Good morning Austin:
Jeb Bush is back in political life. Leticia Van de Putte is out.
And it would appear Julián Castro’s chances of being the next vice president of the United States are a little more remote this week than they were last week.
From Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti and Annie Karni earlier this month:
The Democratic National Convention isn’t for 13 months, and Hillary Clinton isn’t the party’s nominee, but some Hispanic Democratic leaders are already pushing hard for Julián Castro to be her running mate — or at least a top contender for the job.
The former San Antonio mayor and current housing secretary was in Washington while Clinton raised money in his hometown on Wednesday, but his name is on the minds and lips of Democrats close to the Clinton camp as the presidential front-runner crosses Texas for campaign fundraisers and a Houston speech on Thursday.
The flashy trial balloon and Castro’s innate appeal have likely ensured the Mexican-American Cabinet member a place on Clinton’s vice presidential long list if she wins the nomination, Democrats close to Clinton said. But Castro hardly has any relationship with the candidate herself, and the effort has gotten a mixed reception at best.
Democrats say it’s far too early for this conversation — arguing that it’s unproductive to talk about a general election ticket when Clinton is battling three other declared Democratic candidates and the ever-present perception of inevitability.
What’s more, several Democrats warned, Castro’s backers run the risk of overplaying their strong hand.
“If I were Julián Castro I’d be worried,” said one Clinton ally with an eye on Democrats’ efforts to woo Hispanic voters. “Others who are in his corner need to dial down those effusive musings.”
Ah yes, effusive musings.
Leticia Van de Putte heard the siren song of effusive musings. They led her into a race for lieutenant governor which, while it didn’t end well, did nothing to quiet those voices, and then to surrender her seat in the Texas Senate to run for mayor of San Antonio, which ended Saturday in a narrow but decisive defeat.
Gilbert Garcia in the San Antonio Express-News, likened her fate to that of former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison when she challenged Rick Perry for governor in 2010.
A popular, veteran Texas senator heeds the call of her supporters to bring her political career back home.
She sacrifices her Senate seat and launches what is widely expected to be a triumphant campaign that will provide the perfect conclusion to a long stint in public service. She finds herself going head-to-head with an underestimated incumbent and ultimately learns that she has taken on more than she bargained for.
That was the story of Kay Bailey Hutchison’s 2010 gubernatorial bid, which began with Hutchison holding a 24-point lead over incumbent Gov. Rick Perry in the Republican primary, and ended with Perry cruising to a landslide win.
It also is the story of Leticia Van de Putte’s splashy campaign for mayor, which began last November with widespread assumptions that Van de Putte would be unbeatable, and ended Saturday night with appointed Mayor Ivy Taylor scoring a narrow, hard-earned win.
Her local admirers urged her to run for mayor because they worried that last year’s departure of superstar Mayor Julián Castro (to the Housing and Urban Development Department) would cripple Castro’s vision for an activist local government and a dynamic downtown. They believed the city needed a figure with political gravitas, and they saw Van de Putte as that person.
Van de Putte’s unbroken string of election wins had been snapped in last year’s race for lieutenant governor, but most of us saw that as a battle that no Democrat could have won.
The truth is, many of us (including those of us in the media) underestimated how many local voters had a negative view of Van de Putte. In Taylor, they saw an anti-Van de Putte: someone with no history in partisan races, admired by her loyalists because she doesn’t even pretend to have the skills of a political backslapper.
When Hutchison lost to Perry in 2010, it effectively ended her political career. As for Van de Putte, after two painful losses in seven months, it’s hard to see where she goes from here
Van de Putte’s messaging did sometimes seem confused.
For example, in the ad below, she leads in by saying, “It’s about time San Antonio had a mayor who can get the vital projects done.”
But what does “it’s about time” refer to. Castro has been gone from mayor for less than a year.
And then there is this from Jan Jarboe Russell in Texas Monthly piece in January called The Anti-Castro
In October 30 San Antonio’s new mayor, Ivy Taylor, stood behind a lectern at Club Giraud, a private dining club situated downtown on the banks of the city’s famous river, and faced a crowd of business leaders. Only hours before, Taylor had pushed through a unanimous city council vote to build a $3.4 billion pipeline that will bring water from Burleson County, 140 miles away, to San Antonio. For more than thirty years, a long line of mayors had promised to secure a supply of water for San Antonio, which has drawn exclusively from the diminishing Edwards Aquifer. All of them failed. Building on the work of her predecessors, Taylor corralled the votes and received the credit.
“I must tell you that I feel the weight of history tonight,” said Taylor, who was dressed in a white suit and stood straight on tall heels. Her dark hair was neatly cut into a chin-length bob, and a gold cross studded with small diamonds hung from her neck. The only line on her smooth face was the crease of a broad smile. “At long last, we have gotten this done.”
