Texpatriate endorses in Congressional elections

Editorial note: Separate endorsements from the Editorial Board will be written at a latter date for the elections in Congressional District 2 and Congressional District 7, respectively. We will only endorse in Harris County & Statewide elections.

The 113th Congress has been among the most unpopular in American history. Heck, it might be –without exception– the single most unpopular. Most Congresses can muster the passage of a few hundred bills, and this one will be lucky if it can accomplish even a third of that (most of the ones that did pass named post offices). From the debt ceiling to government shutdowns to basic dysfunction, there is a very compelling case to be made to clean house in Congress. “Vote them all out,” is a common recurring theme. But are all members of the House equally culpable for the epic cluster that has occurred within the lower chamber?

This board believes you would be hard pressed to not admit Republicans are significantly more at fault for the dysfunction than Democrats. Since regaining control of the House in 2011, Republicans have immediately held invaluable legislation, such as the budget or the debt ceiling, hostage in exchange for ludicrous demands. They waste sporadic committee time launching witch hunts against the President for imaginary reasons, and they spend a disgusting amount of time on vacation instead of working to solve just one of the plethora of problems the United States faces.

The three Democratic incumbents in Harris County –Al Green (TX-9), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) and Gene Green (TX-29)– are not perfect, but we sincerely believe that they are immeasurably superior to their opponents. We endorse all three, all Democrats.

Congressman Al Green was first elected in 2004, after mid-decade redistricting created a new opportunity district for African-Americans. In the decade since, he has been a strong and capable representative for his community. We have been particularly impressed by the strong stand that he has taken in support of gun control. Furthermore, as the Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Green has helped to lead the charge on holding those who wrecked the economy responsible.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, first elected in 1994, follows in the footsteps of some incomparable predecessors in the 18th District. Barbara Jordan, Mickey Leland and Craig Washington all honed fame countrywide for being national leaders on important issues. We believe that Jackson Lee has effectively continued this legacy. She is possibly more active than any other member of Congress from Texas in the amount of bills that she introduces to sessions, and is essentially omnipresent in her desire to have her voice heard on important issues.

Jackson Lee, unlike the other two Congressmen, actually has a major opponent in November. Sean Seibert is running for the post as a Republican, though he is heavily disfavored. Our hesitations with Seibert hinge not only on his lack of any political experience whatsoever, but on political positions that are far out the mainstream. His “issues” page on his Facebook reference broad platitudes, with a couple of especially bad ideas such as requiring a balanced budget amendment and eliminating the estate tax.

Jackson Lee, on the other hand, has taken some bold stands, specifically on civil liberty topics. She continues to fight against unnecessary government intrusion into our lives, such as the abhorrent NSA spying program or the malevolent Patriot Act. While she certainly has a penchant for putting her foot in her mouth all too often, this board sincerely believes that Jackson Lee –overall– is a strong advocate for the people in her district.

Lastly, we have Congressman Gene Green. A 22 year incumbent, Green represents a a heavily-Hispanic district, though he himself is Caucasian. Green is a very active in constituent services, but when it comes to taking a bold stand on issues, he is still holding up the rear of the Democratic Party. Green is a very vehement opponent of even the slightest amount of gun control, namely a ban on assault weapons. Last time he went on the record about it, Green was even an opponent of same-sex marriage. Most importantly, we believe Green is remiss in not pushing more stringently for action on immigration control. He needs to actually listen to his constituents.

Still, Green is overall a good Congressman, and he is on a whole different level than his opponent, a Libertarian. Voters would still be wise to support him.

Accordingly, this board endorses Al Green in US House District 9, Sheila Jackson Lee in US House District 18 and Gene Green in US House District 29.

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

Jackson Lee to the Cabinet?

The Houston Chronicle reports that Sheila Jackson Lee, the loquacious Congresswoman from Houston, is being recommended as a future Cabinet Secretary, specifically the Secretary of Homeland Security, in President Obama’s second term cabinet. The previous Secretary of Homeland Secretary (hereafter, “SOHS”), Janet Napolitano, recently announced she would leave office at the end of August to become the Chancellor of the University of California system.

While the President has not made any public comments on this post, it has not stopped others from speculating, pontificating and recommending. Now, since Obama has been accused of a lack of diversity in some recent cabinet posts (Kerry, Hagel, Lew, etc), groups such as the Congressional Black Caucus have been suggesting nominees of their own. Initially, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) was being spotlighted, but he soon ruled out the idea. This led to Jackson Lee.

The CBC has formally recommended her to the President. I am not sure how recently this happened, but I have not heard Jackson Lee say anything one way or another on the topic. The Chronicle article promises to update when they have more information on the topic.

First of all, I thought I had some sort of deal that this seat wouldn’t open up until I was at least 25 (jokes). Any way you look at it, an open election for the 18th District would be the biggest free-for-all disaster, politically speaking, in my lifetime. The modern incarnation of the 18th District has never had a truly open election. Barbara Jordan faced little opposition to take the seat in 1972, and by the time she retired in 1978, everyone and their mother knew Mickey Leland would be next in line. After Leland’s tragic death, in 1989, Craig Washington did face Anthony Hall in the Special Election, but Washington was always somewhat favored. Jackson Lee then challenged, and beat, Washington in the 1994 primary. There has never been a regular open election in this seat, so it is quite overdue.

This all hinges upon the idea, though, that President Obama will nominate Jackson Lee and the Senate will confirm her. That is a long shot. Congresswoman Jackson Lee is a controversial figure, to say the least. Personally, there are plenty of good and redeeming qualities I have found in the Congresswoman, but they are not the qualities that make one a decent Cabinet secretary.

To be blunt, Sheila Jackson Lee likes to talk, and naturally, being a garrulous individual means plenty of slip-ups. Such slip ups would embarrass an administration, especially if they ran counter to the administration’s position. Additionally, Jackson Lee is significantly more liberal/libertarian than the President on foreign policy. For example, she voted against the Patriot Act, FISA Acts, etc. She did, however, vote against the recent Amash amendment.

Finally, Jackson Lee, because of these slip-ups and the unabashed liberalism, is a favorite for ridicule and denigration by the right wing. This would be a mighty hard confirmation battle for the President. If history has taught us one thing, it is that President Obama is a pathetic eunuch who will avoid battles and all types of confrontation at any cost. This would make the prospect of Jackson Lee getting nominated dead on arrival more than anything else.

All of these qualities make her a good Congresswoman, resulting in a good present situation for Jackson Lee. That glossy present situation could only be harmed by the national spotlight, especially juxtaposed with the current Presidency. Accordingly, it would be in her interest to stay put.

Repealing unconstitutional laws

Often time, politicians on one side or another will oppose a law because they say it is “unconstitutional,” or propose its repeal for similar reasons thereto. But rarely will the law actually be indisputably unconstitutional. Ten years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that this State’s law against homosexual sodomy was a violation of the 14th amendment. The law against “homosexual conduct,” however, stayed on the books.

Now, there finally may be some momentum to get ride of this taint on our State. As former State Representative Debra Danburg mentioned, the effort to get ride of this ridiculous law dates back to 1975, when Mickey Leland first proposed legislation to repeal the statute. It went nowhere, as did a similar effort by John Whitmire in 1993.

However, today, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted 5-0 (still waiting on roll calls) to repeal this law, from a proposal by Jose Rodriguez. Republicans have jumped on the bandwagon of support simply in an effort to clear out the state code. The law is not legally enforceable, but this will be a good symbolic gesture to acknowledge the humanity of homosexuals.