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.

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An update in SD15

There are very few competitive primaries this year within the Harris County Democratic Party, but one of them is the race for the 15th State Senate district. The incumbent, John Whitmire, has served the area for over 40 years. After just 22 years nonstop without a primary challenger, he finally drew one in Damian LaCroix, a local attorney. The LaCroix/Whitmire race looks to be about as exciting as these things go for Democratic contests this next year. Accordingly, I have now met with both LaCroix and Whitmire separately to discuss this upcoming campaign. What I found led me to believe this will be the race to watch if one enjoys watching sparks fly.

Click here to read about my talks with both LaCroix and Whitmire!

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.

Annise Parker is not running for Governor

In case you were wondering. The question has been coming up, first in January and later in July, after her name popped up –along with that of Julian Castro, Wendy Davis and Bill White– in PPP polls for upcoming Statewide elections.

Somehow, amidst the rancor over HB2 and the drama over Campaign finance reports, I missed a tweet by the Mayor stating:

“LOL. I appreciate the encouragement to run for Governor, but I have the best job already and hope to keep it for 2 more years.-A.”

This does not come as a surprise to me, nor should it to really anyone. Parker is very obviously running for re-election, a race that will last until the middle of December if there is a runoff. If she were to run Statewide, it would require filing the signatures for the primary ballot about the same day as her third inauguration. There are some pretty outlandish politicians in Houston who would have the unmitigated temerity to do something like that, but Parker is not one of them.

I would feel like a bit of a schmuck if I wrote an entire post on how Parker isn’t running for Governor, because it is sort of like those headlines which triumphantly state that rain causes flooding: this shouldn’t be news to anyone. Instead, I’d like to read the tea leaves for what Parker’s future will look like.

I tend to think there is a very good chance (+90%) Parker will be re-elected, so this occupies her through January of 2016. She will be 59 at that point, and in no hurry to retire. The timing gives her a variety of options going forwards. First, as I predicted long ago, I think there could be a chance Parker will run for the House of Representatives, specifically Sheila Jackson Lee’s seat (though I doubt the two would actually run against each other). SJL will have been serving for 20 years by that point, though she will still be comparatively young.

The Congress option would probably be the only option where Parker would go straight into something else, politically speaking. Otherwise, she would most likely spend at least a year on a private company’s payroll, doing consulting or what not. She will have been on a civil servant’s salary for 18 years by 2016, she may want a change of pace.

Second, if Hillary Clinton runs (which I think she will) and wins (which I also think she will), Parker could easily get a job in the new Administration doing something. Again, this would be a good end-path for the Mayor.

Third, there is certainly still a chance Parker would run Statewide in 2018. Governor is probably not the most likely possibility, as I would put my money on Comptroller. The only problem with this, as I wrote back in August, is that Parker is liberal and lesbian, not the old, White, moderate man that Democrats in this State love to nominate. The African-American Democratic political community in this State has an unfortunate homophobic streak, which could complicate primary efforts. It would be a stretch, to say the least, to find Parker doing well on a Statewide ballot any time soon.

But the biggest priority right now is 2013.

A Dick at the Parade (and a Hall)

This past Saturday night, I had the pleasure of attending the Houston Gay Pride Parade. The event has been an on-again, off-again tradition among members of my family since the very first parade, in 1979. You know, when the guys dressed up as nuns and danced the can-can on the roof of Mary’s Lounge. Anyways, I saw most all of the politicians one would expect to be there, but a few popped out as odd exceptions.

First, it is without surprise that Mayor Parker not only actively participated in the parade, but was one of the Grand Marshals. In fact, her car was the first in the parade line. Other politicians such as Sheila Jackson Lee, Jenifer Pool, David Robinson, Mike Laster, Stephen Costello, Alan Rosen and others were also present, to nobody’s surprise.

The biggest surprises of the evening were seeing both Ben Hall and Eric Dick represented at the parade. I have never known either of these men to be especially strong advocates of the LGBT community, so I decided to inquire as to if they have a newly found respect for gay rights. Specifically, I asked the two if this meant they supported gay marriage. Ordinarily, I do not hold positions on national issues against local candidates, but since they made on issue of it first, I will follow up on the matter.

First, I contacted Dr Hall’s campaign. I contacted his campaign a variety of ways, but one of them included Facebook. I enjoy communicating via Facebook because it automatically notifies you when the recipient of your message has opened the attachment. Accordingly, I can see that the message I sent was opened, and was purposefully not responded to. Normally, this would cause me to deduct points from the campaign, but I will make a special exception for matters pertaining to Hall’s social media accounts. As the saying goes, “he knows not what he does.” I assume there was some error in communication between members of the Campaign Staff that prevented an orderly response to my inquiry. I hope, after seeing this, I can get a clear and concise answer from the Hall campaign.

