To `catch some lightning.’ On Rick Treviño’s perhaps not entirely impossible CD-23 dream.


Good Monday Austin:

That’s Rick Treviño backstage at the Brick at the Blue Star Arts Complex in San Antonio on Friday, March 9, with Bernie Sanders and Jim Hightower, three days after Treviño secured a spot in a May runoff for the Democratic nomination in the 23rd Congressional District.

But first, for a little background, let’s back up those three days, to primary election night.

I was at the Dallasite, one of Eater Dallas‘ 12 essential dive bars, which that night was also home to the Dallas County Democratic Party gathering, featuring Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez. I arrived early at the Dallasite, where I was made to feel very much at home by Rhonda Nail, who that very day was celebrating what I think was her 40th anniversary of owning the bar.

Sometime after midnight, still sitting at the bar at the Dallasite, I checked the results in the Democratic primary in the 23rd Congressional District. I was stunned by what I saw. Gina Ortiz Jones was well out in front, but nowhere near the 50 percent plus one she would need to avoid a runoff.

Jay Hulings, the chosen candidate of the Castro brothers, who was thought to be her prime opponent, was running fourth, and there, battling for second, were Rick Treviño and Judy Canales.

I have known Treviño, now 33, for five years, I first met him at a Battleground Texas organizing meeting at a Luby’s in San Antonio in the spring of 2013. I was working on a story about Battleground, which was drawing considerable interest at the time, and Treviño was there checking them out. He was at once eager, earnest and skeptical, very smart, politically well-read and wanting to know more.

He had just finished reading Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.


The guy was spot on in the 80s, even before that. There is one party in this country and it’s called the business party. Everything he said was just so brilliant and honest.

Treviño was also intensely issue oriented, and his issue at the time (and to this day) was the peril of chained CPI, which he had learned about by watching Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wave his arms about it on the Senate floor.


My Republican friends and some Democrats have said that lowering Cost-Of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) through the adoption of a chained-CPI would be a “minor tweak” in benefits.

But, let’s be clear: for millions of disabled veterans and seniors living on fixed incomes, the chained CPI is not a minor tweak. It is a significant benefit cut that will make it harder for permanently disabled veterans and the elderly to feed their families, heat their homes, pay for their prescription drugs, and make ends meet. This misguided proposal must be vigorously opposed.

Supporters of the chained-CPI want the American people to believe that the COLAs that disabled veterans, senior citizens, and the surviving spouses and children who have lost loved ones in combat are too generous.

That is simply not true. In two out of the last three years, disabled veterans and senior citizens did not receive any COLA. And, next year’s COLA of 1.7% is one of the lowest ever. Lowering COLAs even further through the adoption of a chained-CPI would be an absolute disaster.

I had only been in Texas for a few months, but it seemed to me I could learn a lot by talking to Rick and seeing things through his eyes.

We have kept in touch ever since – in person and by phone, over coffee and beer. He kept me abreast of his thinking and ambitions, as he made his way into Democratic Party politics, into the Bernie Sanders campaign, into a run for City Council in San Antonio and eventually into this very longshot candidacy for Congress.

I saw him at the 2016 Democratic State Convention in San Antonio…

At the Democratic National Convention in Cleveland, where he was a Bernie Sanders delegate…

In mid-October, we went to see Lawrence Wright and his band WhoDo play their Sunday evening gig at the Skylark Lounge. Treviño was deeply informed by Wright’s book The Looming Tower, about the history leading to 9/11.

He was hoping that, after the set, he might be able to ask Wright about the House Intelligence Committee (Hulings is a former counsel to the committee) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (where Jones worked.) Wright was friendly when Treviño approached him, but said he he couldn’t get involved and considered Hurd a friend.

And, in early September, I ran into Rick and Alejandro Lamothe, a supporter of his from San Antonio, at the Texas Democratic Party’s Johnson-Jordan Dinner at the Hotel Van Zandt at which Joe Kennedy III, the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, was the keynote speaker.

Treviño and Lamothe couldn’t afford tickets to the dinner, so they had just audited it. I had spent the dinner videotaping Kennedy’s speech on my phone, so afterward we walked around the corner from the Van Zandt to Rainey Street and got a pizza from the Via 313  truck in back of Craft Pride.

At some point that night, after they had brought me up to date on the campaign, either Rick or Alejandro asked what I thought about his chances, and I said that I didn’t think he stood much of a chance, because, I didn’t.

Yet six months later, there he was, after midnight on primary night, in a seesaw battle for a spot in a runoff.

In May of 2017, Treviño had, by fewer than 30 votes, missed making a runoff for a seat on the San Antonio City Council, and it looked like this might be deja vu all over again.

With a few percent of the vote still untabulated, I texted him at close to 1 in the morning, congratulating him on his showing and wondering, amid the uncertainty, if he was able to breathe. I was up for another few hours, Treviño fell a little behind, but, when I fell asleep around 3  a.m., the outcome remained uncertain.

I woke up next morning and the first thing I saw was a text from Rick from shortly after I had fallen asleep., “Dude I’m up now 80+” Treviño had finished second in the Democratic primary for the 23rd Congressional District, forcing a May runoff election for what should be for Democrats the most flippable district in Texas.

