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.

In the annals of epic Trump takedowns, before there was Flake there was Cruz


Good day Austin:

When the history of the Trump Era is written, yesterday’s floor speech by Sen. Jeff Flake, in which the Arizona Republican denounced the president as, well, a dangerous demagogue,  even as he announced he would not seek a second term in the Senate, may be remembered as high-minded inflection point, or perhaps the last gasp of a  dying order.

Either way, it is worth listening to and reading.

But, it is also worth recalling that this may be only the second most complete takedown of Trump by a fellow Republican. The first and foremost came on May 3, 2016, from Sen. Ted Cruz, not in a carefully written speech in the Senate chamber, but in an extemporaneous gaggle with reporters on the last day of his campaign for the presidency, in which Cruz described Trump as, well a dangerous demagogue.

Here, for history’s sake, are both of those epic denunciations.

JEFF FLAKE, Senator from Arizona: At a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than by our own values and principles, let me begin by noting the somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours indefinitely. We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office and there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time.

It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret because of the state of our disunion. Regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics. Regret because of the indecency of our discourse. Regret because of the coarseness of our leadership.

Regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our, I mean all of our complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end. In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order, that phrase being the new normal.

But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue with the tone set up at the top. We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country. The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institution, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency.

The reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve. None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that that is just the way things are now.

If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that it is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.

And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit and weakness. It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say?

Mr. President, I rise today to say: enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes the normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it.

We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that. Here today I stand to say that we would be better served — we would better serve the country — by better fulfilling our obligations under the Constitution by adhering to our Article 1 — “old normal,” Mr. Madison’s doctrine of separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary — and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 — held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract with each other, if necessary.

“Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote. But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, we Republicans — would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats?

Of course, we wouldn’t, and we would be wrong if we did. When we remain silent and fail to act, when we know that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseam, when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of our institutions and our liberty, we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.

Now, I’m aware that more politically savvy people than I will caution against such talk. I’m aware that there’s a segment of my party that believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect. If I have been critical, it is not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States.

If I have been critical, it is because I believe it is my obligation to do so. And as a matter and duty of conscience, the notion that one should stay silent — and as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that we should say or do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

A president, a Republican president named Roosevelt, had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office: “The president is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able and disinterested service to the nation as a whole.”

He continued: “Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be — that there should be a full liberty to tell the truth about his acts and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.” President Roosevelt continued, “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by a president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Acting on conscience and principle in a manner — is the manner — in which we express our moral selves and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in this regard. I am holier than none.

But too often we rush to salvage principle — not to salvage principle, but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing until the accommodation itself becomes our principle. In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice any principle. I am afraid that this is where we now find ourselves.

When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country, and instead of addressing it, goes to look for someone to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops.

Humility helps, character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly or debased appetites in us. Leadership lives by the American creed, “E pluribus unum.” From many one. American leadership looks to the world and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have been at our most principled, and when we do well, the rest of the world does well.

These articles of civic faith have been critical to the American identity for as long as we have been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership and to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.

Now the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II, we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance keeping those countries who had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place. We didn’t do that. It would have been easy to focus inward.

We resisted those impulses. Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.

Now it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it. The implications of this abandonment are profound and the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum and our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal.

And what do we, as United States senators, have to say about it? The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics because politics can make us silent when we should speak and silence can equal complicity. I have children and grandchildren to answer to.

And so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent. I’ve decided that I would be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself of the political consideration that consumed far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.

To that end, I’m announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019. It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative, who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party, the party that has so long defined itself by its belief in those things.

It is also clear to me for the moment that we have given in or given up on the core principles in favor of a more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess that we’ve created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.

There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal by mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle — the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican Party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.

We were not made great as a country by indulging in or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorifying in the things that divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.

This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because we have a healthy government, we must also have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good.

Until that day comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it, because it does. I plan to spend the remaining 14 months of my Senate term doing just that.

Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women. None of us here is indispensable nor were even the great figures of history who toiled at these very desks, in this very chamber, to shape the country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free.

What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career does not mean much if we are complicit in undermining these values. I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today.

I will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healthy enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time and are now no less in ours.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break the bonds of our affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely as they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

Nearly a year-and-half, and several political lifetimes ago, Cruz went before reporters in Evansville, Indiana on May 3, the day of the Indiana presidential primary, where Cruz’s presidential candidacy ended with Trump’s big victory.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This morning, Donald Trump went on national television and attacked my father.

Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK. Now, let’s be clear. This is nuts. This is not a reasonable position. This is just kooky. And while I’m at it, I guess I should go ahead and admit, yes, my dad killed JFK, he is secretly Elvis, and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard.

You know, Donald’s source for this is “The National Enquirer.” “The National Enquirer” is tabloid trash. But it’s run by his good friend David Pecker, the CEO, who has endorsed Donald Trump. And so “The National Enquirer” has become his hit piece that he uses to smear anybody and everybody.

And this is not the first time Donald Trump has used David Pecker’s “National Enquirer” to go after my family. It was also “The National Enquirer” that went after my wife, Heidi, that just spread lies, blatant lies.

But I guess Donald was dismayed, because it was a couple of weeks ago “The Enquirer” wrote this idiotic story about JFK. And Donald was dismayed that the folks in the media weren’t repeating this latest idiocy, so he figured he would have to do it himself. He would have to go on national television and accuse my dad of that.

Listen, my father is has been my hero my whole life. My dad was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba. And when he came to America, he had nothing. He had $100 in his underwear. He washed dishes making 50 cents an hour. You know, he is exactly the kind of person Donald Trump looks down on.

I’m going to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign. For those of you all who have traveled with me all across the country, I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.

This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.

He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying. And it’s simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist, a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.

Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and goes, dude, what’s your problem? Everything in Donald’s world is about Donald. And he combines being a pathological liar — and I say pathological because I actually think Donald, if you hooked him up to a lie detector test, he could say one thing in the morning, one thing at noon, and one thing in the evening, all contradictory, and he would pass the lie detector test each time.

Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute, he believes it. But the man is utterly amoral.

CRUZ: Let me finish this, please.

The man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him. It’s why he went after Heidi directly and smeared my wife, attacked her. Apparently, she’s not pretty enough for Donald Trump. I may be biased, but I think, if he’s making that allegation, he is also legally blind.

But Donald is a bully. You know, we just visited with fifth-graders. Every one of us knew bullies in elementary school. Bullies don’t come from strength. Bullies come from weakness. Bullies come from a deep, yawning cavern of insecurity. There’s a reason Donald builds giant buildings and puts his name on them everywhere he goes.

And I will say there are millions of people in this country who are angry. They’re angry at Washington. They’re angry at politicians who have lied to them. I understand that anger. I share that anger. And Donald is cynically exploiting that anger. And he is lying to his supporters.

Donald will betray his supporters on every issue. If you care about immigration, Donald is laughing at you. And he’s telling the moneyed elites he doesn’t believe what he’s saying, he’s not going to build a wall. That’s what he told “The New York Times.”

He will betray you on every issue across the board. And his strategy of being a bully in particular is directed as women. Donald has a real problem with women. People who are insecure, people who are insecure about who they are — Donald is terrified by strong women.

He lashes out at them. Remember, this is the same Donald Trump who last week here in Indiana proudly touted the endorsement from Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist who served three years in prison here in Indiana for raping a 17-year-old girl. And in Donald’s world, he said Mike Tyson was a tough guy.

I don’t think rapists are tough guys. I spent a lot of years in law enforcement dealing with rapists. Rapists are weak. They’re cowards and they’re bullies. And anyone that thinks they’re a tough guy, that reveals everything about Donald Trump’s character.

Donald Trump said Bill Clinton was targeted by unattractive women. You know what? I have been blessed to be surrounded by strong women my entire life.

