Lupe Valdez talks Latinx activists into backing the White guy for governor

(Photo by Ken Herman)

Good Monday Austin:

As of today, thanks largely to the forces of political inertia, Lupe Valdez remains the favorite to win the May 22 runoff and become the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.

But, steadily, bit by bit, Valdez appears determined to chip away at her lead.

On Sunday it was an appearance, along with rival Andrew White, Miguel Suazo, the Democratic Party’s candidate for land commissioner, and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso,the party’s candidate for U.S. Senate, at a town hall put on by Jolt, a barely year-old organization intended to mobilize younger Latinos as a political force in Texas (note that both Suazo and O’Rourke are both running against Hispanic Republican incumbents in Land Commissioner George P. Bush and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.)

But somehow, on the strength – or weakness – of her performance, Valdez lost the endorsement of a passionate and energized group of Latinx (as I have learned, the gender-neutral term for Latinos/Latinas) Texans to a white man named White who is the son of a white man named Mark White who served as a centrist governor of Texas for one term from 1983 to 1987,  and who is running in 2018 as a centrist Democrat for governor.

(The Valdez campaign issued a statement Monday night in which she apologized for her performance at Jolt.)

Valdez ought to be worried, and if she isn’t, Texas Democrats ought to be worried about the prospect of nominating a candidate for governor on the increasingly questionable premise that her name and identity alone guarantee that she will be the stronger general election candidate or, at any rate, the candidate best able to help draw an increased Hispanic turnout in November, which is the raison d’être of Jolt.

Jolt is relatively new (here is an early story about Jolt from Gus Bova at the Texas Observer), not that well-known and has no electoral track record yet, though it has made an impression with its creative organizing efforts, including the Quinceañera at the Capitol celebration of resistance to SB 4 last year that they said reached 50 million Americans through social media.

Jolt has ambitions, according to its founder and executive director Cristina Tzintzun, of mobilizing 30,000 Hispanic voters who don’t usually vote and bringing them to the polls this year.

And, on Sunday, Jolt’s first endorsement town hall generated newspaper headlines across the state that were bad for Valdez.

There’s my story:

Young Hispanic activists ‘Jolt’ Valdez campaign by backing Andrew White

In a stunner, Jolt, a year-old organization of young Hispanic Texans with ambitions of spurring a surge in turnout this year, endorsed Andrew White over Lupe Valdez for the Democratic nomination for governor Sunday after a town hall at which Valdez failed to effectively answer questions about whether her record as Dallas County sheriff was “anti-immigrant.”

There’s Immigration questions put governor hopeful Lupe Valdez on hot seat at young Latino voters’ forum from James Barragán in the Dallas Morning News.

AUSTIN — A group of young Latino voters has endorsed Andrew White for governor instead of his opponent, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, after she struggled to answer questions about her record on immigration during a forum Sunday.

There’s Latino voting group snubs Lupe Valdez, backs Andrew White for governor by Peggy Fikac in the San Antonio Express-News.

AUSTIN — After expressing dissatisfaction with Lupe Valdez’s answer when she was quizzed about her allegedly “anti-immigrant” policies as Dallas County sheriff, a Latino voting group Sunday instead endorsed Houston businessman Andrew White in the Democratic runoff for governor.

There’s  Austin town hall turns heated for Dems Valdez, White by the Houston Chronicle’s Mike Ward.

AUSTIN – The two Democrats running for Texas governor were confronted Sunday during a town hall forum over their positions involving immigration, putting them on the defensive at an event that was expected to be friendly.

Injecting drama into a race that so far has mostly been a snoozer, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez was questioned about why she cooperated with federal immigration detainers while she was in charge of the Dallas County Jail.

The forum that attracted about 200 people was staged Sunday by Jolt The Vote, a civic-engagement organization working to mobilize Latino millennials in the 2018 elections. Only Democratic statewide candidates appeared.

Later in the day, hours after the forum, Jolt group endorsed White over Valdez, the first Latina to run for Texas governor, saying he had shown his “commitment to improving the lives of Latinos.” The group also endorsed Beto O’Rourke for Texas Senate for the same reason.

And there’s the Texas Tribune story – Democratic statewide candidates get tough questions from Latino youth – from Patrick Svitek:

 Karla Quinoñes did not mince words as she asked the first question to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez.

“Ms. Valdez, you were sheriff of Dallas County for many years, and it seems that your legacy was one of supporting anti-immigrant policies that actually expanded ICE enforcement,” said Quinoñes, a Dallas high school student, posing a series of pointed questions about Valdez’s cooperation with the federal agency and intentions if elected governor. “Why should we trust you today?” 

The less-than-direct answer that followed from Valdez did not appear to satisfy Quinoñes and the group she represents — Jolt Texas, which was created last year to mobilize young Latinos in turning the state blue. And before the end of the afternoon, Valdez had lost another endorsement to her runoff rival, Democrat Andrew White, after coming across as ill-prepared or -informed.

Ay yi yi

As Svitek wrote, the endorsement of White was probably largely due to Valdez’s inability to successfully answer the mutli-pronged question from Quinoñes.

As I wrote:

It was a question from Karla Quiñones, an 18-year-0ld senior at W.T. White High School in Dallas, that crystallized ongoing concerns about Valdez’s record in the Latino activist community, and her inability to offer a crisp and clear response.

“Miss Valdez,” said Quiñones, the daughter of Mexican immigrants who grew up watching Valdez coverage on Univision, the Spanish-language television network, “you were the sheriff of Dallas County for many years, and it seems that your legacy was one of supporting anti-immigrant policies that actually expanded ICE enforcement.”

“Given that, one, the Dallas community walked out of your forum with (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) saying that you turned your backs on them; two, you complied with every ICE request for warrantless ICE detentions even when other counties, like Travis County, were taking a courageous stand against them … why should we trust you today?”

Valdez thanked Quiñones for a “chance to explain.”

“Of course, look at me, I’m going to fight for as much immigration as I can,” Valdez said, detailing her vigorous opposition to Senate Bill 4, the ban on so-called sanctuary cities passed by the Legislature and signed into law last year by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Let’s pause here.

Valdez has taken to introducing folks at her appearances to the “Greg Abbott tracker” in their midst – the young man with the nice earrings who records things she has to say that might find their way into Abbott campaign ads.

It’s a funny, and well-received, when she tells her audience to welcome him. But her generosity of spirit should not extend to giving him what he is looking for.

Of course, look at me, I’m going to fight for as much immigration as I can.

One could fairly hear Abbott strategist Dave Carney’s YEEHAH! echoing from his lair in Hancock, New Hampshire, off Skatutakee Mountain, the 1667 miles to Austin, Texas, above the low hum of Abbott Oompa Loompas working through the night to churn out a new line of 100 percent cotton T-shirts with an image of Lupe Valdez and the words, Of course, look at me, I’m going to fight for as much immigration as I can.

It’s not just that that’s not a policy. It’s that it’s exactly what Texas Republicans think, or their leaders would like them to think, is the actual Democratic thought process on immigration – fight for as much immigration as possible to help turn the state blue over time.

Two weekends ago, the last time I saw Valdez in Austin, she introduced her Abbott tracker to the crowd and then, after brief remarks, had this to say in answer to a question about debates.


Asked by a Democratic activist at a campaign event at North Austin brewpub Black Star Co-op on Friday night if she was going to debate White, Valdez replied, “I’m open to any kind of debate, but my staff are the ones who are going to take care of all of that.”

Pressed for a firmer answer, Valdez said, “You know there’s only certain decisions that they let me make, and most of them have to do with policy. … I can’t even tell you where I’ll be in the next few days. They’ll tell me. So they’re taking care of that.”

Abbott is primed to run against Valdez.

