The Speaker’s race that wasn’t

State Representative Joe Straus (R-Bexar County), the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, is a dying breed. A comparably moderate Republican, he runs the chamber based on the consent of its members (a novel concept). Instead of groveling to the whims and caprices of the majority of the majority, like Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) or soon-to-be-former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)  in Congress, Straus actually gives a voice to all proposals with majority backing. Often times, these are red-meat conservative proposals, like solving the non-existent problems of voter fraud and unsafe abortion clinics, but they have sometimes been realistic and sensible ideas to solve the state’s problem.

Straus, of course, came to power by aligning himself with the Democratic caucus, and has remained in office largely through their toleration. In 2009, after three disastrously controversial sessions under the stewardship of Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland County), Straus overthrew the incumbent and has been distrusted by the most extreme factions of his party ever since. Some have a pathological hatred of anyone who work with Democrats and some are just anti-Semites (Straus is Jewish), but the main point is that the Tea Party and Straus go like water and oil.

A few names have popped up over the succeeding sessions to challenge Straus, but they have — without exception — dropped out before the actual vote came up. State Representative Scott Turner (R-Rockwall County), who is challenging Straus ahead of the 2015 session, says he will stay in until the bitter end to demand a vote.

However, the evidence is just not there that Turner can mount anything close to a credible campaign. If he gets more than 25 votes, I will legitimately be shocked.

First, let’s do some simple math. There are 150 members, meaning roughly 76 are needed to secure the gavel. We can put the 52 Democrats in as a given for Straus; they’ve supported him before and will be sure to do so again when the only other option is Turner, arguably too cozy with moneyed right-wing interests. Granted, one Democrat, State Representative Mike Villarreal (D-Bexar County), has resigned and his seat will not likely be filled by early January. Thus, for the sake of argument, there are 51 Democrats.

Then we can toss in 7 Tea Party-affiliated Representatives from the DFW portion of the state, who recently signed an open letter (Letter 1) stating their support for Straus. They are State Representatives Myra Crownover (R-Denton County), Giovanni Capriglione (R-Tarrant County), James Frank (R-Wichita County), Phil King (R-Parker County), Tan Parker (R-Denton County), Ron Simmons (R-Denton County) and Drew Springer (R-Cooke County). Capriglione, a true Tea Party darling, publicly announced and defended his support for Straus at the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party, one of the most infamously anti-Straus organization. It was quite the spectacle. Anyways, that brings the total up to 58.

Today, a further 7 State Representatives and State Representatives-elect publicly backed Straus, in yet another open letter (Letter 2). They are Trent Ashby (R-Angelina County), Cecil Bell (R-Montgomery County), Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches County), John Otto (R-Liberty County), Chris Paddie (R-Harrison County), Dade Phelan (R-Jefferson County) and Gary VanDeaver (R-Bowie County). The two open letters, respectively, touted Straus’ conservative credentials (first accessed via Quorum Report, though the letters themselves are open). This now brings the total up to 65.

Straus can be counted upon to vote for himself, as can be some of his closest lieutenants: State Representatives Byron Cook (R-Navarro County), Charlie Geren (R-Tarrant County), Jim Keffer (R-Eastland County) and Jason Villalba (R-Dallas County). That brings us to 70.

Now, I’m just spit-balling here, but if I had to name six more supporters, they would be State Representatives Drew Darby (R-Tom Green), Sarah Davis (R-Harris County), Kyle Kacal (R-Brazos County), J.M. Lozano (R-Kleberg County), J.D. Sheffield (R-Coryell County) and John Zerwas (R-Fort Bent County). They have not made official statements, but I would be very surprised if they voted the other way. Your mileage may vary.

That’s just math, folks. But the good news is that, at the end of the day, Straus will still be in charge for the 84th Legislature. In all likelihood, another faction of six or seven conservative Republicans will rally to Straus’ side tomorrow or the next day, and make my guesses moot. Scott Turner just will not win. Full stop.

I obviously think Straus is more moderate and pragmatic his opponent, but that is not really the reason I am supportive of him. Lest the liberals think he will secretly go along with their agenda, like many on the far-right believe, Straus will put up disastrously extreme pieces of legislation this next session, for the simple reason that they will pass easily in the heavily Republican chamber. But he will do so as a result of the consent of the members, not because of any despotic proclivities or loyalties to outside parties. By that standard alone, he is better than Craddick, Turner or anyone else Michael Quinn Sullivan might prop up next.

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Who is running for Governor, again?

Who is running for Governor, again?

I meant to write this a few days ago. Anyways, BOR had this obnoxious little piece about the gubernatorial candidates. The piece mentioned six gubernatorial candidates (three being defied “on deck” and three as “long shots”). Mike Villarreal (a San Antonio State Rep), Kirk Watson (a Austin State Senator) and Bill White are the ones who are “on deck,” as BOR puts it. Rafael Anchia (a Dallas State Rep), Wendy Davis and Julian Castro are the ones who are less-likely, I suppose. I have a few comments on this.

