Alex Jones: David Hogg is bullying me and YouTube is trying to shut me down.

Good afternoon Austin:

Yes, Alex Jones, for all his bravado and bluster, says he’s being bullied by a high school senior.

Hogg is bullying me.

` Look how ugly you are. You’re a piece of crap. You’re a this (shit) journalist’ – I can’t use the cuss words on air.

‘You got sued.’

All of this is defamatory. None of it’s true.

And he’s saying he wants to debate, and I’d bet a lot, and maybe I’m wrong, but I’ll bet you a chicken fried steak and all the beer you can drink, that Hogg does not get on this show live with me.

And I’ll be totally polite, because they want me to try to crucify him.

It’s stupid baiting, whosever handling that account.

This is a potentially consequential moment for Jones, the Austin-based radio and internet broadcaster.

From Jennings Brown yesterday at Gizmodo:

If Alex Jones’ Infowars YouTube channel gets one more strike within the next three months, it will be banned from the site, where it has 2.2 million subscribers.

Infowars—a far-right media outlet that often suggests mass shootings like those at Sandy Hook and Marjory Stoneman Douglas are orchestrated, staged events—claims it got its second strike from YouTube on Tuesday morning, for a video about the Parkland mass shooting, the Hill reports.

 According to YouTube’s community guidelines, if an account gets two strike for violating the rules, no new videos can be posted from the account for two weeks. If the Alex Jones Channel gets another strike, the channel will be killed off.

The Hill campaign editor Will Sommer shared the alert on Twitter:

Let’s get a better look at that

Sounds serious.

Looks like Alex Jones was ratted out by Mr. Goody Two-Shoes over at CNN – Anderson Cooper.

From CNN on Saturday:

(CNN) InfoWars, a far-right media organization run by Alex Jones and known for peddling unfounded conspiracy theories, is on thin ice with YouTube after it posted a video that portrayed the survivors of the Parkland school shooting as actors.

The Alex Jones Channel, Infowars’ biggest YouTube account, received one strike for that video, a source with knowledge of the account told CNN. YouTube’s community guidelines say if an account receives three strikes in three months, the account is terminated.

That video focused on David Hogg, a strong voice among survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The attention has given him a powerful platform — but it has also made him the subject of demonstrably false conspiracy theories that claim he’s so skilled as a public speaker that he must be a paid actor.

On Wednesday, YouTube removed the video from InfoWars’ page for violating its policies on harassment and bullying. The video was titled, “David Hogg Can’t Remember His Lines In TV Interview.”

“Last summer we updated the application of our harassment policy to include hoax videos that target the victims of these tragedies,” said a YouTube spokesperson. “Any video flagged to us that violates this policy is reviewed and then removed.”

But CNN has identified three YouTube videos from InfoWars that cite such hoaxes and asked if they also violated YouTube’s policies. The YouTube spokesperson said the videos sent in by CNN were flagged to the policy team for review on Thursday evening.

CNN has sent repeated inquiries to YouTube on the outcome of that review, but has not received a response.

According to the warning letter, the first of the two strikes was for – What is to blame for the Florida high school shootings –

This YouTube video, from Feb. 15, which, for whatever reason, is either still up or back up, features not Jones but his protege, Owen Shroyer, who has his own show on InfoWars.

The second strike is a Feb. 22 YouTube video, The truth about crisis actors in the Florida shooting.

It too is either still up or back up, and it features an appearance with Jones by Milo Yiannopoulos.

It begins like this:

AJ: Are we saying the shooting didn’t happen? Are we saying they are all actors faking that something happened? No.

Instead, Jones said that what he is saying is that Hogg, whose father is FBI (actually former FBI), appeared on “Fake News” CNN with “known CIA operative” Anderson Cooper, making Democratic talking points on guns, shielded from legitimate questions or criticism by dint of his youth and recent traumatic experience.

But Jones says, addressing Hogg, “You’re not a child, you’re a senior in high school.”

Milo  Yiannopoulos: And there’s a subtlety here that’s important to grasp. Nobody I know, nobody that is reasonable is saying that this was a setup and it didn’t happen and the kids are actors.

AJ: No, school shootings happen. There are evil people.

MY: Nobody is saying that.

AJ: But the media says we’re saying it.

MY: They’re saying that many of us are saying it. Nobody is saying this is a setup by the FBI, but what people are asking is, if the FBI had all this information, is there a sort of general tendency among the FBI …
AJ: To let it happen.

MY: Because it suits …

AJ: To let it happen.

MY: Because it suits their purposes, not to aggressively investigate and get these people off the street.

AJ: You just said it. Let me devastate the whole thing …

Jones goes on to explain how the event is being manipulated to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.

Here is Jones on Sunday:


AJ: There is a public attempt to eradicate us off the internet using lies and using hoaxes.

I am putting CNN on notice of their criminal action …. You’re on notice of not just civil violations but criminal violations of my civil rights, and racketeering. You are complete journalistic frauds that stage debates, stages town halls, give Hillary the questions before, it’s basically in WikiLeaks, how you run with the Democratic Party and George Soros.

But now, on Friday, they put out this big article saying Alex Jones said that nobody got killed at Parkland in Florida and Alex Jones said the kids are crisis actors and that Alex Jones bullied them.

But you don’t show a quote and you don’t show a video.

And then you brag that your’e talking to YouTube about my account and what’s going on inside my own personal and corporate operation, which is tortious interference, racketeering.

Open and shut.

I’ve already got the lawyers.

The problem is we’ve got so many lawsuits that we’re looking for the right one, but I think this is it.

Jones said he didn’t say they are crisis actors, but that they are four students among many, all members, he says, of the school’s drama club, who the media has settled on as the true voice of the students because it suits the political narrative they prefer.

AJ:  Television is the David Hogg Channel now. I can’t turn anything on. He’s on Good Morning America. He’s on the Sunday shows. He’s on everywhere. And I know scripted PR when I hear it.

“Oh the police officer who didn’t come in, he’s a wonderful person.”
“Oh, I’m not anti-gun. Just turn your guns in.”

AJ: It says “activist” under him, but if I even criticize what he is saying on television as a young adult, then I’m bullying him, but I wasn’t really bullying him, even though he and his buddies are up on stage at the town hall, yelling, “Dana Loesch, you’re a murderer. Burn her, burn her,” like a Monty Python skit.

Billboards: Kill the NRA. They’re bullying NRA members, kicking them out everywhere.

AJ: The media, they are using David Hogg, who’s a handsome, well-spoken son of an FBI agent, his mom works for CNN. 

Well, maybe not.

From Heavy:

This is the photo that started the rumors that Rebecca Boldrick was somehow connected to CNN. She shared the picture on her Facebook page in March 2016 and tagged it “CNN World Headquarters, Newsroom.” The pictures shows her children, David and Lauren Hogg, sitting behind an anchor desk.

No, this isn’t an indication that she works for CNN. It’s actually from a tour taken of CNN in Atlanta, which is a normal thing for an aspiring journalist like David Hogg to want to do. Boldrick even labeled the series of photos on Facebook as a “Great VIP Tour.” “VIP Tour” is actually the name of a tour package that you can purchase when you visit CNN. The tour currently costs $33. The description for the tour reads: “Enhance your experience with VIP treatment and get expanded access into live newsrooms, the HLN control room and a state-of-the-art studio that CNN uses daily.” 

Back to Jones on Hogg:

AJ: But he’s the main of the four horsemen of the anti-gun operation. He’s the main one everywhere.

And so we have students on and eyewitnesses and local news saying there’s multiple shooters and police showed up and didn’t go in for ten minutes, and all that, which has all come out to be true.

We all broke that the day after it happened, and they’re pissed.

Now, I don’t know what’s going on with multiple shooters, Maybe they were confused. They were all eyewitnesses. I just reported it. They were on my show. It was reported on local news as well.

I know that the police stood down. They’re now admitting they did.

They wouldn’t go in.

Now this guy, who calls himself an activist, launching a national movement, he’s admittedly an actor in the drama department, Buzzfeed reports, and a young journalist in the journalism department, I am simply saying he’s being given scripted statements, out of 3,000 students, why is it only four?

Jones said his argument went viral because it is so cogent, so obvious and so resonating with the people, and number one on YouTube when we talk about it.

Of course we’re number one, they can’t deal with us. Nobody wants to hear from Dan Rather who made up fake memos about George Bush and got caught.

I couldn’t find the Buzzfeed report Jones referred to, but I found this Feb. 21 story from Brianna Sacks: Nope, The Florida School Shooting Survivors Demanding Gun Control Are Not Crisis Actors.

Right-wing talk show host Alex Jones published several videos on his InfoWars YouTube channel also accusing Hogg of forgetting his lines during a TV interview.

One video has now been watched more than 9,200 times and has sparked dozens of copycat takes. Another video claiming that the Florida school shooting was a “giant false flag” has 170,000 views. The channel has more than 2 million subscribers

Click the link above, and here is what you get.
 Yesterday, Jones and Hogg engaged on Twitter.

Jones warned Trump yesterday that he was making a mistake suggesting some changes in gun regulation.

Give a dog bone, they want the whole cow.

And Jones said that InfoWars is just the tip of the spear of outlets that YouTube is trying to silence.

It’s thousands of sites, I can’t even keep track of it.

And there’s no news coverage of the purge.

And then the president, when he gets told about it he says, “They’re not going to censor me.”

But, Jones said, “They’re censoring everything that magnifies the Make America Great Again agenda.”

On the upswing, Beto O’Rourke stays positive

Good Monday Austin:

You can’t quite tell it from this photo, but Ashley McKay of Austin got emotional when she met Beto O’Rourke in person for the first time on Sunday after a rally at Pearl Snap Hall in Georgetown.

“I just cried like a silly person,” McKay said just after the encounter.

“She just cries a lot,” said her husband, Blair, an architect.

“I cry a lot,” she agreed. “He’s just inspiring to me so it was exciting to meet him. We didn’t really talk about much,  except `Thanks.'”

The McKays, who are both from Houston but have lived in Austin – now near Windsor Park – for a dozen years, came to the Georgetown rally with their two young children –  Maisie Jane, who is almost a year old, and Reid, who is almost 4. They both have March birthdays.

“He’s just positive,” Ashley McKay said of O’Rourke. “He’s making no effort to be divisive in his politics and he wants to listen and he cares.”

“I follow him on Facebook. I hear speeches on-line, in videos, but I’ve been waiting for him to come to town,” she said. “He lived up to my expectations and then some. He said things I’ve never heard politicians say. Just talking about things our country has done that may have negatively affected other countries that never get acknowledged or recognized.”

Is it possible that O’Rourke could get elected?

“Yeah, with the way he’s campaigning hard all over the smaller areas and regions that don’t have any other  media or outlets to hear an alternative message to what they’ll hear on AM radio,” said Blair McKay. “I think getting out there and putting  a face to a name early and taking the time to do it well before the election, I think he has a really good chance. He’ll have some reputability before they try to tear him down.”

“He’s a machine,” Ashley said. “He just keeps on going.”

“He’s very eloquent; he has those Obamaesque qualities,” Blair said. “He not only speaks well but can speak on any subject you throw at him, and is very genuine and authentic when he comes across to people. And he lives what he preaches. His kids are going to public school in El Paso. They’re getting the dual language program integrated into the culture of El Paso. And his kids are going to the same school he went to, which is really impressive. He’s a politician, and yet he’s so close to home. He’s very impressive.

O’Rourke rolled into Georgetown – the latest in a succession of rallies drawing large and enthusiastic crowds – coming off very good fundraising numbers.

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has raised nearly three times as much money as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.

O’Rourke, a third-term Democratic congressman from El Paso, has raised $2.3 million through Feb. 14 toward his U.S. Senate campaign. Cruz, a Houston Republican seeking his second term, raised $800,000.

Asked about O’Rourke’s fundraising momentum at a recent campaign stop in New Braunfels on behalf of Republican congressional candidate Chip Roy, Cruz told reporters he does not underestimate the passion on the left.

“They’re angry, they hate the president,” Cruz said. “We’ve seen all across the country the Democrats’ fundraising numbers are through the roof because their base is so energized.”

“This is a volatile political time,” Cruz said. “That energy on the hard left is dangerous … if conservatives are complacent, if conservatives stay home. I hope that doesn’t happen.”

