What’s next for HB2?

The Texas Tribune reported, last Friday, that HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill famously filibustered by State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County) (who is now the Democratic gubernatorial candidate), has been struck down once more by a Federal Judge. This is somewhat old news, so I want to deal with a few pieces of the puzzle that have not been adequately covered by the mainstream press.

First, this news should ideally sound like deja vu if you have been paying attention. About 10 months ago, the same Federal Judge out of Austin –Judge Lee Yeakel (a George W. Bush nominee)– struck down other parts of the law. That ruling has since been reversed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, otherwise known as the Federal Appellate Court with jurisdiction over Texas. The most recent action in that case was a request by the law’s opponents for the entire Court, as opposed to a three-Judge panel, to consider the case. This was filed back in April, and is the most recent action taken on the case.

Accordingly, one may be confused as to how two concurrent lawsuits can be going forth on the same law. I’m glad you asked! The law was divided up into four separate provisions. The first and second provisions require inducing drugs to be taken at a clinic and require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, respectively. They took effect on September 1st of last year, and were challenged in the lawsuit from last year. The third provision, which would not have gone into effect until tomorrow, requires all clinics to adhere to the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, universally considered among pertinent professionals to be a wholly unnecessary regulation designed to drive clinics out of business. And, by all counts, it would have been.

The ASC requirement was the one challenged –and ruled unconstitutional– in the most recent court case. The fourth provision, which went into effect last year and bans abortion past the twentieth week, was never challenged.

Now, as long as we’re being realistic, it should be noted that this ruling will likely be stayed by the Fifth Circuit, much the way the previous one was. At some point in the future, the Fifth Circuit will fully overturn it. A little further down the line from that, the Supreme Court will step in, and likely consolidate the two cases, then make a ruling. It’s really anyone’s guess at that point.

As I have stated in the past, if the Supreme Court were to truly examine all the pertinent precedent in this case, the law would indubitably be going down in flames. But that simply is not a given anymore.

Abbott’s bad weekend

Perhaps this is old news by now, but on Friday the Houston Chronicle reported that Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, would be pulling out of one of two scheduled debates for the gubernatorial election, and the only televised one. Immediately, he was castigated by the usual suspects, prime among them State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. He also received some derision from Libertarians as well.

The debate was scheduled for September 30th at WFAA, the ABC affiliate in Dallas. However, after criticism from around the State, Abbott reversed course. In a somewhat cringeworthy about-face, Abbott announced he had accepted a nearly identical offer to participate in a televised debate on the same date at KERA, the NBC PBS affiliate in Dallas. A separate debate, schedule for September 19th in Edinburg, has always remained on the table.

Ostensibly, the excuse given by the Abbott campaign was that he had some anonymous concern with formatting. A weak excuse, by any stretch. Rightly so, as I just mentioned, he was bombarded by criticism from both the left and the right (granted, with more cacophonous critiques coming from the former). The 2010 gubernatorial campaign between Rick Perry and Bill White was arguably best defined by Perry setting the terms of the entire process. Perry came up with some exceedingly lame excuse to not debate White (and now, of course, the entire country knows why), and the entire State’s political intelligentsia (not to mention its at times obsequious-to-Perry press corps) did not bat an eye. Granted, there is something worse about chickening out after making a commitment, but at its core, Abbott committed the very same transgression. Except –and rightly so– he was almost universally chastised for this action.

This leads me to the bombshell that was opened up this morning on the front page of The Dallas Morning News. The report sheds light on a perilous raid that Abbott’s office ordered about four years ago for a group called “Houston Votes.” Accused of “voter fraud,” which the astute will recall just does not exist in meaningful numbers in Texas, Abbott’s office directed a SWAT team to burst into the offices of the group, heavily armed with guns drawn, for a raid to uncover any evidence of voter fraud. They didn’t find any, but they did succeed in destroying the organization. Abbott himself, for his part, claims total ignorance of the entire action. I suppose you could call that “Pulling a Reagan.”

