Knocked for a Lupe: Morning News, Chronicle, Houston GLBT Caucus snub Valdez for Andrew White

(Mark Matson for American-Statesman) Democratic gubernatorial candidates Lupe Valdez (L) and Andrew White participated in a question and answer session Saturday afternoon at the AFL-CIO convention on Jan. 18 in Austin.


Good morning Austin:

I  recently wrote a profile of Lupe Valdez, who stepped down as Dallas County sheriff  at the end of last year to seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

As I wrote then:

So far her sole paid, all-purpose campaign aide is Kiefer Odell, a 2016 graduate of the University of Texas, where he studied government and was head of the University Democrats.

Lupe Valdez, Democratic candidate for Texas governor talks with her campaign aide Kiefer Odell at her home and campaign headquarters in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018.

Valdez said she’s interviewing people for campaign manager, but noted that there will be more talent available after the March 6 primary.

First she has to win the primary, in which, out of a field of nine candidates, her prime rival is Andrew White, a Houston businessman and the son of former Gov. Mark White, making his first run for elective office.

“We are going to win the primary.” Valdez told me matter-of-factly.

I checked in with Odell yesterday to see if they had added any staff to the campaign.

“Yes!” he replied by text. “We’ve added two finance staffers recently and rounded out our consulting team with mail, media and fundraising consultants and a pollster.”

And what about a campaign manager?

“We’re interviewing for the right fit,” he texted back.

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but it may already be too late.

The reason I had gotten in touch with Odell on Sunday was because Valdez had a weekend that may have  done irreparable damage to her campaign.

It’s not like she had any chance of defeating Greg Abbott for governor to begin with. And I’m not saying that she won’t still end up being the Democratic nominee. But, after this weekend, that is less certain than it was before, and she is more likely to have to go to a runoff to secure the nomination.

But mostly, after this weekend, her chances of running a formidable campaign are severely diminished.

It’s not simply because the state’s two biggest newspapers endorsed Andrew White. It’s not just because the Houston GLBT Political Caucus chose White over Valdez, a groundbreaking lesbian sheriff. It’s because in each case, Valdez was found to be unprepared to be governor, or a good candidate for governor.

Most devastatingly, this is how the Dallas Morning News, her hometown paper, wrote of her in its endorsement of White.

We had high hopes for former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the only candidate who’s held elective office, having been elected in 2004 and re-elected four times since, and someone we’ve supported locally at various times.  We were disappointed by her gross unfamiliarity with state issues, however, particularly an almost incoherent attempt to discuss state financing. 

At one point, Valdez, 70, volunteered that she didn’t know whether the state was spending $8 million or $8 billion on border control. (It’s closer $800 million.) On college tuition, she first suggested the Legislature “and stakeholders” should set tuition rates, but then contradicted herself, and she later said the state should move to reduce local property tax rates, apparently unaware of those set by local jurisdictions.  

Those two paragraphs will be hard to recover from.

No matter what she does from here on out, they won’t go away.

White, in his own campaign, may choose to rely on the positive things the Dallas Morning News had to say about him.

Houston businessman Andrew White has a famous last name but it is his knowledge of the state’s complex challenges that make him far and away the better choice in the crowded nine-way Democratic primary for governor.

White, 45, whose father was the late Texas Gov. Mark White, also displays a collaborative demeanor and centrist approach that would make him well-suited to lead the state and work with what most likely will remain a GOP-controlled Texas Legislature.

White blames the state’s school finance and property tax problems on state lawmakers who have failed to provide adequate state funding. He offers a multi-pronged solution that includes closing a “$5 billion loophole” that gives builders a tax break at the expense of homeowners, shifting nearly $1 billion in state spending for border security to help finance public education, and expanding Medicaid to draw down additional federal dollars.

He says university freshmen should be able to pay the same amount in tuition each year, if they graduate on time, rather than be subjected to destabilizing rate escalations. And he shows both pragmatism and political courage in advocating for more toll roads, given the fact that transportation spending by lawmakers hasn’t kept up with population growth. His caveat: Tolls should expire when construction costs are repaid.

But those lines about Valdez will haunt her campaign if she faces Greg Abbott. The ad writes itself:  gross unfamiliarity with state issues … almost incoherent attempt to discuss state financing … didn’t know whether the state was spending $8 million or $8 billion on border control.

In the meantime, it will take whatever meager wind there was out of her sails. It will set the tone of coverage from here on out. Reporters writing about the race will feel obliged to test her knowledge of the issues. And, even if she acquits herself more ably from here on out, she can’t undo this first impression, which was not limited to the Morning News editorial.

In its editorial, the Chronicle wrote that:

We’re not exactly fans of political dynasties, but White ultimately won our endorsement with his answer to one obvious question. He’s the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate who seems to have given serious thought to the state government’s role in protecting Gulf Coast residents from flooding. While the other candidates who spoke to our editorial board offered only vague thoughts about this critical issue, White specifically discussed the need for a third reservoir in west Harris County and the importance of leveraging federal funds to build a coastal barrier system.

After Hurricane Harvey, flood control should be the top concern voters in the Houston area consider when they cast their ballots. Maybe White has a grasp of the issue only because he lives here and he piloted his boat around inundated neighborhoods rescuing flood victims. But any serious candidate for governor speaking to people in Houston should have good answers for basic questions about this topic.

Here’s how seriously we take flooding issues. If not for his fuzzy answer to this predictable question, we might have thrown our support to another candidate. Adrian Ocegueda runs a private equity firm in Dallas, and he was an economic policy adviser to the mayor of El Paso. Beyond his views on priorities like education and health care, Ocegueda brings up big issues that aren’t on any other candidate’s radar. He’s concerned Texas isn’t doing enough to train workers who are about to lose their jobs as technology displaces human labor. He even has the courage to touch the third rail of Texas politics, suggesting we need to seriously discuss introducing a state income tax. Ocegueda is a conspicuously smart and impressive candidate who has little or no chance of becoming governor, but he deserves serious consideration if he decides to run for another office.

Lupe Valdez, the former sheriff of Dallas County, is arguably the most high profile contender in this primary, but she also stumbled over flooding questions. Also on the ballot are Jeffrey Payne, a Dallas business owner; Joe Mumbach, a Houston audio-video technician making his first run for public office; and Grady Yarbrough, a retired educator and perennial candidate for statewide office. Three other candidates – Tom Wakely, James Jolly Clark and Cedric Davis Sr. – did not appear before our editorial board.

Next month, Democrats must pick a standard bearer with the best chance of winning votes not only for him or herself, but also for candidates running in down-ballot races. They would be wise to choose Andrew White as their nominee for Texas governor.

In other words, Valdez, who gets a single sentence in their editorial, isn’t even the Chronicle’s second choice among the nine Democratic candidates for governor.

And, then there was this.

As Mike Ward wrote in the Chronicle:

AUSTIN — Democrat Andrew White on Saturday won the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus over primary rivals who are gay.

White is straight.

White, a Houston entrepreneur and son of the late Gov. Mark White,  is among nine Democrats who are running in the March 6 primary for a chance to face incumbent Republican Greg Abbott in the November general election.

Among the others are gay Dallas businessman Jeffrey Payne and former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is lesbian.

“I’m humbled by and unbelievably grateful for the Houston GLBT Political Caucus’ endorsement,” White said in a statement.

“Mark my words: I will fight hard for full LGBTQ equality as governor and come out swinging against any efforts to discriminate. It’s past time to treat all Texans fairly and equally under the law.”

 The Houston GLBT Political Caucus, billed as the oldest equality rights organization in the South, has been endorsing candidates since 1975.
Valdez was in Houston, which has a large gay voting population, on Saturday campaigning. Payne has been in Houston several times courting votes, as well, since he started his campaign.

I watched a live-stream of the endorsement vote by some 400 members of the caucus gathered at a Houston church.

A man – I don’t know his name – presented the recommendation from the screening meeting to endorse White.

“He interviewed very well,” he said of White. “We grilled him and we were very satisfied with his answers.”

And, of Valdez: “We absolutely, positively wanted to endorse Lupe, but she didn’t do as we as we would have liked in the interview.”

Yesterday afternoon, I spoke with Mike Webb, the president of the caucus, about the choice of White over Valdez.

The screening committee and the general membership, he said, “felt that White would do a better job in fighting back against (the actions) targeted against the LGBT community now by the current governor, and quite frankly, Valdez did not reassure us that she would be able to, or even had knowledge of the position of the office, to do so.”

This comes off earlier stumbles out of the gate by Valdez.

Lupe Valdez, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, marches from City Hall to the Capitol for the 45th Texas Roe v Wade Rally on Saturday January 20, 2018. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

From Ross Ramsey in the Texas Tribune on Jan. 22.

Every once in a while, you have to repeat a lesson for the new kids in class.

Last week, Democrat Lupe Valdez told one interviewer — The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith — that if elected the state’s next governor, she would not close the door to tax increases if they turn out to be necessary. “We keep the door open to a lot of stuff,” Valdez said. “Come on in.”

Just a few hours later, she told another interviewer — Karina Kling of Spectrum News — that tax hikes are off the table. “No, I would not look at that,” Valdez said. “I’d have to lose a leg before I do that and I certainly don’t want to lose a leg.”

She must’ve seen something scary in between those conversations. Or, more likely, she heard from a herd of handlers.

Odell last night sent me the following statement from Valdez, responding to the newspaper endorsements of White: “While we’re disappointed we can’t win them all, I’m proud to have the support of progressive clubs across the state, Stonewall Democrat chapters in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, the Texas AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, the Tejano Democrats, and others that’ll be rolling out shortly.”


Before I met Valdez in Dallas to interview her for the profile, I wondered whether she was lured into the race at the last minute by a state Democratic Party which, while technically neutral, clearly preferred having Lupe Valdez, the Hispanic lesbian sheriff of Dallas County, at the top of the ticket, and not a middle-of-the-road white guy named White.

I came away from that interview convinced that Valdez wanted to run for governor and was eager, at 70, to take on a new challenge. She has an impressive life story, and people who know her well really like and admire her. But, she also came across as preternaturally calm and confident for someone setting out on such an audacious journey so late in the day.

Lupe Valdez, Democratic candidate for Texas governor is shown here with her dogs Vinny and Madge at her home and campaign headquarters in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. The photograph is from the Big Bend area from one of her trips.

As I wrote:

“She’s very Zen,” said Susan Hays, an Austin attorney who chaired the Dallas County Democratic Party when Valdez first ran for sheriff in 2004. “I’ve described her as the tortoise that wins the race. She’s not very flashy, but she keeps on moving.”

Perhaps, but Texas is a big state, Valdez is little known outside of Dallas County, and the hare in this race has a huge head start. Greg Abbott first won election as governor in 2014, defeating former state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth by 20 points. Before that, he served three terms as attorney general and six years on the Texas Supreme Court. He has his own epic story of overcoming adversity — he was just out of law school when a tree limb fell on him as he jogged, smashing his spine and leaving him a paraplegic.

And, at $43 million and counting, he has amassed more money in his campaign account than any candidate in Texas history.

“How can I compete with that?” Valdez asked a friend. “They said, `Either you’ll get the money, or you won’t need that much.’”

By the end of 2017, Valdez had raised less than $50,000 for her campaign, which she launched Dec. 6, a startlingly small haul. In a Jan. 18 conversation with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune, she said she was now raising $300 to $500 a day. But even if Abbott stopped fundraising today, and Valdez maxes out at $500 a day every day of the year, she wouldn’t catch up to Abbott until the middle of the 23rd century.

Lupe Valdez, Democratic candidate for Texas governor is shown here with her dog Vinny as she checks campaign texts at her home and campaign headquarters in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018.

In a state in which Democratic hopes hinge, in part, on inspiring Latino turnout, Lupe Valdez is a good name — unambiguously Hispanic.

“We had only one candidate win in 2002,” Hays told me. It was a county court seat won by Sally Montgomery, a party-switching incumbent who eked out a victory.

But Democrats that year came excruciatingly close in two district judge contests with Latina candidates: Sarah Saldaña, who would go on to be director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Obama administration, and who got 49.49 percent of the vote in a well-financed campaign, and Lena Levario, who got 49.29 percent and “didn’t spend a dime.”

“When Lupe showed up and said, `I want to run for sheriff (in 2004),’ I’m like,`Yes. You can win, because your name is Lupe Valdez,” Hays said.

“The pendulum was swinging,” Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who oversees the jail, Valdez’s prime responsibility sheriff’s office, told me. “Dallas County was in the throes of transition and she caught the right train.”

When I was writing the profile I spoke with Garry Mauro, the former land commissioner and among the last class of Democrats elected statewide in 1994, who said, at that moment, Valdez was probably right that she would win the nomination.

“You have two very good candidates,” said Mauro, the Democratic candidate for governor against George W. Bush in 1998, of Valdez and White, but, “there’s an inevitability, because of demographics and experience, about a Dallas woman Hispanic sheriff winning unless Andrew White can create a compelling reason for Democrats to vote for him.”

This past weekend, White and Valdez, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, may have done just that.

Andrew White, Houston investor and the son of former Gov. Mark White is interviewed in his home in Houston, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. White is running for Texas governor as a democrat candidate. ( Marie D. De Jesus / Houston Chronicle )

“We had a great weekend,” White told me Sunday afternoon.

This morning, White’s campaign announced that it had raised more than $1.1 million in the first three weeks of January, loaning his campaign $1 million, with an additional $138,632 coming from donors.

On the Straus censure: How an ideological fidget spinner became the engine of the Texas GOP


Good day Austin:

Last June, James Dickey, then the Travis County Republican Party chairman, was elected chair of the Texas Republican Party by a single vote, defeating Rick Figueroa, who had been the chosen successor of the outgoing chair, Tom Mechler.

The next month, on the eve of the summer special session of the Legislature that Gov. Greg Abbott had called, I went to the Travis County Republican Party’s Summer Bash at the Texas Disposal System’s Exotic Game Ranch in Creedmoor.


I did a First Reading: For Texas GOP, the special session may be The Most Dangerous Game in which I noted that as I drove out to the ranch I had an “uneasy feeling.”

What really unsettled me was the mounting Republican-on-Republican acrimony leading up to the opening of today’s special session.

After witnessing Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick going after House Speaker Joe Straus last week and again yesterday, I worried things were headed in an ominous direction.

As Chuck Lindell and I had written in the paper that day:

In back-to-back appearances Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick held what amounted to a pep rally for the special session that begins Tuesday, with the governor calling for a running public count of who is with or against his 20-item agenda, and Patrick warning House Speaker Joe Straus not to get in the way.

“I’m going to be establishing a list,” Abbott said in a midday question-and-answer event on the session at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the conservative think tank where many of the governor’s priorities are born and raised.

“We all need to establish lists that we publish on a daily basis to call people out,” Abbott said. “Who is for this. Who is against this. Who has not taken a position yet. No one gets to hide.”

Patrick was more direct and personal, identifying Straus as the odd man out in a special session that he portrayed as a kind of ideological buddy movie in which he and the governor were entirely in tune, and Straus was discordantly out of sync.

At one point, Patrick warned of Straus, “If he personally attacks the governor, I will be his wingman.”

But, as I wrote, when I arrived at the Travis County bash, I found that, James Dickey, the former TCRP chair and recently elected new chairman of the Texas Republican Party was speaking, and offering some words of GOP reconciliation vis-a-vis the speaker. Dickey was talking about the challenge of maintaining party unity, and what holds Texas Republicans together:

We already have a shared common goal.

We have a platform.

Some people give us grief because it has 260 items.

So, first of all, there are over 6,000 bills filed so 260 is not that big a deal. It’s not.

If there are 260, there are five or ten that any single elected official should have no problem going to the mat for, and they get to pick those. We believe in that. That’s the kind of party we are.

I met with the speaker of the House a couple of weeks ago. he referred to the letter I’d sent to him and to the lieutenant governor.

The letter identified the priorities for the special session and, by number, the particular planks from the Texas Republican Party Platform that corresponded to them.

Back to Dickey’s remarks at the bash.

The governor has said that of the 20 items he asked for, ten are going to be right out of our  platform, and the majority of those items are mom and apple pie: Don’t let people get annexed without a vote. Don’t spend taxpayer money, taxpayer money, Republican taxpayer money, to collect union dues that then get spent 99 percent for Democrats.

Property tax relief.

Giving special needs students choice.

These are plain things.

And the speaker said, “There are a couple of things here that the House may not be able to give any more on,” and my response was, “Give us any seven or eight of those and we will cheer you for those seven or eight. Let other people scold you for what you wouldn’t do. We in the party. We are not putting our thumb on the scale. Our platform is our platform. If it’s out of there and you pass it, I will thank you for doing so.”

Next year, our convention, the largest political convention in the free world, will take place during the 300th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio, during the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Republican Party of Texas, a block from the Alamo, and the theme of that convention is a line in the sand, and my comment to the speaker was, “Let’s show the line in the sand, let me make your intro video so that when you walk up there, our delegates cheer for what you have done for us. That’s what we want.’

That, I wrote, prompted a single whoop and some tepid applause from Dickey’s audience.

A lot has happened since then.

Abbott and Patrick got some of what they wanted from the special session, but not everything, and they both blamed Straus for what they didn’t get.

Straus announced he was not going to seek re-election to the House, and so would not be speaker again come 2019.

And, on Saturday, the State Republican Executive Committee voted to censure Straus, with Dickey and Vice Chair Amy Clark providing the decisive votes to pass it.

It was a dramatic moment, because the chair and vice chair normally don’t vote and without the vote of at least one of them, the censure would have fallen short of the two-thirds threshold and failed.

Here was what Dickey said in declaring that he and Clark, who did not speak, were putting their thumbs on the scale for censure.

This is a very unusual case and a very unusual situation. It has been Vice Chair Clark’s and my norm that we do not cast votes unless they have a consequence and it is our strong preference that that not be the case – that the body be unified enough that that not be the case. We have spoken at length about this upcoming vote and we frankly have some concerns. We have had people raise concerns that this could have a practical impact on support for the Party—both ways. And as people who are committed to growing the Republican Party, building the Republican Party, there are pros and cons to both sides of this. We are, together, supporting this motion and voting yes.

Please know, we do not do this lightly and it does not reflect any personal opinion on particular details in this discussion. This is us being committed to supporting the convention, the delegates, Republican voters across Texas in unifying our party to move forward. We must win in 2018. We’ve got to put this behind us…

I was at the SREC meeting, and wrote about the censure. I thought back to Dickey’s hopeful words at the summer bash at the game preserve, and his decision, as chairman of the Texas Republican Party, to provide the decisive vote to censure one of the three most important and powerful Republican elected officials in the state.

