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 Comptroller

 

The Comptroller of Public Accounts has an inquisitorial quality about it. While reforms throughout the 1980s and the 1990s gradually gave the office most of the powers of the former State Treasurer position, its two original duties are still arguably the most important. The Comptroller is charged within collecting the taxes of the State of Texas, namely the sales tax and excise taxes. The post also comes up with a biennial revenue estimate, which the Comptroller relays to the State Legislature, and the legislature is compelled to use when writing their budget.

Without a doubt, the current officeholder of this position, Susan Combs, has failed in both respects. Tax revenue has been down around the state considering our population. This stands in stark contrast to some of the bombastic Democrats, namely Bob Bullock, who have held this position in the past. Bullock infamously organized high-profile raids to tax evaders, and cleaned up inefficiencies and corruptions to ensure that coffers remained filled. His two successors, John Sharp and Carole Keeton Strayhorn, one a Democrat and one a Republican, also ensured that revenue forecasts were accurate.

This is greatly important, because an incompetent or malevolent Comptroller could fudge the numbers and wreak havoc on the state. That is precisely what happened in 2011 when Combs negligently low-balled the revenues, prompting enormously painful austerity cuts, especially to education, that just weren’t necessary.

Democratic candidate Mike Collier, a longtime CPA who calls himself “the watchdog,” pledges to fight exactly this type of ineptitude. Previously an apolitical person, Collier jumped into the race after witnessing the deleterious effects caused by Combs’ dereliction of her responsibilities. He wants to run the office better, not as a stepping stone to higher office but as an actual place of accounting and reasonable forecast.

In our opinion, the office of Comptroller should not be elected to begin with. And while lifelong politicians such as Bullock did great things with the post, the era of the goodhearted statesman is simply a thing of the past in the same respect as black-and-white televisions and horse drawn carriages.

The Republican candidate, State Senator Glenn Hegar (R-Harris County), is not an accountant or in any way well-versed in the financial sector. He is a farmer, and his claim to the fame in the legislature was authoring the omnibus anti-abortion bill that Wendy Davis filibustered. He offers no specifics as to how to improve upon the office form Combs and his campaign has consisted of little more than right-wing sound bites heralding his support from anti-abortion rights and anti-LGBT interest groups.

Hegar, in one of the few issues pertaining to the office he is actually running for, advocating lessening property taxes. This is all good and fun, as few Texans besides masochists in Austin would actually be comfortable with their property tax bill, but Hegar’s proposed alternative is much, much worse. He wishes to replace the property tax with a new statewide sales tax that climbs more than 20 cents on the dollar. This stupid — and there just isn’t a better word for it — regressive tax would greatly hurt the poorest among us. It would result in an effective tax hike for a majority of the population.

Like many of this year’s elections, the choice in November is crystal clear. Collier is qualified, would do the job capably and does not want to raise your taxes. Hegar is not qualified, would not do the job capably and wants to raise your taxes. Don’t raise taxes, vote Democrat.

Accordingly, this board endorses Mike Collier for Comptroller of Public Accounts.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & 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 Mike Collier

Editorial note: This is the fourth 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>.

Mike Collier, Democratic candidate for Comptroller of Public Accounts

Texpatriate: What is your name?
MC: Mike Collier

T: What office are you seeking?
MC: Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

T: Please list all the elected or appointed POLITICAL offices you have previously held, and for what years you held them.
MC: I have never run for or held political office.

T: What is your political party?
MC: Democratic Party

T: What are your thoughts on the Texas Performance Review program once used by this office?
MC: Under Comptrollers Bob Bullock, John Sharp, and Carol McClelland the Comptroller ran Performance Reviews, but that function was moved by the Legislature to the Legislative Budget Board.

I plan to ask the Legislature to restore the function to the Comptroller’s office and change the name to The Texas Accountability Team.

This is much more than a symbolic gesture or bureaucratic maneuver. Accountability is on every Texan’s mind, and Texans understand that asking the Legislature to take charge of accountability is like asking the fox to guard the hen house.

