Texpatriate’s Person of the Year 2014

If one were to scour the bars of downtown Austin last year, 2014’s election would have sounded like the big one, the year when Texas Democrats would show they were truly a force to be reckoned with. At the very least, the year they continue what had been incremental progress toward competitiveness. Of course, that did not happen, as the Democratic gubernatorial nominee lost by more than any of her predecessors in this century.

But to characterize this year merely as one of Democratic failure would be a gross oversimplification, and would ignore the impressive independent successes of Republican campaigns this year. Long chastised as technologically backwater, Republicans closed the digital gaps all around the country, but especially so within Texas. Governor-elect Greg Abbott’s campaign in particular functioned as a well-oiled machine. Lamented by many as politically untested, Abbott was cautious and — for the most part — outwardly reasonable on the campaign trail (despite whatever far-right position he espoused away from television cameras).

However, caution did not permeate the entire ticket. Specifically, Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick appeared content to continue the ultra-conservative, divisive rhetoric he used to win the Republican primary, reiterating it without shame throughout the general election. In the end, he only won by marginally less than Abbott, despite such a very different strategy. Patrick, more than anyone else, embodies the current realities of Texas politics; the state is controlled, with an iron fist, by the few percent that bother to vote in Republican primaries. And Patrick echoes their voice louder and with more certainty than any of his colleagues.

Historically, lieutenant governor has been the most powerful position in the state, even more than the governor. The roles have only been reversed for the best decade or so because of a uniquely audacious governor and a strangely milquetoast lieutenant governor. But Patrick, previously a State Senator with no adversity to controversy, does not have a single timid bone in his body.

Since being elected, Patrick has exhibited no signs of slowing down his charge to change the state. He has already begun holding hearings on education matters, and a radical restructuring of the system — likely involving the extensive use of charter schools and vouchers — looks slated for the next session. With Patrick holding almost despotic power over the upper chamber, his word will carry more weight than just about anyone else.

As an editorial board, we aren’t much for Patrick’s extreme political positions. Be it education reform, guns, immigration reform or environmental factors, we disagree with him quite strongly and repudiate many, if not most, of his tactics. Throughout both his lengthy primary campaign against incumbent David Dewhurst as well as Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson & Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and general election campaign, Patrick demonstrated a working unfamiliarity with telling the truth, which earned him the honorific of “pathological liar” from one such opponent (Patterson). We endorsed his Democratic rival for lieutenant governor earlier this year in about the strongest way we knew how civilly.

But one would have to be delusional to deny the huge impact that Patrick already has, and will continue to have, on Texas politics. His defeat of Dewhurst, simultaneous with similar primary battles for Attorney General and Agriculture Commissioner, signaled a transition for control of the Texas Republican Party (and, in effect, the State of Texas). Make no mistake, the Tea Party is not a faction within the party, there are the party; and Patrick is their prince.

In the next session of the legislature, Abbott may very well play it safe and push a rather non-controversial agenda from a technocratic point of view. But no one expects Patrick to do the same. If/when the legislature passes big measures such as so-called “School Choice,” “Open Carry,” “Campus Carry,” and the end of concepts castigated as “Sanctuary Cities” or the “Texas DREAM Act,” we will have Patrick to thank/curse for it. He will quickly and hugely make his mark on Texas.

Accordingly, we denote Dan Patrick as our Texpatriate 2014 Person of the Year. Previous recipients include ANNISE PARKER (2013), LANE LEWIS (2012), ANDREW BURKS (2011), THE HOUSTON MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEE (2010) and ANNISE PARKER (2009). Criteria for recipients has changed over the years.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of George Bailey of Boston, Noah M. Horwitz of Austin and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials comprise a majority opinion of the board.

