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Democratic Primary

It's Time for a Sobriety Center in Travis County

by: Andy Brown

Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 07:33 PM CST

Did you know that there is a better way to address mental and behavior health in Travis County?  I recently took trips to Houston and San Antonio to see first-hand how these Texas cities are mitigating the high cost of public intoxication arrests-many of which involve the homeless or mentally ill.

Accompanying me on these trips were United Way and Caritas board member Dan Graham, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition executive director Ana Correa, Austin Interfaith Leader Ofelia Zapata, Austin/Travis County EMS Association president Tony Marquardt, and Ending Community Homelessness Coalition Board Member Tim League, -all of whom, like me, are passionate about this matter.

More below the jump.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 637 words in story)

Former Congressman Quico Canseco to Challenge Democratic Incumbent Pete Gallego for CD-23

by: Omar Araiza

Fri Aug 09, 2013 at 03:00 PM CDT

Quico Canseco wants a rematch against Pete Gallego.

The district's race was highly contested last election. Gallego won the seat with over 50% of the vote, but the race was contested by Canseco who claimed scores of fraudulent ballots were cast in the sprawling southwest Texas district, and that military and absentee votes that could still swing the race had yet to be counted.

Canseco conceded the race a few days later -- still sticking to his claims of improperly counted votes and improperly cast ballots -- but stating a full investigation and recount would be prohibitively expensive and time consuming.

You may remember Canseco because of his despicable abortion mailer, falsely accusing Gallego of being against parental notification and of supporting the killing of babies.

Canseco was also sued last October for rear-ending a car and leaving the scene.

Read Canseco's running announcement and see his past abortion ad after the jump.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 287 words in story)

Endorsements in CD-33 Speak Volumes About Character of Marc Veasey, Domingo Garcia

by: Katherine Haenschen

Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 11:30 AM CDT

It wasn't a surprise when CD-33, a newly created minority opportunity district in the Dallas-Fort Worth area drew enough candidates to populate a soccer team. Throughout the first round of the primary, current State Rep. Marc Veasey and former State Rep. Domingo Garcia emerged as the front-runners, an impression that was reaffirmed on election night, when Veasey earned 37% and Garcia 25% of the vote, heading into an inevitable run-off. The first round between these two candidates became an increasingly acrimonious affair after Garcia attacked Veasey for standing with auto-workers in support of the area's car manufacturers, some of the largest private employers in the region.

So far, the run-off -- which will conclude on July 31 -- has largely been dominated by endorsement news, as various other candidates in the race and area elected officials pick sides between Veasey and Garcia.

Veasey has rolled out a number of impressive endorsements, including State Senator Wendy Davis, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, and State Reps. Rafael Anchia and Robert Alonso. Meanwhile, Garcia has earned the endorsements of former State Rep. Glenn Lewis, and candidate in the first round of the primary Kyev Tatum.

One can view many of Veasey's endorsements as an attempt to eat into Garcia's base, both geographically and ethnically. Veasey, who is African-American, earned the endorsements of two prominent Hispanic lawmakers, Alonzo and Anchia. Alonzo, as a matter of fact, was the first Hispanic candidate elected to the State House from North Texas. Anchia, a national rising star in Hispanic politics, has also been one of the staunchest opponents to voter photo ID legislation, which if put into effect would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Hispanic voters. Veasey has also been endorsed by first-round opponents JR Molina and Steve Salazar. Additionally, Veasey, who is from Tarrant County, is racking up support from folks on the Dallas end of the district, home to Garcia. Johnson, Anchia, Alonzo, and Salazar all hold or held elected office in Dallas. They're joined by Dallas Councilwoman Monica Alonzo, Dallas Constable Beth Villarreal and others in backing Veasey in the run-off over Garcia.

It might seem odd that so many respected Hispanic officials past and present would endorse Veasey over Garcia. However, even Garcia's Hispanic supporters admit that he is a "flawed candidate" with shortcomings that, as the Dallas Morning News puts it, should "disqualify him in the minds of the regular voters."