In business, the best-run companies have teams of financial auditors and investigators who roam the company and root out fraud and abuse.  They do not report to the line-executives who spend the company’s money; their job is to hold line-executives accountable to shareholders.  The same principle should be applied in Texas.
T: What role do you think the Comptroller of Public Accounts should have with regard to wading in on social issues, such as abortion or gun control?
MC: None. As Comptroller, I will provide financial leadership. While I do not intend to deal falsely with any issue, and I am on record as to my personal point of view, abortion, guns, and other social issue politics have no place in the office of our states top accountant.

T: What do you think the role of the Comptroller of Public Accounts should be?
MC: The agency is meant to be the financial watchdog for all taxpayers. Texas is a $100 billion per year operation with over 300,000 employees all-in. The Comptroller plays a vital role in overseeing the state’s “back office” to ensure taxpayer money is protected and managed responsibly. The Comptroller is also the first line of defense to make sure taxes are fair and everyone’s interests are considered in developing lax law. It’s also the Comptroller’s job to be the state’s Chief Financial Officer and to work with the Legislature to make sure Texans are planning for our financial future.

T: What is one thing that you would continue over from Comptroller Susan Combs’ administration? What is one thing you would not or change?
MC: Susan Combs started us down a path that emphasized transparency. I applaud her for this and I intend to take it to an entirely new level. Fact is, her attempt to increase transparency was a good start, but we have much work to do in making sure our accounting and reporting systems deliver to all Texans a simple, readable, and timely discussion of the financial issues we face.

T: Why you, as opposed to your opponents?”
MC: Who would you hire to count your money, an accountant or a politician?

I am putting my career as a CPA aside to run for this office because I am frustrated with the lack of honest, skilled, transparent financial leadership in today’s political arena. My promise is to take politics out of the Comptroller’s office and bring competence in. I have offered a detailed, comprehensive reform agenda that will restore the Comptroller’s Office – http://www.collierfortexas.com/reform.

Glenn Hegar hasn’t offered a reform agenda. He has hardly even discussed the Comptroller role after more than a year of campaigning.   He doesn’t appear to understand or care about reforming tax administration, and he opposes Performance Reviews in the Comptroller’s office which, during the John Sharp era, produced billions in savings. Glenn Hegar is unqualified for the job. He doesn’t even appear to be interested in the job. He appears to be interested in only one thing: Glenn Hegar’s political career.

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?
MC: Reform Revenue Forecasting – “Get the numbers right”

Texas is an enormously prosperous state, yet we consistently under-fund education and infrastructure. Texans are very dissatisfied with the state of our public education system, our transportation and water infrastructure. They are given to believe we are doing our best, but in fact we are not doing our best.

Fundamental reform in on our revenue accounting and reporting systems, with quarterly updates and a simple, readable letter to Texans each quarter telling them how much money we have, will change the game dramatically. For example, the $2.6 billion surplus Susan Combs forecast at the end of the current biennium may be off by as much as $5 billion. And nobody is talking about this. Yet we hear our leaders insist that we should cut public education at all levels.

Once we get the numbers right, Texans will see that we can do so much more in terms of investing in education and infrastructure without raising taxes.

Reform Tax Administration

In addition to technical reforms that will ease the burden of complying with tax law (see my website), as Comptroller I will energetically make sure that everyone who owes taxes under the law pays them. No exceptions for major campaign contributors. I call this closing the tax gap. I also call it going after the bad guys. If the law says a tax is due, I’m going to collect it, period. And as someone who comes from the big company accounting world, I will have the skill and tenacity to make sure this is done right.

I will also work very hard to fix our broken property tax system. The Comptroller can work on some aspects of property tax reform directly through the Property Tax Assistance Division (i.e., improving methods and practices to ensure appraisals are fair and accurate in the first instance), but the Comptroller must work indirectly (by providing technical input and forceful leadership) on matters that can only be addressed by the Legislature and local officials. It’s this energetic, determined leadership that’s missing in Texas right now, and it’s why so many Texans feel helpless and frustrated with a property tax system that seems so unfair.

