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February 10th, 2014:

Interview with Rep. Mary Gonzalez

Rep. Mary Gonzalez

Rep. Mary Gonzalez

We’re one week out from the start of early voting, and barring anything unexpected the interviews I present this week will be the last ones I do for the primary cycle. I’ll have interviews with two of the Democratic candidates for Ag Commissioner later, but today I’m stepping away from Houston and going all the way to El Paso to visit with Rep. Mary González, who is serving her first term in HD75. I’ll just come out and say that I’m a fan of Rep. González, who won a grassroots and unabashedly progressive campaign in 2012 and quickly made a name for herself as a smart and dedicated fighter of the good fight. I’m hardly her only fan – she was named “Freshman of the Year” by MALC, and she drew many positive profiles for her work during the session. I think she has a great future ahead of her, but first she has another primary to win, as she drew a Democratic opponent. Here’s what we talked about:

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2014 Election page.

UPDATE: Lone Star Q listened to the interview and transcribed a little bit of it.

Gallup’s poll of Latinos in Texas

I have four things to say about this.

Texas Hispanics are decidedly Democratic in their political party preferences, 46% to 27%, but that 19-percentage-point Democratic advantage is much smaller in Texas than the average 30-point gap Democrats enjoy among the Hispanic population in the other 49 states. And white Texas residents are decidedly more Republican (61%) than the average among whites residing in other states (48%), complicating whether Texas will turn into a “blue” Democratic state in future elections.

Political Preferences by Race

With an increasingly large minority population, including the second-largest Hispanic population of any state, Texas has the potential to see a once-in-a-generation political re-alignment, which could transform the nation’s largest reliably Republican state.

These latest results come from 2013 Gallup Daily tracking poll data, which consists of 16,028 Hispanics nationwide, including 2,536 Hispanics residing in Texas. The Lone Star state is experiencing significant changes in its population — it is one of the top destinations for state to state migration — and these data provide a crucial, updated look into Texan Hispanics’ political preferences over the past year.

Texas holds a gubernatorial race this year, and some Democratic operatives are hoping Texas’ evolving demographic makeup will allow them to more effectively compete for the governor’s mansion. In 2010, Gov. Rick Perry was re-elected handily, defeating his Democratic opponent by 13 percentage points.

In Texas, GOP Making Small but Meaningful Gains With Hispanics

Relative to 2008 — the year of President Barack Obama’s landslide presidential victory — Texan Hispanics have gradually become more Republican, even as the percentage of Hispanics identifying with or leaning toward the Republican Party has remained relatively stable nationwide. The six-percentage-point gap between the percentage of Texan Hispanics and Hispanics living in all other states who identify or lean GOP is the highest it has been in over six years.

Hispanic Party Identification, Republican Party

Meanwhile, Hispanics living in Texas have followed the broad national trend in terms of primarily identifying as Democrats. The 46% of Texan Hispanics who now lean or identify Democratic is seven points below the 2008 crest; by contrast, U.S. Hispanics living in the other 49 states report support of the Democratic Party that has declined by a slightly smaller four points between 2008 and 2013.

Hispanic Party Identification, Democratic Party

1. I presume this was a poll of registered voters. It would have been interesting if they had also asked about how often they voted in recent elections. There’s polling evidence that suggests lower-propensity Hispanics are almost as strongly Democratic when they do vote as African-American voters, while higher-propensity Hispanics are considerably less Democratic than Hispanic voters as a whole. Would have been cool to have gotten another data point on that. Be that as it may, it remains the case that Latinos heavily favor Democratic candidates, and even if the gap is smaller than it is nationally, there’s nothing to suggest that boosting turnout among them would be anything but an unalloyed good for Dems. And on a side note, at least this poll may mean that it will be cited as the “official” level of Latino support for the GOP in Texas, and not whatever figure Mike Baselice retrieves from his nether regions. For that and that alone, this is a good result.

