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Lamar Smith

Filing roundup: Other Congressional races, part 2

See part 1 here, and the spreadsheet with all the Democratic Congressional filings here. These are the races that are objectively most likely to produce a flip, so there are fewer of them. Let’s dive right in.

Jana Lynne Sanchez


So long, Smokey Joe. Hope to see a whole lot less of you from here on out. There are, I kid you not, eleven Republican candidates vying for this seat, and it could have been thirteen but two hopefuls had their applications rejected. Lord only knows what will happen on that side. I have mentioned the five Democratic candidates before, back when we were first learning about Smokey Joe’s peccadilloes. Decision Desk had this as only a 15% chance of a pickup in November, but that was pre-scandal and retirement. Those odds are better now.

Jana Lynne Sanchez
Ruby Faye Woolridge
Levii Shocklee
Justin Snider
John Duncan

Jana Lynne Sanchez has been a political consultant and fundraiser, and worked as a journalist after that. She’s a Rice graduate and an aspiring country singer. If she makes it to Congress, maybe she can collaborate with Sen. Orrin Hatch. Ruby Faye Woolridge is a retired educator who has run for office several times, including for CD06 in 2016. Levii Shocklee is a Navy veteran who doesn’t tell us much else about his biography. Justin Snider is a locksmith and served as a national delegate for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. John Duncan works for the largest local non-profit HIV/AIDS service organization in North Texas.

Joseph Kopser


Boy, you only think there’s a cattle call for the Republican nomination in CD06. There are eighteen – EIGHTEEN! – Republicans that have filed to fill Lamar Smith’s pollution-loving immigrant-hating shoes. They include Chip Roy, former Chief of Staff to Ted Cruz; Jason Isaac, the State Rep. in HD25; Quico Canseco, who lucked into a term as Congressman in CD23 in the 2010 wave; Susan Narvaiz, a three-time loser to Rep. Lloyd Doggett in CD35, and fourteen more. One way to look at this is that is the vote were to be split evenly among all the contenders, they’d each get about 5.6%. Fifteen percent may well be enough to make it to the runoff. There’s a non-zero chance that the nominee could be some random nobody. Which makes it all the more important that the Democratic candidate is someone who has an A game to bring in a district pegged at a 43.4% win chance and 49.0% performance.

Joseph Kopser
Derrick Crowe
Elliott McFadden
Mary Wilson

This race is interesting and worth watching on just about every level, and that begins with the primary. Joseph Kopser is an Army veteran and businessman who made news for out-fundraising Lamar Smith back in Q2. He’s also racking up endorsements – Garry Mauro, House Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, as well as nonprofit STEM organization 314 Action – and can fairly be characterized as the establishment candidate. Derrick Crowe, who has been a senior staffer on Capitol Hill and now works in the nonprofit sector, also has an impressive array of endorsements including Our Revolution, Democracy for America, and the UT University Democrats. He was the first Democrat I heard of in this race, citing Smith’s terrible environmental record as his inspiration to run. And then there’s Elliott McFadden, the Executive Director of Austin B-Cycle and past Executive Director of the Travis County Democratic Party, who has his own set of endorsements, and Mary Wilson, a math teacher and minister. They all look like terrific candidates, so my main hope at this point is that the primary doesn’t get too nasty.

Gina Ortiz Jones


Here’s a list of Congressmen from CD23 since 2002:

Henry Bonilla (R)
Ciro Rodriguez (D, elected in 2006)
Quico Canseco (R, elected in 2010)
Pete Gallego (D, elected in 2012)
Will Hurd (R, elected in 2014)

And there’s a 69.2% chance (according to Decision Desk as of November) that we’ll have another person in there next year. After that who knows – this district was ruled illegal by the federal district court and could be redrawn for 2020, and regardless of that it will be redrawn again for 2022. You know what they say about change being the only constant? This district is the poster child for that.

Angela Villescaz
Gina Ortiz Jones
Jay Hulings
Judy Canales
Rick Trevino

Gina Ortiz Jones served in Iraq as an Air Force intelligence officer, and continues to work in national security, intelligence, and defense. She’s one of several female veterans running for Congress as Democrats this cycle – note that article doesn’t appear to count MJ Hegar, so it is necessarily incomplete – and has racked up an impressive array of endorsements, from Emily’s List and Vote Vets to the Asian American Action Fund and the Victory Fund. Jay Hulings is a former federal prosecutor and has served in the House as Counsel to the House Intelligence Committee and Legislative Director to former Rep. Jane Harman. Judy Canales was appointed by President Obama in 2013 to be the Texas State Executive Director for the USDA Farm Service Agency. Rick Trevino is a teacher and Secretary of the Bexar County Democratic Party who served as a national delegate for Bernie Sanders in 2016.

I’ve covered other Congressional races in the Harris County and surrounding county writeups, and of course there’s great interest in CD16 to succeed Beto O’Rourke, but that race will be decided when the primary winner emerges. I’m busy doing interviews in CDs 07 and 02, and we’ll see how much more I wind up doing. Again, it is important for all of us to know who our candidates are and to pick the best one to represent us, on the ballot and hopefully in Washington. I hope this has been useful for you.

Opinions differ about Congressional prospects

I’m gonna boil this one down a bit.

Todd Litton

Moments before the polls closed in Virginia’s Democratic sweep, Houston-area Republican Ted Poe, across the Potomac River on Capitol Hill, announced his retirement in 2018 after 14 years in Congress.

Poe cast his move Tuesday night as a personal decision: “You know when it’s time to go,” he told the Chronicle. “And it’s time to go, and go back to Texas on a full-time basis.”

But a wave of retirement announcements from Texas Republicans in both Congress and the Legislature already had sparked a lot of speculation that the pendulum of power might swing against the GOP, even possibly to some degree in a deep red state like Texas.

