Amid the sleeping giants, is there a place in Texas politics for the Milder White Guys?

Andrew White, the son of former Gov. Mark White

Good Monday Austin:

In the last couple of weeks — nine months into the Age of Trump –  two Milder White Guys stepped forward to indicate a desire to run for statewide office in Texas under the MARA (Make America Reasonable Again) banner.

Last week, it was Scott Milder of Rockwall announcing he was going to run in the Republican primary against Lt. Gov Dan Patrick.

From my Statesman story:Rational Republican’ Milder enters race against ‘extremist’ Dan Patrick

Presenting himself as “a rational, conservative Republican running against an extremist incumbent,” Scott Milder, a former Rockwall city council member and advocate for public education, declared Thursday that he is challenging Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the March Republican primary.

“Somebody’s’s got to stand up and confront the bully who’s never going to stop picking on the little guy,” Milder, 49, said in an interview in Austin with the American-Statesman. “He’s insulting. He’s polarizing. He’s divisive. He’s not a strong a leader. He doesn’t represent the values of class and character that Texans have.”

Patrick’s political consultant, Allen Blakemore, responded that, “Dan Patrick is unequivocally the hardest working, most effective, conservative leader in the history of the Texas Senate. He enjoys overwhelming support among Texas Republicans, including early endorsements from Gov. Abbott, Sen. Cornyn, Sen. Cruz, major conservative grassroots leaders, a majority of Republican county chairs and SREC members, and a long list of Texas business leaders.”

But, Milder said he believes “there is a groundswell of anti-Patrick sentiment all over Texas. I hear it everywhere I go, and these are traditional conservative, rational Republicans. And that’s what I consider myself,”

A week earlier, it was Andrew White, expressing interest in seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

From my story with Sean Collins Walsh:

Pitching himself as a centrist and a pragmatist, Andrew White, the son of former Gov. Mark White, is exploring a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018.

White, an investor in Houston, has never run for office but said he became interested in challenging Republican Gov. Greg Abbott after his father died in August and after Hurricane Harvey, during which he helped rescue about 100 people on his small fishing boat.

White said hearing old stories at the funeral about how his father grappled with such weighty issues as taxes and public school finance made him realize the triviality of Abbott’s push for policies like the “bathroom bill” to prohibit transgender Texans from using the restrooms of their choice.

“Compared to what he was doing, our politicians today are playing games, and they’re trying to get more and more extreme,” Andrew White said in an interview. “Our governor and lieutenant governor are representing really well the 200,000 fringe voters in the very extreme end of their party and ignoring the 27.8 million other Texans.”

So far, the Milder White Guys entrance onto the scene landed with a quiet thud. But maybe that’s their way and we have to give them time for their subtle pheromones to waft their way into the nostrils of  the body politic.

In fact, Milder told me that part of his strategy was for his low-key, non-entity status to lull Patrick and his base into a false sense of security.

So far that strategy would appear to be working to a tee.

His challenge is to persuade Texas Republicans that a strategy that has given them a stranglehold on Texas politics is not in the long run, for them or the state, a great idea.

As for White, his is an even more complicated and interesting challenge  as the Democratic Party, which hasn’t won statewide office since 1994, approaches the opening of the one-month filing period for the March primary ballot, on Saturday.

On Sunday ,Julián Castro and Wendy Davis shared a panel, moderated by the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, at the Voto Latino Power Summit at the AT&T Center on the UT campus. (Voto Latino is nonpartisan organization founded by actress Rosario Dawson that focuses on Latino voter registration, civic engagement and issue advocacy.)

Wendy Davis was the Democratic candidate for governor in 2014.

Here is some of what she had to say Sunday:

We get ignored in presidential contests. And yet, if Texas were to turn, and Republicans certainly know this, Texas is the prize. Texas with all its electoral votes, can dictate what happens in this country going forward. That’s incredible responsibility, and it’s an incredible opportunity, for all of us  in this state, and it was one of the reasons I was committed to running for governor  in 2014, believing that every amount of effort we could put into being engaged, to registering new voters in this state would be something we could build upon and build upon and build upon moving forward and I think that’s a commitment that the Democratic Party and the members of the Democratic Party and the leaders of the Democratic Party need to take very seriously. But it’s also a shared responsibility.