The Morning News article then goes out of its way for a long discussion on the background of the issue. They discuss how immense pressure was first put on Abbott’s office to investigate by a Tea Party group called the “King Street Patriots.” They have, sadly to say, historically been a hothead of racial animus, and this controversy has proved to be no exception. The article notes reports from the KSP meetings that attempted to improperly tie Houston Votes with both ACORN and the New Black Panther Party, despite absolutely no evidence that any of the three were interconnected. Specifically in Houston, right-wing bashing of the New Black Panther Party is typically used as a catch-all dog whistle for blatant racism.

The full account provides some really fantastic background, and I cannot recommend enough reading the entire article; at this point, it’s all free online. But, in my opinion, this tidbit is particularly more troubling than the debate reversal. The connotation revealed is not necessarily anything that the well-read political class did not already know, but it is a good thing that the media can state once more unequivocally that Abbott is wholly beholden to Tea Party interests, many of whom are not –shall we say– “kosher” in their intentions.

At its core, in my humble opinion, groups such as the KSP are uncomfortable with Black people voting and becoming part of the civic process. This is the same group that sent “poll watchers” to minority neighborhoods, ostensibly in an effort to maintain the “integrity of the process,” but realistically as a way to intimidate prospective participants using Klan-era tactics.

The two options here are that either Abbott knowingly spearheaded this cluster of epic proportions (and then lied about it), or that he was asleep at the wheel. In both instances, be it negligence or malice, grave doubts should be installed in any voter of this man’s capability to be a lawful and effective Governor.

Brains & Eggs has more.

Texpatriate supports Death Penalty abolition

The death penalty has not really been the topic of political conversation of late. Earlier this month, Noah M. Horwitz wrote on how both gubernatorial candidates –State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democrat, and Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican– were tried and true supporters of capital punishment. Even Davis supported the expansion, much less continuation, of the mechanisms.

Now, the fact that both serious gubernatorial contenders support capital punishment should not be all that surprising. After all, recent polling suggests that more than 70% of Texans support its continued use. However, since 2012, the Texas Democratic Party has called for the total abolition of capital punishment as a part of its platform. Simply put, this board has eagerly been awaiting Democratic candidates to follow through with espousal of such a plank.

Davis supports the death penalty, but as best as we can figure out, so does State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Ditto for Sam Houston (Democrat’s candidate Attorney General) and Kim Ogg (Democrat’s candidate for Harris County District Attorney). So what gives?

The previous individual posts and editorials of this publication have certainly heavily suggested such a conclusion, but we are not completely sure if it has ever been unequivocally stated in print. To be clear, this board supports the total abolition of capital punishment. There are a literal plethora of reasons why the sentence is ineffective or overly pricey. And the process of lethal injection, particularly with recent shortages of execution drugs, raises important important questions about unnecessary cruelty. But the overarching concern with this issue is that, no matter which way it is carried out, the killing of another human who does not present any immediate or existential danger to another is morally wrong. That’s it.

This can be a religious issue, if one prefers it that way. The bible is pretty clear about the whole “Thou shall not kill” thing. But wholly separate from any religious influence, all people should agree that minimizing violence is an ideal way to run a civilization. Vengeance is not a healthy way to govern our laws. The entire reason why vigilante justice and lynch mobs are illegal is that primal reactions should not trump the established moral supremacy of due process and civil liberties.

But to humor the other arguments, it can be shown that death penalty does not deter violent crime. It’s not even an open question. Nor does it actually save money; every significant investigation has shown that it actually costs more money to follow through with a death sentence than the cheaper penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Furthermore, recent travesties in Oklahoma and Arizona have reopened debate on just how “painless” death by lethal injection actually is compared to other methods.

At the root of all these problems, however, is a fundamental moral hiccup with the idea that it is okay to kill another human being. We seriously do not see it as that complicated.

