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March 16th, 2014:

Weekend link dump for March 16

Spring break! For the kids, anyway.

Blair and Tootie, together again.

Wait, I thought drunk people placing ill-advised bets was Vegas’ entire business model?

We really are making huge advances in the fight against HIV.

Want to be a better boyfriend, or at least make your girlfriend think you’re a better boyfriend? There’s an app for that.

South Carolina takes official state-sanctioned homophobia to the next level.

“Most preschoolers and kindergarteners can do some algebra before even entering a math class.”

“For the umpteenth time, then: PowerPoint is a tool, nothing more and nothing less.”

Raising the minimum wage would save billions in SNAP costs.

“In fact, 30 states have banned same-sex marriage in their state constitutions, according to the Human Rights Campaign.”

“Sure, Democrats do plenty for the poor […] But virtually none of this really benefits the working or middle classes except at the margins.”

“But the overall picture is an electorate that is growing steadily more liberal on both social and economic policy, and whose views Republicans will eventually have to accommodate.”

That moment you realize your kid has the same twisted sense of humor you have.

Fix or repeal? Republicans can’t have both.

New frontiers in verbing nouns. Even I think that one is icky.

Millennials are environmentalists even if they tend not to use that label for themselves.

New manufacturing jobs in the US don’t look much like the ones we used to have.

Julia Ruth Stevens reminisces about her daddy, Babe Ruth.

The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars but in ourselves.

“Guys: The key to a healthy, happy, nurtured child is a parenting style that’s balanced, fair, educated, intuitive, loving, and realistic. Suggesting that we ban everything that may hint at a correlation with a negative influence or potentially hazardous outcome would mean we would have to BAN EVERYTHING.”

Happy 25th birthday, World Wide Web!

“Bigotry derived from religious principles is still bigotry.”

“I don’t really understand how any editorial by Condoleezza Rice on conflict in Ukraine can fail to directly address the failures of the Iraq War.”

“I really hope that this opens peoples’ minds that what you are wearing has absolutely nothing to do with whether you are assaulted.” Trigger warning for sexual assault, but very much worth your time to read.

And while we’re on that terrible subject, go read this, and be sure to click through to the responses.

RIP, Reubin Askew, former Governor of Florida.

“When you start off by basing your arguments around the work of Charles Murray you just lose your credibility from the start”. There’s more to that sentence, but honestly, what more is needed?

And speaking of awesome science-y things, go pre-order your What If book now.

“It’s a fascinating world we live in, where following the letter of the law is now considered “cheating” and “fraud” by Republicans (as long as you’re helping the disadvantaged, of course).”

A more accurate way to celebrate Pi Day.

RIP, Glenn Edward McDuffie, the sailor from Houston in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photo of a kiss on V-J Day.

ECPS: Abbott 49, Davis 42

Via Texpatriate, the Emerson College Polling Society has a poll of the Texas gubernatorial race that shows Greg Abbott with a seven point lead.

According to a new survey conducted by the Emerson College Polling Society, Texas Attorney General Gregory Abbott (R) has a seven point lead over his Democratic opponent Wendy Davis (49% to 42%) in the upcoming gubernatorial election. The Polling Society is the first organization to look at the race since the March 6th primary. The survey was conducted from March 7th to March 12th, with a sample of 492 likely voters.

Abbott has a slight lead among independents and women, the two groups Democrats typically rely on in order to compete in the Lone Star State. Forty-two percent of independents currently support Abbott while 40 percent support Davis and 17 percent are undecided. Women voters are also more likely to vote for Abbott than Davis (46% to 42%).

Both candidates have wide support among their bases. Eighty-five percent of Republican say they will vote for Abbott while 8 percent prefer Davis. Similarly, Democrat voters support Davis overwhelmingly (84% to 9% for Abbott).


Data was collected on March 7th to 12th using an automated data collection system. The Texas sample consisted of 494 registered likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

No, I don’t know why it says 492 voters in one place and 494 in the other. Be that as it may, their polling page is here, their questions are here, and the crosstabs, which are a bit hard to figure out, are here (Excel file). I’ve never heard of this outfit before so I have no idea how reliable they are, but they nailed the 2013 Virginia Governor’s race (their final poll had Terry McAuliffe up by two; he won by 2.5 and the 2013 Massachusetts Senate race (they had Ed Markey up by 10, and he won by 10). That’s a lot better than some other polls I could name. According to their Facebook page, they plan to follow this race till the end, so it will be interesting to see how their results move over time and how they compare to other pollsters’ numbers. I hope they add questions about the Lt. Governor’s race as well.