“There are a lot more conservatives than liberals in the state of Texas, but they have to show up at the polls for their votes to count,” Cruz said.

But the tone in Georgetown was exuberant, upbeat.

I believe that O’Rourke only mentioned Cruz once, and only to indicate that that he remains obstructionist by nature.

O’Rourke also spent very little time on Trump, only mentioning him at the end of a rhetorical thread on the failure of the War on Drugs, and likening it to what O’Rourke considers the president’s unhealthy obsession with a border wall.

Kimberly Owens, a 58-year-old accountant in Georgetown, who grew up in a staunch Republican household and whose husband voted for Trump, shook hands with O’Rourke, just ahead of the McKays.

After becoming aware of O’Rourke and very much liking the first impression, “I did some more research on him and I think he’s great. This is what the country needs. Young people. Get rid of the older people, even though I’m the older people now. It’s time for a change.”

“My mom was a diehard Republican supporter, and so was my dad. She was always pro-life, which – she would have been 100 this year – so that was way back when. But they always told us to vote for the best person, no matter what party.”

Did she vote for Cruz last time?

“No, I cannot stand the man,” Owens said. ” He looks like the guy from the Munsters. He is evil. Everything that comes out of his mouth is so wrong. I’ve never been a fan of Ted Cruz.”

“I’ve almost got my husband convinced, so that’s good,” Owens said. “He’s a real Trump supporter. I think there’s hope.”

“Also, I think the problem, which (O’Rourke’s) addressed, is that we tend to be a non-voting state. And I think that’s where it lies, to get people who always say, “It won’t matter whether I vote,’ to vote for him, because I think it will matter.”

Owens said President Trump should, “quit calling people names, quit bullying people. I work with kids in a Scouting program and everything we teach our children not to do, he does.”

I mentioned to her the political tension among Democrats this year about whether to concentrate on rousing the base, or seek to appeal to the center.

“You need to do both,” she said.

On Saturday I went to a town hall of sorts at the Tamale House East with Democratic political consultant Joe Trippi. Trippi was in Texas to spend a day tagging along with one office clients, Joseph Kopser who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 21st Congressional District, now held by Republican Lamar Smith.

Trippi wasn’t there to talk about the 21st, but to talk more generally about the lessons of Democrat Doug Jones narrow triumph over Judge Roy Moore i  last year’s Alabama special U.S. Senate election. Trippi was Jones’ chief media strategist.

“There are a lot of people who say, if you just get all the Democrats out,” Trippi said. “There were just not enough Democrats in Alabama to win that election. It doesn’t work that way and there are plenty of districts where it doesn’t work that.”

“What we discovered its that the common ground message we wanted to deliver was the  most powerful message in the race,” Trippi said. “This is what’s going on in my view. Trump is fueling two things. He is absolutely fueling the energy among the Democratic base, minority and young voters in particular. To give you an idea, in 2008 for Barack Obama, African-Americans, who are 24 percent of the population, were 27 percent of the vote. In 2017, for Doug Jones, they were 29, 30 percent of the vote. Young people. Obama in 2008 won under-45’s nationwide by 15 percent. Doug Jones won the under-45 group by 28 points.”

Trippi said that Republican women, particularly in the suburbs, and under-25 college educated voters, “they can’t take the chaos,” under Trump.

“They may even like some  the things that he’s doing, but they can’t stand the chaos. They’re exhausted by constantly being on edge, this feeling of chaos and exhaustion they just want it to end. I call it chaos exhaustion,” Trippi said. “They talk in terms of, `I can’t believe I’m saying this but for the first time in my life  I’m actually thinking of voting for a Democrat,’ which is a huge opening, particularly for Republican women who are thinking like that, and what we discovered is finding common ground and ending chaos and division does not chill the Democratic base, the intensity we went up, the more we talked about it.”

Trippi said the critical ad for the Jones campaign was one that drew on the lessons of the Civil War, and made the case that “there’s honor in civility and compromise.”

“The Republican women in our tracking moved immediately. that’s when we close to within one point, 46-45.

That thing had been running for a week, with the theme of common ground, rejecting hostilities, we closed the ap and the next day the Washington Post story came out,” alleging Moore’s history of inappropriate behavior with young women.

“For anybody who thinks, “Oh gosh, Moore’s dead, you’ve got it in the bag,” let me tell everybody, you’re out of your freaking mind. It helped him. Why? Because it’s an attack from the Washington Post, it’s a fake yearbook, people are starting to go to their partisan corners again.”

In places where Democrats cannot win with Democratic votes alone, Democratic candidates have to be careful not to trigger tribal party loyalties.

O’Rourke treads the line well.

He is all about being open to everyone, to reaching out, talking and listening to people regardless of party or ideology, going to places where Democrats seldom if ever go. But he is not a political milquetoast, he takes clear stands on issues and he clearly excites Democratic passions like no candidate in recent Texas history.

I asked him after the rally about walking that line.

“It’s not a line that I’m conscious of, that’s for sure,” he said. “You know somebody who came along just now to say hello, said, `Thank you for being positive and talking about what we’re going to do and what we’re going to achieve and the way we are going to listen to everyone. That’s just the way that I feel.’ And I think that it’s so unusual that it moves all of us.”

“I was just talking to the police officer who said he was, like, scanning the crowd, walking through, and it was so positive,” O’Rourke said. “He was just so shocked because you think at this type of thing people might want to get angry, you may assume people want to get angry and we just want to hate on somebody, but that’s just not where we are and not what excites us and not what this campaign’s about. We’re just following the lead of the people that we’re with and it’s very positive.”

A big part of O’Rourke’s appeal is his persona and openness. He is live streaming almost everything he does.

On Saturday, he began by giving a report from back home in El Paso, relaying a telephone conversation he had just had with his wife about their son, Ulysses.

“He’s 11-years-old. He plays for the El Paso Apes,” O’Rourke said.

“I think today he’s going to play outfield,” O’Rourke said. He also pitches, but, “he’s not the fastest or the strongest pitcher in the roster. In fact he pitches fairly slow compared to most of his other teammates, but there’ just some kind of sneaky spin when he lets go. And they put him in yesterday and he was able to get all of the first three batters he faced out, so we’re really proud of him.”

“Amy took him yesterday to his Destination Imagination competition,” O’Rourke continued. ”I don’t know if any of you have participated in a DI competition locally, but this would be frightening for me. They were supposed to put on a five-minute, one-act play. They were given two minutes to prepare. The are given the props and the scenario and they get two minutes to huddle together, and they have to act this out over the course of five minutes . And Ulysses and his DI team under the guidance of Miss Fernandez of Mesita Elementary, the same public school I went to growing up in El Paso, got first place and they are going on to the state competition.”

“But of all those things,” O’Rourke said, “the baseball game, retiring the first three batters that came up in the last inning, winning the DI competition along with his teammates, the thing that Amy was proudest of – and please don’t share this outside this meeting right here – Ulysses spent 23 minutes on the phone with a girl in his class as they were driving out to the baseball game, and Amy said, he’s never done that before. And  I said, `Well, what were they  talking about,” and she said, “They were just talking about whatever was on their mind and they just had a great conversation.'”

“And I thought that was great and it made me happy how excited Amy was about Ulysses connecting with someone in that special way – 11-years-old. It’s crazy how quickly they grow up.”

“This has just been, outside of family … this campaign, getting to do this with you over the more than 12  or 13 months, has been the most amazing, the most thrilling experience of my life, and I’m just so proud of us, of this state, regardless of party. Right? That does not matter. No importa. Republican, Democrat, Independent. Voter, non-voter. All 28 million of us. All human beings, Americans before we are anything else. We’re standing up and doing what our country needs from us at its most critical moment.”

“And it’s so exciting to be part of it,” O’Rourke said. “And I’ve had the special pleasure this weekend, for the first time in the campaign, of having my, mom, Melissa with me, and Tia Patricia, her sister, Patricia, here with us today here in Georgetown.”

“Nothing beats having your mom as your driver on the campaign trail,” O’Rourke said.

“Bringing your luggage up to your room, having her lay out your clothes for the next day, ironing your shirt, sewing that button back on your suit,” he said. “And eating donuts.”

“We had breakfast today at Jack and Jill Donuts in Lorena, Texas”.

“And we play a game called Donut Roulette, where the person who goes in gets to pick the donuts for everyone else in the van, and if you don’t eat the donut that was picked for you, you lose a point”.

“And even better was my mom drove us to the ice cream parlor last night in Waco at Heritage Creamery, and we had a town hall there that began at 9:30 and ended at 11 p.m., and I was eating ice cream for dinner, which is every child’s fantasy of what adult life will be like. Your mom’s going to be driving you around the state of Texas eating ice cream for dinner and donuts for breakfast, and it just felt right. This is the right way to do this,” O’Rourke said.

“We’re doing this only with people, human beings, no PACs, or corporations or special interest groups involved. Just us.”

There were some slight differences in tone, though not substance, between the afternoon family gathering in Georgetown and the night-time town hall with a mostly Baylor University crowd in Waco.

In Georgetown, there was this.

He talked about this for a few minutes in Georgetown, but in Waco, he went on for longer and at a  higher emotional pitch:

How fucked up is it that PTA meetings are now being conducted to help parents tell their kids that when some guy with an AR-15 walks into their room – and you know what the message is today for those little third-graders and fourth-grades, and fifth graders – and I’m the father of a fifth-grader, a fourth-grader and a first-grader? The message is you’re supposed to create as much chaos as you possibly can. They want you to yell and scream and dance around and throw books and just keep moving. And when the question is asked, how is that going to save my 7-year-old, or my 11-year-old, or my 9-year-old, and they say, it might not, but what it will do is it will buy some more time for other kids in the class. It will take ten seconds if no one does anything and they’re slaughtered like sheep. It will take 20 seconds if there’s movement and activity and chaos in the classroom, and yes, most kids will die, but maybe two or three will be able to escape through an open door in the midst of that chaos.

Why in the world are we in 2018, in the wealthiest, most powerful country, the inspiration for so much of the rest of the world, having these discussions at PTA meetings, in our schools, in our lives, in our communities, here in Texas. What if we decided that no one should be able to buy an AR-15. No matter how fun it is to shoot, it’s only purpose, it was only intended to take lives and we’re taking too many lives with it.

It may not poll well, it may not be popular, it may lose us some votes from some people in this state, but I don’t care because I have to look myself and my kids in the eye and account for what I did when I had the opportunity, when I was in a position of public trust, when we had the power to do the right thing. 

I’ve been in Congress for five years, we have not had one debate on guns, on gun safety, on saving lives. It’s why I don’t take a dime from the NRA.

There was one question in Georgetown that O’Rourke did not directly answer.

Afterward, I asked O’Rourke about that.

“I wish I had just said to her, which I can say to you on the record,” O’Rourke said. “I will not run for president. I want to be the full-time senator for Texas.”

Here is O’Rourke from last night arriving in Austin.

And here holding a running town hall first thing this morning in Austin.

Lastly, here are figures from the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, indicating that, for all O’Rourke’s campaigning across the state, a large swath of the electorate still doesn’t know who he is or have a fix on him.


Nancy Pelosi’s `cold-blooded’ warning to Democratic primary voters: `If the person who can’t win, wins, it’s not a priority race for us anymore.’


U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, visited with members of the Statesman’s editorial board, a chief political writer and metro columnist Monday morning February 19, 2018 in the newspaper offices in Austin, TX. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Good afternoon Austin:

Life is filled with mysteries.

For example, how did I end up talking to Nancy Pelosi for an hour and 25 minutes yesterday.

Here she is, the House Democratic leader, former speaker, the most powerful woman in American politics, busy trying to recapture the House for Democrats and reclaim the gavel as Speaker of the House – third in line for the presidency – and she came to me, or, more exactly, a third-floor conference room of the Austin American-Statesman, to meet with the paper’s editorial board, Ken Herman and myself.

(Pelosi talks with editorial board member Bridget Grumet, right.)

And this was no mere drop by.

She had done public events in Houston over the weekend, and had another, later in the day Monday, in San Antonio. In Austin, it was just private meetings, and this interview.

Her devotion, even delight, in talking at length to folks at a newspaper was sweet, if a bit quaint.

