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August 12th, 2013:

Interview with Jenifer Pool

Jenifer Pool

Jenifer Pool

This week we move into the crowded field for At Large #3, which is the only open At Large Council seat on the ballot. Currently held by CM Melissa Noriega, there’s a large but not easily pinpointed number of candidates hoping to succeed her. I say that because the rumor mill is suggesting that candidates Chris Carmona and Al Edwards may be dropping out. The filing deadline is still two weeks away, so it’s premature to say who is or isn’t officially in, but it is fair to say that the field in AL3 is in flux.

That said, there are some candidates whom we do know for sure are running, and one of them is Jenifer Pool. Pool is a small business owner and a former President of the HGLBT Political Caucus, who ran for At Large #2 in 2011. (My interview with her from that election is here.) She’s a Steering Committee member of the Human Rights Campaign-Houston, and though her webpage oddly lacks a biography, I found this interesting life story of her from last year when she served as the 2012 Female Pride Marshal. Here’s what we talked about:

Jenifer Pool interview

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2013 Election page.

Texas says “No preclearance now, no preclearance forever!”

As we know, the plaintiffs in the redistricting lawsuit against the state of Texas have filed briefs arguing that the state should still be subject to preclearance under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. They have been joined in this motion by the Justice Department. Last Monday was the deadline for the state to file its response, and to say the least they dispute the idea that Texas needs any kind of federal oversight in matters relating to electoral law. Rick Hasen explains.

In a nutshell, Texas argues that even if it is guilty of recent intentional discrimination on the basis of race against minority voters (a point which of course if vigorously denies), it cannot be bailed into a preclearance regime under section 3. Texas argues that the Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Shelby County bars the use of the preclearance regime against it or any state unless the state has engaged in conduct as bad as Southern states did in the 1960s before the Voting Rights Act (e.g., racially discriminatory poll taxes, failure to stop violence against African Americans at the polling place, etc.), such a remedy would be an unconstitutional application of Congress’s powers to enforce the 14th or 15th Amendments. Texas says that Shelby County requires that any remedy be “congruent and proportional” to current racial discrimination, and that a preclearance remedy is too strong even with evidence of current racism unless the racism is “flagrant” and “pervasive.”

To me, this is a clear overreading of Shelby County. Recall that in Shelby County the Court majority surprisingly and unjustifiably (given its prominence in NAMUDNO) failed either to apply or reject the “congruence and proportionality test” for Congressional power. I flagged the curious omission the day the opinion issued and wrote about it more in my APSA paper. The Court just sidestepped the issue. And the Court pointedly failed to strike down the preclearance remedy as a whole, leaving Justice Thomas to complain that the majority was delaying the inevitable. That left Section 3 untouched as a legal matter. To say that Shelby County bars the use of preclearance under any circumstances absent proof of flagrant pervasive discrimination is unsupported by any fair reading of the decision itself. This is especially true because section 3 bail-in requires proof of current discrimination, the key point upon which Shelby County struck down the coverage formula of section 4, and it further gives any court asked to approve bail-in the discretion to fashion the extent of the preclearance remedy to match the scope of the state’s violation.

But despite Texas’s overreach, Texas could well find a receptive audience at the Supreme Court.  Look at what happened this summer: the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act and little happened. Sure, the Justices took a hit in public opinion among African Americans and liberal voters. But there are no large protests in the streets. There does not even seem to me to be the same general level of public outrage that there was about the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision from 2010.

Now there are a number of reasons why we have not seen a public outcry.  The day after Shelby County came the gay rights decisions, which pleased some liberals and diffused some of the anger at the Court. (Some suggested that the Court issued its decisions in this order for this reason.)  Liberal whites seem less angered about this decision than one about money in politics. The public may not be paying attention yet—VRA preclearance is a pretty arcane issue, compared to pointing to Sheldon Adelson or the Koch brothers as convenient poster children for the Citizens United era.

Whatever the reason, the fact that the sky did not fall after Shelby County could lead Justice Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts to feel comfortable going further—maybe to get rid of preclearance all together (or reject its application to Texas—and if not to Texas then to whom?).  And wait for affirmative action next term, and the coming challenges to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and part of the Civil Rights Act. And once the Roberts Court feels its days are numbered, things may move more quickly.