Likewise, it should not be all that complicated for the aforementioned Democrats to come down on the right side of this issue. There is something to be said for not going too far to the left in an attempt to remain viable to a more centre-right electorate. But the death penalty, an issue where people’s lives are quite literally directly at stake, is simply different.

Perhaps this board is too full of starry-eyed optimist. But we dream of a State where our politicians –ostensibly courageous public servants who will do what’s right over what’s popular– aren’t afraid of some mythical blowback for publicly espousing a position everyone already knows is being peddled in private.

The Texpatriate Editorial Board is comprised of Noah M. Horwitz & Olivia Arena of Austin, George Bailey of Boston, Luis Fayad of College Station and Andrew Scott Romo of New Orleans. Editorials represents a majority of the board.

Davis’ second TV ad

The Texas Tribune reports that State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, has released her second television ad, a real barnburner that seeks to connect her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, to the ongoing CPRIT scandal.

The ad, which I have embedded above, is a 30 second spot that interviews a gentleman named “Manuel,” who is a local cancer survivor. He lambasts Abbott for his role on the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas. “But Greg Abbott did his best to keep my prayers from being answered,” the gentleman said after alleging Abbott’s complicity in the scandal.

For those unfamiliar with the CPRIT scandal, it is a rather nebulous political drama that is not easily explained. The board doles out grants and other moneys to outside firms for cancer research. Shortly after its formation in 2007, the Chief Commercialization Officer of CPRIT, Jerry Cobbs, went out of his way to secure an $11 Million grant to Peloton Therapeutics, without completing the necessary business or scientific reviews. Not coincidentally, one of Peloton’s biggest investors was Peter O’Donnell, whose political records show evidence of him donating nearly $250,000.00 to Governor Rick Perry. The Governor, for his part, appointed most of the heavy-hitters involved in CPRIT, along with the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House.

Anyways, Cobber eventually got indicted by a grand jury following a long investigation by the Travis County District Attorney’s office’s Public Integrity Unit. CPRIT otherwise has a few other kinks of impropriety, including (but not limited to) the saga of Charles Tate, as well a high-level scientist on the board who blew the whistle a couple years back about how politics was trumping science when it came to grant considerations.

Now, the reference to the Public Integrity Unit should sound familiar, since its attempted defunding is at the center of the Rick Perry indictment. The more conspiracy-minded Democrats I know swear that the two are inexplicably mixed, and Perry’s attempted ouster of Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg was merely a veiled attempt to stymie the progress of prosecutors closing in on his corruption, making the funding veto a Texas-sized “Saturday Night Massacre,” if you will.

The only problem with this is that the facts simply do not support this view. An affidavit released by Perry’s legal team to the public on Thursday shows that the PIU investigation into CPRIT did not target Perry. Still, the whole issue feels a little dirty, which is why its use as the subject material of a television ad is not surprising. But why is it an ad against Abbott?

Abbott, in his official capacity as Attorney General, was an ex-officio member of CPRIT’s oversight board. Considering how much good the “oversight” did, in addition to the fact that Abbott did not attend any meetings of the organization, the Davis campaign has been frothing at the mouth for months for an opportunity to hit him. The Austin American-Statesman compiled a writeup of this line of reasoning back in May.

Once again, the issue with this is that Abbott always made it clear that he disagreed with the ethics of him holding a spot on the oversight board. He protested the appointment, and boycotted the meetings in defiance. The rationale used was that, if allegations of impropriety ever arose on the board, his office should be the primary investigators, something he would not feel comfortable doing if he had been a part of the process.

I don’t know how I feel about this ad, given the liberties it takes with the whole truth. It claims that Abbott was “charged with overseeing” CPRIT, which is a very far cry from the limited position he was ostensibly put in, before deciding to eschew that responsibility as well. I’m curious what the good people at PolitifactTexas will say about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the impropriety that occurred at CPRIT is objectionable, and I still think that it is an open question as to whether or not Perry knew of the bad stuff going on over there. But it’s only appropriate to push the sins of an incumbent onto his prospective successor if you are open about it (E.g., “Rick Perry did all this bad stuff. Haven’t we had enough Republican governors?”). There are plenty of skeletons in Abbott’s closets ripe for the picking, the subject material of Davis’ first ad to name one. But this attack just doesn’t pass the smell test.