I wondered whether she knew the Statesman was on the block. Maybe she knew something. Something terrible about the fate that awaits us. Maybe some journalistic Make a Wish Foundation had dispatched her here to buck us up.

Maybe every time her aide, Jorge Augilar, quietly signaled that they had to wrap it up, she looked into our sad, needy eyes and said, “No, I think I’ll stay and talk with these people for another 40 minutes. They need it”

Pelosi talks with Viewpoint’s Editor Juan Castillo, right.

About 35 minutes in, I asked a question, and for the next 22 minutes – really – Pelosi answered my question.

I set up the question by recounting how she had become a bit of an issue in the Democratic primary for the seat being relinquished by Republican Lamar Smith, a district that national Democrats have targeted, even if it remains a long shot.

From my story on the race:

The race for the party’s nomination in the 21st Congressional District has emerged as a microcosm of the sharp division among Democrats across the nation in how to respond to Trump — do they nominate a candidate like Joseph Kopser, a former Army Ranger turned tech entrepreneur who the smart party money says can appeal to folks in the middle who rarely if ever vote Democratic but are offended by Trump, or go with a candidate who taps the outraged passions on the left, like Derrick Crowe, Elliott McFadden or Mary Wilson?


Crowe, 37, a former congressional staffer, game store owner and advocate with liberal policy shops in Washington, D.C., and Austin, grew up in Sunray in the Panhandle. His first job on Capitol Hill was working for his congressman, Charlie Stenholm, among the last of the conservative Southern Democrats in Congress, who was ultimately gerrymandered out of his seat.

After Trump’s election, Crowe said he told his wife, Laurie, whom he met at Texas Tech University and who now teaches government at Lehman High School in Kyle, “if we ever were going to flip this district the time was now.”

Crowe, who has been endorsed by Our Revolution, the political organization launched by Bernie Sanders, and who backs free public college and university tuition and a national jobs guarantee, recalled a gathering of potential Democratic candidates last March at a restaurant in San Marcos.

“That was the first time I met Joseph Kopser and the first thing he said to me is, `If we get tagged as Nancy Pelosi liberals in this district, we’re dead,’” Crowe said.

“That was a huge red flag to me that is someone who didn’t share my progressive commitments,” said Crowe, who worked for California’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Pelosi on Capitol Hill.

“This is an incorrect way to approach a race like this,” Crowe said. And, try as Kopser might, Crowe said, “There’s nobody in Texas running at this time as a Democrat who is not going to get tagged as a Nancy Pelosi liberal.”

PELOSI: The districts we have to win – and I say this to everybody no matter what district they represent. – your job title and your job description are one and the same – representative. You represent the district. Now, if they trust your knowledge, your vision, your judgment, your plan and you connect with their aspirations, they’ll give you some leeway on some issues that may be of national consequence that don’t resonate back home. But, by and large, you’re their representative.

Let me just make a few points.

First of all, I don’t think the opposing party should choose the leaders of the other party. That’s what they’re trying to do, said she immodestly, you have an effective leader who has landmark legislation, has a national network of supporters to help in this cause, to elect Democrats, to further advance the causes of our party, and one of those causes is bipartisanship, by the way. It’s bipartisanship, transparency and unity, what unifies our party. So we don’t do to them what they do to us.

I am liberal.

But I represent my district and you represent yours. I couldn’t win in your district and you couldn’t win in mine.

But we do have a commonality of interests, and what unifies us as Democrats … is economic well-being of America’s working families. So you can’t let them smell blood, because if it’s not Nancy it’s whoever the leader is. But if the target happens to be effective, and that’s what I am, said she immodestly, but I really am because if I weren’t they wouldn’t even be paying attention to me. They went after me on the Affordable Care Act … and then, in their eloquence, what they can talk about is LGBTQ, they are so bankrupt of ideas.

Q: How do you like your chances of being speaker?

PELOSI: It’s not about me being speaker, it’s about the Democrats getting the gavel.

Q: OK. That question.

PELOSI: You want to talk politics? You ready for politics?

This is about people showing what’s in their hearts to their constituents, the authenticity of their representation, the sincerity of why they are running for office. This isn’t about a job promotion. This is about our country, and it’s a patriotic endeavor.

So you want to talk politics?

I wish the election were today because we would win today.

Go back in history, and not to our Founders, and I am not going to take eight hours on it, but here’s the deal. when Number 45 became president of the United States…

I pause here and let Ken Herman pick it up at precisely this moment from the column he wrote after the interview.

Pelosi talks with Ken Herman, Metro columnist, left.

“When number 45 became president of the United States …,” she said just before I interrupted her.

“You really don’t like to say Trump. I’m getting a pattern here,” I said. (I’m pretty good about being quick to detect patterns. For example, I’m starting to think our current president is a tad different.)

Pelosi assured me she had no trouble with saying Trump. No, she said, she has no trouble with that. “It’s to say President and Trump in the same” breath that’s the problem, she said.

The ex-speaker speaks for much of a concerned nation.

Sensing an outcry for help, I staged a one-columnist intervention to help Pelosi say the words she has trouble saying: “Come on, try it. It’ll be OK.”

And she did and it was, though she quickly fell back into the previous pattern. Some habits are difficult to break. Some you don’t want to break.

“When President Trump became president… ,” she said in prefacing her next line of thought. “As I said, I’m a respectful person. More respectful of this office than he is. And, by the way, you know who tells us every day that he should not be president? You know who tells us every single day, who knows better than anyone that Trump should not be president?”

Pelosi then answered her own question: “Forty-five,” she said, referring to the number our 45th president has monogrammed on the cuffs of some of his shirts. “Every day. Right? More than once a day sometimes. Tweet city.”

OK, picking up with the interview where Ken leaves off.

PELOSI: We don’t agonize, we organize, that’s our motto. We don’t waste time. We don’t waste energy we don’t waste resources. This is a cold-blooded, strategic, focused campaign to win the Congress for the American people.


Here’s the deal. History. (Pelosi rapping her finger on the table for emphasis. Tap, tap, tap, tap.)

When President Trump won last year. (Nervous laugh.)

AAAHHH! (Sound of distress.)

Was I quivering in my face?

I seriously say that because I have to rid myself of my negative attitude. I realized that during his speech on the State of the Union, because it was horrible. It was so horrible in how he talked about immigrants and how he talked about people on opioids and the rest. I thought, my attitude on him is a luxury I can no longer afford.

You have to give me credit. My members did not leave the room.  Standing up for the Dreamers for eight hours was like so easy compared to sitting sill for one hour listening to his speech.

But I had to keep them in the room. He was making it very difficult. So I said to people before, “If you’re going to leave, don’t come.”

The Black Caucus wanted to sit together. They had their kente cloths on.

The women wanted to wear black.

Everybody had their thing so that they were making their statement.

And I thought, it’s even hard for me to stay in my seat, I hope nobody gets up to leave, and they didn’t. That was my success. So they say, “Oh, you didn’t look happy.” I was happy nobody left. That was my goal.

When he won, back to your question, people said, to me, “Are you going to win the House? You’re the only game in town. Nobody thinks we can win back the Senate.” I don’t agree with that, by the way.

I said I can only tell you in a year. We can prepare during this year, but I can’t tell you if we’re going to win for one year. Because, one year before the election is when people decide to run. They are thinking about it. Some people have already announced. But by one year before the election you’ve got to get started, and if you’re president is under 50 percent, the door is closing for you.

Clinton won, went down, we lost.

The door was open for their victory.

President Bush, we took his numbers down.

We took his numbers down. We win.

George W. Bush, 

January, 2007.

We just had a really important lunch. First, I want to congratulate Congresswoman Pelosi for becoming the Speaker of the House, and the first woman Speaker of the House. This is historic for our country. And as a father of young women, it is, I think, important. I really do.

PELOSI: Obama, his numbers go down, they win.

It’s not dispositive of the issue, but it is an open door.

So, if  you are thinking about running and you’re a Republican and your president is under 50 or 50, you think, “I’ll run next time.”

And if you’re an incumbent and you’re a chairman, and your votes have been terrible this last year you go home and masquerade as some kind of a moderate but you’ve been up here enabling nothing to come up on guns, nothing to come up on immigration, all these terrible things, well you’re thinking, “I’ve had a nice career, I’m respected in my community, nobody knows how I’ve voted, but they’re going to tell them in this election and I’m going to have to spend a lot of money to win, and I’m probably going to be in the minority, I think I’ll teach in the university.”


So they get the retirements. We get the A-plus recruits. And so 36 of them, I think, maybe it’s changed since this morning, around 36 of them have said they are not running, 7 or 8 of them are committee chairman who are not running. So they see the handwriting on the wall.

From Paul Kane at the Washington Post:

Five-term Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.) announced Monday that he plans to retire at the end of the year rather than stand for reelection, leaving behind a deeply conservative district in central Florida.

Rooney, 47, was considered a rising star among Florida Republicans, but he never hid his frustration with the gridlock that gripped Congress for most of his decade in office.

He becomes the 28th House Republican to quit politics — at least for now — this election season. That group includes several committee chairmen and a handful who resigned in pursuit of private-sector jobs or amid scandal. Fourteen more House Republicans are leaving their seats to run for another office. Eighteen House Democrats have announced that they are not seeking reelection; half are running for higher office.

“After what will be 10 years in the United States Congress representing the good people of Florida’s Heartland, it’s time to ‘hang em up’ as my old football coach used to say,” Rooney, a grandson of Pittsburgh Steelers founder Art Rooney, said in a statement.

PELOSI: On the other side, it’s not even a recruitment because so many of these people self-recruited – veterans, academics elected officials, private sector people, so many people coming forward. Forty-five happens to be one of our best recruiters. I have never in my whole political life seen anything like the energy at the grassroots level. You saw that at the march and that was organic, it wasn’t political, they did it and now they’re showing how they want to participate And this past year, all of those people helped us fend off the challenge to the Affordable Care Act, we couldn’t defeat the tax bill, but we won the argument so far.

So we have something like a hundred races, a hundred races, far too many, that are better than any of those special elections, because those special elections were in Republican districts, where hates those Cabinet officers, or Murphy had to resign, right away, your computers turned off, get out of the building kind of resign.

From Rebecca Savransky at The Hill.

House Democrats are planning to take aim at more than 100 congressional districts that are held by Republicans in this year’s midterm elections.

The plans from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) would expand the number of battleground districts to the largest amount in at least a decade.

The districts Democrats plan to target will be in states including South Carolina, Wisconsin and Texas.

“They should do some re-evaluating,” Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the chairman of the DCCC, said of Republicans’ confidence about the midterms, according to NBC News.

PELOSI: So, out of that hundred, we have to reduce that down about two-thirds of that to get down to the 24 we need, perhaps 30, 35, you know I’d like to have more than the 24.  Right now, today  we could do that. But 100 is too much. In other words, we’d rather double down and win than spread too thinly and lose by a little.

The value of that is, say you’re a slacker, you’re not the candidate we need you to be, you say, “Sunday’s I always play  golf.”

“Oh really, not on our time.”

And then we say, we have other places we can go.

So  many women candidates

So candidates know, this is almost like a competition. They have to do their share. This isn’t an entitlement program. We need people  to run, oh you’re good, you look good for the district, here’s the money, No, they have to work. How do you connect with your constituents? That’s the most important thing. First of all, it’s would you win, but even before that, chronologically, show how you are going to represent them. How are you going know them, how are they going to know you.

We have  a great (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) chairman, Ben Ray Luján, who is from New Mexico, very talented, very respected by the members.

(Pelosi is rapping on the table top again.)

Forgive me for using this word,  you have to be very cold-blooded about how you make these decisions about the races because everybody’s so great, but one in five children lives in poverty in America and we have to have our best fighters go out there to win.

So today we would win. Texas is really  important to us. We have always invested in Texas because Texas will make the difference as to what the future of our country is. Imagine Texas just turning purple even. Wow. We’re one of the few national committees that actually does invest in Texas because we have prospects, and we believe in turning Texas blue, purple, whatever the color.

(Coming soon to a Greg Abbott fundraising appeal: Nancy Pelosi, in Austin, said “Texas is really  important to us. We have always invested in Texas because Texas will make the difference as to what the future of our country is. Imagine Texas just turning purple even.” Yes, imagine Texas turning blue. Invest in keeping Texas red. Give to Greg Abbott. Because no amount of money is too much.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

We pause here for another contribution from Ken Herman, who the very evening of our interview with Pelosi was listening in on an Abbott fundraising teleconference, in which Pelosi’s name came up a few times.

