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July 2nd, 2013:

Who else is afraid of Battleground Texas?

FreedomWorks, that’s who.

The conservative outside group FreedomWorks has drawn up plans to spend nearly $8 million mobilizing and expanding the GOP base in Texas, in a move to counter state and national Democratic efforts to make the state more electorally competitive, POLITICO has learned.

In a twelve-page internal strategy document obtained by POLITICO, FreedomWorks says that the Republican Party should be alarmed in particular by the Democratic group Battleground Texas, which several Obama campaign officials founded this year with the mission of organizing liberal-leaning constituencies that currently vote at below-average rates.

The FreedomWorks memo likens that offensive to the so-called “Colorado Model” – a successful initiative by Democratic donors and organizers to make Colorado a blue state over the past decade – and spells out an itemized budget for responding from the right.

“In 2012, Team Obama turned out their core supporters by registering new voters, offering transportation to the polls and emphasizing early votes. Battleground Texas is sure to employ similar tactics to take advantage of these untapped constituencies,” the memo says. “But FreedomWorks is ready to fight. We have a track record of engaging the grassroots through previous battles and victories, and have focused for years on rebuilding the Republican brand by holding legislators accountable for their votes.”

The ambitious FreedomWorks budget – which comes to just under $7,950,000 – calls for hiring 10 to 20 field directors ($240,000) and opening field offices in Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas ($204,000).

It outlines extensive research and outreach efforts, including $1.8 million to be spent collecting issue surveys from Texans, $1.6 million for online media advertising, $1 million for paid neighborhood canvassing and hundreds of thousands of dollars for Facebook, Twitter and email outreach.

The budget also sets aside a quarter-million dollars for “scientific field experiments [which] will be used to show which grassroots activities provide the most bang for our buck.”

All told, it looks like a game plan designed to anticipate and mirror the activities of an Obama campaign-trained Democratic operation, with all the bells and whistles of the president’s famously sophisticated 2012 campaign.

Notably, the FreedomWorks strategy memo does not call for revising the Republican Party’s traditional issue positions. On the contrary, the group’s theory of the case insists that fidelity to small-government principles will attract Latinos and young voters, who are currently skeptical of the GOP in part because it has failed to outline a coherent agenda for economic growth.

Whatever. Look, no one ever believed that Battleground Texas would be uncontested in its efforts. I expect the Republicans to spend a bunch of money in Texas to hold onto what they’ve got – they’re already spending a bunch of money to do that, and there’s no reason to believe that will end anytime soon. I don’t know how many people they think they can find that already agree with them but don’t vote regularly, but I’m sure there are a few out there. It’s not my concern, and it’s not BGT’s concern. If they think that the polls are wrong about what Latinos and young voters want – there’s a lot of overlap between those two groups these days – or they think that the Latinos and young voters themselves are wrong about what they want, I say knock yourself out. We’ll see who’s right in the end, and with the events of this past Tuesday providing a strong wind at our backs, I like our chances better than I like theirs.

Protest day at the Capitol

Pretty impressive:

View from the Capitol on July 1

The story:

Opponents of Republican-backed legislation to dramatically curtail abortion rights in Texas descended on the Capitol by the thousands on Monday, spurred on by musicians, celebrities and their new hero: filibustering state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.

Meanwhile, about 100 supporters of the omnibus abortion legislation marched to the Capitol on Monday morning to a press conference orchestrated by women who deeply regretted their decision to have an abortion.

The abortion rights rally drew a crowd that organizers estimated to be roughly 5,000 people and featured performances by Bright Light Social Hour — the band introduced a new song with one word, “Wendy” — and singer Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks.

[…]

Other Democratic politicians on hand were received by the crowd like rock stars, something to which they are not accustomed in the Republican-dominated Legislature. “This is the beginning of something that Democrats and the Democratic party have been missing for at least 10 years,” state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, told the Tribune.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called on the crowd to continue opposing the anti-abortion bills, which have been introduced this session as House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 1.

“We’ve been shut down and told to shut up,” she said, adding, “My question is, Can you hear us now?”

State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, acknowledged to the Tribune that defeating the bills would be difficult. “They have the numbers and the clock on their side,” he said of the Republicans. “All we can do is fight like hell every day, and that’s what we intend to do.”

Stace has more on SB1, and BOR has more on HB2. Several other bills have been filed as well – Nonesequiteuse has a list. BOR has a nice liveblog of the event, and if your Facebook and/or Twitter accounts are anything like mine, you likely couldn’t fail to see a ton of updates and awesome photo many times.

For their part, Republicans intend to take away their options, which means no two thirds rule, limited hearings, not accepting amendments, and limiting debate:

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, said that if an attempt to filibuster the omnibus abortion bill, now filed as Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 2 in the second special session, he immediately will rise to stop it.

“I plan to stop Sen. Davis or any Democrat from attempting, for the second time, to slow down or kill our package of pro-life legislation,” Patrick said. “Sen. Davis and the mob had their say last week, it’s time to pass this bill and I intend to do all I can to do so. It’s time the pro-life community had their voice heard.”

Last Tuesday, Patrick gathered the 16 votes he needed to pass a motion to “call the previous question,” a procedure which would have ended the historic filibuster of then-Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. He said he tried several times to get Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to take the action, but “the Lt. Governor said he was not ready to do so,” according to a statement from Patrick’s office.

Dewhurst wanted to wait until 10:30 p.m., but at that point Senate democrats brought up other questions that had to be answered first, thus stalling the bill further. The time the issues were resolved by 11:45 p.m., Patrick’s statement read, but “the Lt. Governor seemed confused at that point in all of the noise and did not attempt to call the vote on the bill until it was too late.”

Because the vote wasn’t registered in the presence of the Senate, as required, it wasn’t passed, and a second special session that started Monday was called, with abortion being one of three issues up for discussion. Patrick said last week’s events won’t be repeated.

“The Lt. Governor should recognize me or another member who rises to call the question,” the statement said. “He gave the Senator in the pink tennis shoes 12 hours to speak last Tuesday. It’s time he gave me or another conservative pro-life Republican a few minutes to move the question and pass the bill.”

Yes, Danny, we know, it’s all about you and your campaign. If David Dewhurst had any cojones, he’d ignore you for the fun of seeing you sputter. And I’m sure you’d never be caught dead wearing anything pink.

We all know how this is going to end, sooner or later. What matters in the end is this.

According to our most recent polling on this question, a plurality of Texas voters, 36 percent, think that a woman should be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice. But more important for the context of SB 5 and the arguments being levied against it for drastically decreasing access, only 16 percent of respondents believe that abortion should never be permitted — a number consistent with national findings using the same question wording.

Taken together, these polling numbers convey broad support for some specific restrictions focusing on procedures. We don’t find more than token support for drastically reducing or eliminating access. In June 2013, 79 percent of Texans indicated that abortion should be available to a woman under varying circumstances. As for Davis’ core constituency, 59 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of liberals think that it should always be legal and available. As for the GOP: 20 percent of female Republicans think that abortion should always be legal, compared with 11 percent of male Republicans. But maybe more important for future electoral fortunes, there exists a 19-point gap among female and male independents regarding the opinion that abortion should always be available, 41 percent to 22 percent; and one of the most supportive groups of all is suburban women, 45 percent of whom think the procedure should always be legal.

Much of the attention this week has been on the short-term effects — Davis’ rising star, the embarrassment of the Senate devolving into chaos, the attempts to frame the whole event as an instance of “mob rule,” the sense of triumph among the activists who helped force the errors on the Senate floor at the crucial moment and so much else that arose from the five-star political theater Tuesday night. These factors notwithstanding, in the near term, the derailing of SB 5 will likely be rendered a pyrrhic victory in the second special session.

In the longer run, the key question is whether the symbolism of Tuesday’s events will have an impact on the state of Republican hegemony in Texas by stirring up a more potent political alternative. Polling numbers show that the anti-SB 5 mobilization expressed attitudes and feelings rooted in a wide swath of public opinion. Whatever one thinks of their manners in the Senate gallery, the orange-shirted guests were a group of engaged Texans echoing the sentiments of many others, as we know from both the UT/TT polling and the viral response on Twitter and other media.

Whether Tuesday’s events mark a watershed or merely another episode in Texas’ colorful political history will depend on whether a meaningful political alternative to the Texas GOP can capitalize on the symbolic significance of Tuesday’s history-making events and their foundation in public opinion on abortion. This may sound a little conventional, but it’s not out of the question that the symbolism of derailing SB 5, however fleeting the victory, might be the kind of old-school political event that contributes to making Texas politics less a Republican bailiwick and more of a battleground.

In other words, don’t forget about what happens here between now and next November, and remember that we should be the ones making an issue out of this. The Republicans are pushing something the people haven’t asked for and don’t particularly want. It’s on us to make them pay for that. Until then, both chambers stand in recess, though the House State Affairs Committee meets this afternoon, with testimony cut off at midnight as noted above. Texas Leftist, Juanita, Texas Vox, Texpatriate, and the Observer have more.

UPDATE: Stace reports from the Houston event last night.

I do not expect another Ardmore

The AusChron tries to get out the Democrats’ strategy for Special Session 2.

When the Texas House convened last last month to pass, on third reading and onto the Senate for final passage, Senate Bill 5, the omnibus abortion regulations bill, Austin Rep. Elliott Naishtat heard several colleagues discussing whether House Dems would be ready to walk out – to break quorum – in order to stop the measure from moving forward.

Among the questions before Democrats as they face today’s start of a second-called special session, with passage of abortion regulations first on Gov. Rick Perry’s to do list, is whether a mid-summer, out-of-state sojourn may be in the cards. “There was talk about it” on the floor last month, he said, “and there will undoubtedly be talk about it again.”

[…]

With the 30-day special-called session only getting under way today, there is plenty of time for Republicans to maneuver to pass the divisive measures – as one Capitol staffer said last week, not even Davis can talk for 30 days. But there remain other strategies to explore, said Austin Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson – though he declined to offer specifics. “I’m not going to get into strategies,” he said, “but we’re not going to give up the fight.”

[…]

Requiring testimony in each chamber may be one way to moderate the legislation’s forward progress, but it is unlikely to do much to halt the ever-forward movement. So, might a mid-summer trip to a nearby state be the way to go? That’s certainly an option, says [Rep. Donna] Howard. Though, realistically, says Naishtat, he isn’t sure that it would work to derail the measure completely. “I don’t see how House or Senate Democrats could break quorum for the amount of time necessary to defeat the bill – it could be as much as three weeks,” he said. “On the other hand, other people doubted that Sen. Wendy Davis could pull off a filibuster. So what I’m saying is, you never know.” Indeed, Naishtat agrees that at this point, every option is on the table. And it would be “foolish,” he said, for Republicans to “underestimate our power, our intelligence, our mastery of the rules, and our commitment to doing everything legal to prevent the passage of … anti-pro-choice bills.”

I’m not privy to the Dems’ thinking, and I certainly wouldn’t dismiss any feasible possibility out of hand, but I have a hard time seeing how a quorum break would be successful. As with the Davis filibuster, all it can do is delay. It can’t prevent any of this awful legislation from passing, because Rick Perry can just keep calling more sessions, which you know he will. The reason why Ardmore was doable in 2003 was that the Dems only needed to be gone for five days. As with the previous special session, the re-redistricting bill came up late, and it was close enough to the deadline for passing bills out of the House for the Senate to take up that they could bug out on Monday and return on Saturday having accomplished their task. Busting quorum now would be like what the Senate Dems tried to do later that summer. As was the case back then, there was no magic day after which you could say you were in the clear. Maybe they’ve though this through and they know what their endgame is, but I have my doubts. It’s asking an awful lot of a lot of people, and I don’t know how practical it is. I hate to be a wet blanket, and I could be wrong about this, but that’s how I see it.

Two more factors to consider. One is that in the aftermath of Ardmore and Albuquerque, there were some rule changes made in each chamber to make future quorum busts more difficult and more punitive to the fleeing party. I don’t remember the details, but I do feel confident that the Rs would be extremely vengeful towards a caucus that skipped town. Two, back in 2003 the Governors of Oklahoma and New Mexico were both Democrats, and thus unwilling to cooperate with the efforts to locate and extradite the Killer Ds. Both Governors are Republicans now, so no such assistance would be in the offing. The only neighboring state now with a Democratic Governor is Arkansas, but I would not want to put my fate in that state’s hands. The nearest state where I’d feel safe, politically speaking at least, is Colorado. Point being, any out of state excursion would need to be done by air, not by bus, which increases the cost, the risk factor, and the likelihood of something going wrong because there’s just too much you can’t control.

Anyway. If it were up to me, I’d do everything I could to drag the proceedings out, while giving the crazier members of the GOP caucus as many opportunities to say something as stupid as Rep. Laubenberg did last session, and I’d lay whatever groundwork I could for litigation to block the law. The name of the game is the 2014 election. Go down fighting, keep everyone engaged, and be ready to pick up where you left off as soon as the session ends. Be sure to read the whole AusChron story, there’s a lot more in there besides quorum breaking.

Redistricting tango continues in San Antonio

More to the point, the redistricting litigation continues, at least for the time being.

A panel of federal judges denied the state’s request to dismiss the case, though they left open the possibility that they could do that later. And they asked lawyers to file briefs on what should happen next.

Attorneys for parties objecting to the maps want the judges to consider evidence that lawmakers intentionally discriminated when drawing maps in 2011. That finding could be used to subject the state to federal preclearance of any new maps — such as the ones passed by the Legislature and signed last week by Gov. Rick Perry.

The state asked the court to drop the case, because lawmakers passed new maps and because the U.S. Supreme Court released Texas and other jurisdictions from a requirement to get federal preclearance on any changes in their election law.

The plaintiffs hope to “bail-in” the state through another provision that requires preclearance for states that have recently exhibited intentional discrimination in their voting laws. They say Texas did so in 2011 and should require oversight as a result.

The state argues that the findings of intentional discrimination came in a ruling that has been vacated and doesn’t apply.

Both sides were told to write up their arguments by mid-July.

The court also asked the lawyers to say whether the current redistricting litigation should continue, or whether the panel should disband and let any new cases go to a new court. That will also be the subject of legal briefs due later in the month.

Two issues lie in this legal thicket: When will the state’s 2014 primaries be held, and using what maps? The court hasn’t addressed that question yet.

As Texas Redistricting notes, this is about whether Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act is in play here.

As outlined in an earlier piece, section 3 would come into play if the court found that Texas had been intentionally discriminatory in adopting either the 2011 or 2013 maps – or had failed to fix intentional discrimination in the 2013 maps.

Although there was discussion about whether that could be done in the context of legal challenges to the 2013 maps, African-American and Hispanic plaintiff groups urged the court to first rule on the 2011 maps, saying that the record on the 2011 maps was substantially complete.

They also said this would allow the 2013 maps to be submitted for preclearance if the court determined that the 2011 maps had been enacted with discriminatory intent.

To start the process, the court asked the redistricting plaintiffs to brief section 3 issues by July 22, with responses from the State of Texas due by August 12.

The court also asked that redistricting plaintiffs submit any motions to amend the claims before the court by July 12, with objections by the state due July 19.

The court also gave the parties until July 22 to submit any documents from the D.C. preclearance that they thought should be considered in the Texas case. It said, however, that it would hold live evidentiary hearings before ruling, since at least one of the judges – Judge Smith – questioned whether the court rely on the D.C. court’s findings in light of the Supreme Court’s post-Shelby Co. order vacating the preclearance decision.

The court did not say when those hearings would be, but gave the parties a list of dates when the court would not be available. Based on those dates, it looks like the most likely date for further hearings would be mid- and/or late August.

I found all this rather confusing, so I left a comment on Michael Li’s Facebook page asking what happens if the court finds for the plaintiff on Section 3, and what happens if not. Here’s his reply:

It is confusing and even the lawyers were confused at times. If the court bails Texas in to preclearance then the 2013 maps would need to be precleared either by DOJ or the San Antonio court. The state would bear the burden of proof and should have to show both a lack of discriminatory intent and effect (same as under section 5). If it can’t do that, the court would draw remedial maps (the Lege also could act but as a practical matter not given the timing and the need to get any Lege drawn map precleared). If the court (or DOJ) preclears the map then the court then would turn to section 2 and constitutional claims.

Make sense? Remember, Section 5 is still in effect. It’s just that the formula for determining who was subject to Section 5 – that is, Section 4 – was thrown out. Section 3 is an alternate method for requiring preclearance, and the plaintiffs argued that the finding by the DC Court of discriminatory intent and effect in the maps means that Texas should be subject to preclearance again, for these purposes. The state argues that since SCOTUS vacated the ruling in which that determination was made, it’s all moot. Even if that happens, the Section 2 claims may still go forward, although that may require starting over with a new court. We’re in uncharted territory here, and as always I expect whatever the court rules to wind up before SCOTUS again. We’ll know more in August.