — that we have disagreed therewith. But nobody is perfect and Van de Putte, at her core, is a very good politician who appears to legitimately care about her constituents.

Van de Putte wants to calmly, and with great restraint, address many of the problems facing Texans in coming years. Patrick wants to burn down the barn to deal with the roaches, so to speak, and he would be willing to do it five times over to appease his extremist base. We have talked time and time again about clear choices in this year’s general election (indeed, there are a plethora of lousy candidates), but this one might just be the most clear. It’s definitely the most important.

Accordingly, this board endorses Leticia Van de Putte for Lieutenant Governor. If, for whatever reason, you can’t bring yourself to support a Democrat, please consider voting third party or just undervote.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwtiz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston, Luis Fayad of College Station and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represent a majority opinion of the voting board.

Texpatriate’s Questions for Leticia Van de Putte

Editorial note: This is the twenty-first in our series of electronic interviews with candidates for Statewide and Harris County offices. We have sent questionnaires to every candidate on the ballot, given we could find a working email address. We have printed their answers verbatim as we receive them. If you are or work for such a candidate, and we did not send a questionnaire, please contact us <info@texpate.com>.

Leticia Van de Putte, Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor

T: What is your name?
LV: Leticia Van de Putte

T: What office are you seeking?
LV: Texas Lieutenant Governor

T: Please list all the elected or appointed POLITICAL offices you have previously held, and for what years you held them.
LV: ELECTED

  • 1991-1999 Texas House of Representatives, District 115

  • 1999-Present Texas State Senate, Senate District 26

APPOINTMENTS

  • 2011-Present Families USA

  • 2009-Present The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse Advisory Commission

  • 2009-Present The National Assessment Governing Board

  • 2009-Present Milbank Memorial Fund, Member

  • 2008-Present American Legacy Foundation Board, Member

  • 2004-2005 NALEO Board Committee

POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT

  • 2008 Co-Chair, Democratic National Convention Committee

  • 2007-Present State Affairs Committee – Texas Senate

  • 2003-Present Chair, Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee – Texas Senate

  • 2003-2010 Chair, Texas Senate Democratic Caucus

  • 2001-2003 Chair, Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus

  • 1998 Chair, Mexican American Legislative Caucus

  • 1991-1996 Secretary, Mexican American Legislative Caucus

  • 2003-Present Member, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL)

  • 2003-2005 President, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL)

  • 1991-Present Member, National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)

  • 2007-2008 President, National Conference of State Legislators Foundation

  • 2006-2007 President, NCSL

T: What is your political party?
LV: Democrat

T: What would you recommend about the so-called “2/3rds rule”?
LV: Texas has always been a state where we work together to solve challenges. In Texas, we should not pit people against one another – we are a state where we always look for common ground, and neighbor helps neighbor. What we don’t need in Texas is the partisan gridlock that has infected Washington, D.C..

The two-thirds rule has served the Senate well. It fosters civility and collegiality. The Texas Senate is the deliberative body, the two-thirds rule preserves that legacy.

As Lieutenant Governor, I would advocate to maintain the two-thirds rule. While the discussion on the rule is usually framed as Republican vs. Democrat, there are many issues where the true division is between urban members and rural members, or those representing areas with plentiful water and those without. It is important to preserve the two-thirds rule so that Senators seek to find common ground and the voice of the minority is respected.

T: What criteria would you use to appoint the Chairpersons of the Senate committees?
LV: I will appoint chairpersons based on the passion for and knowledge of the issues that the committee will work on during the legislative session regardless of political party. The legislative session is only 140 days. There  is no time  to waste  so committees chairs need to be committed to  leading their committees to improve the laws of this state.

T: What relationship do you think that the Lieutenant Governor should have with the Senate?
LV: One of mutual respect. I believe that leadership is a process that requires mutual respect so that the members of the Senate can work towards achieving common goals while maximizing their individual efforts.  Texas is a geographically diverse state with diverse needs and beliefs. I believe Texas’ diversity should be embraced, not dictated.