Today’s voting day here in Indiana. The president of the United States has a bully pulpit unlike anybody else. The president of the United States affects our culture. I ask the people of Indiana, think about the next five years if this man were to become president.

Think about the next five years, the boasting, the pathological lying, the picking up “The National Enquirer” and accusing people of killing JFK, the bullying. Think about your kids coming back and emulating this.

For people in Indiana who long for a day when we were nice to each other, when we treated people with respect, when we didn’t engage in sleaze and lies — and I would note one of the lies he engages in, listen, Donald Trump is a serial philanderer, and he boasts about it. This is not a secret. He’s proud of being a serial philanderer.

I want everyone to think about your teenage kids. The president of the United States talks about how great it is to commit adultery, and how proud he is, describes his battles with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam. That’s a quote, by the way, on the Howard Stern show.

Do you want to spend the next five years with your kids bragging about infidelity? Now, what does he do? He does the same projection. Just like a pathological liar, he accuses everyone of lying. Even though he boasts about his infidelity, he plants in David Pecker’s “National Enquirer” a lie about me and my family, attacking my family. He accuses others of doing what he is doing. I will tell you, as the father of two young girls, the idea of our daughters coming home and repeating any word that man says horrifies me.

That is not who America is. And I would say to the Hoosier State, the entire country’s depending on you. The entire country is looking to you right now. It is only Indiana that can pull us back. It is only the good sense and good judgment of Indiana that can pull us back. We are staring at the abyss.

CRUZ: There is a broader dynamic at work, which is network executives have made a decision to get behind Donald Trump. Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes at FOX News have turned FOX News into the Donald Trump network. Rupert Murdoch is used to picking world leaders in Australia and the United Kingdom running tabloids, and we’re seeing it here at home with the consequences for this nation. Media executives are trying to convince Hoosiers, trying to convince Americans the race is decided. You have no choice. You are stuck between Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, either one of which is a horrific choice for this country.

And I will say the cynicism — and Donald is playing on the cynicism. He lets the media echo he cannot be beat. Hoosiers can prove that wrong. The people of Indiana can prove that wrong, and the country is depending on Indiana. If Indiana does not act, this country could well plunge into the abyss. I don’t believe that’s who we are. We are not a proud, boastful, self-centered, mean-spirited, hateful, bullying nation.

If you want to understand Donald Trump, look no further than the interview he did a few months ago in Iowa when he was asked a very simple question — when is the last time you asked god for forgiveness? And Donald Trump said he had never asked God for forgiveness for anything. I want you to think about that. What does that say about a person? I have asked God for forgiveness three times today. Your children, do you want your children coming home and saying, mommy, I don’t need to ask God for forgiveness for anything. Why? Because Donald Trump doesn’t, and he if he doesn’t, and everyone likes him, all the media praises him, I don’t need to either.

I love this nation with all my heart. I love the people of this country. This is not who we are. These are not our values. If anyone has seen the movie “Back to the Future II,” the screenwriter says that he based the character Biff Tannen on Donald Trump. A caricature of a braggadocious, arrogant buffoon who builds giant casinos with giant pictures of him everywhere he looks. We are looking potentially at the Biff Tannen presidency. I don’t think the people of America want that. I don’t think we deserve that. I don’t think Hoosiers want that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, these are some of the strongest words you’ve used against Donald Trump yet. You know I have been with you, I heard you talk about him. Today feels different for you. I’m going to ask you a question and you’re going to say I sound like a broken record —

CRUZ: You sound like a broken record.

CRUZ: Does someone else have a record?

CRUZ: You have asked one already, Hallie.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you support him as the nominee. I don’t understand why you won’t answer the question, Senator. If you say he’s a liar — if you say he’s a pathological liar —

CRUZ: Hallie, you have asked one already.

CRUZ: Go ahead, Jessica.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, when you talk about Midwestern values and the common sense and good judgment, if Hoosiers don’t pick you today, does that mean they consider things a different way when the northeast voted and you could say those are Trump’s neighbors?

CRUZ: There is no doubt this Indiana primary has national significance. The media is trying desperately to convince you it’s over, I’ll tell you if Hoosiers come out and vote, if you pick up the phone and you call your friends, you call your neighbors, if Hoosiers come out today and vote and say no, this is not who we are, this is not America, that will change the entire trajectory of this campaign, of this primary. It will pull us back from the cliff. Indiana can do it. Indiana can pull us back, but it takes Hoosiers showing up and voting today. And the country is looking to Indiana. It’s looking to the judgment of the good men and women of this state.

Heidi and I and Carly, we have traveled the state showing Hoosiers respect, asking for their support, answering their questions, all the while Donald Trump laughs at the people of this state, laughs, bullies, attacks, insults, I don’t believe that’s America, and it is my hope, it is my prayer, that Hoosiers will come out and vote today in record numbers to say to this who we are. We are a people who believe in goodness. We are a people who believe in manners. We are a people who believe in generosity. We are a people who believe in honesty. We are a people who believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is America. That is the America I love. It’s the America my father fled Cuba to come to. We’re fighting for this nation. We’re fighting for who we are for the very soul and character of this nation, and it is quite literally in the hands Hoosiers across this state.


For Ted Cruz, Bernie debate previews `socialist’ strategy against Beto, and one peril lying in wait


Good Monday Austin:

Beto O’Rourke filled Burdine Hall, with a seating capacity of 521, at the University of Texas Sunday afternoon for a high-energy town hall meeting organized by the Indivisible group in Texas’ 25th Congressional District.

Afterward, I asked O’Rourke how he scored the Ted Cruz-Bernie Sanders debate on tax reform Wednesday night on CNN.


I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t watch much of it, kind of heard their opening arguments and listened to them answer a few questions. I don’t know if I saw enough to give a score.

Did O’Rourke think that Sanders was giving Cruz a platform and prominence that would prove unhelpful to O’Rourke’s long-shot campaign?


I would much rather be on the stage and make some of the points I’m hearing at meetings like these about giving tax cuts to the very wealthiest and doing it at the expense of the middle class. I think the estimate is a third of middle class Texans will pay higher taxes. But there is some good that comes out of someone like CNN having a public policy debate. There’s not enough of that so I’m actually glad that they did that. I think Texans deserve to hear the alternative in Texas.

My view is that, overall, Sanders didn’t do O’Rourke any favors by debating Cruz, and that we can expect that, if and when Cruz and O’Rourke debate each other – which I assume they will – Cruz will cite chapter and verse from Wednesday’s debate and force O’Rourke into the no-win situation of either aligning himself with Sanders, or distancing himself.

And yet, there was one dark cloud for Cruz, and silver lining for O’Rourke, in Wednesday’s debate, as Cruz, a skilled debater since his days at Princeton University, displayed once again one of his least attractive qualities, and that is a single-minded focus on scoring debating points even when it involves saying something that is manifestly and provably not true – and saying it with straight-faced certitude.

It might be enough to tempt O”Rourke to reach deep into his  Columbia University English major soul and see if he can locate just enough of his inner Trump to give his Senate rival a withering nickname – like Two-Tongued Ted or, maybe, Prevaricatin’ Cruz.

Cruz, who debated Sanders on Obamacare on CNN in February, clearly enjoys debating Sanders, and why not?

The contrast between the two men, in style and substance, makes for great theater. Both men style themselves as fearless truth-tellers driven by ideas and purpose. Sanders enables Cruz to make his case in the clearest and least ambiguous fashion.

And they both love to talk.

As I wrote in a First Reading in April 2015, when Sanders came to Austin as he was exploring a bid for the presidency:

In 2010, Sanders,conducted an eight-and-a-half hour filibuster against President Obama’s proposed tax cut compromise (he was spelled only briefly by Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu) that, Sanders said, would provide “tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires who don’t need it.” Here’s the last half hour of that filibuster, which he turned into a book, The Speech.

Three years later, Sen. Ted Cruz conducted a 21-hour, 19-minute speech on the Senate floor denouncing Obamacare.