As John Moritz wrote in early April in a piece that appeared in the Caller Times under the headline, Greg Abbott declares Lupe Valdez a winner in the May 22 Democratic runoff for governor. The Democratic runoff for Texas governor is more than a month away, but the Republican incumbent is eager to cast Democrat Lupe Valdez as pro-sanctuary cities.

AUSTIN – Texas Democrats needn’t bother voting in the May 22 runoff because Republican Gov. Greg Abbott already has declared former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez the winner over Houston businessman Andrew White.

“The next 7 months will be a battle between @LupeValdez and me about whether or not Texas will secure our border and protect our sovereignty,” the governor said in a tweet Wednesday night. “It’s about whether sanctuary cities will remain banned or be allowed.”

Abbott, with the power of incumbency running in a solid red state, will be the prohibitive favorite no matter who the Democrats choose next month. But the tweet that came in response to Valdez’s statement castigating President Donald Trump’s plans for troops on the Texas-Mexico border suggests Abbott likes the idea of making sanctuary cities and illegal immigration Topic One for the general election campaign.

Valdez was happy to engage with Abbott on the issue.

The fact that Valdez find herself whipsawed between Abbott’s claims that she is too soft on immigration and the activist’s charges that she is too hard-line, is a dilemma that perhaps cannot be avoided. But she could attempt to make the case that she is charting a reasonable middle ground.

But her responses Sunday fail to reveal a coherent through-line.

Returning to Valdez’s response to Quiñones’ question Sunday, from my story:

She talked about the May 2015 community engagement meeting in Dallas at which immigrant activists confronted Sarah Saldaña, director of ICE, over what crimes constituted just cause for deportation.

“I brought in the director of ICE so they could come and explain the whole situation that was going on, and there were a couple of people who were upset with me because I couldn’t explain what was going on, and they literally got up and turned their backs and walked away,” Valdez said. “The thing that was uncomfortable about that was there were many people there that needed to hear what they needed to do, what they could do, and the director of ICE was standing right there to tell them. But because of that, they weren’t able to hear the direction that could have been given and the paths that they could take.”

OK. So in the course of providing an answer that may have figured importantly in Jolt’s turning its back on her, Valdez explained that back in 2015, there were a couple of people who were upset with me because I couldn’t explain what was going on, and they literally got up and turned their backs and walked away.” 

Things didn’t get any better after the speech when Valdez was confronted by a gaggle of reporters who wanted to follow up on Quiñones’ question.

After the town hall, Valdez was asked about Quiñones’ question suggesting she had an “anti-immigrant” record.

“I think it was one person’s opinion,” Valdez said, recalling her vocal opposition to SB 4.

“As you recall, the governor actually sent me what I call nastygrams because of my decision of defense of the people that were being deported and separated from their parents,” Valdez said.

Valdez was also asked about a 2015 federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Dallas County jail inmates against the county and her as sheriff, claiming they were being illegally detained because of “immigration holds” placed on them for ICE.

Valdez said the lawsuit was “filed against immigration being able to take people from the jail; the lawsuit was against the authority of ICE to be able to deport.”

“The lawsuit is still going on, so I have to be real careful how I discuss that,” Valdez said.

Asked about Quiñones’ question of whether she deserves the trust of the Latino community, Valdez said, “I think there’s a misunderstanding of the track record. I went to fight SB 4 way before anybody else.”

With that, Valdez told the scrum of reporters, “I’ve given you some answers. You wanted some answers, and I’ve given them to you. OK, now let us do what we love to do best and deal with some of the voters and go on to some of the other things we’ve got to do.”

The bad/good news for Valdez was that, from my limited experience, Sunday’s was one of her better performances. She was more lively and animated and had more rhetorical threads than I had seen before.

She certainly has way more endorsements than White, including at least three state senators, 24 state representatives, and U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio.

The Democratic nomination for governor, of course, could have been Joaquín’s or his twin brother, Julián’s for the taking but Joaquín chose to stay in Congress and Julián is exploring a run for president, which is apparently less daunting than running statewide in Texas.

For her fellow Democratic politicians, endorsing Valdez is the safest course, the path-of-least-resistance option.

But, for Jolt, the political calculation is  different.

It brought to mind what Mike Webb, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus told Ken Herman in February about the organization’s decision to endorse White, who is straight, over Valdez, who made history as a lesbian sheriff.


“Let’s be clear: Our members wanted to endorse Valdez,” said Mike Webb, Houston GLBT caucus president. “There’s nothing that would make us more proud than electing a member of our own community. However, we also have an expectation in our community to endorse the person who will do the best job. And our members just thought that Andrew White would do the best job.”

Webb also said, “Our members were convinced he would be best positioned to fight back hard against the aggressive bigotry we are getting from our governor” and that on “questions of deportation of immigrants, (Valdez’s) answers just weren’t very empathetic.”

Jolt’s founder, Tzintzun, who’s mother is Mexican and father is white, is originally from Columbus, Ohio, but moved to Texas when she was 21.

“My parents told me that it had the three things I love the most: year-round sunshine, lots of Mexicans and vegan food,” Tzintzun said.

The last seems a questionable draw, but she lives in Austin.

Before Jolt, Tzintzun spent 12 years building the Workers Defense Project .

Tzintzun is 36. Jolt is intended to mobilize Latinx voters younger than she is.

Founder and Executive Director Cristina Tzintzun said they chose the name Jolt “because when Latinos come out to vote, we are going to be a shock to the political system, not only of Texas but of the entire country.”

For Tzintzun and Jolt, there is little incentive to follow the safer course, the path-of-least-resistance option of endorsing Valdez if they don’t really believe she would best advance their goals.

At 18, Quiñones, grew up with Valdez as a public figure in her hometown.

“It was always good seeing her on TV. Wow, someone who looked like me was in such a high position.”

Energized to get involved in politics by the 2016 election,Quiñones got in touch with Jolt and became the  president of her high school chapter, which meant she would be among 16 leaders of the organization to vote on its endorsement this weekend.

Assigned the task of posing a question to Valdez, Quiñones did her research and delivered her accusatory question in a very even manner. When I spoke to her after the town hall, she said she didn’t think that Valdez had answered her question: “I think she kind of veered off.”


White is making the argument that he is a more capable candidate who will acquit himself better as the party’s nominee for governor, that he will stand the ticket – topped by Beto O’Rourke  and followed by the candidate for governor – in better stead. He is also making the case that, as long a shot as it may be for either of them, he stands a better chance of defeating Abbott than Valdez.

As he told the town hall Sunday, there is a blue wave building and it has already elected a moderate Democrat to the Senate in a special election in Alabama, and a moderate Democrat to Congress in a special election in Pennsylvania.

“And,” White said, “our turn is next.”

Electing a middle-of-the road white guy might not seem to be the most compelling argument to win over Latinx activists in Texas in 2018. But, on Sunday, thanks to Lupe Valdez, it carried the day.






I went to the Chip Roy-Matt McCall debate, and then the debate came to me.


Good day Austin:

Sunday night I went to a Hill Country Democratic CD 21 forum/debate at a winery in Johnson City.

Last night, I went to a Hill Country Tea Party Patriots Republican CD 21 forum/debate in a room at a senior citizen center in New Braunfels.

And then, as you will see, the debate came to me.

The tenor of the two debates was quite different.  (I’m going to call them debates even though they might not, strictly speaking, debates, because there was some opportunity for the candidates to answer questions and mix it up.)


Kopser and Wilson had some disagreements in tone and substance.

But, by and large it was a cordial affair in front of an up-beat crowd.

Yes, they booed and hissed at the mention of Lamar Smith, the retiring Republican incumbent whose seat Kopser and Wilson want to fill, and, of course, Sen. Ted Cruz. But they did it more in the good-natured spirit of a silent film audience watching an old movie melodrama.

