So far, so centrist

Governor-elect Greg Abbott, fresh off a 20-point decisive victory in the gubernatorial election, looks like he may govern from a less divisive point-of-view than his predecessor, Governor Rick Perry. Yesterday, the Texas Tribune reported that Abbott had made a pick for his Secretary of State, arguably the most powerful appointed executive office in the state. The secretary has broad powers over the legal and election portions of the state bureaucracy. Abbott selected Carlos Cascos, the County Judge of Cameron County (Brownsville). Cascos, a Republican, was first elected to the powerful county executive position in 2006, defeating the incumbent judge, Gilberto Hinojosa, who is now the Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.

Re-elected both last week and in 2010, Cascos has proven himself a rather middle-of-the-aisle pragmatist. The four County Commissioners that Cascos works alongside on the Commissioner’s Court are all Democrats. Abbott lost the county by 13 points and Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick lost it by about 22. Needless to say, Cascos is not a right-wing, red-meat conservative.

This is fairly significant, especially in light of recent appointments to the position. The incumbent Secretary of State is Nandita Berry, a lawyer from Houston who is perhaps better known as the wife of conservative shock-jock and former City Councilmember Michael Berry. Cascos, unlike Berry, is not a pick designed to fire up the Tea Party. Rather, he is a choice who is meant to court support from Hispanics and independents.

In comments made after announcing his nomination, Abbott honed in on innocuous issues such as water conservation, mostly straying from divisive issues. In recent days, however, Abbott — who currently also serves as the Attorney General — has noted that he may sue the Federal Government in the near future is President Barack Obama takes any unilateral action on immigration reform. Fortunately, this type of talk has been the exception and not the rule in recent days from the Governor-elect.

I briefly talked about all this last Friday in The Daily Texan, noting that Abbott has been placed in an extremely important position to guide the politics of the state throughout the next biennium.

“While a Senate run by Patrick and packed with his friends would likely pass these measures, they could easily find themselves slowed in the House of Representatives, where Speaker Joe Straus, a comparatively moderate Republican, still reigns supreme,” I wrote. “Straus, left to his own devices, is not much for divisive social issues.”

The Daily Texan Editorial Board also examined what Abbott might do specifically for UT. An alumnus of the university, Abbott will not likely be so damaging for the Longhorns as the incumbent.

“Unlike Perry, Abbott is not so ideologically opposed to the humanities,” we wrote. “His campaigns have not been so heavily underwritten by, nor as closely associated with many of these individuals with a stake in dismantling the University.”

Now, I will freely admit that I am largely grasping at straws here. Abbott has made one appointment, and a whole lot can change when push will come to shove, so to speak, in the near future. But his general demeanor in the past eight days as the Governor-elect, including an apparent willingness to eschew Perry’s controversial Texas Enterprise Fund, should serve as promising signs that perhaps Texas’ 48th Governor will be more centrist than its 47th.

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Nandita Berry named Secretary of State

Forgive me for the tardiness, I had a very busy day traveling yesterday, and despite there being Wifi on the airplane, it rarely works well enough to pen an entire post and link it to social media outlets. But without further ado, I have officially left Boston. I will  be hanging out in Houston for about three weeks for the holiday, and then will officially make the trip up to the State Capital.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Nandita Berry, a University of Houston Regent, has been appointed by Governor Perry to become the next Texas Secretary of State. Berry will succeed John Steen, an attorney who has decided to return to private practice after serving for roughly one year. Berry, who is also an attorney, is perhaps best known as the wife of former Houston City Councilmember and radio shock-jock Michael Berry.

“I am truly humbled to follow in the footsteps of Stephen F. Austin, Texas’ first secretary of state. Like him, I came to Texas in search of a better life and the limitless opportunities to be found across our great state,” Berry said after being appointed. Given the high profile of state’s new Voter ID Law, the Secretary of State might find greater coverage in the press as the lead-up continues towards next year’s elections.

Click here to read about what the Secretary of State does!

Parker endorsed by AFL-CIO

From another one of those Press Releases that somehow doesn’t find its way into my inbox:

Annise Parker has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO. The labor organization lauded Parker for not being too austere with city services and for helping the Middle Class. With the disappearance of labor support, the paths to victory for Hall keep getting smaller and smaller.

I believe the time has come and gone for a competent Republican to run for this office. Any GOP candidate that would enter over the summer would probably only put up token opposition (a TJ Huntley of sorts). Accordingly, we are going to have to start discussing the reality of an election with only two major candidates. Such an election could easily be solved in November if the fringe candidates don’t take away too many votes. Hall still has a chance, but he would have to do quite a few things first.

The Mayoral election of 1991 brought the idea that Mayors would have to be “moderate” in order to win the election. This was allegedly evident by Bob Lanier’s defeat of Kathy Whitmire after so many years in office. Throughout the 90s and most of the 00s, Houston retained an identity as a broadly centre-left city, which would still elect some real conservatives to citywide positions (Michael Berry and Shelly Sekula-Gibbs, to name a few). Accordingly, Lee Brown faced some excruciatingly tough and close elections, and Bill White retained the identity of Lanier’s moderation.

I posted a while back about why Parker seemed to be imitating Brown, but I think I was a tad mistaken in that assertion. The demographics and politics of Houston have significantly changed then. Conservatives can only win citywide in three very distinct possibilities:

The first is that they are such a RINO that nobody even knows or can tell they are Conservative. This was my experience with Stephen Costello. I wasn’t very in 2009 because of his political affiliation, but by 2011, I didn’t really care what letter he chose to put next to his name.

The second is that the candidate’s opponent is either incompetent or horribly unpopular (or both). Jack Christie is the perfect example of this.

Last but not least, if the Republican/Conservative is just so then there is still a chance of victory. This is what I call the “Kubosh Coalition.” Michael Kubosh has a very god chance in November, mainly because of all of the support he may garner from the African-American community. Now, the vast majority of Houston Conservatives can’t say the same, so this is a very special occurrence.

Hall isn’t a Conservative by any means, but the consensus is that he will have to masquerade as one if he wants to win. White Progressives aren’t going to vote for him when they like the incumbent. With Labor now out of the question, Hall has to become a “Kubosh Conservative” if he wants to win.

In re Boykins

Anyone who consistently reads my blog knows that I am a freshman in College. Compared to just about all of my contemporaries, I got into local politics quite early. I started working for City Hall and became completely and totally engrossed within local politics just before the 2009 election, at the age of fifteen. To become familiar with the pre-2009 officeholders, I did research on most of the elections in the past few elections before that time, mostly the previous elections involving people who held office at that time.

Anyways, I mentioned in my November 17 article “Dialogue in D” that a man named Dwight Boykins is running for District D. I simply mentioned him in passing, almost curiously wondering why Mayor Brown and Jew Don Boney were endorsing him. Further, I insinuated in another article on that day, “Jones to return?” that Jolanda Jones was free of other establishment politicians. All of that, cross that, Boykins is a big deal–I was wrong.

This is one of those embarrassing moments when my age gets in the way. It turns out that Dwight Boykins has run for the City Council thrice before, once going into a runoff. Unfortunately, I was 3, 5, and 9, respectively, when he ran, so I have no memory of this. But, for the record: Boykins ran in a crowded field in 1997, coming in fourth place. He ran again in 1999, coming in second to Gordon Quan, and losing in the runoff. Finally, he ran in 2003 against Michael Berry in at-large 5, coming in second but failing to grab enough votes from Berry for a runoff.

So, essentially, my ego got in the way vis-a-vis Houston politics and I did not foresee a connection to politics of before my time. This moots most of my commentary about if Jones returns to run in District D. That will be a hard race.