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Texpatriate’s 2013 Person of the Year

Nearly one month ago, this board began its search for Texpatriate‘s Person of the Year. Our rules were somewhat simple. The individual who contributed the most (good or bad) to both Texas and Houston politics would win the contest. However, upon closer scrutiny, this formula is not so simple. Often times our biases will blind us as to what the unadulterated facts right in front of us are, and will deceive us into believing something untrue. This board finds no greater example than with Ted Cruz. We believe that, speaking strictly to Texas affairs, Sen. Cruz has made far and away the most news in the State; much, much more than Wendy Davis. A majority of this board dislikes his political views, and we are certain that most of our readers have similar reservations, but there is no denying his tremendous impact upon the way things get done, not only in Texas, but around the country.

Sadly for Sen. Cruz, however, our criteria includes more than just what happens in Statewide or national news. Alternatively, we look for the individual who affects both the politics and governance of Houston and the State of Texas. To fit such a bill, this board can think of no individual better suited than Annise Parker. While we originally bestowed this honor on the Mayor before (in 2009), we believe she may be even more deserving here and now. Forget about being reelected –every Mayor gets reelected and Parker had notoriously incompetent opposition this year– and focus instead on Mayor Parker’s leadership both on the City Council and out in the field with Houston. Indeed, as far as credible Statewide candidates exist for the Texas Democrats, this board suggests they look no further than Mayor Parker.

Click here to read the rest of the editorial!

Voting now open for Texpatriate Person of the Year

From 2009 to 2011, Noah M. Horwitz individually awarded the title of “Person of the Year” to an individual with a great impact upon both Houston & Texas politics in the preceding calendar year. In 2012, the task fell to Texpatriate, which at that time simply consisted of Horwitz & Andrew Romo and received roughly 1-2% of the monthly views it does today.

That year, we selected Lane Lewis, in his official capacity as Chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party, as the Person of the Year. In previous years, Horwitz selected Annise Parker (’09), the “Houston Public Employee” (’10) and Andrew Burks (’11). Please note that, like Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, the indication is not simply meant to represent the individual we admire the most. Rather, irrespective of our personal opinions, it represents the person who had the biggest impact on Texas & Houston politics.

Accordingly, the Editorial Board has selected a number of individuals who we feel have contributed more than anyone else to Houston & Texas politics this year. While we have typically eschewed generic designations (remember when “You” was the TIME Person of the Year?), one has been included nonetheless. We invited our readers to look over the options below and vote in the poll at the bottom of the page. The Person of the Year will be decided by the Editorial Board around New Year’s.

Click here to see the candidates for Person of the Year!

Texpatriate Person of the Year, 2012–Lane Lewis

2012 was not a good year for Democrats in Harris County. However, it was not the horrible butchery many were expecting for the Democrats, and it was not a repeat of the debacle of 2010. We here at Texpatriate believe that, more than anyone else, Lane Lewis has been the embodiment of this Democratic resilience.

When the year began, people had been predicting another horrible shellacking at the ballot box for the Democratic Party. Lane Lewis, the (at that time interim) was facing an uphill challenge for his office from Keryl Burgess Douglas, a prominent attorney. I don’t know if the LGBT political community is allegedly racist, or if the African-American political community is allegedly homophobic, but the two political communities always seem to have to run against each other. In May 2012, the two high profile elections were Lewis vs. Douglas, and the Elaine Palmer/Steven Kirkland contest. In a split result, Palmer and Lewis won. However, stakes looked pretty bleak for the Democrats. They even managed to nominate a sketchy, Republican loser as the Democratic Party’s candidate for District Attorney.

Then came the election. The Democrats retained a majority of the Judgeships up for election, including 2/3 of the incumbent Democratic judges. They retained the County Attorney and Sheriff. Additionally, the Democrats also picked up a few seats on the County Board of Education, now commanding a majority. We must admit that we were very pleasantly surprised by the results, and were considering at first giving the award to the “Harris County Democrat.” However, we soon realized that the Chairman of the Party is a better recipient (I do not like abstract awards).

