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Cecile Richards

Two Medicaid stories

From the Trib:

It's constitutional - deal with it

It’s constitutional – deal with it

State health officials confirmed Tuesday they have asked the Obama administration to keep a 15-month lifeline of federal Medicaid money flowing into Texas to help hospitals treat uninsured patients.

That money would offer temporary relief to health care providers who face losing the funds — some $3.1 billion annually — over state leaders’ refusal to provide government-subsidized health coverage to low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health law.

Federal officials previously signaled they would stop footing the bill for at least some of Texas’ costs for “uncompensated care” — the burden on hospitals when patients can’t pay for their visits. Under the Affordable Care Act, Texas was encouraged to expand its Medicaid program to cover nearly 1 million additional adults living in poverty — a move that would have given more poor patients a means to pay for care. The state’s Republican leadership has vehemently opposed that option, criticizing Medicaid as an inefficient government program.

[…]

First created as a $29 billion pot of money paid to Texas health care providers over five years, about 40 percent of that money came from local funds — mostly property tax dollars — and 60 percent from the federal government. The Obama administration approved the program in 2011, and it was set to expire in September.

By asking for the program to be renewed for a significantly shorter timeframe, state health officials indicated that they expect the federal government will be reluctant to continue handing out cash to reimburse hospitals for patients who can’t pay for their visits. Federal health officials have repeatedly told state leaders they have no desire to use waiver funds to pay for costs that would otherwise be covered by a Medicaid expansion.

In Florida, the Obama administration recently agreed to extend a similar source of hospital funding in that state, but only for two years and at a significantly reduced rate. That arrangement diminished the state’s low-income pool by about 50 percent for the first year and 70 percent for the second.

See here and here for some background, and here for a copy of the letter. This is the 1115 waiver, and I’ve been rooting for the feds to tell Texas to go pound sand unless they expand Medicaid. This is at least a step in that direction.

And from Think Progress:

The Obama Administration just sent a strong signal to states trying to defund Planned Parenthood, warning all 50 states that attempts to strip Medicaid funding from the women’s health care provider is most likely illegal.

The letter, sent to each state’s Medicaid director, cautions lawmakers that “providing the full range of women’s health services… shall not be grounds for a state’s action against a provider in the Medicaid program.” In other words, the fact Planned Parenthood provides abortion services in addition to other women’s health services is not legal grounds to cut it off from Medicaid funding. It stipulates that the only justifiable reason to remove a provider’s Medicaid funding is if that provider isn’t able to bill for or perform covered medical services.

“Once again, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has made it clear that it’s illegal for politicians to tell women where they can and cannot go for care,” said Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, in a statement.

[…]

The Obama Administration has warned specific states before that cutting off Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood may violate federal law, but this is the first time that they have sent a letter to every state in the country.

As we know, Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit against Texas after it announced it was cutting PP out of any program it hadn’t already cut them out of as punishment for those faked videos by the fraudsters Daleiden and Merritt. I don’t know what effect, if any, this federal action will have on that, but I do know we could easily solve all these problems (and more) if Texas would expand Medicaid and obey the law. It’s all so simple, really.

Local Planned Parenthood joins lawsuit against the video fraudsters

Good.

Right there with them

Right there with them

A Texas-based Planned Parenthood affiliate on Thursday moved to join a federal lawsuit filed in California against the anti-abortion group behind undercover videos of the organization’s clinics.

The lawsuit, filed in a San Francisco-based federal court in January, alleges the Center for Medical Progress engaged in conspiracy, fraud and other activities that violate organized crime law and other federal regulations in its pursuit of secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood. Citing recordings of staff at a Houston clinic, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast filed to join the lawsuit as a plaintiff.

The recordings, released by the group last summer, depicted Planned Parenthood staff discussing the procurement of fetal tissue. The group alleged that Planned Parenthood was illegally profiting from the sale of tissue of aborted fetuses — an accusation the organization has vehemently denied.

The lawsuit against the group was first filed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and seven California affiliates against the Center for Medical Progress, Biomax Procurement Services and several anti-abortion activists, including videographers David Daleiden and Sandra Susan Merritt.

See here for the background on the existing lawsuit, and here for a copy of the complaint. There’s another federal lawsuit against these clowns as well, plus a lawsuit by PP against the state over revocation of Medicaid funds. If these CMP idiots want to be martyrs for their cause, I hope the justice system helps them get there, one judgment (and conviction) at a time. The Chron and the Observer have more.

Planned Parenthood sues over those anti-abortion sting videos

Game on, indeed.

Right there with them

Right there with them

Planned Parenthood is suing the people behind the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the anti-abortion group that released a series of misleading videos this summer claiming that the women’s health organization sells fetal tissue for profit.

“The people behind this fraud lied and broke the law in order to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “This lawsuit exposes the elaborate, illegal conspiracy designed to block women’s access to safe and legal abortion, and we filed the case to hold them accountable.”

The lawsuit, announced to reporters Thursday afternoon, might seem a little late, given that the first tapes were released about six months ago and the provider has taken a lot of heat since then. But it took time to do a full investigation into the “complex conspiracy” behind the videos, Laguens told reporters. “We wanted to make sure we had every bit of it right.”