It was a remarkable performance by Treviño.

Yes, he had finished a distant second to Gina Ortiz Jones, a lesbian, Filipino-American, Iraq War veteran, who had significant financial support from groups that would like to elect a woman, a lesbian, a veteran and an Asian-American to Congress. But, among the candidates Treviño defeated was Hulings, the chosen candidate of the Castro brothers, who had the generous financial support of their allies, and endorsements from much of the local Hispanic political leadership.

Meanwhile Treviño had run, with virtually no money in this vast district – Jones has pointed out it is geographically bigger than France – on really nothing more than the strength of the ideas he shares with Sanders.

My last previous First Reading (I’ve been gone for ten days) was about how Mary Wilson ran ahead of Joseph Kopser in the Democratic primary in the 21st Congressional District, spending $39,000 to Kopser’s more than $600,000. I quoted David Logan, Wilson’s 22-year-old campaign consultant, as saying,“The way to take money out of politics is to make money irrelevant in politics.”

Wilson, who will face Kopser again in the May runoff, ran first. Treviño ran a distant second. But the lesson was much the same and no less surprising.

From Garcia’s story.

While those of us who claim to know something about politics assumed that election night would send Jones and Hulings into a runoff, Treviño knew better.

Sure enough, in one of the great underdog stories of Tuesday’s Texas primary, Treviño finished second (albeit a distant second) to Jones and appeared to secure himself a position in the May 22 runoff. Hulings finished fourth.

There are no established laws of political science by which this should have been possible.

Trevino, 33, is a history teacher who gave up his job at Sam Houston High School last fall to run for Congress. He has never held elective office. He had minimal funding and a do-it-yourself organization. He ran no TV ads.

He called Goldman Sachs “f***ing evil.” He ridiculed so-called corporate Democrats, who champion big business more than organized labor, by tweeting, “Neoliberalism f***ing sucks.”

Treviño’s overriding message is that his fellow Dems have become so consumed with cautiously threading the electoral needle that they’ve forgotten to stand for something. He was an early advocate for Bernie Sanders’ insurgent presidential campaign in 2016, leading a San Antonio for Sanders group and serving as a Sanders delegate at the Democratic National Convention.

Until now, I have written about Treviño only once before – in a story last summer about the field forming for the Democratic nomination in the 23rd.

I will more than make up for that in today’s First Reading, much of which is based on a post-election conversation I had with him over dinner at Krause’s Cafe in New Braunfels – a convenient midpoint between Austin and San Antonio –   on March 11.

As it happened, Treviño’s moment of (relative) triumph came on the eve of a visit by Sanders for a couple of speeches in San Antonio.

Treviño spoke before Sanders.

Treviño recalls the scene backstage:

Jim (Hightower) was telling Bernie about me.

Bernie asks, “What’s his name?”

“Rick Treviño,” and Bernie writes it down.

“And here he is,” Jim says.

I said, “I left my job. I left my insurance. And I took all of my savings because I knew it would work, and now here I am. And I beat a DCCC candidate (Huling) that raised $500,000.”

And then (Sanders) puts up his hands, like a fighter, and then he touched me and he hugs me and he says he’s very proud of me and the movement’s very proud of me and then I introduce him to my girlfriend and he was very warm and he hugs her and says, “Let’s all get a picture together.”

It was funny, when he threw up the fists, funny, the boxing thing, because the first thing I thought of when I won was Cassius Clay, “I shook up the world. I shook up the world.” When I saw OR (Our Revolution) congratulating me, I put up a GIF, “I shook up the world.”

That’s really what it was. It felt so great and exciting, and to see Bernie there, telling me he’s proud of what I’m doing. It did mean something to me. It did mean something to me. I’m not going to allow myself to miss that fact.

Then after his speech I was standing on the side and he was standing right next to me, and I was like, this is super cool.

None of this was ever intentional. I never expected to be in the position that I’m in.

I just had a passion for politics and I just happened to stumble upon people that guided me and prepared me for this message. Like I was reading Jeffrey Sachs in 2010. I was reading Matt Taibbi, I was reading Joseph Stiglitz, I was reading all these guys and when Bernie ran, guess who’s helping him out? These same figures. It just seemed like it was not all by accident, but it was. It was never intentional.

I just kept doing what I thought felt right. These politics feel right for me.

On Friday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee gave its official imprimatur to Jones, adding her to its Red-to-Blue program.

The key to winning back a Democratic House is right here — with diverse candidates like those below. Red to Blue is a highly competitive and battle-tested program at the DCCC that arms top-tier candidates with organizational and fundraising support to help them continue to run strong campaigns. Come November, these candidates and others will take the fight to Paul Ryan’s House Republicans — and fight to flip these seats from red to blue.

Treviño greeted this as good news.

From Treviño in the Intercept story:

“The DCCC has an incredibly terrible track record in CD-23, and it’s great to know that they’re going to have all their hands all over Gina’s race,” he told The Intercept.