Like here, from Nicole, the call center operator.

We need a big big turnout in the March 6 primary to set the record straight about this so-called enthusiasm gap. We don’t want to give the mainstream media the fuel they want for their fire. You know, Nancy Pelosi was in Harris County last week and she pledged to spend whatever it takes to win back seats in 2018. She even said, and quote, she had a good feeling about this year. Well, I don’t want Nancy Pelosi to have a good feeling about this year. I hope you don’t either.

And this, from Gov. Abbott himself

At the very beginning you used the word concerned, that you were concerned about it. I got to tell you your concern is valid and everybody on this phone needs to understand that George Soros is playing a role in elections this cycle. Very importantly, George Soros gave a whole lot of money in the last cycle and he gave that money here in the state of Texas. so George Soros did directly influence the outcome of the elections in the state of Texas last go-round. He’s trying to do the same thing this time. You’ve heard on this phone call, you probably know separately, people like Nancy Pelosi are involved. The way that the laws are set up for this election cycle, they’re going to be able to donate money here and so what weve got to do is  make sure that we’re going to be able to meet and overwhelm their attempt to hijack the state of Texas, which is exactly why Bobby I’m talking to you and close to a hundred thousand people right this minute. And that’s because all of us need to work together to ensure that we are not going to let George Soros and Nancy Pelosi hijack this state. We’re going to keep Texas Texas. And we’re going to do that block by block, house by house with the largest grassroots effort in the history of the state of Texas, and that’s the one that we are putting together tonight.”

Back to the interview, that morning, with Pelosi:

PELOSI: We have five races.

(The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted five seats in Texas, now held by Republicans, that it would like to flip. In addition to Smith’s seat in the 21st, they are John Culberson’s seat in the 7th CD, Will Hurd’s seat in the 23rd, Pete Sessions’ seat in the 32nd, and, most recently, John Carter’s seat in the 31st.)

I’ll talk to you  after the primary or the runoff. We think we have a couple of prospects in the Houston area, one in  Dallas, in the Valley. I have a little broader list than the cold-blooded list of the committee, so I’m still hopeful of a little more.

Pelosi is handed a binder by Aguilar, the aide, who executive director of Nancy Pelosi for Congress, with a list of the races and the Democratic candidates competing in each.

So they’re all multi-candidates. So we’ll see. this is about the choice of the people in those districts about who they want.

Could she identify the preferred candidates?

PELOSI: I wouldn’t think of doing that.

There are candidates who match the districts.

The reason I became speaker, I think, apart from my mastery of the legislative skills and my broad base of support around the country, was I got tired of losing.

I had no intention of going leadership. I was forged on the Intelligence Committee and Appropriations and I knew my stuff and I loved it. It was like eating really dark chocolate ice cream every day, but we were losing. and we lost in ’94 and ’96 and ’98,  and so in 2000  I said to them, they’re very nice people, I raise a lot of money in California, I’m going to spend it in California, we’ll export some money but I want to call the shots in California.

So I was chairman. I knew the grassroots in this state down to the last blade of grass. I know who can win where. I know how different the districts are from each other, and within the district, how different it is from one part of the district to each other.

So we knew what candidates would work. So on that day of the election in 2000 we had 26 Democrats and 26 Republicans. The next day, we had 31 Democrats and 21 Republicans. Giving us that ten to help win the House a few years later. You know what it is now? 39 to 14, and we still want to win some more this election.

How can I say this in a nice way? We have to be cold-blooded in what we do. In other words, if the wrong person wins – well nobody’s wrong – but if the person who can’t win, wins, it’s not a priority race for us anymore, because we’ve got 100 races.

For the Democratic aspirants in the Texas 7, 21, 23, 24, 31 and 32, the March 6 primary is the time to show and prove.

PELOSI: Show us your strength or your weakness in a race.

Now people have their own enthusiasm, their own enthusiasm that they bring to it and they might be able to created something.

I hope for a wave, but I believe you make your wave. You make your wave.

Since it’s the Olympics, this is what I tell them. In one second, you’re gold, silver, bronze or nothing. These races are tough. They are tight, you win by 300 votes, 1,000 votes, this isn’t like, I’m riding a wave here and it’s just a question of hail fellow well met, combed hair. You have to go door to door to door to door, over and over again so people see what’s in your heart your sincerity, Authenticity is bigger than any amount of intellectual prowess, because people think you can buy that anyway. You can hire that. But conviction, courage, that’s who you are.

It’s always that way but even mores this year because of our friend in the White House, the great organizer

And that was the answer to my question, but Pelosi, even after being advised again by Aguilar – this time in writing – that she really needed to get to her event in San Antonio, happily answered another couple of questions for another half hour.

As she parted, we shook hands, we thanked each other for the time, and she told me to call if I ever wanted to talk politics.


That seemed about as likely as her coming to Austin to talk to me for an hour-and-twenty five minutes on a Monday morning

But my puzzlement turned to horror when I saw the photo that Ralph had snapped of us as we parted company.

I am 63. Nancy Pelosi is 77. I always thought that I looked young for my age, but here I was, looking older than I had ever looked, than I had ever imagined looking, bidding goodbye to niece Nancy as she headed back to college after winter break.

Somehow, in our hour-and-25-minutes of talk, she had sucked years of life force from me – aging me as she grew younger. I had experienced my own, personal Zombie apocalypse.

And then I realized that only two weeks ago, Pelosi, ostensibly in support of the Dreamers, had “set the record for the longest-continuous House floor speech on record …speaking for 8 hours and 7 minutes –  in four-inch heels.”

Oh, the humanity.

Who knows how many years she gained  that day – it’s lucky she didn’t end up an infant a la Benjamin Button – even as had sapped the essence, bit by bit, from the millions of unsuspecting Americans who watched her.

Put that in your next fundraising letter Gov. Abbott.



Wake up Texas! `Homespun Hogan,’ the `Hayseed from Cleburne,’ is (once again) the sleeper candidate for Ag Commissioner


Jim Hogan at the Blue Star Grill in Cleburne.

Good morning Austin:

The day after the great Sid Miller-Trey Blocker debate in the Republican primary for agriculture commissioner on Feb. 6.  I missed a call from the third candidate in that race, Jim Hogan. He left a message asking if I wanted to “chew the fat.”

You can watch the Hogan-less debate here. It begins at just about the 2-hour 10-minute mark.

When I called Hogan back, he answered and I asked, “Is that party-switching sleeper candidate from Cleburne?”

“Yeah I think you got that right,” Hogan replied. “You must be psychic.”

I asked him if this was a good time to chew the fat.

“Yes,” he said. “I’m actually walking around  in my coveralls listening to my cows holler for another bale of hay.”

I thought that was smart, setting a pastoral scene for our conversation, that placed a pleasant and appropriate mental image in my mind.

I said this phone call must mean he’s going all out in his campaign this time.

“This is headquarters,” he said. “They say they want a farmer, they got one.”

FR: Did you watch the Miller-Blocker debate?

HOGAN:  No, but I went to the library today and read all about it.

FR: Were you invited?

HOGAN: I don’t think so. I’ve been invited to a lot of stuff that I’ve turned down. I can’t tell you what I’ve turned down. You know that’s not my style, arguing with people. I’d rather talk to them. so you can get your words in.

FR: It worked for you once.

HOGAN: I don’t know, maybe lightning’ strikes twice. You reckon?

FR: I don’t know.

HOGAN: I don’t know either.

FR: Does the switch from Democrat to Republican signal a difference in approach?

HOGAN: No. I mean I’m the same person. I don’t feel any different being on one ticket or the other one. I don’t think I’m loved by either hierarchy, but the people love me,  but not the people in the party, the hierarchy of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, but I’m the same person, I always was. I’m very independent. When I went down to the Republican deal to sign up (to be on the ballot) the only difference was writing Republican on the check instead of writing Democrat.

I’m just for the people.

I wouldn’t say I was a Democrat last time, and I wont say I was a Republican now.

Hogan said he wasn’t a Democrat when he ran and was elected the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner in 2104.

FR: So why’d you run as a Republican this time?

HOGAN: Because you can’t win as a Democrat.

FR: So why did you run as a Democrat last time?

HOGAN: Well there was five Republicans, and I didn’t think I could whup five Republicans – Jim Hogan, They caught onto that real quick. But actually, I couldn’t whup five Republicans at one time, but I figured if I could whup two Democrats, then I would only have to whup one Republican.

I mean there’s 4 million people that vote in the Republican (primary) and only 2 million vote in the Democrat. That’s useless, I wouldn’t run again as a Democrat. And it’s my last run anyway , I didn’t think I was gonna to run this time. I didn’t sign up until the last day. I didn’t really want to run, but I thought it was my duty to run. I really did. I fought it and fought it and fought it and then the last day I said, “Yeah, I’ll sign up.”


HOGAN: So I went and signed up the last day. You know, I hate to spend my money. Like one guy said, `You can to Europe on that.’ $3,750. That’s a lot of money.”

FR: How did you get the money for the filing fee? Sell more eggs?

HOGAN: Sold my milk by the pint instead of the quart.

We’ll see what happens. If the people want me, I’m on the ballot. If they don’t like Sid and they don’t like Trey, they’ve got somebody else to vote for. That’s democracy.

FR: So, how do you like your chances.

HOGAN: While ideally,there are three people on the ballot and nobody knew either one of them, you’ve got a thirty-three-and-a third percent chance. But then you’ve got  Sid’s the incumbent. But you look at the comments on his deals and it don’t seems  like anyone loves the poor man. I feel sorry for the guy.

All the rodeo people, the people who go to rodeos,  they’re going to vote for him.

And then Trey, I don’t even know if Trey is eligible to run, tell you the truth. Have you ever read the qualifications to run for Ag Commissioner?

FR: There’s qualifications?

HOGAN: Yeah. You’ve got to be a farmer to run for ag commissioner.

FR: Says who?

HOGAN: It’s the qualifications. I’ve got it right here.

He begins to recite the state Agriculture Code: Title 2. Department of Agriculture. Chapter 11, Administration.


FR: This is for real? This is not some antique statute from the 1920s that’s been repealed?


Here’s its legislative pedigree.


I was still worried that Hogan might be pulling a Mr. Haney on me.


So I got in touch Eric Opiela, rancher, attorney and former executive director and associate general counsel of the Republican Party of Texas, who ran for agriculture commissioner in 2014, finishing third in the Republican primary, to see if I was missing something.

Opiela replied:

You’re not missing anything. There’s a lot of ways to qualify in there.

This cycle, Sid qualifies by (2) for sure and probably (1) as well, it doesn’t appear he qualifies under (3) any more from looking at the farm subsidy database.

Trey probably qualifies under (4) by lobbying for TSCRA (if “works for” includes as a contractor) (he doesn’t appear to qualify under any other provision).

TSCRA refers to the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

I asked Opiela if candidates have to prove they meet they qualifications when they file for office.


No demonstration necessary, you just sign your ballot application affidavit stating you meet the qualifications.  If you don’t your opponent would have to take you to court and have a judge declare you ineligible.  (ostensibly the state chair could administratively declare someone ineligible, but only on a conclusive public document establishing the same–with so many ways to qualify this is unlikely).

This is the only statewide office that sets qualifications in statute, because it is the only statewide elected office not established in the State Constitution.  Judicial offices require candidates to be licensed to practice for a number of years, but other wise, no, this is the only one.

I emailed Blocker’s campaign asking if and how he qualified to run. They didn’t reply. I called and left a message with his campaign spokesman asking the same question. She didn’t reply.

However, on his website, here’s how he answered the question, Have you ever worked in agriculture?

I’m a 6th generation Texan. My forefathers were among the most well respected cattlemen of their time. My great, great uncle drove the first heard of cattle onto the XIT Ranch, and gave the ranch its name. I’m proud of this heritage and believe that agriculture and rural Texas are the heart and soul of our great State.