It’s not just the leaders of the party who are going to be able to move that forward as proactively and productively as it needs to happen. I think Julian just said it beautifully, it’s really up to all of us in this room and the unique responsibility that rests on the shoulders of your generation. Interestingly, by the year 2020, your generation is going be reflective of 40 percent of the eligible voting population in this country and when you think about electoral outcomes right now and you look at who’s voting and the percentage of their representation in the population that’s voting, what you’ll see is  that the older white people are really dictating the outcome of elections because they’re voting in much greater percentages of what they represent in the population and so if we each encourage the people in our circles to understand that responsibility and the opportunity that comes with taking the responsibility we do have an opportunity to turn it around. And I think the Democratic Party needs to do a better job of sending that message and to embrace the fabulous energy of the people who are in this room and others like them.

Smith noted that Abbott did relatively well with Latino voters, winning outright among Latino males.

Davis said that was because Latinos didn’t really know who Greg Abbott was, and were influenced by his Mexican-American wife, and her mother, who did ads vouching for his character.

They didn’t think he would sign a ban on sanctuary cities.

“I’m hoping there will be a better response to who he is in the next election cycle,” Davis said, “if we’re able to field a candidate for governor.”

Also, Davis said:

I think quite candidly that I and the Republicans did a very good job of trying to silo me around one issue and that was abortion – and I am never going to shy away from my support for women to make their own decisions about their bodies –  but, as much as that enabled me to gain some prominence about who I was as result of that filibuster, there are so many other things that I have championed and worked on and tried to advance as governor, and it was very hard  to get that message across.

So, one might think, it would be some relief for Davis that Andrew White,  son of a governor with whom Davis had a close and positive relationship, had chosen to grab the baton or try to.

But one would be wrong. Very wrong.

White, on Sunday, released What I believe positions on a host of issues.

Here is White’s position on women’s health.

Let’s start here: personally, I can’t understand when a human life actually begins.  It’s a mystery known only to God, and, as such my faith tells me to protect the beginning of life.  To me, that means working on policies to reduce the demand for abortions.

However, I want this to be clear: Roe v Wade is the law of the land, and I respect the law.  While my stance on abortion is not the traditional Democratic position, I’m not a blind extremist on this issue like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. 

Do I respect the rights of the mother?  Yes.  Do I respect that a woman’s body is private?  Absolutely.  So, does this mean at times my own views conflict with each other?  Yes. 

One thing I am sure of: Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick—for the sake of politics—are holding 97% of all women’s health services hostage—cancer screening, contraceptives, pre-natal care…The result? More women dying of cancer.  More women with unplanned pregnancies.  More women not getting basic health services.  We must never return to the days of back alley abortions. That’s not progress. That’s also not pro life, and I won’t be a part of it.

“We should be loving expectant mothers with acts of kindness, while respecting their legal right to choose.”

We Democrats need to nominate a candidate who can win in November, so we can end the games our state leaders are playing with women’s health.  It’s time for more humanity and less politics. 

So, let’s focus on where we agree. Reasonable people on both sides want fewer abortions and better health care.  There’s common ground here. We should be loving expectant mothers with acts of kindness, while respecting their legal right to choose. 

Soon, I’ll be meeting with organizations devoted to women’s health services to learn more.  Together, we can increase access to healthcare and make abortion rare.  That’s progress. 

If we don’t aspire to a better place, a better community, what are we left with?  Healthy community starts with a new conversation, respecting the views of others and working toward common ground. 

Is this a path forward? What do you think? Send me a note.

From the comments on Wendy Davis’ Facebook post on White:

Aimee Boone Cunningham Thanks friend! This guy has no place in our party at all.

Stephanie Ryburn His rhetoric sounds like donald trump.

Aimee Boone Cunningham Michelle, nope, nope, and nope. He is anti-choice. And trying to have it both ways, apparently. Don’t be fooled by the B.S., friends.

Yvonne Massey Davis Thank you!!! He is definitely not his father.

Curiously, the last previous Facebook post on Davis’ page was about White’s father, who was a defender of abortion rights.

It would be interesting to know why the son has come to a more conservative view on abortion than his father, but in the meantime, abortion rights are a litmus test to Wendy Davis and many Democrats, and disqualifying for White.

If only he could be more like Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, which votes Tuesday.

But wait.

From Michael Tomasky  at the Daily Beast

A BITE OFF YOUR NOSE

The Most Self-Righteous Political Act of 2017 Just Took Place in the VA Governor’s Race

Democracy for America chose to un-endorse Ralph Northam over an entirely hypothetical issue. Is there any wonder why people can’t stand the left?

The left-wing firing squad is back.

The geniuses at Democracy for America, the organization that grew out of Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, have un-endorsed (without ever having actually endorsed him in the first place) Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam over a recent flip-flop on sanctuary cities. 

