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July 2nd, 2018:

What might be the SCOTUS effect on the Senate race?

Insert shrug emoji here.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

In recent weeks, the race between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, has largely revolved around immigration, playing out in detention centers along the southern border and over immigration bills in Washington.

But U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s abrupt retirement announcement Wednesday sent shockwaves throughout the country — and quickly turned the two Texans’ attention to the nation’s highest court.

“After today, this race to represent Texas in the Senate matters more than ever,” O’Rourke wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

“Fully agree,” Cruz replied Thursday in his own tweet. “And the overwhelming majority of Texans want Supreme Court Justices who will preserve the Constitution & Bill of Rights, not undermine our rights and legislate from the bench.”

[…]

Republicans are banking on the Supreme Court vacancy to turn out far-right voters who see it as an opportunity to push a conservative agenda through the courts.

“I think it actually energizes the Republican base, it makes people feel united,” Republican strategist Brendan Steinhauser said. “People seem to be very fired up. It seems very positive for Cruz.”

[…]

O’Rourke’s campaign is focusing on the importance of Democrats retaking the Senate and regaining control of the confirmation process for future nominees.

“The choice is clear: we can either have Ted Cruz or Beto in the Senate voting on Supreme Court nominees,” the O’Rourke campaign’s fundraising email said. “Someone who will vote for the agenda of special interests and corporations or someone who will vote for the people of Texas. We need to work every single day to cut Cruz’s narrow lead and ensure it’s Beto.”

Both sides can plausibly argue that the SCOTUS nomination process will fire up their base, and both sides can plausibly argue that the the people getting fired up on the other side are the ones who were already the most engaged and likely to vote. Personally, I always find it interesting when the Republicans talk about exogenous forces that fire up their base. I mean, had they actually been worried about that before now, all their tough talk to the contrary? Good to know.

I mean look, we can speculate all we want. It’s great sport. I just want to note that we have a decent amount of polling data right now, with a fairly narrow range of results, and plenty of data relating to the national atmosphere, like the generic Congressional ballot. If there is an effect, we’ll notice it, one way or the other. So speculate away, but pay attention to the data.

For what it’s worth, I think the best Democratic tactic is to hammer the idea that a President who is under criminal investigation does not get to nominate someone for a position that will get to rule on matters related to that investigation. Wait till the Mueller investigation wraps up, and then proceed. If that takes too long for the Republicans, maybe next time they will support a Presidential candidate who doesn’t need to be criminally investigated. It’s not just elections that have consequences.

Revised final bail order

We go from here.

The federal judge in a landmark bail lawsuit against Harris County set new ground rules for law enforcement and judges about pretrial release for thousands of low-income people arrested on low-level offenses in a revised injunction issued Friday.

The order prohibits the county from detaining a poor person in instances in which a person with money would be allowed to pay and get out of jail. Specifically, qualified poor people charged with certain offenses, such as drunken driving or writing bad checks, will be permitted to leave jail immediately and return for future appearances. However, the finding also gives judges two days to make a bail determination for people arrested on more serious offenses or who face holds or detainers that would prevent them from being released.

[…]

The county will have another chance to argue the full case when the 2016 lawsuit goes to trial on the merits on Dec. 3, however, county officials could opt to settle the case, something both sides have indicated they would like to do. In two years litigating the case, the county has hired dozens of lawyers at a cost of $6.7 million.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, a long-time criminal justice reformer who has backed the lawsuit, said Friday’s decision affirmed the courts’ finding that there are “no legal or moral grounds” for the “unconscionable and futile defense of a two-tiered system of injustice that favors the wealthy and punishes the poor.”

“The county’s indefensible money bond system routinely violates the constitutional rights of poor defendants and forces people to languish behind bars simply because they cannot afford bail — there is no disputing this basic fact,” Ellis said. “Countless families have been torn apart and lives have been ruined by an unfair bail system that denies pretrial liberty and basic constitutional protections to poor defendants.”

The lawyers defending the county called Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal’s order “an excellent beginning for a settlement.”

“The county remains committed to a settlement that maximizes the number of misdemeanor detainees who are eligible for prompt release from jail without secured bail, that provides due regard for the rights of victims and protection of the community and preserves the independence of the judiciary,” said Robert Soard, first assistant to Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan.

See here and here for the background. It’s hard to remember because this has gone on for so long, but the entire fight so far has been about the preliminary injunction, which is what is being finalized here. This is the order to define what the county can and can’t do while the lawsuit proceeds. Litigating the case on the merits could take years more, and cost many more millions. So if the county really does see this order as a good foundation for a settlement, we should all be glad to hear it. Of course, that is mostly up to the misdemeanor court judges, who are the defendants and who have refused to budge throughout. Perhaps Commissioners Court can put some pressure on them, though outside of Commissioner Ellis they’ve been part of the problem, too. If you truly want to see this come to a just and cost-effective end, the answer is to vote those judges out in November. Ultimately, we get to decide. Grits has more.

Special election set for HD52

Another one in November.

Rep. Larry Gonzales

The special election to replace former state Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, will take place on Nov. 6, the same day voters were already set to head to the polls to select his 2019 replacement, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday.

Gonzales, who served in the Texas House since 2011 and worked in the Capitol for years before that as a staffer, had already said he wouldn’t seek another term, but he announced June 6 that he’d retire early, saying “it’s time to get on with the next phase of my life.” That set up a special election to fill the remainder of his two-year term.

Candidates have until Aug. 23 to file to run for the seat, the governor’s announcement said. Two candidates, Republican Cynthia Flores and Democrat James Talarico, have already announced they’re running to serve the central Texas district for the full term.

See here for the background. Not sure why it took longer to schedule this special election than the one in SD19, but whatever. This is what I expected to happen, with this election happening on the same day as the HD62 special election. And now I will sigh wistfully and imagine a November that also includes a special election in SD06, to succeed Sen. Sylvia Garcia. If only.