On Tuesday there were polar opposite rallies at the Capitol, and not just because one was at the North steps and the other at the South. With SCOTUS set to consider the constitutionality of California's Prop 8 and DOMA, Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst were busy doubling down at the "Texas Faith and Family" rally, ensuring Texas gets dragged by the bootstraps kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Luckily, there was a comparable effort put forth by the LGBT community and their allies that expressed support for real values of freedom - choice and equality.
Part of an over-enthusiastic crowd led by GetEQUAL TX was removed from the Capitol after they dropped fliers down the rotunda from the 4th floor. The leaflets were in support of the Texas marriage equality bill HB 1300 by Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth). Later the group would convene into a mass of about 300 demanding equal treatment under the law. Many of the signs and rallying calls were based on economics, "I'm queer and my money is buy curious" one speaker said after telling the crowd that the LGBT community had a $300 million dollar impact just at bars and restaurants, and $3 billion dollar impact across Texas. Businesses are listening, including Corporate America, but apparently Texas is only open for the business of freedom, if your business stays in the closet.
Texas Values, a project of the Conservative nonprofit Liberty Institute, says its mission is to preserve "faith, family and freedom", yet it was the sponsor that invited our top elected officials to diminish all three for Texas' LGBT community. When Freshmen Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) said, "In this building behind me, your faith and your families and your freedom are under attack," you might have sworn he was at the wrong rally. Attendants held up signs that read "Protect Religious Freedom" seemed to be confused. Protecting religious freedom means allowing people to worship as they chose, and even express their beliefs on the steps of their state Capitol, but It doesn't not extend to actively denying rights to another segment of the population.
If you think same-sex marriage is immoral, then don't marry someone of the same-sex. That's how freedom works, because without choice you have no freedom.
The government should not deny consenting adults the right to enter into an agreement with each other, but thats exactly what Perry and Dewhurst want to do. Gov. Perry said, "Marriage is between one man and one woman." That's true, but in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden as well as Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Maine, Maryland, Washington and the District of Columbia, so is a man and a man, and, a woman and a woman. The point being giving equal rights to all doesn't take it from any other.
Perry has been know to read the Texas tea leaves well, but he can kiss any shot of being President (of the United States, not Texas [for clarity]) goodbye if marriage equality is a campaign issue in 2016.
Learn more about those poll numbers from Katherine's post yesterday, and see below the jump to watch the video of GetEQUAL TX making it "rain" in the rotunda...
On Tuesday Governor Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst announced their support for drug testing applicants of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. TANF was created to help families in need, particularly children, and already includes a provision that requires applicants to, "Train for a job or look for employment if capable" and, "not abuse drugs or alcohol."
Texas has experimented with drug testing on a mass scale (High School athletes) and results have shown them to be a waste of taxpayer money. Earlier this year courts struck down Florida's law that drug tested TANF applicants as unconstitutional, but the performance of the program itself makes the financial case for its failure. According to a New York Times report only 2% of applicants showed positive results costing the state almost 120,000 for a mere 4 months. The program ended up costing the state more to implement than it saved by denying benefits and did not reduce the total number of applicants.
Today (my father) State Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) expressed his dismay that our state leaders would continue to propose laws that harass Texans who are struggling the most. He suggested that elected officials be drug tested to prove tax dollars aren't going to "drug abusers", but why stop there? What about students who receive financial aid, small business loan applicants or those seeking veteran benefits or Social Security?
Below is Rep. Deshotel's statement in full:
Senate Bill 11 is both fiscally and morally irresponsible. Its even more egregious that it comes at a time of slow economic recovery and while Texas has almost twice the national average of uninsured children. It would violate personal privacy, ignore the presumption of innocence, and continue the Legislature's expansion of government into our personal lives.
There is no evidence that poor people abuse drugs more frequently than any other socio-economic group, therefore I challenge Senator Nelson, Governor Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhurst to support adding a drug test requirement to the application to run for state office in Texas. Many office holders in Texas draw larger incomes from the state than any welfare recipient and officials should adhere to the same standard we impose on our constituents. This would help ensure our leaders "walk the walk" and that taxpayer money isn't , "going into the pockets of drug abusers," as is the concern of our Governor.
