Castro confirmed by the US Senate

The San Antonio Express-News reports that Julian Castro, the Mayor of San Antonio, has been confirmed by the US Senate to serve as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The Senate vote was overwhelming, 71-26, and Castro will take office upon his resignation from the Mayorship, which he has held since 2009. I wrote extensively on this topic back in May when President Barack Obama first nominated Castro for the post, and suffice it to say I was not really a fan of the move. But more on this later.

First things first, the obvious question is who will be the next Mayor of San Antonio? The City Charter holds that the Mayor Pro Tem, currently Councilmember Cris Medina, would immediately become Acting Mayor in the case of the Mayor’s death, resignation or removal from office. However, in San Antonio, the Council would then choose a new permanent Mayor from amongst its ranks until the next regularly scheduled election, which is in May 2015. A number of Councilmembers have expressed interest in the appointment, and a couple outside actors –namely State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-Bexar County)– have also announced their tentative candidacies. I am not very well-versed in any of the inside politics of San Antonio, so I cannot offer any truly educated predictions about what will happen. Just expect fireworks.

Click here to read more!

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!

Other GOP runoffs

As I previously noted in my Dan Patrick analysis, there were three other Statewide GOP primary runoffs last night.  Ken Paxton defeated Dan Branch for Attorney General, Sid Miller defeated Tommy Merritt for Agriculture Commissioner and Ryan Sitton defeated Wayne Christian for Railroad Commissioner. In the former two contests, the clearly denoted “Tea Party” candidate defeated the “Moderate establishment” pick, whereas the latter race was significantly more nuanced. While Christian has a history in public office of using loud and obstreperous right-wing noise to the detriment of actual policy, Sitton also campaigned heavily on right-wing issues. For example, his campaign commercials discussed immigration policy, taking a hard stand on undocumented immigration, despite that it has little to do with the office of Railroad Commissioner, which regulates the oil and gas industries.

Specifically in the Attorney General’s race, Paxton won in yet another blowout, winning almost every county in the State, save a few in the Valley and along the Edwards plateau. The issue with Paxton is a novel one, as he has received no shortage of bad publicity this campaign cycle for some shady dealings. Paul Burka at Texas Monthly lamented Paxton in particular as both a “know-nothing” and someone likely to be convicted of a felony and disbarred. What a wonderful candidate for Attorney General.

Click here for the three obligatory charts!

Secretary Castro?

The New York Times reports that Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, one of the Democrats’ biggest rising hopes for the future of the State, is President Barack Obama’s pick as the next Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The incumbent Secretary, Shaun Donovan, looks to be the next Budget director (the incumbent budget director, meanwhile, has been tapped as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services). The reshuffling is important because Castro is not term limited out of office, as Mayor of San Antonio for another three years. Additionally, he reportedly declined an offer to become Secretary of Transportation.

Castro received the obsequious adulation one would expect from liberal lemmings upon hearing this news. I, of course, wish the best for Castro and honestly believe that he would make a very good HUD Secretary, but I lament the long term implications of such a change. However, first things first, San Antonio will have to choose a new Mayor. The Rivard Report notes that the San Antonio City Council must choose themselves who Castro’s successor will be. Likely a member of the City Council her or himself, but plausibly someone else as well. This successor will serve out of the remainder of Castro’s term, about a year.

Click here to read my take on this move by Castro!

On Net Neutrality

POLITICO reports that the FCC commissioners have approved a controversial new plan that eviscerates the principle of net neutrality for websites and internet service providers. Net neutrality is the long-honored belief that the internet should not have a “fast lane,” that is to say that service providers should not be able to slow down service for a specific person or website. To premise is actually quite simple, as a completely deregulated internet would surely cause fasting internet for those who could pay more. This would obviously stifle innovation and hamper one of the best things of the internet: its inherent equality.

Like so many other items, when President Obama was first running for office, he was a vociferous supporter of net neutrality. Now that he is in office, of course, this sentiment has been defenestrated, so to speak. The FCC is guided by five commissioners, all of which were nominated by Obama. Of those, three are partisan Democrats and two are Republicans. The final vote in favor of the new rules gutting net neutrality was 3-2, you guessed it, along partisan lines. However, Republican opposition was due far more to a proposal to classifying broadband services as a utility, which has great implications for the overarching regulations.

Click here to see who supports Net Neutrality!

Summer plans

Some of us will be working in Houston, some going abroad, but however this group will disperse, we will continue striving to bring Houston & Texas political news and commentary. At this time, however, we would like to discuss two specific political opportunities undertaken by members of this board.

First, George Bailey, the Bostonian of the Editorial Board (& a native Houstonian) has accepted a summer position in the office of Senator Ted Cruz, in Washington D.C. Accordingly, at this time George will refrain from writing anything on Sen. Cruz, and will abstain from any pertinent editorials on those subjects.

Second, Noah M. Horwitz, who is spending an extended summer in Houston this year, has accepted an offer to work on public relations and marketing issues with the Clifford Group. Some of these issues may be hot-button political topics that otherwise would receive coverage on Texpatriate. Accordingly, Noah will not write on any topics he is consulting on and will abstain from editorials on those topics as well.

