On Tele-Town Hall, civil Will Hurd is uncivil about President Trump’s servility to Vladimir Putin

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, speaks wn hall the South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in San Antonio. As the first black Republican House member from Texas since Reconstruction, the national GOP is grooming the 37-year-old for political stardom.(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Good day, Austin:

A week ago, U.S. Reps. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, and Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, won the seventh annual Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life “for their bipartisan road trip’ last year, when the two congressmen from opposing parties livestreamed collegial discussions on the divisive issues of the day over a 1,600-mile drive from Texas to the Capitol.”

The 2017 winners were Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and, posthumously, Justice Antonin Scalia.

In 2016 it was Joe Biden and John McCain.

In 2015, when the award looked for historical examples, Wendell Wilkie won an honorable mention.

But these are, of course, times that test the limits, or even the wisdom or moral appropriateness, of civility.

On the very day they shared the Allegheny College award, the civility bros were saying some uncivil things about President Donald Trump for what I supposed could be construed as the president’s being inappropriately civil/servile to Russian president Vladimir Putin.


Last night, I received an automated call from Hurd’s congressional office inviting me to join a telephone town hall. It seems I get one of these calls every couple of weeks, and this time I decided to listen in.

It was interesting.

It consisted of Hurd taking questions from among those people who had punched a certain number on their telephone key pad to get into a queue.

Here are a few of the exchanges.

HURD: The first question I would like to go to John. John how are you?

There was no response, so Hurd tried again.

HURD: Steve. Hey Steve, sorry about that. How are you?

STEVE: Good, how are you?

HURD:  Good. I’m up here in D.C. It’s a little bit cooler than it is in Texas right now but I’m glad to be talking to y’all.

Thanks for joining us tonight and do you have a question?

STEVE: Well, my question, and I know that this is not politically correct, but it’s what in the world is wrong with Washington, D.C., today?

We all hate the other side. And I’m old enough that I remember the old days when Democrats and Republicans joked and teased each other, had fun with each other, made fun of each other and laughed about it.

I heard somebody say not that long ago, Bobby Kennedy, he was a great Democrat, unfortunately he was assassinated, he had a Republican as the godfather of his first-born as the godfather of his first-born child.

That made me curious. Kennedy had a lot of children but I did not recall there being a Wendell Wilkie Kennedy.

I looked to see who that Republican godfather might have been.

I was soon sorry I did.

From the Evan Thomas biography of Kennedy.


So, Joe McCarthy was either godfather to Robert Kennedy’s first-born, or Robert Kennedy boasted that he was as an act of belligerence.

Returning to the Tele-Town Hall and Steve.

STEVE: What Democrat would have a Republican as the godfather or godmother of their children today? What’s wrong.

HURD: Steve. Thank you for the question and the comment.

I actually would agree with a majority of what you’re saying.

The only way we get big things done up here in Washington, D.C., is if we do it together, and I’ve gotten, I think the number is now at 15 or 16 bills signed into law, that’s under a Democratic president and a Republican president, and the only way you do that, is you work together.

And one of the things that was shocking to me when I first got up here is that when the cameras are off, the relationship between members is fairly warm across the aisle. I’ve learned that as I’ve criss-crossed the district, the 23rd District of Texas, and one of the things that makes the 23rd unique is that it’s 50-50. Fifty percent Republican , 50 percent Democrat, and guess what, most people care about the same things.

Food on their table , a roof over their head, and that the people that they care about are healthy and happy, and these are some of the issues that I’ve been trying to work on. Issues like immigration, and this is a very partisan issue but I’ve been able to work with folks like Pete Aguilar, he’s as a Democrat from California, and someone we’ve worked closely together on this issue. When it comes to some of the IT issues that I work on and cybersecurity,  Robin Kelley, a Democrat from Illinois.  We have a great working relationship. And Steve, what I’ve learned, as I’ve crisscrossed these 29 counties is far more unites us than divides us as a country and we can disagree without being disagreeable.

And that is something that we have to remember.  And guess what? If we can’t do this, if we can’t disagree without being disagreeable, if we can’t be civil and reintroduce some civility into our lives, then our kids won’t be able to do it and our grandkids won’t be able to do it.

So Steve, I’m glad you asked the question, and I’m sure you’re trying to be an example and I’m trying to be and I hope everybody that’s listening on this call believes it too. So thanks for the call Steve.

Congressman Will Hurd speaks with Alysa Wheeler at a Dairy Queen in Dilley, TX on Aug. 11, 2017 during a week-long Dairy Queen town hall tour of his district. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

HURD: Next we have John from San Antonio.

John. How are you?

JOHN: Yes sir. I just wanted to let you know that I’m a strong believer in you. I voted for you three times.

My question and my worry is what are you going to do or say to keep people like me – conservatives – not me, but people like me, because you’ve got my vote, but I worry about you swinging to the middle and to the left by the statement you made about Trump being manipulated by Putin, instead of siding with him, even though he did sidestep and make some errors. I do worry about you losing some votes by trying to get independent and Dem votes by making that statement.

But I wished you could clarify and try to get other people back on board . You’ve got my vote.

Here is what Hurd wrote in the New York Times — The New York Times! — on July 19, to considerable national notice.

Trump Is Being Manipulated by Putin. What Should We Do?
Lawmakers must keep the American people informed of the current danger, writes a Republican congressman from Texas.

By Will Hurd

Mr. Hurd, a former C.I.A. officer, is a congressman from the 23rd District of Texas

Over the course of my career as an undercover officer in the C.I.A., I saw Russian intelligence manipulate many people. I never thought I would see the day when an American president would be one of them.