“I hope they send the same folks who have worked the district in the past,” he added, noting that the DCCC had “led Gallego to two consecutive losses,” referring to former candidate Pete Gallego, who declined to take a third crack at the seat this cycle.

The only thing better for Treviño than the party supporting his opponent could be it attacking him directly. The DCCC’s entry into a nearby Democratic primary ended up being a boon for Laura Moser. Her fundraising skyrocketed, and she will also be joining the May 22 runoff against an establishment opponent. An analysis of polls leading up to the primary suggested that the DCCC intervention pushed her into the runoff.

National media has focused heavily on Ortiz Jones’s identity, given that she is a lesbian, Filipina-American, and an Iraq War veteran.

She’s also backed by a phalanx of establishment Washington, D.C. organizations, such as  EMILY’s List and VoteVets.  She was also on the 2016 Defense Council of the Truman National Security Project, a Democratic Party-leaning D.C. group that grooms young national security leaders. The lion’s share of her campaign funding (63 percent) comes from individuals giving donations of over $200 a pop.

When asked about the DCCC endorsement, Ortiz Jones spokesperson Lauren Coffee boasted about a range of support, but conspicuously did not mention the party organization in her response.

“As Gina has traveled the district and spoken with folks from San Antonio to El Paso, we hear over and over again how ready people are for new leadership,” she said. “We’re proud to have built a strong coalition of support from grassroots leaders, to local elected officials, to organizations like Democracy for America, VoteVets, the Progressive Caucus, the Equality Caucus, EMILY’s List, and Victory Fund. This designation is a further testament to the growing, grassroots campaign we’re running.”

Meredith Kelly, a spokesperson at the DCCC, noted a long list of local and national endorsements helped win support for Ortiz Jones:

Rep. Diego Bernal
Rep. Ina Minjarez
Rep. Mary Gonzalez
Rep. Cesar Blanco
Rep. Poncho Nevarez
Former State Senator Leticia Van De Putte
Former State Senator Wendy Davis
March On! Texas
CWA Local 6143
El Paso East side Democrats
EMILY’s List
Vote Vets
Victory Fund
Equality PAC
Asian American Action Fund
Women Under Forty
Giffords PAC
Serve America PAC
Democracy for America
People for the American Way
Arena PAC
Feminist Majority
Khizr Khan
Jason Kander
Common Defense
Treviño, on the other hand, has counted on small-dollar donations to run his campaign, while the backing of Sanders-aligned groups like Our Revolution, the National Nurses United, Brand New Congress, and the Justice Democrats.

Most of Jones’ money came from DC, NY and Massachusetts. These are her top donors.

While Treviño’s welcoming the DCCC embrace of his opponent might sound like bluster and making the best of a bad situation, I think he is right that it has provided him with exposure he would not otherwise have gotten, while nicely re-enforcing his central argument – that he is the anti-establishment candidate. He is also right that the available evidence so far this year is that it may be better to be on the outs with the DCCC.

I think this may especially be the case in the 23rd.

According to figures compiled by the Pew Hispanic Center six of the eight congressional districts with the largest share Latino among eligible voters, are in Texas. The 23rd ranks number seven in order of Latino share of the electorate nationally. As of 2016, 72 percent of the total population and 52 percent of eligible voters in the 23rd are Latino.

Four of the other top eight districts are held by Mexican-American Democrats from Texas. Two are held by Cuban-American Republicans from Florida. And the other two are held by Hurd, an African-American Republican, and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, an Anglo from El Paso, who represents the 16th Congressional District, which has the highest share Latino of eligible voters of any district in the nation.

O’Rourke, who is the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, will almost certainly be succeeded by Veronica Esocbar, a Mexican-American Democrat who won the Democratic nomination to succeed him.

That would leave the 23rd, next Congress, as the only district among the top eight with the largest Hispanic electorates without an Hispanic representative if either Hurd or Jones is elected in November. (Of the top 15 districts with the largest share Latino voting population, only one other, number 15 – CD-35 represented by Austin’s Lloyd Doggett – is not represented by a Latino.)

As for the name Ortiz, the Philippines were under Spanish colonial rule from 1521 to 1898, so I can’t begin to sort out the significance of that name in her family history and identity. But she is, in the ordinary parlance of American politics, Asian-American and not Hispanic, as Angela Villescaz, another of the five Democratic candidates in the primary, indelicately pointed out at a Bexar County Democratic Party forum on Feb. 21 at the Luby’s where I first met Treviño, five years earlier.

Villescaz said that Will Hurd had used the same skills that enabled him to blend into Pakistani society as a covert CIA operative to fit into the 23rd Congressional District.

“He’s an imposter,” Villescaz said. “I’m just asking you, I’m just warning you, don’t let that happen again.”

Gesturing toward Jones, Villescaz said. “We have some candidates and the district thinks that they’re Hispanic, because of a middle name, and they think that they’re going to elect the first Latina, and they’re mistaken, because this candidate is Asian.”

Hulings, meanwhile, is a Garcia on his mother’s side, but did not make use of that name, which clearly could have helped him, in his campaign.