It’s the most appallingly self-righteous and idiotic thing that’s happened in American politics this year. And this has been a year filled with self-righteous and idiotic things.

Northam once cast a crucial vote against a bill banning sanctuary cities in Virginia. He did so because, he explained, there were no sanctuary cities in Virginia. Republican Ed Gillespie, once a country-club Yankee Republican now trying to reincarnate himself as Jeff Sessions, has been hammering him on it. So Northam flipped.

Though he has said he opposes sanctuary cities, this past week he conceded that he’d sign a bill banning them. It’s cowardly. It’s probably bad politics, too. It’s better politics to take your lumps and turn it into a character issue by proving that you have a backbone. People respect that even if they disagree with your position.

But we’re five days away from an election. A hugely important election, where there is an incredible amount at stake.

1. A Gillespie win would be a big victory for Donald Trump—and, given the kind of race-baiting and Confederate-statue worshipping and immigrant-bashing campaign Gillespie has run, for Trumpism and Bannonism.

2. It would be a huge defeat for a reeling Democratic Party, which really needs this win to put a little wind in its sails heading into next year.

3. A Gillespie win would give the GOP total political control in Virginia, assuming neither state house flips. That’s one more state capital with ne checks on a hyper-conservative agenda, which will include the redistricting process that comes after the next census, in the third year of the next governor’s term.

4. Oh, and this would make Virginia the 33rd state fully in GOP hands. You know how many states are needed to agree on a constitutional convention? Thirty-four. If you haven’t read much about Republicans’ ideas about what a constitutional convention would accomplish, you’d better.

So, in the view of some of those on the left, Northam was not a profile in courage on sanctuary cities.

But, neither was House Speaker Joe Straus.

Castro on Sunday said that while he likes and admires Straus, Straus buckled on SB 4 – the ban on sanctuary cities.

Castro:

Joe held off a lot of legislation that would have not only hurt the Latino community but many communities, but when he had to choose it was the anti-Latino legislation in SB 4 that he allowed to go through. Now why is that? One reason is that the  knows that is the reddest of red meat for that constituency. He knew, that is the one that I am going to get out of the way

Davis said that when it comes to choosing Sraus’ successor as speaker in 2019, no Democrat should vote for any Republican who voted for the Schaefer amendment – what Democrats called the show me your papers amendment.

Here, from Sunday, is  Andrew White on Sanctuary Cities

Show me your papers

“Put your hands up.” Put them up. 

“Don’t move.” Don’t move. 

Usually when a police officer says do something, most of us listen. Not our Governor. 

Police chiefs in six major cities told Governor Abbott: “Don’t sign the Sanctuary Cities law.” These chiefs knew that saying, “show me your papers” to Hispanic people would end the close, trusting relationships that took years to build. Gov. Abbott did it anyway.

Local police fight crime, not illegal immigration. Border patrol agents fight illegal immigration. That’s how law enforcement works.

But our governor, who says he’s against “over-reaching government,” now decides he must sign state laws that handcuff local police into doing the work of federal authorities. 

“Gov. Abbott’s law reduces crime reporting, which makes our cities more dangerous.”

That’s not supporting local law enforcement. That’s playing politics. The Sanctuary Cities law is a “Made for TV” issue, perfect for 200,000 fringe voters. It’s playing to the conspiracy crowd.

According to Houston’s police chief, sexual assault reports by Hispanics dropped by over 40% because witnesses were afraid to be detained by immigration. The simple fact is Gov. Abbott’s law reduces crime reporting, which makes our cities more dangerous.

Let’s be clear. The Sanctuary Cities law means that when Hispanic-Americans get pulled over in a state that’s nearly 39% Hispanic, they’ll be asked to show their papers more often than ever. But, when people who look like me get pulled over, they probably won’t even be asked. That’s discrimination. Pure and simple. And that’s not right.

We have the power to fix this. I’ll end this nonsense.

It would appear he would pass that litmus test, but, well, it’s too late for him because he flunked the abortion litmus test.

But Democrats still have their sleeping giant. Actually, sleeping giants, according to a new analysis from Ed Espinoza of Progress Texas:

Analysis: New Voters in 2016 contributed to increased margins
for Democrats over Republicans by 5-to-1
 
 Austin, TX — A Progress Texas analysis of Texas voter turnout in the 2016 election shows that new voter growth contributed to increasing support for Democrats over Republicans by a margin of 5-to-1.
 
The analysis focuses on the state’s 20 most populous counties and measured growth in support for presidential candidates in each county from 2012 to 2016. The analysis is part of a new project entitled Special Report: Flipping Texas in 2018.
 