The Governor's comments Tuesday also ignore the high cost of drug testing. Between 2007 and 2010, with a $3 million annual budget, Texas conducted over 51,000 drug test on student athletes with only 21 positive results. Most of the funding for this effort was cut after it proved to be at best - an inefficient use of resources. In October of 2012 alone there were over 45,000 applicants to TANF and I have not heard a plan to pay for the expanded testing program. Texas taxpayers would benefit most if its state leaders kept their focus on the economy and education instead of making cynical attempts to legislate people's personal decisions.
The saga continues in Kountze, Texas over cheerleaders using religious scripture on football banners. Governor Rick Perry and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott say they support freedom of all religion but their actions show their intent is to establish a defacto Christian government claiming there's a "moral basis for the legal code" outlined in the Ten Commandments. The truth is as more nonpartisan groups review the facts in this case its increasingly beginning to look like the cheerleaders are being exploited for political gain. The KISD legal council and Texas Association of School Boards have backed the Freedom From Religion Foundation in their opposition to the banners, and now the Anti-Defamation League and Jim Walsh managing editor of the Texas School Administrators Legal Digest have also joined their ranks. In his letter Walsh pointed out that the superintendent made the right call the first time. He made the distinction between a place kicker making the sign of the cross and "words placed on a banner, held by cheerleaders in school uniforms," It was reference to a comment by Greg Abbott that sought to equate the two in defense of the students' activities as individual religious expression. Walsh continued regarding the superintendent:
He sought legal advice. Then he followed it. The legal advice he got was right on the money. It took courage and integrity for Superintendent Weldon to act on that advice—courage that neither Governor Perry nor Attorney General Abbott have displayed. They chose to play politics when they should have provided leadership. Leadership involves respecting the law of the land whether you agree with it or not.
The two state officials held a joint press conference in which they tried to out do each in other in their show of support for the cheerleaders and their disdain for atheists. Perry broadly referred to atheists as a "very vocal and litigious minority" who are hell bent on silencing religious expression. In an impressive feat of double speak the Governor said, "We're a nation thats build on the concept of free expression of ideas…and the concept that the original law is God's law outlined in the Ten Commandments." Perry then went on to thank AG Abbott and his staff for "efforts to support and liberate the people of our state to be able to worship." Abbott for his part upped the anti-atheist rhetoric saying:
We will not allow atheist groups from outside the state of Texas to come in to the state, to use menacing and misleading intimidation tactics to try and bully schools to bow down at the alter of secular beliefs.
Catch his religious metaphor "alter of secular beliefs" to describe atheists' agenda? He gave several examples of his office defending religious liberty that all involved a Christian complainant. Its a shame to see two of our top state officials exploiting young cheerleaders who are not constitutional scholars but rely on adults and authority figures for guidance. Now they are being taught they are victims. The result has been stories of intolerance including median signs that read, "If you don't like it leave, we believe". Some community observers worked up the gumption to bring banners to the stands showing support for the separation of church and state, and were told by a football player's parent that they dare not hold the sign up when he son crossed the field. They reported the incident to a nearby police officer who spoke to the parent. Apparently that resolved the issue and the parent apologized. But, to the point, should that be necessary and are their others who remain silent for fear of retribution? And are we experiencing real leadership on this issue or is this simply being used as a pandering opportunity? One group that understands true religious intolerance is the Anti-Defamation League. ADL was started to end the defamation of Jewish people in 1913 but the organization now fights on behalf of civil rights for all. This is where the Governor and AG should take note. In a recent statement ADL called support for the cheerleaders activities, "misguided", "highly problematic", and in violation of the Establishment Clause. In a letter sent to Abbott prior to the decision they argue that the school cheerleading squad qualifies as "school-sponsored activity" giving the district the right to prohibit the banners. Addressing the Governor and AG's confusion between tolerance and establishment ADL wrote,
Our perspective in no way reflects hostility toward religion. Rather, it is based on a profound respect for religious freedom and an appreciation of the extraordinary diversity of religions represented by the students in our public schools.
With such staunch support for Israel on the campaign trail by Perry and his Party, it's a wonder he and the Attorney General can't show more respect for religious minorities in their own state.