Somewhere in that speech, and I can’t remember whether it came before or after Cruz read Green Eggs and Ham, as a bedtime story to his girls back in Houston, Cruz quoted the writer Ayn Rand: “There are two sides to every issue. One side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice.”

Or, as Cruz put it: “I would far prefer a Senate with 10 Bernie Sanders and 10 Mike Lees to a Senate where the views, the actual commitments, are blurred by obfuscation.”

Lee, a Utah Republican, is Cruz’s closest ally in the Senate.

In that same First Reading I noted that Sanders is “an avowed socialist, unlike most Democrats, who are only accused socialists.”

Cruz partisans were delighted with Wednesday’s performance

From The Blaze: Ted Cruz mops the floor with Bernie Sanders at CNN town hall debate

Cruz, or rather his office, tweeted throughout the debate all the blows he landed against Sanders.

(Of, course, Bernie partisans saw it differently. From Salon8 times Bernie Sanders made a total fool of Ted Cruz during their town hall debate/The Vermont senator was in vintage form Wednesday night)

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Cruz, in the thick of his 2016 presidential campaign, called a liar on the Senate floor, cheered Cruz on.

For Cruz, this was the money moment.

Here from the debate transcript:

CRUZ: Now, one of the things I like about debating Bernie is he’s honest. When he ran in Vermont, he ran as a socialist, an unabashed socialist.

SANDERS: No, I didn’t. No, I ran as an independent. Longest serving independent in the history of the United States Congress.

CRUZ: Are you a socialist or not?

SANDERS: I am a democratic socialist…

CRUZ: OK. Good.

SANDERS: But don’t tell them — I didn’t run as a socialist. I ran as an independent.

CRUZ: You told people you were a socialist. Fine, fine.

SANDERS: You didn’t run as a right-winger. You ran as a Republican, right?


CRUZ: I am happily a conservative.

SANDERS: Conservative, all right.

CRUZ: I am happily conservative.


So Bernie ran telling the voters he was a socialist, and then in this last election he ran in the Democratic Party. He almost won the Democratic Party’s nomination. And if you didn’t have superdelegates and the corruption of the DNC, you probably would have been your party’s nominee.

SANDERS: Are you looking for a job as my campaign manager?

CRUZ: You know…


But I’ll say it was interesting. Right before the campaign — right before the commercial break, when I said Bernie and the Democrats want to cut defense, cut the Army and the Navy and the Air Force and Marines, Bernie reacted and said, no, no, no, the Democrats don’t, that’s just me, Bernie.

So it’s interesting. Listen, I think today — I think the lesson the Democratic Party took from this election was Hillary Clinton was too moderate, and I think the Democratic Party is the party of you and Elizabeth Warren. But let me just ask, since this is a tax debate, what is the difference between a socialist and a Democrat on taxes?

SANDERS: Well, I don’t know the answer to that, because I don’t know what every Democrat…

CRUZ: I don’t, either.

So, one can expect Cruz to confront O’Rourke at their debate with that exchange, note O’Rourke’s support  – which he expressed with great vigor in front of a friendly crowd at UT Sunday – for Sander’s Medicare-for-all plan, and ask whether, like Sanders, he is a socialist or only a political fellow traveler.

But, on the flip side, there was an exchange Wednesday which may not serve Cruz so well.

It’s better if you watch it in its entirety, because Evan Smith is scrupulous in attempting to exact an answer from Cruz – this is September 2011 and Cruz was then a candidate for the Republican nomination for Senate – and here is Cruz, in front of God and Evan Smith, saying that, yes, Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.

From Gardner Selby at PolitiFact Texas:

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, in a CNN debate on tax policy with Cruz on Wednesday evening, said: “Sen. Cruz, I think you were quoted as saying Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.”

“I’ve never said that,” Cruz replied. “That’s false.”

Sanders initially replied that if Cruz says he didn’t make the Ponzi scheme reference, he accepts that. Later at the event, though, Sanders said: “Go to my Twitter page, and you will hear Ted Cruz say Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.”

So, what gives?

It looks to us like Cruz was comfortable with describing Social Security as a Ponzi scheme in a September 2011 public interview with Evan Smith, ceo of the Texas Tribune.

Cruz, then bidding for the U.S. Senate seat that would be vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, was asked if he considers Social Security a Ponzi scheme.

Cruz replied: “There is a level at which words have meaning. What does the word ‘Ponzi scheme’ mean? A Ponzi scheme is a system–if you and I cooked up a Ponzi scheme, we would have current people pay into it, we would take the money and we would pay it out to other recipients. That’s the definition of a Ponzi scheme. In the English language, that is exactly how Social Security operates.”

SMITH: “So I am going to take that as a yes, that you believe that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.”

CRUZ: “I think there is an effort to treat that as rhetoric. But there’s no doubt that’s what it is.”

Cruz also called Social Security a “vital bulwark for our society” and “a commitment we’ve made.” He also said he favors saving the program.

See the full Smith-Cruz exchange in the video here.

In Cruz’s office, spokesman Phil Novack responded to a request for comment Thursday by sharing a transcript of the 2011 Smith-Cruz exchange about Social Security.

Novack said by email: “You will note looking at the full transcript,” Cruz “never explicitly called Social Security a ‘Ponzi Scheme’ and he also vigorously defended the importance of the program and of keeping the promises we’ve made to our seniors.”

While running for president, Cruz indicated that he favored shoring up Social Security by raising the retirement age and capping increases in the cost-of-living adjustment. He also advocated allowing workers to save up to $25,000 per year in Universal Savings Accounts (USA).

 And here from Eugene Kiely of

Later in the show, Sanders returned to the topic and said he had proof that Cruz did indeed call Social Security a Ponzi scheme, and, again, Cruz denied it.

Sanders: “You said a little while ago that you never said that Social Security was a Ponzi scheme. Go to my Twitter page, and you will hear Ted Cruz say Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. …”

Cruz: “I can’t let what Bernie said go by without responding to. He’s referring to an interview where I was asked about another Republican who made the comment about Ponzi scheme. It wasn’t my comment. It was somebody else’s.”

Sanders’ staff tweeted a clip of Cruz talking about Social Security in a Sept. 9, 2011, interview with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune. Smith asked Cruz: “Yes or no. Is Social Security a Ponzi scheme?” In response, Cruz jokingly asked Smith if NBC’s Brian Williams had written his questions — referring to a question Rick Perry was asked during a Republican debate co-hosted by Williams two days earlier.

In that Sept. 7, 2011, debate, as we wrote at the time, Perry called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. That’s what Cruz meant when he said that Sanders was “referring to an interview where I was asked about another Republican who made the comment about Ponzi scheme. It wasn’t my comment. It was somebody else’s.”

Cruz is right that it was Perry’s comment, but the 2011 interview shows that Cruz clearly agreed with it.

Cruz, Sept. 9, 2011: There is a level at which words have meaning. What does the word Ponzi scheme mean? A Ponzi scheme is a system — if you and I cooked up a Ponzi scheme, we would have current people pay into it. We would take the money and we would pay it out to other recipients. That’s the definition of a Ponzi scheme. In the English language, that is exactly how Social Security operates.

Smith: So, I’m going to take that as a “yes.” That you believe that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.

Cruz: I think there is an effort to treat that as rhetoric, but there’s no doubt that’s what it is.
The full video of the back-and-forth between Smith and Cruz shows that the Texas senator studiously avoided using the term “Ponzi scheme,” saying that Smith was asking a “loaded question.” Smith tried several times to get a yes or no answer, but instead got — as we show above — Cruz’s definition of a “Ponzi scheme” and his opinion that “that is exactly how Social Security operates.”