2. I’m deeply suspicious of that 20% “Independent/No Lean” number. There’s scads of evidence nationally to show that the number of true could-go-either-way indies is tiny, and they’re usually a proxy for the less engaged folks that just plain don’t vote much. Again, an additional question or two about recent voting history, broken out by R/D/I would have been instructive. If I had to bet, I’d say some of these respondents don’t vote much, and some others may just be mad at their party for whatever the reason and refuse to identify with them. Self-declared party ID moves around a lot more than actual voting behavior.

3. As far as the poll result goes, I think the level of Latino support for Republicans is about right, but I’m not sure about the trend. I’ve discussed this topic ad nauseum, so let me just cut to the chase and say that by every indicator I’ve examined, the level of support for Democratic candidates in Latino areas went up from 2008 to 2012, not down. I’ll repeat myself one more time and say that some questions about actual voting behavior would have shed a lot more light on this survey. Being me, I couldn’t leave it at this and got to wondering if there were some other way to corroborate or contradict the evidence from this poll. What I came up with was to look at the level of Republican primary voting in some heavily Latino counties. Here are the numbers:

GOP primary turnout County 2008 2010 2012 ===================================== Cameron 4,822 4,601 5,311 El Paso 18,727 15,386 11,556 Hidalgo 5,753 5,015 6,401 Webb 1,232 1,224 1,189 Total 30,534 27,221 24,457 Registered voters County 2008 2010 2012 ===================================== Cameron 167,656 171,024 174,077 El Paso 372,000 375,128 371,321 Hidalgo 290,454 290,097 291,724 Webb 100,606 105,012 106,579 Total 930,716 941,261 921,701

Let’s be clear, this is an extremely crude measure. I wouldn’t use this to make a point, I’m just looking to see if there’s any correlation to the Gallup charts. The answer appears to be “not really”. The numbers ticked up in Cameron and Hidalgo, and declined in El Paso and Webb. Note that even in these predominantly Latino counties, the people casting these GOP primary votes could still be majority Anglo. We just don’t know. All I can say is that this tidbit of anecdotal evidence neither corroborates nor refutes the hypothesis. I’d need a much more precise measuring tool to be able to say.

4. While the Latino support for Republicans feels about right to me in this poll, the Anglo support for Republicans feels a little low. I’d have pegged it closer to 70%, based on polls and results from 2012. I have a hypothesis that will drop a couple of points post-Obama, but that’s just intuition, not based on any empirical evidence. I do think Wendy Davis et al will need to chip into that if she/they want to have a shot at winning this fall. I think if the Rs are getting only 61% of the Anglo vote in November, they could be in trouble.

More on Texas Left Me Out

The Observer reports on the launch of Texas Left Me Out.

Members of the coalition pointed to two different studies that estimate that thousands of uninsured Texans with chronic conditions are likely to die as a result of not expanding Medicaid.

A Harvard University/CUNY study released last week predicts between 1,840 to 3,035 deaths. Another study, by a University of Texas Medical Branch researcher, projected approximately 9,000 preventable deaths per year. Dr. Robert Luedecke of Doctors for America, a national coalition for healthcare reform, said the death toll associated with the uninsured is something many lawmakers won’t talk about.

“What would people do if they didn’t have health insurance?” Luedecke said of critically ill patients who put off seeing a doctor because they can’t afford it. “They would just die—that’s what they’d do.”

Linda Berman, 63, is one of those who says she’s been left out by Texas. She’s languishing in the coverage gap while dealing with diabetes and high-blood pressure. As a small business owner teaching Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills to kids through a traveling workshop, Berman said she’s left with little to no taxable income at the end of the year. The cheapest individual private plan she’s found comes with a $450 monthly premium—out of her price range. She makes too little to qualify for subsidies on the marketplace and she’s never been eligible for Medicaid under Texas’ strict eligibility standards. Two years ago, Berman racked up $70,000 in medical debt after she was hospitalized.

“I knew I had no money to pay for [the visit] but had I not [paid out of pocket], they wouldn’t have saved my life,” Berman said.

Not long after her hospitalization, a debt counselor told her that she would never be able to pay off her medical debts. Berman soon filed for bankruptcy. The hospital was left holding the bill.