Meanwhile, Garcia has earned the endorsements of former State Rep. Glenn O. Lewis, Fort Worth Council Member Kathleen Hicks, and Rev. Kyev Tatum, another candidate in the first round. All three African-Americans hail from the Fort Worth end of the district. However, concerns have been raised about the backgrounds of Lewis and Tatum, and their endorsement of Garcia should raise eyebrows amongst folks who know their backgrounds.

As a State Representative, Lewis betrayed Democratic Speaker Pete Laney and endorsed Republican Tom Craddick, later defending Craddick's regime in the lower chamber. He helped pass Tom Delay's mid-decade redistricting plan, remaining in Austin to help Craddick hold quorum rather than flee immediately to Ardmore, OK. One of Lewis's top legislative priorities was supporting school vouchers as a member of the House Committee on School Finance. This is particularly alarming, since vouchers take taxpayer money out of our public schools, and hurt Texans who depend on public schools. Lewis was defeated in the 2004 Democratic primary by Veasey himself. One could argue that it was a huge trade-up for the people of HD-95.

Tatum also has a checkered past -- he has donated to Republican organizations and voted in Republican primaries, and also supports school voucher programs to take money from public schools to fund private education. Oddly, he was endorsed by George W. Bush's former Education Secretary. It's odd to see Garcia promoting the endorsement of people so closely aligned with Republicans and failed Republican policies. With friends like these...

Veasey seems to be winning the lion's share of endorsements from respected leaders and former officials on both ends of the district. Meanwhile, Garcia is touting the support of individuals with extremely problematic pasts that should be disconcerting to Democratic primary (and primary run-off) voters. Remember that the new CD-33 is a very Democratic district, and it's likely that barring any major scandal or mid-decade redistricting, the person elected will serve for some considerable time. Voters need to make sure they elect someone they can trust, and given the folks Garcia is currently associating himself with, it's hard to make the case that he's the man for the job.

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Travis DA: Charlie Baird Has Disconcerting History of Putting Violent Offenders Back on The Streets

by: Katherine Haenschen

Tue May 22, 2012 at 10:14 AM CDT

As the acrimonious race for Travis County District Attorney heads to the finish line, the campaigns of incumbent Rosemary Lehmberg and challenger Charlie Baird seem determined to illustrate whether or not each candidate possesses the discretion and temperament required for the job as our county's top prosecutor. With the start of early voting last week, Baird's campaign has gone extremely negative with a series of live phone calls that verge on a push poll -- according to the Austin Chronicle, three separate voters reported receiving calls asking what they would think if they knew Lehmberg had taken money from people in return for not prosecuting them, i.e. did she take bribes. Baird claims it wasn't a push poll and that the callers are remembering it incorrectly.

Lehmberg's campaign has pushed back against Baird's accusations in an ad in this week's Chronicle that states, "Charlie Baird has sent out 2 dishonest pieces of mail... Baird has no factual basis for any of the charges he has made. A District Attorney has to make decisions based on real facts, not what serves his political interest. Charlie Baird is rapidly proving he is judgmentally unfit to be District Attorney." Lehmberg's response points to an issue that has long simmered in the DA's race: whether Baird has the temperament and discretion to handle the role of Travis County's top prosecutor.

The role of district attorney is a challenging balance between making sure that county prosecutors have enough to convict violent offenders while also looking for ways to rehabilitate people and prevent recidivism (and hopefully not clogging up our criminal justice system and jails with minor drug offenders). Baird has largely been running on the need to make justice work for "everyone," tied to his reputation as a staunch advocate for defendants' rights.

However, Baird's own record on the 299th District Court, one of Travis County's felony courts, suggests that this advocacy manifested itself into an alarming tendency to put serious, violent offenders back out on the streets via personal bonds.

Before we get into why this matters, some explanation is in order. Defense attorneys can seek a personal bond, or PR (personal recognizance) bond, which gets the defendant out of jail until their trial without paying their bail. Before a judge grants a PR bond, the Pretrial Review Services review department looks at the defendant's past criminal record and recommends whether the judge should grant the PR bond or not. Factors include past criminal history -- a defendant with no prior arrests, no violent offenses, or small drug charges is likely to be recommended for a PR bond. However, a person with a history of arrests or violent crimes is likely to be recommended against.