For the record, we said in 2011 that Perry’s description of Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” is a gross exaggeration., Sept. 8, 2011: The [Social Security] system doesn’t meet the common definition of a “Ponzi,” which is a criminal fraud, relying on deception. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, says a Ponzi is “an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors.” Ponzi schemes draw their name from Charles Ponzi, who in the 1920s promised his victims that he could provide a 50 percent return in 90 days by putting their money into a speculation scheme involving postage stamps. In reality, Ponzi simply paid early “investors” big returns with the money eagerly offered by others who came later — pocketing millions for himself — until the bubble inevitably collapsed. Bernard Madoff’s more recent fraud — while much larger — was another example of a Ponzi scheme. Madoff and Ponzi lied to their victims about where their money was going, while Social Security’s finances — while troubled — are an open book.

We should also note that Cruz in 2011 and again this year described Social Security as an essential part of the security net for Americans. In the CNN debate with Sanders, Cruz described Social Security as a “fundamental bulwark of our society” and criticized “politicians in Washington” for “letting it careen towards insolvency.”

In a 2017 report, the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds project that the Social Security trust funds will be depleted by 2034. Once the trust funds are gone, Social Security can still pay benefits — but not more benefits than it takes in from revenue. The trustees say tax income would be “sufficient to pay about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through the end of the projection period in 2091.”

So, Misleadin’ Ted?

But that seems to understate the audacity of Cruz saying this in 2011:

“There is a level at which words have meaning. What does the word ‘Ponzi scheme’ mean? A Ponzi scheme is a system–if you and I cooked up a Ponzi scheme, we would have current people pay into it, we would take the money and we would pay it out to other recipients. That’s the definition of a Ponzi scheme. In the English language, that is exactly how Social Security operates.”

And then, six years later, when Sanders said: “Sen. Cruz, I think you were quoted as saying Social Security is a Ponzi scheme,” responding:

I’ve never said that. That’s false.

The Cain Mutiny: On the shouting down of Briscoe Cain

Good day Austin:

In the middle of the day on Monday, Oct. 9, Briscoe Cain, a 32-year-old first-term ullivantate representative from Harris County, member of the Freedom Caucus and the most conservative member of the Texas House (according to the index employed by Rice University political scientist Mark Jones) went to speak at Thurgood Marshall School of Law, a part of Texas Southern University, a historically black public institution, at the invitation of the law school’s student chapter of the conservative Federalist Society.

Cain never got to deliver his speech, which was, initially, the object of student protests, and subsequently, shut down by the president of the university.

What follows are interviews with the two key players in the events that day, both students at the law school.

The first is Daniel Caldwell, the second-year law student, who started the Federalist chapter at the law school, and invited Cain.


The second is Justin Tolston, the third-year law student, who led the protests.

Before we start, here is coverage of what happened a week ago Monday for KHOU-TV in Houston.

By way of introduction, here is some background on Caldwell from the League of Women Voters’ guide for the November election. Caldwell is a candidate for Houston Community College Board of Trustees.

Caldwell, 32, grew up downriver from Detroit. He came to Texas in 2003 to attend Texas A&M University. A second-year law student, he is the chapter president of Federalist Society. It has 31 members out of more than 600 law students.

He said the Federalist Society  for Law and Public Policy Studies  chapter is a legit organization under the Thurgood Marshall Law School Student Bar Association — the law school’s student government organization governing the 29 student organizations.

He said that even though the law school is a subsidiary of TSU, the law school student government is autonomous and does not require its student organizations to seek approval of the TSU student government to hold meetings and invite speakers to campus.

He said Cain’s appearance got all the many approvals he needed for the speaker, the room, and for the flyers advertising the event.

He said none of the other law school events this fall sought or required additional sanction from TSU.


I put up flyers. They were approved. They were put on TV monitors out in the hall, and one of the professors, April Walker, staunch Democrat, apparently doesn’t like Briscoe to the point of being willing to rile up as many students as she can get to protest it.

They started saying that he was a racist, that he was a white supremacist, that he was a member of the KKK.

On Friday beforehand, in the morning, I was told by classmates, “Have you heard this about him?”

And, I’m like, the allegations are either ill-informed or an outright lie. Applying Hanlon’s razor (“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”) never assume it’s a lie. Assume that people just don’t know what they are talking about, they’ve been lied to by somebody.

Caldwell told those who approached him about Cain’s alleged racism …

If you can tell me what they base their allegations on, I will listen.

They said they hadn’t seen anything, that’s just what they heard.

So I went on Google, I looked up Briscoe Cain/KKK, and what I found was that he is member of the tea party and there are people who equate the tea party with the KKK, and that’s the only association that I could find.

I left email and phone messages for Walker, but did not hear back from her.

Here is her bio:

Professor, Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Houston, TX (2016-Present)
Associate Professor, Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Houston, TX (2008-2016)
Assistant Professor, Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Houston, TX (2004-2008)
Associate Judge for the City of Houston (2000-2010)
Assistant Attorney General for the State of Texas (1986-1987)
Instructor of law 1991 – 2004
Director of Legal Education Advancement Program (LEAP) – current

Caldwell said Walker was present and vocal during the protest.


She came to make sure the protest was successful.

At the protest, right after I introduced Mr. Cain, they started shouting when he started talking. Once I was done, I put on the projector screen on the University’s web page with the University’s values.

I knew the protest was coming because Sunday night at 11:55 p.m., as I was going from my locker to leave the (law school library), I saw students in a classroom, including Justin, making posters.

I didn’t know they were the protestors until he came out and told me that if I wanted a crowd, he hoped that I expected to have one because there would be one and that the news would be there, and they had sent out at least three or four press releases. And as I was setting up on Monday, one of the news stations had a camera in the room. They were getting set up at the same time.

Of his Sunday night encounter with Tolston, Caldwell said:

I think that was the first conversation I had with him.

And I said, “Well, we ordered

and if there’s any leftovers, you and your friends are welcome to take a chicken nugget. There weren’t any leftovers.

Amid the disruption Caldwell said:

I walked up to him and asked him if he thought his conduct was consistent with university values, right after I left the podium Monday at 12:15.

I waited for him to acknowledge me, because he was leading the chanting. He acknowledged me with eye contact, and I asked him twice whether he thought what he was doing was consistent with university values, and then I asked him, what did he want.

He stepped up and chest-bumped me and said, “We want you to rescind this invitation to this racist,” and I said, “No,” and I also said, “Your breath stinks, that’s not a personal attack, your breath stinks. Please get out of my face.”

I pressed charges against him. It will come out to be like a traffic ticket.

It was caught on video.

I turned away from him and, in trying to provoke me, he smacked the back of my head. It clearly wasn’t intended to injure, it was intended to provoke, And I turned toward him again, and at that point the police dragged him out of the room. But because I had turned away from him and taken a step-and-a-half, and clearly disengaged — even though he was technically provoked by the fact that I told him twice that he had bad breath — it was uncalled for, it was unjustified, and under Texas Penal Code Chapter 22 Section (01) (A3), it’s simple assault and I filed a police report.

(3) intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.

It’s a Class 3 misdemeanor, same as a traffic ticket. The fine in Harris County is like $300, but he’s in law school, I’m sure he can plead it down to either probation or community service and not even have to pay the fine.

I wondered whether the law might not consider a claim of bad breath, twice repeated, fighting words.


It has to be more than words. That’s actual a common law thing, that bad words are never enough.

What’s the nature of the alleged bad breath, I asked Caldwell.  Are we talking garlic, alcohol?


It was like he woke up and hadn’t brushed his teeth. Just overnight breath.

Caldwell said a mix of campus and Houston police were on the scene.


More than half hour before Briscoe Cain showed up  at 11:15, there were three patrol cars outside of the front of the law school and two on the backside of the Law School.

After Caldwell’s face-to-face confrontation with Tolston,  police began removing Tolston and the other protesters.


Before they even finished getting them out, the president (TSU President Austin Lane) comes to the podium and says, “Let them back in.


The first thing he did was introduce himself and my thought was, “What is the university president doing here?” And then he said, “What you’re seeing is not an approved event,” and then that’s when I wanted to start protesting because I had definitely done everything you were supposed to do.

