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#GiveToWendy Guest Post: Why My Friend Wendy Davis is Right for Texas

by: Todd Hill

Thu Oct 10, 2013 at 03:19 PM CDT

(In honor of Throwback Thursday, we are happy to bring you this post from former BOR staffer Todd Hill!   - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)

Goal Thermometer

Although I'm a Texantonian these days, my heart remains in the Lone Star State!

I care about Texas and its future. I cut my political chops in campaigns in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and was lucky enough to come to know Wendy Davis. I consider her a friend.  

Before moving to Washington DC she was my State Senator too, so I saw all too well her work ethic, her leadership, and her care for community, state and country.  

Read more about why Wendy Davis is right for Texas after the jump.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 298 words in story)

Texas Democrat and Former Statewide Officeholder Bob Gammage Passed Away

by: Todd Hill

Mon Sep 10, 2012 at 03:50 PM CDT

It is with sadness that I report to all of you the loss of a real Texas political giant, and Yellow Dog Democrat, Bob Gammage.  From KXAN:  

Robert Gammage, a reform-minded Texas lawmaker who was part of the renouned "Dirty Thirty" in the early 1970s and then made an ill-fated run for governor in 2006, died Monday at age 74.

Gammage, who for several years operated a law firm in Austin, represented part of Harris County in the Texas House, the state Senate and in Congress. He also was a state appeals court judge and served on the Texas Supreme for four years in the 1990s.

I'll never forget July 7, 2003 sitting in a little coffee shop in Arlington, Texas near the University of Texas campus. It was at that coffee shop that I arrived not with an intent to learn about former Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark, but convince all the people in attendance why he was the best choice for the Democratic ticket against George W. Bush in 2004. It didn't take much convincing for Bob Gammage to pledge his full support toward drafting General Clark to enter the Democratic primary that season, and subsequently stumping across the country on his behalf either. It was a tireless and selfless act of patriotism--quite rare these days in politics--and something I certainly had never seen before, yet was proud to be part of.  Bob didn't hesitate to hand the reins of the Clark effort over to a wet behind the ears political student with a full-time job, full-time college schedule, and a part-time political organizing gig either. When I asked him later why he entrusted so much responsibility and leadership opportunity in me he said, "You got something kid that other kids don't have in being able to work in this field, motivate people, lead and to do it all for a purpose of good! So why not you!?"

I'm not so sure a better statement represents the level of integrity that was reflective of Bob.  Mr. Gammage believed in mentoring, training and empowering up-and-coming leaders in the Texas Democratic Party. In fact his biggest passion wasn't politics it was education where he enjoyed being in front of the classroom and helping shape the minds of young Texans. When I asked him one time what he thought his biggest failure in life was he said, "I'm not sure I can think of my biggest failure, but I can name my greatest failure and hands down it is Patrick Swayze!" When I asked him why Patrick Swayze he said, "because he was my student and I asked him one day why he didn't come to class, why he wasn't interested in the subject matter, and what I could do to help him to get more interested in the subject matter. Patrick told me that he was interested in acting and had a passion for it. So I told him well then-- by God--go act!" Vintage Gammage advice.  

He and his wife Linda opened so many doors, and blazed so many trails for so many young Texans just like me. I have no doubt in my mind that I'm a better man because I was blessed to be mentored by one of the "dirty 30 bastards!"  

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

I'm Heading Back to Washington DC

by: Todd Hill

Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 07:00 AM CST

It is with a heavy heart that I annouce to the Burnt Orange Report community that I must resign as a writer for this influential political blog.  

You may recall that I spent the early spring semester of 2010 as a Bill Archer Fellow in our nation's capital where I served as an intern at the Financial Services Roundtable. I was offered a position shortly after my graduation from the University of Texas at Arlington on December 18, 2010, and will be returning to the same organization but with a much different, and far more challenging level of responsibilities to boot. I am very excited about this opportunity!

It has been an honor and privilege to bond with such a large network of people and talented writers over the last several years here with the Burnt Orange Report.  I'm quite proud of my contributions here and the dialogue we struck together on the pressing issues facing our state and country.

It has been a long and hard road for me to pursue such a great opportunity in Washington so I am thrilled to reach this point in my life.

