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Username: Michael Hurta
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Email: michael@burntorangereport.com

Former Burnt Orange Report Staff Writer.  Currently an aspiring lawyer.

Andy Brown and Sarah Eckhardt Offer Different Policy Priorities for County Judge

by: Michael Hurta

Wed Feb 12, 2014 at 09:04 AM CST

The most ardent supporters of Andy Brown and Sarah Eckhardt rarely point to their policy proposals as the main reason to support them. For Brown partisans, his leadership with the Democratic Party points to how he will lead the county. Eckhardt supporters are quick to contrast her heavy experience with the county to Brown's.

Indeed, commentators on the race and even candidates, themselves, focus on this difference. While the two will be asked policy questions at debates, neither candidate will ever leave without emphasizing their leadership style or superior wonkiness. A recent Statesman article entitled "How Travis County Judge Candidates Andy Brown and Sarah Eckhardt Differ"  focused on their stylistic difference so much that it declared the two are "running for two different jobs."

But they still quibble on policy issues. If one looks closely, they don't actually agree everywhere. And more importantly, their priorities differ. The first things they do on the job will be different.

Click below the fold to find out how.

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#HD50 Election Alert: School Polling Locations Closed, Others Open, Vote at ANY Location

by: Michael Hurta

Tue Jan 28, 2014 at 11:00 AM CST

(UPDATE: Polls will be open until 8:00 p.m. per the Travis County Clerk's Office. Go vote for Celia Israel! - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

If you live in House District 50 and wanted to go vote for Celia Israel today, you may have wondered about how the cold conditions affected your voting locations.

Some school voting locations had delayed openings, but the delays were only until 10 a.m. All election locations are now open. They will close at 7 p.m. Go vote!

Update 11:06 am: As it turns out, the school polling locations will be CLOSED. From the Travis County Elections Facebook Page:

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir announced HD 50 Runoff Election Day polling sites located on Elgin ISD, Manor ISD and Austin ISD campuses will not open today because of school closures. 28 polling locations opened at 7 a.m. and are currently processing voters. To find a polling location please visit our website www.traviscountyelections.org

Voters registered in HD-50 may vote at ANY polling location today. If you see a "Vote Here" sign, VOTE!

Find a nearby voting location here or on this map below (but remember, the school locations are closed!):

Remember: all election location are now open. Go vote!

The list of schools that were supposed to be polling locations but are closed is the following:

Graham Elementary School
Dobie Middle School
Barrington Elementary School
Walnut Creek Elementary School
Summit Elementary
Pioneer Crossing Elementary School
Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School
Neidig Elementary School

Remember: the schools are closed as election locations, but everywhere else is open! You may vote at ANY location! Go vote!

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Wendy Davis Will Have the Most Thorough Texas Education Plan by a Candidate in Years (Part I)

by: Michael Hurta

Thu Jan 09, 2014 at 05:30 PM CST

Today, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis unveiled the first part of her education policy plan at the University of Texas at Arlington. Part I is entitled "Great Teachers: Great Texas." Davis gained initial notoriety in 2011 when she filibustered for a short time to try to stop billions of dollars in education cuts.

"Take it from me," said Davis,  "great teachers, great schools, and access to affordable education can make or break a young woman's hard-earned effort to make a better life for her and her family or her burning desire to be another great Texas business leader. As someone who went from working multiple low-paid jobs to community college, to a successful career in business, I have worked hard to both keep jobs here and attract new businesses."

The plan proposes six basic policy points that would encourage more smart Texans to become teachers or keep our great teachers within the profession. While Greg Abbott won't even say if he would support restoring any more of the $5.4  Billion in education cuts from 2011, Wendy Davis is proposing specifics.

And this is just Part I. Find out what the proposals are and why this means Wendy Davis is the choice for education: all below the jump!

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Iowa Poll : Rick Perry More Favored Among Republicans than Ted Cruz

by: Michael Hurta

Mon Dec 16, 2013 at 09:00 AM CST

This weekend, the Des Moines Register released a new 2016 presidential poll. The poll showed Paul Ryan with by far the best favorability ratings for Republicans. But the poll revealed another big surprise for everyone, especially Texans: Rick Perry did better among Republicans than Ted Cruz.

Wait, what?

Yes, you heard that right. Rick Perry did better than Ted Cruz. Now, the poll did not ask who people would vote for. The poll only asked how favorable voters viewed the candidates, which is useful more than a year away from the caucus, but it is not a predictor. And there are other caveats and even problems with this poll.

But could it be true? Could Rick Perry stand a better chance at winning the 2016 Republican nomination than Ted Cruz? Right now, probably not. Read below the fold to find out why.

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Travis Co Elections Roundup: Karin Crump & Others Win Early, Andy Brown vs. Sarah Eckhardt Heats Up

by: Michael Hurta

Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 09:00 AM CST

The filing deadline for Travis County local elected offices was not nearly as exciting as the drama across the state, but one competitive primary got settled, a few incumbents drew challengers, and after the January 28 runoff in House District 50, Celia Israel and Mike Vandewalle will face each other in a rematch in November.