Bring Back the Texas Performance Review

Our state government is a decentralized operation, which is perhaps a very good thing. But nowhere is there a systematic, objective approach to identifying and stopping waste and abuse.

Comptroller Bob Bullock recognized the need for an independent audit or Texas government agencies financial performance, and he created The Texas Performance Reviews. Comptroller John Sharp implemented the Reviews with great skill and effect, finding billions in savings. However, the Legislature took the Review away from the Comptroller and gave them to the Legislative Budget Board which makes no sense. Why would you give the Legislature, who spends our money, the job of deciding if our money is being spent wisely? It must be done by an independent agency, and therefore I am going to fight to bring them back to the Comptroller Office where, as someone who has made a career out of this kind of work, we can do some real good.

How can we ask Texans to part with their hard earned money, unless at the same time we can assure them that their money is not being wasted or abused? That’s why I am going to change the name to the Texas Accountability Team, and with the full support of the Legislature, conduct independent Accountability Audits.

Convention recap

Editorial note: I apologize for this getting out a day late–Wordpress has been absolutely terrible, corrupting over 2500 words of meticulously well-crafted opinions that I put together yesterday. This is my second stab at it. In the meantime, please give me a suggestion of a blogging software that is not completely worthless.

On Saturday, the 2014 Texas Democratic Convention came to a close after a number of productive days. I drove up to Dallas, where it was held, after work on Wednesday and stayed until late afternoon on Saturday. What I found, first and foremost, was a party that had the lights turned back on, one that was significantly more optimistic about the future than it had been in the past. That being said, there were number of things that I truly took exception to, which I will definitely delineate here. But for the most part, the convention was a rousing success.

I was absolutely overjoyed to see the excess of young people there, which felt significantly more numerous than my first convention experience, back in 2012. This could be for a number of reasons, among them that this a gubernatorial election cycle as well as one where refocused attention has been applied on Texas Democrats. The first convention after the formation of Battleground Texas as well as the Wendy Davis filibuster was bound to bring some more young people to the table. Finally, it may be that the last biennium has seen me expand my idea of who a “young person” was, so while a 25 year old might not have sufficed as a contemporary when I was 18, they would at 20.

From UT Democrats, Kirk Watson Campaign Academy, Davis campaign interns, Battleground Texas fellows to Texas Democratic Party staffers, I felt like the convention was literally filled with young people. It was not a rare sight at all to see people obviously younger than me, and my own Senate District (SD17), a ferociously suburban district where the median age is easily in the 50s, boasted over a dozen young people, including a couple who had just graduated High School. My point on all this is that the demographics, just on age alone, continue to work in the Democrats’ favor. Of course, there was racial and ethnic diversity, but that is not a new item at State Democratic Conventions. The young people were, though.

The only serious politics that transpired on Thursday was one last meeting of the State Democratic Executive Committee before new elections were called during the convention to fill it. While most of the SDEC’s acts that day were rather mundane, they did get to some pretty controversial business involving VAN. For those unfamiliar, VAN (Voter Activation Network) is a program run by the Democratic Party and used by Democratic primary candidates in order to ascertain the partisan affiliation of a specific voter.

In case you didn’t know, whether or not you voted, and which primary (if any) you voted in, are both public knowledge. Thus, in a State like Texas where Democratic primary campaigns are very, very specific, it is of great advantage to selectively campaign with certain people, thus not wasting money sending your direct mail to a registered Republican.

This brings us to the SDEC resolution. A number of members, led by former State Representative Glen Maxey (D-Travis County), pushed to disenfranchise certain Democratic primary candidates from VAN. Specifically, those who have voted in the most recent Republican primary or donated at least $1000 to GOP candidates or causes would be excluded.

Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa objected to this  proposal because he felt it was detrimental to rural Democrats. Hinojosa explained that, in many smaller, rural counties, the Democratic Party is virtually non-existent, so there is no Democratic primary to vote in. Accordingly, many otherwise very liberal people there would have no choice but to participate in the GOP process if they wished to remain politically active, as it would be tantamount to election.