Planned Parenthood isn’t pulling any punches with this lawsuit. The organization is calling CMP a “criminal enterprise” and is suing under federal racketeering law (which has been used once before against anti-abortion protesters but ultimately failed at the Supreme Court). Planned Parenthood is also suing for other damages and bringing a civil action for CMP’s alleged violations of state criminal codes about secret recordings.

The organization says that CMP and its officers engaged in an elaborate three-year criminal conspiracy to mislead Planned Parenthood and public officials, breaking both federal and state laws (in Maryland, Florida, and California, where the suit was filed) in the process.

[…]

It’s worth noting that no state or federal investigations thus far, even those led by anti-abortion officials like Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, have found evidence that Daleiden’s claims about “profit” are true.

Yes, that is worth noting. It’s also worth noting that the state of Texas used the pretext that these videos were truthful to kick Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid – to be more accurate, it blustered about it without ever producing any evidence of malfeasance on Planned Parenthood’s part. There’s another lawsuit related to that, and a separate federal lawsuit filed against the CMP last year, which was narrower in scope. Somebody’s been lying all along, and one way or another the courts will sort that out. You can see a copy of the lawsuit here, and ThinkProgress, RH Reality Check, and the Current have more.

UPDATE: More from the Press.

Planned Parenthood comes out swinging

Good to see.

Planned Parenthood’s political arm is embarking on the most aggressive campaign it has ever waged in Texas, with plans to spend $3 million to turn out voters for Democratic candidates including Sens. Wendy Davis for governor and Leticia Van de Putte for lieutenant governor.

Bolstered by a $1 million donation from a single backer, Planned Parenthood’s latest Texas-based political action fund is sparking concerns among anti-abortion activists who expect to be outgunned financially by the effort that has a particular focus on women voters.

[…]

The new PAC, called Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, is intended to bolster the top of the Democratic ticket, along with a slate of state House candidates and the Democrat running for Davis’ open Senate seat. The group also endorsed Rep. Sarah Davis, the only Republican who voted against last year’s tighter abortion restrictions.

Created just four months ago, the PAC already has more than $1 million cash on hand, mostly through the $1 million donation from Planned Parenthood Chair Cecilia Boone. It’s only the third contribution of that amount recorded by any candidate or PAC this election cycle.

The endeavor will be coordinated with a new Texas-based Planned Parenthood 501c4 group, a tax exempt nonprofit that does not have to disclose contributors.

Planned Parenthood says the nonprofit is set up to handle administrative costs, while the bulk of the spending will be done through its PAC that makes contributors known to the public.

Despite having a long-established presence in Texas, state data shows it’s the first time Planned Parenthood’s political arm has dedicated this type of financial firepower to Texas’ elections.

[…]

Planned Parenthood organizers said they will parlay the PAC money into an aggressive field program to reach more than 300,000 women – including Democrats and Republicans identified as receptive to their message – through phone banks, door-to-door visits and direct mail. The campaign will also include a heavy dose of digital outreach that will include radio ads and online ads, along with social media.

That’s great and exciting and all, but I have to ask: What the hell took so long for someone to figure out this was a good idea? It’s not exactly rocket science, and the bad guys have been doing it for years now. More in the primaries than in November, I admit, but still. How is it that the light bulb never went on before now? And where are the other groups that ought to be doing the same thing? If I don’t see at least one more story like this about a similar organization between now and November, I’m going to be deeply annoyed.

Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant, said Planned Parenthood’s spending can slice two ways for Davis.

On one hand, it will put the abortion spotlight back on Davis and could stymie her messaging as a candidate focused on a broad range of policies. Mackowiak said, however, it can also provide more resources for her campaign, which is at a 3-1 cash disadvantage compared to Abbott, and maybe even provide a bit of cover on the issue.

“The campaign knows that talking about abortion is a net loser for her,” he said. “These outside groups can focus on maximizing the pro-choice vote while Wendy stays above that fray.”

I basically agree with Mackowiak, but not for the reason he has in mind. The issue here for Davis, as I’ve said before, is that there’s precious little she can do as Governor to advance reproductive rights. She can’t undo or roll back HB2, the bill she famously filibustered, she can’t restore funding to family planning services or Planned Parenthood. She can’t even introduce a bill to do any of these things, not that they’d go anywhere if she could. The one thing she can do is be the last line of defense against further assaults on women’s health and reproductive freedom, via the veto pen. Vitally important, to be sure, and something that needs to be said, but talking about defense doesn’t strike me as very inspiring. In my more cynical moments, I suspect that if she did speak more about it, the nattering types that have complained Davis has not talked enough about abortion would complain that she’s focusing on it too much.

Be that as it may, apocalyptic scenarios and desperate appeals to hold the line are exactly the sort of thing that outside groups are made for. They can get as hyperbolic as they want and do whatever they can to scare targeted voters to the ballot box. (Again, the mind boggles that we hadn’t been doing this before now.) In addition, PPVT and any other groups that want to jump in can shill for candidates other than just Wendy Davis as well. Certainly they’d want to push for Leticia Van de Putte, but including Sam Houston and Mike Collier – yes, I know that the Comptroller has little to nothing to do with abortion, but remember that Collier is running against the guy who sponsored HB2 – would also make sense and would be a nice little boost to their campaigns.