Poe and other Republicans dismissed that notion, arguing that their prospects in 2018 are strong, particularly in the Senate, where 10 Democratic incumbents face the voters in states won by President Donald Trump.

Democrats, however, celebrated Ralph Northam’s victory over Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s hard-fought governor’s race as the start of an anti-Trump wave that could only grow as the president’s approval ratings continue to sink.

However coincidental, Poe’s announcement – following those of Texas U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith, Jeb Hensarling and Sam Johnson – seemed to add to the buzz.


Democratic hopeful Todd Litton, a nonprofit executive in Poe’s district, has raised more than $256,000 for the race, outpacing Poe’s fundraising in the three-month period between April and June.

Poe, however, called the suggestion that he is running away from a tough reelection “nonsense.” He noted that he won reelection last year with 61 percent of the vote, a substantially better showing than Trump, who won 52 percent of the district’s vote for president.

“I don’t appeal to people on the party label,” said Poe, a former teacher, prosecutor and judge. “I appeal based on who I am.”


David Crockett, a political scientist at San Antonio’s Trinity University, said the question lingering after Virginia’s election results: Is this the beginning of something different?

“Texas is still pretty red, but the result of all these retirements could be opportunity for a Democrat in the right circumstances,” he said. “It’s always easier for an opposition party to pick off an open seat … but I still think we’re a decade away from any significant change.”

Texas Democrats, for the most part, have their sights set on Hurd, Sessions and Culberson, whose districts went to Clinton in 2016. Recent internal polling also has bolstered their hopes of flipping the suburban San Antonio district where Smith is retiring.

Around Houston, it would take a pretty big wave for Poe’s 2nd Congressional District to fall into the Democratic column, but in the current political climate, some analysts say, who knows?

“I wouldn’t go to Las Vegas and bet on it,” said Craig Goodman, a political scientist at the University of Houston in Victoria. “But every election cycle, there’s always one or two districts where you’re like, ‘Wow, how did that happen?’ Maybe the 2nd would be that district.”

CDs 02 and 21 were more Democratic in 2016 than they were in 2012, and the retirements of Ted Poe and Lamar Smith will make them at least a little harder to defend in 2018 than they would have been. They’re not in the same class as CDs 07, 23, and 32, but a sufficient wave could make them competitive. Another factor to keep in mind is who wins the Republican primaries to try to hold them? Some candidates will be tougher than others, and in this day and age it’s hardly out of the question that the winner in one of these primaries could be some frothing Trump-or-die type that no one has heard of who might have trouble raising money and turn voters off.

There’s another point to consider, which is that some of the candidates who run for these now-open Congressional seats may themselves be holding seats that would be more vulnerable without an incumbent to defend them. For instance, State Rep. Jason Issac has announced his candidacy in CD21. Isaac’s HD45 went for Trump by less than five points and with under 50% of the vote; it was typically more Republican at the downballot level, but still shifted a bit towards the Dems from 2012 to 2016. Erin Zwiener is the Democratic challenger in HD45. As for CD02, it is my understanding that State Rep. Kevin Roberts, the incumbent in HD126, is looking at CD02. HD126 was about as Republican in 2016 as CD02 was, so if Roberts changes races that will open up another Republican-favored-but-not-solid seat. We’ll know more when the filings come in, but that’s what I’d keep my eye on. Candidates matter, and the Dems have been rounding them up for months now. Republicans are just getting started in these districts. They have less margin for error.

Rep. Ted Poe to retire

We’re verging on a mass exodus here.

Rep. Ted Poe

U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, announced Tuesday evening that he will retire from Congress.

“Thanks to the good Lord, I’m in good health, but it’s time for the next step,” Poe said in a statement. “I am looking forward to spending more time in Texas, especially with my 12 grandkids who have all been born since I was first elected to Congress. I am proud of the work that my office has accomplished: giving crime victims a voice, helping to combat human trafficking, and fighting for our constitutional rights and individual liberty.”


The seat has drawn some Democratic challengers, most notably nonprofit executive Todd Litton, who has held his own against Poe in fundraising in recent months.

First elected to Congress in 2004 and a sixth-generation Texan, Poe is possibly the most personally popular Texan within the U.S. House of Representatives.

With fans on both sides of the aisle, that affection came to light in 2016, when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Colleagues like U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, reacted to the news by wearing orange “Team Poe” wristbands. Even Democrats were known to check in with concern about his health.

Sources close to the congressman said that while the his health is stabilized, the ordeal did cause the 69-year-old to consider more spending time with his family.

But there were also signs of political frustration earlier this year. Amid congressional Republicans’ troubled efforts to move a repeal of former President Obama’s 2010 health care law, Poe resigned from the House Freedom Caucus. The group is known to be a thorn in the side of House leadership.

At the time he resigned from the group in late March, he said, “It is time to lead.”

A quirky but sincere presence around the Capitol, Poe made criminal justice a signature issue. He built his career as a Harris County prosecutor and a criminal court judge. His off-beat and shame-inducing punishments in that role became known as “Poe-tic justice.”

Poe also spent a much of his time on foreign affairs and on immigration. But he is best known to his colleagues as a go-to force on issues like violence against women and human sex trafficking.

First, let me say that I wish Rep. Poe all the best with his fight against leukemia, and that he has a happy and healthy retirement. He joins three of his Republican colleagues –
Sam Johnson, Jeb Hensarling, and Lamar Smith – in calling it a career this cycle. The last election we had where this many new members got elected was 2004, thanks to the DeLay re-redistricting that helped elevate Poe.

CD02 will be favored to be held by the Republicans, but Democrats made some gains there in 2016, and the departure of this generally well-liked incumbent may make holding this district a little tougher for them. First, we have to see who will run on that side; as of last night, there were no names being mentioned as potential candidates. I suspect that the pool of hopefuls is pretty deep, and as such we could have quite the primary race next year. I figure names will start dropping soon, and as filing season opens on Saturday, the rubber will meet the road in short order. How we feel about the future disposition on this district may depend a lot on who comes out of those races. The Chron has more.