“I trust the body to do the right thing,” Dickey told me after meeting’s end..  “And clearly in this case it seemed clear to me that a supermajority of the body did feel this was appropriate and was important.”

Dickey said he also felt it reflected a supermajority of sentiment among party activists more broadly.


But did he personally support the censure?


As chair I absolutely separate my personal view and I’ve spoken to the speaker and could not have more clearly stated my desire to work with him as an elected official and member of the Republican Party, and that has been my strong and sincere desire, and, in my effort to grow and unify the party, I’ve spoken  to him multiple times.

But this probably puts the kibosh on producing the Straus intro video for the state convention in June, right?


There’s still time. There are interim charges that we’ve been trying to get progress on. There are other activities that will happen between now and then. I still hope for growth and unity in the Republican Party.

Ah yes, Joe Straus in sackcloth and ashes. Ah, no.

Of the vote, Dickey said:

Clearly, it’s nothing that we take lightly, it is absolutely nothing that we take lightly. But it was not censuring him, it was censuring actions that were in opposition to our priorities.

But doesn’t a state party repudiating its speaker suggest a party divided?


I don’t believe so. I think being clear about what’s important to the party and what we stand, for what we all stand for – our principles are  a broad tent, we have principles that represent the vast majority of Texans as shown by voters – standing up for those principles strongly does not divide or shrink the party, it allows us to grow.

This is how the state party described the censure in a statement posted on its website Monday:

AUSTIN, TX –  On Saturday, the State Republican Executive Committee held a vote to recognize the censure resolution sent to the body by the Bexar County Republican Party under Republican Party of Texas Rule 44, which was passed by the state convention in 2016. After the body voted the result was 42 in favor and 19 against, one vote short of the required 2/3 threshold for passage.  The Chairman and the Vice Chairman had not voted, in accordance with their usual policy of letting the body decide matters on its own.

Neither the Chairman nor the Vice Chairman went into this meeting with the intention of voting on this issue. As leaders of the Party, they seek to represent all Republicans and their various points of view.  Yet with this issue being one vote short of the necessary threshold it would not have been effective leadership to abdicate the decision and not cast a deciding vote.

After joint consultation, they decided to affirm the resolution from Bexar County for which an overwhelming majority of the body had just cast their vote.

The votes cast by the Chair and Vice Chair do not necessarily represent their personal views on this matter, but were cast in a sincere effort to foster unity, heal division, and put this issue behind the RPT so that we can move forward and focus on our goal of growing the Party and electing Republicans in critical races up and down the ballot in 2018.  That is and will continue to be the Party’s number one priority in the weeks and months to come.

So, the way the process works is that the censure resolution has to emanate from the home county or one of the home counties of the censuree – in this case Bexar, and so what the state party was doing was concurring with the Bexar County resolution of Dec. 11.

And there is really no way to do justice to the Bexar County resolution, and its Torquemadan tone, without reading it.

So, here it is:

Bexar County Executive Committee

Resolution to Censure Joseph R. Straus, III

WHEREAS, Rule 44 of the Republican Party of Texas allows the party to sanction a Republican office holder who takes three or more actions during a biennium in opposition to the core principles of the Republican Party of Texas; and

WHEREAS, Rep. Joseph R. Straus, III, as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, has abused the power of his office and taken over three actions during this current biennium that, cumulatively, are in opposition to the core principles of the Republican Party of Texas; and

WHEREAS, Straus has taken actions in opposition to the first, third, fourth, fifth, and tenth core principles of the Republican Party of Texas by abusing his authority as speaker to usurp the power of the people’s duly elected representatives of the Texas House of Representatives; and

WHEREAS, In disregard of House rules and the Texas Constitution Art. III, Sec 12(c), an act described by Governor Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Patrick as “walking off the job,” Straus unilaterally adjourned the Texas House of Representatives early on August 15, 2017 during the First Called Session of the Texas Legislature without a vote despite the objections and demands for a record vote of at least 17 members of the House of Representatives; and

WHEREAS, During the 85th legislative session, Straus repeatedly refused to recognize proper motions and amendments made by the people’s duly elected representatives, only allowing motions and amendments to proceed when he consented to their substance; likewise Straus set aside parliamentary procedure to deny representatives the right to appeal his parliamentary rulings; and

WHEREAS, Straus obstructed the agenda of Governor Abbott, denying members of both parties an opportunity to vote on the proposed legislation; and

WHEREAS, Such actions impede and make a mockery of representative government in contradiction of the principles enshrined in the Texas Constitution and in opposition to the first and fourth core principles of the Republican Party of Texas; and

WHEREAS, Such actions have damaged the sovereignty of Texas, which is predicated on the consent of the governed; Straus’s actions have removed the people from control of their government through their representatives by sabotaging those representatives’ sworn duty to control the legislature through orderly motions and votes, and this result is in opposition to the third core principle of the Republican Party of Texas; and

WHEREAS, Such actions are in opposition to the fifth core principle of the Republican Party of Texas in that Straus has refused to allow himself to be held personally accountable for his actions by cutting off the means by which his colleagues in the House of Representatives can do so; and

WHEREAS, Such actions are in opposition to the tenth core principle of the Republican Party of Texas; any office holder who does violence to the Texas Constitution by abusing the authority granted them by the people dishonors all persons who have served to protect our freedom; and Page 2 of 3 Resolution to Censure Joseph R. Straus III

WHEREAS, Straus acted during the 85th legislative session in opposition to the second core principle of the Republican Party of Texas by repeatedly obstructing legislation designed to protect the right to life; the foremost right for which governments are established to protect; and

WHEREAS, For the 85th Legislature, he appointed as Chairman of the House State Affairs Committee State Representative Byron Cook, who has been outspoken in his defense of certain third trimester abortions and has repeatedly killed pro-life bills in past regular sessions, necessitating special sessions in order for such legislation to pass; and

WHEREAS, Straus referred many pro-life bills to Cook’s committee and Cook did proceed to obstruct those bills, delaying some of them and preventing others from passing; included amongst these was House Bill 14 during the First Called Session, which Cook obstructed administratively for 17 days, causing its demise; and

WHEREAS, The consequences of the failure of such legislation will be measured in human lives; and

WHEREAS, Straus acted repeatedly during the 85th legislative session in opposition to the seventh core principle of the Republican Party of Texas by obstructing legislation designed to secure the freedom of choice for Texas parents in the education of their children; and

WHEREAS, He appointed as Chairman of the House Public Education Committee State Representative Dan Huberty, who has vociferously opposed all legislation that would give parents choice in their child’s education; and

WHEREAS, After his appointment, Huberty publicly announced all school choice bills “dead on arrival” in his committee, yet Straus proceeded to refer all bills giving greater parental choice in education to Huberty’s committee; Huberty and Straus did proceed to kill such bills, including legislation designed to give greater choice to the parents of children with special needs; and

WHEREAS, Straus has taken actions in opposition to the sixth, eighth, and ninth core principles of the Republican Party of Texas by unilaterally obstructing the Texas Privacy Act, legislation designed to protect the privacy, safety, and dignity of Texas women and children and honor the principles of the free market; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 6 (Texas Privacy Act) during the Regular Session of the 85th Texas Legislature was received by the House from the Texas Senate on March 16, 2017, yet Straus refused to refer the bill to any committee for the duration of the regular session and refused to allow members to make motions to refer the bill themselves; and

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 3 (Texas Privacy Act) during the First Called Session of the 85th Texas Legislature was received by the House from the Texas Senate on July 27, 2017, yet Straus refused to refer the bill to any committee for the duration of the special session and refused to allow members to make motions to refer the bill themselves; and

WHEREAS, Texas House Rule 13, Section 2, provides that “[s]enate bills announced [in the House] as passed shall be read for the first time and referred to the appropriate committee as soon as practicable,” and Texas House Rule 7 reserves to the members of the House the right to refer and re-refer bills to a committee of the body’s choosing; and Page 3 of 3 Resolution to Censure Joseph R. Straus III

WHEREAS, Senate Bill 6, Senate Bill 3, and other legislation that was obstructed, in opposition to the first and eighth core principles, were designed to clarify the law regarding public accommodations, acknowledging natural men and natural women, were designed to provide for the safety of Texans in their communities, in particular women and girls in intimate facilities, and were designed to protect the free enterprise society by reserving to businesses and private property owners the right to manage and control intimate facilities unencumbered by government interference; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, In accordance with Rule 44 of the Rules of the Republican Party of Texas, the Executive Committee of the Republican Party of Bexar County, meeting October 9, 2017, a quorum being present, by a vote of at least two-thirds present and voting, hereby censure Joseph R. Straus, III, a public office holder representing a portion of Bexar County; and be it further

RESOLVED, We request that the State Republican Executive Committee and the delegates to the next State Convention of the Republican Party of Texas concur in this resolution of censure and impose on Joseph R. Straus, III, the penalties provided in Rule 44 of the Rules of the Republican Party of Texas; and be it further

RESOLVED, That an official copy of this resolution be prepared and transmitted to the Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.

Now, I must admit, that I am one of those reporters who delights in covering the workings of convention platform committees, Republican and Democrat, because of the arcane, intense, earnest madness of those proceedings.

I wrote a First Reading on the 2014 Texas Republican Party Platform: By their fruits, ye shall know them. On the Texas GOP platform, that began:

What is another word for a party’s political platform? Opposition research.

Indeed, the document produced by the 2014 Republican Convention in Fort Worth was probably most eagerly awaited and avidly read by Texas Democrats. The instant the Republican convention approved its platform before adjourning Saturday afternoon, Battleground Texas issued a fundraising appeal under the headline, “This GOP Platform Will Shock You,” with the following bullet points drawn (in a couple of cases with a little interpretative license) from the Republican platform.

– Reparative therapy to “cure” homosexuality

– Climate change is a conspiracy
– Drug test welfare recipients
– Abolish the Department of Education
– Abolish the Department of Homeland Security
– Deny a women’s right to choose even in cases of rape or incest
– Disband the TSA
– Defund Texas schools
– Reject the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
– Withdraw from the United Nations

Battleground Texas’ solution: Donate Now.

If you are actually shocked by that list, you may be a Democrat.

It’s probably a mistake to make too much of a party platform. They are like grade school finger-painting – more about self-expression and remaining usefully occupied than great art.

But they have a great virtue.

While much of politics is about obfuscation and obscuring what a candidate really thinks or would do behind market-tested slogans and bromides, platforms are painfully earnest documents that express what the party, or at any rate factions within the party, truly believe and care about. Sometimes, when the issue gets big enough – like immigration – the planks represent efforts to wrestle a consensus position out of competing points of view. But, most often, they offer a real peek at what the most devoted folks within the party are thinking.

Well then, consider Saturday’s Straus censure the Revenge of the Platform Nerds. 

As one of the proponents of the resolution said during the debate, no longer would platform writing be dismissed as busy work for the committed. With Saturday’s vote, that fidget spinner for ideologues can now clearly be seen to be the engine of the party – the Republican Party in the nation’s biggest and most important Red State.

What was perhaps most remarkable, was that during the debate over the resolution, not a single member rose to actually say something nice about Straus (except that he sends very nice Christmas cards).

Opponents of the resolution merely made the case that Straus had already suffered their opprobrium.

Proponents of the censure described it as historic, the biggest vote of their lifetimes, that it would resound across the national political landscape.

Yes, McCloskey, who represents Senate District 5 on the SREC, told me Monday, the vote was a big deal, but not in a good way.

“I’m in DC today it was being discussed up here,” said McCloskey, who will be attending the Republican National Committee meeting in D.C. later this week.”We’re now a party that mainstream Republicans would not recognize.”

“There are people who are considered impure, and it starts with the speaker, but there are other people that they feel the same way about,” he said.

“There is a disconnect between the grassroots, which they consider to be attendees at the Republican State Convention, and what I consider grassroots, which are the voters,” McCloskey said.

The censure, he said, attempts to abrogate the rights of the voters, not to mention all those Republicans in the Texas House who kept Straus as speaker for five terms – as long as any speaker in Texas history – most recently by a unanimous vote. And, he noted, the SREC approved a separate resolution Saturday thanking the Legislature for all the good things it had done. Straus was speaker for those things as well.


“I‘m a conservative Republican as much as anyone can claim to be without going to what I consider to be the extremes that some people do that are not reflective of Texas and probably not reflective of their districts,” he said.

“Remember, these are the people who said two years ago that the most important vote you would take in your lifetime was to put secession on the ballot and I said at the time, I never thought that I would get a chance to vote in my lifetime on whether Texas would remain part of the United States. Isn’t that the craziest thing?” McCloskey said. “They went on radio shows and they went after me personally because I wasn’t going to support secession.”

“To give you an idea, when I joined the SREC (four years ago)  I started receiving this magazine, it was from the John Birch Society. I take great joy in standing in my Post Office, when they send it to me and throwing it away, because they are trying to get everybody to be of that mindset, I call it the black helicopter crowd.”

McCloskey was not suggesting that the party had anything to do with him receiving the magazine, only that, in the SREC, the John Birch Society, saw ripe targets of opportunity.

“I get a lot of this kind of stuff, and I have a filter on me that can reject it, but a lot of these folks, it just feeds them. They are very much influenced and controlled by the Tim Dunn crowd, whatever they says goes. The TPPF (Texas Public Policy Foundation) crowd, Michael Quinn Sullivan.”

And, he noted, it is the SREC members who get to choose the people who, at each convention, craft the party platform.

“There’s just a disconnect with reality,” McCloskey said. “The best that could happen to us is to have no meetings.”

And, McCloskey aid, it was a given that Dickey would ultimately side with those seeking the censure, because those are the folks who elected him chair by a single vote.

“The people who wanted that resolution, who spent a long time working on it, elected him. He had a payment he had to make.”

Wayne Thorburn, who was executive director of the Texas Republican Party from 1977 to 1983 and wrote the 2014 book, “Red State: An Insider’s Story of How the GOP Came to Dominate Texas Politics,” was also distressed by the Straus censure.

“The guy’s not even running for re-election, his term is over so why bother doing that,” Thorburn said. “I think it’s a really bad move. I think it’s embarrassing to someone who is one of the top elected officials, albeit elected by the Legislature, to be censured by his own party. It’s such a small closed shop kind of a vote, kind of says that party is going to stick to this and we’re not going to consider deviation from what we think is the right policy. It’s one of those divisive things and they should have let it die in Bexar County.

Also, Thorburn said, “I don’t think all the grassroots agree.”

“Some activists in the party  thought what Straus was doing was the right thing in letting positive legislation get out of the House and not divisive bills that weren’t essential to the running of the state,” he said. “There’s so much that should be focused on in terms of school finance, infrastructure,  juvenile justice, so many other things in the state that have priority over which bathroom someone uses.”

“The legislators are not really engaged in who gets elected to party positions so, by default,  those who hold more extreme motivations for their political involvement tend to be the one who get elected to these positions,” Thorburn said.

When  Mechler became chairman, he named Thorburn to a new position, party historian. With Dickey’s election, Thorburn relinquished the job.

Last night I spoke to  Mechler, who is from Amarillo and who I first met when he chaired the Platform Committee at 2014 state convention (he chaired in 2012 as well).

He was disappointed by the Straus censure.

“When I was state chairman I focused my administration on unifying the party – that the Republican Party belonged to all Republicans throughout the state of Texas,” Mechler said. “What happened Saturday is, I think, most unfortunate. While the people who passed that said it was about unity nothing could be further from the truth. I think it was a very divisive thing that was done against a sitting speaker who is not even on the ballot in March.”

Meanwhile, in other Texas Republican Party purge news:

AUSTIN – Texans for Greg Abbott today released its second TV ad supporting Susanna Dokupil for State Representative. The ad points out how Dokupil’s opponent, Sarah Davis, has consistently voted against conservative policies and Governor Abbott’s legislative priorities, including protecting the unborn and limiting state spending.


And from the Sarah Davis campaign:

Deceptive Dokupil Ad Continues Campaign of Distortion

Abbott-Funded Desperate Attack Ad Rests on a Throne of Lies

West University Place – State Rep. Sarah Davis corrected the record concerning a newly released Susanna Dokupil ad that uses Governor Abbott’s campaign funds to deceive voters. The ad claims Davis supports late-term abortions, but ignores the record and even ignores an important passage in the story they cite in the ad.

`Let Her Speak:’ Inside the screenplay of the Wendy Davis (Sandra Bullock) biopic

Good Monday Austin:

That, above, would be from the title page of the 133-page screenplay by Mario Correa, an accomplished Chilean-born, Brooklyn-based playwright and television and film writer, about Wendy Davis and the abortion filibuster that made her famous, a script that came into my possession Friday and which I read over the weekend.

Giving me a look. 2013.

On Thursday, Variety  broke the news.

Sandra Bullock will star in the spec “Let Her Speak” as Texas senator Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster helped stall an anti-abortion bill in the Texas state house.

Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal are on board to produce through their Escape Artists banner.

At the time, Davis was a little known Democratic senator who soon became a national icon on the subject of abortion after filibustering for 11 hours in order to stall a bill, and ultimately delaying its passage beyond the midnight deadline for the end of the legislative session. The bill would have included more restrictive abortion regulations for Texas and would have closed all abortion clinics in the state. (note: Not quite, but almost.)

Mario Correa penned the spec.

The package will now be shopped to studios and should court several suitors over the next week.

The role seems right up Bullock’s alley and could be another awards play for the star who won her first Oscar for playing Leigh Anne Tuohy in the real-life story “The Blind Side.” She just wrapped production on Warner Bros.’ “Ocean’s Eleven” spinoff, “Ocean’s Eight,” and is about start filming on the Netflix movie “Bird Box.”

She is repped by CAA.

I would have read it on Friday, but I was busy writing a Sunday story about Texas Democrats’ search for a candidate to oppose Gov. Greg Abbott for re-election, with Davis leaving the door open a crack that she would do it if an appropriate other candidate did not step forward.

The script is a good read.

I must admit, it’s a kick to read a screenplay about a moment in history to which you were first-hand witness – with all the name players bearing their real names – and to see how it’s done.

The script is drawn from the public record, from Davis’ book ” –  Forgetting to be Afraid: A Memoir – published two months before the November 2014 gubernatorial election, and, no doubt, from conversations with Davis.

It is written from Davis’ point of view and is hagiographic in the extreme. If you don’t agree with Wendy Davis on abortion, this will not be the movie for you, though, considering the subject and  the state of American political polarization, that should not be surprising.