T: What is one thing that you would continue over from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s administration? What is one thing you would not or change?
LV: I would continue the 2/3 rules and appointment of chairpersons regardless of political party. What I would change would be starting on time and working to improve the relationship between the House and Senate.

T: Why you, as opposed to your opponents?
LV: I have the experience and passion for the job. I have a record of working across party lines and chambers to pass effective legislation that makes Texas better.

My opponent seeks to bring Washington DC style tactics to the Senate. His “my way or the highway” mentality will only bring partisan gridlock to the chamber.

I made the decision to run for Texas Lieutenant Governor because I want a strong future for my children, grandchildren and everyone’s children and grandchildren. I will not stand aside and allow my opponent to leave my grandchildren any less of a Texas that I have come to love.

T: What are the three most important issues to you, and what is at least one thing you have done to address each of them?
LV: Education –  Providing a high quality education to every student in this state has been and will continue to be of utmost importance to me. I believe it is of utmost importance to the economic prosperity of this state that we get students to and through school. The education we provide the young people of this state should prepare them to be workforce ready for locally and internationally available jobs in a competitive market.

I have filed school finance bills and bills that keeps college affordable, passed a law combating bullying in schools, passed a law that encourages the creation of dropout recovery high schools, and passed law to ensure children of Military Personnel and children adopted from the foster care system would be eligible to receive free prekindergarten classes.

Improved quality of life for veterans, servicemembers and their families – As the daughter of a veteran, I know that it takes a family to serve and that to truly honor those who protect us, we must improve the quality of life for military members, veterans, and their families and support our military bases.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations, I wrote the law that allows Texas veterans and their families to qualify for expedited licenses within one year of separation, created the Hazlewood Legacy Act which allows veterans to pass their unused education benefits to their children or spouse, and led the successful fight for the 100% property tax exemption for Gold Star Spouses of active-duty service members killed in combat.

Combating Human Trafficking – For the past 10 years I have led the fight against the vile crime of human trafficking, modern-day slavery, in the Texas Senate.

I passed the law that required hotline postings along Texas highways, created the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force and in 2011 I passed Senate Bill 24, which increased the penalties for traffickers and provided protections for victims.

Lt Gov campaign update

First things first, I’m sorry for the lack of activity. I’ve had a remarkably busy week, and have been driving all around the State for the past 36 hours (fun fact: there are cities in Texas named “Nixon,” “Pawnee” and “Three Rivers”). Now, I’m back in Houston for the weekend in observance of a religious holiday and some personal odds-and-ends.

Back on Monday night, the only debate in the Lieutenant Governor’s campaign was held in Austin. State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Harris County), the Republican candidate, and State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic candidate, squared off against one another in a battle of words that was exceedingly civil when it comes to the rough and tumble world of Texas politics. Without getting into too much of the minutia of the debate, it was characterized by Patrick’s total extremism, despite coming off as an ostensibly formidable foe. The two argued over education, abortion, gay marriages and taxes…oh my goodness, lots of taxes.

Patrick began his comments by claiming, completely falsely, that Van de Putte has recently voted for a State Income Tax. Those who do not believe that the sky is red, of course, are aware that the Texas Constitution has effectively precluded the Legislate from considering a State  Income Tax for many years now. He just made it up. Van de Putte, meanwhile, alleged that her opponent supported hiking the sales tax. To that allegation, Patrick admitted it was true, but insisted that it was not a tax increase. Rather, he said, it was a “swap.”

On other issues, Patrick tacked heavily to the right. He reiterated opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. He confidently defended his opposition to gay marriage and continued drugging up so-called tort reform. He equated the expansion of Medcaid, the brainchild of Lyndon Baines Johnson, with the other boondoggles of Obamacare. Needless to say, the big headline here is that Patrick has not mellowed his rhetoric one bit whatsoever in advance of the general election.