Davis proposes overhaul of Rape laws

The Dallas Morning News reports that State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, has proposed an overhaul of sexual assault laws. Specifically, in a recent speech in Dallas, she proposed nixing the 10 year Statute-of-Limitations for rape, which in Texas law lists as a Second Degree Felony, with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison (Aggravated Rape, on the other hand, is a 1st Degree Felony). The article from the Morning News notes that the statute of limitations does not apply in offenses that involve a child in any way, or offenses regarding untested or mismatching DNA evidence.

Davis, for her part, has been remarkably focused on the topic of sexual assault. She has been a tireless force for ensuring local municipality’s police departments (Houston included) test their untested rape kits, and her first campaign ad was even totally centered on that topic. At a press conference a couple days ago in Dallas, Davis noted the stories of survivors of sexual assault, such as Lavinia Masters, who cold not press charges for the heinous attacks against them because the decade-long statute of limitations had run out.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, for his part, fired back by claiming that he is a vehement defender of survivors of sexual assault, and will intently prosecute all rapists to the fullest extent of the law. Granted, the Office of Attorney General is tasked with going after some of the worst-of-the-worst, including Statewide serial sex offenders, the same type of degenerate targeted by Davis’ announcement on this topic.

“Victims of sexual assault in Texas have no greater advocate than Greg Abbott, who as attorney general has spearheaded the arrests of over 4,500 sex offenders and awarded over $1 billion to victims of crimes like sexual assault and domestic violence,” Abbott’s campaign said.

Pointedly, I have not seen any evidence that Abbott has concurred to Davis’ suggestion, which I actually find surprising. Even in the midst of an especially bitter political campaign, there will always be rays of light that I would hope the two sides could ostensibly come to some type of consensus on. Strengthening penalties and laws on rapists should be one of those.

In an ideal world, this should be the type of no-brainer that both parties quickly attempt to claim as their policy, and the Legislature would quickly pass the fix next session. Unfortunately, Abbott may very well avoid taking a position on the issue, just because Davis made a note of her position on it first. That is unfortunate, not only for the Governor’s race, but for everyone in Texas, namely the victims of a horrible, horrible crime.

But  if Abbott continues to equivocate on this issue, Davis should show him no mercy. I can hear the television commercials now: “Wendy Davis is tough on crime; she wants to ELIMINATE the statute-of-limitations for rape. Greg Abbott wants to continue with business as usual.”

Will Wendy Davis approve this message? Only time will tell. The priority, though, should not be scoring political points, it should be improving our laws. Short of that, however, use it.

Parker, Councilmembers campaign against HB2

KROI (News 92 FM) reports that Mayor Annise Parker and seven members of the Houston City Council have signed a letter to the State Legislature lambasting HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill that State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County) famously filibustered last year. Specifically, they made a somewhat quixotic request for the Legislature to repeal the law, which is slated to close the vast majority of the abortion-providing clinics throughout the State. As I have explained countless times in the past, the law accomplishes four things. It requires certain inducing drugs to be taken the day before the procedure, it requires the doctors administering these procedures to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and it bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, the most onerous restriction is requiring all clinics to adhere to the standards of ambulatory surgical centers. This regulation will slash the number of clinics in the State from dozens to six or seven, all located within Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston or San Antonio.

“When the Texas legislature passed HB2, we knew Houston residents could be harmed by it,” says the letter. “We also knew that Houston would become one of the very few places left to get an abortion (and in some cases, any reproductive health care) in Texas, and that women’s health and lives would be put at risk because of that.”