More on Democratic Congressional candidate fundraising

From the Statesman, with a focus on Austin-area candidates, but also with a more holistic view of what the atmosphere is like.

Joseph Kopser

“Trump’s lower than average net approval ratings for a Republican in Texas, as well as anger and dismay within the activist ranks of the Democratic Party, has resulted in more than 50 Democratic candidates launching bids to flip the state’s 25 Republican held seats in 2018,” said Mark Jones, a Rice University political science professor.

“More than a dozen of these candidates are considered to be high-quality candidates, and 12 have already raised more than $100,000 so far this cycle,” said Jones. In the 2016 election cycle only one Texas Democratic congressional challenger, former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, raised more than $100,000. (Gallego narrowly lost to U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes.)

Joseph Kopser, an Austin tech executive and 20-year Army veteran who was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq, reported raising $213,000 during the three months ending Sept. 30 — $14,000 more than incumbent U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, raised during that period.

But Smith, who was first elected to Congress in 1986, has almost $1 million cash on hand while Kopser has a little over $219,000. The 21st District, which includes staunchly liberal pockets west and south of downtown Austin, encompasses conservative Hill Country counties, and was drawn to elect a Republican. Still, Kopser and two other Democratic challengers are counting on Smith’s climate change skepticism as chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee to draw Democrats and independents to the polls next year.

“Lamar Smith needs to be paying close attention,” said Calvin Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political science professor. “His district is evolving, and he has some issue positions especially on global warming he’s going to have to defend.”

“There is an energy on the Democratic side that is showing in a larger number of candidates,” said Jillson, who added that Texas being a red state made it “very difficult” to defeat Republican incumbents.

Kopser, at least, is playing to that energy.

“It’s becoming apparent that Smith is so out of touch he doesn’t even realize how fired up his district is today,” said Kopser, who co-founded a clean energy transportation company and is being supported by a pro-science group, 314 Action. Other Democratic candidates challenging Smith: Derrick Crowe, an Austin organizer and former congressional staffer, who raised $25,000, and Elliott McFadden, CEO of the nonprofit Austin B-cycle, who raised $16,000.


In Round Rock, Mary Jennings Hegar, a former Air Force helicopter pilot, reported raising $93,000 July 1-Sept. 30, in her bid to run against U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, who raised $113,000 during the same period. Carter, a former state district judge who was first elected to Congress in 2002, has $437,000 in his campaign coffers, compared with just $54,000 for Hegar.

The district, which includes a large part of Fort Hood, skews Republican, but in several Round Rock and Cedar Park precincts, Democrat Hillary Clinton outpolled Trump last November.

“I’m really pleased we out-raised him by about $10,000 in individual contributions,” said Hegar, attributing Carter’s fundraising edge to corporate and PAC contributions. “We have the grass roots on the ground.”

See here for the full roundup of Q3 finance reports. Lamar Smith has since announced his retirement, but the main point still stands. That statistic about Pete Gallego being the only Democratic challenger to raise as much as $100K in the entire 2016 cycle highlights how different this year is. I mean, we’re a year out from the election and already a dozen candidates in the Republican-held districts have reached that mark, with two more having topped $75K. We’ve literally never seen anything like this. I don’t have any broad point to make beyond that – insert the usual caveats about money not being destiny, we’re still a long way out, much of this money will be spent in primaries, etc etc etc – I just want to make sure we’re all aware of that point. It may well be that the end results in 2018 will be like any other year, but we cannot deny that the conditions going into 2018 are not like any other year. It remains very much to be seen what that means.

Lamar Smith to retire

Good riddance.

Rep. Lamar Smith

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio said Tuesday he is retiring from Congress.

“For several reasons, this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else,” he wrote in an email obtained by the Tribune. “… With over a year remaining in my term, there is still much to do. There is legislation to enact, dozens of hearings to hold and hundreds of votes to cast.”

Smith, a San Antonio native, received his undergraduate degree from Yale and attended law school at Southern Methodist University. He was elected to Congress in 1987 and represents a district that spans Austin, San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country. He is the current chairman of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Like U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the House Financial Services chairman who announced his retirement on Tuesday, Smith faced a term-limit in that role.


Speculation immediately began among Texas GOP insiders about who could succeed Smith in his seat. Names included state Reps. Jason Isaac and Lyle Larson, and Austin City Councilwoman Ellen Troxclair.

State Sen. Donna Campbell’s name was also put in play. A spokesman for Campbell said she “will carefully and prayerfully consider what is best for her and the district.”

Austin-based communications consultant Jenifer Sarver, a Republican, confirmed that she’s “taking a serious look” at running for the seat.

The question on many insider’s minds is whether retiring state House Speaker Joe Straus would consider a run, but sources close to him said Thursday he is not interested.

Smith’s 21st Congressional District runs from South Austin along the west side of I-35 into San Antonio and extends westward into the Hill Country. The district was drawn to be a safe Republican seat, but there is a competitive Democratic primary this year with viable fundraising candidates. One of the Democratic challengers, veteran Joe Kopser, raised more funds than Smith in the last quarter.

Democrats have argued for weeks that if more Republicans retire, they have a better shot at those open-seat races.

Is this one of those races? It’s too soon to tell, Democratic sources around the Capitol told the Tribune.

This district would be incredibly difficult to dislodge, but perhaps not as hard as a lift as a conservative East Texas bastion such as Hensarling’s seat. Democrats will prioritize dozens of other seat before they spend on this one, situated in the expensive Austin and San Antonio markets.