In his four years on the 299th District Court, Baird led our district courts -- felony and misdemeanor courts alike -- in his granting of PR bonds against the wishes of pre-trail services, by an overwhelming margin. His record amongst felony judges is even more alarming. Several of the people Baird released would go on to commit additional crimes that could have potentially been prevented with a more judicious use of PR bonds by Baird.
PR Bonds approved by Travis County's state District Court felony benches after initial "no" recommendation by Pretrial Services, FY 2009
Wilford Flowers:26
Mike Lynch:66
Charlie Baird:408
Bob Perkins:42
Julie Kocurek:35
Brenda Kennedy:11
Melissa Goodwin / Jim Coronado:61
District Court Magistrate:76

A study by the Austin American-Statesman of fiscal year 2009 demonstrates the discrepancy between Baird and the rest of our felony benches here in Travis County. The chart reproduced at right accompanied a lengthy article about Baird's use of PR bonds.

There are plenty of folks who would argue that this was the right decision by Baird, that too many people are in jail, it costs us money, etc. But remember that this is a felony bench where judges heard cases involving murder, rape, kidnapping, aggravated assault, arson, fraud, grand larceny, and other serious offenses. This isn't Baird putting a bunch of dope smokers or frat boys accused of public intoxication back out on the streets. This is Baird deciding that people who plead guilty to armed bank robbery are perfectly safe to be walking our streets.

A search through the archives of the Austin American-Statesman brings up dozens of cases in which Baird actively chose to personal bond violent felons, many of whom went on to commit further crimes while back on the streets thanks to Baird. He gave other serious criminals -- people charged with sexual assault of a child, armed robbery and homicide  -- the lightest sentence allowable by law.

Learn more about several specific cases below the jump.

There's More... :: (8 Comments, 1037 words in story)

Round-Up of Endorsements in 2012 Travis County Democratic Primary

by: Katherine Haenschen

Sun May 20, 2012 at 03:15 PM CDT

Believe it or not, an end is in sight for the primary season that has been dragging on since last June, when candidates started filing, soliciting support, friending you on Facebook, etc. Our primary candidates got a lot more than they bargained for in the three-month election delay caused by Greg Abbott and the Republicans in the legislature due to their redistricting over-reach. Thanks to all of them for hanging in there and gamely campaigning on, and a special shout-out to the families, co-workers, and friends of the candidates themselves (and their doting staffers) who have put up with this much more than any of them might have imagined!

In any case, Early Voting is going on this week and ends Friday. My colleague Karl-Thomas prepared this handy GoogleMap of early voting locations in Travis County, so find one near you and get to it.

Here's a quick round-up of all of the endorsements meted out this year. Information was culled from candidates' websites and organizations' websites and Facebook pages. Some are incomplete due to the organizations' lack of websites, Facebook pages, or external communication. Fill in the blanks in the comments and I will happily update.

What do these abbreviations mean?
DNE: Did not endorse. Some clubs don't endorse in races that aren't in their geographic purview (Circle C, WAD, etc.)
n/a: No endorsement, usually because a candidate failed to meet a threshold within a group for endorsement.  
Blank spaces: I can't find a full list an organization's endorsement, or cannot get confirmation that a specific race was not considered OR no candidate met the endorsement requirements.

Go vote, people!

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Support Our Endorsed Congressional Candidates on ActBlue!

by: Katherine Haenschen

Sat May 19, 2012 at 10:00 AM CDT

We have a stellar crop of Democrats running for Congress here in Texas. From newly created Democratic districts to swing seats that can turn blue this November, we've got strong, progressive advocates for our values on the ballot across the state. Last weekend, we endorsed in 10 of our Congressional primaries here in Texas, urging voters to support the candidates who we feel will best represent their districts -- and our progressive, Democratic values -- in Congress. Now, these candidates need your help to win their primaries.

Support our endorsed Congressional candidates via our ActBlue fundraising page!