Changes have been made to reflect the evolving situation...
UPDATE: Today Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sent a letter to Kountze ISD Superintendent stating, "That these students chose to express their religious viewpoint at a school function does not violate the Establishment Clause." Abbott informed the KISD official that he was being misled by the Freedom From Religion Foundation as well as the Texas Association of SChool Boards. The letter concludes, "my office stands ready to file a brief with the court protecting the cheerleaders' religious liberties."
The Liberty Institute whose mission is to “defend and restore religious liberty across America — in our schools”, provided some high-powered help to cheerleaders and their parents after Kountze ISD officials banned scripture based run-throughs during football games. The evangelical group with close ties to Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council, has now started a petition to demand Texas Attorney Greg Abbott support the cheerleaders’ right to “cheer on their football team without government censorship”.
This may be some insight into how Republicans plans to posture themselves politically next session as the legislature will be considerably more conservative. The cheerleaders have already received the public support of their State Representative and Tea Party doll James White. Earlier this year White beat out a more moderate but favorited Republican Committee Chair after they were paired in redistricting. That loss, as well as Cruz’ defeat of Dewhurst, show the achilles heel of the Texas Republican establishment - there is no middle ground. The establishment has been chipped away at from the inside and within its own primary, pushing even state-wide officials to the right. Groups like Texans for Fiscal Accountability that have challenged RINOs and Moderates in the Republican ranks, now have groups like Stop TLR challenging even their conservative credentials. This poses a problem for Republicans who placated to the Tea Party to win their primary but think they can get reelected without taking strong stances on controversial social issues.
The Liberty Institute and the Family Reseach Council have recently started a new website called ReligiousHostility.org to document what they feel are attacks on religious freedom across America. The groups have been promoting alarmist ideas of Christian victimization stating, “attacks are increasing at an unprecedented rate”. Choosing to exploit people’s faith for political gain could prove disasterous for the Republican Party if moderates, attracted by an economic message, become ostracized. The cheerleaders, their parents and even members of the football team profess to be the victims of government overreach but they are now facing growing opposition and an active letter writing campaign in support of the district's decision. A secular group of students from nearby Vidor High School spoke out against the official display religious banners. Junior Darren Mattox told KFDM News,
My initial thought was that I do support it, but when you dig deeper into it, you realize that they are representing the school and that it's not really Constitutionally right for them to represent the school in that manner,
The national Freedom From Religion Foundation is the organization that sparked the controversy when it sent a letter to Kountze ISD on Sept. 17th calling for an end to the "serious and flagrant violation of the First Amendment." The group said, "No Student should be made to run through a religious banner. The practice offends non-Christians and non-believers alike." The actions of the students violate the law as interpreted in Sante Fe Independent School District vs. Doe in which the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that speech,
Feeling beloved today after getting a standing ovation from the Texas delegation at the RNC, David Dewhurst made a big announcement: he's running for re-election in 2014. This ends months of speculation about Dewhurst's future that was amplified when he lost what seemed to be a locked-in primary for the GOP Senate nomination.
Watch Dewhurst very close-up:
Is this an ego trip? Does Dewhurst really think he's "serving Texans" by selling out state government to massive corporations? Doesn't matter. He's running again.
And so are a bunch of other big-name Texas Republicans. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has already said he's running whether Dewhurst is in or out. Today, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said he's still planning to run for the seat. State Comptroller Susan Combs has also said she will run in 2014.
Looks like a brawl is brewing in 2014. Dewhurst has a lot of ground to gain back after the Perry-Dewhurst machine failed epically last month to persuade Texas Republicans. If Dewhurst loses out in another primary and exits government a twice-loser, it would be a great embarrassment for him. At least he has potential company in Rick Perry, who may himself be heading for his second, and final, primary loss in 2014.
As the nation watched, Texas Republicans chose the unchained, unaccomplished, and unqualified former Solicitor General, Ted Cruz, over the decade long Lieutenant governor, Air Force Veteran, and former Texas Land Commissioner, David Dewhurst. Why? Because Cruz was a real conservative, meaning they trust that Cruz would keep the government in stalemate to avoid giving the Democrats a seat at the table. "The Tea Party" is slowly taking over the state, and they have big plans.