In addition to Parker, seven members of the City Council supported the letter and signed their names to it. City Councilmembers Jerry Davis (D-District B), Ellen Cohen (D-District C), Ed Gonzalez (D-District H), Robert Gallegos (D-District I), Mike Laster (D-District J), Stephen Costello (R-At Large 1) and David Robinson (D-At Large 2) affixed their signatures.

The letter was likely compelled after Wendy Davis, now the Democratic nominee for Governor, visited City Hall on Monday, in order to give a speech on rape kit backlogs and how she has handled this issue in the past. Contrary to what some national publications, namely Salon Magazine, have said on this matter, the City of Houston or the Houston City Council did not officially take any action against HB2. Rather, the Mayor and a minority of Councilmembers individually expressed their personal opinions.

As I have said extensively in the past, Parker has taken a much stronger interest in seemingly non-local issues since the start of her second term, much less her third. By taking actions such as these, to those as innocuous as speaking at the State Democratic Convention, Parker insists that she is a force to be reckoned with in the future. It is an open secret around Bagby Street that the Mayor has statewide ambitions, and giving the left some red meat is a necessity along the way.

The Councilmembers, meanwhile, were a bit more surprising. Since abortion is not an issue that ever comes up on the agenda of a City Council meeting, I pass no judgment on whether a Councilmember supports such a letter or not. But the support of Councilmember Costello in particular was perhaps the most surprising.

Costello is a registered Republican, though he has a left-of-center streak on the City Council that has largely governed his representation. Last year, Texpatriate even rated him the best member of the City Council overall. But progressive positions on food deserts and budgets are a very far cry from a left-of-center perspective on the most polarized political issue. It is yet another open secret that Costello wants to run for Mayor, along with (among Councilmembers) Oliver Pennington and Jack Christie. However, Pennington and Christie, also Republicans, pointedly did not sign this letter.

The scuttlebutt around town is that Costello will be moving a few steps to the right for his Mayoral campaign, in order to distinguish him from partisan Democratic candidates and ostensibly appeal to the middle. But between his signature on this letter and his blockbuster vote for the non-discrimination ordinance, it looks less and less likely that that is the case. Good! It is welcome news to see Costello repudiating his party on both economic and social issues. I wish more Republicans would do the same.

Abbott, Davis on the death penalty

The Houston Chronicle reports that new questions have arisen in the Texas gubernatorial election over the continued use of the death penalty in the State. Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate, has slammed State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate, for allegedly too liberal views on capital punishment.

Specifically, Abbott points to a move Davis made in 2000, while a member of the Fort Worth City Council, to support a non-binding resolution urging a moratorium on the death penalty. When reached for comment, Davis reiterated her support for the positions that she espoused at the time, but noted that her concerns have all been mollified. Among them were concerns over innocence with the introduction of DNA testing, as well as opposition to executing those who committed their crimes as juveniles and the developmentally disabled. Since that time, to Davis’ credit, much as changed. The Supreme Court ruled on a series of landmark decisions —Atkins v. Virginia in 2002 and Roper v. Simmons in 2005– that prohibited the execution of those two respective categories of offenders. Furthermore, even Texas has made strides in recent sessions to mitigate the damage done by wrongful imprisonment. The Michael Morton Act, passed last year by the Legislature, is the obvious recent example.

Back to Abbott, he has harshly derided Davis for allegedly being somewhat “soft-on-crime” and an overall opponent of the death penalty. Davis, for her part, has fired back by claiming that she is –and always has been– a steadfast supporter of capital punishment, and would gleefully preside over it if elected Governor. In fact, she even touted her record voting for an expansion of the penalty –making it applicable to those who murder young children.