A primary for the vacant 250th District Court had been developing between Karin Crump and former 3rd Court justice Diane Henson, but that race is now moot. Meanwhile, four local officeholders received last-second primary challengers, some of which are serious candidates.

Endorsements and debates are also starting, so the races will really begin to heat up now. Read your primer below the fold!

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Your Austin City Council: The Interactive Map

by: Michael Hurta

Mon Nov 25, 2013 at 05:53 PM CST

Last week, Austin's Independent Citizen's Redistricting Commission completed the City Council District map, which will be used for the first time in the 2014 November elections.

[UPDATE: As of late Monday night, the Commission officially certified this map, making it final.]

Today, the Commission released an interactive version of its map. So, take a look below and zoom into your house (or the house of your favorite friend-candidate) to figure out what district you live in! And if you're a Democrat living in District 6, 8, or 10; you should think about running in your important swing district.

Click below the fold to view the interactive map!  

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Austin Redistricting Finishes: 7 Liberal Districts & 3 Competitive Districts

by: Michael Hurta

Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 09:00 AM CST

Yesterday, Austin's Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission completed their map of 10 City Council Districts that will be in place for the 2014 elections, and they did so by unanimous vote. You can view a .pdf of the map here. The Commission will meet one last time on Monday, November 25 to certify the map.

The map has changed only slightly from the most recent iteration, and this Final Map is the result of almost six months of hard work by the Commission. Anyone who attended the commission's meetings saw a group of Austinites dedicated to their task, all genuinely attempting to balance interests. The Commission took to heart not only the desires of Constitutionally protected minorities (though this consideration obviously merited extra weight) but also the public testimonies out of other communities, ranging from neighborhoods to students.

Now, Austin will have a generally fair map of city council districts until the next census. Not everyone will be happy, but that's the nature of politics. And after the 2014 elections, City Hall will look much different than it does today.

Below the fold, I look into the numbers and predict what this map means for Austin politics!

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Travis County Turnout O.K. So Far, and It's Not All HD-50

by: Michael Hurta

Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 11:00 AM CST

Through the end of Friday, Travis County has 5.64% voter turnout with 34,888 voters by mail or in person. While a sub-6% voter turnout seems miniscule, it's actually high compared to other urban counties in Texas. It's even slightly higher than Harris County, whose Houston mayoral race and Astrodome ballot question have led it to a 5.56% Early Vote turnout.

The almost thirty-five thousand Travis County early voters are more than in 2011, 2009, and 2007, too. And 5.64% isn't a bad start, considering that some consultants' internal polling predicted only 8.2% turnout overall.

Not good, but better than expected.

So, what's driving this "strong" turnout? Interestingly, despite the special election to replace Mark Strama, HD-50 does not have the highest turnout in town. So which house district does?

Read below the fold as I dig deeper into the numbers.

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Louie Gohmert Thinks the President Can Be Impeached If U.S. Defaults on Debt

by: Michael Hurta

Mon Oct 14, 2013 at 11:00 AM CDT

Oh hey! It's our old friend, Congressperson Louie Gohmert, returning to the news to say ridiculous things! It's been a while, so his latest statement is right about on schedule.

The Huffington Post reports:

When asked whether he would allow the government to default on its debt, Gohmert projected the responsibility for such circumstances onto Obama.

"No," he said, "that would be an impeachable offense by the president."

For a civics lesson, shall we look at Article II, Section IV of the Constitution? Yes, let's:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

One probably can't construe the United States defaulting on its debt as a crime or misdemeanor by any one elected official in the first place, not to mention a high crime or misdemeanor. And besides, although defaulting on our debt may indeed be unconstitutional, that logic would blame Congress for the violation. After all, Congress created the debt ceiling.

Oh Louie Gohmert, never standing up for himself like a true adult and taking blame. Watch the video of his comments below.

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Replacing Mark Strama in HD-50: Endorsement Roundup

by: Michael Hurta

Mon Oct 07, 2013 at 04:05 PM CDT

Early voting in House District 50, and around Texas, starts in only 2 weeks. That means Democratic clubs throughout Austin have been endorsing, so their voices can be heard as much as possible and their members would know who to support with time, money, and votes.

Of course, endorsements aren't the election, and there's varying debate as to their importance. Here's a recap of the conventional (and likely accurate) wisdom. Most club endorsements, themselves, only barely affect elections beyond the organizations' listing on campaign literature. That said, winning endorsements could be a sign to supporters and potential donors that a candidate is doing well. And further, an organization can put extra weight behind their name; for instance, the University Democrats are organizing phonebanks for Celia Israel, and the Central Labor Council almost always does some measure of work to push their endorsements, too.

There's a couple caveats to that conventional wisdom, though. First, the election is only taking place in one sixth of the county, and some organizations simply have even less sway within the district. For instance, there is no way one can describe HD-50 as going into the south of town, yet the South Austin Democrats issued their endorsement, anyway. Second, this is a special election in an odd-numbered year, so any little advantage in this low-turnout race can mean a lot.

As you'll see below, Celia Israel has won a significant majority of liberal and Democratic club endorsements. That might show a large front of Democratic activists favoring Israel. But how much does that really mean?

Below the fold, find out who endorsed whom and read more analysis as we reach the home stretch of this race.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 348 words in story)

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