I asked the (Law School) dean (James Douglas) who was sitting there, what his take on it was, and he said, “Yeah, I had approved the event and what (the president) said really didn’t have any basis.” But he said it in low tones like he had just been a kicked dog, he had just been overruled by the only person on campus who could veto, and the executive veto had been used, and he had to just sit by and say we’ll take care of it later.

And on Friday the Law School dean emailed the university administration and every student organization at the Law School at their personal address and every law student at their student email address, refuting the power grab of  University Student Services over law school student activities.

I already respected Dean Douglas. This makes me respect him more because he stood by 1) me, 2), the law school.

Here’s a little about Douglas, who is a former president of TSU.

Texas Southern University announces personnel changes in two academic areas and one university leadership positon. Dr. James Douglas has been appointed to serve as interim dean of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Dr. Michael Adams will serve as interim dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, and Dr. Bobby Wilson will serve as interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

dugDr. Douglas, a TSU stalwart who served as president of Texas Southern University from 1995 to 1998, was a Distinguished Professor of Law at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law (TMSL).  Dr. Douglas, current president of the NAACP – Houston Chapter, has held positions as dean and professor of TMSL, interim dean – Florida A&M University College of Law, professor –Northeastern University School of Law, and assistant professor and associate dean – Syracuse University College of Law. He is a former American Bar Association education chair and has been involved in a number of ABA committees, including Minority Affairs and Science & Technology, and the Law Admissions Council. He is married to Tanya Smith Douglas and has three adult children. Dr. Douglas earned his B.A., in Mathematics from Texas Southern University; a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law, and his J.S.M., from Stanford University.


In the debrief, I had to call the Federalist Society national office, student division director, and give him a heads-up on the Federalist Society making the news.

The Federalist Society wants all of our events to be wildly successful. So we go back to defining what is successful: well attended, and inspires discussion and debate that helps convince people to agree with the Federalist Society mission and values, to promote awareness that the purpose of the state is to preserve freedom. In other words, the government’s job is to protect rights and liberties.

So, Dr. Lane, the chief executive of TSU, came in and said the speaker doesn’t have any freedom of speech and the protesters don’t have any freedom of speech — everybody leave. Whose rights did he protect? Nobody’s. Whose rights did he crush? Everybody’s.

This made national news. Now there are people discussing and debating what should have been done, what should be done next, and the number of people who showed — well all the protesters count as attendees, so it was a perfectly well-attended event.

We have to say, you know, it was a successful event by and large, even though it was canceled.

That’s the silver lining.

We had a perfect storm.

So national doesn’t want any more events canceled. Make sure no more events are canceled. Keep in contact with Mr. Cain. Take his advice. He knows how to handle the legal environment in Texas. You have the law school administration at your back, who support you.  Do what you need to do to remain in good standing with the university and have successful events in November.

Meanwhile, if you want to file a lawsuit, you can do so as a student. They are not going to file on my behalf. There are other non-profit organizations whose big issue is freedom of speech who have offered to represent me free of charge, and there are people who said if I want to file a lawsuit and need to pay a retainer fee, they will pledge $500 or $1,000.

I’m wait and see. I’ll continue to work with the dean of student affairs and the dean of the law school. I know that any claims I have are subject to the doctrine of the exhaustion of administrative remedies.

I can’t sue right now.

Briscoe Cain has a right complaint. His is rock solid. He’s got the police who escorted him out under threat of force. He has (state) Sen. Borris Miles who escorted him out … and he has a university president who shut him down on free speech. So he has a triple state actor case for violation of civil liberties by the university and its agents.

Why did Sen. Miles arrive on the scene?


I think he probably had a phone call from April Walker and the others organizing the protest.

I say that on pure speculation. It could be his story about just happening to be meeting with Dr. Lane about I don’t know what on Monday morning is exactly the way it happened, but what was the meeting about? I’m curious. It’s an odd coincidence. I’m not saying what he said was false. I’m saying, “Huh, that’s interesting.”

Whose idea was it to invite Cain?


That was on me. I met Briscoe Cain in December 2016, and I had asked him for advice in starting law school, how to get my legal career off on the right foot and he said, “join the Federalist Society.”

I got here and there wasn’t a Federalist Society chapter here so I got one registered.

Are you surprised to be in the middle of all this?


I was very surprised to be getting phone calls from various journalists requesting comments and statements. After the first three days, it became telling the same story.

I was telling the story with a smile the first time. I’m telling the story with a smile now.

Thank you, Daniel.

Now let’s hear from Justin Tolston.

At 26, he’s already written a book about his experience growing up  – Black from Nebraska.


I’m working on my second edition as we speak, hopefully to be reprinted when I can add  JD to it.

Born and raised in Omaha, Tolston went to high school in Lincoln. He graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a political science degree. He then worked for Teach for America in Harlem, among other jobs. He wrote his book, which was published in November 2015. In August, he started the Equity in Justice Institute. Judge Walker is a special advisor.

How did he become aware of Cain coming to campus?


I’d seen the flyer. Since I’m a transplant in Texas, I wasn’t as familiar with the political climate as I ought to be. We had a juvenile law class with former municipal judge, Judge Walker, and she kind of brought it to our attention, kind of his leanings. So we googled and looked him up in class. Brooklynn Morris (a student it in the class) had heard of his anti-transgender leanings, and read them out loud, and that took the room aback. 

I ran into Nneka Akubeze (another student), who was from Wisconsin, did mobilizing work against (Wisconsin) Gov. (Scott) Walker there. I told her I was thinking of mobilizing some people, we were talking about it in class about 20 minutes ago. I created a little flyer, circulated it on Snapchat. I work as a grad assistant for the Office of Information Technology on campus (at the main library), and so I told people as they trickled in.

Started drafting a press release, all the way up until the night before we were in the law school library making signs and putting the finishing touch on this press release I sent out.

We ran into Mr. Caldwell. He was in the library. He’s a pretty studious person himself. Give credit where due. He actually ran into me and Nneka when we were making signs and came to the room and said, “I hear you’re organizing this protest,” and he didn’t think anything of it. You know, you’re not going to be able to mobilize anybody in a couple of days, and he kind of trivialized it, made the cavalier remark, “You know you guys can have our leftover He said that and kind of laughed and strolled off.

Here is the press release that Tolston sent out:

For Immediate Release:

Students and faculty requested Dean Douglas withdraw the invitation extended by the Federalist Society allowing Briscoe Cain to speak at the Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law on Monday, October 9, 2017 at 12P.M. In the wake of Charlottesville, now more than ever, it is paramount to refuse individuals a platform for the promotion of hatred. The ideological positions of Briscoe Cain are directly opposed to the very legal basis on which Thurgood Marshall School of Law was founded. In the face of the administration’s refusal to disinvite Briscoe Cain to our sanctuary of education out of 1st Amendment protections, we, the united student body of Texas Southern University, with the support of staff, will respond in kind. The following flyer is being circulated among Texas Southern University students:

Evidence of Briscoe Cain’s promotion of hate speech, white supremacy, and racist ideology.

  • Briscoe Cain has published and continues to promote, by allowing to appear on his official Twitter page as recent as Friday October 6, 2016, a symbol that has been identified as being used by the “alt-right” according to the Anti-Defamation League.[1] The same symbol appeared in a Facebook post by the man that killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville.[2] As a lawyer, Mr. Cain must understand the significance of such a divisive and bigoted symbol.



  • Briscoe Cain is transphobic and his discriminatory comments trivializing violence include: “Was it a problem when you were a kid? I don’t remember dudes walking around in dresses getting beat up. It wasn’t a thing, and now I think we’re encouraging it…Look, we’re not going to allow government funds or government buildings to be used for social engineering.”[1]
  • In his relentless assault on the transgender community, Briscoe Cain filed an amendment to prohibit funds to be used for inmate sex reassignment or gender identity transitioning.[2]

Briscoe Cain has published offensive imagery concerning President Barack Obama on his Twitter.