The president’s failure to defend the United States intelligence community’s unanimous conclusions of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and condemn Russian covert counterinfluence campaigns and his standing idle on the world stage while a Russian dictator spouted lies confused many but should concern all Americans. By playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad.

As a member of Congress, a coequal branch of government designed by our founders to provide checks and balances on the executive branch, I believe that lawmakers must fulfill our oversight duty as well as keep the American people informed of the current danger.

Somehow many Americans have forgotten that Russia is our adversary, not our ally, and the reasons for today’s tensions go back much farther than the 2016 election. For more than a decade, Russia has meddled in elections around the world, supported brutal dictators and invaded sovereign nations — all to the detriment of United States interests. Mitt Romney had it right in 2012 when he told President Barack Obama that Russia was “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

Our intelligence community has concluded with high confidence that President Putin personally ordered his security services to undertake an influence campaign aimed at undermining confidence in American democracy to sow chaos in our electoral system. Russia’s efforts to hack political organizations and state election boards are well documented, as are the Russian disinformation campaigns on social media platforms.

Russia is an adversary not just of the United States but of freedom-loving people everywhere. Disinformation and chaos is a Russian art form developed during the Soviet era that Russia has now updated using modern tools. The result has been Russian disinformation spreading like a virus throughout the Western world. From elections in Britain, France and Montenegro to invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Moscow has pursued an aggressive foreign policy aimed at spreading disorder and expanding Russian influence in states formerly under the heel of Soviet Communism. These efforts weaken our allies and strengthen those who seek to undermine the democratic order that has helped prevent another world war in Europe since 1945.

Moreover, the threat of Russian meddling in United States elections is not behind us. Just last week, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, cautioned that “the warning lights are blinking red” that Russia and other adversaries will undertake further cyberattacks on our digital infrastructure. This includes many of the energy companies in my home district in South and West Texas.

Make no mistake, Russian disinformation campaigns are working.

It goes on like that.

Of course, as President Trump put it in his opening remarks with Putin, in his view, getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing

Back to the Tele-Town Hall, and John’s question.

HURD:  Well John thanks for the question and thanks for your support.

For me, my statement was very simple. It wasn’t for the left or the middle or the right. It was a statement that was based on nine-and-a-half years as an undercover officer and, for those that don’t know, I made a statement about the Helsinki press conference between President Trump and President Vladimir Putin and  my concern with that press conference is that it was a form of disinformation that was being used by Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Putin said some things that were pretty outrageous and said them next to the leader of the free world.

And when the leader of the free world is standing there shaking his head about thing like on the Ukraine — if Russia wanted to change its relationship with the United States or the West it would leave Ukraine.

The Russians invaded Ukraine. Period. End of story.

And the Russian are trying to say this was a separatist movement that was happening in the Ukraine and that they were trying to help this separatist movement. It wasn’t. It was an invasion.  

So when you see Vladimir Putin make comments saying that, “the Ukrainians are being unreasonable,” and that is not rebuked, that has longterm ramification with our allies and even with our adversaries.

So for me, I spent nine-and-a-half years as an undercover officer in the CIA. I was the guy in the back alleys collecting intelligence on threats to our homeland. I did two years of training in D.C., two years in India, two years in Pakistan, two years in New York City doing interagency work a year and half in Afghanistan, where I managed all of our undercover operations. I chased terrorists. I chased Russian intelligence officers. I put nuclear weapons proliferators out of jobs.

And for me it was important to let the world  know that this disinformation was going on and to speak up and so, my dad always said, “Be honest,” so that’s what I did in my comments on the press conference and I will continue to be honest and I think that’s something that folks in the 23rd Congressional District have come to expect from me and to use my background as a leader in national security to provide context for such important issues. But John, I really appreciate the comment and you bringing that up to today.

The next caller in the queue said he was just there to “spectate,” so Hurd launched into a vigorous defense of NAFTA, another Trump bugaboo.

At this point, Hurd offered one of several poll questions he asked during the call.

HURD: Do you believe Russia is an enemy or friend of the United States Press one if you think Russia is an an enemy Press two if you you think Russia is a friend of the United States. Press 3 if you do not know. 

In this Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016 photo, first-term Republican Rep. Will Hurd, right, of Texas, poses for a photo with a supporter at a campaign office, in San Antonio. Many House Republican incumbents worry that blowback from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s anti-Hispanic rhetoric and promises to build a towering wall the length of the U.S.-Mexico border could hurt their re-election chances, a problem especially acute for those in heavily Latino districts like that of Hurd, whose territory encompasses 820 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

HURD: Now we’re going to go to Mary from San Antonio. Mary, how are you?

MARY:  I’m fine, how are you sir?

HURD: I’m doing fantastic. Thanks for calling.

MARY: Absolutely.

First of all I think you’re doing a fabulous job. I’ve been with you since you first ran and I think you’re just one of the few honest ones up there. I hate to sound so critical but its’ just getting ridiculous up in Washington. You know we Texans like people that tell the truth and just stick to the issues.

My question is, the one thing I kind of break with you on lately is the immigration issue. My husband was career Air Force as was my father and grandfather. And I’ve lived all over the world, like you have. I haven’t been in back alleys. I have lived in areas such as Turkey and all across Europe.

My question is why are you not agreeing with a wall, a boundary for our country, to stop illegal immigration. I’ve seen the boundaries in Europe and I’ve seen them, even in Turkey, the Air Force would put up big fences and walls around us to keep us safe, and this was back in the ’70s even.  And it worked.

I agree with you on the drones and the IT situation that you’ve sponsored and we’re already using. It does help but it’s not stopping them.

I mean you see all of them coming across the border. And with the situation in Nicaragua, I’m really concerned that you don’t think adding something extra, like a boundary wall of some type would not help. I’m confused about that.