On a beautiful Hill Country evening at a winery that looked like it could have been somewhere in Northern California, there wasn’t much venom in the air.

The Monday night tea party crowd, however, seemed to be, as tea party crowds tend to be, a bit more vexed, and maybe a wee bit sullen.

But don’t get me wrong, I far preferred the Monday event because rivals Chip Roy and Matt McCall, coaxed by some loaded audience questions, really did get into it and go at each other more than Wilson and Kopser did.

Conflict is news and I am a reporter.

I got video of some of the better moments.

This first clip came in response to a question from Tonya Benson of Fredericksburg, calling Roy out for a push poll his campaign conducted that she said was making misleading assertions about McCall.

(Interestingly, Kopser also drew controversy for a push poll. Kopser and Roy, unlike Wilson and McCall, have lots of money to spend and consultants to help them spend it, which, I think, leads them to spend money on things best avoided, like push polls.)

My review here is that McCall is an adept counterpuncher.

Roy, a cerebral type, may appeal to the tea party head, but McCall appeals to the tea party heart, or gut, or innards more generally.

However, McCall was less ready when asked about how he would, if elected to Congress, handle the conflict of interest inherent in his business as a government contractor, providing human tissue, mostly to U.S. military hospitals in Europe and Asia.

McCall said it was a good question, that he intended to keep his business, put it in the hands of a caretaker and return to it after six years in Congress. In the meantime, he said that he hadn’t quite figured out how to avoid the appearance of a conflict, but that he would figure out some ethical arrangement like Trump did with his business holdings – perhaps the first time Trump has been held out as an example for avoiding the appearance of a conflict of interest. Or maybe a blind trust, which might make sense with a stock portfolio but wouldn’t be terribly blinding when, of course, he would still know what his business was and how it would be affected by decisions he would make in Congress.

The question here was to Roy, asking why it would be a good idea to send a lawyer “knee-deep in politics” to D.C.

I thought McCall’s response that you shouldn’t have to be someone steeped in the ins and outs of  Washington politics, and that he represented the model of the smart and inquisitive citizen-amateur, started strong.

I think it’s a bunch of rubbish and I think it’s an unAmerican idea. It’s an unAmerican idea that we need a ruling class. I can hire staffers like you, Chip. He’s taking credit for all the things his bosses have ever done. Now I’m really irritated. He is saying that we the people aren’t smart enough to do it ourselves.

But then, around the 3:26 mark, he got a little carried away

I can figure things out. I went in six weeks from knowing absolutely nothing about medicine to teaching accomplished surgeons how to do different techniques for hernia repair in the most complicated area of the anatomy. 

I believe Roy’s eyes widened at this point, as did mine.

McCall also said he had traveled to 45 countries on business and out of personal interest, was a better negotiator than Roy would have ever encountered, and had 2 million frequent flier miles on American Airlines.

But he didn’t mention anything about piloting the planes.

As the time for questions came to an end, John Beacom, the president of the Hill Country Tea Party Patriots, asked the audience if they wanted to hear the candidates give closing statements for another couple of minutes or call it a night.

The consensus was that it was time to go home.


But, that’s when things got really interesting.

I approached Tonya Benson, the woman who had asked Roy about the push poll to see if she was satisfied with his answer (she wasn’t).

As we talked,  McCall joined the conversation, and brought up the circumstances surrounding Roy’s move in early 2016 from  Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, where he was first assistant attorney general, to a super PAC supporting Ted Cruz’s candidacy for president.

McCall (to me): You should look at,

FR: Is that something you put together?

McCall: No it isn’t. It was sent to us yesterday and it lays out the timeline. (Texas) Senate Bill 73 is about abortion. It’s Donna Campbell’s bill. There is a little rider on there to stop this kind of stuff that he did.

FR: What kind of stuff?

McCall: Well, he was fired, he was asked to resign, he was presented a letter of resignation, and so instead, he rewrote the letter and said, “OK, today’s may last day in office but I’m taking three months of leave, paid leave.” That was on March 19 of 2016. The next day he went to work for Ted Cruz’s  super PAC. So the Texas government is paying him a salary of $16,500 a month while he was there, so he got busted by the Dallas Morning paper…

At this point, Roy, who was at the other end of the room but surmising what was going on, approached, and hearing what McCall had just said, interjected:

Roy: These are lies, I didn’t earn one dollar, not one dollar, that was not earned vacation, and this matters, this matters a lot because my wife recognized the $15,000 I gave up, turned down from the PAC , while I was on the payroll of the state, that’s the way the state lawyers gave it, I did not earn one dollar, not one, that was not vacation or comp time. Period

McCall: Well, I think that is probably true it you let me finish what I was saying before you interrupted my conversation, thank you very much, Chip. I guess it’s a weak hand. But he went back and changed his letter of resignation when he was busted by the Dallas paper on it. The next day, after they wrote an article he went out and made his resignation immediate and not in June, and then it probably did work out and I assume what he just said is absolutely true, but that wasn’t what was going on.

Roy: That’s not true.

McCall: And Senate Bill 73 is to end that.

Roy: That’s not true.

McCall: That’s what it appears, anyway, and I’m not claiming to be an expert, but that’s what’s out there, that’s the record, I don’t know why you didn’t sue for defamation if it was. Now Donna Campbell is trying to change those rules so people can’t take three months of severance when they retire and work for someplace else. It’s actually against the law to be on the state payroll and working in politics, from what I understand.

Roy: The fact of the matter, the truth is that when I left the AG’s office, I went to work for Sen. Cruz … the next day, I did that under the state law that was given to me by the state lawyers, that I would off my vacation time and my comp time, and when I said in the press at the time when I was asked about it, people asked questions about it when I was with Sen. Cruz’s super PAC, I didn’t take any pay, not one dollar, from the PAC while I was still on the state payroll, as the state lawyers had given me as the exit (method) from the state.

And I said that I had cancer scans with my oncologist the week of April 7th, 8th, whatever it was, so I went and got the scans and was essentially waiting for the results of the scans to know whether or not I was staying with the PAC or thinking of coming back to the state. I was still on the payroll, under the law, as they said when I left, I would be paid for the days that I earned, so that’s what I did, that’s what I was told.

So I’m over working over here (for the PAC), not earning any money.

McCall: Which I didn’t say that you were.

Roy: But what I’m saying is that when I left, I  got a clear review by my oncologist and I said, Ok, I will now make this official, and it was all within the window of this earned time. That’s what happened, that’s what the News reflects, that’s what the Tribune reported on.

(In other words, and quite reasonably, Roy wanted the state health coverage if he were still going to be dealing with cancer.)

McCall: I’m not trying to be mean but when I was running against Lamar and I said something that wasn’t true I called Logan, and I said, “Logan, I found out something I said wasn’t rue and I won’t do it again.” And I said, “Logan, please call me if you find something I said that’s not true, because I think the facts are bad enough about his voting record.’

But I’ve had five different people, who don’t know each other, that all say that you were handed a letter of resignation and you were fired, so you really didn’t have an opportunity to go back to the AG’s office.

Roy: When I left the AG’s office, what was discussed was whether or not, if I were leaving to go to work for the senator, and whether or not I might potentially come back to the state at some point.

McCall: Not the AG’s office, because they had invited you to be successful someplace else.

Roy: Here’s the bottom line.

McCall: Tell me that that’s …

Roy: When I left the state and left the state to work for the PAC, I didn’t know what the health situation was at the time.

McCall: I’m not trying to be argumentative. I’m trying to understand. You went to Washington, D.C., on a weekend trip with Paxton, whatever happened, you came home, the next morning at the office you were presented with a letter of resignation. They expected you to sign it.

Roy: That’s not true. None of that is true and I can’t talk about …

McCall: You were basically fired.

Roy: That’s not true, and I can’t talk about what went on n the AG’s office.

McCall: There’s a bunch of people who say that, and none of them were my  personal friends before.

Roy: When I left the AG’s office I went to the work the very next day for the PAC. We announced it and put it out in a press release.

McCall: Yeah, but you didn’t leave the AG’s office because of that. You left that job because you’ve been fired.

Roy: No, I will not talk about what went on the AG’s office because it is not appropriate for me to do so.

When I resigned, I resigned to go work for Sen. Cruz the very next day. And for the time I was with Sen. Cruz, the lawyers in the AG’s office said, this is how we run off your vacation and your comp time. So that’s what I did. That’s the bottom line.

FR: But is it not appropriate because of a settlement or just because of your own sense of what’s appropriate or what’s not appropriate?

Roy: The point about my departure from the AG’s office and what I earned or didn’t earn, I only got paid dollars that I earned, and I turned down pay that I didn’t have to legally, I turned down pay from the PAC to avoid any hint of impropriety, even though there wasn’t any, because I was waiting to find out what the results might be before deciding whether to go back to the state for state benefits. I never had a conversation about the specifics of that. I had any number of options that were on the table.

McCall: Chip, I think you have a history of doing what’s legal and wrong.

Roy: Legal and what?

McCall: Legal and wrong.

Roy: Wrong?

McCall: Legal and wrong. Just because something’s legal doesn’t make it right.

Roy: What was wrong?

McCall: And I think you got caught.

Roy: What was wrong?

McCall: What?

Roy: What was wrong?

McCall: Well, I think you left the state because you got forced to. They handed you a letter for resignation. And you then, while you were collecting money from the state, you were working for a super PAC, which is against the law and you signed a statement saying that you wouldn’t do that.

Roy: What’s against the law?

McCall:  Huh?

Roy: What’s against the law?

McCall:  Using state funds, which that’s what it would be, to do political work.

Roy: It’s illegal to work in a political environment when you are on the state payroll. It’s not. They do it all the time.

McCall: The next day you changed your letter of resignation.

Roy: No.

McCall:  I’ve seen it. It’s actually on-line. It’s not me doing it. It was sent to me –

Roy: We changed it when we got the reports back from the oncologist.

McCall: Which just happened to be, shazam, happened to be the day after.

FR: Changed it to what?

Roy: We terminated my being on the payroll when I got my report back from the oncologist.

FR: But then back to the circumstances of your leaving the AG’s office, was there some legal settlement that does not allow you to talk about that, or is it not in the nature of anything like that?

McCall:  I have to run – in the interests of truth, that’s all I am trying to dig for here. And it does really look like, just like you don’t live in the district, it’s legal but it’s not right. What happened there looks like it’s legal but it’s not right, it looks like you got busted on it, and that’s just the way it looks.

Roy: It’s just not true.

McCall: I don’t know that its’ not true and there’s a lot of other people who don’t think that, who think that’s what happened. I tell you that people just walked up to me that I don’t know and they’re like, this is bad and this is why Donna Campbell has the provision in an abortion bill ending this nonsense. It’s complete abuse of the…

Roy: No, the reason she has that bill is because of the nature of the system that has been used in many, many, many instances.

McCall: Which you were using because it was legal, and it’s wrong.

Roy: It’s what the AG’s office gave me as the exit.

McCall: I respectfully disagree?

FR: Are you guy’s doing this again tomorrow?


At this point McCall departed, and Roy offered his summation.

Roy: The important part in my view, because it matters, and what I told the Tribune at the time, is that when I left, what I was told by the lawyers was, this is how you burn your vacation and your comp time, and they set it out at some point in the future.


I was told here’s how you burn your time and then when I left and went over and then had blood work that came back a little screwy, so I was scheduling scans with my oncologist, I was then holding on setting the date of the final burn of the time while I was working for the PAC, turning back the pay for the PAC, so that was what was happening.

Kellyanne Conway, and Dave Carney and the people working at the PAC know that I turned down that pay even though legally I could have it. I did that because, while that time was going and I thought that there was at least a chance that if there was a bad report or a bad result that I would have a conversation at that point with the AG or the governor or other people, “Hey, is there a job I can do with the state and be on state benefits if the cancer comes back, because I was sitting on COBRA at $1,900 a month while working for the PAC.

So in the interests of my family, I said, well I will see what happens with the scans, I will burn my vacation and comp time, and then when I get to the scans, which was April 6th, 7th of 8th, whenever it was, that first week of April, it was about a month after I left the AG’s office, I’ll see what the result is. Got the result back and the very next day did that.

The reason this is frustrating to me is that I literally did nothing in any of that that had me getting any benefit from the state that was not earned.

Now had I gone past April, whatever the date was, and then not gone back to the state – and now by the way, I was still given that by the state, people took that, whether that was right or not under the law, that is what the lawyers in the state  were saying, this is how we set that up – I reckon  I would have been within my rights to do that, but what I would have chosen to do is to go back to the attorney general, go back to the state leaders I know and say, “Hey, I’m probably not going to be able to be able to go work for the PAC now, I’ve got to go battle cancer, is there something I could do here at the state like I did for Gov. Perry.”

I might have stayed on COBRA, I might have chosen not to. I was waiting for that timeline before cutting off state insurance until I got through this.

FR: What about Obamacare?

(Roy emitted a negative noise.)

And the PAC job wasn’t one with benefits?

Roy: No because you’re an independent contract.

FR: Which PAC was this?

Roy: Trusted Leadership. There were like four PACs. We formed that one as I left the AG office, which, by the way, had been a six-month long conversation of people saying, “We need you to go do this for Ted,” some friends and donors and supporters out there. And I had been saying “no,” because I had an obligation to people in the AG’s office when they hired me, so when I left it was just in the heat of he battle in 2016 and I needed to do that so I went and did it.

FR: Thanks.

Roy: Thanks.

Meanwhile, the Baker Institute at Rice University at the end  of March held the inaugural conference of its Presidential Elections Program with a panel discussion, moderated by Major Garrett and featuring David Axelrod and Karl Rove.

I have not had a chance to listen to the whole thing yet but, beginning at the 48:50 mark, you can hear some spectacularly misinformed analysis of the CD 23 Democratic race by Rove.

Rove: Each party has its own unique challenge.

The Republican Party. Look Donald Trump owns the Republican Party today, but there is no coherent Trumpism. The Republican Party remains a center-right party governed by somebody who thinks that (Friedrich) Hayek owns a bar on the Upper East Side, who has not read  (Ludwig) Von Mises, and Bill Buckley, well he had a cute wife, and, this is not a guy who is ideologically sound … or grounded, and he’ll be the first to admit it. But he’s got a sense of what the, quote, base needs, and as long as it’s conservative judges and Second Amendment rights, and tax cuts and strong military, they’re going to be with him.

And look, we’re at tribal, a moment of tribalism in American politics. I see this in my party. I can remember people in my party tell me, “I’m offended that the president of the United States would have sex with an intern in the Oval Office, and today it’s, “God I love Donald Trump and who cares about the porn star.” And similarly Democrats – “My God, sex is a private matter and we should not criticize the president,” and, “My God, we’ve got to impeach that son of a bitch.”

So we got to the point of tribalism where everybody’s this way. And so Trump right now is the beneficiary of that tribalism. The Democrats have the tribalism of, “We hate that guy.” and resistance and rage is ultimately going to drive, in my opinion, too many Democrat primaries this year. We’re seeing it right here in  Texas … to the party’s detriment. You saw it here in CD 7, which is yet to play out.

Well, the better example is CD 23 out in West Texas where the Democrats all got behind former U.S Attorney Jay Hulings and the Castro brothers endorsed him and he’s a Marine and he has like $500,000, and he comes in fourth behind a woman who spends $34,000 on her first race for office and a guy who spends twenty grand on like his 50th race for office because he shares the name of a famous Tejano music star, Rick Treviño, a former high school teacher, and the first-place finisher hasn’t lived in Texas for 20 years but, by God, she speaks to all the anger of the Democratic hard left, and both parties are going to have to work their way through this.

Wow. that last paragraph is teeming with misinformation.

OK. He’s close to the mark on Hulings’ money.

But he’s completely off on Gina Ortiz Jones’ money. Totally off.



He also seems offended that the money wasn’t entirely decisive.

And he also expects us to believe that if Huling had won he would have proclaimed it a victory for the eminently reasonable, non-Trump-hating Castro brothers.

Not likely.

What’s more, the last time he attacked Jones, on FOX News Sunday, (though he got her last name wrong ), it was not that she was a hard-left hater but an identity politics special pleader.

From the Fox News Sunday transcript:

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


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

Meanwhile, as far as I know, Jay Hulings was not a Marine. Rove is probably confusing him with Joseph Kopser, who spent 20 years in the Army, or Gina Ortiz Jones, who was an Air Force intelligence officer.

And his point about Treviño, is exactly what?

He calls him a “guy who spends twenty grand on like his 50th race for office because he shares the name of a famous Tejano music star, Rick Treviño.”

A couple of days before Rove’s appearance at Rice, I wrote a First Reading on Treviño, To `catch some lightning.’ On Rick Treviño’s perhaps not entirely impossible CD-23 dream.

For starters, this is not Treviño’s 50th race. It is his second.

In May of 2017, Treviño had, by fewer than 30 votes, missed making a runoff for a seat on the San Antonio City Council … 

One would think that Rove would more mindful that a lot of candidates lose the first time out – even with a more famous name and more money than Treviño.

From CBS Newsin 2014.

AUSTIN, Texas — George P. Bush was elected Texas land commissioner in a landslide Tuesday, winning a little-known but powerful post that could eventually lead to higher offices and becoming the first in his family’s political dynasty to win his first race.

Bush, a 38-year-old Fort Worth attorney and energy consultant, raised more than $3 million against his little-known Democratic opponent, former El Paso Mayor John Cook. Nonetheless, he spent months crisscrossing the state in a campaign bus adorned with his towering, grinning face.

Bush is the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush and nephew of President George W. Bush, who was Texas governor before taking the White House. His father, Jeb, is a former Florida governor who is considering a presidential run in 2016.

But none of them–nor the family patriarch and source of George P.’s middle name, long-serving Connecticut Sen. Prescott Bush–won their first races. His grandfather lost a U.S. Senate race in Texas in 1964, while his uncle lost his 1978 congressional bid. Jeb Bush wasn’t elected Florida governor until his second try, and Prescott Bush, George P.’s great-grandfather, came up short in his first Senate race in 1950.

And anyway, how exactly is Treviño winning votes on the strength of his shared name with a popular performer  evidence of the “anger of the Democratic hard left?”

And by the way, for those not obsessed with identity politics, Treviño, who grew up loathing his father’s Tejano music, is better described as a country singer.

From Federico Martinez in a 2017 story in the San Angelo Standard-Times

His first label, Colombia Nashville, had him record a country album, which is the music genre Trevino is most comfortable. The company also insisted that he record a Spanish country album, even though Trevino wasn’t fluent in the language. He needed to take Spanish lessons to make the album.

“The record company decided to release the Spanish album first, which I thought was a mistake,” Trevino said. “My concern at the time was that people would perceive me as a Tejano artist trying to crossover to country.

“I understood Colombia’s decision. They saw a money-making opportunity and a chance to tap into the Hispanic/Latino market.”

The album, “Dos Mundos,” sold more than 500,000 copies and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Trevino says his concerns proved accurate when his self-titled second album was released in 1994. It took time for the English-language country album to find an audience.

“Music fans were confused,” he said. “Is he a country artist? Is he a Tejano singer?”

Only more recently – heavens to Trump – has Treviño, the performer, returned to his Latino roots

“My Granddaddy’s daddy crossed the Rio Grande, trying to find a better life than what he had; to plant the strongest seeds to grow the family tree for cowboys like me.”

Those semi-autobiographical lyrics are the opening lines from “Cowboys Like Me,” the first single from Grammy Award-winner Rick Trevino’s upcoming album, “Long Coyote Gone.”

Trevino’s eighth studio album since 1993, it includes some of his most personal lyrics to date. The second single, “I’m a Mexican,” which he recorded with legendary Tejano artist Flaco Jimenez, is an unflinching declaration of Trevino’s cultural heritage and a story about the struggles of an undocumented immigrant working in the U.S.

“Some of the songs are more personal, provocative and political than anything else I’ve ever done,” the country star said. “I’ve been singing “I’m a Mexican” for the past three years.

“Initially, I was concerned about how people would react. Let’s face it, 70-80 percent of my audiences in the dance halls I perform in have a more conservative view of immigration. But the audience response has been great.”

As for the other Treviño, the one running for Congress in the 23rd Congressional District, he is angry, but, as a devoted Bernie guy, that has more to do with the concentration of wealth and power in the United States than Trump per se, who he saw coming.

Flash-bang grenades: On Ted Cruz’s incendiary political rhetoric.

Poster by SABO


Good Friday Austin:

The TIME 100 is supposed to be a list of the 100 most influential people of 2018.

Each of the hundred gets a little write-up by some other pretty influential person.

And so our own Texas Sen. Ted Cruz did the blurb for President Trump.

Here is what Cruz wrote:

President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America. The fact that his first year as Commander in Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.

The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump’s popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump’s achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans. While pundits obsessed over tweets, he worked with Congress to cut taxes for struggling families. While wealthy celebrities announced that they would flee the country, he fought to bring back jobs and industries to our shores. While talking heads predicted Armageddon, President Trump’s strong stand against North Korea put Kim Jong Un back on his heels.

President Trump is doing what he was elected to do: disrupt the status quo. That scares the heck out of those who have controlled Washington for decades, but for millions of Americans, their confusion is great fun to watch.

Cruz is a U.S. Senator from Texas

Well, what could be greater fun than watching the merry mayhem that ensues when a a flash-bang grenade is tossed by some forgotten men and women into a crowd of media and political types in Washington.

Am I right?

Actually, I will confess that, up until a couple of weeks ago I didn’t know what a flash-bang grenade was.

Then I spent some time working on a story on the 25th anniversary of the Branch Davidian siege in Waco that ended the lives of 82 Branch Davidians – including many children – and four agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

At a 1995 Congressional hearing, Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin, who represented David Koresh, the Branch Davidian leader who died amid he fire that consumed Mount Carmel, their communal residence, 25 years ago Thursday, testified that, “I did see some grenades that the ATF had thrown in.”

Chuck Schumer, then a congressman, was outraged by that insinuation.

“What do you mean thrown in?” he asked DeGuerin.

DeGuerin: The ATF threw in grenades in their dynamic entry.

Schumer: They didn’t throw in any grenades as I understand it. They were flash-bangs.

DeGuerin: Did you ever see what a flash-bang can do to somebody? They’re grenades. There’s an explosive charge in it. It’s very dangerous. It can blow your hand off. It can blow your face off. It can kill.

The next day, Schumer returned to the question of flash-bang grenades.

Schumer: And coup de grâce, Mr. DeGeurin says that flash-bangers can kill, injure, maim. Anyone who knows anything knows they can’t.

Thus spake the munitions expert from Brooklyn, though a subsequent witness, ATF Special Agent Jim Cavanaugh, said that, per DeGeurin, flash-bang grenades can be very dangerous.

If this goes off in your hand, they will call you stumpy.

And, form Pro Publica:

Hotter Than Lava
Every day, cops toss dangerous military-style flashbang grenades during raids, with little oversight and horrifying results.
by Julia Angwin and Abbie Nehring, ProPublicaJanuary 12, 2015

Cruz’s encomium to Trump won predictable criticism for all too obvious reasons.

Including from his Democratic rival:

O’Rourke said he would vote to impeach Trump as a member of the House, but couldn’t say whether he would vote to convict if he were a member of the Senate, which would hold a trial if the House were to, in effect, indict the president for high crimes and misdemenanors.

But, that said, Ted Cruz has has said worse things about Donald Trump than Beto O’Rourke ever has. Way worse. Way, way worse.

From May 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CRUZ: Let me finish this, please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CRUZ: You sound like a broken record.

CRUZ: Does someone else have a record?

CRUZ: You have asked one already, Hallie.

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

CRUZ: Hallie, you have asked one already.

CRUZ: Go ahead, Jessica.

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

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

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

Well, I guess it all depends on who is on the receiving end of the flash-bang.

What will now be Cruz’s timeless TIME 100 flattery of Trump, certainly is an invitation to this, Friday, from Progress Texas’ Humans Against Ted Cruz project.

But, putting aside Cruz’s fulsome act of forgiveness of his former tormentor, what interested me was his use, in a world beset by terror, of the flash-bang metaphor, and what seems to me to be his consistent, and I think unique at his level, delight in using the most vividly  violent metaphors in his political rhetoric.

As I wrote in March 2015:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz roused the hundreds of young people who packed the “Big Government Sucks” reception Thursday night at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference with a typically provocative appeal.

“Each of you has an ability to spread a fire; I am asking you to be an arsonist,” Cruz said. “I encourage you to light fire of liberty in other young people, so it burns and rages and spreads from one young person to another. That is how we turn the country around.”

“Now listen,” Cruz said to his young audience, explaining of his choice of imagery. “This may be a particular predilection because I am the son of a Cuban guerrilla.”

“My dad grew up in Cuba,” said Cruz. “When my dad was 14-years old he began fighting in the Cuban revolution, he began fighting alongside Fidel Castro. Now, he didn’t know Castro was a communist. None of the kids knew.”

But, he said, what they did know was that Batista, the Cuban dictator who Castro was seeking to overthrow, was cruel, oppressive and corrupt, and so, at 14, Cruz’s father “began throwing Molotov cocktails.”

On the campaign trail for president Cruz would describe his political allies – like U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, as political “knife fighter.”

When Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick endorsed Cruz in October 2015, Cruz praised  Patrick as an ally who would  “crawl through broken glass with a knife between his teeth.”

This year he has described the Democratic base as having such a hate for Trump, “They will crawl over broken glass in November to vote.”

Does painting these kind of word-pictures matter?

From LSU political scientist Nathan Kalmoe:

Fueling the Fire: Violent Metaphors, Trait Aggression, and Support for Political Violence
Article in Political Communication 31(4) · October 2014 


The recent concurrence of violent political rhetoric and violence against political targets in the U.S. and abroad has raised public concern about the effects of language on citizens. Building from theoretical foundations in aggression research, I fielded two nationally representative survey experiments and a third local experiment preceding the 2010 midterm elections to investigate support for violence against political authority. Subjects were randomly assigned to view one of two forms of the same political advertisements. Across all three experiments, mild violent metaphors multiply support for political violence among aggressive citizens, especially among young adults. Aggressive personality traits also predict support for political violence in both national studies. This work identifies dynamic roots of violent political orientations and reveals for the first time surprising interactions between this elite discourse and personality traits in citizens.

Here are some graphics from Kalmoe’s dissertation on the subject.


But Kalmoe’s examples of violent language are tepid compared to Cruz’s.

They use the language of war, battle, enemy, crusade.

Cruz uses the far more vivid imagery of flash-bang grenades, molotov cocktails, arson, broken glass and knives.

I’ can’t think of another major American politician who compares.

And, where it may matter is in his contest with O’Rourke, who, rhetorically, comes to the campaign trail in peace.

Cruz is as polarizing a figure as there is in American politics. He knows that, and I assume, he believes, in its ability to rouse the base, this is the way for him to go.

From Jeff Roe on March 17 in the New York Times.

President Trump may not be on the ballot in November, but the election will be a referendum on him, as 2010 was on President Barack Obama and 2006 was on President George W. Bush. We will lose seats. The only question is this: Will these losses be catastrophic or manageable?

That will be determined by a very specific choice: Will the party retreat from its leader or fix bayonets and storm to the front with him?

No one fought Mr. Trump harder and longer than I did, as the campaign manager for Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign for the Republican nomination. I know the maddening brilliance of Mr. Trump. I also know history doesn’t favor the president’s party in midterm elections. With the election of a Democrat in the 18th Congressional District of Pennsylvania — a district Mr. Trump carried by 20 percentage points, but which also has tens of thousands more registered Democrats than Republicans — it has become media gospel that the president is toxic and that Republican candidates will have to distance themselves from him. That narrative is wrong.


While some Republican candidates, in swing seats, may benefit from creating distance from Mr. Trump, a strategic retreat will work only in rare instances. The myth that midterms are decided by swing voters ignores the prevailing reality that large midterm electoral shifts are driven by shifts in base motivation.


It is undoubtedly difficult to differentiate Trump policies from the Trump persona, because the Trump persona dominates news coverage. But Republican candidates for Congress have to try. Tactically, that means being laser-focused on generating local news coverage of policy accomplishments, even when the national cable news fixates on the latest Trump outrage.

And guess what? Despite breathless coverage of the daily outrage generator in the White House, the economy is improving. The tax cuts will, and in fact already are, spurring growth, freeing capital for investment, creating jobs and returning overseas profits to our shores. There is a message to sell. So sell it.

I would go further and argue that it is the Trump persona so vilified in the media that has in fact made bolder, more sweeping reforms possible than would have been conceivable under almost any other Republican who might have been elected.

Would a President Jeb Bush have signed a strong executive order on religious liberty, or would a President Marco Rubio have started construction of a wall? Would President John Kasich have had the intestinal fortitude to execute such a huge reorganization of the Environmental Protection Agency, dismantling the liberal bureaucracy that with its deeply embedded biases harms our economy? Would President Mitt Romney have pushed through such a major tax overhaul? No way. What makes Mr. Trump different is that he just doesn’t care what the bed-wetting caucus says about his policies.

(I think bed-wetting caucus counts as fighting words.)

Meanwhile, Cruz’s contribution last year to last year’s TIME100 was his blurb on “warrior and patriot” Rebekah Mercer:

Rebekah Mercer is a warrior and a patriot. She is the daughter of a brilliant mathematician and tremendously successful investor, and blessed with her own deep intelligence and intuitive insight, and it would have been simple for her to have settled into a life of comfort and ease. But Bekah cares too much about freedom and our nation to do so.

Instead, she and her father, Bob, have invested generously in helping fuel a political revolution. Their approach is multi­faceted. From think tanks to public-policy organizations to online media to path-breaking data analytics, Bekah has helped transform the world of politics. She understands the populist frustration with the bipartisan corruption in Washington, and she is one of the strongest champions of draining the swamp.

And she has helped fund upstart campaigns and underdog candidates, including my own Senate and presidential campaigns. When Donald Trump won the nomination, Bekah played a pivotal role in helping assemble the team and strategy that shocked the world in November.

From Maggie Haberman in the New York Times in July 2016.

In an extraordinary public rebuke, two influential donors who were among the biggest supporters of Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign excoriated Mr. Cruz on Saturday for his decision not to endorse Donald J. Trump at the Republican National Convention.

The remarks from Robert Mercer of Long Island and his daughter Rebekah Mercer suggest widening fallout over Mr. Cruz’s convention speech, in which he did not endorse his former rival and, instead, suggested that Republicans should “vote your conscience” for candidates “up and down the ticket.”

“Last summer and again this year, Senator Ted Cruz pledged to support the candidacy of the nominee of the Republican Party, whomever that nominee might be,” the Mercers, who rarely comment in the news media, said in the statement to The New York Times. “We are profoundly disappointed that on Wednesday night he chose to disregard this pledge.”

The statement continued: “The Democratic Party will soon choose as their nominee a candidate who would repeal both the First and Second Amendments of the Bill of Rights, a nominee who would remake the Supreme Court in her own image. We need ‘all hands on deck’ to ensure that Mr. Trump prevails.”

“Unfortunately,” the statement added, “Senator Cruz has chosen to remain in his bunk below, a decision both regrettable and revealing.”

The Mercers invested at least $11 million in Keep the Promise I, one of a group of interlocked “super PACs” that supported Mr. Cruz in his presidential run. During the contentious primary race, Mr. Cruz had early praise for Mr. Trump on the belief that his candidacy would eventually fade and that Mr. Trump’s voters would move over to the senator’s camp.

Instead, Mr. Trump’s candidacy endured and the race between the men grew increasingly rancorous.

Mr. Cruz is up for re-election in 2018 and is said to be looking at a second campaign for president in 2020, should Mr. Trump lose in November. But, in both cases, he will need his donor base to stay with him.

After Mr. Cruz’s speech at the convention in Cleveland, Sheldon G. Adelson, the casino magnate who was an early admirer of Mr. Cruz in the primaries, blocked him from his suite. (A friend of Mr. Adelson’s, claiming to represent him, insisted after the fact that he was not trying to disrespect the senator.)

The next morning, Mr. Cruz was booed by members of the Texas delegation at a breakfast.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cruz, Catherine Frazier, said on Saturday: “Senator Cruz considers Bob and Rebekah to be patriots ad friends. As Senator Cruz urged in Cleveland, Hillary Clinton would be a disaster for America. Republicans need to unite, and the only way to unite is behind shared principles. His speech laid out a path — vigorously defending freedom and the Constitution — for our nominee to unite the party and for Republicans to win up and down the ticket.”

Mr. Mercer in recent weeks has helped fund a new effort for donors who want to defeat Mrs. Clinton, but who do not want to donate to a group that is openly supporting Mr. Trump. That group is being operated by David Bossie, the president of the group Citizens United.

Kellyanne Conway, who was the president of a pro-Cruz super PAC and now is an adviser to Mr. Trump, said the statement reflects the Mercers’ feelings about defeating Mrs. Clinton in the fall and “how grievously piqued they were to watch Ted’s convention stunt on Wednesday night.”

Ms. Conway added, “They supported Ted because they thought he was a man of his word who, like them, would place love of country over personal feelings or political ambition.”

As for Rebekah Mercer’s “path-breaking data analytics,” here from the New York Times on March 17:
How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions

LONDON — As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

An examination by The New York Times and The Observer of London reveals how Cambridge Analytica’s drive to bring to market a potentially powerful new weapon put the firm — and wealthy conservative investors seeking to reshape politics — under scrutiny from investigators and lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.


In Britain, Cambridge Analytica is facing intertwined investigations by Parliament and government regulators into allegations that it performed illegal work on the “Brexit” campaign. The country has strict privacy laws, and its information commissioner announced on Saturday that she was looking into whether the Facebook data was “illegally acquired and used.”

In the United States, Mr. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, a board member, Mr. Bannon and Mr. Nix received warnings from their lawyer that it was illegal to employ foreigners in political campaigns, according to company documents and former employees.

From the Texas Tribune on March 20:

“Cambridge Analytica was an outside vendor that the campaign hired to assist in data analysis and online advertising, and they worked for the campaign, pursuant to contract,” Cruz told The Texas Tribune. “Cambridge Analytica represented to the campaign that all data in their possession were legally obtained and that they were in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, and the campaign relied on those representations.”




Cruz kicks off campaign at the Redneck Country Club, but is Ted really a redneck?

Good day Austin:

Here was Ted Cruz last night, after being introduced by radio talk host Michael Berry, a former member of the Houston City Council, a Cruz friend and ally, and the proprietor of the Redneck Country Club in Stafford.

If you’ve got ten hours to spare, you can watch it here:


It was the single most important speech and act on the single most important issue of the last ten years.

William F. Buckley, the father of conservatism, said, “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history yelling, ‘Stop,’ when no one else is inclined to do so and no one else has patience for those who do. That’s what Ted Cruz did. He stood athwart history and said, `Stop.”

It’s good to see athwart get its due.

It’s not part of the usual redneck lexicon, except maybe as a lisping redneck’s identification of a skin growth on his posterior. (It’s OK for me to make this lame joke here because a teenaged Cruz began this video: “Aspirations? Is that like sweat on my butt?”)

But, when I think athwart it does bring to mind Slim Pickens as Major T.J. “King” Kong at the end of Dr. Strangelove, riding the nuclear missile,with Texas whoops and hollers, to its cataclysmic destination.

I wasn’t there in person last night. I watched it on Facebook.

But fortunately, I was there for the  election night celebration Cruz had there on Super Tuesday, 2016.


In March of 2016 we had an election-night party right here. And I still remember national reporters who were terrified and flabbergasted. “What do you mean we’re going to the Redneck Country Club?” There’s just something beautiful about saying that to a reporter who’s just completely out of sorts and saying, “Welcome to Texas.”

Here’s the photo Texas Monthly ran with its story by Abby Johnston back then under the headline: Ted Cruz Ain’t Skeered. Where is Ted Cruz’s voter base? You can find them at the Redneck Country Club.

Let it be known, then, that the people who packed the Redneck Country Club on Super Tuesday ain’t skeered. Neither is Ted Cruz.

Cruz’s decision to hold his victory rally at a venue with such demonstrative name has caused national pearl clutching. Cable news anchors said it apologetically on air (“That’s the name of it, don’t get mad at me,” CNN’s Jake Tapper begged) or giggled every time they repeated it. But the Internet’s clickbait du jour wasn’t redneck in name alone. Just outside of the main room is an entrancing tiered chandelier made out of 350 Lone Star bottles. The walls of the gorgeous high-ceilinged main room, where Cruz addressed his crowd of supporters, looked like it was decorated by the world’s most tasteful taxidermist, with fowl, boars, and deer all represented. The Redneck Country Club very accurately describes itself as a “high-class redneck establishment,” and the honky-tonk’s décor, though lovely and shockingly thorough, shows that they’re embracing the ‘neck ethos without abandon.

In other words, Cruz wasn’t trying to pull one over on us when his camp booked the club as a venue. And in fact, it seems to be a very deliberate choice, because for Cruz it’s long been about location, location, location. Let’s rewind to when entered into the GOP circus in March 2015 at Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world. He launched his presidential bid in front of thousands of young Christians (allegedly there under threat of a fine from the university), which was a smart move for someone who was positioned to be the God-and-country evangelical in the 2016 race. The decision to announce at an institution founded by Jerry Falwell Sr., a Southern Baptist preacher and co-founder of the Moral Majority, said a lot about the kind of people Cruz expected would deliver the GOP nomination to him. His speech reflected it. He detailed how faith in God saved his father, and how his own journey has been heavily influenced by his religion.

Now, snap back to Super Tuesday and his home state victory rally that was decidedly more raucous than a Baptist potluck. There was beer by the bucketful (literally). There were more than a few sparkly cowboy hats. There was live music before the speech that picked back up after the candidate left, with a few couples two-stepping along. Undoubtedly there were Christians in attendance who might skip church on Sunday morning if Saturday night got a little out of hand. This club, owned by conservative radio host Michael Berry, celebrates a different type of conservative voter: The kind that expects their president to protect the constitutional rights of guns, low taxes, and booze. The only shout-out the Big Man got was the cursory “God bless” bookending the speech.