How did the event unfold?


The event starts, Briscoe’s there. Thirty to 60 people showed up in black (a sign of protest.)

We organize in the lobby. We get our chants together.

And then we come indoors to let him know he’s really not welcome here on campus. While we respect free speech when somebody’s speech is offensive but doesn’t cross the threshold of becoming unconstitutionally protected for encouraging violence, you have a First Amendment right to oppose that view, with your contrary narrative or counter-protest.

The TSU Chief of Police (Mary Young) was on hand with maybe six or 10 officers and the scene was getting out of hand, and she called Dr. Lane’s people, because she reports directly to the president of the university, and she said, “This situation is getting out of hand, and you have a disturbance over here on main campus,” and he calls Dr. Moffett, the dean of student services for the entire campus. He ran a check of registered organizations with main campus because ideally an organization is registered at the law school and then dually registered with the main campus. That dual registration didn’t occur.

(President Lane) was informed, I’m sure, that the cameras were there and that this was becoming a media event.

So when Dr. Moffett ran his check, he didn’t pull up the Federalist Society. So Dr. Lane, after being informed by Dr. Moffett that there was no sanctioned organization with an event for that day, decided to cancel. So after I was drug out by campus police, Dr. Lane makes the executive decision, OK, because this isn’t a sponsored event, I am going to pull it.

They actually barred — and this is a grievance I have with the administration — they barred journalists and an individual from Houston Public Media. I was there when they said, “You can’t come in. You can’t talk to our students. Where’s your press pass?”

Another student wanted to come in with a long lens and they told him you’re part of the media, you can’t come in here with that camera.

It’s unconstitutional what they were doing.

You can’t do this.

When they said we couldn’t have our signs, she (Walker) said, “What protest have you been to when people aren’t allowed to have signs?” 

And then when Mr. Cain said, “”Hey, let them have their signs.” The speaker at the podium said, “OK, you can have your signs.” The room went to uproar, with, “When did he start creating what the rules were for what was acceptable speech and the restrictions thereof at our institution?”

What role did Judge Walker play at the event?

She was definitely there and she was definitely in opposition to attempts to restrict our access.

Here was the statement that Cain gave to the media immediately after the event.

Here is the statement TCU issued:

Statement on non-sanctioned University event

HOUSTON (October 11, 2017) – Texas Southern University welcomes free speech and all viewpoints on campus as part of our collegiate experience. A student event at TSU’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law on October 9, 2017, ended early because it was not scheduled in accordance with university policy.  The university has extended an invitation to Rep. Briscoe Cain to return to campus for deliberative dialogue at a university-approved event.

Texas Southern has more than 119 registered student organizations and clubs for students. Once campus administrators were made aware by our police department of a disturbance at the law school involving our students, they conducted a check of recognized student organizations, it was determined that The Federalist Society was not a sanctioned university organization and proper scheduling procedures were not followed.  To view the full policy on campus organizations, please click here.

 According to the Texas Southern University Student Code of Conduct, Section III, Freedom of Expression Policy:

“Texas Southern University is committed to fostering a learning environment where free inquiry and expression are encouraged. The purpose of Texas Southern University’s Freedom of Expression Policy is to provide for organized expressive activities to be conducted on the grounds of the University in a manner consistent with these principles. The University expects that persons engaging in expressive activities will comply with University policies and applicable local, state, and federal laws. Texas Southern University maintains its right to place reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on expressive activities. Additionally, any activities that are unlawful or disruptive to the normal operations of the University, including classes and University business activities, will not be tolerated. Groups or individuals engaging in disruptive activities or failing to comply with University policies and applicable local, state, and federal laws may face immediate removal from the campus and other appropriate actions by University officials and University police.

Freedom of Expression is applicable to students, faculty and staff, who wish to engage in extracurricular, organized expressive activities including public speaking, literature distribution, poster displays, sign displays, any other type of graphic exhibitions, expressive performances, petitioning, or similar noncommercial activities at locations on University property. These guidelines do not apply to official University activities. University grounds and buildings are reserved for use by Texas Southern University students, faculty, and staff, except as otherwise permitted by policies of the University. Expressive activities permitted under these guidelines do not imply official endorsement by the University. Groups or individuals engaged in expressive activities are responsible for the content of their expression.”

TSU’s vice president of student affairs is working with the student group to assist with registration process and procedures. 


The confusion comes in where (law school Dean) Dr. Douglas sends a subsequent email, probably 11 paragraphs long, where there’s some internal friction between Dr. Douglas and Dr. Miffed

(Note: the following section in which Tolston responds to Caldwell’s assault complaint was inadvertently omitted from the original version of this First Reading. I am correcting that here, with apologies to Justin Tolston.)

Tolston dismissed Caldwell’s assault claim.


As soon as I get confirmation that he filed (a complaint), I am going to  countersue. He came up to me (days after the event) in front of an administrator that was sitting at her desk, but because her desk sits low, he couldn’t see her, and he said, “I told them you hit me and I’m going to get you.”

Does that necessarily mean the complain is unfounded?


The manner, the context and the circumstance in which, if somebody allegedly assaulted you, you don’t accost that individual and then try to claim to say you’re going to get them and basically threaten them about an assault that didn’t occur.

He didn’t say it  (make the assault claim) at the time in a roomful of police officers and roomful of cameras

I’ve spoken to members of the administration who have assured me there are at least two cameras  in that room that would have caught any alleged altercation.

“It didn’t happen,” Tolston said.

As for the claim about his breath,Tolston said a personal attack is the last refuge of someone with “bad arguments.” He said if, “I wanted to be petty, and go tit for tat, I could go to the dean” about Caldwell’s personal attack, “but that wasn’t the point.”


It was only days after the event, not at the event or immediately after the event that the claimed I assaulted him, after video, quote, evidence, that he’s claiming to have. So I think once the police understand the timeline on this report that no one’s even contact me about, I think everyone will realize the frivolous nature of what he’s claiming.

Caldwell sent me the cell phone video on which he is basing his claim and it’s hard to make out whether Tolston’s hand may have grazed Caldwell’s hair. I can’t see this complaint going anywhere

A week almost to the minute after he disputed the Cain event, Tolston spoke at Lone Star College about free speech at the invitation of the administration there

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: Guest speaker–TSU student organizer Justin Tolston
Monday, October 16, 2017
12:30 PM – 1:50 PM (CT)


I said this when I spoke yesterday at Lone Star College, where I spoke to a group of individuals – there’s a threshold between what you find personally offensive and what the law bars as being unconstitutional speech. You can say you hate a specific group, but you can’t encourage violence toward that group — “I hate, name-the-group,” as opposed to “Go out and kill said named group.”

What we were alleging is that Mr. Cain’s speech may not cross in this instance in this forum the threshold which would find it impermissible to allow him to speak on campus, but because of the offensive nature of the stands he has taken prior to,  and because of the illegitimacy of the event, we are protesting that he even has the platform to be here.

What has he done in the past that you found so offensive?


He’s a member of the alt-right, and his dog whistle is loud enough for anybody who’s intellectual and keeps up with the nascent attempts to make white nationalism a mainstream ideology. If you got to Twitter, which we did that Friday, he was publishing symbols of Pepe the Frog, which the Anti-Defamation League has noted, and it has been very noted, that that’s a symbol of the alt-right, of white nationalism.

Anybody who was aware of geopolitics in Europe understands that Brexit, the ethnocentric white nationalist British attempt to kick out, or in response to the influence of individuals based on their part of being in the European Union and allowing the free access of borders and allowing the benefits of being a part of that union that come up with it.

So, it seemed that the linchpin of Tolston’s concern about Cain, the smoking gun of his racism, was Pepe the Frog’s appearance on his Brexit retweet.

I told Tolston that it seemed off to me, that, sure Cain was Freedom Caucus and very conservative, but I just didn’t see him as alt-right.