As Gilbert Garcia wrote in this post-eletion story:  To be sure, identity politics hurt Hulings in this sprawling Latino-majority district — which extends from South San Antonio to El Paso County. He had to contend with the perception that he was the Anglo in the race, despite the fact that his mother’s family name is Garcia. To his credit, Hulings didn’t try pulling the phony move of suddenly identifying himself as Jay Garcia Hulings, even though it would have helped his cause.

Villescaz’s attack on Jones appeared to make the other candidates uncomfortable.

But the fact remains that the DCCC is putting its thumb on the scale to keep a Latino from representing the 23rd Congressional District.

Consider this hypothetical scenario.

If this were a majority black district, and there was a primary in which a white candidate faced four black candidates, and the white candidate won 41.47 percent of the vote in the primary, and the four black candidates collectively won 58.53 percent of the vote, would the DCCC throw its weight behind making sure that the white candidate prevailed in the runoff to represent the majority-black district?

Would they consider the possibility, that the black candidate, or in this case the Latino candidate, might have an advantage in a majority-minority district, especially when the Republican candidate was not of the same race or ethnicity as the district majority?

And remember, they could simply choose to stay out of it.

And, if  Jones is the Democratic nominee, rest assured that, even if Hurd and his campaign don’t do it themselves, Republicans will find a way to let Latino voters in CD 23 know that she is not one of them, and that she is trying pull one over on them, even if they do it with a little more care for getting her last name right than Karl Rove did on a recent appearance on  Fox News Sunday.

From the Fox News Sunday transcript:

ROVE: Twenty-third district of Texas, one Democratic nominee is Gina Ortiz Turner (ph).


ROVE: Who has never used the word Ortiz ever in her professional life and probably doesn’t — that’s not her real middle name. Why? Identity politics.

It is fair to say that, one way or the other, the Jones campaign is playing identity politics.

You can listen to her here on the Nerds of Color podcast: Southern Fried Asian – Gina Ortiz Jones.

Gina talks about raised Filipina American in San Antonio and the cultural similarities between the city’s Filipino and Latino communities (3:30). They also talk about having progressive ideals in a red state (7:40) and why all politics are “identity politics” (11:00). She then shares her mother’s immigrant story (12:20) and why she left the Trump Administration to run for office (14:20) with the potential to be the first openly gay Asian American woman to represent Texas in congress (25:00). Finally, she shares her affinity for San Antonio’s breakfast tacos and why they’re so hard to get right outside of Texas (29:00).

There she was, third row center, on the cover of Time Magazine – among The Avengers: First they marched, now they’re running.

She was profiled in TeenVogue:

If Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, ends up heading to Washington after the midterm elections, she would be breaking barriers as the first openly gay woman of color from Texas elected to Congress, as well as the first Iraq War veteran to represent Texas in Congress. She’d also be the first woman to represent Texas’s 23rd Congressional District.

But before she can plan for a historic victory, Ortiz Jones must face off against four other Democratic challengers on the ballot in the state’s March 6 primary. All are hopeful for the chance to unseat Hurd, who won reelection in 2016 in the most expensive House race in Texas history, and win a seat considered to be one of the top five targets for Democrats to flip in 2018.

Texas’s majority Republican legislature gerrymandered Texas’s 23rd, where nearly half of the constituents are women and nearly 70% identify as Hispanic. In the past, the district has proved difficult for both Democrats and Republicans to hold, with four incumbents losing their reelection bids since 2006. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won the district by 3.4% in 2016, a fact that could suggest the blue wave is on its way to the Texas prairies.

Ortiz Jones has proven herself a formidable contender in a very competitive primary, steadily collecting enough donations to come in first in overall fund-raising among Democratic candidates and earning the endorsement of groups such as Emily’s List, VoteVets, the Asian American Action Fund, and the Equality PAC. Since launching her campaign in August 2017, Ortiz Jones has learned that in addition to immigration, voters are focused on health care and ensuring equitable economic opportunities. “No one needs to remind me to care about these issues,” she says. Engaging the electorate “starts with electing folks that are not only representative of their views, but certainly representative of their backgrounds.”


This lady’s getting all the press that my district doesn’t read. Maybe some do, but I think  most working people in District 23  don’t read TeenVogue. I’m not Sherlock Holmes or Joe Trippi, but I think it’s mostly a song-and-dance for the donors and she was doing it better than Jay. Jay was doing the Macarena and she’s doing whatever’s fresh now.

From Bill Lambrecht with the Washington bureau of the San Antonio Express-News:

(Treviño) is the son of two nurses; his mother was born in Nuevo Laredo and his father in Laredo. He taught history and geography at Sam Houston High School before his candidacy. A class project he supervised on “food deserts” — a shortage of nutritious foods in some San Antonio neighborhoods — won a letter of praise from the Obama White House.

Treviño, 32, was regional organizer for the presidential quest of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and, much like Sanders, advocates a host of liberal solutions — among them single-payer national health insurance, also known as “Medicare for All.”

He observed that the brunt of Jones’ financial backing is national rather than from Texas. “She is the establishment candidate. Her song-and-dance is for the donor class,” he said.