The film opens with a terrifying and disturbing scene from Davis’ childhood that she wrote about in her memoir. As I wrote in the Statesman when it came out two months before the November gubernatorial election:

The book is replete with details of a sometimes harrowing childhood, of a loving but philandering father and a cold but dutiful mother who, after the first of two breakups with her husband, placed the infant Wendy and two siblings in the trunk of their car in the family garage with the intention of turning on the engine and killing herself and her children. Only a fortuitous visit from a neighbor who talked and prayed with Davis’ mother broke the spell of despondency and spared their lives.

We cut from that nightmarish scene to Wendy Davis on an Austin running trail in the spring of 2013, that sets the tone for rest of the movie.

Davis is portrayed as a hero –  strong, brave, brilliant, determined, relentless, tireless. This is not one of those movies where they throw in a fault or foible, however  minor, to give the character a more realistic texture.

This is not flawed-character-as-reluctant hero. This is up by her bootstraps, against the odds, hell bent for leather heroine.

The only hint of an imperfection is when colleague and ally Kirk Watson suggests to her that maybe she possesses the slightest hint of holier-than-thou moral preening – like she alone among her Democratic peers has the right stuff to lead the battle against the forces of darkness. But, of course, in the view of the film, she is also right, and so maybe, like all the great ones since Joan of Arc, she comes on a little strong.

At the time of the June 25, 2013 filibuster, I had been in Austin six months and it was one of the most dramatic scenes I’ve witnessed in 40 years as a reporter.

As I wrote in a First Reading on the third anniversary of the filibuster:

The Texas Capitol was the center of the political universe, the building fairly shaking, throbbing, pulsing with tension and consequence, with Wendy Davis – and that terse bard of the Texas Senate, Mike Ward – seizing the Twitterverse by the neck and shaking it for all it’s worth, and the moribund corpse of the Texas Democratic Party, laid out cold on a slab, being thumped and electric-shocked back to life.

I had been up the night before writing an anticipatory First Reading so I had only had an hour or two of sleep before showing up in the Senate that morning, and never leaving until well after it culminated in a delirious moment of confusion/triumph/defeat that made Mr. Smith, and all the fuss made about him, seem quaintly understated.

As I wrote in the Statesman that Sunday:

By standing her ground on the Senate floor for nearly 13 hours Tuesday against legislation that would severely restrict access to abortions in Texas, the petite Davis, in her now-celebrated rouge red Mizuno Wave Rider 16s, had provided downtrodden Texas Democrats with their best moment of the 21st century.

Overnight, Davis had raised the possibility that Democrats, against all odds, might mount a serious campaign for governor in 2014, scrambled Gov. Rick Perry’s political timetable, undermined Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s chances of re-election, and revised the politics of abortion in Texas by pushing final passage of Senate Bill 5 past its midnight deadline.

“That was the moment when the Democratic Party in Texas came alive,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said the next day. “I was in the Texas Legislature for 10 years waiting for that moment. I never got it. It happened last night.”

This is the Wendy Davis that Wendy Davis and her campaign wanted to present to Texas voters when she ran for governor in 2014.

From Robert Draper’s February 2014 cover piece in the New York Times Magazine: Can Wendy Davis Have it All?

It did not take long for her and everyone else in the chamber to see that the usual permissiveness attendant to Texas filibusters — furtive sips of water, hard candy for sustenance, languid reading of the Bible, leaning against furniture, even a dash to the bathroom — would not apply to her. But as the hours wore on and the spectacle of the slight woman standing erect if dehydrated, and reading testimony from women who had gotten abortions, in a chamber full of glowering and mostly male Republicans spread across the Twitterverse, something began to tilt in her favor. At one point, opponents complained that she had violated the rules by getting off topic. At another, Rodney Ellis, a Democratic colleague, whispered, “The president just tweeted about you,” and Davis responded with an expletive of surprise. When the presiding Republican, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, ruled that she had three violations and ended her filibuster, pandemonium ensued, thus delaying a vote on the bill until just after midnight, when the session officially ended. Shortly after 3 a.m., Dewhurst reluctantly announced that Davis’s filibuster had prevailed and that S.B. 5 was dead. (The next month in a second special session, Gov. Rick Perry reintroduced the bill, and it passed.)

When she walked out to the Capitol steps, someone handed her a microphone, allowing her strained voice to be heard by the crowd of thousands who had gathered to greet her. She then decompressed in her office, after which she and Will Wynn walked together to her car — backs to the camera, savoring the semblance of privacy.

Overnight, a once-obscure state senator had become the Democrats’ most appealing new face. “I felt like she was Joan of Arc, standing up there for women all across the country,” (former Michigan Gov. Jennifer) Granholm said. Democrats in Washington were enrapt. When Davis visited the nation’s capital a few weeks later for a fund-raiser, Nancy Pelosi and more than a dozen senators were there. Anna Greenberg, a Washington-based Democratic pollster who until recently worked for Davis, explained that even for Beltway insiders, “there has been a feeling of disappointment in Obama — the inspiration just isn’t there anymore — not to mention all of the dysfunction in Congress. Then these new voices emerge,” like Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts “and Wendy, all speaking truth to power. They make Democrats feel inspired again.”

The cinematic possibilities of the moment were instantly obvious  and  the casting commenced almost at once.

I don’t think what I’m going to tell you about the screenplay requires any spoiler alerts. We all now how it ends.

But I think I can be of service by letting you know which roles require casting, and how the script treats each of those characters.

First things first.

The only reporter with a name and a real part is Laura Kamen. There is her cameraman, and another unnamed reporter, who gets to engage in some irrelevant reporter banter, but, otherwise Kamen’s it. I don’t think there is an actual reporter named Laura Kamen, and I don’t think she is based on anyone in particular, but I think Kamen is  a Jewish name, for what it’s worth.

So, sorry Johnathan, Evan, Steve. Not gonna happen.

The villain of the piece is Dan Patrick, then a senator, now lieutenant governor.

Here is how Dan Patrick is introduced in the film.


Well, I suppose he’s available. But not nice.


Patrick’s sidekick in the screenplay is Sen. Donna Campbell.

Here’s her intro.

Not nice.


The best line that I haven’t heard before is delivered by Dan Patrick (think Dennis Quaid) to Donna Campbell (think Holly Hunter) about eight hours into the filibuster.

The most interesting and demanding role is Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst – because he is written as conflicted and is a character with shades of gray. Dewhurst in the script is  torn between his own fundamental decency and respect for the traditions of the Texas Senate and political reality, and, what in retrospect, was a wholly legitimate concern about a challenge from Dan Patrick.

Here is Dewhurst’s intro.

Ted Hebert is, as far as I know, a made up name. I think he’s probably a composite, or maybe he’s just made up. He’s the slick political adviser/chief of staff/consultant, who tells Dewhurst what he needs to do to keep his job and keep Patrick at bay.

For Hebert, a special session that includes abortion is a gift that will enable Dewhurst to show the Republican base that no matter that patrician persona, and his previous defeat in the 2012 Senate primary runoff at the hands of Cruz, Dewhurst has the right right stuff.

The base is represented by three made up characters.

The script offers a sympathetic view of Dewhurst. He is not just some hapless ditherer.  I would like to see them build his character a little more. If the movie is going to be ore than a polemic, it’s got to build on Dewhurst’s dilemma.

I like that.


Why Colin Firth?

The stutter, and the empathy I think Firth would bring to the role. (They can make him up to look older than he is.)

From a story I wrote on the eve of Dewhurst’s May 2014 primary runoff loss to Patrick, coming after his defeat two years earlier in a runoff with Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate.

Dewhurst found himself being challenged for the Senate by, among others, Cruz, who would turn out to be a once-in-a-generation political talent — a championship debater at Princeton and former solicitor general for Texas who had argued nine cases before the Supreme Court. Dewhurst put $20 million of his own money into the campaign, spending a lot on attack ads that hurt him more than Cruz. Most crucial for Cruz, the campaign calendar was stretched by court battles over redistricting, giving him time to mount a campaign that forced a runoff, and he stampeded to victory in the midsummer runoff.

Now, in an awful deja vu for Dewhurst, he is facing, in Patrick, another natural talker — a former sports broadcaster who for years has made his name as a conservative talk radio host on a station he owns in Houston.

“It’s very frustrating for me,” Dewhurst said in an interview in his campaign office Monday, just before going over to the early voting trailer at the H-E-B at Oltorf Street and Congress Avenue to cast his ballot. “On any given day, I’m going to be a slower talker than Dan Patrick or Ted Cruz because my father was killed by a drunk driver when I was 3, and it must have been so traumatic because for a while I couldn’t speak and then I had a horrible stutter.”

“It was a long time before I started to get it under control,” Dewhurst said. “In ninth grade, I was president of the student council, and I would try to preside over meetings, but I couldn’t talk sometimes.”

The remnants of his speech problem are still well in evidence. He speaks slowly — more slowly if he’s tired — and very deliberately.

Campaign staffers have in the past urged him to just speak from the heart and not overthink everything he is about to say, but the desire to get things just so seems to have become a general habit of mind.

The other Democrats in the Senate get roles of varying size.

Watson plays Davis’ foil – a friend and ally but just lacking a little of her moxie until the close of the filibuster when he delivers in brilliant fashion.

The script makes it plain why Davis was chosen to make history.


You want someone with a little friendly tension with Wendy/Sandra. Someone who can puncture her sanctimony, appear a bit world weary but who rises to the occasion and sounds like he’s really from Texas.

There are a couple of other meaty roles.

Sonya Grogg, as Davis’ chief of staff, is the woman behind the woman. The script describes here as a “young Wendy in the making.”

Dr. Lisa Chang is the 28-year-old physician – I have no idea if that is her actual name – who fits Davis with the catheter that enables her to make it through the filibuster, which allows for no bathroom breaks. Only the catheter is too large and painfully cumbersome so Dr. Chang has to rush over through impossible Austin traffic and an impossible line to get into the Capitol, to fit Davis with a more appropriately-sized catheter moments before the filibuster begin.

I predict the catheter scenes will be Oscar bait.

And, by the way, it’s Donna Campbell, a physician, who realizes Davis is catheterized.


There’s also a nice part in Javier Costa, the wide-eyed 21-year-old intern who arrives in Davis’ office on Sine Die of the regular session and finds himself thrust into the middle of history and playing his own pivotal role when he is dispatched, deep in to the filibuster, to the local CVS to procure a back brace Davis needs if she is oil to make it to midnight. Against all odds, Costa gets the brace to Davis just in the nick of time, although Sen Rodney Ellis’ memorable assist to Davis in getting the brace on cost her one of the there strikes she was allowed, imperiling the filibuster.

Ellis’ part is good, but doesn’t take full advantage of his personality.

Senate Parliamentarian Karina Davis – no relation to Wendy – has a nice little part in the thick of the filibuster action.

There are also roles, in flashback, for Jeff Davis, Wendy’s second husband, and former Austin Mayor Will Wynn, who plays her sympathetic and supportive boyfriend. It’s the kind of part Sam Shepard could have played, but, lamentably, he’s dead.

There is also, of course, Leticia Van de Putte, who the script describes as “Latina, confident, big-boned.”

The filibuster created the Democratic ticket in 2014 – Davis for governor and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte for lieutenant governor, though, for whatever reason, Davis kept her distance from Van de Putte during the campaign, which was odd considering their triumphant moment of sisterhood at the close of the filibuster.

As I wrote in a First Reading just after the election:

The most self-defeating and inexplicable aspect of the whole Wendy Davis campaign was the failure to take advantage of the party’s candidate for lieutenant governor.

Davis and Van de Putte should have campaigned side-by-side across the state. They needed each other. Van de Putte needed the exposure, needed to let Texans know who she was and that, notwithstanding her married name, she was actually Hispanic. And Davis desperately needed the Van de Putte touch. Van de Putte is warm and approachable and spontaneous where Davis is cool and distant and canned. It was Van de Putte who, arriving late in the filibuster after burying her father, delivered the killer line – “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”- that threw the gallery into pandemonium and won the day for the Democrats.

And how does he screenplay handle that moment?

Very oddly.

Wait. What? Hold on.

In the script, Davis is delivering Van de Putte’s spontaneous, immortal line.

That’s just not right. They’ve got to fix that.



In the script, as Davis, Kirk and the other Democrats celebrated after the filibuster, we see Rick Perry, in a silk bathrobe, over at the Governor’s Mansion, taking in the scene on TV, and talking to an aide on the phone.

That’s it. Perry could play himself. He’s got an equity card.

The Legislature passed the law in the next special session that Davis had filibustered, but three years later, the Supreme Court struck down the law.

But, for Davis and Texas Democrats, the political aftermath of the filibuster was a letdown.

A First Reading I wrote on the occasion of

Well, the adrenalin rush didn’t last, except maybe for Dan Patrick, who used the public flummoxing of David Dewhurst to launch a successful bid to remove and replace him. Davis’ gubernatorial campaign was a disaster. And somehow, when all the dust had settled, we had Sid Miller occupying the august office of Texas Agriculture Commissioner, once occupied by Jim Hightower and Rick Perry, and Ken Paxton succeeding Greg Abbott as attorney general.

From Robert Draper’s New York Times Magazine piece.

(T)he campaign had chosen as its lead narrative a heroic struggle of a different sort: that of a teenage, trailer-dwelling single mother, who, while raising two daughters, bootstrapped her way into Harvard Law School and soon, possibly, the governorship. On many levels, the story was politically exquisite. It connected the candidate and her devotion to issues like education in a personal rather than an ideological manner. It also sidestepped the divisive issue of abortion while framing her as the kind of hard-working mother to whom suburban women (a critical voting bloc) could relate. More broadly, as one of her Washington-based ad makers, Maura Dougherty, would tell me: “The bio connects her to Texans in a way that very few other things do. Her personal story makes her one of them.” Playing on the state’s self-reverence, the campaign titled the slick four-and-a-half-minute ad announcing her run for governor “A Texas Story.”

But it was also very much the story of a female politician — and was thus fraught with choices for which male candidates are seldom second-guessed by either voters or pundits. And, as it would develop two days after our drive around Fort Worth, the story was far from a tidy one.

In the movie, the tidy story makes a comeback and fits seamlessly with what led her to perform the Great Filibuster of 2013.

But, as I wrote in a First Reading  just after the 2014 eelection: O Pappy where art thou? What Wendy Davis could have learned from W. Lee O’Daniel:

Davis’ gubernatorial campaign peaked three months before it began, with her filibuster. From the moment she formally launched her campaign, it appeared to be an exercise in negative branding.

In other words, Davis ended up getting something less than the base Democratic vote. Not good. Jim Hogan, running for agriculture commissioner, did a great service by providing what amounted to a real-world control experiment. He raised no money. He did not campaign. He simply got his name on the ballot as the Democrat running against Sid Miller for agriculture commissioner and received 37 percent of the vote, two points less than Davis.

The 2014 election nationally had the lowest turnout in 72 years, since World War II, since Pappy O’Daniel roamed the campaign trail.

The starkest statistic of the Davis campaign is not the 20 percentage point margin by which she lost – vastly larger than former Houston Mayor Bill White’s 12.7 point loss four years ago to Gov Rick Perry – but how she lost it.

Attorney General Greg Abbott did not much improve on Perry’s performance – he received only 53,246 more votes than Perry out of a larger potential electorate. But Davis received 274,148 fewer votes than White, who has all the dynamism of Ferris Beuller’s high school economics teacher, and even though Davis would regularly remind voters at campaign appearance that her candidacy had generated more excitement than any Democratic candidate for governor in decades.



The screenplay ends, fittingly enough, with a call to action.


In the screenplay, that is followed by a note explaining what subsequently  happened to the people depicted in the movie.

One correction – Rodney Ellis is now a Harris County commissioner.

As for Davis’ vow to run again for office. We’ll see about that. Perhaps sooner than later.

But I got to figure being played by Sandra Bullock in a big-budget biopic has to be way better than being governor of Texas, and certainly far better than running for governor.

I admit I’m jealous.

If only there were a bankable star who could play me on the big screen.








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


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.


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.

Austin’s Garry Brown announces for governor: `Help me make sure that Hell freezes over.’

Good morning Austin:

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, Garry Brown of Austin announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018.

It was a simple affair on Brown’s front lawn in Milwood. A podium. About 30 folding chairs and as many people.

Here’s the whole show.

But first, about that game last night.

This, below, clearly seemed, in retrospect to be the karmic turning point of the game, though when it happened, it seemed both comical and even ugly, with the potential to become even uglier.

From the Houston Chronicle:

When FOX cameras caught an Astros fan ripping a Dodgers home run ball out of another’s fan hands and throwing it back onto the field, it seemed for sure there would be a fight in the stands — or at the very least two people who wouldn’t be talking to each other for a long time.

Yeah. I kept wanting the cameras to check back in on them.

Instead, just an inning later, they were laughing about it.

It helps that Sarah Head and Kirk Head are in-laws and that Sarah has a sense of humor.

Well, that explains why the two men looked very much alike even if they were temperamentally different and apparently had a different code of baseball, or in-law, ethics.

 When Yasiel Puig hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning that cut the Astros’ Game 5 lead to 12-11, Sarah wound up with the ball. She briefly celebrated her prize. Very briefly. Kirk reached around his brother and snatched the ball out of Sarah’s hands and threw it back on the field.

It’s a Minute Maid Park tradition that all home runs from the visiting team get thrown back.

Sarah told the Chronicle she knew the tradition but would have liked to have thrown it back herself. But Kirk said the stakes were too high, and who knew how the baseball gods would view even a moment’s hesitation.

Kirk said he didn’t have the patience to wait on Sarah, especially with his Astros in the process of blowing a three-run lead.

“It’s bad karma to keep it,” Kirk said. “You’ve got to throw it back. I was just making sure she did.”

Back to Garry Brown’s announcement, which was a very homey affair.

Three friends introduced Brown.

First up was Angela Rodriguez-Mayers, who has been friends with Brown since their University of Texas days, where they were both involved with Alpha Phi Omega, the service fraternity.

Rodriguez-Mayers said that Brown was for a while president of the UT chapter and that “he kept a bunch of mostly immature but well-meaning and well-intentioned people focused on the important stuff, which was helping people.”

Very good.

Next up was Eileen Ladd.


Ladd recalled the Robert Fulghum book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

“All I need to know about Garry Brown, I learned in pre-school,” said Ladd, noting that Brown had been her children’s pre-school teacher, where he earned her deepest trust and excelled at “teaching kids to play well with each other, put their toys away and behave.”

Last up as Kellie Sauls, who many years ago taught with Brown, and, she said, learned from him.

“From the first time I met Garry he was a force,” Sauls said. The children, “loved him, they  listened to him, they respected him.”

Then came Brown.

“I know most you are here to see if I’m really going to do it,” he said to appreciative laughter.