Because their presentation of crosstab data is so weird, I’m not going to try to interpret it. It’s too early to make much of that anyway. I will note two other results of interest from this poll, however:

United States Senator and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz is viewed unfavorably in his home state– 43 percent view him favorably while 48 percent view him unfavorably. Cruz is particularly unpopular among women (39% favorable compared to 50% unfavorable).

55 percent of Texans are in favor of increasing the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, while 44 percent are against it. However, 68 percent of women are in favor of the increase, while men are evenly split on the issue 50-50 percent. An overwhelming majority of African-Americans were in support of this increase (88% in support, and 12% against).

Perhaps a little food for thought for the Davis campaign. Anyway, I’ve added this result to the sidebar. I hope we get a wide variety of pollsters weighing in on this race. If nothing else, it would be a nice change from the usually barren polling landscape we face, and it might remind some folks that there is more to life than the UT/Texas Trib poll.

Ramon Romero

The Fort Worth Business Press profiles Rep.-elect Ramon Romero and his winning race against longtime incumbent Rep. Lon Burnam in HD90.

Rep. Ramon Romero

Ramon Romero Jr. describes himself as “that poor boy from Poly,” one of eight children of immigrant parents who grew up in working-class southeast Fort Worth, started his first business when he was 20 and ultimately became an up-by-the-bootstraps success story.

Now, at 40, Romero is poised to become the first Latino state representative from Tarrant County after carving out an 111-vote Democratic primary victory over the dean of Tarrant County’s legislative delegation, Rep. Lon Burnam, a 17-year House member who is known as one of the chamber’s liberal firebrands.

The victory was widely seen as a triumph for Texas Hispanics, who have propelled much of the state’s population growth over the past 15 years, as well as perhaps an inevitable transition in House District 90, an inner-city Fort Worth district where Latinos constitute nearly 76 percent of the population and almost 72 percent of the registered voters.

Burnam took office in 1997, succeeding legendary State Rep. Doyle Willis, who served in both the House and the Senate for a total 42 years to become the second longest serving member in the Legislature.

During his time in the House, Burnam developed a reputation for passionately defending the interests of his district but acknowledges that as an Anglo lawmaker, he was becoming increasingly vulnerable to the rapid-fire expansion of the Hispanic electorate.

Burnam survived his first serious challenge in 2012 against school board trustee Carlos Vasquez. But he was unable to withstand the assault from Romero, a well-known member of the community who was fresh from a runoff bid for the Fort Worth City Council in 2012 and had the backing of prominent Tarrant County Hispanic leaders, including Councilman Sal Espino and Justice of the Peace Sergio De Leon.

Romero’s biggest financial backer was wealthy Dallas lawyer Domingo Garcia, who ran unsuccessfully for the 33rd District congressional seat in 2012 and has been a vocal advocate for expanding Hispanic representation in Congress and the Legislature. He donated a total of $35,000 to Romero.


Romero grew up in the Polytechnic neighborhood, graduating from Polytechnic High School in 1992. He was barely in his 20s when he started a swimming pool construction company and later developed a stone distribution venture. Although he vaulted upward on the economic ladder, Romero says he has never wanted to leave the neighborhood where he grew up and looks forward to serving those he grew up with.

“People in District 90 related more to Ramon Romero than they did to Lon Burnam,” he said. He acknowledged that Burnam “worked for the district and definitely fought for the district” but said the lawmaker didn’t face and understand some the same challenges as those “who face them on a daily basis.”

Romero said he began eyeing a run for Burnam’s seat “almost immediately” after his unsuccessful council bid against Kelly Allen Gray, who wonthe District 8 council seat. He said he consulted Espino, who helped him analyze his chances of mounting a successful campaign.

A major element in his strategy was to develop a tri-ethnic coalition composed of whites, blacks and Hispanics, Romero said, dismissing post-election talk that the campaign was designed solely to propel an Hispanic into office.

