Supreme Court blocks HB2

The US Supreme Court has ruled in emergency fashion that invaluable components of HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill that Wendy Davis famously filibustered, may be stayed until appeal. Specifically, a provision that required all clinics to adhere to the standards of ambulatory surgical centers was put on hold, as was another in part. The provision that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital was set aside specifically for clinics in McAllen and El Paso, though not the rest of the State.

The ruling was 6-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the four liberals. The three arch-conservatives, meanwhile, dissented from the order. As most will remember, a Federal Judge struck down these provisions a couple months back, but a Federal Appeals Court lifted the stay while it considered the appeal. The Supreme Court today merely reapplied the stay of the Federal District Judge in Austin who originally ruled the law unconstitutional, Lee Yeakel. Last year, Yeakel also ruled other provisions of the law unconstitutional, in a suit that similarly was reversed by the Appeals Court, although the Supreme Court pointedly chose not to reapply the stay in that case.

The implications here are, in a word, huge. As noted above, the Court has decidedly not stayed previous decisions, often 5-4 and along party lines. The two moderate conservatives on the Court, Roberts and Kennedy, have for some reason decided to shift views on the topic. Perhaps it is because the full effect of the case would reduce the number of clinics in Texas to just 5 or 6, a horrifying lower number per capita than other states included Mississippi, which has only one. Whatever the rationale, the implications of this decision are rather significant. For the first time, I am even cautiously optimistic that the law could be struck down by the Supreme Court upon final appeal (which is still likely years off).

Additionally, this development will likely take everyone’s mind off of that silly Wendy Davis ad, which has been eating up a significant portion of the 24/7 news cycle recently. As unfavorable to Davis as talking about abortion might be, I would still reckon it is leaps and bounds above the fallout over her wheelchair ad. Anyways, that’s my two-cents.

As for the clinics closed by this law, they can now re-open. Sagacious followers of the press will be familiar with stories of clinics closing overnight and cancelling dozens of appointments along with it. Those clinics can now re-open and, hopefully, women can continue receiving the healthcare options they need.

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad debate

RGV Debate

On Friday evening, Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for Governor, and State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic nominee, squared off in the first of two general election debates in the gubernatorial campaign. The debate was minimally televised but livestreamed from McAllen. In a word, it was a disaster. In two words, it was an unmitigated disaster. The format of the debate was so terrible that it is literally incapable of being described in an artful manner.

Basically, the entire debate consisted of what would be referred to by those familiar with debates as a “lightning round.” One of the three moderators would come up with a fairly specific question, typically with some background, addressed to a specific candidate. No followup, no rebuttals and no clarification were made. Just a softball (given in advanced) lobbed right over the plate, and the same trite sound bites coming up again and again. The one exception to this rule was what they called the “Candidate-to-candidate questioning,” which consisted of a grand total of two questions. Davis took the opportunity to pontificate about one of her pet issues, with a thoroughly unremarkable question buried somewhere amid the rambling. Abbott asked Davis point-blank, “Do you regret voting for President Obama?” Davis, unsurprisingly, fumbled…Derek Carr style.

Longtime readers of my words will definitely know that I am no obsequious loyalist to Obama. I wouldn’t have been personally offended if Davis would have said “yes,” and then proceeded to list the multitude of reasons she supposedly would have an ax to grind against the President. It’s a reasonable strategy for a Democrat in a red state; it might end up working out well for Alison Grimes in Kentucky. Likewise, she could have stood her ground and defended the President against an increasingly out-of-touch Republican Party. Either option has some strengths, but her chicken way of equivocating was just pitiful.

Those questioners were out of place for Davis compared to the rest of the debate. Otherwise, she was knowledgeable, on-message and with no shortage of good zingers against Abbott. She wiped the floor with him on the merits, but –especially in a poorly formatted debate like this– that just doesn’t mean much anymore.

Abbott was totally dominant on style. He was sleek, polished and articulate. Davis was none of those. Most pundits have taken to the word “robotic” in describing Davis’ performance. Her monotone voice and general absence of delivery skills was quite apparent throughout the evening. As I have said many times over the past few months, Davis’ strength is not her innate political acumen. She has tremendous perseverance, courage and bravery, that’s what led her to the filibuster. Everyone obviously remembers that, but no one remembers any sound bites from her. And that’s what wins debates, not superior policy prescriptions.

Of course, I wasn’t surprised with Davis’ performance. And, please not forget, the worst part of the debate was its format. The moderators were some of the worst “journalists” I have ever seen. When one is an underdog like Davis, and the rules simply do not allow you to rebut the baldfaced lies lodged by your opponent, the odds are just stacked against you. That should be the takeaway lesson.