Them he made his pitch:

Texas by its very name means friend. Unfortunately, Absent Abbott and his Republican faction of so-called leaders have made this state hostile to almost everyone. They hate children, people who are sick, women, people of color, the LGBTQ community and working and middle class families.

You can watch the video to hear the litany of Brown’s grievances, including the fact  that the state’s leadership seemed, “so infatuated with who takes a leak in a bathroom.”

“This is just the tip of the iceberg, which by the way is melting faster and faster because they hate the Earth too,” Brown said.

“And this is the Texas Miracle we keep hearing about?” Brown said. “There is only one thing to call this: Bullshit.”


Absent Abbott is allowing this to happen while he is involved in a one-sided pissing contest  with the state of California. Really? Just check his Twitter account.

He bashes California at least once a week and meanwhile California is like, “What’s this rain on my leg?”


Well- educated citizens don”t believe crazy ideas like some of those jack-asses you hear on television, in the state Legislature, or even in the White  House.

Brown called for better funding education, Medicaid expansion and preserving local control.

Of Abbott, he said, “He dislikes Big Government when it involves the Fed, but he himself practices it eery day. And now he’s begging the Feds to send us money for the Harvey recovery work. This isn’t just irony, folks, it’s hypocritical bullcrap.”

“I didn’t make the decision to run for governor lightly,” Brown said.

Brown said he will keep his day job, that he can’t afford not to. He is a renter and he is also supporting his mother, sister and nephew.

“I moved them all in with me to take care of them,” he said.

Then he offered what I thought was his most arresting image.

“Texas GOP leaders have been in power so long they believe we all have Stockholm Syndrome.”

Stockholm Syndrome refers to, Feelings of trust or affection felt in certain cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor.

From Business Insider, a quick explanation of the original of the name:

Forty years ago, a guy wearing “toy-store glasses,” blush, and a thick brown wig burst into a bank in Stockholm and took four employees hostage, according to an epic 1974 New Yorker article, titled “Bank Drama.” The captives bonded with him during the six-day standoff, at one point offering to leave the bank with him and his accomplice so their captors could flee unharmed.

Television stations broadcasted updates from the standoff day and night. Everybody in Sweden was captivated by the drama, and they were especially intrigued by the victims’ apparent sympathy and compliance with their captors.

Swedish psychiatrist Nils Bejerot later coined the term “Stockholm Syndrome” to describe so-called captor bonding.

Same deal in Dog Day Afternoon, about victims, and the broader public, identifying with Sonny, played by Al Pacino, who ties to rob a bank in Brooklyn to pay for his boyfriend’s sex change.

Br J

It may not be a perfect metaphor for the Republican takeover of Texas politics, but you get the idea, and to follow it to its logical conclusion, here from Max D. Gray at, How to Treat Stockholm Syndrome.

Gray offers seven “steps to follow. Here are the four that I think Brown should be most mindful of as he attempts to snap Texans out of their empathy with what he views as their political captors.

2. Do not insist. People with Stockholm syndrome fail to see the complexity of the situation. Do not try to convince them of what may happen or try to force them to change their mind. Just talk to them and calmly explain your point of view. You need to avoid pushing them further away from you in order to help them.’

3. Show them affection. Try to show your love and support. You must convey trust so that they do not see you as an enemy.

5. Keep calm. Often, this situation generates a feeling of helplessness. The important thing is to remain calm to avoid pushing the person away. Staying calm is the greatest help you can give. Be patient, they will listen to you if you convey trust and understanding.

7. Listen. If they feel they can trust you, they will talk about their situation. When this happens, you should control your feelings. Don’t show you’re angry or infuriated if the person with Stockholm syndrome defends or identifies with the abusers. Listen to them, and when you think it’s necessary, give your opinion. However, be careful about the way you do it and how you say it, so as to avoid them becoming defensive.

Brown offered another metaphor:

“Most of us know you must turn over the soil periodically to kept soil fertile. After twenty-plus years of Republican government. It’s time to turn over the soil.”

He finished on an optimistic note.

Now, I want you to imagine where you’ll be, Nov. 6, 2018, at about 11 p.m. at around the time that it is reported that Hell has frozen over and Texas has elected a Democratic governor.

It’s a pretty good feeling.

I need your support and ask that you help me make sure that Hell freezes over.

That was it.

I spoke to Brown afterward.

He was born in Corpus Christi, grew up mostly in Louisiana – in Gretna, just across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, and Lafayette. He finished high school in McAllen. He went to UT and finished up with an English degree from UTSA.

He has lived most of the time since then – with three departures and returns – in Austin, most recently returning in 2006.

“I love this place,” he said.

He is executive assistant to Williamson County Commissioner Terry Cook, who last year became the first Democrat elected to the Commissioners Court since 1994, which is also the last year Texas Democrats elected anyone statewide.

Brown said Cook OK”d his running for governor while keeping his job, which, he said, he will continue to thoroughly execute.

I told her if she said, “no,” I wouldn’t be doing this but she understands why I’m doing this. And I promised her that, whatever was going on, I’d always be back for Tuesday morning Commissioners Court meetings.

Before that I was working for Constable Sally Hernandez I was community outreach director for her before she became sheriff. I love Sally.

Before that I worked for Commissioner Karen Huber and when we lost our re-electionn I was going through the seven stages of grief and Sally called me out of the blue a couple of days later and said, “Garry, you don’t have to worry about, you have a job.”

Has Brown run for office before?

“Yes, County Commissioner,  Precinct Two, three years ago.”

He came in third, behind winner Brigid Shea and distant runner-up Roland Jung.

The Burnt Orange Report endorsement of Brown in that race offers a sense of his politics and background.

Burnt Orange Report endorses Garry Brown for Precinct 2 Travis County Commissioner owing to his experience in county government and long history as a Democratic activist.

In the other open-seat election for a position on the Travis County Commissioners’ Court, politicos have engaged in a large debate as to whether we should elect an experienced wonk or a long-time party activist. In Precinct 2, we don’t need that argument: Garry Brown is both. Brown offers strong credentials both as a partisan Democrat and an experienced Travis County employee, and that combination compels us to recommend a vote for him in the upcoming primary.

Brown currently serves as the Public Relations Director for Travis County Constable Sally Hernandez, and beforehand he spent four years as Chief of Staff to County Commissioner Karen Huber. That knowledge of county government will allow Brown to hit the ground running on the Commissioners Court, which can benefit from that infusion of energy. Brown’s progressive history-he has worked for Lloyd Doggett, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Travis County Democratic Party-leaves us confident that he will be part of the movement towards a better, bolder County government.

“There’s 60 to 65 percent of registered voters in this state that don’t vote,” Brown said.

He said they need an unconventional, straight-talking candidate to shake them out of their apathy.

“I’m the different kind of candidate. I’m calling people out for what’s happening in this state,” he said.

“Look, there’s no illusions of grandeur here, but I think there are opportunities, and I think I have the right message. Hopefully, with the strong language that I plan to use across the state, hopefully that will resonate with some people.”

Why governor?

You know, after the regular session, I was just really upset at what happened. 

I just posted out there, “You know if it just doesn’t get any better, I’m going to run for governor.And people were like,”Garry, Oh my God, you should do it.”

It really started out as half a joke. And then when the special session happened, and no big-name Democrat was stepping up, I was like, “Someone’s got to call these people out. Let’s do something different for a change.

I mean, God love our past candidates but I just don’t think we can engage in bureaucratic-speak anymore. You know, “What they’re doing is wrong. They’r’e not nice people.”

No, that doesn’t energize anybody, and you know Democrats have gone middle-of-the-road so long, and look where it’s gotten us.

I pointed out that Tom Wakely, one of his rivals for the Democratic nomination for governor, wasn’t exactly a rhetorical shrinking violets.

I wrote about Wakely in a recent First Reading`Berniecrat with a Panama hat,’ Tom Wakely launches campaign against `neofascist’ Greg Abbott.

(I devoted an earlier First Reading – Democrat Jeffrey Payne launches his `outside the box’ candidacy for governor to a third candidate in the race, a Dallas businessman who has promised to devote a lot more money to this campaign than either Wakely or Brown are likely to be able to come up with.)

Brown’s nickname for Abbott is Absent Abbott.

We didn’t see Greg Abbott at all except when he went on Facebook Live to sign SB4 (the law banning sanctuary cities.) Are you kidding me? That was just one of the nails in the coffin for me. And then he cedes all leadership to Dan Patrick. He takes everything Dan Patrick says and tries to form a special session around those things. It’s just – GOLLLLLY –  unbelievable.”

Brown said he had a cordial meeting with folks at the Texas Democratic Party.

It was a nice meeting and they totally understood where I was coming from. I was told that there are still a couple of people that they’re talking and it looks like … the same thing you’ve been hearing for the last three or four months. And I said, that’s great, and if somebody like Castro decides to jump in, then I’m good (and would get out).

Brown said he understood why a current Democratic officeholder might not want to give it up to challenge Abbott and his $41 million campaign kitty. That’s another reason, he said, his candidacy makes sense.

This way, I don’t have anything to lose and I can call them out and take one for the team. There’s nobody out there calling them out in such strong language that I’m seeing. l would love to see that.”

Dave Carney is Abbott’s chief political strategist.

And @randrewwhite, is Andrew White, the son of former Texas Gov. Mark White, who died in August.

Andrew White said last week that he is strongly considering seeking the Democratic nomination for governor as a pragmatic, independent-minded, conservative Democrat.

But, aside from being the son of a former governor, White is otherwise a political – and Twitter – neophyte.


Joe Straus for governor? `I don’t think so.’



Good day Austin:

On the eve of the special session I wrote a First Reading, For Texas GOP, the special session may be The Most Dangerous Game, in which I mused about the peril for the Texas Republican Party in two of the Big Three of Texas government – Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick  –  gunning for the third – their fellow Republican, House Speaker Joe Straus.

At the close of that First Reading I wrote:

 Not that he’d do it, but Joe Straus could conceivably run for governor or lieutenant governor in 2018, and win.

He just can’t do it as a Republican, because he would never survive a Republican primary. But he could do it as an independent in which the Democrats, who really have no prospects of winning for either governor or lieutenant governor next year, simply stand down.

Straus would run as an independent – in the name of saving Texas and his Grand Old Party from the extremists – pick up most of the Democratic vote, and win just enough of the independent and Republican vote to defeat Abbott or Patrick who would be in the unnatural position of having to pivot to the center.

IndeOut of that, a bumper sticker was born.


Fast forward to yesterday morning when Straus, who never seems hurried or harried, all of a sudden seemed in a hurry, if still notably unharried, to announce that he wouldn’t be seeking re-election in 2018 and, therefore, wouldn’t be seeking to extend what would be an unprecedented run as speaker in 2019.

From my story today:

“A confident leader knows when it’s time to give it back,” Straus said. “This is the first time in decades that a speaker has been able to leave this office on his own terms. So I feel good about that.”

Straus did not rule out a future run for public office, possibly even including challenging Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for re-election next year, though he said, “I don’t think so.”

Of the chance that he would be on the ballot for anything in 2018, Straus said, “I highly doubt it.”

Do I think Joe Straus is going to run for governor – or anything else –  in 2018?

I don’t think so. I highly doubt it.

But it would have been easy enough for Straus to simply say, “No.”

Or to scoff at the suggestion.

But he didn’t say, “no.’

He didn’t scoff.

And what he did say, well, General Sherman it was not.

What gives?

I don’t know.

My guess is that he was simply giving Abbott and Patrick something to think about.

No more.

I mean, my point about Straus’ potential as an independent candidate is that he really is at the center of gravity of state politics if you can see your way to counting Democrats and independents and all those Republicans who don’t vote in primaries as part of the body politic.

Indeed, Democrats led the mourning yesterday for the coming loss of Speaker Straus, nervously caressing their #TGFJS bracelets.

In subsequent interviews yesterday afternoon with the Texas Tribune and the San Antonio Express-News, Straus continued to tease about the possibility of running for something else.

From Peggy Fikac and Allie Morris at the San Antonio Express-News:

Asked whether he might run for statewide office, Straus told the San Antonio Express-News in an interview Wednesday afternoon that people approach him every day and encourage him to run for statewide office.

“People do come up to me every day and encourage me to run for statewide office, but I have always focused on the job that I have. This is the first time I have ever not had an immediate campaign to go to in a two-year cycle, so I will take some time and check in with my major supporters, which I have been doing today … and make decisions.

“It’s doubtful that I would do anything right now, other than follow through on the commitment I have to support responsible Republicans in the House,” he said.

As for whether he was ruling out a race for governor, Straus said at his news conference, “I don’t have a plan today beyond helping other responsible Republicans in (2018),” he said, adding at another point he is “not one to close doors.”

Straus gave no indication, however, that he would challenge Abbott, who is considered virtually unbeatable in the GOP primary and has more than $40 million in his campaign kitty.

In their story, Fikac and Morris noted Straus deep ties to the Republican Party.

Straus, who comes from a prominent, civic-minded family, has longstanding Republican bona fides. His mother has long been a force in Republican politics, and he started at the grassroots level as a Bexar County precinct chair. He was an intern for former U.S. Sen. John Tower, worked in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, managed U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith’s first campaign for Congress and last year chaired the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee. He has raised and donated big money to benefit Republican candidates.

But his backing for speaker by Democrats, and the House leadership team he installed that included Democrats in key positions, angered conservatives including Michael Quinn Sullivan of the tea-party-aligned Empower Texans, who has long been on a crusade to unseat him. More than 50 Republican Party organizations around Texas have taken votes of no-confidence this year or otherwise rebuffed Straus’s leadership.

MQS notwithstanding, Joe Straus is no RINO. He is not some accidental or incidental Republican.

He has done as much as any Texan – maybe more than any –  to elect Republicans to legislative office nationwide.

RLCC Announces 2016 Executive Committee


NAPLES, FL—Today, the Republican State Leadership Committee’s (RSLC) legislative caucus, the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC), announced its 2016 Executive Committee at the RLCC Annual Spring Meeting in Naples, FL. The committee, composed of Republican state legislators from across the country, will join previously-announced 2016 RLCC Chair Speaker Joe Straus (TX) and Vice-Chair Speaker Mike Turzai (PA) in their efforts to strengthen the Republican Party in state legislatures nationwide.

RLCC Chair and Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus issued the following statement: 

“With the help of the RLCC, the Republican Party has grown at the state level to control a record high of 69 out of 99 legislative chambers nationwide. This success was born from a deep commitment to providing the American people with the most effective, accountable and representative government possible. In anticipation of an incredibly competitive election year, it is more important than ever that we maintain this commitment to our constituents. I am pleased to be joined by 18 other dedicated legislative leaders through the RLCC as we continue working to promote conservative leadership in the states.”

From the RLCC:

It’s just over one week since a truly historic election night for Republicans at all levels of the ballot. This includes at the state level, where Republicans maintained their record 69 of 99 legislative chamber majorities (while gaining two tied chambers in the blue Delaware and Connecticut Senates), held 31 of 45 lieutenant governors and grew to 31 of 50 secretaries of state, while also electing 145 new women and 17 new diverse candidates to state-level office.

Last week’s results prove once again that focusing on running the right candidates in the right districts and states can make any seat competitive. It’s what has allowed us to win in red, purple and blue states over the last eight years, and it was true again last Tuesday. Below is a snapshot of just some of the coverage we’ve seen over the last week on the GOP’s success in the states.

In other words, the  Republican Legislative Campaign Committee under Straus’ leadership had …

And …


And here was the speaker, just last weekend, from James Russell at Quorum Report.

DALLAS – To a warm reception from the crowd gathered at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus on Friday gave the keynote speech at the Texas Federation of Republican Women’s luncheon. It’s part of the group’s 31st biennial convention unfolding this weekend in DFW.

“It’s great to be with the people who made this the most reliably red state in the country,” Straus said. Speaker Straus touted the state’s Republican leadership for making Texas as big as “its trucks, its economy and Republican majority.”

Noting that he’s helped the party claim majorities at other state capitols in his role with the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, Straus said he’s often asked how Texas stays rock solid GOP.

When people in other states ask me how our party has won election cycle after election cycle in Texas, I always tell them about TFRW,” Straus said. “From the time that Republicans were a small faction in the back of the House chamber…up until today, when we are the most successful state party in the country…you’ve made it happen.”

From Texas Monthly in February 2015:

BDS: Did you look to a former speaker to learn how to do the job?

JS: I don’t have a speaker role model. I just try to approach the job with a sense of fair play and try to be patient and even-tempered. I don’t take a position on every bill. I don’t try to micromanage the leadership. I just try to treat the members and the institution with respect. I don’t apologize for building coalitions or working across the aisle. I think that’s been a real disappointment in Washington in recent years: the “aisle.” We don’t have an aisle in the Texas House. We don’t divide ourselves by party, and I think very few members want to do that. The results are almost always better when everyone gets to participate. I think we have a good thing going in the Texas House and that we can be a model for others around the country. I’ve agreed to chair the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee for the ’16 cycle, and the members there look to Texas with great envy.

BDS: Where do you want your career to go from here? Is there something beyond being speaker that interests you?

JS: I’m not a long-range planner. At the end of every session I have members come to me and say that they’re not going to run again because they’re exhausted, or they’re thinking of running for another office, perhaps the state Senate, heaven forbid. But I tell them not to make a decision at the end of May in an odd-numbered year. Go rest, relax, and let it sink in what you’ve done. So I don’t worry about where I’m going to be in a couple of years. I don’t even consider myself a full-time politician, though serving as speaker does take up most of my time. I don’t have a long-term career plan in politics.

From the First Reading in July on the Most Dangerous Game.

Patrick is the heavy and Straus the hero in  Austin writer Lawrence Wright’s epic recent piece in the New Yorker, The Future is Texas: The state is increasingly diverse, but right-wing zealots are taking over.

Since Patrick became lieutenant governor, one of his signature accomplishments has been the passage of the open-carry gun law; he also successfully pushed to legalize the carrying of concealed weapons on public-college campuses. During the 2016 Presidential race, he deftly pivoted from supporting Ted Cruz to becoming Donald Trump’s campaign chair in Texas. Evan Smith, the co-founder of the Texas Tribune, an online journal dedicated to state politics, told me, “Dan Patrick is the most conservative person ever elected to statewide office in the history of Texas.” (Patrick himself declined to speak to The New Yorker.)