It would seem to me that Julián Castro’s vice presidential prospects would be greatly enhanced by having San Antonio City Hall in the hands of an ally who could defend and burnish his legacy. As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Castro couldn’t get directly involved on Van de Putte’s behalf. But his twin brother, Joaquin, the Democratic congressman from San Antonio, can, and did endorse Van de Putte, after his original candidate, former state Rep. Mike Villarreal, didn’t make it into the runoff.
But, if he put any muscle into the Van de Putte campaign, it wasn’t evident in the result, and it seems as if in sizing up running mates, the Realpolitik Clintons might have been impressed with someone whose political operation could help deliver his majority-Hispanic hometown for an ostensibly popular Latina candidate running against a relative political neophyte in Ivy Taylor, a black woman who came to Texas from New York City.
In the meantime, as Politico wrote:
… the public nature of the pro-Castro campaign has nonetheless rubbed some Clinton allies and staffers the wrong way: One Democratic campaign veteran who is in frequent contact with Clinton’s top donors said such a high-profile effort all but ensures that Castro will have a harder time getting through the eventual vetting process.
And it has also functioned to bring other vice presidential contenders to the public eye. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper recently announced he has an autobiography coming out around the time the vice presidential conversation may be heating up, and many Clinton loyalists are enamored of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, widely considered the front-runner for the post.
But the fact remains that Clinton’s team views courting the Hispanic vote as a top priority as she looks to replicate Obama’s electoral success with minorities. Clinton’s decision to unveil her immigration policy in Nevada was no mere happenstance, and when she returns to the state later this month she will speak at conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
Even so, Castro’s ethnic background may not be as effective in appealing to Hispanic voters as some believe. As one Clinton ally put it: “Tim Kaine speaks Spanish much better than Julián Castro does.”
Not to mention Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.
From Ed O’Keefe’s coverage of Bush’s announcement yesterday in the Washington Post:
Monday’s event was strikingly different from most Republican campaign rallies this year, which have drawn overwhelmingly white crowds. Bush spoke at a campus of Miami Dade College, a system that boasts the largest Hispanic student body in the nation, and packed the gymnasium with cheering Asian American, black and Latino supporters, young and old, who held up campaign signs in Spanish and English.
Before Bush took the stage, a family of Cuban singers performed regional classics. A black Baptist minister called Bush “a man of deep conviction.” The Colombian mother of a disabled daughter defended his record, in Spanish. Bush’s former lieutenant governor looked across the big crowd and said: “It looks like family. The Bush family — the big Bush family.”
State Sen. Don Gaetz told the crowd that Bush is “the new Florida. He is the new America. He is the new Republican Party.”
“Everyone has a right to rise,” said Bush, which I guess translates as, “Every Bush matters.”
Already, the choice is taking shape. The party now in the White House is planning a no-suspense primary, for a no-change election. To hold onto power. To slog on with the same agenda under another name: That’s our opponents’ call to action this time around. That’s all they’ve got left.
The presidency should not be passed on from one liberal to the next.
So, here’s what it comes down to. Our country is on a very bad course. And the question is: What are we going to do about it?
The question for me is: What am I going to do about it?
And I have decided.
I am a candidate for president of the United States.
We will take command of our future once again in this country.
Of his family, Bush said:
And they didn’t mind at all that I found my own path. It led from Texas to Miami by way of Mexico.
In 1971, 8 years before then-candidate Ronald Reagan said that we should stop thinking of our neighbors as foreigners, I was ahead of my time in cross-border outreach.
Across a plaza, I saw a girl.
She spoke only a little English. My Spanish was okay but not that great.
With some intensive study, we got that barrier out of the way in a hurry.
In the short version, it has been a gracious walk through the years with the former Columba Garnica de Gallo.
Whatever else I might or might not have going for me, I’ve got the quiet joy of a man who can say that the most wonderful friend he has in the world is his own wife.
And together, we had the not-so-quiet joy of raising three children who have brought us nothing but happiness and pride: George, Noelle, and Jeb.
The boys have also brought us more Bushes – their wives, Mandi and Sandra, and our grandchildren Georgia, Prescott, Vivian, and Jack.
Campaigns aren’t easy, and they’re not supposed to be.
And I know that there are good people running for president.
Quite a few, in fact.
And not a one of us deserves the job by right of resume, party, seniority, family, or family narrative. It’s nobody’s turn. It’s everybody’s test, and it’s wide open – exactly as a contest for president should be.
The outcome is entirely up to you – the voters. It is entirely up to me to earn the nomination of my party and then to take our case all across this great and diverse nation.
As a candidate, I intend to let everyone hear my message, including the many who can express their love of country in a different language.
