(Thanks to Kuff for this thorough preview of Houston's elections this November! - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)
Back in January, I took an early look at the 2013 elections in Houston. At the request of the folks at the Burnt Orange Report, who also printed my initial overview, here's an update on the races in the city of Houston in 2013. Join me beneath the fold for the goodies.
BICYCLES: The Houston City Council unanimously passed a "safe passing" ordinance that requires drivers to give vulnerable road users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, disabled travelers, highway utility workers and tow truck drivers, three feet of space while passing.
The SEIU, a labor organization representing the service industry, participated in a immigration reform rally with thousands of supporters in Houston in conjunction with May Day. The event, in advance of this week's discussion over a Senate immigration bill, was part of a nationwide push for reforming immigration policies that includes a path to citizenship.
"The drumbeat for common sense immigration reform is only getting louder," said Eliseo Medina, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer. "Today, as we raise our voices and our American flags in honor of all working families, we march and rally throughout the country to make sure we mark 2013 as the year our government passed an immigration bill worthy of our highest national values."
Not everyone rolled out the welcome matt. Houston blogger for Big Jolly Politics called it a, "rally for illegal immigration" and said, "I'd suggest that instead of arrogantly flaunting our laws, perhaps your organizers could set up a day to clean the park...You'd be amazed at what that would do for your reputation." He blame them for our closing schools and even connected them to cartel violence, "...it is but a short jump to attributing the violence of drug cartels to all illegal immigrants - after all, if you are arrogant enough to flaunt the fact that you are breaking one law, it is easy to conclude that you have no respect for any authority."
The NRA is in Houston this week. I was supposed to join the Bluebonnet Brigade to protest their presence in Houston, their immoral purchase of politicians, and simply their incoherent arguments. Lo and behold the time conflicted with this show and I figured my commitment to the show must be fulfilled.
Deborah Mowery, one of the participants, will be calling into the show with updates. If she gets her pictures uploaded during the show I will post them.
The second topic I want to cover is more general. It is called America in decline. I just came back from Starbucks where I had a long discussion with a Filipino immigrant with a lot of friends in my area that made the book What's the Matter with Kansas prescient. He could not understand why his very hard work "to attain the American dream" will ultimately fail because of America's new reality.
The NRA is in Houston this weekend for their convention.
That's kind of ironic, because universal background checks for all gun sales are supported by 89 percent of Houstonians and 87 percent of Americans nationwide.
But it's not nearly as ironic as this video featuring Governor Rick Perry in which he is no way overcompensating for anything (...like his...intellect...) in this video that played before he addressed the NRA members gathered in our state.
Guns are big in Texas, but on Saturday the state will be a battleground of sorts in the nation's debate over when "well-regulated" becomes too regulated. The NRA is pumped up after their victory in Congress over background checks which their spokesman called, "an opening battle in what will be a multi-year war,". The House will spend the day dueling over firearm-related bills, while the NRA holds a national convention just hours away in Houston amid protesters.
Among the bills the House will debate are HB 47 by Dan Flynn (R-Canton). The bill reduces the minimum number of hours (from 10 to 6) of the classroom instruction portion required in the handgun proficiency course for a concealed handgun license and removes the limit on the number of instruction hours. You may have seen a preview on The Colbert Report?
The "campus carry" bill, HB 972 (Fletcher/Flynn), would reverse current law and effectively legalize guns on campus across the state by forcing student bodies and faculty to individually adopt written rules or regulations prohibiting concealed handgun license holders from carrying handguns on premises. Testimony on behalf of the bill included representatives from the Tarrant County Republican Party, Texas A&M Student Government Association, Texas state rifle association, and Texas students for concealed carry on campus. Testimony against included representatives from: Texas Gun Sense, Austin Police Department, Texas Suicide Prevention Council, and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association.
HB 1349 by Larson (R-San Antonio) would prohibit the Texas Department of Public Safety from requesting or requiring a concealed handgun license applicant or holder to provide their social security number as part of application or renewal.