Patrick has driven his chamber in a far more radical direction. Even Democratic senators are loath to cross him. In this year’s session, Patrick worked on lowering property taxes and addressing some obscure matters, such as hailstorm-lawsuit reform. But the heart of his agenda was legislation that spoke to the religious right, such as a bill that would provide vouchers for homeschooling and private-school tuition, and a “sermon safeguard” bill, which would prevent state and local officials from issuing subpoenas to members of the clergy or compelling them to testify. He also worked to toughen the state’s voter-I.D. law. Patrick’s legislative agenda, if passed in its entirety, would bend Texas farther in the direction of the affluent and, above all, would fortify the political strength of white evangelicals who feel threatened by the increasing number of minorities and by changing social mores.

Patrick’s extremism is often countered by Joe Straus, the speaker of the House, a centrist, business-oriented conservative from San Antonio. Whereas the lieutenant governor is elected by the voters of the state, the speaker is chosen by the members. That makes a crucial difference in the way that Patrick and Straus govern. “Dan Patrick rules by fear,” Representative Gene Wu, a Houston Democrat, told me. “Joe Straus rules by consensus.”

The 2017 session in Austin proved to be a bruising example of raw politics waged by two talented people, Straus and Patrick, who fervently believe in their causes. The story in Texas both reflects and influences the national scene. At a time when Democratic voices have been sidelined—“We’re lost in the wilderness,” Wu told me—the key struggle is within the increasingly conservative Republican Party, between those who primarily align with business interests and those who are preoccupied with abortion, gay marriage, immigration, religion, and gun rights.

And from Christopher Hooks yesterday at the Texas Observer: Burning Down the House: Joe Straus and the End of the Moderate Texas Republican

Joe Straus’ reputation is that of a boring and studious moderate, but that’s dead wrong. The speaker of the Texas House is a freak, a space oddity, an aberration of nature too weird to live and too rare to die. For the last decade, Joseph Richard Straus III has been one of the most unusual figures in American politics — a moderate, soft-spoken Republican who turned the chaotic lower chamber of an extremely conservative state into a parliamentary body run by a grand coalition of both parties, and kept it that way year after year despite venomous and deep-pocketed opposition.

He’s also a sort of one-man control group in Texas politics — a business-friendly, country club Republican who stayed the course while the rest of the Texas GOP disappeared entirely up its own behind. What once made him mundane now makes him almost unspeakably radical. And now that he’s not seeking re-election, Straus is best understood against the backdrop of how everything else has changed.

A nice Jewish boy from San Antonio whose mother was an old friend of the Bushes, Straus came up through the clean-cut early Republican organizations in the state, playing volleyball with Kay Bailey Hutchison and networking at Camp Wannameetagop in Brenham. He fell into public service and then fell harder, into the speaker’s chair, the subject of a plot not of his own devising. He served as speaker for five terms, longer than anyone would have thought — a lone survivor in a political party that had overheated and started to melt, like a box of G.I. Joes on a midsummer car dashboard.

The announcement came suddenly today — on Facebook, followed by a short, impromptu press conference in Straus’ office. “I feel really confident and really good about this decision,” he said. But he lamented that the position of speaker, though it carries enormous power, can “be sort of inhibiting. Every decision I make, every statement I make, I have to think about 149 other members.” In the last year or so, he said, he had tried to more directly “speak for myself about issues that I care about,” and “the reception that I’ve gotten as I’ve been more outspoken has been really strong, really positive. I want to do more of that.”


Straus’ announcement came the morning after Andrew White indicated his interest in seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

From the story by Sean Collins Walsh in today’s Statesman:

Andrew White, the son of the late Gov. Mark White, may challenge Gov. Greg Abbott next year.
White is pitching himself as a conservative Democrat and a pragmatist.
Abbott is viewed as a prohibitive favorite to win, and Democrats have struggled to find credible candidates.
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.”

The state party, which doesn’t choose sides in primaries, but has been searching for a formidable candidate for governor to emerge, didn’t sound all that excited about White.
From Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party:
Texas Democrats are all about a fair shot for all, and it is clear that millions Texans, from all walks of life, can no longer endure Greg Abbott’s failed policies and dangerous agenda. Mr. White is one of these people.
In the upcoming primary, candidates vying to lead our party and this great state must earn the trust of every single Texas Democrat. We look forward to supporting a nominee who proves they can deliver on the respect, dignity, and opportunity each Texan deserves.
There’s the rub.
It makes absolutely no sense to me that Joe Straus would abandon the Grand Old Party to run for governor as a Democrat, or that the Texas Democratic Party could, its dignity intact, accept a man with an unparalleled record of electing Republicans nationwide as its nominee.
So, forget about that.
It’s ridiculous.
As for Option 2, Straus simply can’t win a Republican primary for statewide office.
It’s impossible.
So cross that out. He would just be setting himself up for a predictable humiliation.
And that just leaves Option 3: Run as independent, the standard-bearer of the Reclaim the Republican Party /Fair Play for Democrats/Beyond the Fringe Fusion Party of Texas.
Talking to Rice University political scientist Mark Jones yesterday about Straus’ announcement I asked him about all this.
He said that Straus would have no trouble gathering the signatures to get on the ballot as an independent, but that he would have been a lot better off if the Legislature’s enactment this year of legislation to put an end to straight-ticket voting, which Straus supported, went into effect in 2018, not 2020.
I really don’t think Straus has any concrete plans on his political future because there’s no position that he would be able to obtain that would be nearly as influential as continuing to be speaker of the Texas House. He’s not going to be the next governor of Texas. Nobody knows who he is. I think he is a loyal enough Republican that he would not overtly undermine Republican efforts. 
Straus is already one of the three most powerful public officials in Texas, and if he is interested in fighting Abbott and Patrick in the name of the public good and the honor of the Republican Party he grew up in, he stands an infinitely better chance of prevailing by seeking to keep his speakership than by making an incredibly long-shot bid to run for governor or some other office.
So, as much as I would love to cover the campaign, is Straus running for governor?
I don’t think so.

`Berniecrat with a Panama hat,’ Tom Wakely launches campaign against `neofascist’ Greg Abbott


Good Monday Austin:

Last Monday’s First Reading  was headlined, Democrat Jeffrey Payne launches his `outside the box’ candidacy for governor.

Today, I am writing about Tom Wakely, who on Saturday, a week after Payne held a kickoff rally for his campaign in Dallas, kicked off his own candidacy for governor at Mallberg Ranch in Blanco.

I wasn’t there, but I recently visited with Wakely at his home in San Antonio about his campaign.

It is also outside the box.

The filing deadline for candidates for the March primary is Dec. 12, and while the state Democratic Party does not endorse a candidate in the primary, word is that they are looking for someone a little less outside the box to run against Gov. Greg Abbott.

“They’re going to find someone like Mike Collier,” Wakely said. “Another ex-Republican, multi-millionaire, owns an oil company.”

Collier, a former Republican, was the Democratic candidate for comptroller in 2014 and is seeking the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor this year.

“He didn’t vote for Barack Obama twice,” Wakely said. “Collier even admits it. He voted for McCain and then he voted for Romney.”

I asked Scott Spiegel of Collier’s campaign about Wakely’s characterization of Collier. From Speigel:

Mike is a CPA and was a partner for many years at Price Waterhouse Coopers. Before he ran from Comptroller in 2014, he was Chief Financial Officer of a Texas Oil Company.

Mike has been open about his presidential votes, and joined the Democratic Party in 2014 because of massive cuts to public education, based off false forecasts.

Wakely was the Democratic candidate for Congress against U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, in 2014.

I asked why he decided to run for governor.


I got talked into it. Hey, I’m 64 years old, I don’t need to be running around the state of Texas talking about progressive issues, but I am.

I would much prefer someone 20 years younger than me. I ran in the 21st. We got more votes than any Democrat in the state of Texas running against an incumbent member of Congress.

That’s true, and telling.

It says something about the work that Texas Democrats have cut out for them that Wakely got more votes losing to Lamar Smith by 20 points than Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, got in narrowly defeating Democrat Pete Gallego in a majority Hispanic district that was the state party’s top priority in 2014.

Like Bernie Sanders, Wakely said that income inequality will be the focus of his campaign. He has been traveling the state from La Quinta to La Quinta.

From a recent blog post at Down with Tyranny!

My first step was to map out a travel schedule and since I planned to drive the state I selected La Quinta Inn and Suites, a chain of low-cost limited service hotels, as the place where I would hang my hat each night. My travels would take me from south Texas to north Texas. From central Texas to east Texas and all points in between. I calculated I would put little over 3,500 miles on my vehicle in August, staying on the road for 20 nights. I estimated the travel costs at $1,500. I called a friend up in Austin and he funded my first month on the road.

Over that first month on the road, I talked to dozens of Texans each morning in the La Quinta hotel’s dining room where a free breakfast was served. I didn’t tell anyone I was running for Governor because I wanted to find out what they thought about politics in general and Texas politics specifically. I also wanted to find out if they voted or not. I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of folks I spoke to were registered voters but didn’t vote. When I asked them why they didn’t vote, the response was basically the same in town after town “why should I vote; my life wasn’t going to change.” I also took the time that first month on the road to talk to the staff at each of the hotels I stayed at. No one I spoke to earned over $10 an hour and without exception, not a one of them told me they voted. When I asked them why, they told me basically the same thing the hotel guests told me, “why should I vote; my life wasn’t going to change.” By the end of my first month on the road I estimate I talked to around 600 people; about 100 hotel employees and 500 guests.

My second month on the road took me back to the Texas/Mexico border towns I had already visited but also to many places I hadn’t been to since I was a child, cities like Amarillo, Lubbock and Abilene in the Texas panhandle. I also visited places I had never been to– tiny communities like Goliad (pop. 1,900) and Garfield (1,700). Once again, I stayed in La Quinta hotels in or near the town I was planning to visit. I also added another venue to my tour– Washaterias (for you Yankees, a laundromat). This time around, I told everyone I met that I was running for Governor on a platform of addressing income inequality in Texas. I told the folks at the hotel breakfast, the housekeeping staff, and the dozens of women I met in the washaterias that I was advocating for a $15 minimum wage and without exception, everyone I spoke to said “YES!” The only thing the women in the washaterias added to the conversation was “healthcare.”.


I campaign on $15 minimum wage. Theres no candidate out there talking about $15 minimum wage. I am campaigning on income inequality all around  the state. It’s the number one issue in the state of Texas.

If we can start resolve income inequality we can solve everything  – from school finance to our prison population, everything.

What can you do as governor to address income inequality?

All I can do is provide a voice,  hopefully  people  will listen  and we can push our lieutenant governor.

We can have an impact with all those damn appointments. I think over a four-year period the governor will make 3,000 appointments. That’s where a governor like me can make a change in the state of Texas, by appointing an actual progressive to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

I recalled that Texans, back in 1982 and 1986, elected the populist Jim Hightower agriculture commissioner, though his defeat in 1990 by Rick Perry ushered a new era in Texas politics.

Has Wakely met Hightower?



That was 30 years ago. The people I’m talking to, from El Paso to Brownsville, they’re 25 to 30, 40 years old. They don’t remember Jim Hightower. They don’t even remember Victor Morales.

Morales, a schoolteacher, drove a white pickup truck out of nowhere to the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1996. He lost the general election to U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm by a little more than ten points, half the margin by which Wendy Davis lost to greg Abbott in 2014.

“So Lettie (Wakely’s wife, Norma Leticia Gomez Rodriguez de Wakely) and I drove up to meet with Morales  in Crandall about six weeks ago,”   Wakely said. He  said that Morales told him, “All I talked about was income inequality.”

I asked Wakely if he had run into Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, who is seeking to be the party’s Senate nominee next year against Sen. Ted Cruz.


I’ve run into him four or five times, we’ve been at the same events, and just this last weekend he was in the Dallas paper saying there is no one running for governor. I just saw him last Saturday He was quoted as saying he’s not concerned that there’s no one running for governor.

From  Gromer Jeffers Jr. at the Dallas Morning News on Sept. 21: Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke not worried Democrats still don’t have candidate for Texas governor

U.S. Senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke said this week he isn’t worried that Democrats haven’t found a viable candidate to run for governor of Texas.

“The only thing I can do is what I can do. I can control our campaign,” O’Rourke told The Dallas Morning News during a campaign stop at the University of Texas at Dallas. “I’m not concerned. There’s clearly something different in Texas right now … folks are coming out like I’ve never seen before. As word gets out, as people see that, there’s going to be a greater interest in getting into the race.”

O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso, has been mounting a Democratic challenge against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz for most of the year. And this week, O’Rourke was in North Texas for a two-day campaign swing.

Democrats, looking to win their first statewide race since 1994, are thrilled that O’Rourke is giving up his safe congressional seat to run against Cruz in the 2018 general election for Senate.

But party leaders have failed to persuade a big-name, well-funded candidate to run at the top of the ticket against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott.

Wakely said he is accustomed to getting dissed by the Texas Democratic Party.


What happened last year, which I guess we can expect to happen this year, when I was running against Smith. There was a guy I ran against in the primary – Tejas (Vakil) – nice guy.

So I won the primary. I sent his wife some fliers. We want out to lunch. He said here’s what I can do to help you is give you access to the (Texas Democratic Party’s) VAN (Voter Activation Network) the voter files, he said, “I paid for it,” so he gave me his password and ID and we use it, and then (Chairman) Gilberto Hinojosa of the state party cut us off, they didn’t even call us or anything, end of July, we didn’t have access to it,  just cut us off. 

Then we had the (2016)  state party convention right here in San Antonio. He refused to let me speak to the delegates. He flat refused.

I confronted Gilberto and he said, “We know you’re a Bernie guy and we’re afraid if you get out there (he’d rile up the Bernie delegates).

They were paranoid. He wouldn’t let me speak. Cutting off the VAN,  not letting me speak. That’s where we are with the Democratic Party.

I don’t expect to have any support from the Democratic Party.

I spoke with Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the state party.

He said the state party provides candidates with access to its voter file for a deeply discounted fee. But, once your campaign ends, you automatically lose access to the file. Wakely could have paid for access to the file but didn’t.

I spoke with Vakil, who confirmed what Wakely told me. He didn’t know that the state party had cut off Wakely’s access to the files and it “seems strange that the Democratic Party would want to hamper its own candidates.”

Garcia explained that the party was concerned that a defeated candidate could potentially misuse the file.

Garcia also said that congressional candidate rarely get to address the state convention. The exception, at the last convention, was Pete Gallego, running in the party’s’ featured race.


You know when right to work laws were passed in Texas?  In 1993. You know who signed that?  Ann Richards.

I said that didn’t sound right. Ann Richards? And didn’t Texas have right-to-work laws well before 1993?

I asked Ed Sills, communications director of the Texas AFL-CIO, about Wakely’s claim about the 1993 right-to-work legislation.

From Sills:

I conferred with Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy on this and we are certain the bill was just a re-codification of the Labor Code. (I was a reporter at the time and don’t remember the bill creating any news.)

Re-codification occurs periodically in major statutes. Such bills are supposed to be non-substantive and they only make news if a lawmaker tries to slip something in, which has happened once or twice. 
The purpose of re-codifying is to make technical corrections, such as renumbering. Over the years, insertion of amendments can create confusion. Such bills are often very long because the entire statute is reprinted, but they are so uncontroversial that formal printing of the bill may sometimes be waived. 
On the obvious front, Ann Richards had a very strong relationship with the Texas AFL-CIO and would have heard from us if that bill had done anything to worsen the position of working people. 
 The so-called “right to work” law was passed in 1947. 

From the Handbook of Texas 

Since the passage of the union regulatory laws of 1947, little significant legislation in the area has been enacted. In 1951 the legislature sought to strengthen the “right to work” provisions of previous legislation by making violations by either the employer or union “conspiracies in the restraint of trade” and thereby invoking the penalties under the state’s antitrust laws.

I also checked with Glenn Smith, who served as a campaign manager for Ann Richards during her 1990 gubernatorial run. He said that Wakely should be careful about making bogus claims about Richards’ strong pro-labor record.

I asked Wakely what inspired him to run for office in the first place.

He told me about Lucy Coffey and Joe Biden.

First a little background.

From a Down with Tyranny! post by Wakely in July:

My wife and I run a private care home for hospice patients in San Antonio. We offer them a place in our home to die. We have been doing this for a little over eight years now and we have helped 48 people to die with dignity and respect.

Among those patients was a remarkable woman by the name of Lucy Coffey.

From the San Antonio Express-News:

March 19, 2015:

Lucy Coffey, the nation’s oldest woman veteran, died Thursday morning in San Antonio. She was 108.

Coffey met Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama last summer in the White House as part of a final visit she wanted to make to Washington, D.C.

She put on the uniform in 1943.

“I am so honored to have met this incredible lady,” Bexar County veterans service officer Queta Marquez said, in announcing Coffey’s death Thursday afternoon. “She was truly a pioneer, and full of life and spunk.”

 A small-town girl from a farm in Martinsville, Indiana, Coffey was working at an A&P supermarket in Dallas when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. She quit the store and joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, settling in San Antonio after a decade in Japan following the end of the war.
 Last summer, Coffey met Biden for a half-hour in the West Wing and also received a surprise visit from the president.

“We spent some time together and, you know, I know she doesn’t speak, but she spoke to me, ” Biden said.

Wakely said that Coffey was 35, less than five feet tall and underweight when she tried to enlist. The fist two times, she was rejected. The third time, she told Wakely,  returned with lifts in her shoes and rocks in her pockets and was accepted.

He said she ended up on General Douglas MacArthur’s staff and won two Bronze Stars.

“She’d never tell us how a 4-11 women who weighed 80 pounds earned two Bronze Stars,” Wakely said.

There are a couple of photos of Coffey and Biden on the walls at Wakely’s home.


We took her to see Biden when was speaking to a veterans group in San Antonio at the Marriott in January 2015. So she wanted to go. So we packed her up. It was raining, it was cold, so we didn’t want her to go out. She had COPD, so you don’t want to take someone who has COPD out in the cold and the rain and all that, but she wanted to go see her friend, Joe.

So we took her to the Marriott and we were backstage waiting for him afterwards, and we’re all sitting around talking and his wife’s there, and Biden’s standing next to me and at some point it comes up that Abbott just got elected, and he told me, “If you don’t like it, do something about it, run for office,” and that’s what Lucy had been telling me for three years, that’s why she joined the military. She saw something that was bad and she said, “I’m going to do something to change it.”

Coffey paid a price for that last visit with Biden.

“She caught cold and she died two months later,” Wakely said.

Wakely said that Biden, who had called Coffey on a regular basis,  sent flowers to her funeral.


When Bernie announced in July (2015) that he was going to run for president, I recalled what Lucy had said, what Biden had said. I held a meeting out here in front of my house  just to announce that Bernie was running and we had a hundred people out in the front yard, most of them people who had not voted before, young people,

I asked Wakely about the lively field of Democratic candidates seeking to take on Lamar Smith in 2018.

I asked if that’s a function of Trump.