The SDEC narrowly overruled Hinojosa and adopted the proposal. I agree with the Chairman’s comments, but I thought there was a greater issue at play that no one thought to talk about. As I have said countless times in the past, what type of message are we sending moderate Republicans and Independents if we do not welcome them to our parties. Beggars can’t be choosers, and these are the exact type of people the Party needs to attract in earnest to win elections.

Of course, the inconsistency advanced by the small-minded ideology is noted as well. Wendy Davis, David Alameel, Mike Collier, Jim Hogan, Larry Meyers; the Democratic slate is quite literally filled with former Republicans. I am not being facetious when I say that I truly do not understand the arbitrary standards used by the Austin intelligentsia to determine who gets a pass into the Sapphire City and who is left at its gates. Do you understand?

If, for whatever reason, you want more of my opinions on this controversy, check out the column I penned in this morning’s issue of The Daily Texan!

When it came to the platform, rules, credentials, etc, there were not very many actual surprises. As many will remember from 2012, the platform took a huge step to the left two years ago, endorsing gay marriage and marijuana decriminalization, as well as calling for the abolition of the death penalty. Those three planks still got some press two years later.

Dos Centavos notes that the immigration plank was kind and humanitarian, as opposed to the cruel, Hobbesian planks advanced by the GOP. While they nixed a guest worker program, the Democrats remained steadfastly supportive of comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship. However, one of the interesting new tidbits was a provision calling for the end of the “287g program,” which has been implemented in cities such as Houston. The program calls for law enforcement officials to look into the immigration status of all those arrested –not convicted– within the jurisdiction.

I have always been somewhat disappointed by Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s support of this program, given that he is a Democrat. Back when it truly flared up, in 2010, I was working at City Hall. One of the most heated debates I ever had there was on this program. My opinion back then was the same as it is now, and it still points back to my rather laissez-faire view of immigration. Thus, I’m happy that this plank was inserted.

Other new items of note included an unequivocal call to ban on so-called “reparative therapy,” which the GOP endorsed in their own convention. The Republicans have received an astounding amount of bad publicity for this, including from their own Chairman.

However, the biggest item involving the platform that I could find was that the party offered no leadership on the issue of marijuana legalization. At a time when two States have already legalized marijuana (Colorado and Washington), Texas Democrats truly made a mistake of not taking a bold stand on this issue. The sluggish reaction of the old guard is troubling, and eerily reminiscent of all the resistance to gay rights. To me, the biggest issue is that the platform still includes sentences such as “Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.”

Marijuana is actually far less dangerous than either of the other drugs. Alcohol directly kills something like 80,000 people a year, while Tobacco kills over 400,000. Marijuana has directly killed ZERO people since time immemorial. As far as hallucinogenics go, it is the safest option out there. Once again, I’m just disappointed with the lack of leadership that was shown on this issue.

Then, of course, there is the mandatory discussion over the Chairman’s race. The astute will surely remember that I did work on the campaign of Hinojosa back in 2012, though I did not work for any candidate this year. Hinojosa, a former Judge from the Rio Grande Valley, was re-elected with over 95% of the vote, winning at least five Senate Districts unanimously, including my home district, SD17!

Texpatriate endorsed Hinojosa for reelection, and for good reason. To borrow a line from Racehorse Haynes, one of my father’s old legal mentors, I would like to plead in the alternative. First, I think that the Texas Democratic Party is on the right track. Second (if I did not think the TDP was on the right track), I do not think that changing the Chairman would have a significant effect. Third (if I did think changing the chairman would have significant effect), I do not think that Hinojosa’s opponent, Rachel Van Os, would be a suitable replacement.

Van Os’ speech was an exercise in “not ready for prime time” if I ever saw one. Woefully unprepared and scarce on specifics, Van Os failed to give me a good reason why Hinojosa did not deserve a second term and she definitely failed in demonstrating why she would be any better.

As unbelievably harsh as I often am on Democrats and the Democratic establishment, individuals often find it surprising that I am such a resolute supporter of leadership, be it TDP Chairman Hinojosa or Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis. As my friend Carl Whitmarsh says about such leadership positions, they are the jobs “that everyone wants, but no one wants to do.”