“People without insurance don’t get preventative care,” Berman said. “You don’t die of diabetes, you die of complications.”

See here and here for the background. The Trib also tells Ms. Berman’s story, and adds this extra bit of context to the situation.

State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, who led efforts to craft “a Texas solution,” said he hoped that the period between legislative sessions would give lawmakers a chance to work on a road for reform. However, he said he wasn’t sure that this particular coalition would have a significant impact, and he said a coalition of businesses concerned with health care issues would have a stronger impact. He said a business-focused coalition would “resonate especially with the conservative Legislature.”

Texas has declined billions of dollars from the federal government to assist with Medicaid expansion and will lose $100 billion in federal funds over a 10-year span, according to a report by Billy Hamilton, a tax consultant and former deputy comptroller, for Texas Impact and Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas Inc. The federal government would cover 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion enrollees’ health care costs from 2014 to 2016, then gradually lower its share of the costs to 90 percent over ten years, resulting in 10 percent of financial responsibility for the state by 2020.

The Texas Association of Business, local government officials, and the state’s largest medical associations, including the Texas Hospital Association, and Texas Medical Association, pushed lawmakers to expand Medicaid during the 2013 session, but the issue still failed to gain traction among Texas’ conservative leadership.

Rep. Zerwas has been an honorable actor in this saga, but I don’t know what he’s talking about here. Look at that last paragraph and the supporters of Medicaid expansion in it. If that’s not a sufficiently business-focused coalition to resonate with the Lege, who else is there? We need a change of leadership at the top. That’s the only way this is moving forward.

KIPP departs Galveston

I have two things to say about this.

The popular KIPP charter school chain is pulling out of Galveston, where it operates two campuses with about 900 students combined under a contract with the school district.

Because of statewide school funding cuts, Galveston ISD superintendent Larry Nichols said, the district has dipped into savings over the last few years to foot the bill. This is unfair to taxpayers and other Galveston students, Nichols said.

Galveston ISD paid KIPP $5.5 million this year – about $1.5 million more than it would have spent on those students in district-run schools.

“It became kind of an equity issue,” Nichols said. “I’m a fan of KIPP, but we’ve got to live within the budget.”

[…]

The Costal Village elementary and middle schools opened in the months following Hurricane Ike in 2008 to help draw families back to the island. After the contract was negotiated, the 6,800-student Galveston ISD lost $7.4 million in state funding for the biennium in 2011. About $1.7 million was restored by the Legislature last year, Nichols said.

“The original agreement was no longer workable after GISD had to live with quite a bit less money,” the superintendent said.

KIPP leaders said they couldn’t maintain their model, which includes a longer school day and year, for less money. The charter chain spends about $6,200 per student in Galveston, compared to Galveson ISD’s $4,623. And KIPP’s costs were higher earlier in the contract, officials said.

There’s no way to close a gap that large, leaders agreed.

“We kind of both said ‘uncle,’ ” KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg said. “This doesn’t have any solution on the horizon.”

1. The failure of KIPP to stay in Galveston is a direct consequence of the $5.4 billion that was cut from public education in the 2011 budget, the failure to restore those cuts in 2013 despite a huge surplus, and the failure in general to adequately fund public education in Texas. Republicans own this failure, as they are the ones that are responsible for those cuts, even as they claim to be advocates for “school choice” and a greater role for charter schools in Texas. Dan Patrick, the Chair of the Public Education Committee in the Senate last session, owns this failure. Greg Abbott, who continues to defend the $5.4 billion cuts to public ed in court, owns this failure. Every Republican legislator that voted for the 2011 budget owns this failure. Every Republican legislator and candidate that isn’t advocating for restoring full funding to public education and doing whatever it takes to adequately and equitably fund it going forward owns this failure.

2. Wouldn’t it be nice to know how much better the rest of Galveston’s schools could be if they had received that extra $1600 per student that KIPP had been getting? Maybe now that GISD isn’t writing a check to KIPP it can take some of that money that it would have spent on KIPP and spend it on the rest of their students.