Cruz's victory over one of Texas' most powerful conservatives shocked onlookers throughout the country, except here in Texas. We saw this coming, and the Tea Party's radical agenda is being sent to Washington, and the situation might be even more daunting here in Austin.
Most notably, relatively moderate State Rep. Jeff Wentworth was thrashed in the Republican runoff for HD-25 by Tea Partier Donna Campbell. If Campbell wins the general election against Democrat John Courage , she will join what right wing clown State Senator Dan Patrick describes as "the most conservative Senate in the history of the state", with the capability to "block any legislation that we want to stop." Patrick is known as the mouthpiece of the far right of the Texas Senate, as well as getting a vasectomy performed on air . Even more disgusting than Patrick's live vasectomy is the agenda of Patrick and his Tea Party allies.
The crowning achievement of the right wing legislature last session was their discriminatory and infamous Voter ID bill. According to State Senator John Whitmire, School vouchers are on top of their agenda this coming session. Many will view vouchers as a relatively benign step compared to Voter ID, but its effects could be much more destructive. The Anti Defamation League, a civil rights group fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, note that around 80 percent of these vouchers would go to schools with narrow minded parochial agendas, where religion permeates and defines the classroom. Religion has a very important place within our society, but not our classrooms. School vouchers are the beginning of the end of public education. Voucher programs may help some families pay for tuition costs, but these schools will still be much too expensive for poor Texan families. School vouchers are an affront to two great American values: universal public education and the separation of church and state. Throwing the white flag to improving public education is surrendering to the dream of equal opportunity, and Texas Republicans are intent on using all their capital to make sure this happens.
It is important to remember that the consequences of a Tea Party victory amount to more than embarrassing TV interviews. Their agenda has put a gun to our nations head time and time again and the complacency of Texas Democrats has allowed it to happen. As chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, Gilberto Ginojosa, so eloquently put it, "the inmates are running the asylum." It's due time that we progressives wake up and take back the keys before it's too late.
It's over. Ted Cruz defeated David Dewhurst tonight.
Let's pretend for a moment that both of these candidates are running to represent Texans, not the corporations that paid for their campaigns and that will make them rich after leaving office. Let's pretend David Dewhurst is actually sad because he believed Texas needed his views in Congress.
Well, Dew, you've got nothing at all to worry about. Ted Cruz winning is like having your ideological identical twin brother run against you for the Republican senate nomination. You guys have the same views. Cruz won because he was able to capture conservative grassroots titillation because he's "Tea Party"...and you've already served several terms in elected office. That makes you the "establishment" and him the "real conservative" prepared to "shake things up"...by doing exactly what you would do. So rest assured, your crazy ideas will be executed - but it'll be Cruz lapping up the special interest money for years to come.
Well, there is one difference, Dew. Cruz is going to be a rockstar senator. People are going to talk about him as a future presidential candidate, they're going to compare him to Marco Rubio, and he's going to be on television constantly. In spite of the fact that Cruz is not charming, he is a good speaker and clearly can fire up already-angry conservatives.
But his hot streak won't last forever. The problem with Tea Party candidates is that they run on extreme platforms they can't possibly live up to once in office. Their extremes are in constant conflict; if they vote yes to a defense bill, they may also be voting for an earmark in another state. Next election, the new "Tea Party" candidate can accuse him or her of "selling out" to the "GOP establishment" and screech about the need for a "real conservative." That's the problem with being really conservative...it's an ideology, not a governing mechanism.
And Cruz is going to fall into that bind real quick. The only positions he lists on his website are
Pass a Balanced Budget Amendment
Reduce the Size and Spending of Government
Defend the Constitution
Jobs and Growth Plan
At some point, one of the bills he votes for will increase the size of government in some way conservatives don't like. Boom: Tea Party challenge. There is no nuance left in the Republican Party. Most of Cruz's supporters truly believe he's the genuine conservative in the race against a fake conservative. Just like many of them will believe he sold out in some way.
So, enjoy it while it lasts, Cruz. Tonight is the purest you'll seem for the rest of your career. If only you were in a party that cared more about what you can do for your country.