Paul Burka at Texas Monthly had some harsh words for Patrick, calling him “most formidable radical politician the state has produced in my career of covering the Legislature,” which, by the way, is nearly 50 years. He said that the true Patrick is a “conservative radical,” but I beg to differ. The true Patrick is a facade; he is merely puts on an ideology that works best for him. Perhaps in the past that type of populism would be pragmatic, but not today. This is an era of pitchforks, and Patrick would not be the type of leader who would stand up against the lynch mob…he would be the one leading the charge and giving the speech upon the soapbox.

Recently, the Houston Chronicle‘s Editorial Board even went of its way to write a thoughtful endorsement of Van de Putte. It is a touching piece, and covers all the key features while taking a few pot-shots at Patrick. This, on a year when they are endorsing Republicans in a spirit of “going along to get along” even more than usual.

Back to the debate itself, I think Van de Putte won, but I don’t think it will get her any traction. People in Texas don’t watch things like debates, it’s not her fault. The format, though, was still pretty bad. Candidate-to-candidate interaction was minimal and many of the questions were just low-hanging fruit for the sake of fireworks.

Brains & Eggs, Off the Kuff and Texas Leftist have more.

VDP hops on the Highway Fund bandwagon

Yesterday, Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, released an ad that touted his big plan for improving the state of transportation infrastructure in Texas. After crunching the numbers, I was simply not impressed. Now, the Texas Tribune reports that State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, has hopped on the bandwagon and is now touting that plan as a cornerstone for her transportation infrastructure (with a few notable difference) platform.

Last night, I noted that such a proposal could likely raise about $1 Billion per biennium, a statistic confirmed by The Dallas Morning News. Of that, the News notes that more than 80% go to law enforcement agencies such as the Department of Public Safety (DPS), while about a dozen million dollars even go to the Attorney General’s office. Accordingly, while transportation would surely be given a great deal of extra cash, it would be at the expense of other –very important– spheres of government expenditures. Thus, unless more money is withdrawn from the rainy day fund or taxes are raised, the hurt will merely be shifted elsewhere. Last night, I opined hiking the Gas Tax modestly, something that has not been done in nearly 25 years despite an exploding population, higher prices and more more fuel-efficiency.

Van de Putte, according to the Tribune article, was somewhat murky on how exactly she wold make up the lost money, not only for DPS, but also for programs such as Veterans. She did pledge, however, not to divert money earmarked for education.

Luckily, Van de Putte does admit that her meager proposal (which Abbott, House Speaker Joe Straus and even her Republican opponent, State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Harris County), have preceded her in backing) will not do enough. Incorporating the whole Highway Fund will likely only raise a fraction of the $5 Billion that state bureaucrats have suggested will be necessary to keep our roads in top shape.

For this, Van de Putte acknowledged the tough realities involving an unchanged gas tax, but stopped short of endorsing any action regarding it. Shortly thereafter, the Tribune noted that a spokesperson unequivocally ruled out raising taxes. Too bad.

Unlike some Democrats, I am not masochistic on the subject of taxation. I abhor the idea of creating a State Income Tax, and hope property taxes can one day be cut in a sizable manner. But roads cost money. As a frequent commuter between two major cities, and the venerable State Highway 71 that connects them, I rely particularly strongly on state-funded roads. They are built, maintained, repaired and expanded with tax money. And in the past 25 years, as gas mileage has shot up remarkably, the average individual has consumed far less gas. Meanwhile, as prices have risen from $1.10 in 1990 to about $3.00 today, the tax rate has stood steady at $0.20-a-galloon.

I get that being seen as pro-taxes is a poison pill in today’s political environment, so I do not fault Van de Putte’s campaign for the omission. But as the rhetoric approaches complacency regarding this issue, I hope Van de Putte and others know that, next session, they need to put every option on the table –including raising the gas tax– in order to not just repair our crumbling highways, but make them the envy of the world once more.