First, I cannot say that I am surprised that the Austinites have to throw a bone to one of their own. I really like Sen. Watson, for the record, and think he would make a good statewide candidate, but I cannot find any other site which validates this little factoid. However, I seem to remember a very-similar rumour in 2010, which turned out to be completely, totally and utterly false.

Second, I really would not call Bill White “on-deck” for a gubernatorial run, or really anything in politics. Again, I don’t know where they’re getting this info, but even the adults in Houston political blogging haven’t been talking about this. Even if there is some movement about White’s candidacy, I would not venture to call his odds in an echelon above Sen Watson or Mayor Castro.

Finally, most perplexing in my opinion, is how completely different these names are from the ones I’ve been hearing of recent in other blogs. Kuff has been talking about Cecile Richards, Henry Cisneros and Rodney Ellis, and BOR did not even touch upon it. I find this a little perplexing. I’ve had problems with BOR’s reliability in the past, and I generally will trust fellow Houstonians first and foremost, but that’s just me.

Okay, goodnight. Soaking up everything that is Houston right now, leave for Austin on Friday.

 

Midterm shuffle

Midterm shuffle

First off, I have not been writing much of recent. There are two reasons for this. First, nothing really goes on in local politics around Christmastime, but much more pressing, I have been on a vacation. I just got back to Boston yesterday, and after a stressful night (the airline lost my luggage), I have finally settled back into the swing of things. Fortunately, that means I will be back to my schedule of about 7-9 articles during the schoolweek, and one on Saturday. Now, for the fun, enter General Abbott.

WFAA, the ABC affiliate for the metroplex, is running a story about our dear Attorney General, saying that he is telling big money donors that he is running for Governor. The sharks are officially in the water. Just like Staples and Patterson and Combs jumping on Dewhurst after they smelled the blood from the failed Senate bid, Abbott is biting Perry after his embarrassing quest for President. So, this sets off what I like to call the “midterm shuffle.” For this, I would like to talk about two categories: People & Titles.

In the people department, we have Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, Greg Abbott, Jerry Patterson, Todd Staples, Susan Combs, George P. Bush, and probably a few more as the year goes on. In the title department, we have Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Land Commissioner, Agriculture Commissioner, and Comptroller.

Perry is officially, unofficially running again in 2014. There is a rather humorous twitter page for the presumptive campaign here. Otherwise, there really is not very much legitimate literature on the Governor’s plans.

Dewhurst is, however, officially officially running for re-election next year. Patterson & Staples are running against him. Meanwhile, Combs is still unofficially unofficially running for the position.

The Agriculture Commissioner’s office and the Attorney General’s office looks vacant then, as does the Comptroller’s is Combs decides, indeed, to run. Last but certainly not least, George P. Bush is unofficially, officially running for Land Commissioner. If this is started to make your head hurt too, you’re in good company.

Perry on Koutze

Perry on Koutze

Governor Perry recently skyped with the Koutze County cheerleaders, where he quoted the Bible to defend their religious signs, equating their struggle to the disciples of the New Testament.

BOR makes a point of juxtaposing this with the recent memory of the Governor calling on “Christian warriors” to fight Obama and Satan attempting to limit religion in the public square.

The rallying cry has now been the sign you see above, “If u [sic] don’t like it, leave! Cause we believe.” This seems to be the first defense of the neocon when trying to support dangerous nationalism or what not.

However, that is not what this country is about. Freedom of religion means freedom FROM religion, which means the Government may not do anything to support one religion over another or religion over lack thereof. Governor Perry and his friends seem to discuss the atheists and the ACLU “imposing” their wills upon America, but this is simply not true. In a secular country, people can still pray individually and do as much public expression of religion in the private sphere.

It is the theocrats who wish to “impose” their will upon America. I’ll level with y’all, I’m not an atheist. But I get quite uncomfortable when religion is discussed in a group setting, and it always angers me if that is a Government setting.

So, my parting words, to the ladies of the Koutze High School Cheerleading Team and their advocates within Government: if you don’t like the system we have here–a separation of the church and the state–YOU can leave. You all can move to a true theocracy, like Iran!

“I am not a Liberal”

My roommate has an alarm that consistently goes off in the early morning, irrespective of whether he gets up or not. The alarm is a song that beginning with the audible word of “Craziness” before descending into a sub-par Chinese song that is unintelligible to me.

Well, that seemed to be what last night’s debate was like. I keenly remember Sadler calling Cruz “crazy” a few times, and then the event drifted into gibberish and pedantic drek. The two did not seem to get to very much policy, which was somewhat disappointing, but traded quite a few ad hominems and other oddly placed insults, jabs, and gibes.

In re the Seinfeld Reference:
In what I cannot overstate enough tarnished my respect for Paul Sadler, he took the bait and took offense to Ted Cruz calling him a “liberal”. This has always reminded me of the Seinfeld scene where Kramer accuses Jerry of being discriminatory against dentists. The fact is that Ted Cruz is simply calling his opponent by his political affiliation. It makes Sadler look quite weak when we runs away from honest labels like a scared, little mutt. If he had any real chutzpah, he would explain what it means to be a Liberal (e.g., have a heart like Roosevelt, Kennedy, Clinton) and why a Liberal would be good for our state. Instead, he legitimized Cruz’s preposterous insult by simply refuting it on face value.