Growing up, we raised horses, some pigs, and the occasional cow for consumption, but not for sale. Since graduating college I’ve been fighting for conservative causes, and representing agriculture and rural Texas at the Legislature – first, as a staffer for several rural legislators, and for the past ten years as a lobbyist. My first lobby client was the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. Working closely with the Farm Bureau in 2005, we helped kill the Trans-Texas Corridor and protect private property rights.

I have now given up my lobby practice to devote more time to conservative causes and to fight the corruption and crony capitalism I’ve witnessed in Austin over the past several years. Sid Miller is the poster child for that corruption. My opponent may know his way around the ass end of a cow, but he knows nothing about running an agency in an ethical, fiscally conservative, fiscally responsible way that benefits agriculture and other small businesses. And that’s what this election is about.

I subsequently told Hogan what Opiela had said about Blocker probably qualifying as a lobbyist for TSCRA, but Hogan said he doubted being a lobbyist would cut it.

Back to my interview.

HOGAN: I’m not trying to put the guy out of the race. It’s probably better if he’s in, but what I’m saying is they don’t care anything about the law. Is the law for nothing?

FR: So what’s your strategy?

HOGAN: All if have to do is finish  second to get into the runoff if they don’t get 50 percent. So, if I get 31, 32, 33 percent and one of them gets less than me, I’m in the runoff.

There’s odds, there’s number, there’s math.

But I want people to vote for me and what I stand for.

Four years ago, in the aftermath of the Democratic primary for agriculture commissioner four years ago, I did a First ReadingJim Hogan may be “some hayseed from Cleburne,” but he’s nobody’s fool

We conclude primary week by checking in with the most surprising winner. That would be Jim Hogan of Cleburne, who finished first in the Democratic primary for agriculture commissioner with 38.8 percent of the vote, just ahead of Kinky Friedman, who received 37.74 percent. They will face each other in the May runoff.
The third candidate – Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III – finished out of the money, with 23.45 percent of the vote, even though he spent more than either of the other candidates – which wasn’t hard because Friedman reported raising and spending nothing, and Hogan raised nothing and spent next to nothing. Fitzsimons was also, essentially, the anointed candidate of Democratic powers-that-be who didn’t want the seriousness of the 2104 Democratic state ticket compromised by the presence of Kinky Friedman on the ballot.

I talked to Hogan for an hour Thursday evening as he was leaving the public library in Cleburne.
“That’s where I do my campaigning,” he said, explaining that he used one of the library’s public terminals because where he lives out in the country, the only Internet you can get is dial-up and it’s too slow for a man trying to get himself elected agriculture commissioner.

His campaign, though, mostly consisted of checking his Facebook page and waiting to be Googled.
I began by apologizing to Hogan for not having taken his campaign seriously merely because he wasn’t spending money, creating a Web site, or doing any of the usual candidate things.

“I guess a lot of people are eating crow today. But it’s good for the soul. It make people laugh and it gives people hope,” said Hogan. “This is good for the public. It’s good for people to get a little excited that something out of the normal can really happen.”

I quoted his post-election post on his Facebook page

Has it sunk in it? The race is over but the victor was not the person with the most name recognition or the most money. No, it’s some hayseed from Cleburne, Tex. He had no endorsements. No bumper stickers. No signs. No mailers. No TV. No name recognition. Nothing that’s associated with a normal campaign. Can you believe it? He won. The political analysts said it was only because he had a good-sounding name. Well next time, George Washington can run. But the hayseed said it was because God pulled off a miracle. You can’t buy off God. But political analysts refuted that and said it was simply, “eenie, meenie, miney, mo.” Nevertheless, it is refreshing!!! You be the judge.

Last month, his hometown paper, the Cleburne Times Review, wrote up Hogan’s renewed bid.

Homespun Hogan hops aisle for second run
By Matt Smith:

Cleburne dark horse candidate Jim Hogan — who in 2014 stunned the state’s Democratic establishment not to mention the pollsters and comedian Kinky Friedman then went on to post a respectable showing against Texas’ Republican hegemony in that year’s general election — is back for a second run at the Texas agriculture commissioner seat. 

This go around, however, he’s flying under the Republican rather than the Democratic banner, party labels that appear to mean little to Hogan one way or the other

Smith noted that four years ago:

Although largely unknown on the statewide level, Hogan quickly became known and the focus of media interest following his upset victory in the Democratic Primary.

“After you beat these birds you don’t have to call them anymore,” Hogan said. “They call you.”


I told Hogan that I liked the ring of “Homespun Hogan.”

FR: Is that something Smith came up with, or is that on your business card?

HOGAN: I don’t have a business card.

At this point, our conversation went in an unexpected direction.

Jim Hogan suggested I reread what Christopher Hooks wrote about him four years ago in the Texas Observer.

HOGAN: If you reread that and get to the bottom to what I said, I mean it’s a perfect deal of what I stand for. I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat

Well, I recalled Hooks reportage on Hogan because, it so happened, we had arranged to both visit Hogan at the same time, dropping in on Hogan in Cleburne on our way to the Democratic State Convention that Hogan wasn’t going to, even though he was one of the party’s nominees for statewide office.

Hooks produced this piece – Mighty Jim Hogan and the Art of the Anti-Campaign – published on July 24.

And here is the bottom of the piece:

Hogan’s running as a Democrat, but only because he thought he had better odds of winning the nomination. If he wins, he’s going to hire Republicans alongside Democrats. He has no particular affection for either party, but he wishes the system worked better, and that people voted more. Texas’ unbalanced party system, he thinks, has screwed up the state. “I thought we had a two-party system in America,” he says.

“Don’t vote Republican or Democrat, look at the person. I don’t even know what a party is, other than the people that run it,” he says. “If you’re a Republican and you got a bad person, and the Democrats have a good person, you’re going to vote the bad person just because he’s a Republican?”

On all matters, Hogan preaches moderation. “I like all people, that’s my philosophy,” he said. Around Cleburne, plenty of people have gotten heated about increasing numbers of immigrants—some won’t go to the H-E-B anymore because there’s too many unfamiliar faces. But Hogan is calm. Migrants “come here to work hard and send money home to their family.” He thinks open carry protesters are silly. “Just cause you can don’t mean you have to,” he says. “That’s the thing with politics everywhere. There’s extremes, and there’s people with logic.”

Hogan may claim the mantle of logic, but in Texas, logic is not enough. Barring the discovery of Miller in bed with, in the immortal words of Edwin Edwards, a dead girl or a live boy, his party affiliation will trump Hogan’s and Miller will spend a number of years doing whatever it is he wants to do in statewide office, before presumably trying to make the jump to another one.

In theory, Americans like people like Hogan—genuine outsiders, rough-hewn pragmatists, underdogs. There used to be more people like Hogan in public office. In practice, today’s strivers come from a very different mold.

Officeholders are as different from us as an alien race. In national races, we’ve come to expect our campaigns, and our campaigners, to function with the mechanical precision and sleek design of a Swiss watch. A wrong word or a step out of place can doom a person’s political fortunes, and so actual fortunes are spent on ensuring that doesn’t happen. Candidates never have a chance to show their real selves, and they become alienated from us. And we become alienated from the political process.

In Texas, at the state and local level, the political process has become perverted in a very different way. A vanishingly small number of voters have a say in the way the state is run, thanks to the total dominance of the Republican Party and its primary elections. Statewide candidates like Miller face little accountability from voters once they get past their primary runoff. Party affiliation is the golden god of Texas politics, and the state is left with demagogues of all stripes running virtually unopposed. Apathy grows, and many voters tune out.

Hogan wants no part of any of that. “I realized that when I signed up to run, I became a product,” he says. “I don’t want to be anything that I’m not.”

Hogan won’t change all that, but he’s having fun trying. “There’s a lot of people around town laughing and having a ball about this, because they know who I am,” Hogan laughs. “A lot of my neighbors wanted clips for their scrapbooks. They never thought Jim Hogan, who mows his lawn with a push mower, would get here.”

Well, that is pretty good.

But, you will notice that Hooks’ piece, which Hogan so liked, was produced with the benefit of time for philosophical cogitation, whereas my unremarked-upon piece was produced under immediate daily deadline pressure.

Just saying.

Here is the top of my story from June 26.

CLEBURNE —If life were a Frank Capra or Preston Sturges movie, Jim Hogan would be Texas’ next agriculture commissioner.

If it were, a scoop-hungry reporter might connive a way to spirit the 63-year-old farmer and insurance agent against his will to this weekend’s Democratic State Convention, where he would claim the party’s nomination for agriculture commissioner — conferred upon him in the May 27 runoff — with such a homespun flourish that his election against the odds as the first Democrat to win statewide office in 20 years would be a fait accompli.

But, as it is, Hogan’s regular back booth at Cleburne’s Blue Star Grill, where he holds his meetings, such as they are, is as close as the Texas Democratic Party’s nominee for agriculture commissioner will get to the party’s state convention in Dallas, which opens Friday.

“I just don’t want to be involved in politics. I just don’t have any regard for it,” Hogan, who has a 130-acre spread and a small calf-cow operation in Liberty Chapel on the outskirts of Cleburne, said Thursday.

“I want to stay as far away from politics as possible,” he said.

Hogan’s approach has worked for him so far.

Utterly unknown, Hogan finished first, narrowly ahead of Kinky Friedman — the entertainer and sometime candidate who campaigned for legalizing marijuana and hemp — in the March primary, and then defeated Friedman by 8 percentage points in the May runoff.

Back to my recent interview with Hogan.

HOGAN: I’m not into politics and all that bickering and hollering. I’m into love over hate and kindness over cruelty. We’ve had enough of politics. This office has nothing to do with politics. You’ve got to have good people to run it. You’ve got to watch your money. And there’s always going to be stuff that needs to be done.

You know there are old farmers and they’re just four years older than they were four years ago. Land’s being used up. There’s a lot less land four years later. Have we got any closer to solving the drought problem? No, it’s rained some, but we’re kind of in drought now.

The problems are still there. Like I tell people, I can’t solve all the problems that you’ve got, but maybe I can solve some of them.

Most people don’t talk like me. I talk country, and I’m proud of it. They talk politics and I don’t want any part of that.

For evil to come about is for good people to do nothing.

I ask Hogan, aside from his hometown paper, if he’s had any other good coverage this time around.

HOGAN: Christopher Hooks …

Oh man, more Christopher Hooks?

Hogan: He wrote, “Bonus: if you’ve had weird dreams and premonitions, don’t worry, Jim Hogan’s signed up. This time he’s signed up as Republican and this time he’ll win the nomination and then maybe president.

Hogan is cackling.

FR: I think he’s getting carried away there.

What Hogan was referring to was the kicker on a Hooks’ piece about what to watch for in the 2018 primaries.

Bonus Hogan: If you had uneasy dreams last night, filled with omens you find hard to decipher, let us put your mind at rest. Yes, Jim Hogan is back, this time in the Republican primary for agriculture commissioner. Cleburne’s most zen-like campaigner and all around good ol’ boy won the Democratic nomination for ag commissioner in 2014, but lost the general. He’s learned from his mistake — this time he’ll win the Republican nomination, and then the general, and then, maybe, run for president.

Back to our interview.


HOGAN: People need a choice. If people don’t sign up to do things, then the establishment wins.

I give Sid a watermelon the last time I see him. I don’t dislike Sid. I don’t dislike Trey Blocker. If you did something bad, I couldn’t condone it, could I? I’m not saying anything about Sid bad, other than the things he’s done. It’s a pattern. Buying that car for $37,000. Buying a pick up for $10,000, that’s not right.

From Andrea Zelinski at the Houston ChronicleQuestions arise over Sid Miller’s purchase of a Chevy Tahoe

Miller’s campaign bought two vehicles last year, according to campaign records. The campaign bought a truck in August for $10,000 from the Texas Facilities Commission. A month later, the campaign invested in the Tahoe, which would ultimately cost about $42,500: buying the truck for $37,601, spending $3,907 on repairs and $1,021 on tires, according to state records.

“In 2014, Commissioner Miller put 120,000 miles on his personal vehicle campaigning across the state of Texas, and he thought it was more cost-effective and efficient to actually have a campaign vehicle used for that purpose,” said Todd Smith, the commissioner’s campaign spokesman. “It’s only used for campaign purposes.”

The $10,000 truck, which Smith did not know the make and model of, is currently for sale, he said.