You can see what other firearm bills will be discussed here, or watch the floor debate live via the Texas Tribune live feed or follow the hashtag "#TxLege" on twitter.
We do our best, but we can't cover everything. To fill in the gaps, please enjoy Texas Lunch Links: a lunchtime buffet of links to Texas-related news and views.
ECONOMIC STABILIZATION FUND: Republican Senator Tommy Williams, the chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, announced on Thursday that he is willing to consider taking $6 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund for transportation and water projects.
PAYDAY LENDING: The San Antonio Express Editorial Board authored a hard-hitting piece that says "it looks like lobbyists with deep pockets are running the show" on payday lending. Senator John Carona's payday lending bill would gut local governmental regulations, such as those passed in Austin and San Antonio, on payday lenders.
SALES TAX COLLECTION UP: Sales tax collection in Texas is up 5.5% from last year, with manufacturing and retail trade driving the growth in revenue.
ENTERPRISE FUND: A bill authored by Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) that would audit the Texas Enterprise Fund received unanimous approval from the Senate Economic Development Committee on Wednesday. The audit would look at the grant approval process, contract compliance, and any modifications to existing grant agreements.
WELFARE: Flower Mound Republican Senator Jane Nelson's bill that would require Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients to undergo drug testing received unanimous approval from the Senate Health & Human Services committee on Wednesday.
With Battleground Texas stoking hopes of turning Texas into a swing state by the 2016 presidential election, more attention is being paid to organizing during the interim. Before the 2014 midterms, Texas Dems have an amazing opportunity to identify supporters, mobilize communities, and train organizers and activists this year. Major cities in Texas will be having municipal elections this year. In competitive contests for offices from Mayor to City Councilperson, millions of dollars will be spent and countless organizing opportunities will arise. I have put together an overview of the Mayoral contests in the biggest cities in Texas:
Shaping up to be the most expensive and possibly most divisive of the city races, Houston's mayoral race pits incumbent Annise Parker against former City Attorney and current superlawyer Ben Hall. First elected in 2009 in a runoff victory against Gene Locke, Parker narrowly avoided another runoff in her reelection campaign in 2011, winning 50.4 percent of the vote against a slew of unknown candidates. Because of Ben Hall's ability to fundraise and large personal resources, the race is likely to be much more competitive this time around. The unaccounted variable in the race is potential entry of a Republican candidate in the race.
Golden Boy, Future Presidential Nominee, and Great Brown Hope of the Texas Democratic Party Julian Castro still has to win re-election as Mayor of San Antonio this year before he can fulfill the wish of every democrat in Texas. He is facing an array of newbie and perennial candidates with little name ID or campaign funds. As of this writing, unless something crazy happens between now and Election Day, he will cruise to re-election without having to stop his current national speaking schedule.
Current Mayor John Cook is term-limited and a large field of candidates are vying to replace him Among the eight declared candidates are current City Representative Steven Ortega, local businessmen Oscar Leeser and Robert Cormell, and substitute teacher Jorge Artalejo. Even in such a crowd, Cormell and Ortega, by virtue of their early fundraising prowess, are beginning to separate themselves from the pack.
After handily winning her election to a first-term as Mayor of Fort Worth, Republican Betsy Price is running unopposed in her re-election campaign.
Aboubacar "Asn" Ndiaye was a Field Organizer on the Harris County Democratic Party's 2012 Coordinated Campaign. Follow him at twitter.com/thehardask
The special election for SD-6 is this Saturday, and as the campaigns for Sylvia Garcia and Carol Alvarado reach the home stretch of this three-month sprint, Alvarado has turned to surprising quarters for help in the field.
Over the weekend, Brains and Eggs posted a link to a Facebook post in which Burt Levine, a Republican political consultant in Houston, noted that Republican State Senator Larry Taylor was blockwalking for Alvarado over the weekend. According to Levine's Facebook post, he blockwalked for Alvarado with Taylor and Wayne Faircloth, a former Republican candidate for HD-23.