Castro vs. Patrick

This evening, the Texas Tribune streamed a Univision debate between State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Harris County), the likely Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor, and Mayor Julian Castro (D-San Antonio), seen as a future Democratic candidate for high office. The debate, moderated by the Tribune’s Evan Smith, centered around immigration policy. It was sparked a few weeks ago, after a series of confrontational tweets on the parts of Patrick and Castro.

As some have already commented, the debate quickly focused upon political disputes and not too many issues of substance. Much to Castro’s chagrin, Patrick was also successful in infusing his favorite subject –abortion– into the mix. However, overall, the debate saw Castro figuratively wiping the floor with Patrick. Frankly, it was a beautiful sight, considering how long it has been since I have seen a Democrat do well in a debate. I attribute this success in equal parts to Castro, Patrick and the organizers of this debate. Most notably, the format allowed for the candidates to swiftly respond to each others’ points. All too often, the simple and elegant grace of the Lincoln-Douglas debate has been replaced by an ugly abhorrence consisting of sound bite after sound bite. Fortunately, the format of tonight’s debate allowed for Castro to call out Patrick on his –admittedly copious– taradiddles.

Please click here to read my full analysis!

In re Cruz’s endorsements

The Associated Press reports that Senator Ted Cruz, the quintessential Tea Party darling, has pointedly refused to explicitly endorse John Cornyn for re-election, or any other Senator for that matter. Cornyn, of course, faces strong tea party blowback for allegedly being insufficiently conservative.  His half-dozen or so challengers in the Republican primary look as though they may force him into a runoff election, something Cornyn himself has even admitted has a reasonable chance of occurring.

The common denominator among many, if not most, of these candidates is that Cornyn has been disloyal to Cruz. They point to differing ideologues governing both the government shutdown and the debt ceiling showdown. Cornyn, as the number two Republican in the Senate, had to eventually be one of the grown-ups in the room on both occasions, and voted to both reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. Neither or which were done with any preconditions, placing him squarely opposed to Cruz and in the cross-hairs of the Tea Party.

Oddly enough, Cruz’s comments consciously did not share any love for Congressman Steve Stockman –Cornyn’s biggest challenger– either. In fact, most respected Tea Party groups have publicly been distancing themselves from Stockman in recent days, many going as far as to “publicly disavow” him. Accordingly, it look like many individuals who otherwise have beefs with Cornyn would vote for him nonetheless in a hypothetical runoff mathcup against Stockman. This, even though many may have very well supported a third or fourth candidate –Dwayne Stovall, for example– in the preliminary primary.

Click here to read more about Cruz!

2014’s first big poll

The Texas Tribune reports on a very comprehensive poll they conducted over just about every competitive primary in the State. The poll has a fairly substantial margin of error (upwards of 6% in the Democratic primary, specifically), so that is something to bear in mind when analyzing the results.

Simply put, the results paint a bad picture for the Democrats. Back at that time, Greg Abbott lead Wendy Davis by only five points; today, Abbott’s lead has grown to Eleven points. Other polls paint a similarly bleak picture for the Democrats, especially considering that these Texas Tribune polls have historically been overly generous to the Democratic candidate. Just a few days after that original Tribune poll, Public Policy Polling (a historically very accurate pollster) estimated Abbott’s lead at a whopping fifteen points. Accordingly, I am eager to see just how bad off the Democrats are doing when PPP releases its triannual February poll any day now.

Also of note here is that these polls were largely conducted before the Ted Nugent scandal really blew over regarding Greg Abbott’s campaign. Therefore, one could plausibly assert that this poll overvalues Davis’ problems emanating from “Trailergate” while simultaneously not taking to account Abbott’s recent woes. Among other issues with this poll was a misleading discrepancy between “registered” and “likely” voters. Additionally, the polls completely disregarded the portion of the electorate still undecided. I have recreated these polls with the undecideds built into the poll, as well as only taking note of the “registered” voters.

Click here for full results and graph!

Civil Affairs: Gay Marriage

CIVIL AFFAIRS

Over the past few weeks, state Sen. Wendy Davis, the likely Democratic nominee for governor, has clarified her position on a number of issues, including the question of same-sex marriage. Almost nonchalantly, Davis lent her full support to the issue on Feb. 13.

“It’s my strong belief that when people love each other and are desirous of creating a committed relationship with each other that they should be allowed to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation,” Davis told the editorial board of the San Antonio Express-News. Immediately, Davis’ liberal supporters celebrated her newly expressed support for what many call the new civil rights movement of our generation.

However, what is far more impressive than Davis’ support itself is how normal it all seems. In this day and age, the only Democratic officials who still oppose same-sex marriage are holdover Dixiecrats (the colloquialism for close-minded Southern Democrats who stood in opposition to the Civil Rights Act) with fiercely conservative social views, such as Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AK) or Joe Manchin (D-WV). This is an amazing transformation from four — or even two — years ago, when Democrats, particularly in Texas, were enormously cautious on the subject. While many other Democratic gubernatorial candidates over the years have been unabashedly progressive on other gay rights issues, Davis is the first to lend full support to marriage equality on the campaign trail.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT THE DAILY TEXAN!