It is remarkably easy to criticize someone in the leadership positions, and I will be the first to admit that I have criticized those local party leaders countless times, but it is significantly harder to actually change things in a meaningful way. Constructive criticism should never be misinterpreted for a lack of support, and I got the feeling that most delegates agreed with such sentiment.

I tried to find someone –anyone– from the general public who would go on record supporting Van Os, but I was unsuccessful. My friend Perry Dorrell, of Brains & Eggs fame, was a supporter of hers, but I have a policy not to interview other members of the press–it’s too insidery.

The race for Vice-Chair, however, had significantly more sparks. Under a gentleman’s agreements, given the demographics of the current Chair, the Vice-Chair must be an African-American woman. I’m not necessarily sure that I’m comfortable with those types of requirements, but that is a discussion for a later day. Accordingly, the battle was fought at the Black Democrat Caucus, where incumbent Tarsha Hardy –first elected in 2012– would run for a second term.

Challenging her were Fredericka Phillips, a Houstonian, and Terri Hodge, a former State Representative from Dallas. Some may recall that Hodge resigned under scandal in 2010, following allegations of impropriety and bribery. Under a plea deal reached with prosecutors, Hodge accepted a charge of tax evasion and spent one years in prison. After working on a number of campaigns since getting out, she finally threw her hat into electoral politics once again this past weekend. That being said, she got clobbered in the running, coming in a lonely and distant third place.

Phillips was the eventual winner, defeating Hardy by just two votes. Graciously, the two stood on stage together at the Convention and pledged to work with one another for not only a smooth succession of power, but for the betterment of the entire party. The respectful tone of the entire event was truly a sight to see and one that I was proud to witness.

The speeches themselves were a whole other amazing event. Speaking to many people in the know, I was told time and time again that the convention was the first time since the Ann Richards era that all the speakers had so invigorated the crowd for such a long period of time. From the small time-filling speakers to the headliners, the convention hall was FULL and people were on the edge of their seats. That simply did not happen in 2012, and I was told it did not happen in the years before either.

When it came to specific speeches, I thought State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, and Mike Collier, the Democratic nominee for Comptroller, delivered the best presentations by far. State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic nominee for Governor, and Daivd Alameel, the Democratic nominee for Comptroller, meanwhile, also delivered speeches worthy of examination.

First, Alameel’s speech struck me as good on the writing but a little iffy on the delivery. His speech, more than any other I heard, was literally filled to the brim with one-liners. Alameel, a veteran, lambasted his opponent, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), as a draft-dodger who sought deferment after deferment. That was probably the most intense attack line of the weekend.

However, his delivery is still lacking. Alameel, an Israeli-born immigrant of Lebanese ancestry, still has a very heavy accent. His speeches at the podium seem almost unnatural and somewhat forced. While his intentions are certainly good, I fear that this may not play out very well for him on the stump. The general public does not devote much time to trying to normally comprehend a politicians’ words, but definitely does not do so through a thick accent.

When it came to Davis, meanwhile, I similarly liked her speech but –as usual– was disappointed in the delivery. As I have said many times in the past, Davis is famous for dedication and perseverance, rather than any specific oration abilities. That same point of view was definitely put on display this weekend in Dallas, when she truly poured her heart out in a speech that blasted the “insiders” and “good ol’ boy” culture of Texas, both of which she referenced to slam her opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Mike Collier, moving on, probably had the second best speech of the weekend. Collier, a very pragmatic Democrat who was a Republican as recently as a couple years ago, could easily be my favorite downballot candidate on the Democratic slate. As an aside, there were these funny T-shirts being sold by the TDP that said “Nerd out with Mike Collier.”

Anyways, Collier’s big push the entire campaign has been about taxes. His opponent, State Senator Glenn Hegar (R-Harris County), made some news earlier this year when he said that the property tax should be abolished and replaced with an upped sales tax, probably around 25-30%, to be exact. I wrote a column in The Daily Texan back in April about how absurd this is, and about how spot-on Collier’s reaction has been. Rightly so, Collier has blasted Hegar as a Big Government tax-and-spender, even deriding him with the nickname “The Tax Man” in a recent campaign commercial.