HURD: Well, Mary, one, thank you for the service of your family; two, I appreciate you joining (the call), and three, I appreciate your question.

I believe that building a 30-foot tall concrete structure from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security. I do believe we should protect our borders.

It’s 2018 and we don’t have operational control of our border. I think at any moment, the head of Border Patrol should be able to say, “Pull up Mile Marker 18,” and we should be able to know what’s happening at Mile Marker 18. We don’t have that capability right now.

And one of the reasons I have a problem using a Fourth Century tool for a 21st Century  problem is that the response time from Border Patrol to problems at a wall is oftentimes measured in hours if not days. If the response time is measured in hours to days, then that wall is not a physical barrier. And when I was in embassies, yes in embassies we had fences and walls around them, but you had Marines there to respond immediately to somebody who was at that fence or at that wall or jumped over it.

At some areas in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is in my district west of San Antonio, the response time of the Border Patrol was measured in days.

So I believe that we should be using all of our tools within our toolkit to the most effective way possible. The technology exists today to determine the difference between a bunny rabbit and a person coming across the border. We can deploy a small drone to track that person until the most important resource we have, the men and the women of the Border Patrol, can deploy and do the interdiction.

And that’s why I call it the smart wall, it’s utilizing that technology, because you know you’re right, it’s not just Nicaragua, it’s El Salvador, it’s Guatemala, that is fueling the illegal immigration that’s coming up here.

You also have the drug trafficking organizations in Mexico and the rest of Central and South America making $66 billion dollars a year on selling drugs in the United States. There are more people who die of drug poisoning in the United States than they do in the global war on terrorism.

We’re starting to see fentanyl coming in in high numbers into the United States. Fentanyl is similar to heroin but with a main difference  — 0.2 grams of heroin can kill somebody; 0.002 grams of fentanyl can kill somebody. Eleven pounds of fentanyl could kill about three million people. The only way we can stop this from coming into our country is utilizing technology and making sure we have more men and women in the Border Patrol.

Right now the Border Patrol has trouble retaining people because oftentimes, if they have to move from Arizona to Texas, they have to pay for their own move. That’s outrageous. And only DHS would think that would be OK. We’re not hiring enough people and retaining enough people in the Border Patrol. So we should use every tool in our toolkit, and in some places a barrier makes sense but for all 2,000 miles of the border it does not.

So I’m about being smart. I’m about dealing with the problem of illegal immigration. And oh and, by the way, we also need to be addressing and working with those countries to address the root cause of immigration coming out of Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, and these are some of the areas we’re working, and also we need to be increasing the number of immigration judges, once people are apprehended, to get them through the judicial process.

So that’s my take on the wall and I really, I really appreciate calling in and thanks for your service and your family’s service.

Congressman Will Hurd speaks to constituents at a Dairy Queen in Dilley, TX on Aug. 11, 2017 during a week-long Dairy Queen town hall tour of his district. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

HURD: Next, we’ve got Freddie, Freddie, how are you ma’am. Is it hot down in Eagle Pass?

FREDDIE: Lets just say I’ve been campaigning for a special election outside from 8 in the morning to 5 at night and it’s been 100 degree by the time I”m up at 6:45 a.m.

HURD: Well, that’s crazy. 100 degrees by 6 a.m. Well, thanks for calling in, I’m sure you have a question.

FREDDIE: Yeah, I was wondering how were you over the president handling the situation with Russia because, the one thing I’ve always liked about you is you play tough with tough guys and you play nice with nice guys, and I don’t think Putin’s very nice. So I’m wondering how you would want him to handle the situation with your background in national security and what have you?

HURD: I appreciate the question, Freddie, and you’re absolutely right.

When I was in the CIA, be nice with nice guys and tough with tough guys and there’s not a tougher guy out there than Vladimir Putin.

And I would agree with folks that say having a better relationship with Russia would be a good thing for everyone, however, there have to be some pre-conditions to show that Russia is interested in changing the nature of its relationship with the United States.

Every president since the fall of the Berlin Wall has thought they were going to have the opportunity to reset the U.S.’ relationship with Russia and they have failed to do that because ultimately Russia, and Vladimir Putin specifically, are interested in one thing and one thing alone. He is interested in re-establishing the territorial integrity of the USSR.

Vladimir Putin has said the worst thing that has happened in the last century was the fall of the Soviet Union, and he is the one trying to re-establish that, so what I would like to see is some continued support for sanctions against Russia for a number of reasons.

They invaded Ukraine. In their invasion, they manipulated the utility grid of the Ukrainians. They’ve tried to do that in  Estonia. Even the UN hs said that doing something with someone’s utility grid electricity is an act of war, so there have been sanctions against Russia for doing that.

They have invaded Ukraine, so they should leave, they should take their troops and their tanks and they should leave Ukraine, plain and simple.

They should stop supporting Iran, especially when it comes to Syria. They should make sure that these Iranian irregular units stop killing American forces, and they should be pushing Bashar al-Assad, the leader of Syria, to come to the negotiation table in order to have a political and military solution to he issue in Syria.

These are all things that I’d like to see our president stand up to Vladimir Putin on and use as, when those things get resolved, a pre-condition to continue to trying to improve a bilateral relationship. Republican presidents and Democratic presidents have gotten Vladimir Putin wrong and he’s proven himself to only care about one thing and that one thing only and that’s the USSR and re-establishing that.

So thanks for the question Freddie.

There were some other questions. Hurd talked about bipartisan efforts to restore national parks. He answered questions about community health centers and mental health services for veterans. He talked about small businesses in the district.

Altogether, in tone, it was a very civil and substantive telephone town hall.

Hurd’s differences with President Trump were very apparent and he did nothing to obscure them. On the contrary.