HOGAN: If Sid were standing by me right now I would tell him face to face, `Sid, That ain’t right. Now why in the world did  you do that?’ That’s just the kind of man I am.

When I run that agency, you got to have people there smarter than you are there.

Any other good coverage, aside from Hooks, I asked.

Well, he said, there’s Bethann Coldiron.

Four years ago when he ran, Coldiron, then a student at Tarleton State University, did a radio interview with Hogan.

This year, he got a call from Coldiron, asking if they could do it again, though now she’s graduated and has a job as the assistant managing editor of the Burleson Star.

Howdy, Burleson! I am Bethann Coldiron, the newest member of the Burleson Star team. As the assistant managing editor, what will my role be? Well, in a world where newspaper staffs are growing smaller and smaller, I’ll be doing a little bit of everything. However, my specialties lie in reporting and newspaper design. Yes, believe it or not there is an art to how your weekly paper is laid out. It’s sort of like doing a giant puzzle, but I also have to keep in mind the readability of the paper.

I am a Fort Worth native who graduated from Weatherford College with an A.A.S. in equine science, then went to Tarleton State University – go Texans! There, I earned a B.S. in communications with an emphasis on journalism.

Journalism found me by accident. I had actually transferred to TSU to pursue a degree in agricultural communications. However, my first semester, I took a required news writing class and I was hooked. I joined the dark side, changed my major and never looked back.

Dark side? Agricultural communications? Is that like horse-whispering? There is so much I don’t know.

HOGAN: She’s a nice lady. She’s trying to make it in life. I’m glad to help. If Evan Smith hadda called me, I wouldn’t have done it, because I would have had to drive down (to Austin) – it costs …  I just wouldn’t have done it. But for this girl I would.

FR: You wouldn’t do it for Evan Smith? Why not?

HOGAN: Well, I’d have to go down there and it would be more expense, and then if I did it for him, I’d have to it for someone else.

FR: Oh, yeah, it could spiral out of control. Next thing you know, you’d be running a campaign.

Here’s the interview with Coldiron, and some of the story she wrote for the Star.


Wed, 02/14/2018

“I like Sid Miller,” Hogan said. “He may write some silly things on his Facebook, and if he were here I’d probably call him out on it. But I’m not going to say anything bad about him.”

Hogan said Miller has a love of politics and doesn’t think he should have drawn a salary while out on the campaign trail in his last year of office.

“If Sid was sitting right here I’d say, ’Sid, why’d you do that? You know better than that.’ You’re elected to the office, you do the job. The fourth year comes around and you want to politic, don’t take the money.”

In fact, Hogan brought Miller one of his home-grown watermelons in a gesture of goodwill.

“I believe in love over hate,” said Hogan. “Kindness over cruelty.”

Hogan said he’s keeping his platforms and issues simple.

Water conservation, getting young farmers back into agriculture and organics-real or myth, are the problems that keep him up at night.

“These problems aren’t easy to deal with, or else they’d been solved already,” Hogan said.

Hogan said the Texas ag department, with a nearly $600 billion budget, could add another desalinization plant to help Texas’ water and drought woes.

“El Paso already has one,” he said. “In West Texas, we could drill down 6,000 feet and hit salt water. The University of Texas has already done a study about this.”

Additionally, Hogan wants young people to get excited about farming again.

He’s worried about the takeover of large corporate farms.

“Back in the day, there was competition so farmers could sell their crops or milk to different companies and get different prices,” Hogan said. “Now, there is more of a monopoly on the market and it’s not as easy for the little guy. I don’t think you want corporations to raise your food, because they don’t care what you eat.”

FR: OK. Let’s look at the three names on the ballot. Miller, that’s a basic name. Hogan, that’s a good name. Blocker? I don’t know. Sounds like he’s a football player.

HOGAN: Ok, here’s something for you to play with. Get yourself a piece of paper. Put Texas Agriculture Commissioner on the top of it. Then write Sid Miller, and then Trey Block and then Jim Hogan, and then go into a Whataburger or wherever you want to go and say, “Ma’am,” or “Sir, can I talk to you for a minute? Who is the governor of Texas?’ And only two out of ten will know. You will be surprised.

FR: Wait, am I asking who of these three they want to be the governor of Texas?

HOGAN: No, you’re just asking them who’s the governor of Texas. That will get them thinking, thinking. Some of them will get it right and some won’t.

OK, then, “Do you know who the Texas agriculture commissioner is?’

If they know, the game won’t work. But if they don’t know you go, `OK, there’s three names on this page, which one would you pick?’ The biggest thing they’ll say is, “I won’t pick any of them, I don’t know nothing about them.’ So you go, `Do you know who the attorney general is, do you know who the land commissioner is, do you know who the railroad commissioner is.” No? “Well, here’s three names, just pick one, I’m trying to prove a point. Which name, if you didn’t know anything about them, would you pick?’ And if they do, they’ll pick mine about 70 percent of the time.

FR: Why?

HOGAN: I don’t know.

FR: How do you know that’s true?

HOGAN: Because I’ve done it over and over and over again. Sid is second and Trey is last.

FR: Well, I guess Blocker’s not a good name, unless you’re a Bonanza fan.

FR: Wait, before we stop with the game, does everybody get to go to step two, or is just those who won’t know who the governor is.

HOGAN: No, I keep going.

FR: So why do ask that question about the governor to begin with?

HOGAN: It breaks the ice. When you ask them about the governor it gets their attention and settles them down.

My name’s picked the most, then Sid Miller and then Trey Blocker.

And you ask why, I don’t know why.

Jim Hogan just sounds like a nice guy. It’s a nice name.

Some, with Sid Miller, say, “Is that an Amish name?”

OK, I thought, this is just a non sequitur.

But, from Amish Facts:

10 Common Amish Surnames
Posted on May 8, 2013 in Amish Facts
Certain Amish surnames occur with great frequency. Here are ten of the most common:

1. Miller-the most common of all Amish last names.  Joseph Stoll writes: “The German spelling was Müller, and because there were many Millers in Europe, the name was very common, with no common ancestor for many people of this name. There were a number of Anabaptists of this name in different parts of Switzerland.”  Miller is most common in the Midwest; a few Millers may be found in Lancaster County, however.

Back to …

HOGAN: Occasionally someone will pick Trey Blocker, and I’ll ask why, and they’ll say “Trey sounds like a young kid, I pick him because he’s probably young.”

So, I said, based on your Whataburger polling, this race sounds more winnable than the last one.

HOGAN: No, the last are was more winnable. There’s too much money here – $1.3 million.”

I think Trey’s more confident than Sid, because Sid’s lost before so he knows how it feels.

I have hope that I have a chance.

It so happens that the new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll is out today, with results that are the reverse of Hogan’s Whataburger survey, but, sufficiently fluid, and with Hogan well-positioned to execute his sleeper strategy adn sneak into the runoff and Miller and Blocker spend all that money bloodying one another.

As our interview drew to a close, I mentioned Karina Kling the host of Capital Tonight and an important contributor to the annals of Hogan coverage.

HOGAN: You know I gave her a watermelon last year, did you know that? You know I raise watermelons, did you knew that?

FR: Yeah, I guess.

HOGAN: I went down and took about six or seven watermelons in my pick-up. I stopped at Round Rock to watch the Rangers Triple-A team. Next day I got up and took a watermelon down to Karina, and I gave one to the photographer and the girl that was down there, I gave her one. She was from Glen Rose.

Erica Grieder?

Chris Hooks, and now Erica Grieder?

Well, yes.

HOGAN: I got a watermelon for Erica Greider but she was no longer working for the Texas Monthly, so I had two or three extra, and I was driving by the Capitol building and I seen Sid. And I honked at him and said, “Hey,” and he kept walking and I said, “Sid, hold it a minute.” And I said, “You want a watermelon?”and he said, “Yeah,” and I said, “I’ll bring one  up in a minute.” And I lugged one up the stairs, and then the lady in the lobby said she wanted one and I said, soon as I get done I’ll bring you one and boy was she happy.

I took a watermelon down to Karina.

I got a watermelon for Erica Grieder.

Superb opposition research, a shiv applied with a light Will Rogers’ touch.

Perfect post-partisan populist pitch.

Whataburger analytics.

Inhabitor of Chris Hooks’ uneasy dreams.

Homespun Hogan, some Hayseed from Cleburne?

Don’t believe it.

`My son, who is autistic, was robbed by three black thugs.’ Lisa Luby Ryan on why she will oppose gun regulation `to my last breath.’

Challenger Lisa Luby Ryan points a hand gun at state Rep. Jason Villalba while debating gun control.

Good morning Austin:

Yesterday, seventeen people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a Florida high school.

It was the deadliest mass shooting since Nov. 5, when 26 people were killed when a gunman opened fire inside First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Which was the deadliest mass shooting since 58 people were killed when a gunman opened fire on a crowd at a music festival in Las Vegas from a room in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Right after the Sutherland Springs tragedy, I wrote in the Statesman:

In the aftermath of the Sutherland Springs church shooting, state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, is calling for the creation of a Commission on Gun Violence to examine its causes in Texas and recommend “common sense gun control reforms” to the next session of the Texas Legislature.

In an open letter to his “Fellow Texans,” Villalba wrote that he was asking Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus to create a Commission on Gun Violence in Texas to be chaired by an appointee of the governor and vice-chaired by appointees of the lieutenant governor and speaker. It would be made up of four senators — two from each party — four members of the House — two from each party — and four other members — a law enforcement specialist, a mental health expert, a member of the clergy and an ethicist, all chosen by a majority of the other appointees.

“The primary charge of the commission shall be to determine the root causes of gun violence in Texas and to provide proposed legislation to address these issues and which shall be adopted in the 86th Legislature,” Villalba wrote. “The secondary charge of the commission shall be to publish the findings of the commission and disseminate through education and conference the proposals of the commission.“

There is no question that mental health plays a significant role in these attacks, and certainly, adequate mental health funding and accessibility shall be a key component to any solution to this complex issue,” Villalba wrote.

“But, to be perfectly clear,” the letter continued, “the commission shall focus on ALL possible causes of gun violence in Texas INCLUDING lax or deficient gun control laws and regulations in Texas. No shibboleth shall be off limits. THERE NEEDS TO BE COMMON SENSE GUN CONTROL REFORMS IN TEXAS! If we expect a change in the outcomes, we must consider all inputs. The time is now to DO something. Whatever that may be.”

“Tonight,” Villalba, “I will go home and I will rest my hands and my face on the tops of my children’s heads. We will say our prayers and we will hug and I will thank God for them. For many families in Charlottesville, Sandy Hook, Killeen, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs and across America, that will not happen. Today is the day that Texan parents like you and me stand up and say, enough. As God is our witness, this stops here.”

On Tuesday, Lisa Luby Ryan, who is challenging Villalba in the March 6 Republican primary, took Villalba to task for that initiative at a debate hosted by the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce and League of Women Voters of Dallas.

As James Russell, who covered the debate for the Quorum Report, wrote:

Citing Villalba’s op-ed in The Dallas Morning News last year calling for a statewide commission to study the causes of gun violence ahead of the next legislative session, written after a man shot and killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, a town just east of San Antonio.

Ryan maintained her strong stance against any restrictions on gun ownership and usage, taking a personal view on the issue.

“My son, who is autistic, was robbed by three black thugs. He wouldn’t give them the money and they beat him up,” she said. Texas laws currently bars anyone deemed mentally unfit from owning a gun.

Villalba said Ryan essentially wanted to equip terrorists with guns.

“I’m sorry if Ms. Ryan wants to give guns to ISIS,” he said.

Here is the pertinent portion of the debate, followed by a more complete transcript.


We are so pro-Second Amendment. We own guns. My husband has a concealed carry license. The only reason I don’t have one is I haven’t had time to do it. But my opponent, in the last campaign and this campaign, has not been endorsed by the NRA or the Texas gun rights association.Why? Because after the Sutherland Springs shooting, my opponent, who is a Reagan conservative (Ryan gestured air quotes as she said this) –

and by the way, Ronald Reagan would never call for the governor of Texas to create a special commission for gun regulations in Texas. Never would Ronald Reagan call for that, nor would a conservative call for special gun regulations, I don’t care what the situation is.