Accordingly, when Collier went on stage and expressed his disgust for taxes, saying that he thought it would be wrong to hike up any margins, I was on the edge of my seat seeing how the crowd would react. There might only be 2000 people in Texas who support a State Income Tax (all of them living in Austin, obviously), but they were probably all in that room at the Dallas Convention Center. But Collier explained how we can provide many of the services this State needs simply be closing loopholes and accurately forecasting revenue. He was very specific and yet casual in his speech, reminding me of a less comely version of Bill Clinton on the stump.

Last, but certainly not least, there is Van de Putte. What can I say that has not already been said in obsequious adulation of the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor. But in all seriousness, she gave hands-down the best delivery of any of the speeches, combined with some darn good speechwritng. More than anyone else, Van de Putte had everyone on the edge of their seats.

Some other miscellaneous points to note included the personalities who went above and beyond to let themselves be known. Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer (D-Bexar County), colloquially known as TMF, both set up huge booths in the convention hall and the latter even hosted one of the three official afterparties. I thought the vulgarity in his speech was an unforced fumble, but there were far worse things that could have happened.

Also, there was exceedingly spotty wifi at the convention, or you could choose to pay $13 for nominally less awful internet connection. This was rather annoying, but worse things could have happened I suppose. An anonymous source at the Democratic Party told me that it would have cost over $6000 to furnish free wifi at the convention, and it was a charge they simply could not come up with.

Finally, it was truly a pleasure to see fellow TPA Bloggers there, including (but not limited to) Harold Cook (Letters from Texas), Perry Dorrell (Brains & Eggs), Vince Leibowitz (Capitol Annex), Trey McAtee (McBlogger), Ted McLaughlin (Jobsanger) and Karl-Thomas Musselman (Burnt Orange Report). Interacting with these fellow bloggers made the entire trip worth it in and of itself.

Terrible, terrible poll

The Texas Tribune has released its newest poll, and the results continue to paint a bleak picture for the campaign of State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. The poll has her down 12 points to Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate. The poll also examined Statewide races up and down the ticket and found that Democrats were doing miserably bad in all of them. Most all of these polls included Libertarian and Green candidates, for what it is worth. Additionally, undecideds boasted pretty good showings in all of these races, and the number only got bigger the further down the ballot one traveled.

As many will remember, the Tribune commissioned an extensive poll in February that was not worth the non-existent paper that is was not printed upon. Among the many terrible predictions it made was that Kesha Rogers and Debra Medina led the plurality in their respective primaries. Rogers barely squeaked into a runoff and Medina came in a distant last place in a race where one candidate (Hegar) won outright. I went after the Tribune with a wrench in the Daily Texan a couple days after the preliminary primary completely discredited their polling, noting that we should not waste our breath analyzing something so unreliable anymore.  As my friend Charles Kuffner noted yesterday, the Tribune polls should be “in time-out,” meaning that we have to very look at what they have to say quite critically.

Click here to read more!

Democratic runoffs

Once again, I cannot really say that I was surprised by either of the results in these elections. Unsurprisingly, David Alameel defeated Kesha Rogers to earn the Democratic nomination for the US Senate. In a little more of an upset, Jim Hogan beat Kinky Friedman to be nominated Agriculture Commissioner. Alameel got upwards of 70% of the vote, while Hogan was merely in the low 50s.

I hate to even talk about these contests at too much length, given how futile it all is. Talking about squabbles in downballot Statewide Democratic primaries is a little bit like talking up your High School student government’s internal politics to a public audience. That is, nobody gives a damn. If David Alameel breaks 40%, I will be honestly surprised, and if Jim Hogan gets over 33% it would honestly be a miracle. While Wendy Davis (Governor), Leticia Van de Putte (Lt Governor) or even Sam Houston (Attorney General) and Mike Collier (Comptroller) all have some meager semblance of a chance in November, I simply do not see the same being said for these two candidates. With all that being said, let us look at the county-by-county results. I have attached the two obligatory charts on the matter.

Click here to see the charts!