“I could not have won this by the Hispanic vote alone,” he said. “It’s time we get past that conversation. It’s about the person that related to the community.”

Although Garcia’s financial support raised claims of outside influence and prompted talk that the Dallas attorney was trying to build a base for a future congressional run, Romero said Garcia took no role in the campaign other than to offer encouragement and to “support me financially when I needed it.”

“Domingo really had no role,” Romero said. “He didn’t come out to campaign. He simply gave me support.”

Burnam largely attributed his loss to the “demographic shift” in the district, saying “people mainly tend to vote based on their own personal identity.” He said he recognized the “obvious trend” and was even prepared to ultimately to support an Hispanic “replacement” to take over the seat.

“I would have been perfectly happy to stand aside in 2014 had we found what I consider the person who is truly representative of the value system of the district,” he said. “I don’t think Mr. Romero is.”

During the campaign, Burnam depicted Romero as a Republican-friendly “fake Democrat.” Romero flatly dismissed the assertion and said he has never voted Republican.”

First, let me again congratulate Rep.-elect Romero on his victory. I join many others in saying I’ll miss Rep. Burnam, but Romero earned his win and I wish him nothing but success. It’s fair to say, as one commenter on his Facebook page noted, that he has “giant shoes to fill” and “will be watched like a hawk by many skeptics”. One hopes the latter is true of all elected officials. I didn’t follow this race but I look forward to seeing what Rep.-elect Romero brings to the Legislature.

Still more from the Pratt files

What a mess.

Judge Denise Pratt

Embattled family court judge Denise Pratt, under investigation again this year by the Harris County District Attorney’s office, was removed from five more cases on Thursday by a visiting senior judge who criticized the freshman jurist’s recent decision to make a final ruling in a child custody case without hearing any testimony or evidence.

“It’s pretty fundamental for judges that, in order to rule, you must hear evidence,” retired Harris County Civil Judge Sharolyn Wood said during a hearing at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center. “I don’t know if that is due process under the Bill of Rights, but to me, it’s pretty durned important – OK? – that we in our system have judges that hear evidence before they rule.”

In the case in question, Pratt on Dec. 30 modified the terms of a temporary court order – to which both parties had agreed – without hearing any evidence, then finalized it by scratching out the word “temporary” with a pen and writing “final” above it. As a result, the case officially was closed and the 34-year-old mother effectively lost her right to visit her two children, something the opposing lawyer in the case acknowledged was not his client’s intention.

Houston lawyers Ed Chernoff and Anna Stool, who is representing the mother in the case, told Wood they recently had been interviewed by the district attorney’s office about the case as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into Pratt and expressed concerns about the impact that could have on her impartiality.


In a video on her campaign website, Pratt, who is running for re-election this year and will appear on the ballot in a May 10 runoff election, explains that “things are handled a little differently in the 311th court than any other family court. When someone files for divorce who has children and they request a temporary restraining order that orders that the parents not have their children around their girlfriend, boyfriend, lover or paramour from 10 p.m to 8 a.m., we changed that to read, ‘You are not to have your children around your girlfriend, boyfriend, lover or paramour at all.’ Not only are the parents still married, the children are not ready.”

Stool, though, said Thursday that she made it clear during a meeting last year with Chernoff and Pratt in the judge’s chambers that the mother and her fiancé were engaged and planning to marry soon, which they since have. The former federal prosecutor said barring the fiancé from seeing the children after that “implies terrible wrongdoing on my client’s part and on her now-husband’s part. So, now we have a husband that she lives with in a home where the two children can’t go.”

The runoff is May 27, not May 10 – that’s the date of the SD04 special election. I’ve noted this particular case before, and you can go here for the full Pratt experience. You lawyers out there – this isn’t normal, right? Surely Pratt is an outlier among judges. I have to believe that. Normally one would expect an incumbent that could only muster 30% in a multi-candidate primary would be in trouble for the runoff, but Pratt stil has plenty of establishment support, so who knows what will happen in May. Just remember that Democrat Sherri Cothrun will oppose whoever comes out of that race. One way or another, you’ve got a chance to vote Pratt out.