So far, so centrist

Governor-elect Greg Abbott, fresh off a 20-point decisive victory in the gubernatorial election, looks like he may govern from a less divisive point-of-view than his predecessor, Governor Rick Perry. Yesterday, the Texas Tribune reported that Abbott had made a pick for his Secretary of State, arguably the most powerful appointed executive office in the state. The secretary has broad powers over the legal and election portions of the state bureaucracy. Abbott selected Carlos Cascos, the County Judge of Cameron County (Brownsville). Cascos, a Republican, was first elected to the powerful county executive position in 2006, defeating the incumbent judge, Gilberto Hinojosa, who is now the Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.

Re-elected both last week and in 2010, Cascos has proven himself a rather middle-of-the-aisle pragmatist. The four County Commissioners that Cascos works alongside on the Commissioner’s Court are all Democrats. Abbott lost the county by 13 points and Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick lost it by about 22. Needless to say, Cascos is not a right-wing, red-meat conservative.

This is fairly significant, especially in light of recent appointments to the position. The incumbent Secretary of State is Nandita Berry, a lawyer from Houston who is perhaps better known as the wife of conservative shock-jock and former City Councilmember Michael Berry. Cascos, unlike Berry, is not a pick designed to fire up the Tea Party. Rather, he is a choice who is meant to court support from Hispanics and independents.

In comments made after announcing his nomination, Abbott honed in on innocuous issues such as water conservation, mostly straying from divisive issues. In recent days, however, Abbott — who currently also serves as the Attorney General — has noted that he may sue the Federal Government in the near future is President Barack Obama takes any unilateral action on immigration reform. Fortunately, this type of talk has been the exception and not the rule in recent days from the Governor-elect.

I briefly talked about all this last Friday in The Daily Texan, noting that Abbott has been placed in an extremely important position to guide the politics of the state throughout the next biennium.

“While a Senate run by Patrick and packed with his friends would likely pass these measures, they could easily find themselves slowed in the House of Representatives, where Speaker Joe Straus, a comparatively moderate Republican, still reigns supreme,” I wrote. “Straus, left to his own devices, is not much for divisive social issues.”

The Daily Texan Editorial Board also examined what Abbott might do specifically for UT. An alumnus of the university, Abbott will not likely be so damaging for the Longhorns as the incumbent.

“Unlike Perry, Abbott is not so ideologically opposed to the humanities,” we wrote. “His campaigns have not been so heavily underwritten by, nor as closely associated with many of these individuals with a stake in dismantling the University.”

Now, I will freely admit that I am largely grasping at straws here. Abbott has made one appointment, and a whole lot can change when push will come to shove, so to speak, in the near future. But his general demeanor in the past eight days as the Governor-elect, including an apparent willingness to eschew Perry’s controversial Texas Enterprise Fund, should serve as promising signs that perhaps Texas’ 48th Governor will be more centrist than its 47th.

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Texpatriate endorses in Republican Agriculture Commissioner runoff

The Agriculture Commissioner is one of the most respected and powerful posts in the State, a steward of all things related to food, as well as a few other miscellaneous duties involving gas pumps and other odds and ends. For years, the Texas Farm Bureau has played kingmaker for this post, not only when Democrats carried the day in Texas, but for the past two decades of uninterrupted Republican rule. This year, they endorsed J. Allen Carnes in the Republican primary, something we later did too.  For all our efforts, Carnes came in dead last, and a runoff election has now emerged between Sid Miller and Tommy Merritt, two former State Representatives from the rural portion of the State.

The two men have somewhat similar stories, in that their service in the Legislature often consisted of right-wing grandstanding, and that they were both ultimately defeated for re-nomination in the 2012 Republican primary. Merritt was defeated by the more conservative David Simpson, who has since become a stalwart of Tea Party causes in the legislative. Miller, for his part, was defeated by J.D. Sheffield on account of allegedly neglecting the needs of his home constituency. Both men are lacking in the Agricultural credentials, to say the least, although the same thing could be said ten times over on the other side of the aisle.

Please click here to see who we choose!

2013 results and analysis

We’re working on trying to abridge the hours and hours of livestreamed Texpatriate election return coverage into about 20 minutes of the top hits. Yesterday, our all-time view record was demolished as thousands of people appeared to come to our website to read up on candidates before they voted. Additionally, Richard Nguyen, the victor in District F, had little impact on the internet besides his interview with Texpatriate.

First and foremost, Mayor Annise Parker was decisively re-elected to a third and final term as Mayor of Houston. She cruised to over 57% of the vote, far outpacing the amount of the vote she received in 2011. Meanwhile, Controller Ronald Green also was re-elected, albeit by a much smaller margin. The only surprises amongst City Council races were in At-large 3 and District F, respectively. Otherwise, most incumbents cruised to re-election.

All nine Statewide propositions passed, as did Harris County Proposition 1 (the joint processing center/jail). The Astrodome referendum, however, did not pass, as the iconic 8th Wonder of the World now looks condemned to demolition.