No, I think that’s me. That’s what they tell me.

I think they saw that there was this 60-some-odd democratic socialist that had no money was able to get more votes (than any other Democratic congressional candidate running against a Republican incumbent in Texas) and thought, “I can do better.”

The way to win, Wakely said, is to run to the left and talk about the issue – income inequality – that will enable Democrats to reach and rouse those who don’t vote.

From his La Quinta Tour blog:

The last time a Democrat was elected Governor of Texas was in 1991 when Ann Richards was elected. She served until she was beaten in the 1994 November general election by George Bush. That year a little over 50% of registered voters voted. Bush took a little over 53% of those voting and Richards took about 45%. But as a percentage of total registered voters in Texas, Bush took about 25% and Richards about 20%. It’s been downhill ever since for the Texas Democrat Party.

In 1998, Bush beat Garry Mauro to win a 2nd term as Governor. That year only 32% of registered voters voted. As a percentage of total registered voters, Bush took about 22% and Mauro received less than 10%. In 2002, Republican Rick Perry beat millionaire Democrat Tony Sanchez. That year, about 36% of registered voters voted. As a percentage of total registered voters, Perry took about 24% and Sanchez received about 12% of the vote. In 2006, Perry won a second term, beating Congressman Chris Bell. That year, about 33% of registered voters voted. As a percentage of total registered voters, Perry took about 13% and Bell received about 10% of the vote. The remaining votes were split between two Independent candidates, Carole Keeton Strayhorn and singer/songwriter Kinky Friedman. In 2010, Rick Perry won a third term, beating former Houston mayor, Bill White. That year, about 38% of registered voters voted. As a percentage of total registered voters, Perry took roughly 20% and White received about 16% of the vote. In 2014, Greg Abbott was elected Governor of Texas beating State Senator Wendy Davis. That year, about 33% of registered voters voted. As a percentage of total registered voters, Abbott took roughly 19% and Davis received about 13% of the vote.

Since 1998, on average, only about a 1/3 of registered voters in Texas are voting. Republicans have been winning with a little under 20% of registered voters voting for the party. Democrats have been losing with a little over 13% registered voters voting for them. Another way to put it, on average 80% of the state’s registered voters are either voting against the Republican candidate or not supporting the candidate but the Republicans are still winning; why? Because 87% of the state’s registered voters are either voting against the Democratic candidate for Governor or not supporting the candidate by not voting– 87%– that is amazing. It should also be noted that all of the Republican and Democratic candidates for Governor since 1998 have been wealthy lawyers with ties to the oil and gas industry, some with very deep ties. So, it seems that Republicans don’t mind voting for wealthy lawyers with ties to the fossil fuel industry while Democratic voters in Texas don’t like wealthy lawyers with ties to the oil and gas industry and don’t vote for them.

Does anyone see a pattern to the above?


A quarter of the state, or less than that, is the conservative, neo-fascist, white supremacists, and they’ve always been here and they’ always be here.  We’ve got to get the other people out to vote

From Texas Monthly’s roundup last month of the gubernatorial field, on Wakely:

A San Antonio native who once served as the minister of a Unitarian Universalist Church in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and who also owned a wine bar and jazz club in Manzanillo, Mexico, Wakely is a self-described “Bernicrat,” according to his campaign website. The blog Brains and Eggs describes Wakely as “everything you’d expect in a seasoned white progressive populist,” and “Bernie Sanders with a cowboy hat.” He supports issues like raising the minimum wage in Texas to $15 an hour and the complete legalization of marijuana. “Our world, our country, our state, is facing the end of times—not in the biblical or religious sense, but in the sense that the world as we know it, the world we grew up in, will not be the world we leave to our children or grandchildren,” Wakely writes on his website. “Climate change and corporate control over pretty much every thing in Texas is the new reality. But if we act together, and if we act now, we can stop climate change and reign in the corporations. We can ensure that our children and our grandchildren will inherit not just a safer world but a better world… My campaign for Governor is about advocating for a progressive change in the Texas Democratic party and to removing Abbott, Patrick, and their tea party brethren from power.” Wakely challenged U.S. Representative Lamar Smith for District 21 in 2016, but got smoked at the polls, garnering just more than 36 percent of the vote to Smith’s 57 percent.


Seasoned white progressive, which I guess is a euphemism for being old.

Bernie Sanders with a cowboy hat?

It’s not a cowboy hat. It’s a Panama hat. I’m a Berniecrat with a Panama hat.

And where does he place Gov. Abbott on the political spectrum?


He’s a neofascist.

How so?


He held that target up with bullet holes in it and made some reference to shooting reporters.



That did makes headlines, as far away as Time Magazine:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott joked about shooting reporters while visiting a gun range and carrying a target sheet with bullet holes in it.

As he was holding the bullet-ridden target, Abbott allegedly said, “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters,” according to the Texas Tribune.

I told Wakely I was there, but was out of earshot and didn’t actually hear what Abbott said and was not particularly alarmed when I found out, though others were. In his column, Ken Herman wrote that:

The intended humor is obvious, especially in light of its target. But it was particularly ill-timed and ill-advised in the wake of this week’s body slam of a journalist by now-U.S. Rep.-elect Greg Gianforte of Montana who took umbrage and resorted to quick-temper violence when a reporter had the audacity to ask him a question about health care reform, the hottest button issue in D.C. these days (other than anything having to do with our nontraditional president who says journalists are enemies of the people).

Abbott’s Friday quip brought swift and certain rebuke from folks from whom you’d expect swift and certain rebuke, including journalists and gun-control advocates who understandably have hair triggers about such things.

But proof of Abbott’s neofascism?

I asked Wakely for more evidence.

He said Abbott’s Texas was beginning to recall  Mussolini’s Italy, with its “round-up and stigmatizing people.”


We’re doing the same with Hispanic people, transgender people. We’re seeing a lot of parallels between what happened in 1930s Europe and what’s happening in 2017 United States.

I believe totally that Abbott is a neofascist and unless we stand up to try to stop him we will find ourselves in the next five, ten years, in some type of totalitarian sate. They’re made  being brown a crime. They’re making being transgender a crime. They’re making everybody a crime.

Definitely outside the box.

Abbott calls on Texas delegation to get a `stiff spine’ and demand more Harvey aid


Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a briefing about Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts at the Texas – FEMA Joint Field Office on Tuesday September 26, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Good morning Austin:

Remember when Hurricane Harvey was a disaster nonpareil, the focus of national and world attention.

But that was many disasters nonpareil ago, and now mention Harvey and for most Americans, the first thing to flash in one’s man is probably a truly evil man named Weinstein.

Yesterday, amid another long day of visiting coastal communities in Texas still slogging through what will be a long and difficult and hugely expensive recovery, Gov. Greg Abbott learned that the U.S. House today – with the apparent support of the Texas delegation – will be voting for a disaster aid package that falls far short of what he and they had wanted and demanded for Texas. On the news, the governor grew angry that a crucial moment to keep attention trained on his state’s still desperate needs might be slipping away.

From Kountze, Abbott placed a called to the Houston Chronicle’s Mike Ward.

Abbott: Texas may be about to get ‘rolled’ on Harvey aid package Governor urges state congressional delegation to get ‘a stiff spine’ and fight

Mike Ward and Kevin Diaz:

AUSTIN — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott complained Wednesday that U.S. House leaders are poised to sidetrack the state’s request for an additional $18.7 billion in Hurricane Harvey aid, and challenged the Texas congressional delegation to get a “stiff spine” and fight for the funding.

A bill scheduled for a House vote Thursday provides $36.5 billion in disaster aid for victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate, and for those fighting wildfires across California and other western states.

 Although Harvey victims would be included in the aid package, it does not specifically include some $18.7 billion that Abbott and nearly the entire Texas congressional delegation had sought to earmark specifically for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in the Gulf Coast. Much of that was targeted for the Houston area.
“I am disappointed that most members of the Texas congressional delegation have agreed to go ahead and vote for this bill, from what I know at this time, when Texas needs this money,” Abbott said in an interview with the Chronicle. “It appears the Texas delegation will let themselves be rolled by the House of Representatives.”

Abbott said Texas’ congressional delegation should vote against the bill unless it includes additional funding for Texas specifically.

The bill includes $18.67 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief fund – nearly $5 billion of which could be used to subsidize direct loans to Puerto Rico.

 Another $16 billion is for the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP), which is nearly $30 billion in debt.
Before we proceed, it is worth noting that telling members of Congress to stiffen their spines is not a casual image for Abbott.
On July 14, 1984, Abbott was a 26-year-old law school graduate preparing for the bar exam when he was hit by a falling tree while jogging in Houston, crushing his spine and leaving him a paraplegic.
When he announced his candidacy for governor the first time, on the anniversary of that accident, he portrayed himself as both literally and metaphorically having a spine of steel.
From Sen. John Cornyn’s office, this is what the governor and the Texas delegation, in a letter last Thursday, were looking for in from Congress in Harvey relief.
U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), along with Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX), led a bipartisan, bicameral letter from the Texas congressional delegation to leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees urging them to include $18.7 billion in funding for relief and recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey in the next Supplemental Appropriations bill.

“Texas greatly appreciates the appropriations committees’ efforts to swiftly provide funds,” the Members wrote. “However, in light of the unprecedented damage from Hurricane Harvey and the historically epochal flooding of Houston, Beaumont and surrounding regions, we all recognize that the funding already appropriated is a small fraction of the federal resources needed to help rebuild Texas and reinvigorate the American economy.”

The letter was also signed by Representatives Louie Gohmert (TX-01), Ted Poe (TX-02), Sam Johnson (TX-03), John Ratcliffe (TX-04), John Culberson (TX-07), Al Green (TX-09), Michael McCaul (TX-10), Michael Conaway (TX-11), Kay Granger (TX-12), Mac Thornberry (TX-13), Randy Weber (TX-14), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), Bill Flores (TX-17), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Jodey Arrington (TX-19), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Lamar Smith (TX-21), Pete Olson (TX-22), Will Hurd (TX-23), Kenny Marchant (TX-24), Roger Williams (TX-25), Michael Burgess (TX-26), Blake Farenthold (TX-27), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Gene Green (TX-29), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), John Carter (TX-31), Pete Sessions (TX-32), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Filemon Vela (TX-34), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), and Brian Babin (TX-36).Committee

Full text of the letter is below and can be downloaded here.

Dear Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairman Leahy, Chairman Frelinghuysen, and Ranking Member Lowey:

On Friday, August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the southeast coast of Texas and decimated a number of coastal communities. For nearly a week, this storm battered our state with extreme winds, torrential rains, and record-setting floods, causing catastrophic damage to Texas’ residents and businesses.

In response to this catastrophic event (DR-4332) and following a direct request for supplemental funding from the Administration, Congress acted swiftly, passing legislation to appropriate $15.25 billion in emergency aid. This amount included $7.4 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), $450 million for the Disaster Loan Program within the Small Business Administration (SBA), and $7.4 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program. Texas greatly appreciates the appropriations committees’ efforts to swiftly provide funds. However, in light of the unprecedented damage from Hurricane Harvey and the historically epochal flooding of Houston, Beaumont and surrounding regions, we all recognize that the funding already appropriated is a small fraction of the federal resources needed to help rebuild Texas and reinvigorate the American economy.

It is our understanding that the Administration, through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), has made an additional supplemental appropriation request to Congress. When considering this request, we ask that the Senate and House committees on appropriations strongly consider a number of additional funding categories, in addition to the FEMA DRF, to help expedite recovery efforts in Texas:

·         U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is charged with building and maintaining the nation’s hurricane and storm damage reduction infrastructure, and is critical to recovery efforts after major disasters.  As such, we believe it is necessary to adequately fund the USACE efforts to keep the nation’s rivers and ports dredged, and to protect our coasts and cities from flooding.  Given the devastation from Hurricane Harvey and the historically unprecedented amount of rainfall that recently fell on the State of Texas, we strongly recommend additional USACE funds be included in the next supplemental appropriations bill.  The purpose of these funds would be to rehabilitate and repair damages to completed USACE projects and those under construction, to implement authorized projects ready for construction, to dredge Federal navigation channels, and for emergency response and recovery operations, repairs, and other activities. The swifter these projects are funded, the sooner we will reduce future loss of life and economic exposure from subsequent storms. Further, protecting critical infrastructure and returning to normal operations is a matter of economic and national security, with Harvey already causing a $20 billion economic impact from damage to Texas ports.
REQUEST: $10 billion

·         Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR): H.R. 601 appropriated $7.4 billion for this program, to remain available until expended, for all major disasters declared in 2017. Early estimates from the State of Texas indicate a total need of over $40 billion in CDBG-DR funds. Given the projected unmet needs of our State, and the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, we strongly urge an additional down payment of CDBG-DR funds in the next emergency supplemental.

REQUEST: $7 billion

·         State Educational Agencies: Texas educational institutions at all levels have reported widespread damages to schools and infrastructure as a result of Hurricane Harvey. In the past, emergency supplemental packages have included funding for Local Educational Agencies (LEA), schools and institutions of higher education that were affected by natural disasters. In order to ensure that the education system endures minimal interruption, we request that the appropriations committees consider an allocation that will provide emergency assistance to educational institutions with unexpected expenses as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

REQUEST: $800 million

·         SBA Disaster Loans Program: In the wake of a major disaster, the SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to businesses, private non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters. SBA loans are often the first form of federal assistance available for individuals and business for disaster recovery. Any additional emergency supplemental should appropriate additional resources for the Disaster Loans Program account.
REQUEST: $450 million

·         Economic Development Administration: The Economic Development Administration (EDA), through the Department of Commerce, plays a crucial role in facilitating the delivery of economic assistance to local governments for long-term recovery planning, reconstruction and resiliency in response to presidentially declared disasters or emergencies. EDA grants, awarded through a competitive application process, emphasize disaster resiliency to help mitigate the potential for economic hardship as a result of future weather events.
REQUEST: $300 million

·         Transportation Infrastructure: In order to address long-term recovery needs, it is vital that our State’s highways and transit systems are quickly restored and serviceable to ensure the movement of emergency supplies throughout the State. Authorized under 23 U.S.C. 125 and 49 U.S.C. 5324, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Emergency Relief Program and the Public Transportation Emergency Relief Program, respectively, are crucial programs that can provide Texas with immediate resources for transportation infrastructure repairs.

REQUEST: $150 million

Thank you for your consideration of these funding needs and for your efforts to ensure that our State has adequate resources to recover and rebuild.

This was the governor’s itinerary yesterday, from his office.

Governor Abbott Meets With Local Officials In Hurricane Affected Cities

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today visited five Harvey-affected cities in Southeast Texas. This trip was the third of a three-day, 16-city tour of Hurricane impacted areas of Texas. Also joining the Governor on his visits today was Commission to Rebuild Texas Commissioner John Sharp. While traveling to these communities, Governor Abbott spoke with Mayors, Legislators, County Judges, and other officials to ensure they are getting all the help they need in the recovery effort and reaffirmed the state’s commitment to helping Texans in these areas.

“Seeing these devastated areas first hand and speaking with local officials, the impact of Harvey seems overwhelming, but the Texas spirit remains alive and well,” said Governor Abbott. “I want to assure every single Texan in these communities that we will see the recovery process through to the end, and these visits have resulted in better coordination between state and local officials. I thank all local leaders for their hard work and commitment to help their citizens recover and rebuild.”

Today the Governor visited Port Arthur, Mont Belvieu, Dayton, Kountze, and Orange. The Governor has traveled to a total of 16 Harvey affected in the past 3 days.

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference at the Capitol on Monday September 18, 2017. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

And here is some of the coverage of the governor’s day on the coast.

KJAC-TV (NBC-Beaumont) Governor Abbott Meets With Local Officials In Hurricane Affected Cities

ANCHOR: Governor — visiting five cities affected by Harvey… to meet with local officials and discuss the ongoing recovery efforts Port Arthur mayor, Derrick Freeman tells 12 News: they received a check from the Governor last week… that is about 40 percent of what the city estimates… the debris pick up is going to cost. according to the mayor, the cost for all of the debris to be removed from Port Arthur is estimated to be around 26 million dollars.

MAYOR DERRICK FREEMAN: amazing feeling to have the Governor the way we have. the past few weeks. it’s just an amazing feeling to know he is looking out for Port Arthur. a week ago he sent a ten million dollar check that really helped us out in a time of need.”

ANCHOR: the Governor tells 12 News: a second wave of Harvey relief funding… will be voted on by Congress… sometime later this month.

KBMT-TV: (ABC-Beaumont) Governor Abbott Visits Hurricane Affected Cities In Southeast Texas

ANCHOR: Governor Greg Abbott back in Southeast Texas for a third time to get an update on Harvey recovery efforts. Abbott’s first stop was Port Arthur before heading to orange county and Kountze. Port Arthur Mayor Derrick Freeman tells 12 news the city received a check to help with debris removal. according to the mayor, the cost for all of the debris to be removed from Port Arthur is estimated around 26 million dollars.

MAYOR DERRICK FREEMAN: amazing feeling to have the Governor the way we have. the past few weeks. it’s just an amazing feeling to know he is looking out for Port Arthur. a week ago he sent a ten million dollar check that really helped us out in a time of need.

ANCHOR: go wave of Harvey relief funding will be voted on by congress later this month.

KFDM-TV: (CBS-Beaumont) Governor Abbott Visits Hurricane Affected Cities To Meet With Local Officials

ANCHOR: Governor Abbott meeting with local officials in Port Arthur today talking about recovery. it’s the third of three days of him Southeast Texas and Abbott says it’ll be important to rebuild in a way to with stand storms in the future. he says president trump and the texas delegation, together, requested nearly $40 billion in additional funding. he understands folks are frustrated but he stressed recovery takes time.

GOVERNOR ABBOTT: I’m impressed with both the leadership in the local community as well as the progress being made. we understand that there are still many homeowners and business that is are still suffering that still need improvements. we know the need for the ongoing removal of debris. that said, tremendous progress is being made. we’re here today to further aid both the county as well as the cities as well as the citizens to make sure they’re going to have all the resources they need to fully rebuild.