Another one of Abbott’s talking points is that the Texas Democratic Party, in its official platform, calls for the abolition of the death penalty. This much is true, but Abbott of all people should know the dangers of making such a claim. The Texas Republican Party’s platform is seriously riddled with heinous provisions, such as the endorsement of gay repair therapy, or urging the “rescinding of no-fault divorce.” In fact, last year at the Tribune festival, I pointedly asked Abbott if he supported repealing the entirety of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as his party’s platform supported. He said no. There’s nothing wrong with Abbott disagreeing with the crazy points in his platform, but that means there is also nothing wrong with Davis disagreeing with her party’s platform too.

I think the greater point here is over a severe political issue, and Davis’ reluctance to stand against a truly awful travesty. There is something to be said about not running too far to the left in a State as conservative as Texas, but not with this issue. Most people do not really care about the issue enough for it to be a wedge. If one is truly a zealous death penalty proponent, there are likely other confounding variables that would keep the individual far, far away from the Democratic Party (racism, for one).

The death penalty is immoral in every circumstance. Killing someone who is not presenting a danger to you (physical or existential) is wrong…that’s it. Hopefully, Davis can recognize that. Unlike every other domestic political issue, this involves life and death.

Wendy runs an ad! (and other updates)

On multiple occasions, I have stuck my neck out to say that State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, needs to run television ads. Among the reasons I gave was that her name recognition is already high, but it is mostly negative. Accordingly, she needs to run out of the gate and hit back hard at her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott. Detractors (also known as those happy campers complacent with mediocrity) retorted that Davis does not need to waste her money before Labor Day, because no one pays attention. My counterargument was that she does not need to buy much air time, but rather run an evocative ad that garnered her a great deal of earned media.

It looks like the Davis campaign took my advice, because that is exactly what happened.

The commercial, a 60 second spot entitled “A Texas Story,” tells the tale of a Texas Supreme Court case in the 1990s in which Abbott wrote the dissent. The case, Read v. Kirby Vacuum, was filed after a door-to-door salesman contracting with Kirby “brutally raped” a woman in her home after being invited inside to demonstrate one of his products. The woman, Dena Read (Editorial note: It is the editorial policy of Texpatriate to not print the names of victims of sexual assault, though Mrs. Read has previously volunteered her name to the press because “she believes she can have a bigger impact that way”), sued the vacuum company after realizing that the salesman, Mickey Carter, was on probation for a sex crime that should have disqualified him from the job, but the company did not “perform a routine background check.”

The case went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, where six justices (4 Republicans and 2 Democrats) ruled that, despite Carter merely being an independent subcontractor, Kirby was still negligent for not providing a background check because he used the Kirby name to get into Read’s home.  Two dissents were penned (both by Republicans), and one of them was by Greg Abbott, who has an Associate Justice on the Texas Supreme Court at the time. Abbott’s dissent was joined by yet a third Republican Justice.

The Associated Press summed up this case remarkably well back when it occurred in 1998. You can also read the majority opinion (penned by one of the Democratic Justices) here.

The ad is powerful for the obvious reasons, and Abbott’s campaign has already fired back claiming it was either irrelevant or untrue. I suppose the former claim has some weight, but PolitiFact stepped in yesterday and rated the factual claims in the ad as “mostly true.”

The Houston Chronicle provides fodder for some of the more legitimate criticisms of the ad, however. Namely, that the Davis campaign did not notify Read before launching the ad. And while the commercial did not mention Read by name, the specifics of it were unmistakeable. While a spokesman for the Davis campaign did say that Read was warned about this earlier this year, that is not sufficient.

Political scientists contacted by the Chronicle ranged from calling the revelation “political malpractice” to “a risk.” I honestly do not think it will cause too much of a ruckus for the campaign overall, but it is still in horrendously bad taste to exploit the victim of such a tragic purpose without her consent for political purposes.

Other than that, I thought the ad was a very effective political tool. Like I have said before, Davis needs to do two things: 1) get on television; and 2) go negative. This ad accomplishes both. A columnist in The Washington Post recently took Davis to task for the negative tone of the ad, shying away from substantive policy discussion, and I have only one response to the author: go cry me a river far, far away in your Ivory Tower. I would love more than anything to live in a peaches and cream and unicorns world where voters actually cared about substance or issues, but our reality is far different. Even if you have a sterling record to run on, fear is probably always better tactic; Annise Parker proved that last year.