Click here to see full results and read more!

Final Chronicle endorsements

The Houston Chronicle has made its picks in the final four City Council races, as well as for the Constitutional Amendments. All the amendments were endorsed, and the Chronicle backed two incumbents (C.O. Bradford & Jack Christie), as well as made two selections in open seats (Graciana Garces & Rogene Calvert).

First, in this editorial, the Chronicle’s board summarizes the nine constitutional amendment, offering up absolutely no commentary on the matter besides “the Chronicle endorses all nine [amendments].” If you want a little more discussion on the matter, though agree with the editorial line of the Chronicle in this specific instance, I recommend consulting Texpatriate’s endorsements on the amendments (1-5;7-9 and 6). Burnt Orange Report also announced its endorsements in Constitutional amendments yesterday, though it is relevant to mention that they disagreed with both Texpatriate and the Chronicle in opposing Proposition 3 and Proposition 7.

First up, the Chronicle endorsed C.O. Bradford for a third and final term at At-large position #4. The editorial board goes out of its way to compliment Bradford’s recent commitment to changing the City Charter on certain items such as giving At-large Councilmember specific portfolios. He was also lauded for drainage issues, as well as providing an acceptable response on the Chronicle’s pathological obsession with pensions (specifically, “meet and confer”).

Click here to read more about the other endorsements!

Prop 6 is popular

The Texas Tribune reports that a recent poll taken on Prop 6, the water funding measure, finds the measure is very supportive among Texans. The poll also reported some other odds and ends, let me reprint the results and then delineate the implications below:

1. Do you support Prop 6?
55% YES
20% NO

2. Should the Legislature over Voters have the final say on this issue?
75% VOTERS
16% LEGISLATURE

The poll also offered a glimpse into some personal questions about the average polled Texan, including a few I felt really stood out.

3. What are your feelings about the bible?
38% Word of God, but not literal
35% Word of God, word-for-word literal
22% Word of Man

4. How important is religion in your life?
49% EXTREMELY IMPORTANT
29% SOMEWHAT IMPORTANT
10% NOT VERY IMPORTANT
13% NOT AT ALL IMPORTANT

5. How often do you go to church?
16% MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK
21% ONCE A WEEK
12% A FEW TIMES A MONTH
24% ONE OR TWO TIMES A YEAR
27% NEVER

Read analysis below the jump

Texpatriate endorses in Proposition 6

This board recently made endorsements in all the statewide constitutional amendments, colloquially known as propositions, except for this one. Proposition 6, a measure meant to help alleviate the State’s longtime and worsening drought, has received bipartisan support throughout the legislature and the State’s political structure.

The proposition withdraws about $2 Billion from the rainy day fund and specifically earmarks the money for water projects. These projects would be used for a diverse array of projects, including rural development, conservation and sustainability. Given the hyperconservatives who support this legislation, including many members of the Senate, this board remains satisfied that the earmarked money will be used responsibly for worthwhile services and projects.

This simply leaves the question to this board of if the State can afford to withdraw $2 Billion from the rainy day fund for this project. This board’s responsive axiom is that the State simply cannot afford not to. One member of this board lives in Austin, a place where droughts are far more severe than in Houston. Within the hill country, the severe drought suffered by Texans in 2011 never really ended.

As more and more of this State’s lakes and rivers are drying up, the State is forced to take meaningful, comprehensive action. The Water joint resolution proposed and passed by the State Legislature was one of the most thoughtful, pragmatic, bipartisan pieces of legislation there was in this previous session.

While this board laments the ignorance of many in this State who deny the convincing science pointing to man-made climate change, we are happy that, at least, solutions may be made to some of its symptoms.

Accordingly, this board endorses a yes vote on Proposition 6.

Houston & Prop 6

The Texas Tribune reports that, on the fight to ensure this State’s water funding, Houston will be the epicenter. Simply put, in off-year November elections, Houston is the only major city in the State to hold municipal elections. Accordingly, it is the, for lack of a better term, mother load, of votes in these Statewide referendum votes.

The article by Ross Ramsey in the Tribune estimates about 35% of the Statewide votes will be coming from the Houston area. In addition to the Mayoral/municipal elections, the Tribune also cites the Astrodome referendum that will be on the ballot this year for all of Harris County. The County, of course, is over twice the size of the City.

All of this presents an interesting conundrum for the rest of the city, which is desperately in need of anything to help solve our State’s desperate water crisis. While the vast majority of Texas has been incessantly afflicted by drought for the past few years, one of the only exceptions has been the Houston area. By far the wettest part of the State, there is an interesting irony in that region will be asked to approve a huge bond measure helping to solver the water crisis.

As I have spoken on before, the Water funding amendment is a good piece of legislation. It would be an awful shame to see it go down and fall prey to Tea Party anarchists. Luckily, I would suspect the crowd voting in the Houston Mayoral would be somewhat left-of-center. But that is a long ways off and we have very little information.