The early read from Democrats in Washington: It would have to be an absolutely toxic environment for the GOP next year for this seat to flip.

Let’s be clear: Lamar Smith is terrible. Not just for his longstanding enmity towards the environment, which the story covered, but also for his equally longstanding hostility towards immigration. Of the names mentioned as potential Republican candidates to replace him, only Donna Campbell is clearly worse. That said, it is hard to beat an incumbent, and his departure ought to make the path a tad bit easier for someone like Joseph Kopser. CD21 was red in 2016, but not as red as it has been. Trump carried it 51.9 to 42.1, while Mike Keasler on the CCA won it 56.7 to 38.1. In 2012, it was 59.8 to 37.9 for Mitt Romney and 58.6 to 36.6 for Sharon Keller. Whether that’s enough to draw national attention is another question, but adding Smith’s name to the pile of leavers does help further the “abandon ship” narrative. I only wish he had done so sooner. ThinkProgress, which goes deeper on Smith’s extreme pro-pollution record, has more.

October campaign finance reports: Congress

Here are the Q2 fundraising reports for Texas Democratic Congressional candidates. I’ll sum up the data below, but here’s the Trib with some highlights.

After Democratic challengers outraised four Texas Republicans in Congress earlier this year, some Republicans recaptured fundraising momentum in the third quarter – but not all of them.

Campaign finance reports for federal candidates covering July through September were due on Saturday. The reports show signs of of Democratic enthusiasm continuing, though U.S. Reps. Pete Sessions of Dallas and Will Hurd of Helotes, both Republicans, posted strong third quarters.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, barely outpaced his challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, and two GOP congressmen saw Democratic challengers raise more money.

Hurricane Harvey may have depressed fundraising overall, with many incumbents and challengers posting lukewarm quarterly hauls.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate and certainly not tasteful to raise money from people who’ve been devastated and lost everything,” said U.S. Rep. John Culberson, a Houston Republican who was outraised by two of his Democratic challengers.

Democratic numbers were also smaller, suggesting candidates who announced earlier this year picked off the low-hanging donors in their previous campaign reports. And candidates who entered races only recently had less time to raise money.

But also, there was a larger dynamic at work. Ali Lapp is the operative who oversees the super PAC that supports Democratic House candidates, said donors are holding back from challengers because of the crowded nature of the Democratic primaries.

“With so many good Democratic candidates running in primaries, it’s no surprise that many Democratic donors are waiting to give direct candidate donations until after the field shakes out a bit, or even until after the primary is concluded,” she said.

The Chron focuses in on CD07, which has the largest field and the most money raised so far. We’ve seen the aforementioned dynamic in other races, where some people and groups want to wait and see who the frontrunners or runoff participants are before jumping in. The danger is that the candidate or candidates you like may not then make it into the runoff, but that’s a bit esoteric right now. The fact remains that we haven’t had this level of activity in Democratic Congressional primaries since Dems were the dominant party in the state. That’s pretty cool.

So without further ado, here are links to forms of interest and a summary of who did what:

Todd Litton – CD02
Ali Khorasani – CD02

Jana Sanchez – CD06

Alex Triantaphyllis – CD07
Lizzie Fletcher – CD07
Laura Moser – CD07
Jason Westin – CD07
James Cargas – CD07
Joshua Butler – CD07

Dori Fenenbock – CD16
Veronica Escobar – CD16

Joseph Kopser – CD21
Derrick Crowe – CD21
Elliott McFadden – CD21

Jay Hulings – CD23
Gina Ortiz Jones – CD23

Christopher Perri – CD25
Chetan Panda – CD25

MJ Hegar – CD31
Richard Lester – CD31
Christine Mann – CD31

Ed Meier – CD32
Colin Allred – CD32
Lillian Salerno – CD32

Dayna Steele – CD36
Jonathan Powell – CD36

Dist  Name             Raised    Spent    Loans   On Hand
02    Litton          256,222   26,250        0   229,872
02    Khorasani         8,904    8,555        0       348

06    Sanchez          75,113   56,169        0    16,439

07    Triantaphyllis  668,300  132,792        0   535,507
07    Fletcher        550,833  147,634        0   403,198
07    Moser           401,675  129,689        0   271,986
07    Westin          252,085   95,046   10,365   167,393
07    Cargas           46,752   43,091        0    10,078
07    Butler           28,685   25,352        0     3,332

16    Fenenbock       499,262  193,800  100,000   405,462
16    Escobar         332,836   35,780        0   297,056

21    Kopser          417,669  198,249        0   219,419
21    Crowe            69,443   45,068        0    24,375
21    McFadden         49,614   29,923        0    19,690

23    Hulings         200,207   10,752        0   189,455
23    Ortiz Jones     103,920   30,238        0    73,681

25    Perri            61,868   42,603    7,140    26,405
25    Panda            59,853   42,200        0    17,652

31    Hegar            93,459   39,789        0    53,670
31    Lester           52,569   33,061        0    19,507
31    Mann             21,052    8,764        0         0

32    Meier           585,951  147,537        0   438,414
32    Allred          242,444  180,791   25,000    86,653
32    Salerno         150,608   30,870        0   119,737

36    Steele          105,023   62,699    1,231    43,555
36    Powell           50,653   20,817   10,000    39,789


– Unlike other campaign finance reports, the FEC reports are cumulative, which is to say that the numbers you see for Raised and Spent are the totals for the entire cycle. For all the other races we look at, these numbers represent what was raised and spent in the specific period. It’s useful to have these totals, but you have to compare to the previous quarter if you want to know how much a given candidate raised or spent in that quarter.

– There are eight candidates in this summary who were not in the Q2 roundup – Khorasani, Escobar, Hulings, Ortiz Jones, Panda, Hegar, Lester, and Salerno. Christopher Perri filed for CD21 last quarter but is shown in CD25 this quarter. Not sure if one or the other is an error – he wasn’t listed as a candidate in a recent story about CD25 – but do note that Congressional candidates are only required to live in the state, not in a particular district. Debra Kerner had been listed in CD07 before but she has since ended her candidacy.

– Not all candidates in all races are listed. I pick ’em as I see fit.

– It’s really hard to say how much of an effect Harvey may have had on fundraising. As the Trib story notes, it may be that many candidates have largely tapped their easiest sources, and it may be that some donors are keeping their powder dry. We may get some idea when we see the Q4 numbers in January. In the meantime, remember that there’s a long way to go.

– One candidate who does appear to have had a change of fortune, and not for the best, is Colin Allred in CD32. No idea why, again we’ll want to see what the next report looks like.

– Still no candidates of interest in CDs 10, 22, or 24. Sure would be nice to either have someone with juice file, or for someone who is already running to step it up.

July 2017 campaign finance reports – Congress

It’s July, and that means it’s campaign finance report season. Everyone has reports due at the end of June, so at every level of government there are reports to look at. I’ll be working my way through them, starting today with reports from the many people running for Congress as Democrats this cycle, some of whom have done very well in the fundraising department. I took a look at all of the Q2 FEC reports for Texas Democratic Congressional candidates, and found a few things to talk about. First, here are some of the more interesting reports:

Todd Litton – CD02

Jana Sanchez – CD06

Alex Triantaphyllis – CD07
Lizzie Fletcher – CD07
Laura Moser – CD07
Jason Westin – CD07
James Cargas – CD07
Debra Kerner – CD07
Joshua Butler – CD07

Dori Fenenbock – CD16

Joseph Kopser – CD21
Derrick Crowe – CD21
Christopher Perri – CD21
Elliott McFadden – CD21

Christine Mann – CD31

Ed Meier – CD32
Colin Allred – CD32

Dayna Steele – CD36
Jonathan Powell – CD36

And here’s a summary of what’s in them:

Dist  Name             Raised    Spent    Loans   On Hand
02    Litton          138,702    6,936        0   131,845

06    Sanchez          51,568   29,479        0    19,728

07    Triantaphyllis  451,165   48,776        0   402,389
07    Fletcher        365,721   22,671        0   343,049
07    Moser           234,901   42,530        0   192,370
07    Westin          152,448   32,560        0   119,888
07    Cargas           35,708   27,575   13,750    14,549
07    Kerner           17,173    3,602    2,700    13,571
07    Butler            9,470    7,371        0     2,099

16    Fenenbock       343,835   15,088   50,000   328,746

21    Kopser          204,639   68,816        0   135,823
21    Crowe            44,648   19,936        0    24,811
21    Perri            41,186   15,876    7,140    25,309
21    McFadden         37,209   18,517      500    18,691

31    Mann             19,771    5,820        0    13,685

32    Meier           344,366   45,996   27,848   298,369
32    Allred          205,591   56,993   25,000   148,597

36    Steele           64,627   19,052    1,231    45,574
36    Powell           27,158    5,153        0    22,004

I don’t have all of the candidates in here – there are over 100 reports, including incumbents, candidates from past races who are not active, and people who raised no money – just the ones I felt like mentioning. It’s a bit arbitrary, but I basically included races that had at least one candidate of interest to me. I did not include every candidate from every race – I skipped people in CDs 02, 21, and 32, in particular. Some candidates of interest are not here, specifically Veronica Escobar in CD16, MJ Hegar in CD31, and Pete Gallego in CD23; Escobar has not made her entry official as yet, and both Hegar and Gallego got in too late to have anything to file about.

With all those preliminaries out of the way, let’s note that the top story here is the large number of large numbers. Four Republican incumbents were outraised last quarter by at least one of their Democratic opponents – Ted Cruz, Ted Poe in CD02, John Culberson in CD07, and Lamar Smith in CD21. Pete Sessions in CD32 only just outraised Ed Meier, and once you add in Colin Allred he trailed the Democratic candidates significantly. Suffice it to say, we have never seen anything like this, certainly not since the DeLay re-redistricting. All of these Republicans have an overall cash on hand advantage, but it won’t be anywhere near the kind of advantage they’re used to. When Hegar and Gallego get up to speed, I expect both of them will be in the same class as their peers in these races.

The redistricting ruling is likely to have an effect on this for the next quarter as well. All of the maps presented by the plaintiffs created another Democratic district in the D/FW area, which was usually drawn as CD24, and significantly reconfigured CD27 as well. Neither of those districts currently has anyone who filed a finance report as a Dem, but if one of these maps or something like them gets adopted for 2018, that will change in a hurry.

Disclaimer time: Money isn’t everything, and fundraising isn’t destiny. But think of all the times you’ve heard people complain – or you yourself have complained – about Texas acting as an ATM for campaigns everywhere else. This is all money being raised for candidates here, and it’s happening in a year where there are and have already been plenty of opportunities to fund campaigns in other states. This is a level of enthusiasm and engagement we are not used to seeing. I don’t know how this will all turn out – these are still Republican districts that will take a major shift in the electorate to be competitive. Right now, a lot of people think that’s possible, and they are literally putting their money where that belief is. I don’t see how this is anything but good news.

Will we have enough candidates for the opportunities?

There’s always something to worry about.

With the Texas case moving forward, the boundaries of the congressional districts remain in question with the 2018 elections less than 18 months away. The Lone Star State’s primary filing deadline is in six months.

So, incumbent lawmakers and potential challengers are watching to see where the districts’ boundaries will fall, and weighing how that could affect the outcomes in next year’s midterms.


National Democrats have heard from candidates interested in [CD23]. And while they expect strong challengers to emerge, none have so far.

“Everyone’s kind of keeping their powder dry until it makes a little more sense to announce,” said [Colin] Strother, the Democratic consultant.

The court also ruled two other districts were unlawful: the 35th District, which stretches from San Antonio to Austin, and is represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett; and the 27th District along Texas’ central Gulf Coast, represented by Republican Blake Farenthold.

[Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice] speculated that, if the court rules the current map is also invalid, a new congressional map could lead to two or three more Democratic seats. Republicans currently outnumber Democrats, 25 to 11, in the Texas delegation.

But one GOP consultant focused on Texas did not believe a new map would result in a significant shift against the Republicans.

“There’s just not enough Democrats to roll around the state to really have massive amounts of change,” the consultant said. “You may lose one seat.”

The consultant also said the uncertainty would not have an effect on congressional campaigns for incumbents, since they are accustomed to the constant legal battles over the congressional lines.

But Strother said Democrats had to be prepared just in case.

“The nightmare scenario for Democrats is we don’t have people preparing for the emergency that this district or that district suddenly gets great for Democrats … and it’s too late,” he said.

Strother said he didn’t see many Democrats preparing for races just yet, but pointed to Joe Kopser in the 21st District as someone jumping in early in a race rated Solid Republican by Inside Elections.

Kopser, an Army veteran and technology businessman, recently announced that he would challenge GOP Rep. Lamar Smith in the central Texas district. It is possible a new congressional map could have a ripple effect and alter the lines of Smith’s district.

While the district is not on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s list of 2018 targets, the committee is waiting to see how the redistricting case pans out.

I’m not worried about this. Districts that aren’t likely to change or which won’t change that much ether already have candidates or candidates in waiting – Pete Gallego is circling around CD23, for one, and there are other candidates looking at it as well – and in the districts that may change a lot, like CD27, there’s really no choice but to wait and see what they actually look like. Sure, Republican incumbents who are already sitting on a decent pile of campaign cash will have an advantage, but that was always the case, and it may not matter that much in any event, depending on how the districts get drawn. As far as CD21 goes, a look at the FEC reports shows that there are at least three other candidates running against Lamar Smith, one of whom has been out there for a couple of months. We’re going to have plenty of candidates, and some of them will have a decent chance of winning. It’s all good.

Tom Wakely

As noted in the update and comments to Wednesday’s post about our first Democratic candidate for Governor, we now have a second such candidate, Tom Wakely. PDiddie brings word of Wakely’s announcement, which he made on Down with Tyranny, a more nationally-oriented blog. Wakely ran against Rep. Lamar Smith in 2016, and had been running against him again this year – he filed a Q2 FEC report, and the title of his website, which you can see via Google search for “Tom Wakely”, is “Tom Wakely to run against Lamar Smith in 2018”. The site is now just a placeholder, presumably awaiting a redesign for the change in focus of the campaign, so you’ll have to wait a bit to see what it looks like. For now, if you want to know more about him, go read his announcement or this Gilbert Garcia column from last year about his initial campaign against the odious Smith:

Tom Wakely

How else to describe a Bernie Sanders devotee who helped César Chávez organize grape boycotts in the 1970s, became a Unitarian Universalist pastor in the 1980s, ran a jazz club in Mexico in the 2000s and now uses his white-brick North Side home as a veterans hospice?

Wakely, 62, kicks off his general-election campaign Saturday afternoon at Tilo Mexican Restaurant (two blocks from his campaign headquarters), marking the white-bearded activist’s graduation from a self-described role on the political fringes to a spot closer to the center of the arena.

The only political office he ever sought prior to this year was a Wisconsin school board post he won 25 years ago. That probably would have been the end of his political career if not for the encouragement of Lucy Coffey, a World War II veteran who died last March in San Antonio at the age of 108. Coffey, the country’s oldest living female veteran at the time of her passing, befriended Wakely near the end of her life.

One day, Smith visited Coffey at the hospice run by Wakely and his wife, Lety, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico. After Smith concluded his visit, Coffey realized who he was, and remembered that he had voted against a 2010 bill designed to provide billions of dollars for medical treatment to 9/11 first responders.

“She was so upset with this guy,” Wakely said. “She said, ‘Someone needs to run against him.’”

Wakely decided to be that someone.

His primary victory over businessman Tejas Vakil provides Wakely the honor of being political roadkill for Smith, who has been mowing down Democratic rivals since Donald Trump was on his first marriage. Over a span of 30 years, Smith has never won a general election by a margin of less than 25 percent.

Wakely, it should be noted, did better than losing by 25 points to Smith – he lost by a bit more than 20 in 2016. Wakely notes in his announcement post that he “received more votes than any Democrat in the State of Texas running against a incumbent Republican member of Congress”. True, but that’s at least partly because he ran in the district that had more total votes cast than any other. The flip side of his statement is that Smith received more votes than all his fellow incumbent Republicans except for Kevin Brady (who was unopposed) and Michael Burgess, who was in the district with the second-highest overall turnout. If one wants to play the vote comparison game I prefer to do it by looking at how many votes each candidate from the same party received in a given district. Here’s how that looks in CD21:

Candidate     Votes    Pct
Clinton     152,515  42.1%
Garza       135,365  38.3%
Burns       133,428  38.1%
Johnson     131,683  37.5%
Wakely      129,765  36.5%
Robinson    129,520  36.8%
Meyers      129,412  36.8%
Westergren  126,623  35.8%
Yarbrough   122,144  34.6%

Right in the middle, literally the median Democrat. No obvious reason based on this to think he’d draw votes away from an opponent, but no reason to think he’d lose them, either. I admire his reason for running last year, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say for himself.