And Davis isn’t Parker. She doesn’t have years of experience leading one of the biggest cities in the country out of the red and into the promised land. She’s a liberal State Senator. Her climb is significantly harder, and it is unclear how much this strategy will pay off. But it is undoubtedly preferable to the safe solution.

Speaking of which, the Houston Chronicle also notes that Rasmussen Reports has polled the Texas gubernatorial election once more. Davis’ deficit has actually decreased. She now trails 40% to Abbott’s 48%. Rasmussen meanwhile, now pegs the race as “Leans GOP” rather than “Safe GOP.”

rasmussen

The poll actually represents the first momentum in any poll that Davis has had since last summer. Back in March, Rasmussen estimated the race as “Abbott 53, Davis 41.” Accordingly, not only did Abbott’s lead shrink by 33% from 12 points to 8 points, but Abbott fell below the invaluable 50-percent mark in polling. Rather than Davis actually “closing the gap,” so to speak, in fact, the change had much more to do with Abbott’s support eroding faster than Davis’. While Davis actually lost 1 point of support, Abbott lost a whopping 5 points.

This poll was taken before the ad in question. I am truly eager to see what the numbers stand at as of next week!

Reality Check, Part IV

The Houston Chronicle reports that YouGov, in conjunction with both CBS and The New York Times, has conducted a nationwide poll of gubernatorial and senatorial elections. Overall, the poll shows that Republicans are doing very well throughout the country, and stand a significant chance (in their minds, 60%) of retaking control of the US Senate. As expected, the results paint a gloomy picture for Democrats right here in Texas.

In the race for Governor, the Republican candidate, Attorney General Greg Abbott, leads the Democratic candidate, State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), 54%-37%. A mere 9% are still apparently undecided. Similarly, in the Senate election, Republican incumbent Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) holds a 55%-38% lead, with an even smaller 7% still split between the two. The margin of error in both polls was small enough, given the huge lead one candidate commands, to be statistically insignificant.

govrace

The methodology in this poll, however, was suspect. The methodology used something called the “online panel,” which is rather new and untested form of polling. By randomly selecting internet users and then correcting for non-response in a way similar to most other telephone-based polling, Davis’ campaign has accused YouGov of being biased against Democrats since it excludes poorer, less educated and more Hispanic populations. Indeed, by YouGov’s own estimation, only 86% of Americans may be reached using the internet, far less than the 98% reached by comprehensive telephone polls. Landline only polls,  however, only reach 63%. YouGov, however, has a decent track record when it comes to accurately predicting Statewide elections.

senate

The important takeaway point from this poll is that some online sources can produce arguably reputable results. The Texas Tribune, for example, uses glorified opt-in online polling that is only slightly more accurate than drawing names out of a hat. Accordingly, while I will take this poll with a grain of salt, I will not wholly discount it the way I assume many of my Democratic establishment friends might.

All in all, the results are not especially surprising for me. Both Alameel and Davis are down 17. For comparison, Bill White (D) lost to Rick Perry (R) in the 2010 gubernatorial election by 13 points and while there was no Senate elections, Democrats lost the downballot races by, on avergae, about 17 points. According to this poll, Democrats are on track for another shellacking of 2010 downballot proportions.

I don’t really think that the race is quite for desperate for Davis; I tend to agree with PPP that her deficit is closer to 14 or 15 points. It is certainly still possible to catch up from that, but not probable.

As I have said ad nauseum over this summer, Davis (and Alameel too, for what it’s worth) needs to run TV ads. She just does. I recognize that conventional wisdom holds that, in order to conserve a political war chest, you do not go on the air until Labor Day, but conventional wisdom is going to deliver Davis a double-digit loss in November if it keeps calling the shots. The way I see it, she needs to double down and go big right now. A media blitz not only would deliver quite a lot of earned media, but it would present the opportunity for her to be put back into contention.