Ayúdenos en tener una campaña que les da la bienvenida. Trabajen con nosotros por los valores que compartimos y para un gran futuro que es nuestro para construir para nosotros y nuestros hijos.
(Help us to have a campaign that welcomes them. Work with us by our shared values and a great future is ours to build for ourselves and our children.)
Júntense a nuestra causa de oportunidad para todos, a la causa de todos que aman la libertad y a la causa noble de los Estados Unidos de América.
(Gather around our cause of opportunity for all, the cause of all who love freedom and the noble cause of the United States.)
Writing yesterday, Matt Barreto and Gary Segura, of the opinion research firm, Latino Decisions, predicted that ultimately, Bush won’t do well with Latino voters because he is on the wrong side of the Obama executive orders on immigration, Obamacare and Medicaid expansion, raising the minimum wage, dealing with climate change, and taxing the wealthy.
Bush’s supposed advantages are based on three specific observations—that the Bush family has historically had a more positive relationship with this community than other candidates in the GOP, that the Spanish-speaking Jeb personally benefits from having a Mexican-born wife and Mexican-American children, and that Bush has a history of more moderate positions on issues of importance to the Latino community.
None of these is likely to withstand deeper examination. The first two—the broader family history and the personal characteristics of Bush’s immediate family—are based on a form of identity politics that Latinos seldom if ever practice. Latino voters have proven more than willing to reject even actual Latinos as candidates when their policy positions are in contrast to the community preferences. Bush’s marriage and linguistic skills, while symbolically important, would founder if his issue positions are in contrast to the average Latino voter.
So what about those issue positions? Bush’s misplaced reputation for moderation is belied by his actual policy record. And few if any analysts have stopped to consider how Bush’s specific policy issues line up with Latino support for key policy issues. If Bush is to ultimately be the Republican nominee, Latino voters will no-doubt review and assess his policy commitments. In a review of recent statements by Jeb Bush, we find five significant policy areas where Latino public opinion stands in direct contrast to policy advocated by Jeb Bush. Additionally, Jeb Bush is not currently campaigning for the average Latino voter but, rather, is campaigning for the average GOP primary voter, his path over the next months is far more likely to push him further away from the average Latino voter on a wide range of important policy issues.
All that said, Jeb Bush does not have to win the Latino vote to be elected president. He merely needs to hold his own and be more like his brother, George than Mitt Romney in his appeal to Hispanic voters.
BRESNEN SUES BASEL
Austin lobbyist Steve Bresnen filed suit yesterday against Joe Basel’s American Phoenix Foundation, hoping to discover who funded their videotaping in and around the Capitol this session.
From Bresnen’s press release:
Today, my Austin attorney, Anatole Barnstone, filed suit on my behalf in Travis County against the American Phoenix Foundation (APF), which has failed to comply with state and federal laws that protect the public from abuses of the privilege of operating as a nonprofit, tax-deductible, tax-exempt entity.
Specifically, I’m asking the Court to order APF to comply with the Business Organizations Code requirement to provide access to the nonprofit’s books and records and to compel APF to provide complete copies of APF’s federal tax returns, including Schedule B, which lists the dates and amounts of APF’s contributions over $5000 for the last three years.
The Code requires nonprofits to maintain detailed records including “…complete entries as to each financial transaction of the corporation, including income and expenditures…” As a member of the public, the law gives me a right to this information. The public also has a right under federal law to the information contained in APF’s federal tax returns.
I hand-delivered my request for this information in the House Gallery to APF President, Joe Basel, and APF’s lawyer, Ben Wetmore, more than two weeks ago. Joe’s response was limited to a comparison between me and a female body part, for which he used a distinctly non-journalistic derogatory colloquialism. Ben later told me to make the request in person at APF’s “principle business office,” which is, in fact, a 3” by 3” private mailbox at a UPS Store.
Because APF refused to comply with my lawful request, litigation will be used to bring home to them their legal responsibilities.
When a nonprofit does not have any members, the Code makes the details of its financial activity open for public inspection. AFP’s corporate charter shows it is controlled by a few youngsters without any of the legal accountability that goes with having members.
If an entity has members, its members have the right to inspect the entity’s books and records because those members have the power to hold the entity accountable and bring the entity into conformity with state and federal law, if something is wrong. When a nonprofit chooses to operate without the oversight of any members, the Legislature has empowered the public with the right to serve the functions that members would serve. That is my intention.
Basel dismissed Bresnen’s complaint:
We gave him what was reasonable and what was legally owed. He asked for everything.
He’s trying to say he has a right to every business document in every office of ours (and others). That standard is insane, and unconstitutional.
If we lose this case, I truly cannot wait to go enforce his ridiculous interpretation of this rule around the state and shut down every non-profit with this kind of harassment.
But, Basel said, “we think the court will agree with us.”