So jump in with both feet, PPVT, and invite your friends to jump in with you. There’s plenty of people in Texas to help fund this kind of effort. We need them all to keep some of their money in state and do their part to help the good guys win in November.

How about Wendy for Lite Guv?

Robert Miller makes a pretty good case.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Governor General Abbott appears unbeatable by Democrat or Republican. Sen. Davis, as a Harvard-trained lawyer, could run for the open office of Texas Attorney General. However, that does not appear to be a particularly exciting, nor necessarily winnable, down ballot matchup.

The marquee matchup would be to run for Lieutenant Governor, who serves as Presiding Officer of the Texas Senate. A fierce contest has commenced for the Republican nomination, with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst being challenged by Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. Polling shows that today Lt. Gov. Dewhurst is headed towards a Republican primary runoff.

Harris County is the largest bloc of Republican voters in the state, and Sen. Patrick is well-known and very popular with these voters. The margins Sen. Patrick will roll up in Harris County arguably could give him a spot in the runoff. The purest of the pure partisans show up for primary runoffs, and those are more likely to be Sen. Patrick radio listeners (in Harris County) and voters.

This would bring us a Davis vs. Patrick contest for Lt. Governor in November 2014, a stark contrast indeed. One of the most liberal senators vs. one of the most conservative; pro-choice vs. pro-life; woman vs. man; and, at this point, woman vs. a possibly all male Republican statewide slate. One mistake by Sen. Patrick and Sen. Davis has a shot.

The irony is she would then preside over a Senate probably comprised of 20 Republicans and 11 Democrats – the Republicans would have an excellent opportunity to pick up Davis’ senate seat. All of the Lt. Governor’s powers are derived from the rules of the Senate, which are adopted by a simple majority vote (16 out of 31). Wouldn’t the Republicans simply strip her of these powers?

My crystal ball gets cloudy that far out. But it wouldn’t matter from Davis’ perspective. If they stripped her of the traditional powers of the office, it would simply magnify her prominence and amplify her voice.

My thinking has evolved. I now believe it makes political sense for Sen. Davis to run statewide for Lt. Governor in 2014. As she hits the newsstands in August, look for #Wendymania to continue trending.

It should be noted that there’s probably as great a chance that the Senate would strip the Lite Guv of its traditional powers if Dan Patrick wins as there is if Davis wins. As we know, Patrick has made his share of enemies among his Republican colleagues. It wouldn’t take too many more to dislike or distrust him to make that a real possibility.

Another thing to consider is that Davis would be much closer to parity with the Republican Lite Guv hopefuls on the fundraising end. She has over $1 million in the bank after her latest haul, all of which came in the last two weeks of June. Patrick has $2.1 million on hand, Jerry Patterson has $1.3 million, Todd Staples claims $3 million, and Dewhurst has $1.7 million, though of course he can write his own check. All of them will have to spend a chunk of their money in a sure-to-be-nasty-and-substance-free primary.

It’s an interesting possibility to consider. This would still leave the question of who runs for Governor unsettled. Robert’s observation about the potentially all-male Republican slate – Debra Medina is one of the candidates for Comptroller, and Stefani Carter is a candidate for Railroad Commissioner, but beyond that it’s a big sausage-fest – is further evidence to me that Cecile Richards ought to jump in. I hope Davis and Richards have at least had a conversation or two about who might want to do what. EoW makes an eloquent case for Davis as gubernatorial candidate that you should read as well, but as things stand right now I’m leaning in Miller’s direction. (William McKinzie also thinks Sen. Davis should run for Governor, though he comes at it from a different angle.)

One last thing: If Sen. Davis does run statewide, whether for Governor or Lt. Governor, the person I want to see run to succeed her in the Senate is the same person that succeeded her on Fort Worth City Council, and that’s Joel Burns. Holding her seat would indeed be very difficult, but Burns would be the kind of candidate that would inspire enthusiasm and generate fundraising. Who’s with me on this?

What are the odds for Wendy?

After a week of Democratic energy and exhilaration like we haven’t seen in a long time here thanks to the Wendy Davis filibuster, there are a lot of people who’d like to see Sen. Davis run for Governor. No doubt if she did, she’d make a race out of it, and would have no shortage of energy or fundraising resources. Whether or not she can actually win, however, remains unclear.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

In victory and defeat alike, there were jolts of energy unlike any felt by Lone Star Democrats since the GOP took complete control of state government a decade ago.

“Texas Democrats have dug themselves a big hole over the last 20 years,” said Austin Democratic consultant Harold Cook. “In one week, Republicans have done all they can to backfill much of it.”

The high-profile social issues of immigration, abortion and civil rights play right into Democrats’ strategy with their much-publicized “Battleground Texas” comeback plan: Energize minority voters and single women who historically have voted at lower levels than social conservatives, while persuading some swing voters such as younger Anglos and suburban women to abandon the GOP.

[…]

A short-term victory for Texas Democrats: doubtless. But that obscures a more important question: Will these events dramatically hasten the day when deep red Texas is once again a politically competitive state? Or is Democratic talk of a “purple” Texas as soon as 2014 an early-summer fantasy fueled by the euphoria of the past week?

Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson warns Democrats not to be swept away by “Wendy-mania.”

“The events of the past week have certainly amped up the energy in Texas politics, but the changes required to turn Texas purple, let alone blue, will still be a decade or more in coming,” Jillson said.

Indeed, a Houston Chronicle analysis of election data from 2000 to 2012 found that demographic shifts toward an ever-increasing minority population will only take Democrats so far. The study, conducted last November, found that if current demographic and voting trends continue, Texas will become a politically competitive state in 2020 and a true toss-up in 2024.

The study assumes no spike in registration or turnout among Texas Latinos or a shift among minority voters either away from or toward the GOP. It also assumes that independent swing voters will not dramatically shift from their current Republican leanings.

“The Democratic comeback in Texas depends on two things: The will to do it and the resources to do it,” said Glenn Smith, a longtime Democratic consultant and campaign manager for former Gov. Ann Richards. “Demographic changes are not enough. That is a pipe dream. We have to raise the money and do the hard work.”

The Trib had some cold water as well.

Wendy Davis is never going to see a better moment for a statewide run for office, even though the odds of a Democrat winning statewide in Texas could not be worse.

She would almost certainly lose.

There are always more reasons not to run than to run. But she has emerged as the predominant voice on an issue that pits the party in power against the party out of power. She has a sea of orange shirts behind her, and the Republicans are clearly very, very irritated by her presence on the stage. They’re also irritated that their own officeholders are largely responsible for the attention she’s getting.

[…]

Davis would probably be defeated in a statewide race. Opportunity could have picked a better time to knock. A strong party, good political infrastructure and money can cover a lot of candidate flaws. Both parties have won elections in Texas over the decades with standard-bearers possessing no discernable political skills. Likewise, lots of good candidates from both parties have fallen short because they were in the right place at the wrong time.

That might describe Davis. And it’s not clear she has what it takes to run a statewide race.

She is a local candidate suddenly, and perhaps momentarily, stuck in the spotlight.

She has no statewide network, and her political party doesn’t have the kind of infrastructure that parties are supposed to provide to candidates just coming into their own.

Money is a problem, though her ability to raise funds in Texas and, more importantly, from elsewhere in the country, rose tenfold over the last week. She has a hot hand right now and could put some money together.

The Republicans have the governor — if he decides to run again. And they have Attorney General Greg Abbott, who doesn’t have the Perry’s charisma but has that political infrastructure, lots of money ($18 million at the end of the year) and a party behind him that hasn’t lost a statewide election since 1994.

A bettor would have to go with the Republicans.

It’s hard to argue with that. The numbers are what they are. For all the talk about off-year elections being bad for Democrats, in some ways 2014 offers more hope than 2016 would because Republican turnout is lower in off-year elections as well. More to the point, Republican turnout in off-year elections can vary quite a bit. In 2006, top GOP vote-getter Kay Bailey Hutchison received about 58% of George W. Bush’s 2004 vote total; most of her fellow Republicans got a couple points less than that. In 2010, most Republicans on the ticket were at about 67% of John McCain’s 2008 total. Since McCain got about as many votes as Bush did, that was a huge swing for the GOP, from about 2,500,000 to 3,000,000 votes in all. Democrats, on the other hand, have been stuck in the 1.7 million to 1.8 million range for most candidates for three consecutive off-year elections, despite going from 2.8 million votes in 2004 to 3.5 million in 2008 and 3.4 million in 2012. (Bill White in 2010 and John Sharp in 2002 are the only two Dems to top 2 million votes in non-Presidential years since 2002.) Dems went from about 65% of John Kerry’s total vote in 2006 to only 57% of President Obama’s vote total in 2010. Getting up to a GOP 2010 level of the vote in 2014 would boost the base level to about 2.3 million. Still not enough to win, but at least in the same ZIP code. From that base, you can imagine a candidate with crossover appeal, a bit of extra turnout, a mediocre turnout year for the other guys, and maybe a little something else to get over the top. A longshot, but not a no-shot.

Of course, Democrats don’t have much control over the level of Republican turnout. The Rs have a lot less work to do to get to a a good level, and may not have to do anything in particular. I doubt they’ll have the intensity of 2010, but it’s hard to imagine them having the lethargy of 2006. Nobody knows what may happen between now and next year that could affect any of these factors – I mean, as recently as a week ago there was no reason to believe Wendy Davis was about to become a national figure. There’s a ton of national desire to see Davis take the leap, but it can’t be done without some real downside risk. Never mind Davis losing, running for Governor means giving up her Senate seat, which will be an extremely tough hold without her running for it. That’s one reason why I’ve been advocating for the likes of Rodney Ellis, who has a decent amount of cash on hand and isn’t up for election in 2014, and Cecile Richards to announce for Governor. I think either one could capture a lot of the energy Davis has helped create, without putting an incumbent on the line. For that matter, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte drew a four-year term and could run without risk in 2014 as well. She’s got less cash on hand than Ellis, but made herself almost as big a name as Davis did in the chaotic last moments of the filibuster. There are options in 2014 if Davis wants to take the less-risky path. This may be her best moment, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right moment. It’s a tough decision, and I don’t envy her having to make it.