Then, there is Mr Dick’s campaign. Dick was very quick in returning my request for comment, and I had a long, interesting conversation with him on the issue. Out of respect for his campaign and my personal standards of confidentiality, I am not going to publish the conversation we had verbatim, apart from some select passages. However, I will discuss the general theme of what he had to say and why it is so troubling.

First, Dick repeatedly denied the notion that his campaign was represented at the Pride Parade, countering that it was his law firm. However, a cursory search for his law firm, http://dicklawfirm.com/, shows that Eric Dick himself is the only attorney who works for the firm. Obviously, the corporation “Dick Law Firm” is a separate legal entity from Dick personally and from the Dick for Mayor campaign, but politics works on “close enough.”

Next, despite at one point calling himself the “Montrose Republican,” Dick declined to definitely support gay marriage. From what seemed to be from more of Libertarian than traditional Conservative point of view, Dick solidly put himself in the 41% of the country that still opposes same-sex unions.

“To be clear, I support traditional marriage but question governments role in determining or defining marriage.”

He also repeatedly noted that he believes that the LGBT community should get more involved within the Republican Party. Though I find it odd that any LGBT people would want to get involved with a party that actively opposes their right to marriage.

Make no mistake, Eric Dick does not support gay marriage. While some of my colleagues believe that Mr Dick is only in the Mayoral election to advertise his law firm, I feel as though he has a legitimate political aspiration. That being said, the float in the parade may have been nothing more than just that–a publicity stunt.

I don’t mind for someone to have an opposing opinion of mine, but I do expect them to be consistent in their opinions and actions. It is the height of hypocrisy to participate in the gay pride parade yet not stand up when questioned about gay rights, specifically gay marriage. His statement come across, to me, in my humble opinion, as a whimpering sycophant, seeking the approval of the crowd but when directly questioned, equivocates as to his approval on the issue at hand.

For the record, it was Dick’s suggestion that I use his surname in the title.

In re Redistricting Hearing

Last Saturday, I attended the Senate Redistricting Hearing. Perhaps something of a misnomer, the committee was not only considering the approval of Senate district maps, but also both the State House and U.S. House district maps. The Congressional maps were by far the most contentious, and the one I testified on.

The ratio of supporters to opponents of these interim, court-ordered plans was roughly 1-to-9. The vast majority of those who spoke did so critically, challenging the allegedly discriminatory elements of the map.

The most controversial aspects of the plan, and those two which I personally testified upon, were the butchering of Lloyd Doggett’s district and the horrendous gerrymandering of Blake Farenthold’s district such that he could remain in office.

Among the politicians I saw at this hearing, besides those on the Committee, were Sheila Jackson Lee, Al Green, Ronald Green, Mike Sullivan, Gene Wu and Larry Green. Numerous candidates were also in attendance.

My opinion on all this is that it will mean zilch when all is said and done. The Republican majority in both Houses of the legislature enjoy the current situation, which obviously benefits the GOP. Perhaps they are motivated by racism, but that isn’t important, because the Supreme Court will probably kill off the Voting Rights Act in the next couple days.

In re CISPA

This is a few days old–oh well. On Thursday, the US House voted 288-127 to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, also known as CISPA. The bill is more or less an even worse version of SOPA/PIPA. Most of my readers are in that small niche demographic who grew up their entire lives surrounded by technology, so, us Millennials by and large opposes any effort to have the government intrude into our personal lives on the internet.

Unfortunately, we cannot say the same of the octogenarians who dominate the halls of Congress (ok, they aren’t THAT old, but I couldn’t help to take a cheap shot at LaTourette), specifically from this great State. Of the eight or so Congressmembers who arguably represent part of Houston, Jackson Lee and Stockman were the only Representatives to oppose this Orwellian measure.

I wouldn’t expect any less from Gene Green but to support this crooked legislation, but I was deeply disappointed to see Al Green support the measure. Jackson Lee has always been a good liberal bastion, sometimes being one of the only Texas Democrats to vote against both DOMA and the PATRIOT ACT. It was refreshing, however, to see some of the other TXDEMs who voted nay. First and foremost, Lloyd Doggett, who has a sad history of voting for both DOMA and the PATRIOT ACT, voted against CISPA. Good for him.

Next, I was happy to see the young voting against this bill. Both Joaquin Castro and Beto O’Rourke, youngens with obvious high officer ambitions, voted against the act.

Again, not much of a point to make here, no commentary on the bill itself (you can tell my personal feelings), just wanted to emphasis how few of our Reps are from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.