As they say, that would be a big effin’ deal. First, though, the San Antonio court gets to deal with these arguments, and I suspect they won’t be buying what Texas is selling. That won’t be the end of it, of course. I suppose Congress could deal with repairing the VRA along the lines that SCOTUS demanded (not that the Court would consider itself bound to its own precedent if it didn’t want to, of course), or there could be a change in the composition of the Court before this reaches them – an Obama appointee in place of, say, Justice Kennedy or Scalia could have a profound effect – but as things stand there is much to be worried about. Lisa Falkenberg, TPM, BOR and SCOTUSBlog have more.

Louie, Louie

The head, it explodes.

Louie Gohmert

Louie Gohmert

A number of Texas-based Tea Party organizers are clamoring for Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) to challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in a primary, according to the National Review.

Gohmert is scheduled to speak at a town-hall meeting organized by Grassroots America We The People, a Tea Party-linked group in East Texas whose head says many of the organization’s members want Gohmert to run.

Gohmert has ruled out a bid against Cornyn, however.

Cornyn is not popular with some members of the GOP base, who have criticized his work while heading the National Republican Senatorial Committee and are unhappy that he’s not backing an effort by Tea Party-affiliated Republican senators to use the looming debt-ceiling battle to try to force defunding ObamaCare. That effort has the support of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Honestly, what can one say? This is one of those times where sarcasm is totally wasted. If he ran, he could win. That might also inspire a Democrat to file for this race, too, and who knows what could happen from there. But seriously, there is no rational way to react to this. It’s facepalms or high fives, and people on both sides of the partisan aisle could do either. Train Blazers, Burka, Juanita, and Eileen Smith have more.

Why, Chron, why?

The Chron has some plaintive questions for Texas’ junior Senator.

Not Ted Cruz

Not Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz is a smart man. Texas’ junior U.S. senator is an expert on the U.S. Constitution and a brilliant, Harvard-educated trial lawyer who has appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court numerous times.

Why then, for heaven’s sakes, is Cruz signing on in support of a tea party-led effort to block funding of the Affordable Care Act that threatens a shutdown of the government? This makes no sense, either for Texas or for the Republican Party. In the unlikely event it succeeds, it would spell disaster for both.

GOP strategist Karl Rove, among many others, has pointed out that the strategy would affect only about 1 percent of funding for Obamacare, which is scheduled to come into effect in October.

In the unlikely event Cruz and others succeed in shutting down the government over funding for Obamacare, the results will be a public-relations disaster that the Obama administration undoubtedly will use to maximum effect in the 2014 midterm congressional elections.

Besides, Cruz was sent to Washington to represent all Texans’ best interests. In this case, that duty is best carried out not by stoking more political drama but by showing respect for a process, decreed by the Constitution Cruz rightly reveres, that has made the Affordable Care Act the law of the land.

From a strictly partisan point of view, the most baffling aspect of this approach is the total lack of an upside it would bring for Cruz and his party.

First, Ted Cruz was not “sent to Washington to represent all Texans’ best interests”, he was elected by the seething masses of the GOP primary that thought David Dewhurst was an effete squish, and it is their interests alone that he represents. Why do you think he’s spending so much time in Iowa these days? Not a lot of Texans there, last I checked. Second, as numerous national writers have noted, Cruz belongs to a faction of the radical conservative movement that isn’t interested in electoral outcomes as much as it is interested in rigid ideological purity. (See the primary challenge to Sen. Mitch McConnell, for being insufficiently anti-President Obama, for the latest example of such.) They would much rather lose by their own lights than win even a 98% victory if the latter involves any kind of compromise. You would think the Chronicle might have grasped these basic facts by now, but then they endorsed Cruz for election on the “expectation that Cruz will be schooled by the examples of previous senators from Texas, beginning with [Kay Bailey] Hutchison and continuing with Lloyd Bentsen and Lyndon B. Johnson”, with KBH being the “exemplary role model” here. I’m sorry, but anyone that could actually believe such a thing is naive enough to think that sending money to a Nigerian prince is a sound investment. Ted Cruz is doing exactly what he said he would do while he was running for Senate. The Chronicle’s editorial board would do well to pay attention next time.