One more point to add, and that’s to correct something in PDiddie’s post, where he refers to the new law to ban straight ticket voting, which was HB25. There may or may not be a lawsuit against this, but none of it matters for 2018 because the law won’t take effect before then. Here’s the key passage in the text of the bill: “As soon as practicable after September 1, 2020, the Secretary of state shall distribute electronically to each county election administrator and the county chair of each political party notice that straight ticket voting has been eliminated”. In other words, we will still be able to vote a straight ticket next year. Possibly for the last time, but we will get at least one more go-round.

Precinct analysis: Congressional districts

The Texas Legislative Council now has full data from the 2016 elections on its site, so this seemed like as good a time as any to take a look at the data from Congressional districts. I’m much more limited in what I can do when I have to rely on precinct data from counties because most of Texas’ Congressional districts span multiple counties. But now statewide data is available, so here we go. I’m just going to look at districts where the Presidential numbers were interesting.

Dist  Clinton  Trump  Obama  Romney
02      42.8%  52.0%  35.6%   62.9%
03      39.9%  53.8%  34.1%   64.2%
06      41.6%  53.8%  40.7%   57.9%
07      48.2%  46.8%  38.6%   59.9%
10      42.8%  51.9%  38.8%   59.1%
21      42.1%  51.9%  37.9%   59.8%
22      43.9%  51.7%  36.7%   62.1%
23      49.4%  45.9%  48.0%   50.7%
24      44.3%  50.5%  38.0%   60.4%
31      40.1%  52.6%  38.1%   59.4%
32      48.4%  46.6%  41.5%   57.0%

Some of this we’ve covered before – CDs 07, 23, and 32 are well-known and are on the national radar for next year. CD03 will be open following the retirement of Rep. Sam Johnson. CDs 24, which is mostly in Dallas County, and 22, which is of course Tom DeLay’s old district, deserve a bit more attention and would fall into the next tier below the top three, with CDs 02 and 10 right behind them. And as a matter of personal pleading, I’d really really love to see strong challenges to Lamar Smith in CD21 and Smokey Joe Barton in CD06, two of the worst anti-science and pro-pollution members of Congress.

Now as we know, the Presidential numbers only tell us so much. So as I have done before, here’s a look at the Court of Criminal Appeals races in these districts – just the one in each year that had three candidates, for apples-to-apples purposes – and for this chart I’m going to chow number of votes, to give a feel for how big the gap that needs to be closed is.

Dist    Burns   Keasler  Hampton   Keller  D Gain
02    106,167   157,226   84,547  149,242  13,636
03    109,738   187,916   84,352  163,247     717
06    108,272   151,766   98,393  139,344  -2,043
07    107,250   136,246   88,992  134,699  16,711
10    122,499   172,155  100,660  149,355    -961
21    133,428   198,190  110,841  177,330   1,827
22    123,063   171,694   89,624  152,471  14,216
23    105,145   106,067   86,991   92,805   4,892
24    107,986   152,545   87,300  143,217  11,424
31    104,601   159,173   85,689  134,433  -5,828
32    113,659   146,526   99,453  136,691   4,371

A bit more daunting when looked at this way, isn’t it? The “D Gain” column is the net change in the difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates’ vote totals each year. In 2012 in CD02, Sharon Keller beat Keith Hampton by 64,695 votes, but in 2016 Mike Keasler beat Robert Burns by “only” 51,059 votes, for a net Democratic gain of 13,636. This is intended to give a rough guide to what the partisan shift in each district was, and as you can see it was much bigger in some than in others, with there being a net loss in CDs 06, 10, and 31. I have to pause for a moment here to tip my cap to Rep. Will Hurd in CD23, who held his seat in a much less Republican-friendly environment that elected Pete Gallego in 2012. No one in CD23 will ever have an easy election, and 2018 may well be more challenging for Hurd than 2016 was, my point here is simply to say that we should not underestimate this guy. He’s already shown he can win in adverse conditions.

Still, sufficient Democratic turnout could swamp Hurd’s boat, as has happened to other strong candidates of both parties in the past. (A less-Republican redrawn map could also do him in.) The Keasler/Burns numbers suggest that the other two on-the-radar districts (CDs 07 and 32) are also good targets for concentrated turnout efforts. In all cases, though, I believe a key component to any winning strategy will be to make a vote for Congress as much about “sending a message” to an unpopular and incompetent President as anything else. The more Rs you can flip, and the more who decide to stay home, the lower your turnout-boost goals need to be. I don’t know what the conditions will be like in a year and a half, but I do know that energy spent between now and then in these districts to register new voters (and re-register those who have fallen off the rolls) will be energy well utilized.

I will close by noting that there is in fact a candidate for CD21 at this time, Derrick Crowe, who has a pretty good looking background for a first-time candidate. We’ll see how he does in fundraising and other metrics, but for those of you in the district or who are looking for someone to support against the odious Lamar Smith, check him out. It’s never too early to get off to a good start.

Look out, Lamar

There’s big money coming after you.

The anti-incumbent super-PAC Campaign for Primary Accountability is coming back for 2014 after shutting down last election cycle — and it’s already making a wish list of targets, including Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas). 

The organization, which targets long-serving House incumbents in safe districts, spent $3 million to defeat a number of lawmakers in 2012 before running out of money last July.

A group spokesman tells The Hill the organization’s efforts will be “much more robust” this time around and says plans for new House targets are in the works.

The group has its eye on five incumbents: Rangel, Smith and Reps. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

Rangel, Bachus and Bonner were targets in the last election cycle and faced tough races; Schiff and Smith are new.


[Spokesman Curtis] Ellis said his organization’s research shows Smith’s constituents in Texas are less than thrilled with him, partly because of his failed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

Smith could face a tough challenge from a libertarian-leaning Republican named Matt McCaul.

“There’s a sense Smith is not universally loved, respected or regarded. He was the author of SOPA, and that worked out really well, didn’t it?” Ellis said. “He was one of the authors, leadership got behind it, the establishment told everyone ‘there’s nothing to see here, just vote for it’ and that blew up in everyone’s face.”