Henry David Thoreau once said "go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined."

I can't imagine a better life then what I've been able to share with all of you here at Burnt Orange Report, but I imagine that what I am about to experience in DC will be equally as life-changing too.

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

Tea Party Prepared to Strike Kay Bailey Hutchison

by: Todd Hill

Sun Dec 05, 2010 at 10:37 AM CST

Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, dismissed by Rick Perry earlier in the year in the GOP gubernatorial primary, should expect a crowded primary field for her United States Senate seat should she decide to run again. Courtesy of the Star-Telegram:

"She personifies everything that the Tea Party is fighting," said Konni Burton, a member of the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party steering committee. "She is a Republican, but when you check her votes on many issues, they are not ones that conservatives are happy with."

Adrian Murray, president of the grassroots 912 Project Fort Worth, said: "For the sake of what's left of her own reputation and credibility, she should not run again. She got shellacked in the primary, and that should have been [a] signal enough that we're done with her. KBH epitomizes the slick career politician that so many in the movement despise."

You are quite likely to have better luck guessing Texas Lottery numbers than you are guessing if Kay Bailey Hutchison will run again for the U.S. Senate or simply retire. God only knows, honey. Her motivation for running for governor against Perry really settled on the fact she was angling for that Governor's mansion as a retirement home. However, given her tarnished record and personality at the hands of Republican Perry, Hutchison may be forced out of her seat whether she wishes to be or not. The likes of Weatherford car salesman Roger Williams and Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams all claim to be running regardless of Hutchison's plan.  They've seen this horror flick before after all, having been bit by Kay's capitulation in the past.  

I'm not certain that Hutchison is politically savvy enough to know what is going on here, which is that moderates in today's Republican Party are not welcome and becoming far more extinct with each passing day.  The withering fire and utter chaos that has erupted in the recent race for Speaker of the Texas House between the moderate Joe Strauss and his extreme challengers Warren Chisum and Ken Paxton is indicative of what is occurring throughout the country with this marriage of convenience between the GOP and the Tea Party. As Kay Bay can attest to, and now Strauss as well, the Tea Party doesn't play fair, they play nasty with a mission to tarnish, burn, and ultimately destroy one's reputation. Hutchison has proven once before she really doesn't have the stomach for the type of race that Tea Party extremists like Rick Perry run. As Joe Strauss is realizing within the Texas House, politicians like he and Kay Bay could be all that stands between an ultra-conservative, extreme takeover of the modern Republican Party and the destruction of GOP moderates along the way.    

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

Gird Your Loins, Cuts, Cuts, and More Cuts are Coming!

by: Todd Hill

Mon Nov 29, 2010 at 05:48 PM CST

In some of the most candid public remarks to date Republican Representative Jim Pitts of Waxahachie indicated that if any savings is to come from Texas opting out of the federal Medicaid program that "we will have to throw some people out in the street."  The full context of the entire quote is below thanks to the Texas Tribune:

Pitts told the crowd that the state is studying Medicaid and other forms of government-run health care with the idea of getting out of it. A man in the audience mentioned a friend on the program and asked whether lawmakers would "throw him out on the street."

"If we did exactly what we're doing today, we wouldn't be throwing him out on the street," Pitts answered. "But if we have any savings on getting out of Medicaid, we will have to throw some people out in the street. I'm not telling you that your friend would be, but the eligibility to receive state benefits will go down.

Well most of us knew what was coming, but to hear it so blatantly and unapologetically said in a less than heartfelt manner by Republican Pitts should give much reason for Texans to sweat these days. Moreover, Pitts said clearly your friend will not be thrown off if we keep things the way they are right now, but he would if we change things to the GOP way. Inciteful!  

If a program such as Medicaid, which the federal government reimburses the state of Texas upwards of 60% of the total cost, is on the cutting block one can only imagine what other programs are next. Although Rick Perry and other Republicans continue to say that the state can handle the needs of those on Medicaid "by ourselves" he is unequivocally and deceptively lying.  How can the state of Texas replace 60% of reimbursed funds from the federal government when the state already faces a $25 billion dollar shortfall?  The answer is they can't, and they have no intention to even try. Since the 1980's it has been the mission of Republicans to end programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and others and they fully intend to use an internally perceived "election mandate" to do exactly that. The new GOP extreme machine fully intends to throw as many people into the streets as possible with a slash and burn approach to governing that has no mercy.  