I am aware of the terrible downsides to this strategy. It could not be effective, and Davis runs out of money in late September or early October. She loses by north of 20 points. But the upside is that she could gain some traction. If Davis does not run ads until Abbott has already resigned himself to blanketing the airwaves, the result will be a wash.

Democrats can continue being smug in their ivory towers about polling methodologies and this, that and the other, but at the end of the day, Wendy Davis and David Alameel are at a tremendous disadvantage statewide going into the last 100 days. We –Democrats– have a choice to make. We can bury our heads in the sand and lament our best efforts when we are beat by 13-18 points in November. Or we can go for the gold and take a chance. I choose the latter. Do you?

 

Civil Affairs: Refugees

CIVIL AFFAIRS

Thousands of children, fleeing violence and deplorable conditions in their home countries, escape their own countries and arrive at the periphery of this one. They freely turn themselves in to the proper authorities, not seeking to evade the law but rather face the direct consequences of their own action. These children are convinced that even perpetual detention is preferable to the egregious state of affairs from which they came, in Central America.

Under normal circumstances, this humanitarian crisis would be treated exactly for what it is. Resources would be spent trying to assuage the suffering of these migrants, and ensuring that they are cared for, with all their needs met. Instead, partisan squabbles have bled over into this issue, with Democrats using the opportunity to score points with pro-Immigration Reform. More seriously, the Republicans have attempted to placate Tea Party concerns by adopting a hardline stance on this topic, threatening deportations for unaccompanied refugee children and eviscerating any semblance of humanity on the matter.

This cruelty came to a head today when Governor Rick Perry announced he was deploying approximately 1000 members of the Texas National Guard to the border region. The Washington Post has the full story on this topic, including the revelation that Perry wants his State Guard to patrol the border personally, a serious dereliction of duty and usurpation of the Federal Border Patrol’s responsibility. This much did not surprise me, what surprised me was the muted reaction from many of the serious rank-and-file in the Texas Democratic establishment.

“If the federal government won’t act, Texas must and will,” Wendy Davis, a State Senator and the Democratic nominee for Governor, said. “However, we should be deploying additional deputy sheriffs to the border like local law enforcement is calling for.”

Notice that Davis did not necessarily criticize the rapid buildup at the border, a stark departure from most of her contemporaries and colleagues on the slate. State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County), the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor, took a different approach.

“To strictly militarize the border won’t help us meet this unique humanitarian challenge,” Van de Putte said. Similar points of view were also echoed by State Senators Sylvia Garica (D-Harris County) and Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso County), as well as a few prominent State Representatives.

They are children. Say that again….out loud. Jockeying these poor kids around like some sort of partisan political football is not constructive, nor does it assist us in solving the obvious humanitarian crisis. Van de Putte and others get that, but evidently, Davis does not. This issue should specifically transcend whatever our simplistic policy disagreements on immigration reform and the like may be. I, for example, believe in largely open borders for all those willing to wait in line at a designated crossing and provide identification. I assume that most in politics would not take such an audacious stand on the topic, but I should share their opinion on this issue nonetheless.

It does not truly matter if you think these refugee’s adult parents, for example, should be allowed expeditious entry into this country with ease. The refugees are still figuratively knocking at our doors without shelter or the means to obtain it. It is our moral duty to absorb all such migrants.

But even humoring some of Perry or Davis’ points, what should this increased presence along the border do to assuage the humanitarian crisis in the Valley? Stand on one side of the Rio Grande with semiautomatic guns? I fail to see how one can adequately intimidate away these children, who are already freely turning themselves into the authorities.

This issue, perhaps more than any other domestic issue this summer, deserves a brave response from our political leaders, not muted and impotent replies. This is not mundane policy, these are people’s lives.

Brains & Eggs and Dos Centavos have more.