Meet Our Endorsed Candidates:

    Marc Veasey, CD-33: This distinguished legislator has fought for education and voting rights in the State House, and is the best choice to represent the new minority-opportunity district in the Metroplex.

    Taj Clayton, CD-30: This inspiring young leader wants to bring new opportunities to this south Dallas County district so that all kids can have the same chances he did. He is an exciting breath of fresh air in this district.

    Pete Gallego, CD-23: Gallego, a long-term legislator representing a sprawling west Texas district, is running to take on Republican Quico Canseco this November. Gallego is the strongest candidate in the primary and the best choice to pick up this swing district for the Democrats.

    Nick Lampson, CD-14: This distinguished statesman has already served most of this southeast Texas district, and is the only Democrat who can win this open seat. Support him today and help him run hard all the way through November.

    Lloyd Doggett, CD-35: This long-time progressive hero is running hard in a new district designed specifically to draw him out of Congress. He's always had our back on issues that matter to progressive Texans, so stand with Doggett now and help send him back to D.C.

    Silvestre Reyes: This El Paso public servant is a leader on veteran's issues and works hard to deliver for his district. Help him win a tough primary battle.

    Candace Duval: This young woman is running a spirited campaign, and is the best choice to take on Lamar Smith in the fall. She's better suited to capitalizing on the anti-SOPA fervor that surrounds the incumbent. Support her today.

    KP George: George is a Democrat with an inspiring life story, running to prevent a LaRouchie from making the ballot on the Democratic ticket. He needs your support to spread the word about his own qualifications and his crazy opponent.

    Joaquin Castro, CD-20: Last but certainly not least, Castro is already a star in the Texas Democratic Party and the kind of leader we need to turn this state blue. Support him today!

Click here to visit our ActBlue fundraising page for our endorsed Congressional candidates!

May of our endorsed candidates have already been working hard for you in the State House or in Washington D.C., advocating for improved access to education and affordable healthcare, championing women's rights and equality, and working hard to fight back against Republican majorities. Our endorsed candidates include some of the leaders who will be working to provide a better future for Texans.

Support their campaigns today, and keep them running strong in the primaries and all the way through November.  

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Endorsements in Democratic County Chair Elections

by: Burnt Orange Report

Thu May 17, 2012 at 00:45 PM CDT

It may be the last race on your Democratic ballot, but it can be one of the most important: the race for your local Democratic Party County Chair.

Exemplary county chairs build the Democratic party in their area, recruit candidates, expand turnout programs, and play a big role in winning crucial elections. The role can be a tough needle to thread, as chairs must work well with activists, candidates, officeholders, and donors, and make sure the party stays focused on activities that actually win elections for Democrats. It's a thankless, tiresome, and unpaid job, and we commend those who do it year after year. The people who run and win these positions are key to turning our entire state blue, inch by inch and county by county, and we urge voters to look into the candidates for this race and support the person best capable of organizing strong GOTV programs and recruiting the best candidates to run and win.

With that in mind, Burnt Orange Report is endorsing several uncontested county chairs in recognition of their tremendous party building efforts, and also endorsing in select contested races where we believe there is a compelling reason to support one candidate.

Endorsements below the jump.

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Burnt Orange Report Endorses Garnet Coleman in HD-147

by: Burnt Orange Report

Tue May 15, 2012 at 05:00 PM CDT

Garnet Coleman is a progressive champion who deserves another term in the Legislature. We unanimously and enthusiastically endorse him for HD-147.

Coleman is a spectacular legislator, an unabashed progressive, and a champion for the poor and powerless. He is a leader in the Texas Legislature working to make bills more effective and more progressive. Outside of the Capitol he works hard to elect Democrats up and down the ballot to give our party more support at all levels of government. As we wrote in our legislative preview, Coleman is a strong Democrat and party loyalist who walks the walk, and he not only deserves another term, he deserves to be in a chamber with a Democratic majority so he can really show what he can get done.

Burnt Orange Report unanimously and enthusiastically endorses Garnet Coleman for re-election to HD-147 and urges all Democrats and progressives to support him.