The day has finally arrived after a long, drawn out, really lowbrow campaign. Tonight, Texas Republican primary voters are probably going to put us on Cruz Control for the next six years. A third poll came out on Sunday showing Cruz ahead...this time by ten points.
Cruz's victory is driven by 4 things: the Tea Party, the enthusiasm of his supporters, a generational divide within the Texas Republican ranks, and the lack of regard the party base currently holds for Rick Perry.
Cruz is ahead by a whooping 75-22 margin with Tea Party voters, more than making up for a 56-39 deficit to Dewhurst with voters who don't consider themselves members of that movement. There has been too much of a tendency to ascribe any Republican primary upset over the last few years to Tea Party voters, but this is one case where it's well justified.
So there you have it, folks. Ted Cruz is going to win (apparently) because of the Tea Party. Cruz likes to frame the race as the answer to the question of whether the Tea Party still matters. While it may matter in terms of who wins the race - as it also did when Richard Mourdock beat Dick Lugar in the Indiana primary - it matters only for the purposes of political posturing. Truth is, if Cruz had been Lt. Gov. for ten years and Dewhurst were a never-elected former solicitor general, Dewhurst would be the surging and likely victorious Tea Party candidate. It's a formula: if you're in office, you're suspicious. If you're out of office with no real record, you're "Tea Party" - that is, until you run for re-election.
Just check out the #txsen hashtag on Twitter. Texas Republicans are going buckwild over a guy who was basically a lawyer-robot, arguing whatever Texas's Attorney General told him to argue. The fervor of these Repubilcans cannot be understated, and there's no question that Cruz has run a very impressive campaign.
Long-shot former solicitor general Ted Cruz is poised to upset sitting Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the Republican Senate primary, and it might not be a bad thing. Shocking, sure, to the insiders and Perry power brokers who figured The Dew was a lock back in the fall, before redistricting litigation delayed the primaries and allowed Cruz the extra time to spread the word that he was the "real" conservative. The media buys have been omnipresent and ugly
Personally, I've debated internally for months over who I'd rather see win the primary, and likely take the seat in November. Dewhurst is less crazy, more grounded in what passes for factual evidence in the Republican Party of Texas these days. He'd be less embarrassing to our state in the US Senate. He's more of a "statesman," though at times his campaign has behaved so very irresponsibly that he should be blushing every time that ad about driving a young man to suicide airs on the TV.
A Cruz victory, on the other hand, would make soon-to-be senior Senator John Cornyn irrelevant, since Cruz could steal the limelight from Big John's thinly-veiled flailing racism with his out-and-out 100% capital-C Crazy. A Cruz win would also keep Dewhurst in the pink dome presiding over the Senate, a welcome relief from the likely ascension of Senator Dan Patrick, who might gladly help pass a law requiring actual chastity belts given the make-up of the incoming Senate next year. Cruz would be only 1 of 100 in the US Senate and has absolutely zero governing experience. It's unlikely he could get much done. Both of them would have near-identical voting records. And Cruz might be easier to knock out in 6 years if demographics and revitalized TDP organizing actually come to fruition. And maybe, just maybe, a Cruz win would scare moderates and corporate Republicans into recognizing what the Tea Party truly has wrought here in Texas.
Perry has backed Dewhurst throughout, and could take a huge hit amongst Tea Party types if Cruz pulls it off. Even Sarah Palin has taken to mocking Perry for his backing of The Dew -- and if a less-than-one-term Alaskan Governor feels safe poking fun at the longest-serving governor in Texas history, well... if nothing else that doesn't bode well for Perry 2016.
Dewhurst came in first on May 29th with 44% to Cruz's 34%, yet polling suggests Cruz will win owing to more enthusiastic supporters who would literally crawl over broken glass to vote for their guy. Dewhurst's core demographic may be too busy summering in the mountains to cast a ballot. Whatever happens, I hope @FakeTedCruz stays around for a long time. As he'd probably say when he's not making inside jokes about GOP operatives, "I'm really ready for the run-off to be over so I can pop a few cold ones, gang. Laughing out loud."
Below are results from the 10 most populous counties in the May 29th primary: