WEST, TEXAS: The folks at the Texas Tribune have produced a great interactive map of the known 110 facilities that work with ammonium nitrate in Texas, along with esimates of those facilities' proximity to schools and hospitals.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro was re-elected on Saturday with a whopping 67 percent of the vote. Castro will serve his third two-year term as mayor.
"I love being mayor, I love getting up and going to work and I want to thank the voters for giving me the opportunity to go back to city hall," said Mayor Castro.
And what a mayor he has been. In November, Castro campaigned successfully for an 1/8th cent sales tax increase to fund pre-kindergarten classes for San Antonio children. The funding will provide pre-K for 22,400 students over four years. Castro has instituted a car share program in San Antonio, added 108 salad bars in San Antonio schools, and helped invigorate the economy to the point where some have named San Antonio the best-performing local economy in the country.
Read more and watch Castro's DNC speech below the jump.
The Capitol was home to dueling Medicaid Expansion events yesterday. Warming up the crowd were folks from Texas Organizing Project and Progress Texas, advocating for the Medicaid Expansion. The expansion would help 1.5 million Texans who currently lack health insurance gain access to affordable, quality healthcare, with the federal government picking up the cost.
Check out some top tweets from the series of events in our Storify below the jump!
On Monday Texas politicians redrew battlelines over the proposed Medicaid expansion in Texas. Governor Perry, and U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz defied the will of Texans and ignored good fiscal sense by essentially making a public pledge to keep Texas' status as having the highest uninsured population in the United States. Democrats including Congressman Lloyd Doggett, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Mayor Julian Castro and several state legislators held their own press conference with budget experts, health professionals, local elected officials, and Medicaid recipients to make the case that Texas' citizens and the state budget would greatly benefit from the federal funds.
The offer on the table from the federal government is worth more than $100 billion to Texas over 10 years, with the state's portion incrementally increasing before being capped at 10%.
The math is simple and missing this opportunity adds up to more local taxes. If the state opts out of contributing to indigent care, the burden will merely be shifted to counties, charities and families already facing economic hardship. This case was made strongly by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, saying it was, "unfair to local tax payers". Perry said Texas needed the, "flexibility to care for our own in a manner that makes sense both effectively and financially.", however as state Rep. Chris Turner (D-Arlington) said, "after 12 years of Governor Perry's health care policies, we have the highest rate of uninsured in the nation." Perry wants a block grant so he can take the money but still keep control over implementation and benefits. Judging by his call to drug test TANF recipients I'd hate to see what eligibility would look like under that regime.
Congressman Doggett called Governor's request for a block grant "blockheaded" and Congressman Castro said Perry needed "to lose the swagger and get serious." Both men cited Republican governors who have put partisan politics aside to help the uninsured in their state and asked the Governor to reconsider sitting down with the Obama Administration to workout a deal.
One Texas, the PAC founded by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio), produced a great video of Republican Governors who have signed on the Medicaid expansion for the "moral" reason. During the press conference, TMF addressed the Governor, stating that "'no', is not a public policy," and suggested that the he should accept Medicaid in the spirit of Easter and Jesus' teachings, "feeding the hungry, healing the sick." He urged state leaders to act now and not to put off the most important business of the day saying, "manana" was the busiest day in the legislature.
Ted Cruz hoisted his Don't Tread On Me flag in full defiance of compromise saying he was proud of Texas as Republicans in other states were "giving in." The House budget debate will begin Thursday, but the House Republican Caucus, surely under a great deal of pressure from the Governor, has already voted to reject proposed Medicaid expansion, but left the possibility of negotiations with the federal government open.
Check out more pictures from the Perry press conference protesters via Progress Texas on Facebook.
Members of New Leaders Texas with Mayor Julian Castro and Ramiro Garza, City Manager of Edinburg
This past weekend, New Leaders Texas held the first South Texas Mayors' Summit, which brought together municipal, legislative, and Congressional leaders to discuss the needs of South Texas and how government can rise to address the challenges we're facing.
Here with a first-hand account is Austin Kaplan, a member of New Leaders Texas who helped plan the Summit.
Texas Has New Leaders - A Review Of The South Texas Mayors' Summit By Austin Kaplan
San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, the keynote speaker at the New Leaders Texas Foundation's South Texas Mayors' Summit, said it best: "there is a new generation of leadership in Texas."
The New Leaders Texas Foundation organized this Summit in Edinburg as a way of convening community and civic leaders and elected officials from around Texas to talk about the needs and enormous potential of the unique South Texas region (full disclosure - the author is a member of New Leaders Texas and helped plan the Summit). Panelists addressed the border, energy, education, and healthcare, and the Summit offered numerous opportunities for South Texas leaders to informally talk, organize, and strategize. More than 100 leaders from South Texas were present each day, including Congressmen Joaquín Castro, Filemon Vela, and Rubén Hinojosa (the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair), and Mayors Richard Garcia (Edinburg), Raul Salinas (Laredo), San Juanita Sanchez (San Juan), Tony Martinez (Brownsville), and Chris Boswell (Harlingen).
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 Republican primary is already getting spicy as donors choose between Attorney General Abbott and Governor Perry.
But what's happening on the Democratic side? With Battleground Texas swooping in to give our state the Democratic voter push it needs, the Democratic effort will be one to watch. There are a number of good candidates who may run, but little besides speculation to go on for now. We can expect to see candidate announcements in June, when fundraising commences.
Who's On Deck for 2014?
State Representative Mike Villarreal: Representing San Antonio in the Texas House since 1999, Mike Villarreal has gained a name for himself as a serious legislator with an appealing personality. After growing up in San Antonio, Villarreal went to Texas A&M and then Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and is now pursuing a PhD in public affairs at UT's LBJ School while teaching as an adjunct professor at St. Mary's University. He has spent the last three years focusing on education (a perfect issue to bring statewide) and budget transparency. Villarreal is young, a strong campaigner, and would certainly appeal to Texas's growing Hispanic voting population. The 123rd House District is safely Democratic, making Villarreal an even more appealing potential candidate for Texas Democrats.
Former Houston Mayor Bill White: The Democratic nominee for governor in 2010, Bill White has spent couple of years laying low in Houston while working in investments. White ran an impressive campaign all over Texas in 2010 that garnered national attention, and his loss is blamed in large part on the year's difficulty for Democrats nationwide. A poll released a few weeks ago by Public Policy Polling shows White leading Perry in a 2014 matchup, making a strong case for White's electability. White was a hugely successful mayor, and has a down-to-earth persona appealing to a broad swath of Texans. Earlier in 2010, White sought Kay Bailey Hutchison's Senate seat before she took back her promise to retire. So it's not impossible that White will seek Sen. John Cornyn's Senate seat in 2014. But no one knows what White will do yet - he hasn't said anything either way.
State Senator Kirk Watson: Austin's former mayor is a well-known, personable legislator who would appear to have the energy for a run at the governor's office. He ran for Attorney General in 2002, losing to Greg Abbott, but 2014 is a very different year. Watson might be able to capitalize on his ability to rev up Democrats, six years of experience in the Texas Senate, and plentiful ideas to make a serious run at the governor's office.
Longer shots include...
State Representative Rafael Anchia: Representing Dallas in the Texas House since 2004, Anchia is known as a likable, hard-working legislator. Anchia would certainly run a good campaign with his appeal to both Latinos and Texas's growing 18-35 year old Demographic. Any plans about future runs for office are not yet known.