Treviño took aim at Jones’ background in Air Force intelligence, noting that it resembles that of Hurd, a former CIA operative.

“I think this district deserves someone with more relatable life experiences, someone 100 percent invested in domestic issues,” he said.

Jones, 37, is a San Antonio native who received a four-year Air Force ROTC scholarship to attend Boston University after graduating near the top of her class at Jay High School.

She was deployed to Iraq as an Air Force intelligence officer and later worked on national security and trade issues in the Obama administration.

Responding to Treviño, Jones, who is openly gay, said she is proud of the support she has received from national organizations.

“They are looking to represent people who have been traditionally underrepresented,” she said. “Whether you’re talking about women or veterans or the LGBT community, they are the communities that have the most to lose by not being represented.”

She added: “I’m a first-generation American raised by a single mother. I’ve got the personal experiences to know what’s going on in Washington and how it affects the folks of this district.”

Reciting that quote, Treviño tells me:

So basically she’s saying if Rick Treviño is elected he won’t represent women and veterans and LGBTQIA. But she wouldn’t appreciate it if I said, “Well you’re not Latina so you can’t represent 70 percent.” She wouldn’t think that was fair.

Treviño says he doesn’t begrudge Jones using Ortiz in the campaign.

Just like I’m not going out of my way to let folks know that I’m now Rick Treviño the country singer, Gina’s not going out of her way to let people know that she’s not Latina, and politically that was very smart.

The very first day of elementary school at Gutierrez Elementary School in Laredo Texas, the receptionist said, “Oh Rick Trevino, like the country singer,”and little did I now that for the next twenty-something years I would hear that. But apparently, he’s well liked.

Me? Yeah I like the guy. Hell, yeah. I know that some people walked into that booth on Election Day and  didn’t know anything  and saw Rick Treviño and said, “That song Dr. Time kicks ass.”

If I ever meet him I’m going to say, “Thank you for being a well-liked guy in South Texas. You earned me some vote because you’re a cool guy.  Keep it up dude.”

Indeed, Treviño said he paid special attention to campaigning in counties where there were other, unrelated Treviños on the ballot.


RT: LaSalle County had a Treviño running and I won LaSalle County.

“It’s not all about ideas and issues,”Treviño said. “It’s about making all these personal connections and maybe people like your name.”

In its choice of Jones over Treviño, the DCCC is playing out an ongoing mutual hostility between the party’s leadership and the Sanders wing.

When he first got involved in Democratic Party politics, Treviño says:

 I thought all these Democratic candidates were cool. I thought the Castro brothers were awesome, but then when I learned about the Bernie issues – a living wage and health care for all – I expected the Castro brothers to be right there with him

I was really surprised when I found out the Castro brothers weren’t as cool as I thought, and by that I mean,  what I found out about the Democratic Party is that they are down with social issues, or at least they  campaign on social issues, but on economic issues they don’t even campaign on those at all, and you look a little closer at the social issues, and it’s just platitudes.

Not to say that they aren’t nice people, I  honestly think that they think hey are doing good work. but they’re not. I’m sorry. This country sucks for most people. It only really rocks for the elites.

And who the hell is voting for (New York City Mayor) de Blasio and (former New York City Mayor Michael) Bloomberg? It’s liberals. They’re the ones who came up with stop-and-frisk, and broken windows style policing and they talk about mass incarceration,  but the same things libs rail against, about a broken criminal justice system, they vote for it all the time.

When you first ran into me that was an angry time for me because I really invested a lot of my emotion, my time, I identified as a Democrat, and then it’s been broken for me, you see that it has not done anything for my people, and when I talk about my people, I’m talking about Mexican-Americans, and some people take umbrage of me framing it that way but at the same time, look at American politics, look at the Republican Party. It’s basically a white party. You don’t create that racial homogeneity by accident.

When I decided to run I as going to run as that progressive Latino that this district has never had. There have been analogues to me, but not recently.

I’m in this runoff right now because I knocked on a lot of doors. I hustled. I talked to people who I thought would resonate with my campaign. She got here her way, and I got here my way, and I will win or lose this way.

And if that means I will never see higher office, that’s a shame, that it really is all about the money, and that we’re an oligarchy and now we’ve really got to come to terms with that.

I met a lot of people who admire me for the way I did it , the same way I admire Bernie, because he did it on his own terms,  without them and that’s why he is the force he is now because he did it on his own terms.

Treviño saw Jones in the audience when Sanders spoke at Trinity University in San Antonio the Friday after the primary.

Our Revolution is about getting working class, non-traditional candidates to represent the most vulnerable and forgotten who normally don’t get represented. When I saw her there, I don’t see how you could be a candidate who raised hundred of thousands of dollars mostly from D.C. and N.Y. and think when people are clapping, they are clapping for what you did.

In his story on the race, Gilbert Garcia wrote how,”In the final weeks of the Democratic primary race in U.S. District 23, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) became a big issue.”

Rick Treviño took a different tack. He used the BRAC issue as an invitation to critique American militarism.

During a February 27 debate at KLRN’s downtown studios, Treviño acknowledged the military’s importance to this city, but added, “I think it’s unfortunate, though, that so many communities rely on war and destruction for an economy, for good paying jobs.”

 As Treviño finished his thought, two gray-haired Latina Democrats in the audience raised their fists in a show of solidarity.


At the KLRN debate when I was asked about BRAC, I wanted to talk about why so many people rely on those bases for jobs and that’s sad.

Those aren’t the economies we want. If we really want to be a world at peace we have to move away from this, and those are hard discussions. And that is the political masterstroke of these industries is that they go into economically distressed places and these places end up embracing them.

Taibbi recently talked about how he recalls Kucinich bringing up the Department of Peace, and people laughing at him. Well, why is that a crazy idea, a department just committed to peace? And he was laughed at. And I really admire Kucinich for that because you listen to him talk about it and it really is a beautiful message.

For the Jones campaign, her background is an asset in taking on Hurd with his intelligence background.

Here’s here bio from when she was a Next Generation Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Gina Jones: Special Adviser to the Deputy Director, Defense Intelligence Agency

Ms. Gina Jones currently serves as the Special Adviser to the Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). In this capacity, she leads the development and implementation of strategic initiatives across the Agency. Gina began her intelligence career as an Intelligence Officer in the US Air Force, which included a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Between 2006 and 2008, she served as a Senior Consultant to US Army South, the element responsible for US Army operations in Latin America. In 2008, Gina joined DIA as one of the initial members of US Africa Command. Within the intelligence directorate, she led a small, multi-disciplined team of intelligence analysts, tasked with infusing analysis and operational planning with socio-cultural analysis. Her analysis directly supported policymakers and operational planners and shaped the command’s engagements with African partner-nations. Gina was recognized for her contributions as a lead analyst within the Intelligence Crisis Cell that supported coalition operations in Libya. Gina has advanced degrees from the US Army School of Advanced Military Studies, the University of Kansas, and Boston University. A Council on Foreign Relations Term Member, she is originally from San Antonio, TX.

But, Treviño says:

I really do believe to win an election you have to create clarity for voters, make it simple for them to see the choices. If you share policy positions with the person you are running against, that clarity is going to be hard to create. They have similar positions on the border wall. The debate is going to be muddled.

Whereas, I’m a completely different person than Will Hurd.

I talk about the issues outside of their framing.  All these Democrats, when you ask about the border, they talk the same.

When I talk about the border I talk about why people are coming to America – globalization, NAFTA, CAFTA, all the forces that propel people to our shores. We have he highest migrant population in the world since World War II, that’s because of us, what we did. We don’t talk about our role in creating this migrant population, and also we don’t talk about it in the era of mass incarceration, that the private prison industry is the one that’s directing the mission of ICE, the Department of Homeland Security. It’s really about filling these prison cells because they have quotas to meet and contracts with county, state and federal governments. If you talk to Republicans or Democrats, they don’t want to talk about those things.

That’s where Democrats hurt themselves. They talk about issues that have been dictated in the right-wing framing – immigration, foreign policy, even health care. I don’t play by those rules and because I don’t people listen to what I say because its sounds different.

And this is going to be a wave year. That’s something that Democrats are really banking on, and if it’a a wave year, and I know this because when we talk about tsunamis I used to teach world geography and when a tsunami hits, everything comes up to shore – the good and the bad.

And in terms of an election year, the good and the bad candidates are going to get there. And what’s interesting to see is that, even with this moment, with this huge blue wave going on, what’s interesting to see is that Democrats still censor themselves because they think these are not winnable issues, but in a year when that doesn’t matter, why do you see Democrats still censor themselves and hold themselves back?

And what it turn out is that the donors don’t want what we want. The donors like the society that we have now. And the fact that they are still reining themselves in, restraining themselves in this moment goes to show that they never, ever wanted what we wanted.

Even people who are surprised I won, who are supporting me, still think I need more money , and I’ve just proved that that may not be the case

I need resources, but not as much as people think we need.

Look at what we just accomplished. Look at what Judy Canales accomplished. Look at that Mary Wilson accomplished. We accomplished the impossible.

It’s not impossible. It was always there but nobody ever tried it. Mary tried. I tried it and I think that’s what that Bernie message at Trinity was about. Don’t be intimidated by these people who don’t want regular people to enter because they know they’ve got just as much of a shot as some millionaire-backed candidate. And that’s great.

A lot of people can run. And, honestly, if we had more teachers and nurses in D.C. we wouldn’t have 27 million people without health care, a minimum wage of $7.25 and a foreign policy that really is, in my opinion, evil.

Look at he Yemen war, our arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and just look at the history of the United States

I think I’m the right candidate for this moment. I am the right candidat to take on Gina. I’m the right candidate to take on Hurd. And they’re about to reckon with a force that they can’t control because they are bought. I do think they are going to lose. I’m confident. I think that I can do it.

You know how they say a win’s a win? 

For me it was more just about getting to this moment, just the way I got in, 17.5 percent compared to 41.whatever percent that she got. Right now we’re both at zero-zero. 