A woman for the Governor’s Mansion

Annie’s List sent out the following email last week:

We’ve had it with Rick Perry. 

First he added insulting anti-choice legislation to the Special Session agenda while ignoring funding for our schools.

Then he did the unthinkable–vetoing the Texas Lilly Ledbetter Bill. 

Perry has it in for Texas women. He’s waging war on our right to equal pay for equal work and access to reproductive healthcare. And we’re not going to take it anymore.

Perry on Notice

Here at Annie’s List, we’re officially putting Rick Perry on notice.

Two years ago, we created the Statewide Opportunity Fund for just this purpose–to set aside a war chest for the first Democratic woman ready to run statewide, and to make a significant impact in her campaign.

Help us elect Perry’s replacementgive to the Statewide Opportunity Fund to put a woman in the Governor’s Mansion.

End Rick Perry’s reign of anti-woman extremism, and defeat his shameful policies for good. 

Give to Annie’s List today and let us know you’re ready to elect the next woman Governor of Texas to send Perry packing.

BOR has a question about that.

That brings to question: can we make that happen in 2014? One has to wonder who Annie’s List has in mind. The most notable female Democrats in Texas are State Senator Wendy Davis and Houston Mayor Annise Parker, but both have indicated that they will not run statewide, focusing on reelection, instead.

Annie’s List’s Communications Director Mitra Salasel told me that due to the organization’s past successes, “we have our eye on a long list of women that would be fantastic contenders.”

Annie’s List’s Statewide Opportunity Fund was created two years ago, and the organization is hoping to build it with this campaign. Salasel told me that any conversation about future Democratic leaders of the state must include our great women leaders. That will certainly be welcomed in the future, and as with a barren ticket for 2014, it would be welcomed with the utmost excitement just right now.

After Sen. Wendy Davisepic filibuster yesterday, I think we know who just about everyone would like to see take a shot at it. As of last report, however, she was planning to run for re-election in SD10 next year. Who knows what happens now, but it might be nice to have a contingency plan in case Sen. Davis decides to stay where she is. As such, I have a question: Has anyone talked to Cecile Richards lately? I don’t know how much of that “long list of women” is just marketing, but unless Sen. Davis changes her mind about running for re-election next year, any such list really ought to begin with Cecile. She’s even right here in Austin. (There is a Draft Wendy movement out there, but you know how these things tend to go.) At this point, just getting someone to say she’s thinking about a run would be a nice boost and a welcome distraction from the seemingly endless list of Republicans who are jockeying for one statewide office or another. Lord knows, there will be no better time to harness all the energy Sen. Davis created than right now. Is there anybody out there? It sure would be good to know.

Davis says she’s not running for Governor next year

So much for that.

Sen. Wendy Davis

State Sen. Wendy Davis, who has emerged as one of the most visible Democrats in the Capitol this session, says she has no plans to run for governor in 2014, but will seek another term representing Fort Worth next year.

“I’m running for my Senate district in 2014, and hopefully earning the confidence of my community once again,” Davis said on Sunday’s edition of KXAN’s In Session, In-Depth.

Since capping the 2011 legislative session with a filibuster over an education bill, Davis has emerged as a rising star among Texas Democrats who’ve been shut out in statewide election for coming up on two decades. Since narrowly winning re-election in 2012, Davis has been front and center on several issues close to her party’s heart — including better funding for education and increased attention to social services needs.

This month, she was among only two senators to vote against the budget bill because she said it would do too little to reverse the deep cuts in school funding enacted two years ago when much of the state was still mired in the recession.

In her KXAN interview, conducted last week in the back lobby of the Senate chamber, Davis acknowledged that her profile has risen during her third legislative session.

“If I’m in the spotlight for supporting public education, I’m very proud to be there,” she said.

But she added that she does not intend to parlay that higher profile into a bid for higher office — even though there is no obvious Democrat in the wings to take on the entrenched GOP machine.

Davis also said it’s “too soon to tell” whether Democrats can mount a serious statewide challenge, even as several Republicans are jockeying for position in several races — from governor to lieutenant governor to land commissioner.

Click over for video of the interview with Sen. Davis plus several other interviews with legislators. It goes without saying that you can’t mount a serious challenge without a serious challenger. Of the people I’ve speculated about, some have already stated their intention to do something other than run for Governor next year. Those that have not yet taken themselves out of the running, at least as far as I know, include Sen. Rodney Ellis, Cecile Richards, and – I’m going to keep including him in my speculations until he specifically says he’s out – Henry Cisneros. I’m sure there are other people I could be speculating about as well. As for Sen. Davis, I can’t say I’m surprised by this. She will have a tough fight on her hands to win re-election next year, but it’s not as if running for Governor would have been a cakewalk. The status of her district is no longer in contention – both she and the state have taken the position that the interim map from 2012 is what they want going forward – so at least she knows what she’s getting into. She has my full support, and I continue to hope there will be someone at the top of the ticket to abet her efforts. Texpatriate has more.

Gubernatorial speculation: Mike Villarreal and Bill White

A few days back, BOR had a post about who was on deck for 2014, and the first two candidates they speculated about for Governor were two I had not talked about here before, State Rep. Mike Villarreal and 2010 candidate and former Houston Mayor Bill White. (They also listed State Sen. Kirk Watson, but in the comments it was noted that Watson drew a two-year term, meaning he’d have to choose between running for Governor and running for re-election. Having to make that choice in 2010 was one reason why Watson didn’t run for Governor then, so I doubt things would be different this time around.) That post led Express News columnist Gilbert Garcia to ask Villarreal about it.

Rep. Mike Villarreal

Over his 13 years in the Lege, Villarreal has never made a secret of his hunger for higher office, but he’s been one of many youngish Bexar County Democrats hamstrung by the party’s electoral bottleneck: patiently waiting for a coveted seat to open up or hoping they can wait out the state’s long-expected shift from Republican to Democratic.

In 2009, Villarreal contemplated a run for state comptroller, and he regularly thinks about the governor’s office. He said he was “tickled” by the Burnt Orange Report assessment but harbors questions about whether the timing is right for him. Nonetheless, you get the clear sense that he’s open to the idea.

“It’s hard not to think about it when you believe the guy who currently holds the office isn’t doing a respectable job,” said Villarreal, a smooth, articulate product of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

It’s equally hard to overstate the challenge that will await next year’s Democratic nominee for governor.

The entry fee for any credible, competitive general election run against Perry or Attorney General Greg Abbott, another likely GOP gubernatorial contender, looks to be at least $25 million. It’s a figure requiring a statewide network of deep-pocketed support that would be difficult for Villarreal — or most other Democratic hopefuls — to put together.

Also, next year’s Democratic nominee will need to inspire extremely high turnout levels, particularly among the 1 million Texas minority voters who turned out in 2008 but stayed home for the GOP tsunami of 2010.

Villarreal would be in the tough position of introducing himself to the great majority of Texas voters, who haven’t necessarily followed his aggressive crusades to beef up public education funding or reform the state’s standardized testing system.

A Villarreal gubernatorial battle plan would likely involve a five-year, two-cycle effort. That means accepting a near-sure defeat in 2014, with the thought that he can position himself at the front of the line in 2018, when the state’s growing Latino population theoretically starts to kick in for Democrats.

The fundraising challenge is real and it’s daunting, especially for someone who starts with a low profile as a State Rep – just ask Rick Noriega about that. Villarreal has $111K cash on hand as of January, which isn’t bad for a State Rep but doesn’t even amount to pocket change for a gubernatorial campaign. The one advantage that Villarreal would have over Noriega is that in a state race you’re not limited by federal campaign laws, meaning you can get bigger donations from individuals. But it’s still very hard work to raise the kind of money needed just to introduce yourself to millions of voters around the state, and if you don’t have a clear path to it, it’s damn near impossible. This is one reason why I’ve talked about folks like Henry Cisneros and Cecile Richards, who already have national profiles, and Rodney Ellis and Wendy Davis, who start out in a much stronger position to raise the needed resources. (Julian Castro also fits in there, but he’s ruled himself out for next year.) I think highly of Rep. Villarreal and I have no doubt that he has a ton of potential for bigger things, but it’s hard to see how he could make it work next year. Waiting for a future opportunity has got to be the better strategy for him.

As for Bill White, he’s maintained a very low profile since his 2010 loss to Perry. I’m sure that PPP poll has come to his attention, snd of course there is a Draft Bill White For Governor Facebook page, because why wouldn’t there be? Despite the wipeout of 2010, White drew enough crossover votes from Perry to make it clear that he could have won in a less hostile environment. He’d have more work to do against Greg Abbott, but Lord knows there’s no lack of material to work with, even without all the embarrassing “Oops!” moments. However, all this appears to be an academic exercise:

White ruled himself out of running for statewide office next year, when Perry and U.S. Senator John Cornyn, a Republican, are up for re-election.

That would seem to rule out a repeat candidacy, though I will note that this came from a story in which White was being critical of Perry and his job creation policies. The urge is still there, whether he wants to feed it or not. Be that as it may, I think we need to keep looking.

How about Ellis 2014?

Michael Hurta makes an observation.

The only Democratic legislator in Texas who is not up for reelection in 2014 yet also has seven figures in his campaign bank account is Rodney Ellis. Will we hear any Ellis for Governor rumors before session is done?

Sen. Rodney Ellis

You can see a copy of Sen. Ellis’ January report here. He has just over $2 million cash on hand, which isn’t exactly Greg Abbott territory but isn’t a bad place to start off, either. He has been in the Senate since winning a special election in 1990, but at least since I’ve been paying attention I can’t recall hearing any talk about him eyeing a run for something else. One opportunity he declined to take to move up was in 2004, when the DeLay re-redistricting effort transformed Chris Bell’s CD25 into the African-American majority CD09. Ellis was not up for election in 2004 but did not challenge the first-term Congressman Bell, who was ultimately defeated in the primary by now-Rep. Al Green, who had been a Justice of the Peace until then.

That may just mean he isn’t interested in a federal office. If so, 2014 is an opportunity for him since he would have had to give up his Senate seat to run in any of the three previous state election years. Personally, I have no idea if Sen. Ellis has even given this matter a moment’s thought, but hey, I can pass along out of the blue speculation as well as the next blogger, so there you go. As of now, Julian Castro has declared his non-candidacy for 2014, Sen. Wendy Davis is playing it coy, Henry Cisneros is almost certainly a figment of my imagination, and I have no idea if anyone has talked to Cecile Richards lately. May as well keep talking about possibilities till one of them becomes real. What do you think about this?

When, Wendy?

When will Sen. Wendy Davis run for statewide office?

Sen. Wendy Davis

Fortified by a convincing re-election victory, state Sen. Wendy Davis is resuming her role as a fierce critic of Republican-led education cuts as she enters her third regular session of the Legislature.

Political watchers say the session could set the stage for Davis to run for statewide office.

In a wide-ranging interview last week, the Fort Worth Democrat said one of her objectives is to reverse deep cuts in education and other services that she says were orchestrated by Gov. Rick Perry and other Republicans during the 2011 session.

“If we continue on the track we are today, with the tremendous underfunding of public education and higher education, we are putting Texas on a path to fail,” she said.

Davis amassed Democratic star power by repelling a well-funded Republican assault in November and gaining a second term in her Tarrant County Senate seat.

Her defeat of then-Rep. Mark Shelton, a Fort Worth pediatrician endorsed by Perry and other Republican leaders, heightened speculation that she is on her way to a statewide political run, possibly in 2014.

“From the perspective of electability, she’s one of our top superstars in Texas,” said state Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, who believes that Davis is a potential candidate for governor, lieutenant governor or the U.S. Senate. “Her sensibility and approach to politics will just automatically propel her as a top candidate for statewide office.”

Davis has acknowledged an interest in moving up the political ladder but says her immediate focus is on working for District 10 and pushing a diverse legislative agenda in the 83rd Legislature, which will run until May 27.

I believe this is the interview they’re referring to. As the story notes, one likely factor in any decision Davis may make will come today, when Senators draw lots to see who has to run again in 2014 and who gets to wait till 2016. If Davis is in the latter group, she can run for something else in 2014 without having to give up her seat in the Senate unless she wins. If she draws the 2014 straw, however, she has to make a choice. That doesn’t necessarily mean she’d choose to stay where she is, but that seems the more likely possibility. This is one reason why Sen. Kirk Watson resisted suggestions that he run for Governor in 2010 – he was up for election that year.

Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said a statewide run by Davis is “much more a matter of when rather than if.”

“I think since the early days of her tenure in the Legislature, she has been somebody that Democrats have looked at with high expectations,” he said.

I can’t say for certain until the updated district information is published by the Texas Legislative Council, but Davis may have been the only Dem in 2012 to win a district that was not carried by President Obama. That says something. There are other names out there for 2014 – Henry Cisneros, Cecile Richards, and Julian Castro have all been mentioned as possibilities, if only by me in Cisneros’ case – and like Julian Castro, Davis may decide that it isn’t her time yet. Which would be fair enough and totally understandable, but I’ll say again that there’s no guarantee that 2018 will be a better opportunity than 2014. It’s a leap of faith, and you can only hope to be ready for it.

Speaking of such things, via press release from Edinburg Politics, there is now a Republican not named Rick Perry or Greg Abbott who claims to be running for Governor next year.

South Texan Miriam Martínez, a renowned international journalist, small business owner, and the former 2012 Republican nominee for state representative, House District 41, on Monday, January 21, announced her plan to seek the March 2014 Republican nomination for Texas governor.

She said her campaign would focus on key issues, such as job creation, education, child support, and immigration. But she also emphasized the importance of the Republican Party having a candidate who is a woman and a minority to lead the top of the political ticket.

“I do not believe in discrimination. I just think it’s time for a woman to do the job.” said Martínez, a survivor of family violence. “I know how to take care of business. As a Mexican American woman, I can handle challenges and defeats. What I can’t handle is living a life of regret and asking myself, ‘What if?’”

Martinez got 38% of the vote in HD41. She also got 1,210 votes in the GOP primary for HD41. As the story noted, she originally announced for HD41 as a Democrat – I had her listed there for awhile on my 2012 Election page after finding her via Google while compiling candidate names – which one presumes would be used against her in the unlikely case that someone feels the need to attack her candidacy. One can be successful as a Democratic candidate in a low-profile primary with a Hispanic surname and not much else. In a high-profile Republican primary, I’m guessing that probably isn’t so. Be that as it may, you have to give her credit for having the gumption to jump into the race before either Perry or Abbott has publicly made up his mind.

UPDATE: According to Postcards, Davis drew a two-year term, meaning that she would have to run for re-election next year. That would seem to put a damper on her gubernatorial prospects, at least for now. But you never know.

The “Draft Cecile” movement spreads

If enough people ask her about it, maybe she’ll start thinking about it.

Cecile Richards

Eric Ferrero, the vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood, said [Cecile] Richards is often asked “all the time” if she will follow her mother’s footsteps and run for office, but didn’t hint if it might be in her future.

“Her focus is on everything on her plate,” Ferrero said. “It’s 100 percent of her work right now.”