It’s a tricky business in a district in which most of his votes will have to come from Trump supporters, but victory will likely depend on drawing some voters appalled by the president.

There are very few districts like the 23rd in all of America.

Hurd is a skillful politician, not to be underestimated

And so far, he has also been lucky.

President Trump, it seems, wasn’t listening in on Hurd’s telephone town hall, or become personally exercised about Hurd’s New York Times op-ed.

Or, at any rate, if he was, he hasn’t tweeted about it.

And that’s remarkably, uncharacteristically, civil of him.

U.S. Reps. Will Hurd, left, and Beto O’Rourke on their road trip from San Antonio to Wasington D.C. on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.l





It’s not lack of an ID but the `uninformed and misinformed state of the Texas non-voting electorate’ that tamps down turnout

(A voter ID ad being used as part of the voter education campaign by the office of Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos.)

Good day Austin:

Voter ID in Texas is back in the news.

As Chuck Lindell reported in today’s Statesman:

The Texas voter ID law was enacted in 2011 with the intent to discriminate against minority voters, a federal judge ruled Monday, handing the Republican-backed measure another in a string of legal defeats.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos dismissed Republican assertions that the voter identification law was intended to combat fraud, calling that rationale a “pretext” to suppress the voting rights of Hispanics and African-Americans, who overwhelmingly support Democrats.

“There was no substance to the justifications offered for the draconian terms of SB 14,” the Corpus Christi judge said, concluding that the law known as Senate Bill 14 violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

Ramos’ ruling followed a July decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the law had an improper and disproportionate impact on minority voters because they were less likely to have an acceptable government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license, U.S. passport or state handgun permit.

The appeals court returned the case to Ramos, who originally declared the law unconstitutional in 2014, to determine whether the voter ID law was intentionally written to be discriminatory.

On Monday, Ramos said it was — a conclusion she had also reached in 2014.

As Lindell reported back in August, Ramos had temporarily revised the voter ID rules for 2016:

Softening a strict Texas voter ID law that had been found to be discriminatory, a federal judge Wednesday ordered the state to accept a wide range of identification for the November general election.

Texans without a photo ID will be able to cast ballots by showing bank statements, utility bills and other forms of identification, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos said, accepting without change an agreement over how to handle the Nov. 8 election that had been reached last week by state officials, the U.S. Justice Department and civil rights groups.

As part of Ramos’ order, the Texas secretary of state’s office was required to implement a $2.5 million voter education campaign to inform voters about these alternative forms of identification.

That voter education campaign did not succeed, according to a new study released Monday by the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs – The Texas Voter ID Law and the 2016 Election: A Study of Harris County and Congressional District 23. The study found that there were exceedingly few potential voters who did not have one of the ID’s that would have made them eligible to vote in 2016.

The study revealed that what really inhibited some voters not to participate was not their lack of an ID that would have met the requirements of the law as it applied to the 2016 election, but confusion over that law, confusion that a wholly inadequate state voter education campaign by the Texas Secretary of State’s Office failed to allay.

And, while this is not part of the study. an argument can also be made that an unintended consequence of  the intense Democratic outrage about Republican voter ID efforts, is to reinforce those efforts by creating precisely the atmosphere that inhibits participation because potential voters assume the requirement is more onerous than it actually is.

The principal investigators for the new study were Mark Jones, of University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs & Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, and Renée Cross and Jim Granato, both of the Hobby School of Public Affairs.

From Mark Jones yesterday.

One of the lessons is that only one to two percent of these registered voters who didn’t turn out to participate – so they represent about half the (potential) voters in the election – only between one to two percent didn’t have one of the state-approved forms of ID that they would have needed to  to vote last fall. And if you dig deeper, you found that only one out of 819 people surveyed fit the category of not having a photo ID and saying the lack of a photo ID is the principal reason they didn’t turn out to vote.

From the study:

Virtually all registered voters in Harris County and CD -23 who did not participate in the November 2016 election possessed one of the state approved forms of photo ID needed to cast a vote in person. All together, 97.4% and 97.8% of non-voters in Harris County and CD-23 possessed an unexpired state- approved photo ID, with these proportions rising to 98.5% and 97.9% when photo IDs that had expired within the previous four years were considered (in 2016 IDs that had expired within four years of the voting date could be used to vote in person).

The most common photo ID held by non-voters was a Texas driver license, with 82.9% and 84.1% of Harris County and CD-23 non-voters possessing an unexpired Texas driver license. Among those between the ages of 18 and 25 (who in theory would be the principal beneficiaries of an expansion of the forms of state approved ID to include public college and university IDs), 97.4% and 97.5% of Harris County and CD-23 non-voters possessed an unexpired state approved photo ID, rising to 100% in Harris County (and remaining at 97.5% in CD -23) when expired IDs were considered.

Approximately three-fifths of non-voters in Harris County (58.8%) and CD-23 (63.6%) agreed that one of the reasons they did not vote was because they didn’t like the candidates or the issues, making it the reason for not voting with the highest level of agreement in both locales. At the other end of the continuum, approximately one in seven non-voters in Harris County (16.5%) and CD-23 (14.8%) signaled a lack of possession of a state approved photo ID as one of the reasons they did not participate in the 2016 election. Among this sub-set of non-voterswhose nonparticipation was attributed at least in part to the photo ID requirements, approximately two-thirds of those with a preference would have voted for the Democratic candidates in the Harris County District Attorney and Sheriff races and in the CD-23 race.