Gov. Greg Abbott visits SETX after Hurricane Harvey


Texas Governor, Greg Abbott paid a visit to Port Arthur, Kountze and Orange today to speak to local officials about the latest on the Harvey recovery process. The discussions at Port Arthur city hall extended for nearly an hour.
“Just an amazing feeling to know he is looking out for the city of Port Arthur,” said Derrick Freeman, Major of Port Arthur.
Mayor Freeman says that Port Arthur received 10 million dollars from the state last week, but only about 20 percent of the debris has been removed so far.
“We have already picked up 20 percent of it but Abbott gave us 40 percent of the upfront money,” said Freeman.
Freeman believes the full removal cost in the city will approach 26 million dollars. Last Thursday, Texas lawmakers requested more federal funds to help with Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.
“That is for the second round of relief funding that will provide billions of dollars,” Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas.
“This is not going to go away, this is a five-year recovery, but through my leadership I hope to get things going,” said Freeman.
Abbott says that the U.S. Congress could vote on the 19 billion dollar Harvey relief funding by the latter part of the month.
For some the apocalyptic run of recent disasters is a sign of the end times –  humankind reaping what it has sown.
For others, it s a sign of climate change – humankind reaping what it has sown.
From Climate Liability News:

By Bobby Magill

As wildfires continued to rip through Northern California’s wine country Wednesday and the death toll continued to rise, images of the blazes’ devastation capped one of the most extraordinary years of climate disasters that North America has ever seen.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria flattened numerous Caribbean islands, submerged Houston, broke rainfall and tropical cyclone intensity records and has left an estimated 94 percent of Puerto Rico without power nearly three weeks after Maria’s landing. It has left the world wondering if the devastation witnessed in 2017 will become more frequent as humans’ greenhouse gas emissions continue to warm the globe.

Tallying up the lost life and property and the toll of the human suffering from the unprecedented 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, the devastating Western wildfire season and the year’s long list of other disasters is dizzying, illustrating the personal and economic effects of climate change.


Here’s a look at the crazy numbers of 2017’s climate-related disasters:

$300 billion—A preliminary estimate of the total damages caused by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria — double the cumulative cost of all the decade’s previous hurricanes, according to the Universal Ecological Fund. Official U.S. government estimates of losses from the three hurricanes are still being assessed, and are expected to be released by the end of the year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

$36.5 billion—Amount of disaster relief in the package proposed by House Republicans on Tuesday to help recovery and rebuilding from the year’s hurricanes, floods and wildfires.

$5 billion—Puerto Rico relief designated in that package as a loan that the territory must pay back, despite its already staggering debt and the continuing devastation.

$567.5 million—Amount of that package earmarked for the U.S. Forest Service to combat wildfires.

At least 20The death toll of the Northern California wildfires in Napa and Sonoma counties as of late Wednesday. More than 240 people remain missing after hurricane-force winds blew the blazes across wine country, destroying more than 2,000 buildings and scorching over 122,000 acres.

8,502,805 acres—The total number of acres burned by wildfire in the U.S. in 2017 through Oct. 10, making the year’s wildfire season the second-worst of the decade in terms of land area burned. More land — about 8.8 million acres — burned in 2012 than any other year this decade. Over the previous decade, 2006-2016, an average of 6 million acres burned annually, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

$5.1 billion—Total losses from U.S. wildfires in the decade leading up to the 2017 wildfire season, according to Verisk Insurance Solutions. The firm also estimates that 4.5 million homes in the U.S. are it high or extreme risk of wildfire.

$2 billion—NOAA’s estimate of the losses from all of the West’s wildfires burning during July and August. The year’s devastating wildfires were fueled by extreme drought in the Pacific Northwest.

$2.5 billion—NOAA’s estimate of the losses from the North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana drought, which devastated agriculture and fed wildfires between March and September.

15—Number of weather and climate events with at least $1 billion in damages so far in 2017, according to NOAA.

6.9 million people—The number of people living in an area around Houston that received or 30 or more inches of rainfall, submerging much of the city beneath floodwaters high enough to submerge traffic lights.

2.7 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit—Degrees above normal the water of the Gulf of Mexico registered as Hurricane Harvey approached Houston, fueling the amount of water the storm could hold. The stretch of the Atlantic Ocean that Irma traveled over was up to 2 degrees warmer, according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

60.58 inches—Total rainfall from Hurricane Harvey recorded in Nederland, Texas. National Weather Service meteorologist Nikki Hathaway said that rainfall amounts are still being verified, and the agency is still determining whether that rainfall total represents a precipitation record for the continental U.S. A previously reported Harvey rainfall total of 51.88 inches in Cedar Bayou, Texas, was found to be incorrect.

70 percent—Amount of damage from Harvey estimated to be covered by no form of insurance.

37 Hours—Total time Hurricane Irma maintained an intensity of 165 knots or greater, with winds reaching 185 mph or greater, possibly breaking a global record for duration of tropical cyclone intensity. Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist who forecasts hurricanes at Colorado State University, said his research of global cyclone data found that only Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in 2013, came close to being so intense for so long. Haiyan maintained 165-knot or greater intensity for 24 hours.

50—Days remaining in Atlantic hurricane season.

Why the Texas GOP won’t be able to replace Ken Paxton on the ballot even if he is convicted of a felony

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton arrives at a news conference at the Price Daniels Building Wednesday May 25, 2016, where he announced he will sue to challenge President Obama’s transgender bathroom order. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Good Tuesday Austin:

In yesterday’s First Reading I wrote about Jeffrey Payne of Dallas, who launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor Saturday. This Saturday, another Democrat, Tom Wakely of San Antonio, will hold his campaign kickoff for governor.

Neither fills the bill of the kind of top-tier candidate the Texas Democratic Party hopes to recruit to run against Gov. Greg Abbott.

But the chances of defeating Abbott, even with a very good candidate, are very remote, and maybe that shouldn’t even be the focus of the Texas Democratic Party’s attention.

As Peggy Fikac  wrote last month in the San Antonio Express-News: Demo leader says it’d be OK to let Abbott go unchallenged.

AUSTIN – Texas Democratic Party leaders insist they’ll have a strong 2018 ticket including a so-far elusive viable gubernatorial candidate, but at least one stalwart says it’s not the end of the world if they don’t anoint a challenger to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

 It just might be a “smart” decision, said former state land commissioner Garry Mauro. One of the last Democrats to win election statewide in Texas — back in 1994 — he was Texas point person for Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election.

“We have a very unpopular United States senator. We have a very popular governor. We have a very unpopular lieutenant governor. And we have a bunch of no-name Republicans,” Mauro said. “We have a target-rich environment. Why go against somebody who doesn’t fit in that category?”

While the story didn’t mention Ken Paxton, it would seem that an attorney general facing trial on felony charges in the thick of his re-election campaign would present the richest target of all.

Add to that, from the Statesman’s  Chuck Lindell, Ken Paxton investigated for accepting $100,000 gift

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is under investigation for accepting $100,000 from the head of a company that was being investigated for fraud, and a decision on whether to pursue bribery-related charges is expected soon.

The money, part of almost $548,000 Paxton has collected to help pay for his legal defense against felony charges that he defrauded investors in private business deals in 2011, came from James Webb of Frisco, the president of Preferred Imaging, a medical diagnostic firm.

In 2016, Preferred Imaging paid $3.5 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit that accused the company of violating Medicaid billing rules. The settlement was signed by U.S. Justice Department officials and the head of Paxton’s Civil Medicaid Fraud Division.

Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Wiley told The Dallas Morning News on Thursday that she has been investigating whether accepting Webb’s donation violated state bribery laws that limit gifts from people subject to the “jurisdiction” of a public servant. The complaint to the Texas Rangers came from the lawyer of the whistleblower who launched the investigation into Preferred Imaging, she said.

“There is an active investigation looking into that matter,” Wiley, a Republican, told the newspaper. “We are carefully and thoroughly going through every piece of evidence.”


Paxton was charged in the summer of 2015 with two counts of securities fraud alleging that he pushed stock in a McKinney company without telling potential investors that he was being paid for the work. He also was charged with failing to register with state securities regulators in 2012.

A trial on the failure to register charge, set for Dec. 11, was delayed during a Houston hearing Wednesday, and a new date has not been set.

What makes the timing of Paxton’s trial so tricky is that even if he were to be convicted early next year, Texas election law would appear to make it impossible for the state Republican Party to replace Paxton on the ballot even if he wants to be replaced.

Yesterday, I called Eric Opiela, a Republican election law expert, former executive director of the Republican Party of Texas and, until recently, the party’s  associate general counsel, to ask him about this.

He cited the relevant section of the state election code:

Sec. 145.036. FILLING VACANCY IN NOMINATION. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), if a candidate’s name is to be omitted from the ballot under Section 145.035, the political party’s state, district, county, or precinct executive committee, as appropriate for the particular office, may nominate a replacement candidate to fill the vacancy in the nomination.
(b) An executive committee may make a replacement nomination following a withdrawal only if:
(1) the candidate:
(A) withdraws because of a catastrophic illness that was diagnosed after the first day after the date of the regular filing deadline for the general primary election and the illness would permanently and continuously incapacitate the candidate and prevent the candidate from performing the duties of the office sought; and
(B) files with the withdrawal request a certificate describing the illness and signed by at least two licensed physicians;o,
(2) no political party that held primary elections has a nominee for the office sought by the withdrawing candidate as of the time of the withdrawal; or
(3) the candidate has been elected or appointed to fill a vacancy in another elective office or has become the nominee for another office.
(c) Under the circumstances described by Subsection (b)(2), the appropriate executive committee of each political party making nominations for the general election for state and county officers may make a replacement nomination for the office sought by the withdrawing candidate.
(d) For the purpose of filling a vacancy, a majority of the committee’s membership constitutes a quorum. To be nominated, a person must receive a favorable vote of a majority of the members present.
(e) A vacancy in a nomination for a district, county, or precinct office that was made by primary election may not be filled before the beginning of the term of office of the county executive committee members elected in the year in which the vacancy occurs.

So, the State Republican Executive Committee could replace Paxton if he were stricken with a catastrophic illness, certified by two licensed physicians, that would keep him from filling the office, or if he were elected or appointed to fill another elective office or became the nominee for another office.

But simply being convicted of a felony would not be sufficient to enable the state party to replace Paxton as its nominee.



Even if he is convicted, that conviction is not final until all the appeals are exhausted, so he is not disqualified for running for office until the conviction is final. He is not ineligible for the office by virtue of the conviction itself.

We had this issue with Tom Delay back in 2006 when we tried to replace him on the ballot and it went all the way to the Fifth Circuit, and they ruled we could not replace him.

Hand out photo of Tom DeLay. Former U.S. House Majority leader Tom DeLay was sentenced to prison for convictions on charges of conspiring to launder corporate money into political donations during the 2002 elections. CREDIT: Travis County Sheriff’s Office. Received 01/10/11 for 0111roundup.

From Ralph Blumenthal in the New York Times, on July 6, 2006.

Former Representative Tom DeLay must stay on the Texas ballot in November despite his efforts to be declared ineligible so Republicans can select a stronger candidate, a federal judge ruled today.

The decision, by Judge Sam Sparks in Austin, threw the race for the 22d Congressional District into new turmoil and gave victory to Democrats fighting to keep one of their most reviled opponents in the running. It enjoined the Texas Republican chairwoman, Tina J. Benkiser, from efforts to choose a new candidate.

But a lawyer for the Republican Party, James Bopp Jr., said an appeal would be quickly filed with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Mr. DeLay’s office reiterated that he had no intention of running for a 12th term from his longtime home in Sugar Land outside Houston.

After edging out an unusually crowded field of opponents in the March primary, Mr. DeLay was scheduled to face former Representative Nick Lampson, the Democratic nominee. Mr. Lampson’s office, in a statement, hailed today’s ruling and said, “Regardless of whom he ends up running against, Nick Lampson is going to use this time to get his positive message to voters.”

State Republican officials have been meeting to select a replacement for Mr. DeLay since his announcement in April that he was withdrawing from the race and his resignation from Congress on June 9.

In its statement, Mr. DeLay’s office said: “Tom DeLay looks forward to the correct decision being rendered by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. As a resident of Virginia, he cannot lawfully be on the ballot in November. It is unfortunate that the voters of the 22nd District of Texas are the ones who bear the brunt of Judge Sparks’s ill-advised decision, but it is highly likely that it will be overturned and the voters will have a Texas Republican on the ballot who will defeat Nick Lampson.”

From Ballot Access News in August 2006:

On August 3, the 5th circuit agreed with the U.S. District Court, that Texas Republicans may not name a new candidate for U.S. House in the 22nd district. Tom DeLay is still free to withdraw, but if he does, the Republican Party won’t have a nominee. Texas Democratic Party v Benkiser, 06-50812.

From the Statesman’s Laylan Copelin, on August 8, 2006.

The Republican Party’s legal bid to replace retired U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on the November ballot has come to an end.U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Monday denied the GOP’s bid to block lower court rulings that the Republican Party of Texas could not replace DeLay, who retired from Congress in June and testified that he intended to live and work indefinitely in Virginia.

The Texas Democratic Party had sued to block a DeLay replacement, arguing that state GOP Chairwoman Tina Benkiser and DeLay had concocted his move to Virginia to circumvent state law and the U.S. Constitution. U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin agreed, and a panel of judges on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his decision.

James Bopp, the lawyer for the Republican Party, said Scalia’s decision is the end of the legal line.

“The Democratic Party has been successful in picking the nominee of the Republican Party, ” Bopp said. “It remains to be seen if they are happy with that.”

DeLay has not said whether he would mount an active campaign. He could withdraw from the ballot, but the Republican Party could not replace him. Insiders expect him at least to keep his name on the ballot to force his Democratic challenger Nick Lampson to spend his money on a competitive campaign.

Democratic Party officials wanted DeLay on the ballot, thinking a money-laundering indictment and fallout from investigations of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff give them the best chance of winning the heavily Republican district in the Houston suburbs.

Over the past year, DeLay has fallen from the heights of power in Congress.

Almost a year ago, the Sugar Land Republican was the majority leader of the U.S. House. Then a Travis County grand jury indicted him on money-laundering charges arising from his 2002 campaign activities. The felony indictment forced DeLay to resign as majority leader under the GOP rules.

DeLay easily defeated a field of challengers in the March Republican primary, but polls indicated he was vulnerable.

In April he announced that he was retiring after 21 years in Congress.

State law bars a political party from replacing a candidate after the primary unless he or she dies or is ruled ineligible.

Benkiser ruled DeLay ineligible, saying he had moved to Virginia. He presented a Virginia driver’s license, voter registration and state tax withholding documents.

But DeLay also testified that he had moved no belongings other than a car when he moved to a Virginia condo he had owned for 12 years. He also said his wife was staying in their Sugar Land home. And the Democrats, when they subpoenaed DeLay, found him in Sugar Land, not Virginia.

Sparks ruled that Benkiser’s administrative ruling could not trump the U.S. Constitution, which said a candidate for the U.S. House must be 25 years old, a U.S. citizen and an inhabitant of the state on the day he’s elected.

Cris Feldman, an Austin lawyer representing the Democrats, said the Democrats had won at every legal level.

“It’s time to move on to the election, ” Feldman said. “It’s time for Tom DeLay to decide whether to cut or run.”

So what happened?

From Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

August 10, 2006 Update:

In a stunning reversal of fortune, the state GOP was denied the opportunity to replace Tom DeLay on the ballot, and instead was forced to coalesce around a write-in candidate to take on Democrat Nick Lampson in the general election. The GOP’s pick? Conservative Houston City Council woman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, whose name isn’t particularly easy to remember or spell! We do not yet know whether Republicans will try to pour substantial sums into the race in hopes of keeping it competitive, but their odds of mounting a successful write-in bid are slim, if history is any guide. In November, the advantage must be given to the well-funded Lampson, who may well turn out to be a one-term wonder if the GOP gets its act together here in time for 2008.

And how did it turn out?

1/10/2011- Jay Janner/AMERICAN-STATESMAN – Tom DeLay leaves the Travis County Jail on Monday Jan. 10, 2011.

From Kristen Mack at the Houston Chronicle.

Democrat Nick Lampson won the bitter race to succeed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Tuesday, overcoming Shelley Sekula-Gibbs’ strong write-in effort to save the seat for the Republicans.


The 22nd was one of the most competitive House races in the country, as the GOP waged a last-minute battle to hold the seat in the Republican-leaning district after DeLay resigned from Congress.

Sekula-Gibbs, who is serving her final term on the Houston City Council, easily won the special election to fill the last two months of DeLay’s unexpired term – a Pyrrhic victory that will force Sekula-Gibbs to give up her council seat even though she lost her general election bid for the term that starts in January.

“I was prepared to do that and I’m still prepared to do that,” she said.

She was on the ballot in the special election, and defeated four other candidates. Lampson did not run in that race. Lampson and Libertarian Bob Smither were alone on the general election ballot.

DeLay had kept the seat firmly in Republican hands for 11 terms, and the district remains solidly conservative, based both on its voting record and recent polling. But with no GOP candidate on the general election ballot, the race became an uphill battle for the Republican Party.

Underdog to favorite

Lampson’s outlook went from underdog to favorite when DeLay quit Congress and courts prohibited the GOP from replacing him on the general election ballot.

Lampson is a former U.S. representative who had accumulated a multimillion-dollar war chest in anticipation of a nationally watched battle with DeLay.

The state GOP backed Sekula-Gibbs as its write-in candidate, and she mounted a strong, well-funded candidacy that included extensive television advertising showing voters how to cast write-in ballots.

DeLay trounced three challengers in March to win the GOP nomination for a 12th term. He announced his resignation in April amid a growing influence-peddling scandal that already had caused two of his former aides to plead guilty to federal charges. He also faces state campaign finance indictments in Austin, charges that he says were politically motivated.

He said he thought he could win re-election but that he did not want to be a lightning rod for Democrats to use to attack Republicans nationally.

DeLay tried to give his party the opportunity to replace him on the ballot by moving his legal residence to his condominium in Virginia while maintaining a home in Sugar Land. Republicans argued that made him ineligible to run or serve, and allowed them to replace him on the ballot.

Democrats sued to block Republicans from picking a nominee, arguing that the Texas Election Code prohibits a candidate from withdrawing from a ballot after being nominated in the party primary.

The courts agreed, leading to the write-in campaign in which Sekula-Gibbs earned the state GOP’s blessing.

Tom Delay, left, arrives at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin, Tx., on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. DeLay was convicted in 2010 of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering for participating in a scheme to influence Texas elections. But a lower appeals court ruled last year that prosecutors failed to prove their case and vacated DeLayÍs convictions. DeLay had been sentenced to three years in prison, but the punishment was put on hold pending appeal. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Opiela said Paxton would be ineligible to run for public office if he were convicted of a felony, but, as noted earlier, he would have had to have exhausted his appeals. (He could abandon his appeals and accept the conviction, but why would he do that.)

“An appeal can take, 2, 3, 4, 5 years,” Opiela said. So, even if Paxton were convicted, “Theoretically, he could serve out another term if he won the general election, but I think it does make it more difficult to win the general election.”