State Senator Wendy Davis: An energetic and charismatic progressive who singlehandedly forced a special session in 2011 by filibustering the state's inadequate education funding, Davis would be a very good candidate for governor. She's been representing Fort Worth since 2009 and regularly makes lists of state legislators to watch. Even if she doesn't run in 2014, Democrats will be hoping she does soon. Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilbert Hinojosa recently said of Davis, "From the perspective of electability, she's one of our top superstars in Texas. Her sensibility and approach to politics will just automatically propel her as a top candidate for statewide office."
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro: San Antonio's mayor is the top Democrat in Texas and arguably the brightest rising star of Democrats nationwide. From his celebrated keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention to his upcoming autobiography, it's only a matter of time before Castro runs for higher office. But which office will that be? Castro just announced his re-election campaign in the 2013 San Antonio mayor's race, and says he's "not running" for governor in 2014. That's probably true, but he certainly deserves his place on this list - if only for all the buzz you'll hear about him around this race and others.
Whoever the candidate is, expect 2014 to be a year of energetic Democratic campaigning as Texas comes closer and closer to voting blue statewide.
"One of the things I'm going to be tackling is this issue of preparing our workforce better; linking up education with the needs of our employers so that no employer ever has to wonder whether they can find the talent, the skills that they need in the workforce here in San Antonio," he said Tuesday after filing for office.
Castro spearheaded an ambitious effort to provide Pre-K to disadvantaged San Antonio children and passed a ballot measure last November to raise funds to do so. He clearly sees eye-to-eye with President Barack Obama on the need to invest in our future through providing strong educational access for all.
Castro was first elected in 2007, and Castro won re-election in 2009 with 83% of the vote. No serious challengers are expected.
For the first time in over a decade, a Democrat leads a Republican statewide in a public opinion poll. Sure, it's within the margin of error. And sure, we aren't close to an election and Republicans poll better as we get closer. And sure, the polls that truly matter (in November) show that Texas actually has a very long way to go before electing a Democrat.
But a scientific survey of Texans has a Democrat winning the state.
"If the candidates for Governor next year were Republican Rick Perry and Democrat Bill White, who would you vote for?" asked Public Policy Polling. 47% answered Bill White. 44% answered Rick Perry.
Before we go hootin' and hollerin' in excitement, let's remember that if Rick Perry wants to run for reelection to governor in 2014, Rick Perry is still the favorite. This is just one poll, and we don't even know if Bill White would want to run again. Rick Perry also leads other hypothetical match-ups against Democrats.
But Battleground Texas is getting Democrats excited to compete sooner rather than later and to aggressively campaign instead of simply waiting for demographics. If we're ready to bring the fight to a new level, we need a candidate, too. So, we only hear Greg Abbott's name when people speak of potential challengers to Rick Perry? We can't make Texas a battleground without strong candidates. And if nothing else, this poll shows that even as soon as 2014, a strong Democratic candidate can win Texas.
If you're still unsure; the reasoning is a two-step process. First, Rick Perry is the favorite if he runs again in the Republican Primary. Second, Rick Perry can be beat. But he clearly can't be beat by anybody, so we need someone to step up. Read on below the fold about these two steps.
Fresh off his Pre-K 4 SA win, we learn today that rising star Julian Castro is writing an autobiography that will be on bookshelves by the 2014 midterm elections.
Castro has teamed with the New York-based Little, Brown and Co. publisher. "We think Julián has a very universal story, filled with drama, struggle and achievement and it will appeal to a wide range of readers across the country," Little, Brown spokeswoman Nicole Dewey said in an email to Josh Baugh of the San Antonio Express News. "We have plans for a major national marketing and publicity campaign."
Brown and Co. has already given Castro an advance for the book, but Castro won't discuss any more details. Smart - Castro is doing a lot of very good work in San Antonio and he probably doesn't want any national distractions interfering with his work.
I'm looking forward to this book, and I don't often read political autobiographies because of their risk for self-aggrandizement. Castro gave an awesome speech at the DNC, and then he went home and won a campaign for a slightly higher tax that will give 30,000 San Antonio kids pre-K and change their lives entirely.