That was about the same answer Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa got when he asked Richards several days ago.

“I asked her two days ago,” Hinojosa said [last] Wednesday night. “She said she appreciated being asked.”

Although the current Texas climate is dominantly conservative — Republican nominee Ted Cruz is already being addressed as “Senator Cruz” — Richards said changing demographics and an increasing Hispanic population will eventually lean Texas more Democratic.

And should she ever decide to run, Hinojosa points out she already has name recognition and a base.

“People love Ann Richards and (Cecile Richards) looks just like her mom,” he said. “She’d be an excellent public official and a great campaigner.”

[…]

“I’m hearing from women all across the state of Texas who — they’ve never been political, they’ve never marched and they’re saying, ‘What happened to my birth control, what happened to my cancer screening?’” Richards said.

I’m sure they’d like to hear you talk about your answers to those problems, all around the state. If that comes to pass, just remember that you heard about it here and here first.

Draft Cecile?

Nonsequiteuse looks ahead.

Cecile Richards

I hereby kick-off (or join, because maybe others have beat me to it since I’ve been in a deep wormhole this summer) THE DRAFT CECILE RICHARDS TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR OF TEXAS MOVEMENT.

She’s going to be speaking at the DNC, and we all know that spot at the podium sets people up for a pretty sweet trajectory. She’s tough, smart, and must be at least a full foot taller than Goodhair. She could send him into hiding with a single side-eye.

More than that, she’s a clear win on the compassion front. She understands what it takes to take care of the least among us. She gets that strong, healthy women mean strong, healthy families, and that translates directly into a strong, healthy economy and community.

And, in this time of legitimate rape and vaginal probes and kamikaze Komen, she knows how to capitalize on the zeitgeist and rake in the big bucks. I’m nothing if not practical: serious green is what it will take to turn Texas blue.

Planned Parenthood might not be ready to let her go, but consider what it would mean to accelerate the demographic shift in Texas politics. I know great women are standing in the wings who could carry on the proud tradition Cecile has become a part of, leading that institution.

I believe federal law now mandates that all such movements begin with a Facebook page. I personally have hopped on the Draft Henry bandwagon so I’ll leave that task to someone else, but I’ll be happy to give the page a Like once it’s up.

That said, I’d be delighted to see this happen. I’d suggest that the second thing to do, after the Facebook page, is to convince Ms. Richards and her family to move back to Texas, since she currently resides in New York, according to her Wikipedia page. Her roots are deep enough here to overcome that, but better sooner than later, you know?

One more thing I’d point out is this: In addition to the “serious green” that Nonsequiteuse mentions will be needed to run and win a gubernatorial campaign, the other thing that we really ought to be looking for is a candidate with some personality. The last Democratic candidate for Governor for whom the word “charismatic” would be on the short list of accurate adjectives was Cecile’s mother, Ann Richards, in 1994. That’s a long time to go without pizzazz. Henry Cisneros has it, Cecile Richards has it, Julian Castro has it if he ever decides to move up his time frame (2018 is such a long way off), maybe someone else besides them who could mount a campaign will have it. I’m hardly the first person to suggest such a quality – McBlogger, call your office – but after so many elections without it, it’s hard to see why we’d not want to be looking for it this time around. Surely having a bit of Elvis in our candidate would help with the green-raising as well. That’s the argument, now it’s time for some drafting. Who’s on board with this? See Sarah Killf’s well-timed post for more on Ms. Richards.

Planned Parenthood roundup

As you know, it’s been a truly crappy year for women’s health, family planning, and Planned Parenthood. All over the country there has been a relentless assault on reproductive freedom, which has spilled over into health care and access to health care, mostly for women. We’ve certainly seen it here in Texas between the House budget and its zeroing out of family planning funds and the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. It’s shameful and harmful and in the end will cost the state more money than they could possibly cut from the already meager budget, but none of that matters to this misogynistic crowd.

I’m glad to see that Planned Parenthood is fighting back, but let’s be honest, the legislative battle is pretty much over save perhaps for a point of order or some other rulebook jujitsu. What matters now is winning the next election and sweeping as many of these troglodytes out of office. I had the good fortune last week to attend the Planned Parenthood Action Fund annual luncheon with a number of my blogging colleagues, and we were heartened to hear featured speaker and nationally known pollster Celinda Lake talk about how out of touch with the mainstream these radical actions are. But none of that means anything if those of us who care about it don’t show up and vote accordingly. So if you sat it out last November, or if you voted Republican but without intending to send a “defund Planned Parenthood and cripple family planning and women’s health” message, it’s on you this time to not do that again. We can’t afford any more of it.

With that, let me present a roundup of what was written about that luncheon. Lots of good stuff here from:

Nonsequiteuse, and Nonsequiteuse again.
Texas Liberal
Brains and Eggs
Hair Balls
Katrina Esco
Bay Area Houston

You should also read this AusChron story about what’s been going on in the Lege with family planning and reproductive freedom. If you’re not mad after reading all this, you need to get your blood pressure checked.

Finally, today is Texas Stands with Planned Parenthood Day of Action. It’s probably a little late to get in on some of the action, but click on to see what you can do today and going forward. We need everyone to be involved.

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