Some would argue that Helena Brown had a more individual impact upon City affairs, but I do believe that the Chairman has certainly had the most insightful, long-lasting impact.

Voting now open for the Texpatriate Person of the Year

I have, in some way or another, been awarding “Person of the Year” for Houston politics for a few years. From the vaults, let me bring up some of the editorials from the past:

2009–Annise D. Parker
This is a real no-brainer. Even though my original allegiances were, in fact, for Gene Locke, I have no ideological quarrels with the Controller, and am certain she will do a fantastic job in office.

Additionally, even though this was not a major theme of the campaign, no one can doubt the historical significance of Controller Parker’s election to be the Chief Executive of a city of Houston’s size. For the first time in many years, we have been getting national coverage for a good reason
.” –Published 12/29/09

2010–The Houston Public Employee
The decision would have been clear if Mayor White would have won the election, or at least not suffered the shellacking he did. At any rate, even though I have always opposed abstract designations for “person of the year”, I find it necessary today.

So, in giving this award to the civil servant, we stand in solidarity with their struggles. We stand with HOPE, the local AFSCME and SEIU, we stand against furloughs for the working class while our city and county wastes their money, our money, on outlandish parks.
” –Published 12/26/10

2011–Andrew C. Burks, Jr.
The 2011 gave mixed messages to the perennial candidates among us. Griff Griffin, after his umpteenth campaign, finally called it quits, while Andrew Burks, after his, finally claimed victory. Though I supported Representative Thibaut, and am cautious about just how liberal Mr Burks is, it is a milestone for our city that a candidate, once dismissed as not serious, has finally won.

In closing, I wish Mr Burks luck in this pursuit of his, and for a city with a newly re-elected Mayor.
” –Published 12/31/11

So, therefore, I introduce the candidates for Texpatriate Person of the Year, 2012:

Ted Cruz
While probably despised by the vast majority of my readers, no one can doubt just how amazing Mr Cruz’s primary victory over Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst was. In addition, he will now be the first Latino Senator from Texas, and is set to become a national figure.

Julian Castro
Much like Mr Cruz, Mayor Castro thrust this state into the national spotlight, though with good effect. As the first Latino keynote speaker at the DNC, he showed the nation a new face for Texas.

Sylvia Garcia
After being one of the many casualties of the Republican landslide of 2010, Commissioner Garcia has come back from the political dead to run for the late-Senator Gallegos’ seat. If she wins, this will be much more pressing, if she loses, it will be moot, and if the election does not occur until next year, I would probably also advise against the selection.

Mario Gallegos
Senator Gallegos unified the entire Houston-area Democratic establishment at the time of his death, something not easily done. While in office, he was a tremendously powerful figure, looming larger than life.

Annise Parker
Parker once again was a major figure in the news this years, providing over a non-contentious start to her second term. Considering the issues abound throughout her first term, that is quite an accomplishment.

Lane Lewis
After surviving a nasty, bitter fight to be the Chairman of the HCDP, Chairman Lewis has been unbelievably successful at his job, keeping Judicial losses this year to a minimum, while loosing neither Countywide office up for election.

Adrian Garcia
Speaking of countywide offices, the Sheriff did an impeccable job of fending off his re-election battle. Rumors of higher office are already abound.

Mike Sullivan
Being one of the few big Republican successes in Harris County this year, Councilmember Sullivan was the first CM to make the successful switch to higher office in nearly four years, on the heels of aborted or failed quests by Lawrence, Johnson, Adams, and Khan. Sullivan, as the new TAC, also did quite an admiral thing in his early retirement announcement, which set up a cheap, concurrent special election.

The “Dead” Voter/Voter Fraud
In honor of all those invisible people who commit voter fraud, and, according to the King Street Patriots, showed up to steal the election for the Democrats.

Also, add your own poll option. To stay in the style of Houston politics, we may or may not have a runoff poll.

https://texpate.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/poll-link/