Endorsements are made based on a weighted consensus of the staff, which guides the type and tone of endorsement. Members of the Burnt Orange Report staff employed by campaigns abstain from voting on those races.
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Burnt Orange Report Endorses Joseph Carlos Madden in HD-137

by: Burnt Orange Report

Tue May 15, 2012 at 04:00 PM CDT

Joseph Carlos Madden has already been working hard to fight for our progressive values in the Legislature as a staffer. He's the best choice to follow Rep. Scott Hochberg, and we unanimously and enthusiastically endorse him in HD-137.

There are a lot of first-time candidates on the ballot this year, but few are as qualified and knowledgeable about the workings of the Legislature as Joseph Carlos Madden. Madden has served as Chief of Staff for progressive champion Garnet Coleman, and also as the Executive Director of the Legislative Study Group. He has already reviewed and analyzed thousands of bills that have come to the floor of the State House to determine their impacts on Texas families. Ask Madden a question about a policy issue, and be prepared for an answer that is as rapid, thorough, and thoughtful as if he wrote the bill himself.

Madden's Hispanic cultural background fluency in Spanish are an asset in this diverse, multicultural district. He was the first member of his family to graduate from college, and worked his way through the University of Texas as an electrician's apprentice, simultaneously interning at the HDCC and for Democratic representatives. As a precinct chair he has worked hard to elect Democrats in Harris County, and been actively involved with the local party. Madden is an outstanding Democratic candidate in every way possible, and will be an exemplary member of our Democratic caucus.

This will be a close race, with four solid candidates running to replace Rep. Scott Hochberg, and we expect it to go to a run-off. Of Madden's opponents, we commend Jamaal Smith on his work in the legislature and for the Harris County Democratic Party, and are pleased to see him making his first run for office as well. However we give the edge to Madden for his tireless work to make Texas a better place, and his tremendous experience as a legislative staffer.

Madden has the experience and legislative know-how to step into Hochberg's seat and make an immediate difference for working Texas families. We unanimously and enthusiastically endorse him in the Democratic primary for HD-137.

Endorsements are made based on a weighted consensus of the staff, which guides the type and tone of endorsement. Members of the Burnt Orange Report staff employed by campaigns abstain from voting on those races.
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Burnt Orange Report Endorses Chris Turner in HD-101

by: Burnt Orange Report

Tue May 15, 2012 at 03:30 PM CDT

Of the solid candidates in HD-101, Chris Turner is the strongest campaigner and will be the best legislator. We unanimously and enthusiastically endorse him for election in the Democratic primary.

The new HD-101 was drawn as a safe Democratic district in Tarrant County, and has attracted three solid candidates. However, we think that Turner is the best of the bunch, in terms of his abilities as a legislator, credentials as a Democrat, and talents as a campaigner. In 2008 Turner was elected to the state house. As a freshman legislator in the minority party he was still able to be an effective leader and pass several pieces of legislation, including measures to stop seniors and customers from being gouged by utility rate hikes and legislation that allowed the children and widows of deceased veterans use the benefits their loved ones earned while serving our country. He's probably best known for creating a lottery ticket that serves as a funding mechanism for the Fund for Veterans Assistance, which provides emergency funding for veterans in need and counseling for returning vets suffering from PTSD. The program has already generated over $15 million in revenue for Texas veterans.

Turner also has a solid background as a Democratic organizer. He managed Congressman Chet Edwards' campaign for four cycles, keeping the Democrat in office despite his Republican district. He also worked for the Tarrant County Democratic Party as Executive Director, working hard to build the party.

Turner has two opponents. One of them, former State Representative Paula Pierson, is a distinguished public servant and would make a fine legislator. Unfortunately, HD-101 can only send one of these two former state representatives back to Austin. We think that Turner was more effective when he was in the state house, and will be a better representative of this bright blue district.

Burnt Orange Report unanimously and enthusiastically endorses Chris Turner in the Democratic primary for HD-101.

Endorsements are made based on a weighted consensus of the staff, which guides the type and tone of endorsement. Members of the Burnt Orange Report staff employed by campaigns abstain from voting on those races.
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