“Texas is one of the fastest growing states in America and, over the past decade, the growing electorate has increased the Democratic vote by more than 1,000,000 compared to 150,000 for Republicans,” said Ed Espinoza, Executive Director of Progress Texas. “Democrats are making up ground statewide while Republicans are at a relative stand still.”
 
Progress Texas concludes that these new voters demonstrate that there are Two Sleeping Giant in Texas – the Latino one, and the growth of new progressive voters who are moving to the state. Combined, these constituencies are making notable changes in the electorate. While these audiences are growing the Republican vote has been virtually stagnant.
 
“More than 1.8 million new voters went to the polls last year fueled largely by 1.4 million Millennial and Generation X voters,” added Espinoza. “These are voters who clearly do not support the divisive politics pushed by Donald Trump and Texas Republicans alike.”
 
The report also analyzes drop-off voting trends from presidential to midterm elections and projects that the 2018 election will produce 2.8 million votes for Republicans and 2.3 million votes for Democrats. That 500,000 vote gap could potentially be overcome by turning out progressive-minded voters among those 1.4 million Millennials and Gen-X new voters.
 
 
Perhaps, but political neophyte Andrew White’s wisdom is that the Democratic Party in 2018 might be better off trying to appeal to those people who reliably vote than depend on those who need to be stirred from their slumber.

 In order to win in Texas, with the electorate as it is, Democrats need to win about 36 percent of the white vote. Davis in 2014 won a little more than a quarter of the white vote.

In her book, Turning Texas Blue: What It Will Take to Break the GOP Grip on America’s Reddest State, Mary Beth Rogers, a Democratic strategist who ran Ann Richards campaign for governor in 1990, the last successful Democratic campaign for governor in Texas, recounted some of the lessons from Wendy Davis” 2014 campaign, which ended in a twenty-point loss to Abbott:

  Lesson Five: The campaign never had a strategy to reach white voters. In there canvassing, Battleground Texas volunteers were supposed to classify voters into three categories: (1) off the table; (2) hard but persuadable; and (3) on board. If voters were Anglo, the assumption that they were probably “off the table,” meaning that they might be difficult to persuade to vote for Davis and probably not worth the time or effort to pursue.
 
Even though Davis had always considered white, pro-choice women likely source of others, there was never a distinct strategy to win them other use. While Planned Parenthood’s PAC,sent $2.6 million to target identified pro-choice voters, the Davis campaign never developed an effective strategy to to reach Anglo women for whom abortion might not have been a primary issue. As a result, white voters were basically ignored. Given the fact that exit polling that white voters in non presidential election years still averaged 65 percent of the vote, how can you write off two-thirds of the voters and still expect to win?
 
Successful ventures to not ignore two-thirds of their potential audience.

From my story in today’s Statesman.

 Despite disaffection with Trump and the possibility that Democrats could benefit from a “wave election” in 2018, Castro acknowledged that, in Texas, “it has been a tough cycle to recruit candidates” for the statewide ticket, with both Castro and his twin brother, Joaquín, passing on a run for statewide office in 2018.

“My brother thought about running for Senate (against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz) but decided not to and (U.S. Rep.) Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) is doing a great job,” Castro said, of putting himself into position to win if there is a big Democratic wave nationally that carries into Texas.

Joaquín Castro also passed on running for governor.

“He’s not” running, his brother said.

Smith asked if that’s 100 percent, and Julián Castro replied that, “as much as we like to think we’re the same person, we’re actually two different people, so, I can only rule him out 99 percent.”

Castro shared the Voto Latino stage with former state Sen. Wendy Davis.

When Smith asked Davis, who lost to Gov. Greg Abbott in 2014 by 20 points, whether she might run for governor again in 2018, she replied, “I rule it out 99 percent.”

Why leave a one percent chance she might run, Smith asked.

“Because no one’s stepping forward,” Davis said.

So far, three candidates — Jeffrey Payne of Dallas, Tom Wakely of San Antonio and Garry Brown of Austin — have announced their intention to run for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Andrew White, the son of former Democratic Gov. Mark White, who died in August, is exploring the possibility of a candidacy, but in a Facebook post last week, Davis wrote the White’s “anti-choice” position on abortion made him unacceptable as the party’s nominee: “Uhh – no. Just no.”

Castro, meanwhile, said he will decide by the end of 2018 whether to run for president in 2020, which apparently is seen as a more realistic ambition than to be elected a Democratic governor of Texas.

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