Here is a screenshot of the Facebook post, shared from Levine's page:
It's a curious move. Why would Alvarado have support from the likes of Republican State Senator Larry Taylor?
After all, this is a fiercely Democratic district -- the two Republicans in the January 26th special general election failed to garner a combined 10% of the vote -- so I'm not sure if what the voters want here is someone who readily receives support from the other side of the aisle.
Today I called the Alvarado campaign office, and spoke to Marc Campos, a consultant working on her campaign. I asked if it was true that Taylor was blockwalking for Alvarado. He said that a number of Carol's current and former colleagues are volunteering for her, and that members from both sides of the aisle have come down to campaign for her. Campos said of Republicans and Independents, "they're coming out to the polls, so we have to have a discussion with them as we do with most of the voters in the district."
It's an interesting choice. On January 26, Garcia and Alvarado were separated by less than the Republican share of the vote. Is Carol Alvarado is trying to win the run-off in a Democratic district by picking up Republican support, rather than turning out or persuading Democrats?
I find it disconcerting that in the final stretches of a race to replace a stalwart champion of progressive values, one of the two candidates is trying to win by courting Republican support -- and apparently receiving it in such volumes.
The biggest challenge Democrats face in the Senate is holding our own and using the 2/3rds rule to block Republican legislation that is harmful to our state -- and often disproportionately harmful to the residents of low-income urban districts such as SD-6.
And it certainly begs the question why Taylor and other Republicans are working so hard to make sure Alvarado gets elected.
Houston native and international superstar Beyonce Knowles is the best chance for Texas Democrats to recapture the Governor's mansion in 2014.
On a policy front, Beyonce presents a vastly more progressive and populist alternative to Rick Perry or any Republican currently being bandied about to replace him.
She'd be honest about our Medicaid and education bills, bills, bills, and engage in a real conversation about the need for added revenue in our cash-strapped state. She'd restore the $9-to-$1 federal matching Medicaid funds for family planning so all the single ladies (and the married ones too!) can get their annual exams, and allow Planned Parenthood to participate in the program again. And I bet she'd perform a pretty spectacular state of the state address -- and honestly if she lip-synched it I wouldn't really care.
As for the campaign itself, I don't think there's a Republican ready for this jelly.
If Rick Perry's past performance is any indicator, he probably can't even name every member of Destiny's Child if it comes up in a debate. As for Greg Abbott, even he would meet his match in campaign funding against one of the best-selling artists of all time. She could probably top even Dewhurst-level self-financing! And unlike most people Democrats might nominate statewide, her name ID is already sky-high, and I bet her approval rating is too (especially among the male voters after last night, am I right?).
Democrats have needed a fierce campaigner willing to go after every last voter. While the 2012 data isn't finished yet, females made up 52% of the vote in our urban counties, and if there's one voter who can convince these girls that they run the world, or at least can be the deciding factor in a gubernatorial election, it's Beyonce. She'll persuade the Independent women who have been shifting away from Democrats in recent cycles to come back to the party. And you know, if I were a boy voter, I know who I'd rather see on the news every night for 3 years.
Maybe I'm dangerously in love with this idea. But let's get real for a second here: Governor Beyonce Knowles could not possibly cause more harm to Texas than the trifling', good for nothing type of brother that currently holds the office. At this point, her vast media empire is better run than our state is, and that statement is first and foremost an indictment of how Rick Perry and the Republicans have refused to meet the needs of the present or invest in our future. This diva would be a vast improvement on Rick Perry on every measurable level -- she's even got better hair.
Texas Democrats could do a lot worse than Beyonce, while Texas can't do much worse than Rick Perry. Demographics are changing, national donors are looking at our state with renewed interest, and two of President Obama's top field gurus have launched an effort to make this state the next battleground. After last night's tremendous performance, Beyonce needs to capture this momentum and launch an exploratory committee.