I don't believe this is the mandate that voters truly went to the polls and voted for, I believe it is a dramatic stretch on the part of Republicans to believe that is the case; however, I'm not surprised that Republicans have manifested the election results to be a full-fledged dismantling of state and federal government of the likes we have never, ever seen before.

The new GOP extreme machine may believe their mandate will be well received by Texans, but as the microscope magnifies the extent of this destructive, slash and burn approach to governing the tide will quickly turn back.  

Discuss :: (25 Comments)

Former Republican Majority Leader Tom Delay Found Guilty of Money Laundering

by: Todd Hill

Wed Nov 24, 2010 at 05:29 PM CST

Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, known as "The Hammer" amongst GOP colleagues for his heavy-handed style of leadership, has been found guilty on the charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering.  The money laundering charge alone could carry a sentence of five years to life in prison. The lesser charge of conspiracy could carry a minimum of two years.  

The New York Times has a good synopsis of the case overall and the arguments by both Delay's attorney, Dick DuGuerin, and the prosecution.

Of course, the Austin American-Statesman has essentially the hour by hour breakdown of deliberations by the jury which convicted Delay on two counts today.

No doubt that Delay will appeal this ruling, but for now justice has been served. Dancing with convicts anyone?


Discuss :: (5 Comments)

Changes come to the House Democratic Campaign Committee

by: Todd Hill

Wed Nov 24, 2010 at 02:40 PM CST

With the loss of State Representative Jim Dunnam, the House Democratic Campaign Committee has begun to transition and prepare for the 82nd Legislative session.  Tarrant County's own, Lon Burnam, has been added to the HDCC Board and I think that is a great move on the part of Representatives Garnett Coleman and Pete Gallego.  

In a note from Rep. Burnam, which includes a message from Coleman and Gallego:

To continue the outstanding record of Member-leadership at the HDCC, we have asked Representative Lon Burnam to join our board. We can tell you that since the HDCC was formed, few Members have matched Lon's willingness to contribute both time and financial support to the organization.  Lon has dedicated many days at the HDCC office to donor call-time, and time and again has been willing to share his campaign funds -- and his own campaign contributors -- with the HDCC, so that the organization can better serve Members in tough primary and general election races.  We are excited to formalize Lon's role, and look forward to working closely with him.

With Democrats deeper in minority status come January, adding Representative Burnam to the leadership at the HDCC will bring an individual with tremendous knowledge, skills, and deep understanding of the tools that can be utilized by the caucus to limit the GOP from ramming too much bad legislation down the throat of Texans.  There's not a whole lot our caucus can do given how deep in the minority they are, but this move helps.  Lon is routinely singled out as the legislator who takes new members under his wing and teaches them the ways of the legislature.  As recognized by his colleagues above, Lon is also very good at fundraising and very willing to do the hard work necessary to win! He has spine and grit, which we know Democrats need a lot more of these days, not necessarily Texas Democrats, but it doesn't hurt having someone of Lon's capabilities helping us in 2011.      

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Rick Perry Continues Assault on the Middle Class

by: Todd Hill

Sun Nov 21, 2010 at 11:14 AM CST

This morning Rick Perry continued to demonstrate he lives in a world unto himself as he vehemently denied that the George W. Bush initiated federal assistance program to the American auto-industry helped to save more than 1 million jobs, including thousands right here in the Lone Star State. Perry said:

Gov. Rick Perry: "I don't think government should be involved in private sector just to say it worked.  To back up, I don't know if it worked or not." [Fox News, Fox News Sunday, 11/21/10]

What an absurd comment. The reality is that had former President George W. Bush, and his successor President Barack Obama, not moved forward with the auto-bailout the economic challenges we now face would not only be drastically worse, but quite frankly more catastrophic and more painful then it already is. Moreover, the ripple effect of the auto industry collapse wouldn't just negatively affect direct jobs in manufacturing of vehicles, but the peripheral jobs such as parts manufacturing, auto and part sales, customer service jobs, financing, etc. would have soared middle class job losses much higher into the millions. Republican Rick Perry continues to play loose with the facts and demonstrates how out of touch he is with mainstream Texans and middle America. This man begs for federal stimulus dollars and federal money in general when it is politically convenient for cover such as balancing state budgets, but when you want to run for President and sell fiction novels it is better to offer baseless sound bites that don't deal in realities.  