This reflects a shift in what Ted Cruz considers his voting base. Evangelical Christians have inexplicably fallen in line for Donald Trump, a man who once talked about anal sex on the radio and loves Planned Parenthood. Trump has claimed evangelical voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and continued to woo them on Super Tuesday. Adding insult to injury, Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the university where Cruz’s campaign was born, endorsed the mogul. For the faithful, it’s clear that Cruz is no longer the, er, chosen one.

The czar, referred to in the sign, is the czar of talk, as in Michael Berry.

Were national reporters actually terrified and flabbergasted by Cruz’s choice for his Super Tuesday venue?

Here is the headline deck on the Daily Mail’s story on Super Tuesday election night.

Ted Cruz holds Texas victory party at controversial club that hosted a blackface ‘comedian’ and is owned by radio host who called black teenagers ‘jungle animals’
Ted Cruz held his results party in Texas at The Redneck Country Club 
Venue owned by Michael Berry, who called black teenagers ‘jungle animals’
Bar hosts blackface ‘comedian’ Shirley Q. Liquor, who mocks black women
Cruz used the club as his campaign headquarters for Super Tuesday
Texas senator won the Republican primary there with 43.4% of the vote 

But this begs the real question:

Is Ted Cruz a redneck?

And what is a redneck?

There is the menacing redneck that does for Easy Rider what slim Pickens did for Dr. Strangelove.

Or the indescribably menacing rednecks of Deliverance.

There’s the more genially rollicking redneck brought to you here by New York-born Jerry Jeff Walker.

There is the lovable redneck, a la Ernest.

There is the Florida Panhandle’s Redneck Riviera, where I took my kids for spring break when they were young.

There’s the Redneck State of Mind.

There’s the definitional redneck, courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary.


And there’s the working, you may be a redneck definition from leading authority, Jeff Foxworthy

Foxworthy: “My definition of redneck – it’s a glorious absence of sophistication.”

So, by none of these standards is Canadian-born Rafael Edward Cruz, educated at Princeton and Harvard, former solicitor general of the state of Texas, and successful member of the Supreme Court bar, an actual, bona fide redneck.


But this is America, land of fluid identities, where you can be whatever you want to be.

If Robert Francis O’Rourke can be a bilingual, bicultural, and liberal Beto O’Rourke …

why can’t Ted Cruz be a virtual redneck.

Because, if Beto perfectly encapsulates O’Rourke’s politics, Redneck Ted is the essence of Cruz’s standing-athwart-history-yelling, “Stop,” political brand.

From Kevin Diaz in the Houston Chronicle on March 30: Cruz relying on brand to fend off lesser-known O’Rourke

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It was vintage Ted Cruz.

With bipartisan majorities in Congress poised to avert a government shutdown and pass a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill, the Texas Republican issued a dissent worthy of his insurgent 2016 presidential campaign, when he ran against the “Washington cabal.”

Now, the same bill President Donald Trump reluctantly would sign was, to Cruz, a “disastrous” hodge-podge of wasteful spending “drafted by the Swamp in the dark of night.”

 While some Republicans may fret about Trump’s shaky approval ratings or their party’s brand among disappointed conservatives, Cruz seems to occupy his own space in the political firmament. Launching his 2018 reelection campaign in Houston on Monday, he can fall back on his own tried-and-true persona: an unreconstructed conservative born of the party’s grass-roots base.

It is an identity that also could serve in some degree as a bulwark against the anti-Trump wave that has propelled his Democratic challenger, El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who launched his long-shot campaign a year ago Saturday.

Whatever the president’s fortunes in a tumultuous and often chaotic White House, Cruz, once Trump’s fiercest GOP critic, appears ready to stand on his own.

“He’s certainly not a Trump Republican,” University of Texas government scholar Sean Theriault said. “He’s a Cruz Republican, and I mean Cruz in all caps. He definitely marches to the beat of his own drummer.”

At his core, Cruz is us against them.

But the rallying cry of his campaign launch was, Tough as Texas, with an ad that stresses Texas grit and the common ground shared by Texans in the face of adversity, per Harvey.

There’s a lot more that unites us then divide us.

It is reminiscent of the ad that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew White issued earlier this year.

Andrew White

But in Cruz’s ad there are the little redneck flourishes.

And references to a “red neck rescue.”




Willeford’s story is perfect because it is at once an act of Texas pluck, can-do courage and barefoot heroism, but also a rebuke to those, like O’Rourke, who don’t approve of AR-15s.

Because, what has always animated Cruz’s brand of politics is what divides us.

In a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times, Jeff Roe, the hard-edged strategist who ran Cruz’s presidential campaign wrote:

HOUSTON — I’m here to tell my fellow Republicans, in particular Republican members of Congress and the Republican consulting class: You can run, but you can’t hide.

President Trump may not be on the ballot in November, but the election will be a referendum on him, as 2010 was on President Barack Obama and 2006 was on President George W. Bush. We will lose seats. The only question is this: Will these losses be catastrophic or manageable?

That will be determined by a very specific choice: Will the party retreat from its leader or fix bayonets and storm to the front with him?

No one fought Mr. Trump harder and longer than I did, as the campaign manager for Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign for the Republican nomination. I know the maddening brilliance of Mr. Trump. I also know history doesn’t favor the president’s party in midterm elections. With the election of a Democrat in the 18th Congressional District of Pennsylvania — a district Mr. Trump carried by 20 percentage points, but which also has tens of thousands more registered Democrats than Republicans — it has become media gospel that the president is toxic and that Republican candidates will have to distance themselves from him. That narrative is wrong.

For starters, I am not persuaded that the national Democrats will allow many more personally anti-abortion, pro-gun, anti-Pelosi Democrats in battleground seats to win nomination. Among Democratic candidates, Conor Lamb, the victor in Pennsylvania, is the exception, not the rule.

While some Republican candidates, in swing seats, may benefit from creating distance from Mr. Trump, a strategic retreat will work only in rare instances. The myth that midterms are decided by swing voters ignores the prevailing reality that large midterm electoral shifts are driven by shifts in base motivation.

If you are a Republican on the ballot, you are in the same boat as Mr. Trump, whether you like it or not. If enough people jump ship, generic party identification will suffer, and everyone will sink. In other words, if enough Republicans run from their leader, the Republican brand will be so diminished as to produce historic defeats up and down the ballot.

It is undoubtedly difficult to differentiate Trump policies from the Trump persona, because the Trump persona dominates news coverage. But Republican candidates for Congress have to try. Tactically, that means being laser-focused on generating local news coverage of policy accomplishments, even when the national cable news fixates on the latest Trump outrage.

And guess what? Despite breathless coverage of the daily outrage generator in the White House, the economy is improving. The tax cuts will, and in fact already are, spurring growth, freeing capital for investment, creating jobs and returning overseas profits to our shores. There is a message to sell. So sell it.

I would go further and argue that it is the Trump persona so vilified in the media that has in fact made bolder, more sweeping reforms possible than would have been conceivable under almost any other Republican who might have been elected.

Would a President Jeb Bush have signed a strong executive order on religious liberty, or would a President Marco Rubio have started construction of a wall? Would President John Kasich have had the intestinal fortitude to execute such a huge reorganization of the Environmental Protection Agency, dismantling the liberal bureaucracy that with its deeply embedded biases harms our economy? Would President Mitt Romney have pushed through such a major tax overhaul? No way. What makes Mr. Trump different is that he just doesn’t care what the bed-wetting caucus says about his policies.

Roe does not make an unfavorable comparison between Cruz and Trump because, in his view, Cruz is, at least as much as Trump, anathema to the bed-wetters.