This suggests that had these individuals participated , the Democratic candidates in the former two contests would have enjoyed even larger margins of victory and the Democratic candidate in CD-23, Pete Gallego, would have defeated his Republican rival, Will Hurd, instead of losing to Hurd by 1.3% of the vote

 However, when pressed to give the principal reason why they did not cast a ballot in 2016, only 1.5% and 0.5% of non-voters in Harris County and CD-23 identified a lack of a state-approved photo ID as the principal reason they did not vote. Among this handful of non-voters, 86% actually possessed an approved form of photo ID, while 14% did not. While the photo ID law at least partially discouraged some people from voting, an actual lack of a state approved photo ID kept virtually no one (only one non-voter among the 819 surveyed) from turning out to vote in 2016.



Once again in 2016, Texas had among the most abysmal voter turnout rates in the country.

Jones and his colleagues did a comparable study,’albeit limited to CD-23, in 2014, with similar findings:

This study suggests that the most significant impact of the Texas voter photo ID law on voter participation
in CD – 23 in November 2014 was to discourage turnout among registered voters who did indeed possess an approved form of photo ID, but through some combination of misunderstanding, doubt or lack of knowledge, believed that they did not possess the necessary photo identification. The disjuncture between the proportion of voters who listed a lack of an ID as a reason or the principal reason they did not vote
and the proportion of these individuals who actually did not have an ID highlights the potential for a future voter education campaign to clearly explain the types of photo identification required to cast a vote in person in Texas
This education campaign however needs to be designed based on a comprehensive study targeted at understanding the sources and causes of confusion which resulted in so many Texans believing they did not have a required form of photo ID when in reality they actually did. This study also examines the potential impact of the Texas voter photo ID law on the outcome of the 2014 election in CD -23. It
suggests that the presence of the law kept far more Gallego than Hurd supporters away from the polls last fall.
Comparing the two studies, Jones said yesterday:

I think last time we were pretty confident that if the voter ID law had not been in place, that  Pete Gallego would have won. I think this time it’s more , had the voter ID law not been in place, Pete Gallego might have won. The implication was that he was hurt by it, it’s just not clear that he was hurt by it by a magnitude that’s great enough to account for Hurd’s margin of victory. It certainly worked against him.

The most important thing, Jones said, is clarity.

The overwhelming is evidence is that most people have a photo ID.  It’s only a small percentage that don’t, and there is probably something about those people, which is why they don’t have a voter ID .Some of them don’t want to have an ID, or It’s  such  low priority that they are not going to go out and get one.

To make sure that the uninformed and misinformed voters of 2016 are not repeated in 2018  is to engage in a far more aggressive, transparent and robust education campaign statewide, so more registered voters are aware of what the rules are

The best thing the Legislature could do, Jones said, would be to keep the new rules as similar to the rules that were in place in 2016 instead of making changes that would only sow further confusion.

From the new study:

Only one in five non-voters in Harris County (21.1%) and CD-23 (17.9%) could accurately identify the photo ID rules in effect for the 2016 election. Three in five non-voters in both jurisdictions(58.4% and 59.7%) incorrectly believed that all voters were required to provide a state approved form of photo ID to vote in person, unaware that voters who did not possess a photo ID could still vote if they signed an affidavit and provided one of several supporting documents. In both Harris County and CD-23, Latino non-voters (15.1%and 14.8%) were significantly less likely than Anglo non-voters (24.3% and 27.6%) and, in Harris County, than African American non-voters (27.9%) , to accurately understand the photo ID rules governing the 2016 election. Latino non-voters in both locales also were significantly more likely than Anglo (and

in Harris County, African American) non- voters to believe that the 2016 photo ID rules were more restrictive than they actually were. Three out of four Harris County (74.2%) and CD-23 (75.1%) non-voters incorrectly believed that only an unexpired Texas driver license qualified as a state approved form of photo ID to vote in person in 2016.

A mere 14.4% and 13.8% of non-voters in these two jurisdictions were aware that in 2016 an expired Texas driver license could also be used as long as it had expired within the past four years. In Harris County, Latinos (82.4%) were significantly more likely than Anglos (72.3%) to believe they could only use an unexpired Texas driver license as a form of photo ID to vote in person in 2016. In CD -23 there were however no significant differences between Latino (75.4%) and Anglo (76.8%) non-voters.

The survey data clearly indicate that non-voters in Harris County and CD-23 did not have a good understanding of the voter photo ID rules in force for the 2016 election. Only one in five non -voters were aware that it was possible for registered voters who did not possess one of the seven state approved forms of photo ID to still vote in person by signing an affidavit and providing one of many easily obtainable supporting documents. And, only one in seven non- voters knew that an expired (within four years) Texas driver license qualified as a state approved photo ID for the purposes of voting in person in 2016.

The uninformed and misinformed state of the Texas non-voting electorate in 2016 highlights the need for a more robust state-sponsored voter education campaign to increase public knowledge regarding the photo ID rules that will be in effect in 2018 when Texans vote in races to choose elected officials for positions ranging from U.S. senator and governor to county judge and constable.

 Of voter education, Jones said:

You can’t expect the state to do on its own.  You probably do need media outlets, civic society, the parties, all playing their role but the state is the first mover because, in the end, the state’ss the one that’s in charge of running the elections and it’s the state that’s decided to change the rules of the game. If you’re changing the rules of the game about how people vote, then the burden is on you to make sure voters understand  the changes and how they are gong to participate in the process.

Democrats are naturally incensed by what they consider Republican machinations to use voter ID laws to reduce Democratic turnout, particularly among Hispanic voters.

But there is a danger that Democratic efforts to turn Republican voter ID efforts into a campaign issue can actually have the perverse consequence of enhancing the impact of those efforts.

For Republicans, Jones said:

If you’re lucky Democrats will fall into your trap and start a public relations campaign about how Republicans have adopted a draconian voter ID law designed to disenfranchise Latino voters which will then  result in a subset of Latino voters believing they do not have the right ID and therefore not turning out.