The election code cited by Opiela does provide another set of circumstances under which Texas Republicans could replace Paxton on the ballot if he is found guilty and withdraws from the race. That would be if  “no political party that held primary elections has a nominee for the office sought by the withdrawing candidate as of the time of the withdrawal.”

Opiela said the Democratic Party is the only other party in Texas that holds a primary to select its nominee – other, third parties, choose their nominees by convention.

But that would mean that the Democrats failed to field any candidates for attorney general, and that won’t happen.


Four years ago, the Democratic candidate for attorney general was Sam Houston, a Houston attorney. As I wrote at First Reading at the time, when Matt Angle put out word that Houston was going to enter the race:

Matt Angle, perhaps the key figure in orchestrating Wendy Davis’ entrance into the governor’s race, sent out an email late Friday afternoon indicating that his organization, The Lone Star Project, “has learned that highly respected Houston attorney, Sam Houston, will likely soon announce his candidacy for Texas Attorney General.”

Well, that’s good enough for me. If Matt Angle has “learned” Houston “likely will,” then Houston definitely will.

More from Angle:

Apart from having about the best ballot name any Texan might imagine, Sam Houston is a respected, highly competent attorney with deep roots in Texas. With more than 25 years of experience practicing law, Sam would enter the AG’s office with more than twice the experience as a practicing attorney than Greg Abbott when he became Attorney General.

I concluded:

That is one good ballot name. One imagines Angle now scouring the countryside for a David or Davy Crockett with ambitions to be agriculture commissioner.

Two things:

  1. Sam Houston, running a very low-profile campaign, finished just as well as Wendy Davis, conducting a very high-profile campaign. They both lost by about the same 20 points.
  2. That image of Angle scouring the countryside for a David or Davy Crockett remains a good one.

Only with a few small tweaks.

If Democrats find their Davy Crockett, they shouldn’t run him against Sid Miller for agriculture commissioner. Instead, they should run him against George P. Bush for land commissioner.

I recently heard from Dr. Davey Edwards of Alvord, who said he is going to challenge Bush in the Republican primary, in part because of controversy surrounding Bush’s stewardship of and ambitions for the Alamo, which I wrote about Sunday.


OK. So he’s already got “save the Alamo.” Well the Democratic Davy Crockett could come up with something slightly different. How about “Remember the Alamo: Vote for Davy Crockett.”

And then — and this is important — the Democratic Davy Crockett shouldn’t say or do anything else. Just plaster Texas with signs and bumper stickers that say “Remember the Alamo: Vote for Davy Crockett.”

And, if at all possible, find a Davy  Crockett who likes to hunt, bears a likeness to Fess Parker and doesn’t look foolish in a coonskin cap.

The Democrats still need a candidate for comptroller, right?

There have got to be countless William Travises around. At least one of them must be a Democrat, maybe a CPA who is not a convicted felon.

On Saturday Abbott, in San Antonio, boasted about his support from Hispanics and his determination that the first Hispanic governor of Texas be a Republican.

Well, Democrats, don’t take that lying down. Don’t pine over the Castro twins’ taking a pass on the race. Nominate Juan Seguín, any Juan Seguín, for governor.

But, Texas Democrats, when it comes to a candidate for attorney general, should be very, very serious about finding the most impressive and impeccably well-qualified most non-partisan candidate you can find, whether or not that candidate shares the name of an Alamo defender or other Texas hero. A woman would be especially good.


Sure, Democrats may look weak of they don’t run a “strong” candidate for governor, but nothing compared to how feckless they will appear if they don’t find a superb candidate to run against an attorney general who is headed toward trial on felony charges and whose party won’t be able to replace him on the ballot even if he is convicted.

Democrat Jeffrey Payne launches his `outside the box’ candidacy for governor.


Good Monday Austin:

On Saturday night, Jeffrey Payne kicked off his campaign for governor of Texas in his hometown of Dallas.

Earlier in the day, Gov. Greg Abbott, the man he hopes to unseat, addressed his campaign’s first Hispanic Leadership Conference, where he appeared less worried about his re-election – that’s pretty much a given – and more concerned about who the next governor after him will be.

From Svitek:

SAN ANTONIO — Greg Abbott may not have a serious opponent for re-election yet, but he is already running against one group in particular: those who say Texas’ Republican governor can’t make further inroads with the Hispanic community in the era of Texas’ “sanctuary cities” ban and Donald Trump.

Abbott made that much clear here Saturday as he addressed his campaign’s inaugural Hispanic Leadership Conference, rallying the Republican crowd against Democrats looking to unseat him — and laying the groundwork for a longer-term push for Hispanic GOP support.

“What we know is whoever they drum up to run against me, we are going to run against and we’re going to defeat,” Abbott said. “But what I want you to know is that far more important than running this race and running to win this race, we are running to win the next generation.” 

Does Abbott have anybody in mind?

Svitek noted that, Most recently, Hispanic Republicans have won election to statewide positions including land commissioner (George P. Bush) and state Supreme Court justice (Eva Guzman).

Bush would seem the obvious guy, though that may depend, as I wrote Sunday, if  he can survive the Alamo and his last name and family brand.

From the Texas Tribune report:

“What we know is whoever they drum up to run against me, we are going to run against and we’re going to defeat,” Abbott said. “But what I want you to know is that far more important than running this race and running to win this race, we are running to win the next generation.”

I wasn’t at Abbott’s appearance in San Antonio Saturday, and I was not in Dallas for Payne’s announcement that evening, but I did talk to him earlier in the week.

Here are the highlights of our conversation.

Payne said his husband would introduce him at the rally.

His husband’s name is Sergio Saragoca.

They were legally married in Texas early this year.

JP: After four years of dating. I finally got him to say yes.

Here’s how they met, from their wedding page:

On February 15, 2013, Jeffrey stopped in at Starbucks on a very cold afternoon to get a coffee. Upon arrival, standing in front of him, was a young man named Sergio. Jeffrey said, “Hello” and Sergio said, “Hello”. They each ordered their coffee and due to seating be limited inside of Starbucks, they decided to share a table.

Thus began the greatest love story ever to be told!

Payne has lived  in Dallas for 12 years.

He was In New Orleans for three years before that, and before that in Baton Rouge. He grew up in North Louisiana, in Ruston, in an orphanage, the Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home.

What brought you to Texas?

JP: The hurricane (Katrina). You lose your house, your job and everything that goes along with it. I loaded up my two dogs into my car and what possessions I could fit in my car and decided to head to Dallas to start over.

Why Dallas?

It was quite random to be honest. I wanted to move to Texas, but Houston was overwhelmed at the time with the people who had evacuated from New Orleans. Dallas had a lot of people here but not as many as Houston. I thought I would have a better chance at housing here, so I moved to Dallas.

Got a job as an admin assistant with a flooring company here. Stayed with him about four years, then took a year off and started by own court reporting firm, which is what I do during the day. Then I bought into the Dallas Eagle, which is a nightclub here, and since that time bought out the other owners so I’m the sole owner now, which makes decision-making a lot easier, when you don’t have the other partners.

From About The Dallas Eagle:

The Dallas Eagle was founded by Matt Miller and Mark Frazier. In 1995, Mark came up with the idea of opening a leather bar in Dallas because he felt there was a need in the DFW Leather Community. Dallas had a bar that many from the Leather community frequented, but that bar had decided to change to a more progressive atmosphere. The Leather Community was offered a small stand alone building located by the current club.


The Dallas Eagle developed respected reputation in contest circuits. For ten consecutive years the Dallas Eagle sponsored contestants ranked in the top twenty at International Mr. Leather including two winners of IML, Stephen Webber and Jeffrey Payne. The Eagle’s reputation in the Drummer and Leather Sir/boy contests were equally respected and had nine top three finishers over a twelve-year period

The Dallas Eagle is now located across the parking lot from the original site. The Eagle boasts a larger venue and a huge outdoor patio area. The Eagle continues to be the premier Leather bar in Greater Dallas/Ft. Worth and participate with other organizations in supporting the community through service and fund raising. Likewise, the Eagle continues to be the home of the founding club, Leather Knights along with NLA:Dallas, Discipline Corps, Lone Star Cigar Men, Eagle Bears, United Court of the Lone Star Empire, Dallas Bears, Texas Gay Rodeo Association along with newer groups like DFW Leather Corps and Dallas Diablos. The bar is anchored with the leather shop “Eagle OutPost”.


Then we started a retail clothing store. And then we started this year a land holding and a property management company. So a lot going on. Dallas has been very good to me. Texas has been very good to me.

Does he do any of the court reporting himself?

No. I have 80 percent hearing loss so I would not be the perfec person to do court reporting if I had to ask people to repeat themselves. We have about 22 court reporters that we work with and we handle pre-trial, depositions, trial work., and the appeals process. Mostly Dallas County.

Have you ever run for office before?

No sir, I have not.

So why in the world would you do this?

I got to the point where I’m tired of seeing what’s happening in Texas, the discriminatory policies, the way people are being treated, the way we are dividing people instead of uniting them.

Originally, I thought we would be doing this in four years, and then when Trump came into office, and I saw that fiasco, and then turned around and saw the special session, where they’re spending $800,000 to a million dollars on a special session to basically promote a bathroom bill. This isn’t where we should be spending our money and our time.

Meanwhile, our property taxes are going up, people are losing access, or never had access to proper health care, women’s rights have been trampled when it comes to their health care. And in all honesty, my husband came home one night and said, “You’re thinking about doing it now and I agree.”

If he didn’t support me running now I would not do it. I mean you have to have your family behind you, first and foremost. He said, “Now is the time to do it.”

Payne said he had planned to run for governor in 2022.

We can’t wait. Now is the time. We need to find the common ground and build from there. Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party. Let’s get everyone together.

Socially, I’m very liberal. When it comes to business and fiscal responsibility, I’m quite conservative to be honest with you. I don’t run up debt in my business. I won’t run up debt for the state. You can’t do it.

One budget saving:

Get rid of the Staar Exam. We’re spending $300 to $400 million on that test and we can do away with it, and then we can repurpose that money.

Property taxes.

They’re going up and up and up and up, and yet we’re receiving less for it.

That’s where our energy needs to be spent. Not on bathroom bills and trees, you name it.

We need to prioritize what we’re doing for the benefit of all and not for the benefit of just a few.

We have to get everyone together.

We can’t be making a naughty list of people who don’t agree with me. We’re not serving the public when go around making lists of people that don’t agree. That’s not helping anyone. That’s just further dividing who we are.

No one person has all the answers, so you bring everybody in, not just your friends. Also people that don’t agree with you, bring them in and see what they have to say.

Why start out running for governor?

I understand the question. My answer, we need a gatekeeper who’s not just going to rubber stamp everything coming through the Legislature.

His choice of office, he said, was also  a process of elimination.

Payne said he likes Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. Like his city council member.

This wasn’t just I woke up on Tuesday morning and said, “Oh, wouldn’t this be cool.” Believe me, it’s far from that. It was well-thought out. I have the leadership skills. I have the business mind.

Is this campaign more in the nature of making a statement?

No. We’re going all the way. We’re going all the way to Austin.

We know it’s a hill to climb, don’t get me wrong. We’re not ignorant, but we also know that it is possible.

We need to rile the base. There’s usually a hugely low turnout during off-year elections.

Next week we start on a six or eight week travel schedule. Then in January we do another eight weeks.

We believe we have a path to actually winning.

When he filed the paperwork to run in July, the same day that Abbott announced his candidacy for re-election, Payne promised to lend his campaign up to $2.5 million. He said he will do so as needed.

I doubt we’ll reach – what does (Abbott)  have – a $41, $43 million war chest. But we can do a lot more with less. We are getting donations. We are not accepting PAC money or special interest money. Our average right now is like $37.50, which is great.

Payne said he believes, if elected, he would be the first openly gay man elected governor in the United States.

Jim McGreevey was elected governor of New Jersey in 2001, and came out as gay in 2004, and immediately said he would step down as governor.

He was elected, for lack of a better word, as a straight man, and came out on a Tuesday and resigned on a Wednesday. But, I believe I’d be the first openly gay, from the git-go.

Wouldn’t it seem unlikely that Texas would be the path-breaking  state to elect the first gay governor?

If i was on the outside looking in, I’d probably say yes.

The reception we have seen so far at every single meet and greet and forum we have had, every time I have spoken, I have not received any resistance about it. In fact, I actually had someone say, “OK, you’re gay. What are your policies? That’s what we care about.”

They don’t care who I go home and sit across the dining room table from at the end of the day. They want to know what are you able to do for Texas. That’s all they care about.

I believe the stigma of being gay is not – it will resonate with some people, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that some people won’t have an issue with it. I realize there are some people who do. So we take it as it goes, but I do believe, Texas will elect its first governor, who’s also gay.

In your case it’s also the distinction of being  International Mr. Leather, 2009.

It’s basically just a pageant for guys. There’s interviews. There’s formal wear. Honestly, I thought I was about the last person who would win. It surprised me, to say the least.

But, by winning, I was able to travel around the world, I went around the world twice. Went to five different continents. Did a lot of fund-raising. Philanthropy is huge in my life. I believe you pay it forward. You hold fundraisers for those who are less fortunate than yourself and I’ve been very fortunate. And so you pay it forward.

So that title enabled me to learn about different cultures, as well as to fund-raise for organizations around the world.

I wouldn’t change that aspect of my life, ever. It was eye-opening, learning about the different cultures around the world.

The title paid for part of it. They paid for the fist $5,000 of my travel. The rest of it I paid for. The $5,000 didn’t last the first 60 days. Of the 53 weeks I held the title, I traveled 50 of them.

It was something I thoroughly enjoyed and would do it again, but right now I don’t have the time.

Have you talked to the state Democratic Party about your candidacy?

Yes, right after I filed my paperwork, I sat down and met with them. Just before the special session was to start.

They don’t endorse until after primary, which I understand.

They haven’t publicly even acknowledged that I’m running, even though I’m running.

I’ll be flat-out honest, I don’t fit into their box, and, heck, I’ll just say it. I’m a gay guy who’s married. I don’t have the political pedigree behind me. I’m not in their box. And I’ll be honest with you, I’ve told everybody, their box hasn’t worked in 24 years, so maybe we need to expand our box.

You will get a lot of press because it will be International Mr. Leather against Greg Abbott.  What the state Democratic Party may be worried about is that it becomes a gag, and it’s not taken seriously, and that it’s a way of saying, look at how pathetic the Democratic Party is in Texas. So the question is can you turn that?

Any time we have a community forum or an interview, I talk about IML – International Mr. Leather – and explain what it is and what it does, and what it did for me and how it helped me to grow as an individual, and then people get it. I have to explain what it is. Most people don’t know what it is. Then when I explain it, it’s “OK, so what are your policies?”

So if the press or the media or individuals make it into a joke type thing, then they are not listening to what it really is. But that’s what I have to do, that’s my responsibility to get out there and explain what IML is. And I think for the most part, people are going to listen and see what an opportunity it was. I think it would be great if everybody could travel the world for a year.

And I do understand where the Democratic Party is coming from. I understand that I am outside the box. But it doesn’t mean I’m any less viable as a candidate. I’ve proven myself. I have a brain in my head. I have run many successful businesses. And I actually run them.

For someone who came to Dallas with a car, two dogs and $2,000 I’m doing pretty well.

I understand where they’re coming from. At the same time I think they could at least acknowledge I am running, which they have not done. They just keep saying, “We’ll find a viable candidate.” What they’re basically saying is I’m not a viable candidate. At least say we have a viable candidate running, but we are looking for others. That to me is acceptable. By saying to the world we’re looking for a viable candidate, you’re saying I’m  not one, and that’s where the are making a mistake.

Tom Wakely of San Antonio, another Democrat who has filed to run for governor, will kick off his campaign on Saturday.


Yeah, basically you’ve got two viable candidates. At least acknowledge we’re running. At least say we have two people and we’re looking for others. I can live with that. But by not even acknowledging myself or Mr. Wakely, I think it s a disservice to our campaigns, and to the Democrats who supporting either myself or Mr. Wakely.

When I met with the state Democratic Party, they asked me point-blank, “If we find a viable candidate will you step aside?” And I  went, “Well, at this point no. The campaign is up and running, we’re out there, we’ve done the leg work, so no. And thanks for saying I’m not viable.”

I know the Castro brothers have both declined numerous times. and I think a couple of weeks ago, one of them finally said, “No, the answer’s no.”

I believe Mr. (Joaquin) Castro would make an excellent speaker of the House, when Democrats flip the House in 2018. I do believe the Democrats will be in control.

I believe he can do more for the United States, and Texas, as speaker of the House. He’s an incredible young man. I can say that because he’s younger than I am. I enjoy his path on-line and in the news and he is a straight shooter.

How old are you?

I am holding on at 49. In three months, I’ll be 50.

Have you ever met Gov. Abbott.

In person, no, I have never met him in person.

On immigration:

It just doesn’t make sense to put a wall up.

We do need a secure border, but this can of immigration reform has been kicked down the road and kicked down the road. We haven’t done anything and now we have 11 million undocumented individuals in the United States.

You’re not going to round them all up and send them back on a Tuesday. That isn’t going to happen. It’s too big of a task. It’s too big of a cost.

Why aren’t they working, why isn’t the federal government working toward a compassionate resolution, so that these individuals can come out of the dark recesses of the corners of our society and become productive citizens and pay their taxes and pay their Social Security? Some of them are paying taxes and can’t file a tax return for a refund, or if they owe more.

There has to be reform when it comes to immigration and it just seems like no one wants to tackle it. And it is a federal issue, I get that. But as governor (I can be) working with our U.S. representatives, and our governors and senators, in pushing this and saying we need this resolved. We need to figure out how we’re going to end this cycle and stop kicking this can down the road.

Government isn’t easy. Decision-making isn’t easy.

Luckily, I’m one of those who only needs four hours of sleep and my businesses are now to the point, I’m turning them all over, my husband will run them. When I’m governor, I’m a full-time governor. That’s how serious we are about this.

This is not just about making a statement and then we’ll go home next November with our tails between our legs. No. That is not what this is about. This is a truly a campaign for me to become the next governor of the state of Texas. We’re very serious about it. We take every day seriously and that’s what we are going to work toward, to get our message out there so people understand.

Payne said he had thought about running for U.S. Senate or lieutenant governor, but he likes U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Sen. Ted Cruz, and Mike Collier, who is running for the Democratic nomination to oppose Dan Patrick.

“I believe he’s the man for the job,” Payne said of O’Rourke. He said he hopes to meet him soon.

Of Collier, he said, “I like him and saw no reason to run against him.”

In 2019, he said, “I will be working with Mike Collier when we are sworn in.”