“I’m a libertarian conservative,” Cain told me. “I’m anything but alt-right.”


I would draw a line between ultraconservatism and white nationalism, and, if, as a lawyer you are promulgating symbols of bigotry and ethnocentrism of any kind — because black nationalism is as big a threat as white nationalism — and if you’re going to have white nationalism, and if you’re going to have someone who is a member of the Texas Legislature going to stand for white nationalism, that’s where it becomes incumbent upon people who hear that dog whistle and see these nascent attempts to bring that white nationalism and that ideology into the mainstream to offer a rebuke.

If he is not a white nationalist, Tolston said, the question for Cain is, “So why are you retweeting symbols of the alt-right? And I hope you follow up and push back on him on that.”

Cain told me had not seen the flyer with the bill of particulars against him until I sent it to him yesterday.

I asked why he had retweeted a tweet with an image of Pepe the Frog.

He said he had never heard of Pepe the Frog, or knew its use as an alt-right meme until that very moment, yesterday, when I explained it to him.

Do I believe that?

Well, yeah, I guess I do.


As lawyer, you are perpetuating and allowing to stay up (on your Twitter feed) what the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center deem a symbol of hate, then how can you claim that you’re not?

I asked Cain about his Brexit/Texit tweets. Does he support Texit?

He said he was just a politician getting a discussion going.


Multiple members of the administration, including the student organization and the dean of the law school, are talking about bringing him back with the proper respect for time, place and manner.

What would be different the next time? He’d still be Briscoe Cain. Would the outcome still be the same?


Absolutely, and that will be our goal. Our goal will be to create that counter-narrative and if that situation as a byproduct creates a security situation which deprives him of that platform, I’m fine with that.

When you have a debate, you want a debate with civil ideological beliefs where people who have a meaningful willingness to receive constructive criticism.

If your platform is just used to want to deprive people of their rights because I think it’s my personal belief — I think one of the quotes from Mr. Cain when he wanted to talk about vaccination choice is, “liberty is greater than safety” — and my response to that is that when your positions are an existential threat to the existence of other people who are transgender or transitioning, then their liberty is greater than your safety.

The positions you take have a profound influence on the human rights and the ability to live with dignity of others. I don’t think he understands the visceral response to some of the positions he takes, and then the ties to white nationalism, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

What specific things had he done to threaten transgender individuals?

Tolston cited Cain’s amendment to a measure to ban the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from paying for gender transitioning or sexual reassignment surgery.


For instance, Chelsea Manning was unable to receive transitioning therapy in jail and his amendment he proposed would be a direct rebuke of that type of therapy, that type of care. He wanted to put a state prohibition on funds being use for inmates. As a member of the legal community, as a legal scholar, when you are trying to further oppress a minority, an oppressed group that is disenfranchised because of their position of being incarcerated, I think somebody has to stand for the most marginalized, especially when you have someone like a powerful representative that decides to use their platform to promulgate hate.

Or his attempt to end palliative care just because of his misunderstanding, (See, the First Reading, The Education of Briscoe Cain: On the schooling of Jonathan Stickland 3.0.)


I think somebody has to stand up to someone whose ideological beliefs, they’re disassociating in the cognitive dissonance of “OK, I’m not for hate, I’m just for hate of this specific group for right now,” and that’s the kind of disconnect, the kind of cognitive dissonance I think Mr. Cain is up to — “I’m not a white nationalist, I just promote symbols of that and I just support movements that are based in ethnocentrism.”

“He’s on Fox News sensationalizing it,” said Tolston.

Tolston said the protest was not put on by Black Lives Matter, though that’s what Cain said.

“That was pulled out of thin air,” Tolston said. “That’s his scheme —  we made the connection to alt-right and he was trying to make a connection to Black Lives Matter.

But, in fairness to Cain, it might have something to do with Tolston’s choice of a t-shirt.

Cain is considering a free speech lawsuit. Also, in a TribTalk he wrote:

In light of this event, I have formally requested that House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick add campus free speech protection to their lists of interim committee charges to be studied in advance of the next legislative session. It is clear that the Legislature must take action.

I told Tolston that the peril for him and other campus protesters is that it appears they are placing their hands over their ears and shouting speakers down in a place that ought to treasure free speech.


There is really not a discussion for me to have with him when you have someone who says and does the things he does to solicit attention and just to amass more name recognition. I think he showed very little interest in substantive debate on meaningful issues with the community at TSU. 

Tolston said he got feedback both positive and negative.


I’ve gotten it from both ends 

I was approached by some students who asked, “What did that accomplish?”  And I would say it allowed us to have a platform to at least have this discussion. The fact that we were invited to Lone Star College in Tomball to talk to a room of students, to 60 to 100 students, about free speech, race and grassroots organizing, I think that is all a success.

I asked Tolston about the role that Borris Miles played.


When Dr. Lane got the call he tagged along because they were supposed to have a meeting after. 

But, perhaps reflexively, the interviewer on FOX led in his interview with Cain, by saying that Cain “had been told by a Democrat” that he wouldn’t be able to speak at the campus event.

Maybe he had seen a tweet from Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Miles’ office said he wasn’t doing interviews on the matter.

But he issued a statement:

Free speech is our first amendment right and it is near and dear to my heart.  Our community exercised this right during the Civil Rights Movement and continue to exercise it to this very day.

Recently, I chose to help defuse a potentially volatile situation at Texas Southern University, to protect the students, faculty, staff and a sitting state representative. It was evident that the university administration was not adequately informed about the unauthorized meeting and made the correct decision to postpone the meeting because of the escalating tensions and lack of security. The university is dedicated to working with the student group in the future to hold the program. This was nothing more than miscommunication between different entities at TSU and I explained that to Representative Briscoe Cain.

However, the leader of a right-wing group decided to take it a step further by referring to my actions as “thuggish.” He decided to use this racist, disrespectful and discriminatory rhetoric to create further divisions for his own personal gain. As a sitting state senator and a ten-year veteran of the Texas Legislature, I am appalled by anyone who would choose to use such loaded language, especially when our state and nation are in need of uniting, not dividing.


If Briscoe was serious about his attempts to address the concerns that are impacting our community he wouldn’t wait for an invitation from a conservative organization in its first year being established by a student that doesn’t represent the community.

The constitutional scholar in me is working at that robust debate that the democracy thrives on that  didn’t occur, and I think one of the best way of showing the flaws in somebody’s reasoning is to get them in front of a public forum and an audience that challenge them on the merits, but personally I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. I think there’s again nothing that Briscoe Cain has done that he shows he wants to engage in our community, so, no, I’m glad he didn’t have the platform because, like I say, I think it would have just been lip service.

Well so you say you want robust debate, how would that happen?


Like say an individual like Borris Miles and Briscoe Cain debating on fact and not rhetoric.

Aha. Finally, we’re getting somewhere.

So the great Briscoe v. Borris battle at Thurgood Marshall School of Law is the way to go?


I would love to see that.

Me too.


`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.”

Old-school Joe Biden hailed as a hero by students at the LBJ Presidential Library


Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden takes a photo with LBJ School graduate students after speaking at the LBJ Presidential Library’s Auditorium on the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Good morning Austin:

Mark Updegrove didn’t ask Joe Biden last night whether he plans to run for president in 2020.

But that’s OK. Let’s just assume that he is open to the possibility. Very open.

From the Washington Times Sunday:

Joe Biden appears to have his eye on 2020. Or something. The former vice president founded a political action committee months called American Possibilities, actively soliciting public donations. Mr. Biden has a new book arriving next month, and will embark on a 19-city “American Promise Tour” in late November.  Is the 74-year-old striking a presidential posture? Could be. He’s also changed his tone, transitioning from “smilin’ Joe” to aggressive attack dog, his ire aimed directly at President Trump.


Yes, Biden will be 75 in November.

But that makes him a whole year younger than Bernie Sanders.