  • Roundly amongst even fellow Republicans such as Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee who filibustered the bailout now believes that it has worked.(source)
  • The Economist magazine, far from a federal government apologist, ran a headline saying "The Doomsayers Were Wrong" on the federal assistance program to the auto-industry. (source)
  • Finally, renowned writer for BusinessWeek, Ed Wallace, a balanced critic of both the Right and the Left, was one of the first to sound the alarms of needing to save Detroit, has been consistent with his assessment that it was the right thing to do, and probably has offered the best economic analysis of what the federal assistance program did in preventing the American auto-industry collapse. His analysis has been spot on to say the least.(source)

Isn't it amazing how a politician who rails against Washington yet works the phones and begs his congressional representation to get as much stimulus and federal dollars as they possibly can to bailout Rick Perry can have any credibility at all?      

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Leo Berman Epitomizes the Demise of Political Dialect Today

by: Todd Hill

Thu Nov 18, 2010 at 01:38 PM CST

Republican legislator Leo Berman, famous for authoring extreme legislation, continues to dive political dialect farther into the gutter by proposing his latest bill to force a candidate for president and vice-president to provide an "original birth certificate" as proof of having been legally born in the United States.  Well, we know who the target is of this legislation don't we?

Texas State Representative Leo Berman (R) furthered his campaign against President Obama Tuesday, a man that he has before characterized as "God's punishment on us," by introducing a bill that would require future presidential and vice-presidential candidates to produce "the original birth certificate indicating that the person is a natural-born United States citizen" to the Texas secretary of state.

I just don't know what to think these days anymore about politicians. Sometimes I think those who are to the right of crazy such as Leo Berman does this kind of stuff to just shock and awe people--you know, grab headlines for the sake of grabbing headlines.  But I just don't know if that is the case anymore.  Legislation such as what Leo Berman proposes is just not worth the ink wasted to write it. This bill is as ludicrous as ludicrous gets, but you know what?  It's still filed.  It'll still be heard in committee.  Given the new Super Majority in place, it is quite likely to make it to the floor and by God it is highly likely it will pass.  Disgraceful.  

Berman's disgraceful legislation codifies a couple of things for me. First, extreme is mainstream.  Ole' Leo isn't the only one authoring crazy legislation, I mean the state of Oklahoma just passed a ballot initiative to ban Sharia Law!  Sharia Law for goodness sakes, folks! Forget that pesky U.S. Constitution and the first amendment which protects against establishing religion. After all, the constitution allowed a large majority of Americans to elect a Muslim to Washington, right?  I'd be willing to bet that at least 1/3rd of Oklahoma doesn't even know what Sharia Law is, but by golly some fringe group and/or candidate (cough--cough--Newt Gingrich--cough--cough) let them know it'll protect Oklahoma from a Muslim takeover emanating from Washington D.C. so it MUST BE PASSED! I wish I could write these jokes myself folks but geez they write themselves!

On to my second point here which is Berman-esque legislation is the epitome of the demise of political dialect today. With almost 10% unemployment in America, public education on the decline, a growing income gap between wealthy and poor, students priced out of higher education, threats of slashing health care, a declining global footprint that is the United States, and this is the kind of legislation our state, country, and media for goodness sakes, wastes time on.  People are hurting. Our country is floundering. I don't blame one particular political party more than the other these days I blame us all. Look in the mirror and blame yourself. Why? Because we've allowed extreme to become mainstream and we tolerate it.  We live in fear and allow fear to cripple us. We don't want diversity it's too difficult to integrate. We don't want equality it's too difficult to tolerate. So this is the nation we've become? No.  I won't allow it.  Texans are better than Leo Berman's extreme legislation. Our nation is better than the slope we are sliding down. I channel the better angles of our society, from both sides of the political spectrums, and summon you to duty to build a bridge between these two extremes and stand with me on it. I only pray that I'm not left standing alone.

To borrow a line abused by the latest fringe political group in America: I want my country back!    

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Contentious Issues Put Texas Republican Super Majority at Risk

by: Todd Hill

Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 07:30 AM CST

Should Republican Speaker of the House Joe Strauss be strong enough to retain his powerful position he'll have his hands full in holding together a very volatile GOP caucus. Republican extremist Warren Chisum is certainly fraying Strauss' pledges for the Speaker's job so we don't know where this race will end. This nasty and contentious race for the Speakership of the Texas House is most certainly a preview of the upcoming 82nd Session, which will pit moderates against extremists for overall influence and direction of the Texas GOP.  Most certainly newly elected Teapot extremists, combined with the fringe GOP that was already in the legislature, have winnowed the influence of moderate Republicans and we see that pent up anger on the part of the extremists coming to fruition now.

We saw this battle between moderates and extremists first unfold when Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison challenged Rick Perry for the 2010 Republican nomination for Governor.  Hutchison had long been considered a pragmatic moderate never of the extreme mold that Rick Perry chiseled for himself. Republican Perry defeated the moderate Hutchison in the primary and continued his extreme campaign against the moderate Democratic candidate, Bill White.  The former Mayor of Houston retained many platform points and themes that Hutchison utilized in her race against Perry, but the pragmatic, moderate White lost the most recent November 2nd General Election.  

As a result of the recent November 2nd elections the Republican legislative caucus increased to Super Majority status, and along with it entered a new crop of extreme elephants that threaten to trample what is left of moderates in the Texas GOP.  

The following very contentions issues are likely to cause this internal party battle between moderates and extremists to continue and boil over into the public:

  • The estimated $20-25 billion dollar budget shortfall

With a "no new taxes pledge," newly elected extreme Republicans and their allies are already talking up the possibility of opting out of the federal Medicaid program. Doing so would leave a large swath of Texans, including seniors and children--the most vulnerable in our society, without health insurance. Rick Perry even proclaimed that Texas can run its own program without federal assistance, which essentially means Republicans will end Medicaid and do nothing to provide Health Care for the most vulnerable amongst us who rely on it.  If Medicaid is on the cutting block you know that the Children's Health Insurance Program is too. And as we all know, public education has long been a favorite target for a slash and burn Republican approach to governing. Higher education is a target too.  All this to say, the moderates, or what is left of them, are all that stands between a full dismantling of government as we know it, and perhaps trimming the sides a bit. Look for the budget shortfall to be one of the top contentious issues that could cause the Republican caucus to explode with internal family strife.

  • Voter Suppression

If ever a case existed in which politicians are attempting to craft a solution to a problem that doesn't exist voter suppression legislation ranks high.  In a divided 81st Legislative session Republicans were very close in passing "Voter ID," had it not been for the Democratic caucus chubbing the legislation to death.  With a Super Majority, Republicans certainly have the votes to ram through the long desired extreme Indiana-style legislation that would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters including seniors, veterans, and minorities.  Republican moderates attempted to reach across the aisle to Democrats and work out compromise legislation in 2009 with no success.  If moderates that are left don't warm up to the most extreme Indiana-style voter suppression legislation preferred by the new extreme Republican majority, look for this contentious issue to result in a traditional family reunion-like quarrel.  

  • Arizona-style Immigration Reform

Republican Debbie Riddle, arguably the chair of the extreme element of the Texas Republican Party, championed not only Arizona-style immigration legislation, but something tougher then even that.  Rick Perry took a  moderate position in the recent gubernatorial election, recognizing that attacking the fastest growing population in the country's 2nd largest state is not smart politics for the future of the GOP. Will newly elected Republican extremists get the message that Arizona-style legislation, or tougher, is not good for Texas or the GOP?  If not, this contentious issue could become the proverbial nail in the caucus coffin.    

As we have seen from the Washington D.C. policy-making process, having super majorities doesn't always result in the legislation the majority party expects.  A Party such as the GOP that has prided itself on caucus discipline married itself to the most extreme, fringe elements of Republicans in order to win this cycle.  Given the contentious and pressing issues facing all legislators in 2011, this marriage could very well end in a bitter divorce two years from now.    

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