Nevertheless, both Abbott and Davis claimed victory in the debate. The Houston Chronicle noted this morning that they both a renewed sense of optimism on the campaign trail. In reality, however, this isn’t especially good news for the Davis camp. Even if, for the sake of argument, we say that the debate was a push, it’s bad news for Davis. With the polls putting her behind anywhere from 8 to 18 points, she needed a decisive victory on Friday night. Only the truly deranged would actually believe she actually achieved it.

Brains & Eggs and Texas Leftist have more.

In re Wendy Davis’ primary

The Texas Tribune reports on a growing cause for concern among Democrats statewide, Wendy Davis’ lackluster primary finish. State Senator Davis (D-Forth Worth), now officially the Democratic nominee for Governor, had a somewhat disappointing finish in the Democratic primary. She faced an individual named Ray Madrigal, who is a Municipal Judge in the Corpus Christi suburb of Seadrift, who spent $0 and engaged in absolutely no campaigning. However, somehow, Madrigal not only racked up over 20% of the vote, he won 25 counties (tied in 2 others), with nearly all of them being Hispanic majority counties.

Perhaps you should read that again: a perennial candidate with no experience and no serious outreach program soundly defeated Wendy Davis in the most strongly Democratic portion of the State purely on the basis of having a Hispanic surname. I make the distinction about Madrigal’s non-campaign because it has relevance when one compares this primary victory with Greg Abbott’s or Bill White’s. Abbott’s opponents engaged in campaigning; indeed, all three of them had campaign websites and one even submitted a Texpatriate Questionnaire. And yet, all put together, the three opponents conjured up less than half the vote-percentage as Davis’ non-opponent.

Click here to see the charts put together on this subject!

Guv update 11/9

The biggest news today in the gubernatorial campaign has been the filing of both major candidates, Attorney General Greg Abbott and State Senator Wendy Davis. The Texas Tribune reports on the development, happening on the very first day of filing for the 2014 primary. Abbott, in his filing ceremony, took the predictable step of castigating what he called “California-style liberalism” and painted Davis as a super-liberal. Davis, on the other hand, did not call out Abbott by name but did criticize the alleged ‘business-as-usual’ of Texas Republicans.

Abbott reiterated his strong opposition to abortion and support of HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill that Davis famously filibustered in June. Davis did not mention abortion once; but more on this later. Among other gubernatorial filers was Lisa Fritsch, a Republican. Also filing was the first Democratic opponent to Wendy Davis in the Democratic primary: Ray Madrigal.

Click here to read more about Davis’ Democratic opponent and other tidbits from her campaign!

Guv update 10/5

The Houston Chronicle, in the only gubernatorial news of the day, notes that Wendy Davis & the Texas Democratic Party will be campaigning at full throttle to turn out Latino Democrats from the southern Rio Grande Valley in the 2014 election.

The articles goes onto list two main, though distinct, priorities for Democrats in the valley. Admirably enough, these do not necessarily have much to do with gubernatorial election as much as they are simply systemic of a greater cause for the Democrats in this State.

First, the Chronicle notes that Nueces County, the home of Corpus Christi, really needs to turn blue once and for all. The county has long been on the fences, but swung very heavily to the right in the 2010 election. The result is having Blake Farenthold —this joker— representing the area in Congress. The county is 61% Hispanic, but is still dominated by Tea Party zealots. This is the future of Texas we are all looking at 30 years down the line, absent some big work. No matter what the demographic dividends have in store for us, if Democratic voters are too lazy to cast a darn ballot, nothing will get better. In fact, in the short term, it will probably get worse.

That is why the news of hearing that Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and the Texas Democratic Party have hired two full-term field operators for the valley, including one specifically for Nueces County. Additionally, Battleground Texas will begin investing some serious time and money into the area.

The other aspect of this strategy, which I am ecstatic about, is working to increase the margins in already blue counties in the valley. While the governments and local representatives in counties such as Cameron (Brownsville), Hidalgo (McAllen) and Webb (Laredo) are already dominated by Democrats, it would help immensely if they won by greater margins. This is because Democrats statewide would be given a boost.

The news is yet another item that gives me a tiny flicker of hope about 2014. It will be a competitive election, to say the least.

Donald Lee, 1934-2012

Donald Lee, a relatively obscure former State Representative from the valley who had gone missing from a nursing home a few days ago, was found dead in a nearby field Sunday. Lee, who had served in the Texas House from 1981 to 1987 representing parts of Brownsville and McAllen, had been a champion of the interests of people in the valley.

Evidently, Lee had only moved to the facility on August 20, and somehow disappeared without explanation three days later. The police said there were no signs of foul play, but irrespective this is a tragic, sad event. Texas has lost another good man, we don’t have many left.

The Statesman has more.