Like Sanders, the kids love him.

By the kids I mean the students at UT and the LBJ School who made up much of the audience last night for his appearance as the Tom Johnson Lecturer at the LBJ Presidential Library, giving Biden a hero’s welcome and seeming very much in his thrall though his conversation with Updegrove.

HIs appeal is different from that of Sanders.

Sanders is the cranky socialist iconoclast, all issues all the time, and the issue being income inequality.

Biden’s appeal, especially to Millennials, is less obvious. He is a throwback to a time of respect and comity and consensus in politics.


But on a day that President Donald Trump was casually insulting Puerto Ricans stricken by disaster – aka, another day on the job – Biden’s homespun philosophy and appeals to decency and American first principles, carried some extra punch.

Watching him hold court, at length, last night, a Biden presidential candidacy in 2020 seemed perfectly plausible.

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks with former LBJ Library Director Mark K. Updegrove at the LBJ Presidential Library’s Auditorium on the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Biden was elected to the Senate in 1972, not yet 30, the minimum age to serve in the Senate.

Before he took office, his wife, Neilia, and one-year daughter, Naomi ,were killed in a car accident, nd his two sons badly hurt.

He had to be coaxed by his Democratic colleagues to take his seat, and he recalled how Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield mentored him closely to see him through those difficult days and instruct him.


I  came to Washington when a lot of people there were still the old segregationists. James O.Eastland. Oh my gosh.. One of the meanest, smartest guys I knew, (John) McClellan of Arkansas, John Stennis, who became a supporter and friend of mine. And as vicious as the fights were over civil rights, when the debate was over, we’d all come down and have lunch and dinner together. The system worked because we went after each other’s judgement but not after motive.


He recalled early on coming upon Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who was elected the same year he was, excoriating Ted Kennedy and Bob Dole on the Senate floor for advancing a forerunner of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

And I thought `God,” and I sat down in front of Mansfield and I guess I looked angry .. and then I went after Jesse Helms and said he had no socially redeeming value … and Mansfield sat there and looked at me and then taught me the best lesson I ever learned.

He said, “Joe, what would you say if I told you that two-and-a-half years ago Dot and Jesse Helms were sitting in their living room in Raleigh, North Carolina, reading the Raleigh News and Observer and there was a photograph of a 14-year-old young man, braces from his chest down to his legs, steel braces, both legs, and steel crutches, and then he’s saying, “All i want for Christmas is someone to love me. Take me home.”

What if I tell you, “Dot and Jesse Helms adopted that young boy?” I said I would feel foolish. “Well he did, Joe.” and he said, ” Learn something here. It’s always appropriate to question somebody’s judgment. It’s never appropriate to question their motives because you don’t know their motives.”


And that’s why I’m going to say something that is unnecessarily self-serving, that’s why every single time you saw a problem in the Senate or the House in the last eight years, and in  the 36 years I was in the Senate, I’m the guy who gets called up to try to settle it, because I have enormous respect for my Republican as well as my Democratic colleagues, and I’ve never questioned their judgment.

Today it’s gotten mean and visceral and it’s always, if you disagree with me, you’re in the pocket of big business or you’re in the pocket of this or you’re unethical. In this democracy we’ve separated political power wisely. Nothing can happen without consensus. It’s virtually impossible to reach consensus after you’ve attacked the integrity of another man or woman. You can’t get to go. 

That’s what’s changed in the last eight years. Think of the nature of the debate. “You’re a bad person, you’re an unethical person You’re not a Christian. You’re unAmerican.”

When Strom Thurmond died at 100, I got a call from the hospital from his wife, Nancy. She was at the nurses’ station … and she said Strom asked me to call you and ask you a favor. I said, “How is he?” She said, “He’s on God’s time.” I said, “What can I do Nancy? Anything.” She said, “Strom asked if you could do his eulogy.” 

I did Strom Thurmond’s eulogy and I didn’t lie at all. He was a product of his time and he changed with time. By the time he died he had a larger percentage of blacks on his staff than any senator in the United States Senate, including Ted Kennedy. He voted for reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.

Folks, what’s different today is we don’t know each other. 


“Because of my strong relationships to this day in the Senate, I don’t say who it is and I won’t because I don’t want to hurt them, but I meet regularly with the Republican Senate leadership now,” Biden said. “There’s not camaraderie today, and that’s why it’s easier and easier to question each other’s motives.”

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden meets privately with LBJ School graduate students after speaking at the LBJ Presidential Library’s Auditorium on the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

He talked about gerrymandering.

There are only boy 45 out of 435 House seats that are contestable. You could go out and commit an unnatural act in a town square if you are in an overwhelmingly Republican or Democratic district, and someone from the other party is not going to be beat you.

All that matters is the primaries, he said, which puts a premium on extremism.


Biden was asked about his parents.

“My dad believed that you never complained and you never explained,” Biden said.

“I remember the first time I got knocked out in a football game,” Biden said. “The first thing I remember is my dad leading down and whispering, `Joey, if nothing’s broken, get up Joey.'”

“My mother believed, as long as you’re alive you have an obligation to strive,”  Biden said. “You’re not dead until you see the face of God.”

Biden said that biographies of him say he always wanted to be president.

“That’s not true,” he said. “I got involved because of Lyndon Johnson, believe it or not, because no one had done more for civil rights in America, beyond Dr.  King than Lyndon Johnson.”

“I got involved as a young kid in the Civil Rights Movement. I moved from Scranton, Pennsylvania – and it you listen to Barack he makes ms sound like a guy who crawled out of a coal mine with a lunchbox – I moved to Delaware when I was in the third grade.”

“I ended up as a public defender representing people who were accused of burning down the city, which they didn’t do.”


He said he saw Hillary Clinton’s defeat coming.

I made 83 campaign events for Hillary. I think she would have made a fine president. I really mean that. Eighty-three events. I told my staff, my key political staff, and Barack, who disagreed with me, about five weeks out, that we were going to lose, because – my staff was worried, that what I am about to say would offend the press.

What’s he talking about?

He described his epiphany campaigning in Ohio last fall that for all Clinton’s good and well-formulated and appealing policy positions, no one knew anything about them. They got almost no coverage from a press distracted by Trump.

“I think we so vastly underestimated the Trump campaign and Mr. (Steve) Bannon,” Biden said. Trump had said and done all these things that seemed utterly discrediting, Biden said, but “it took the eye off the ball.”


Biden’s arrival was delayed.

“In my entire career, one of the greatest honors I’ve had was working with General McRaven and that’s not hyperbole,” Biden said, on his arrival. “This is a man of enormous, enormous capacity and judgment. I’ve met every major head of state in the last 43 years. I’ve never met anybody with the courage, the gumption and the values Admiral McRaven represents.”


Toward the end of his remarks, Biden told his generally young audience, that they were the best generation ever, the hope of the world, but, just as some of them were applauding themselves, Biden added the admonition that too few of them mere willing to put it on the line and run for office.

“There is no place to hide,” he said.


After this appeared this morning I heard from Tori Yu, a public affairs rep from the LBJ School, who sent some comments she had collected from students working on their master’s degrees in public affairs, explaining Biden’s draw.

“I don’t know that I can put it into words,” said Thomas Trinh (MPAff ‘18) upon meeting Biden. “He’s definitely rooted us, humbled us in remembering that we don’t become elite.”

“Believing what you do is possible and that it matters is central to achieving what you want in politics,” said Chris Willuhn (MPAff ‘17) on what he learned from the meet and greet with Biden.

“It’s past midnight, and I’m half doing homework and half reminiscing about being so close to Uncle Joe,” said Amara Uyanna (MGPS ’18). “I feel like I’m a much more important, capable and intelligent individual! So inspired! Thank you so much for making this happen.” 

 “Last night was an honor! Thank you, Joe Biden, for giving me life advice and reminding me why I came to policy school,” said Maggie Hennessy (MPAff ’18).