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July 3rd, 2013:

Eva Longoria

She’s much more than an actor.

At a panel discussion on achieving economic and social mobility at the Clinton Global Initiative

Over the past five years of the Obama presidency, the 38-year-old Corpus Christi native who rocketed to fame in Hollywood has slowly but surely made her mark in Washington as a serious student of issues, a formidable fundraiser for Democratic causes and a spokeswoman for the emerging, increasingly empowered young generation of Latinos.

Longoria has become such an ascendant star in Democratic circles that the party’s national finance chairman, Henry Muñoz of San Antonio, says donors are sometimes disappointed when he shows up alone.

“I get that everywhere I go these days: Why isn’t Eva Longoria here?” jokes Muñoz, CEO of the architecture firm Muñoz & Co.

The answer is simple: There’s only so much politicking the actress can do while pursuing her day job in Hollywood and running her charitable foundations.

In addition to Eva’s Heroes, a charity that aids developmentally disabled children, she launched the Eva Longoria Foundation last year to promote college access and support business startups among young Latinas. The foundation’s first big move, announced in April, involves doling out $2 million in microloans to Latina business owners in Texas and California, stemming from a partnership with Warren Buffett’s son, Howard. Her efforts landed Longoria a seat alongside former President Bill Clinton to talk economic empowerment at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting Thursday in Chicago.

In Washington, she has appeared on Capitol Hill at hearings and news conferences, shining a spotlight on child-labor abuses in agriculture, the struggles of the learning impaired, the need for better schools to boost young Latinos out of poverty, the dearth of Small Business Administration programs for Latino entrepreneurs, and, of course, immigration reform.

Beyond the world of legislation, she’s put her clout behind efforts in the nation’s capital to create an American Latino museum on the National Mall, a Latino heritage fund for the National Parks and management training for Latino arts groups.

In her spare time, she received a master’s degree in American Hispanic history from California State University, Northridge, last month with a focus on math and science coursework for Latina students. She earned her undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

She’s compiled quite an impressive resume, and is attracting plenty of notice for her political activities as well. Longoria was co-chair of President Obama’s re-election campaign and his inauguration. Those aren’t things you get to do just by being a pretty face. This being Texas, and Longoria being a star Democrat in a state that could use all the Democratic star power it can get, speculation is inevitable.

Some wistful Democrats see Longoria as a 21st century Ronald Reagan – a dynamic communicator with the potential to alter the partisan landscape in Texas and appeal across economic and social lines nationwide.

“It would appear that for many Texas Democrats, Longoria has now replaced Tommy Lee Jones as their fantasy celebrity candidate for public office,” said Mark P. Jones, chairman of the political science department at Rice University.

Jones warned, however, that fantasies about Longoria the politician may never be fulfilled.

“While many celebrities are effective at advancing specific causes, a much smaller number have been able to move to the next level and become effective actors within the political system,” he said.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t heard anyone mention Longoria as a potential candidate for anything, wistfully or otherwise. As I recall, the ultimately short-lived Ashley Judd for Senate boomlet got started when Judd was shown to be a potentially competitive candidate in a race against Sen. Mitch McConnell. The lesson I would draw from that, if I were interested in initiating a similar phenomenon here, would be to convince a respectable pollster to do some hypothetical matchups for Sen. John Cornyn, with Eva Longoria of course being one of the hypothetical opponents, and see what happens. You never know, right?

On a side note, this article was written before the Wendy Davis filibuster and its fallout. Out of curiosity, I checked to see if Longoria commented on that on either her Twitter or Facebook accounts; as far as I can tell, the answer is No. No one is required to say anything about anything, it was just one of those things that occur to me now and again, so make of that what you will.

Some cold water for the Wendy for Governor bandwagon

Courtesy of PPP:

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

PPP’s new Texas poll finds that Wendy Davis made a good impression on voters in the state last week- but that Rick Perry has also enhanced his political standing considerably over the last five months, making him tough to beat for reelection.

39% of Texans have a favorable opinion of Davis to 29% with a negative one after her week in the spotlight. Her net favorability is up 14 points from -4 at 15/19 in January. By a 45/40 margin voters say they support her filibuster last week, and by a narrow 44/43 margin they don’t think Perry should call another special session. Voters oppose Senate Bill 5 by an 8 point margin, 28/20, although the 52% with no opinion is a reality check on how closely most people follow state politics.

Nevertheless Davis would trail Rick Perry by 14 points in a hypothetical match up, 53/39. While Davis’ standing has improved over the last five months so has Perry’s. Although he remains unpopular, with 45% of voters approving of him to 50% who disapprove, his approval is up a net 8 points from January when he was at a -13 spread (41/54). In addition to his lead over Davis, Perry also leads Julian Castro 50/43, Bill White 50/40, and Annise Parker 52/35. In January he led this quartet of Democrats by an average of 4 points, now he leads them by an average of 12.

The main reason for Perry’s improved numbers is enhanced standing with the Republican base, and that’s playing out in his primary election numbers too. In January Perry’s approval with GOP voters was 68/26, but that’s up to 81/16 now. Perry now leads Greg Abbott 46/34 in a hypothetical primary election, up from 41/38 in January.