Something like cash on hand. That’s really more for a candidate like Gina. For me, it’s just about getting to this level. 

Usually the choice is establishment candidate vs.  establishment candidate. Now they have that rare opportunity to not only vote for somebody who is not beholden to anybody but them, not beholden to the D.C. interests who usually control their votes, but they get to vote for somebody who is a working class person just like them.  They have an opportunity to vote for the future of the part . I truly really do believe that  Millennials  are not going to abandon these politics.

This is a great opportunity for the district to elect somebody who is like a Bernie. Bernie got there by not playing the game the same as others. The only money I’m taking is from working people and unions, and I’m proud to fundraise from those entities.

It’s pretty exciting.

You’ve been following me a long time and I’ve always had the intention to kind of break through and I did. I just kept believing in it, kept believing in myself and believing in my ideas.

Just like it made sense to me it made sense to other people. I’m not some rare thing. I’m just a person like anybody less. What i know is accessible to a lot people. It’ not like theoretical mathematics or quantum physics. You’vejust got to read a couple of  books, watch a couple of  documentaries and you get it. 

And that’s why I have a lot of faith, because I was able to see the light. Because if you had caught me in 2010 and said something bad about Obama or the Democratic Party, I would have been, “What are you talking about?” But I’m now that person telling that Democrat, “Hey, you’re party, it’s bought. Our party is bought, and we’ve got to do something about it.”

It’s kind of like a dare kind of thing,. I take the dare. I’ll do it.

As our night at Krause’s Cafe drew to a close, Rick put the question to me again.

So what do you think my odds are?

Well, I told him, I think they’re better than the last time I told you you had no chance.


I think they’re better too

I have to break through three times. Even if I break through twice and I lose the third time, I think that’s on me, but I’m not worried about it because if I get to that level,the story itself will be more powerful than what he can do.

I’m bringing back that Bernie narrative, and this is not some enclave of New York or New England. Competing in a red state. Competing in a district that apparently is conservative.

At the doors, I talk to people about their premiums, and how much that sucks, and then they tell me about their deductibles, and how much that sucks, and their co-pays, and then I tell them that I think healthcare is a fundamental human right and that when you get sick or someone that you love gets sick, that no one should get money off that situation, but in this country, not only does that happen but our leaders allow that to happen, and they’ve enabled that industry to profiteer, that exploitation.

And that makes sense to people, and apparently that wasn’t supposed to make sense to people. Working 40 hours a week and not being poor, makes sense to people. Working and being working class and being able to send your kids to college not because you have the money but because your kids did well in school – all that makes sense to people.

I don’t buy any of that jive they spit at us about conservative stuff. Mexicanos, Mexican-Americans, people along the border, are just like anybody else. They work in America like everybody else and this makes sense to them.

You know Reagan said the biggest problem is the government. I don’t think that’s what it is. I think the biggest problem is insiders.

American government is like a piece of clay that can be molded and right now it’s been molded only to benefit the superrich, for a long time, the business class. And it’s always been like that.

The Gilded Age. That narrative has always been there. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was made because that shit was real back then. That story is told because it made sense to them then.

Treviño worries about the future of the Bernie movement, 

Of its future leadership, he said, “I hope if it’s not Bernie it’s someone who was with the movement early on and paid their dues.”

He worries about pretenders who are now drawn to its ideas not because they believe in them but because they poll well.

The people who are just arriving at these issues, like a Gina Jones, look at the way she talks about healthcare. It’s about national security. You need to have a healthy country to have a safe country If you’ve been part of the Medicare for All movement, you don’t talk about healthcare that way. It’s a moral issue. it’s not about national security. So you can just tell thse are pretenders. arriving conveniently at these positiions because they’re polling well.

I do see that with the Beto O’Rourke campaign. I’ll elaborate. The Beto O’Rourke campaign represents to me what the Joseph Kopser and Gina Ortiz Jones campaigns are, which is basically the evolution of the establishment trying to stay relevant, and what they’ve done is they have  appropriated the imagery, the fundraising and the rhetoric of the left, and of the Bernie movement, and, again if I catch anybody on the street and ask, “Who’s the most progressive politician in the state of Texas?” they will say, “Beto O’Rourke,” not knowing that he voted for fast track (trade authority), that he was a super delegate, that he doesn’t support HR 676, health care for all, Medicare for all.

That’s the thing, most people don’t know that because they are living their lives,, they are working every day, , they don’t have time to vet candidates.

I’m very protective of t is movement because it’s very powerful, it has  a lot of energy, and a lot of future relevance that the current establishment doesn’t have, so they want to co-opt it and be progressive on their terms. We’re going to be progressive on our terms and we’re going to evolve on our pace because I want to evolve rapidly.

I want to move away from fossil fuels dramatically. I want to move toward Medicare for all. I want to move to a $15 minimum wage by 2022,  I want these things to be accelerated. Why is that these elites get to decide when a working class person or most people get health care? Why is it on their timetable? Their timetable takes too long.

And this whole kind of incremental change argument that they were really promoting for most of the Obama administration just got torn away, like that, by one Republican administration. That sucks.