Kramer: …and you’re an anti-Dentite
Cruz: “I commend my opponent’s courage in running an unapologetically liberal campaign”

Jerry: I am not an anti-Denite!
Sadler: “Do you consider it Liberal to say we have to pay down the national debt?”

Yes, Paul, yes I do find it Liberal to be concerned with our deficits. The last true Liberal we had as President did exactly that, but I digress. With this stupid turn, the Democrats have taken the bait and lost their 9th Senate election in a row in Texas.

Endorsements: Yellow Dog

Endorsements: Yellow Dog

This is Tilly, my yellow dog. She isn’t very bright but I would vote for her over quite a few candidates for political office this year. Some of these candidates have formidable Democratic opponents, but the common denominator is that I would vote for the Democrats in these elections even if it were a yellow dog.

**President**
I endorse the incumbent, Barack H. Obama, for re-election. Yes, I support the President on most issues, but with Romney on the other end, it was a pretty easy choice.

**US Senate**
I endorse former State Representative Paul Sadler. As opposed to a few of the sorry fellas that the TXDEMs have put up over the years, I actually do really like Sadler. It does help, however, that he is running against the guy that makes Dewhurst look sane.

**US Representative 2**
I endorse the Democrat, Jim Dougherty. Congressman Poe, as much as he had previously garnered a good deal of respect from me, lost it all last term as he made fictitious statements about voter fraud, skirted on the edge of birtherism, and played the “Obama-is-an-anti-Israel-anti-semite” card, which I take very personally.

**US Representative 7**
I endorse the Democrat, James Cargas. In 2010, I had to pick Tilly because there were no opponents to Culberson. Culberson is my congressman, and such, we have had a very special relationship ever since his office blocked my email address when I was in the 9th grade. From making garbage up to try and destroy the METRORail, to more extremism, to only proposing one bill over the last few years, I hold a particularly disdain from the honorable Congressman from Texas, and such I am happy he has drawn good enough of an opponent in Cargas.

**US Representative 9**
I endorse the incumbent, Al Green.

**US Representative 10**
I endorse the Democrat, Tawana Cadien. Congressman McCaul, as the richest member of Congress, has done nothing to refute the presumption that he is out of touch, in fact he has exacerbated it.

**US Representative 14**
I endorse the honorable former Congressman, Nick Lampson, for reasons stated in previous posts.

**US Representative 17**
I endorse Tilly. The district formerly held by Chet Edwards, a Democrat, as late as 2010, is now held by Republican Bill Flores. Flores did not draw a Democratic opponent.

**US Representative 18**
I endorse the incumbent, Sheila Jackson Lee.

**US Representative 22**
I endorse Tilly, again. Congressman Olson is just as far right as Tom DeLay, and his Democratic opponent belongs to the LaRouche cult (I didn’t even know that still existed).

**US Representative 29**
I endorse the incumbent, Gene Green.

**US Representative 36**
I endorse the Democrat, Max Martin. He was the only Democrat to sign up for the primary that twelve Republicans duked it out for. That takes chutzpah.

For further reference, I endorse all the Democrats in the Houston area running for the State Legislature. However, I try to endorse a few Republicans when it comes to county jobs. Stay tuned.

In re Lampson

In re Lampson

What can I say about Nick Lampson, that hasn’t already been distorted and twisted by his opponents: Ted Poe, Tom DeLay, Pete Olson, and Randy Weber. Well, I can repeat some truths, but this isn’t about yesterday it is about tomorrow.

Lampson, a Beaumont native, is now running again to represent Beaumont, along with Galveston and Brazoria County. A recent poll shows Lampson leading 47% to 45% against his opponent, Randy Weber. Now, while this is indeed the 14th district, the same district Ron Paul currently represents, it is a very different district now. Paul’s hometown of Lake Jackson is still in the District, but the vast majority of the District, the coastal region stretching from Brazoria to Rockport, is gone. District 14 now stretches to the east.

This is a great district for Lampson, perhaps the best opportunity he has. Lampson is not a Houstonian politician, nor will he ever be, his chances for success lay outside the city limits. So if you said, “Noah, design a district in East Texas for Democrats without using any of Houston”, this is pretty much exactly what I would come up with. Jefferson County, with its heavy African-American population, is still strong for Democrats and is Lampson’s hometown. Galveston, despite heavy losses in 2010, will still be a reliable post for Democrats in a presidential year. Brazoria is a pretty strong Republican stronghold, but the want is for Lampson to cancel out the influence by strong showings in the east.

The 14th District will not vote for Obama, but depending on how well Obama does in the district could make or break Lampson, who despite doing better than the President will still be inevitably connected to his performance. Minorities and the Poor, those disproportionately affected by the Voter ID Law (which has struck today), will need to show up in droves in both Beaumont and Galveston for success. For our sake, I hope they do.