My younger son that I told you about, who’s autistic, 29-years-old, who lives on his own, didn’t live in the best part of Dallas because he couldn’t afford to. He came home four weeks ago Saturday at 9 p.m. He called me and said, `Mom, I’m home.’ He had been out with some friends. He called me at home and  I said, Great.’ Three minutes later my phone rang and he called me, hysterical. He had been robbed by three black thugs. with 9mm guns to his head, asking for his money.

Here’s a kid who makes $15 an hour and lives off that, and they asked him for his money. And you know what he said? He said, `No.’ And you know what happened to him? They beat him up.

And do you think Mr. Villalba that special regulations and regulations on guns would protect my son? Guns don’t kill. People do. And I will fight all day long against gun regulation, and stand pro-Second Amendment to my last breath.

I tried to reach Ryan yesterday to ask about that loaded turn of phrase: three black thugs.

Why not just say, three thugs?

I couldn’t reach her, but I did receive a statement made on her behalf from Jordan Powell, spokesman for her campaign:

 Less than a month ago, Lisa’s autistic son had two handguns pointed at his head while being assaulted and robbed. If she had it to do over again, she would use different words but as a mom this crime and the lingering trauma caused to her son is still very real and raw. The substance of the exchange centered on Representative Villalba’s support for gun control, which Lisa strongly opposes.

The problem, though. is that Ryan’s reference to three black thugs is lodged in a statement otherwise disconnected from any logic.

How would her son’s traumatic experience have been different, and worse, if Villalba had his way and the state examined the causes of gun violence in Texas?

This incident occurred under the current state of Texas’ gun laws, which Ryan does not want to see infringed upon by the likes of Villalba.

Her son did not have a gun on him, and if he did, someone might have gotten killed.

As it was, according to the Dallas Police Department report on the incident, the victim’s injuries were, thankfully, limited to “redness on cheek.”

If the police – or an armed citizen – had shown up at precisely the right moment that night, and events unfolded in precisely the right way, the perpetrators might have been caught in the act.

But that didn’t happen, and nothing about Texas gun laws or what a study commission might recommend about changing Texas gun laws, would have changed what happened on Saturday Jan. 6 (the incident was slightly longer ago than she remembered it), unless, of course, they came up with better ways of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.

Nonetheless, Ryan’s real and raw reaction to her son’s trauma at the hands of three black thugs, armed her with the emotional ammunition she needed to fight all day long against gun regulation, and stand pro-Second Amendment to my last breath.

Here, in part, was Villalba’s reaction at the debate:

The panel that I called for didn’t call for additional gun regulation or gun control. It said, let’s look at the root causes of gun violence in Texas. Let’s find out why this happens.


I am a concealed handgun carrier. I have several weapons. I voted in favor of campus carry. I voted in favor of open carry. I voted against Constitutional carry because it’s a foolish, ridiculous law that makes no sense in Texas, or at least the urban centers. It might make sense in certain counties where it’s OK, but not in the middle of Dallas County.

Constitutional carry means permitless carry, which means you don’t have to have any kind of certification. You don’t have to have any kind of test. That means that anybody can have access to them, and that means somebody who could be mentally infirm, that could be somebody who’s a domestic abuser. That could be somebody who is a card-carrying member of ISIS. I’m sorry Ms. Ryan, if you want to give guns to ISIS, that’s your business.

As for Ryan’s assertion about President Reagan on gun regulation, there is this, from Janel Davis at PolitiFact Georgia on Feb. 5, 2013, on the question, “Did Reagan support an assault-weapons ban?”

About a month after a mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., left 20 schoolchildren and six adults dead, President Barack Obama rolled out a package of gun-control proposals during a speech with Vice President Joe Biden. The package included initiatives such as an assault-weapons ban that requires congressional approval, along with 23 executive actions that the president can implement on his own. The price tag for the package is estimated at $500 million.

 In presenting the package, specifically the portion dealing with the assault-weapons ban, Obama made a point of conjuring past President Ronald Reagan’s stance on the same issue.
“Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in a movie theater,” Obama said during the speech. “A majority of Americans agree with us on this. And, by the way, so did Ronald Reagan, one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment, who wrote to Congress in 1994, urging them — this is Ronald Reagan speaking — urging them to listen to the American public and to the law-enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of military-style assault weapons.”

Evoking past presidents is a frequent practice by politicians. Unfortunately, sometimes the context and the content of the recollections are incorrect. PolitiFact Georgia decided to check the accuracy of Obama’s statement, as well as whether most Americans support a ban on military-style assault weapons.

Obama pitched his gun plan at the White House surrounded by school-age children who had written letters to the president about the Newtown school shooting. In the audience were the parents of one of the students killed at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, along with a survivor of the 2007 shooting massacre at Virginia Tech that left more than 30 people dead and an additional 15 wounded.

Against this emotional backdrop Obama’s plans drew immediate and intense reaction from supporting groups such as the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, as well as opponents such as the National Rifle Association.

Obama’s push for an assault-weapon’s ban hearkens to the original ban passed in 1994 that expired in 2004. At the time of that ban’s passage, Reagan — who took office in 1981– supported it. In a joint letter to The Boston Globe with Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, the former presidents wrote, “While we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals.”

Eight years before this letter in the newspaper supporting the assault-weapons ban, Reagan, who was then president, signed into law the Firearm Owners Protection Act, which was supported by gun rights advocates. In addition to providing protections for gun owners, the act also banned ownership of any fully automatic rifles that were not already registered on the day the law was signed.

These items provide a framework for Reagan’s actions around an assassination attempt on his life months after taking office in 1981. The shooting left Reagan wounded and presidential press secretary James Brady paralyzed. The shooting provided the impetus for the Brady Bill, introduced in 1987, that required background checks for gun purchasers and a waiting period before a buyer could take possession of a gun.

In a 1991 New York Times op-ed titled “Why I’m For the Brady Bill,” Reagan detailed his support of a seven-day waiting period for gun buyers. “Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns, according to Department of Justice statistics,” Reagan said in the op-ed. “… If the passage of the Brady bill were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”

“Reagan supported the Brady Bill. That was after he had left office, but he did support it,” said Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at American University. “His views are a little complicated because he also signed legislation easing the (1968) Gun Control Act, so you can take Reagan either way.”

As for the president’s assessment that “a majority of Americans agree” with the assault-weapons ban, we went to the polls for answers.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll involving guns, politics and governing priorities was conducted by telephone Jan. 10-13. The poll included a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including land-line and cellphone-only respondents. The poll’s results have a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

The poll includes three pertinent questions about weapons bans:

— Would you support or oppose a law requiring a nationwide ban on semi-automatic handguns, which automatically reload every time the trigger is pulled?
Fifty-one percent of all adults said yes; 46 percent said no. Fifty percent of registered voters said yes; 47 percent said no.

— Would you support or oppose a law requiring a nationwide ban on high-capacity ammunition clips, meaning those containing more than 10 bullets?
Sixty-five percent of all adults said they supported a ban; 32 percent opposed. Those same numbers applied to registered voters.

— Would you support or oppose a law requiring a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons?
Fifty-eight percent of all adults supported a ban; 39 percent opposed. Fifty-nine percent of registered voters supported a ban; 38 percent opposed.

So how does Obama’s statement rate?

During his speech laying out a package of gun-control proposals, the president evoked Reagan’s support of an assault-weapons ban. History shows that Reagan’s track record on guns is a winding road. He was a strong gun rights supporter who signed legislation easing an earlier gun law. But he also supported legislation for background checks and a waiting period for potential gun owners. He did support an assault-weapons ban and even joined two other former presidents in a letter to a major newspaper urging congressional approval of a ban.

Not only did Reagan support the ban, but so do most Americans, Obama said. Information from a Washington Post/ABC News poll supports the president’s statement.

On these two issues, we gave Obama a True rating.

Ryan might also might want to read this: How Ronald Reagan learned to love gun control, from Peter Weber at The Week.

Or, When Ronald Reagan embraced gun control, by Francis X. Clines at the New York Times.

From the recent Dallas Morning News endorsement of Villalba over Ryan:

Villalba has a pragmatic approach to finding solutions to everything from highway funding and addressing the working poor, and is not afraid to cross the aisle to get things done. We worry that Ryan, the 57-year-old owner of an interior design firm, is unprepared for office,  given her shallow understanding of important issues facing her district and her misstatements of fact.

Meanwhile, there was this.

Here is the top of what I wrote in that story on May 27, in which Villalba expressed his frustrations with the last session.

When state Rep. Jason Villalba was first elected to the Legislature in 2012, he was described as the future of the Texas Republican Party.

Five years later, representing an affluent North Dallas district that Hillary Clinton carried and whose constituents include former President George W. Bush, Villalba is one of only three Hispanic Republicans in the Legislature. During his years in Austin, he has been a loyal and outspoken advocate for House Speaker Joe Straus and an unabashed admirer of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Yet despite his talents and ambition, Villalba remains literally and figuratively a back bencher in the Texas House. Denied a chairman’s gavel, he is custodian of the House candy jar, his talents thwarted and ambitions blunted as he now closes out a session he calls “my toughest yet,” a self-described Reagan Republican out of step with the continued rightward march of his party.

“The conservative grass roots and Lt. Gov. (Dan) Patrick and his followers can say, ‘We moved the needle materially this session from where it was last session, and last session we claimed it was the most conservative session in Texas history,’ ” Villalba said this week, in the session’s waning days. “So I think it’s a real win for Lt. Gov. Patrick. I think he had an excellent session. Did he go as far as he wanted to go? The answer to that is ‘no.’ But I think he got further than he expected to get.”

But for Villalba, with tough votes on sanctuary cities, transgender bathroom policy and abortion, “There have been more times this session when I felt icky when I drove home, just gross with what the body had done, that I never felt before.”

Rep. Jason Villalba on the House floor on May 26, 2017.

The story concluded with this:

Villalba, meanwhile, finds himself wondering: “Is this worth it? I come down here away from family, making less money away from my kids, away from my wife. I did some really good things for Texas, but I went sideways a lot of the time, not because of my votes but because of the votes that were influenced by ideologues and purity police.”

Ultimately, Villalba decided it was worth it and to seek another term. He faces Ryan on March 6, and, if he prevails, a serious Democratic challenge in the swing district in the fall.

I asked Villalba last night whether he had ever heard anything back from the Big Three about his call for a study commission on gun violence.

“No,” he replied. “Nothing.”

`My name is Samuel Temple. I am running as the last sane Republican in District 21.’



Good day Austin:

On a recent Saturday afternoon I met Samuel Temple at a playground at a housing complex on Old Bee Caves Road in Austin that was the site of a sparsely attended voter registration drive and candidate fair. I wanted to talk about his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Congress in  the 21st Congressional District.

After we talked a while, I said I wanted to make a one-minute video of him explaining why he was running. He said he would give it a try, and he proceeded to give the elevator pitch for his unlikely candidacy – if the elevator was in the Empire State Building.

I first encountered Temple, who is from San Antonio, a few days earlier at a forum for the large field of Republican candidates seeking to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith  in TX-21, sponsored by the Travis and Hays Country Republican parties at the Exotic Game Ranch in Creedmoor.

On Sunday I wrote about the four Democrats in the TX-21 race. I am now working on a story about the unwieldy larger Republican field.

Samuel Temple will probably not loom very large in story, which doesn’t mean he is not interesting, only that he stands little chance of winning, and, with that many candidates, I have to focus on the contenders.

As San Antonio Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia wrote in his recent appreciation of Temple.

It’s hard to dislike any political candidate whose campaign pitch includes the phrase, “After I lose this election.”

That phrase was uttered by Samuel Temple, the defiant outcast of the 18-candidate GOP field to succeed Lamar Smith in U.S. District 21.

Like Garcia, I thought there was something compelling about Temple’s candidacy, and I figured I could devote a First Reading to him without skewing the outcome of the race.

He is different.

Here, for example, is Temple, using his time at Bexar County Republican Women’s meet and greet on Jan. 12 to talk about the lessons politicians should draw form the landmark social psychology experiments of Stanley Milgram:

Here’s Milgram:

Here’s Temple”


The emotional high point of Temple’s candidacy – so far – came at last week’s Austin Legalize Marijuana Forum at Austin’ s Flamingo Cantina.

Temple appears just past the 17-minute mark.