Texans have still had enough of Perry- only 30% want him to seek another term, compared to 60% who think he should step aside. But for now at least it looks like he’s strong enough to slip through a primary, and if he’s able to do that Texas’ Republican lean would likely get him elected to his 4th term.

Abbott still does better than Perry in match ups against all of the Democrats except for Davis. He only leads her 48/40, compared to Perry’s 14 point lead. But against Castro (48/34), White (48/36), and Parker (50/31) Abbott’s leads exceed Perry’s.

See here for the full poll data. You can fudge things around a bit if you want, but there’s not much of a toehold there. Really, I think PPP buried the lede on this, since its numbers show San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro within seven points of Perry. Of course, we know Castro isn’t running, so that’s strictly fantasy football stuff. As I suggested before, Davis’ higher profile might actually work against her a bit, in that the forceful reminder of her Democratic bona fides might dampen some of her previously demonstrated crossover appeal. I feel confident that there remain plenty of Republican voters who would abandon Rick Perry for a reasonable alternative. Whether this poll is just reflecting some in-the-moment tribalism, or it’s evidence that Davis isn’t the alternative they’re seeking I can’t say – perhaps the next poll will give a hint. But let’s be clear that while Davis likely is the best candidate Dems can get for 2014, she’d have a steep hill to climb. It’s doable under reasonably optimistic assumptions, but it sure wouldn’t be easy.

So let’s all take a deep breath and remind ourselves that this is still a long journey. As Wayne Slater writes, even without any short-term game, the Davis ascendancy can and should pay dividends to the Dems. If all this has the effect of getting more people involved in Battleground Texas and other organizations working for the progressive cause, it’s all to the good. If we have to wait beyond 2014 to see it all bear fruit, then so be it. In the meantime, we can go back to serious business like Wendy Davis’ hair color. Because that’s what the people really want to know about.

There are other items on this session’s agenda

I know, hard to believe, but there are two non-abortion items on the session agenda, and the Senate has already taken preliminary action on two of them.

Sen. Robert Nichols

Six hours before a marathon state House committee hearing on abortion, two Senate committees quickly kicked out less controversial bills on transportation funding and criminal justice reform to the full Senate on Tuesday morning.

The Senate could vote on Senate Joint Resolution 1 and Senate Bill 2 as early as next week. The measures address two issues — transportation infrastructure funding and sentencing guidelines for 17-year-old murderers — that Gov. Rick Perry included in the second special session’s agenda. Similar pieces of legislation died on the last day of the first special session amid a dramatic fight over abortion legislation. Both Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place, refiled their legislation soon after Perry announced a second special session.

In a nine-minute hearing, the Senate Finance Committee voted 11-0 Tuesday morning in favor of SJR 1, from Nichols, which matches the version of Senate Joint Resolution 2 that the Legislature nearly passed last week. The measure would ask voters to approve amending the state Constitution to divert half of the oil and gas severance taxes currently earmarked for the Rainy Day Fund to the State Highway Fund, raising nearly $1 billion a year in additional financing for road construction and maintenance. The Texas Department of Transportation has said it needs about $4 billion in additional funding each year to maintain current congestion.

About 40 minutes later, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted 4-0 in favor of SB 2, from Huffman, which is similar to Senate Bill 23 from the first special session. The bill revises the sentencing guidelines for 17-year-olds convicted of capital murder to comply with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that eliminated mandatory life without parole for capital murderers younger than 18.

Both measures could be debated on the Senate floor as early as next week.

Sen. Nichols incorporated changes that the House added to his ball in the first special session, while Sen. Huffman’s bill was the same one she’d filed before, without including the House changes. Had the House simply voted on these bill as they were they wouldn’t have needed to be re-voted on by the Senate and thus wouldn’t have been casualties of the Davis filibuster. Alternately, David Dewhurst could have put Nichols’ and Huffman’s bills on the agenda ahead of SB5 last time around, but I guess he didn’t expect Davis to be able to keep up her effort for that long. Silly man.

In theory, the Democrats have some leverage over the transportation bill, since it is a joint resolution and thus needs a two-thirds majority in each chamber. That possibility was raised in the previous session – basically, the Dems could refuse to vote for SJR1 unless the abortion legislation was altered in some fashion, which would mean it would not have enough votes to pass. As with a quorum break, the main problem with that gambit is that as long as Rick Perry is willing to keep calling special sessions – and by now we should all be clear on the fact that he is willing – such leverage is necessarily short-lived. Once the Dems hold up their end of the bargain and vote for SJR1, their influence vanishes. If we knew for a fact that the next time the Lege convened would be 2015, this tactic could work. In the world we live in, all it can do is prolong the agony.

Anyway. Yesterday was also the day for the House State Affairs Committee hearing on HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill. As before, BOR is liveblogging things, so check over there for the latest updates. I’ll report on it after the hearing is over. The Trib has more.

UPDATE: As expected, the show hearing in the House ended at 12:01 AM, with the committee voting the bill out afterward on partisan lines 8-3. The Observer and Texpatriate have more.

Texas blog roundup for the week of July 1

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with Wendy as it brings you this week’s roundup.

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