I think that was a trap that Democrats fell into in 2014 because they tried to make so much hay out of a broad-based Republican strategy designed to disenfranchise minorities  that they  used language like, `this was the strictest voter ID law in the country,’ so that they may very well scared off a set of voters who actually had the approved IDs they just were worried about, they’re saying this new ID law  and if you have Republicans saying you can be arrested for fraud, then maybe I shouldn’t, and it’s not a large number of people but one or two percent, that can be consequential in places like CD 23.

I think the further peril for Democrats is an inflated sense of just how consequential voter ID laws are in reducing Democratic turnout. If you listen to a lot of Democratic rhetoric, voter ID laws are the return of Jim Crow. It isn’t, and most Americans don’t think it is.

Moreover, some of the research purporting to show a large impact is suspect.

From German Lopez at Vox ‘on March 15: A major study finding that voter ID laws hurt minorities isn’t standing up well under scrutiny. A follow-up study suggests voter ID laws may not have a big effect on elections.

It was supposed to be the study that proved voter ID laws are not just discriminatory but can also have a big impact on elections. And it was picked up widely, with outlets including ThinkProgress and the Washington Post reporting that the study found voter ID laws hurt Hispanic voters in particular and skewed elections to the right.

But a follow-up study suggests the findings in the original were bunk. According to researchers at Stanford, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania, the original study was based on surveys of voters that are extremely unreliable — skewing the results. On top of that, several calculation errors led to even more problems. When the errors are corrected, the follow-up researchers found, there’s no evidence in the analyzed data that voter ID laws have a statistically significant impact on voter turnout.

In other words, it’s possible that voter ID laws still have an impact on elections, but the original study just doesn’t have the data to prove it.

The findings aren’t too surprising. Looking at the broader research, the empirical evidence has tended to find that voter ID laws have a small impact on elections. While they still may be racially discriminatory or unnecessary, ultimately voter ID laws may not have a strong enough effect on voter turnout, based on the available research so far, to swing anything but the closest election. And the newest study backs that up.

 An earlier piece in November by German at Vox: The silver lining of voter ID laws: they aren’t effective at suppressing the vote. That doesn’t make these laws less racist.

There is little doubt at this point that voter ID laws are discriminatory. Many Republicans, who have pushed these laws in recent years, have admitted as much. Studies show the laws have a disproportionate impact on black and brown voters. And there is a very long history of voter suppression against black voters in the US. All of this adds up to what’s fairly described as a constitutional crisis depriving people of their most fundamental democratic right.

But there’s some good news: Despite Republican legislators’ best attempts to suppress minority voters, study after study has found that voter ID laws have little to no effect on voter turnout. At worst, the effect is small — barely detectable even in studies that employ multiple controls. At best, there’s no effect at all or even an increase.

That doesn’t, of course, mean that the laws are okay. The intent behind the laws is still clearly abhorrent — with some Republicans admitting that they are meant to suppress minority voters. The good news is that so far the intent, no matter how bad, hasn’t led to the effect Republican lawmakers apparently desire.

The research suggests voter ID laws have a tiny effect on elections. Studies on voter ID laws are surprisingly consistent: No matter what, the effect seems to be fairly small.


Notes from Beto and Will’s livestreamed, bipartisan, Texas-to-D.C. town hall road trip


Good day Austin:

Somewhere, about 12 hours into his excellent adventure with his congressional colleague Will Hurd, Beto O’Rourke reflected yesterday on the prerequisites of a great road trip.

  1. There has to be an element of spontaneity. You can’t be planning it weeks or months in advance.
  2. You’ve got to have good tunes.
  3. You’ve got to have some good food and good snacks.
  4.  You’ve got to run into Chuck Todd and Evan Smith.
  5. You must learn some deeper truths about yourself and humanity.



By their own reckoning, yesterday’s road trip, which had them leaving San Antonio by dawn and arriving at their hotel in Nashville at 2:15 this morning  – a little bit better than halfway to their destination of snowbound D.C.  – was quite successful, though, of course, fulfilling the fifth criterion was mostly in the mind of the beholder.

For example, the dynamic duo did learn that if you park by the University of Texas – even if you are two of 535 members of the U.S. Congress – your Dollar rent-a-car, will be ticketed. And that if your goal is to get out of Texas within, say, eight hours, you really ought to avoid a route that takes you through Waco on I-35.

Like any good road trip – and this really was a good road trip – it was self-referential, spinning its own legend as it went, looking back at what happened a half-hour earlier as mythic, every moment invested with meaning.

It was, O’Rourke said from nearly the outset, the “longest cross-country livestream town hall in the history of the world.” And there didn’t really seem to be any arguing with that.

With the exception of some intermittent service interruptions, the whole thing was livestreamed.


They talked about health care, the border, U.S. Rep. Steve King, drug policy, veterans issues, opioid addiction, campaign finance, the budget sequester and on and on.

Their real moment of Zen came early on, at Tantra Coffeehouse in San Marcos, where Adam, while making them their coffee, talked about coffee and the meaning of life.




“Human beings and caffeine have a deep-seated relationship in our consciousness,” said Adam.

“We have spent the last hour talking about health care policy and NATO and Turkey, and this discourse on coffee has gotten more ‘likes’ than anything,” O’Rourke told Adam.

“Let me tie it all together,” Adam replied. And then he did.



The road trip came together as an idea Monday night after Hurd and O’Rourke did a veterans’ event together in San Antonio and Hurd discovered old reliable Southwest wasn’t able to fly into D.C. to get him back for some votes Wednesday evening.

O’Rourke pitched the idea.

Hurd: “He said, `Let’s drive to D.C.” He didn’t think I’d say yes, I said yes.”

They picked up a Dollar rental Chevy Impala in San Antonio predawn and hit the road at around 7.



Politically, the road trip makes perfect sense for both men.

O’Rourke wants to run for the U.S. Senate against Ted Cruz and the road trip was a way to showcase his quirky, outside-the-box persona and his quirky, outside-the-box bipartisanship.

The kind of bipartisanship and interpersonal relationships that were a given among members of Congress for long stretches of American history now seems quaint, maybe even forbidden.


Cruz has proved that he could do filibuster-length talking on the Senate floor, but could he pull off a feat like this, or find a willing companion from the other party?

And Hurd is that rarest birds in Congress – a man who represents a genuinely competitive district, a black Republican with a majority Latino electorate, a Republican member of Congress who never endorsed Donald Trump for president – for whom bipartisanship is not just a nicety but a necessity.

Hurd: “I am in a perpetual race. I am one of the few members of Congress who’s in a 50-50 district.”

Hurd is 39 and O’Rourke is 44.

As in any good buddy movie, the two quickly fell into complementary characters.

O’Rourke, who toured the U.S. with the El Paso band Foss in the early 1990s, is the seasoned road warrior, keeper of the tunes and hard driver who wants to barrel through to their destination.

For Hurd, O’Rourke said, “time is elastic and expansive.” He is the hopeless tourist, eager to pull over at every roadside attraction.

In Austin, talked amicably with a SXSW security guard, who said even the drunks were friendly, and thenthey busted in on Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith and Meet the Press Moderator Chuck Todd just ahead of Smith’s interview of Todd for his KLRU show, Overheard.


Hurd was asked to offer an example of an issue on which he and O’Rourke agree.

“We both agree a border wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” Hurd said.

The two prime-of-life politicians, who represent abutting districts – Hurd’s vast district stretches from San Antonio to the outskirts of O’Rourke’s El Paso – have an easy rapport, which wore well over what amounted to  mostly continuous all-day and all-night talkathon.

Hurd: What is that song you wanted to listen to?

O’Rourke:  It’s called “Alex Chilton” by the Replacements.

Hurd:  You know there’s an artist by the name of Alex Chilton.

O’Rourke: Yeah, the song’s about him. Unfortunately, he recently passed away in the last few years. RIP Alex Chilton.

If he was from Venus, would he feed us with a spoon?
If he was from Mars, wouldn’t that be cool?
Standing right on campus, would he stamp us in a file?
Hangin’ down in Memphis all the while.

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ’round
They sing “I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love with that song.”

Cerebral rape and pillage in a village of his choice.
Invisible man who can sing in a visible voice.
Feeling like a hundred bucks, exchanging good lucks face to face.
Checkin’ his stash by the trash at St. Mark’s place.

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ’round
They sing “I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love with that song.”

I never travel far, without a little Big Star

Runnin’ ’round the house, Mickey Mouse and the Tarot cards.
Falling asleep with a flop pop video on.
If he was from Venus, would he meet us on the moon?
If he died in Memphis, then that’d be cool, babe.

Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes ’round
They sing “I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love with that song.”

“I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love with that song.”

Sandra Sandoval · 4:15 Loving this!
Like · 1 · 1 hr


Fisher Mays
Fisher Mays · 4:07 Great song choice 👌


Seamus Verde
Seamus Verde · 3:51 ya gotta do Marc Cohn’s “Walkin’ in Memphis” 🙂
Like · 2 · 1 hr



Will: “It’s like Carpool Karaoke.”

Lunch was at a Waco Whataburger.


Will: “Yes Miranda, we’re going to pay the same but can we have it in two bags. It will be a little easier for us.”

O’Rourke: “High maintenance customer.”



Hurd: “No pickles. With cheese, yes ma’am. Thank you for asking.”




U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, old enough to be their father, phoned in to make sure there was no distracted driving going on.

Hurd assured him O’Rourke had a firm hand on the wheel.

But Cornyn’s connection wasn’t so good.

O’Rourke: “We lost Sen. Cornyn.”

Massachusetts congressman Joe Kennedy called in.

“I have never driven that far in my life,” Kennedy said.

Hurd talked about how his father, a black man who sold wine and liquor across sometimes hostile Texas, taught him the importance of PMA – a positive mental attitude.



O’Rourke suggested the Bad Brains song, “Attitude.”

Don’t care what they may say
We got that attitude!
Don’t care what you may do
We got that attitude!

Hey, we got that P.M.A.!
Hey, we got the P.M.A.!

Don’t care what you may do
We got that attitude!
I Don’t care what you may say
We got that attitude!

Hey, we got that P.M.A.!
Hey, we got the P.M.A.!

We got that attitude!
We got that attitude!

Hey, we got that attitude!
Hey, we got that attitude!

O’Rourke: “Bad Brains invented hard core.”




O’Rourke suggested “Headin’ for the Texas Border” by Flamin’ Groovies.

That was followed by “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn.




They apparently packed light.

Both were wearing collared shirts over undershirts and, O’Rourke said, “I may wear the same shirt tomorrow without the undershirt.”



Hurd: “Reagan would wear the same shirt twice.”

O’Rourke: “Without washing it?”

Hurd: “Yeah.”

O’Rourke: “We need a fact check in aisle two.”



They both are very into the White Stripes


“First concert,” said Hurd, throwing out a topic.

O’Rourke: “Quiet Riot. ‘Come on Feel the Noize.’ El Paso County Coliseum.”

Hurd: “My first concert was Hootie and the Blowfish.  Austin, Texas.”



A quick dinner heading  toward Memphis presented a challenge.

O’Rourke: “McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Applebee’s?”

Hurd: “None of this is tickling my fancy. … Is there a Whataburger? We could do a two Whataburger day.”

O’Rourke: “We’d love to do a Waffle House, but we don’t have time.”

Hurd: “One of the things I appreciate about Texas, you can get off the highway and get stuff.”

They ended up pulling into a gas station Subway 15 minutes from Graceland, but it was slow going, so Hurd bought a couple of bananas and O’Rourke picked up a couple of packaged sandwiches to share.



Hurd: “Bon appetit. How do you get the bread this dry. What’s the secret?”


Hurd: “The last time I was in Memphis was when I drove from San Antonio to start my job with the CIA.”




O’Rourke: “Name the song in the first 10 seconds or less.”

Hurd: “I can’t do that.”

“You know from a couple of bars?”

O’Rourke: “I can do that.”


Lo and behold, the only folks outside the locked-up Graceland gate when they got there were a family from San Antonio.

The other most fulfilling moment after Tantra Coffeehouse was their stop at Gibson’s Donuts on their way out of Memphis.





O’Rourke: “I don’t eat that many donuts. I just like them. Some people like cigars  or a good bottle of wine. I like donuts.”



There was a little bit of shop talk.

O’Rourke: “You have a comms director and a press secretary?”

Hurd: “Yeah.”

O’Rourke: “That’s out of control.”


Who will play them in the movie version of the road trip?

O’Rourke; “We’ve already decided the Rock is going to play Will Hurd.”

Hurd: “I think Ryan Gosling (for O’Rourke). I don’t know if he’s tall enough.”

O’Rourke: “Will and I would be a really good name for the Hollywood adaptation.”

Hurd: Like Marley and Me?

O’Rourke: Or the King and I.



Occasionally, the sound would fall out.



1:40 a.m., on the road to Nashvile.

O’Rourke: “I like cake. My mom’s a great baker.”

Hurd: “I like cake, but pie is so much more versatile.”

Hurd: “We left out cobbler.”

O’Rourke: “I think of cobbler as pie. If you have a different understanding please let me know.”




O’Rourke: “What your go-to Luby’s desert?”

Hurd: “Chocolate cake. The chocolate pudding cake

O’Rourke: “I always go to the cherry pie. You know its been out there a while so its’ kind of gelatinous, but i still go for it.”

Hurd, checking their Facebook comments: The Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls is getting a lot of love.”




In the dead of night, O’Rourke decides to tell an embarrassing story about his wife, Amy.

“I was born in ’72. Amy was born in ’81.”

It was Halloween.

“I don’t dress up. I don’t know, maybe it’s a character flaw.”

He showed his wife a picture of Kurt Cobain as someone he could dress up as.

“Amy said, `Is this Hard Rock?’ Not only did she not know it was Kurt Cobain and thought it was Kid Rock but she didn’t know that Kid Rock was not Hard Rock. Amy, sorry to tell that story. Youth vs. experience.”



Drivin’ down your freeways
Midnite alleys roam
Cops in cars, the topless bars
Never saw a woman…
So alone, so alone
So alone, so alone

Motel Money Murder Madness
Let’s change the mood from glad to sadness

Hurd: “We had a lot of good discussions, like tacos vs. enchiladas.”

O’Rourke: “I’m sorry about getting crossways with you about cake vs. pie. I wish I could take back some of the things I said.”

O’Rourke: “You know somebody who I really respect? Mac Thornberry.”

Thornberry, a Republican from Clarendon, represents the vast Texas district that encompasses the Texas Panhandle. He chairs the Armed Services Committee on which O’Rourke serves.

O’Rourke said he’d like to make the same trip with Thornberry, but, unlike his current companion, “I’m not sure he’d want to crush a Whataburger or go to a donut shop in Memphis at midnight.”

Hurd:  “Mac’s a quiet professional. A great guy.”

Hurd: “You would like (Michael) McCaul.”

O’Rourke: “I like McCaul.”

Hurd: “He’s a very funny guy. You would be laughing all the way.”

The lights of Nashville glistened ahead.

Hurd: “It’s been 19 hours, if I’m correct.”

O’Rourke: “I’m not good at math.”

Hurd: “Beto’s finally got a positive PMA.”

O’Rourke: “Finally? Come on.”

Neace-Marcus Tammy THIS reminds me of the time MY Daddy and I drove to Ohio from Pasadena Texas IN less than 17 hours 😂😂😂😂 and nodoze to stay awake! Best time with daddy ! Rock on!
Paul Peters
Paul Peters Great to break out of the partisan bubbles for a few hours with yall
Matt Zeller
Matt Zeller Got any Creedence?


Raymond Tomichek
Raymond TomichekI have wanted to relocate to Texas for a very long time. It makes me feel I could have a much better future surrounded by really good Texans like the two of you. It is so great that you would do something like this….. truly working together and truly listening to each other and the people. This is the coolest !!!

At 6:30 this morning, they were checked out of the Fairfield Inn in Nashville and back on the road headed to Knoxville.

Tulsi Gabbard, the Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, called in.

Former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle, a Democrat, and Bill Frist, a Republican, called in together.

O’Rourke asked his staff and Hurd’s staff to send them a list of the Wednesday night votes they were so determined not to miss.

Throughout the trip, O’Rourke had noted that those first votes were most likely inconsequential suspension votes.

But, hey, the purpose of a good road trip is not the destination, it is the journey.

Though, by late morning, and confronting a detour that might keep them from getting to the votes on time, O’Rourke displayed a slight slip in his PMA.

“Shit man,” O’Rourke said. “We are cutting it close.”


As it turned out, fate and traffic smiled on Beto and Will and they arrived at the Capitol with a half hour to spare.



And this morning, the bipartisan buddies were back, appearing first on Fox & Friends, and then on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.