My name is Samuel Temple. I am running as the last moderate Republican in the district. Seventy-five percent of my appearances have been in rooms full of tea partiers.

Does anyone in here think Islamic law is taking over the nation?

Oh good, I don’t have to tell you about the First Amendment.

Does anyone in here think failure to clap is an act of treason.

Oh, thank God, I had to deal with that last night.

Which is funny because the guys who are worried about that used to yell, `You lie,’ at the president.

Fiscally, socially, ethically, there is no good reason not to legalize marijuana.

I am running as the last sane Republican in District 21. Please God, help me find 15,000 people to prevent the tea party from continuing to radicalize our party. Fifteen thousand votes is all I need to get to the runoff, and if you think I’m funny now, make me one of two and let me take those uneducated Republican to the cleaners in a debate with cameras.

I will do it, and I hope Jason Isaac sees it, because I am tired of having to go after him in meetings to say that Sharia law is not taking over the country, and I am tired of him getting more applause than me when he says that.

So please, for the love of God, help me find 15,000 people in South Austin and San Antonio and the Hill Country, and help me move America in the right direction. We have had a speed bump, but do not lose faith, there are good people out there. There are good Republicans out there. They have just been marginalized. 


Temple was followed by Foster Hagen, another of the 18 GOP candidates, who made the surprise announcement that he was endorsing Temple.

Foster Hagen:

That person that just spoke, he tells the truth. His name is Samuel Temple and he is a bad-ass mother——and he tells he truth.

He’s going to get elected. I am going to endorse him right now.

We are going to take on Jeff Sessions.

The guy i endorsed right now is the right guy at the right time

I am endorsing Sam 

Here is Temple the previous day at a candidate forum at Canyon High School in New Braunfels.

Temple is campaigning around his full-time job as statistician with AT&T.

Here is what we talked about when I caught up with him in Austin.


I’m a statistician. I was mentored by economists. These things are important. And I am running against people who, “I believe, I believe.”

Well, there’s what you think, what you know, and what can you prove. A lot of these people can’t prove the sun is rising if they tried.  I could spend five minutes on Google and I am dancing these guys on border policy.

They act like, `Oh, the border’s insecure.’ Well, I hate to give W credit for doing something right but, well, illegal border crossings decreased by half between 2000 and 2008, went from about 1.5 million a year to about 750,000. It halved again under Obama’s tenure, it’s down to about 350,000 a year. It dropped 33 percent year after year. It sounds to me like we’re improving our border security. Every bit of evidence is on my web site. Everything is well documented.

The number of undocumented individuals in our country leveled off about five years ago and now it’s starting to decline. Well, if the Republicans acknowledged they had solved the problem, then they wouldn’t be able to rally their base by fear-mongering. But that’s not appropriate. That’s unethical.

You don’t mandate the legislative process in this country by appealing to irrational fears. If you’ve solvedthe problem, you’ve got to move on to the next one, which is Dreamers and DACA. And the Republicans don’t want to acknowledge that not only were there independent economic studies that showed that the average Dreamer contributes a quarter million dollars net positive over the course of their lifetime, but the Trump administration found it too and the Trump administration buried it. So you have them behaving not fiscally responsible and unethical at the same time. So, where’s the fiscal conservative side of the party?

To me there’s only one reason they would bury that study, and that’s to appeal to somebody who doesn’t think somebody from Mexico ought to be here for a non-fiscal reason.

FR: Any Republican role models, now or in the past?


Joe Straus is someone who recently I’ve been very proud of. But if I go further back.

Eisenhower’s the last president to run a true budget surplus.

But more importantly there are two speeches Eisenhower made that I have found to be very meaningful – his farewell address warning about the dangers of he military-industrial complex, without necessarily providing a solution, but we have a problem, is very prescient given his career in the military. When he said, gone are the days when people could forge their plowshare into swords –  he recognized that the had to have a standing Army give modern warfare structure, but he also said the defense-industrial complex is profiteering.

Many years later, many decades later, we can see that his warning was reasonable. We see the cost we spend on our defense infrastructure, sometimes wastefully. The F-35 could have paid for everyone’s student loan debt. Did we get a good plane for a war that we might never fight?

FR: When did you first vote for president?


I’m 34 now so I just missed out on Bush’s first election in 2000, so my first presidential election was 2004. And so Bush was running for re-election, and we were already in Iraq.

You know you grow up with you father’s stories about how there were anti-war protests for Vietnam, and I was perplexed that there were both anti- and pro-war protests on my college campus at Texas Tech. I thought this was interesting. People really wanted blood.

I remember the day after 9-11 being in class and everybody was talking about their feelings, and I remember I was sitting in a social psychology class, which should have known better, when it was my turn to say something, I was cut off before I could finish. At that point, the day after, we didn’t who’d done it, I said, `Before we go off to war, let’s find out who did it,’ because remember, in the first hours after the Oklahoma City bombing, I remember, the police said we are looking for two Islamic suspects. We don’t even know who did it yet. Yes, there’s a lot of anger, but don’t in the heat of the moment make a decision that you will come to regret. And the teacher, the instructor, cut me off. And after class, I was very upset, and she said I was afraid you were going to say something that was going to upset somebody. I’m sorry that a call for patience is offensive.

And what happened. We got the Patriot Act, which nobody likes but everybody keeps renewing, which is, oh, I thought Republicans were all about individual freedom. Those who would give up permanent freedom for temporary security will get neither. I think that’s Benjamin Franklin, but I also think that may have been misattributed. So I’m careful.

Abraham Lincoln said don’t believe everything on the internet. That’s a joke.


FR: Do you always vote Republican?

Temple: I’m a swing voter all over the place.

At the Creedmoor forum, Jenifer Sarver was asked by another candidate about her vote for Hillary Clinton against Trump in 2016..

Temple wished he had gotten the question.

I voted for Hillary Clinton because, in my opinion, the evidence was all there up front that Trump was very likely compromised and unfit to be president. My opinion on this somehow has not changed over the last year.

Jenifer voted in the Republican primary. But I voted in the Democratic primary for the first time in my life because in 2016 the Republican primary was a circus of disgrace. That was the worst assembly of candidates I’ve ever seen in my life. Half of them weren’t really running and were just out there to sell books, in my opinion. The other half – I mean if Kasich is the sane one in the room …

These people are saying things that are fundamentally wrong, they are making lapses left and right that ten or fifteen years would have killed your political career. And, on the other hand you’ve got Hillary and Bernie, and say what you will about Bernie being a progressive, you know what I love about Bernie, he wrote bloody encyclopedias on his page. He had facts supporting his policies. 

There are two candidates in District 21 who have put citations on their web site – to my last check about ten days ago – myself and Autry Pruitt. I hate him because he puts citations on – facts, web links, anything that supports what you have to say – and I can’t claim to be the only one. 

I’m a peer-reviewed published author – we bloody cite. 

(In the primary) I gave Bernie a try. I was very anti-Hillary because I have a problem with the establishment.

But, in the general election, Temple said:

When you have a job that affects over 300 million people, if you don’t have the gravitas in your heart that even your smallest decisions hurts people and helps people, then you’re not fit for office.  Hillary was a great statesperson. I was happy to vote for her in the general election because to me it was an obvious choice.

Trump’s in a lot of trouble and it’s going to be epic because four people have already plead guilty. There weren’t even tried. They didn’t even try to fight it. They just plead.

FR: When did you decide to run.


When Lamar retired, but I’d been looking at it for years. I hated Lamar for years. 

Let me be fair.

What do I hate? I hate corruption.

The first time Lamar appeared on my radar, I don’t know when, a couple of years back, and Lamar Smith is the head of the Science Committee, and he was putting forth some legislation to remove the peer review process from scientific grants, I believe, trying to remove the peer review process because it was too political, and that political review should be used instead. And so the problem was politics in academia, and yes I know there is a politics in academia, but to get it out we’re going to replace it with pure politics? Brilliant solution there.

And so I started reading more about Lamar Smith and started realizing more about his positions on climate change. I started seeing that he was a hard-line party loyalist, and again, people before the party. He wasn’t too far to the right for me. He wasn’t a tea partyest. But he was extremely party loyal. 

Well, look at the situation we have today. We have a situation where there are amazing amounts of credible evidence that our president has been compromised on numerous levels. Amazing. It was available before the election. When Donald Trump Jr. said in 2008, `Most of our investment is coming from Russia,’ and then Donald Trump says, `We have no business with Russia.’ I can’t help you. It just breaks my heart.

We have potential Russian collusion. We have his emoluments violations. We have, quite frankly, that he is one of the most vulgar people to ever hold office. And so Take your pick of the reasons why he is unfit.

And so he is being investigated by Mueller, Mueller has found several people guilty, and now we see Republicans in powerful positions in the House and Senate trying to discredit the investigation, which is funny because when he was appointed people I remember being thrilled because, `Oh, he’s a lifelong Republican. He’s one of us. He’s the right one to ethically run it. It will be great.’ And then when he
found something about their guy it was, `Oh, he’s terrible,’ they changed their tunes pretty fast.

They’re smearing him. They’re smearing the DOJ.  They’re smearing the FBI.

What good is it to criticize the ethics of only your opposition, because then it’s easily dismissed as partisan politics. You must be willing to speak out about any corruption of your own party. If you really care about your party, if you really believe it is a vehicle for rightness, then you want to be as clean and effective as possible, yet we see people closing ranks.

The NRA is implicated. Where did you guys get your money? That’s a pretty big deal. The NRA is amazingly active in politics, funnels tons of money to candidates. If they received Russian money, how many candidates, all over the country, illegally received Russia money, most, I imagine, unknowingly, through a PAC donation.

I mean how serious is this? Is there an active attempt by a foreign government to buy a political party, and how far have they gone. And instead of investigating it to restore faith in our government, we have people closing ranks on it because it’s their guy.

From Gilbert Garcia’s Express-News column:

To his fellow Republicans in the race, Temple is a hopeless irritant. But from where I’m sitting, Temple’s willingness to go off (as in way off) the party-line script is bringing some useful discomfort to the campaign; a little bit of creative friction which is healthy for the political process.


To get a sense of how far afield Temple is from his primary rivals, consider the fact that a business-friendly, low-tax conservative like Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, who served in the administration of Ronald Reagan, is routinely lambasted by Texas Republicans as a left-wing traitor to his party. If GOP activists in this state regard Straus as a RINO (Republican in Name Only), how could they begin to process the rogue stylings of Temple?

Fortunately, for all concerned, he doesn’t much care.


Make no mistake, even 15 years ago Temple would have been a major GOP outlier. But in this political environment, in this primary, he sounds like nothing less than a mutant invader from another galaxy.


I want to know why everybody calls me a radical, why I’m so crazy, why the San Antonio Express-New -, I loved the article by Gilbert, I think it was flattering. I think it painted me in a very favorable light I think it was accurate, I am a goofball who’s passionate, who’s trying to laugh so I don’t cry – but why am I a foreign invader, the mutant from another galaxy.

Of the Republican audiences where his pitches, Temple says:

There are 100, maybe 200 people in the room at a time. Half of them are candidates or friends of the candidates.  Seventy thousand to 100,000 people are going to vote in this primary for a Republican and mostly likely only a thousand or two thousand will have seen any of the 18 candidates in person.

There are plenty of moderate people. I’ve knocked on doors. And there are plenty of people who are dissatisfied. If there are 20,000 who I can get my message to with no money and say, `Hey guys, we’re over here,’ then we can have reform in the Republican Party.

And we need housecleaning I believe. We separately need a housecleaning and the only people who can clean house are those who have never had authority and have never been compromised. Chip Roy with his contacts is going to clean house? Jason Isaac with `Dearborn, Michigan is a no-go zone,’ he’s going to clean the house?’


Here, from Feb. 6, is Temple doing a Facebook Live session on immigration.

And here is another on health care, in which he explains that his campaign manager couldn’t be there to moderate the discussion because he had to work.

“I joke that our current level of campaign fundraising is don’t quite your day job.”

Oh, and here’s his latest, on “supply side economics and why it doesn’t work.”






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

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


Good morning Austin:

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

As I wrote then:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what about a campaign manager?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those two paragraphs will be hard to recover from.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In its editorial, the Chronicle wrote that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, then there was this.

As Mike Ward wrote in the Chronicle:

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

White is straight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

As I wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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