And why do we run the same strategy back and act like it’s going to work this time?

Politics has to be able to evolve. But the establishment wants to do it on their terms and they have more money, whereas the grassroots has more people, and I think that will eventually win out, right, eventually.

But I have seen other political movements from the 60s and the 70s fizzle out and you’ve got to be vigilant that doesn’t happen, but I think our generation is wise because we’re learning from those experiences. We’re a young movement but it’s very wise.

Treviño will vote for O’Rourke against Ted Cruz in the fall (though O’Rourke has said he won’t, out of friendship, campaign against Hurd), but he voted for Sema Hernandez, a Sanders supporter, in the primary, (just as he voted for Tom Wakely, a Sanders supporter, for governor). Without much of a campaign, Hernandez won nearly 24 percent of the vote against O’Rourke, carrying a raft of counties including, like Treviño, LaSalle County.

The county seat for Lasalle is Cotulla, where a young Lyndon Johnson taught school to Mexican-American children, and, as he would tell the story later, first learned the meaning of poverty.

“I’ve listened to that many times,” Treviño said. “I’ve made LBJ a big part of my stump. Just like LBJ I got my first lessons in poverty from being a teacher. He’s a teacher that became president. Not that I hope to do that. I just want to become a representative.

Treviño learned in the course of the campaign that Dan Garcia, one of his grandfather’s cousins, was one of LBJ’s students in Cotullah and later visited him at the White House.

“I can help but get emotional when I visit Cotulla and listen to those speeches,” Treviño sad.

Of his campaign, he said:

I’m the kind of guy who will say, “I’ll do it. Why not?

I’m so glad that I did because look at where I’m at. This historical moment was for me. I understood it and I knew I needed to run, and I knew that something like what just happened could happen.

Look at the craziness in the presidential election.

Look at that election, and not just that election but the whole campaign infrastructure of the United States., the whole campaign culture. It was like an Alice in Wonderland type of situation where all the obstacles in front of (Trump) just like crumbled. He just went down a rabbit hole and all these things that were supposed to be there, just really weren’t there.

You just see how a nontraditional candidate like Rick Treviño could break through if things break right. I just had my hunch that it’s going to happen.

And I also looked at a couple of other things. I organized the Bernie movement in San Antonio at least at the grassroots level. I saw what was going on, I saw the excitement – and I saw at the very end, even though we got out asses handed to us, Hillary swept it up, there were still at least 30,000 people who voted for a democratic socialist in South Texas in District 23. That’s a lot of people. That’s not even supposed to come close. People would say nobody would do that

I went in thinking, there are all those people there, I just need to talk to them. I need them to know that in this race. I’m the guy. I was the Bernie delegate  I was the local organizer. I’ve been consistent on these issues

I was part of a very grassroots city council race and there are dark days when sometimes it’s just you and what I promised myself is you just got to go to the very end. I originally said that if I don’t see the funding by December, I would just drop out , but by that time, I dind’t have funding but I had infrastructure, I had support, I had endorsements, so that was enough for me and I was going to rough it out and I just promised myself that I was  going to go to the very end and make it to he very end and just work hard every day.

And the way I think about it is, when you wake up and you’re thinking about it, and when you go to bed you’re thinking about it, and when you talk to people, you talk about he campaign, and everything you do  is toward the campaign, and I’m an energetic person, and I’m a purposeful person, and I’ve been doing this 100 percent since September the 1st, six months of hard-ass work every day, committed totally to this could lead to a lot of votes.

Just make sure you do the work and so the days, Monday through Friday, when nobody was volunteering, or it’s a weekend and there ‘s some big-ass political event they have to attend, because my volunteers are politically active, they connect with me because they  understand politics and what’s going, and I have to respect their advocacy and their identity as political activists as well.

You can’t take that away from them because that’s how they get their energy, and there weren’t a lot of them but when they showed up, they did real good hard political work, and when you’d see them at the door, they know how to pivot on the issue, in their behavior and body language, they’ve been doing it for years, so I had good work when I had it.

But, Treviño said:

Sometimes it was just me. So when I’m out in Culberson County, Texas, by myself wondering what I’m doing in West Texas, trying to meet people …

Look at my bookshelf. There’s this this statue of Don Quixote, and on the wall there is a painting of Don Quixote by Picasso.

When I was first starting in politics in 2012 I was reading that book and there’s a lot to learn from it. 

At the very end of the book, he sounds very wise, talking to Sancho Panza about being warm and being gregarious and, I don’t know, being local, that’s really the message: Talk to people.

And some days it was just me and I was like, “Shit, this is really a Quixote-esque endeavor and I don’t even have a Sancho Panza.” Sometimes, it was just me.

And instead of windmills it was wind turbines, and you’re driving  out to Fort Stockton and just going, maybe if I go here I can catch some lightning.

And I did, man.

Author: Jonathan Tilove

Jonathan Tilove is the Statesman's chief political writer. He was a Washington correspondent for the New Orleans Times-Picayune from 2008 to 2012. Before that he covered race and immigration issues for Newhouse News Service for 18 years.

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