Ellis added: “We’ve heard through our channels that McCaul is viable and serious, he has the potential to run a real race.”

I’m pretty sure they mean Matt McCall, who does appear to be interested in running. Burka speculated briefly about Joe Straus challenging Smith, but quickly shot it down for the obvious reason that Straus would have no good reason to give up what he has now for a Congressional campaign that would be at best a coin toss.

Lamar Smith is awful for a lot of reasons – he’s a longstanding xenophobe and anti-immigration activist; if comprehensive immigration reform dies in the House, you can be sure Lamar Smith’s fingerprints will be on the corpse – but as I said when the CPA targeted Joe Barton and Ralph Hall last year, I have little reason to believe Matt McCall would be any better. By all means, primary him good and hard – it’ll be entertaining to watch him squirm – but win or lose I hardly see it as an improvement on the status quo in CD21.

Sidelining themselves on immigration reform

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the comprehensive immigration reform proposals that are out there now. It’s long overdue, and the political stars all seem to be aligned for it, but we said the same things about health care reform back in 2009, and look how close that came to be scuppered. In any even, the one place we should not expect to see any leadership on the issue is the Texas delegation.

Texas Republican senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz were not enthusiastic about the [bipartisan Senate] proposal.

Cornyn will review the Senate plan, but first and foremost, a focus must be placed on the “porous border,” said his spokeswoman Megan Mitchell.

“I appreciate the good work that senators in both parties have put into trying to fix our broken immigration system,” Cruz said in a statement. “There are some good elements in this proposal, especially increasing the resources and manpower to secure our border and also improving and streamlining legal immigration. However, I have deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. ”

Immigrant rights groups are watching Cornyn and Cruz, who oppose citizenship proposals, to see how their positions play politically in Texas.

“How the Texas Senate duo handles immigration in the coming debate will set the course for the future of the GOP” in the state, said Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigrant advocacy group, America’s Voice.

Well, then, all you GOP immigration realists had better pucker up, because Cornyn and Cruz are on the more restrained end of the spectrum right now. You’ve still got the likes of Lamar Smith and Steve Stockman to cope with, and we haven’t even heard from Louie Gohmert yet, God help us all. If this was supposed to be your moment to take the initiative, you blew it.

“The congressional Republicans from Texas sidelined themselves with their anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric, which has no place in a fast-moving debate in which suddenly the debate has shifted to ‘how much citizenship,’” said Democratic consultant Harold Cook of Austin. “The result is a shameful outcome in which these members of Congress, representing a state with tremendous border real estate, have sidelined themselves completely. That’s not leadership, and it’s not even adequate representation. It’s just ideologues telling far-right voters what they want to hear, at the expense of mainstream Texans.”

Some Republican strategists say that the GOP must find a way to play a constructive role in the ongoing debate — or suffer the consequences at the polls for years to come.

“Comprehensive immigration reform is going to happen this year and Republicans should embrace it and work to improve it,” said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. “At stake is re-branding the Republican Party with Hispanics, an absolutely critical and urgent task, especially so in border states like Texas.”


Mackowiak predicted that the Senate will “ultimately pass a bill with 80 votes, putting pressure on the House to pass a similar measure.” He suggested a way that Texas House Republicans can finesse their aversion to anything remotely sounding like amnesty.

“You can make the case that granting a temporary legal status to those here illegally, while they pass a background check and pay a fine and back taxes until those in line legally are processed first, does not qualify as amnesty,” he said.

Denial is your friend here. This shouldn’t be too difficult for the average GOP member of Congress to pull off – just imagine that we’re talking about climate change or something similar. Bone up on the Rove memo, I’m sure that’ll help. And good luck dealing with your primary voters. BOR has more.

Is immigration reform likely to happen now?

With President Obama’s victory powered in part by overwhelming support from Latino voters, and a dawning if grudging recognition from the GOP that they can’t continue to alienate this growing segment of the electorate, some kind of deal on immigration reform seems increasingly likely. I still have my doubts, however.

Prominent voices in both parties say immigration was the issue that pushed Hispanic voters away from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and that coming to the middle on the sticky subject is important to winning their support.

“It’s not the main issue with Latinos, but it is the core issue that allows a candidate to either be friendly or unfriendly to the Latino population as a whole,” said Lionel Sosa, a San Antonio Republican consultant who has worked on a number of high-profile campaigns, including Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid and the campaigns of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Latinos’ top issues tend to be things like education, jobs and opportunity, Sosa said.

“If you have a strident, tough immigration policy that seems unfriendly, then it’s very hard to get Latinos to listen to you about anything else,” he said. “If you’re saying that young Latinos who lived here most of their lives … cannot stay, then you are saying, ‘Latino, I don’t really want you around.’”

Obama’s decision to grant temporary work permits to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants in the country illegally, a program announced this summer called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, helped make up for his broken promise to pass comprehensive immigration reform, Sosa said.

That position was bolstered this week when Lake Research Partners and the Tarrance Group released a poll that found 77 percent of Latino voters support deferred action.


The election results apparently have emboldened Democrats. On Wednesday, Obama predicted an immigration overhaul will happen in his second term.

Not all Republicans are convinced. In a statement this week, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, downplayed the importance of immigration to Hispanic voters.

“The issues of primary importance to Hispanic voters are the economy and jobs,” he said. “The Republican Party needs to make inroads with Hispanic voters by emphasizing our shared interests in job creation and economic growth.

“Hispanics should be treated as the patriotic, values-oriented, and family-minded Americans that they are.”

And Lord knows, if there’s anyone who knows how to treat Hispanics respectfully it’s Lamar Smith, am I right? The reason to be skeptical of anything happening on this front is because there’s still a lot of Lamar Smiths in the GOP, and they’re not interesting in making a deal. Sure, I could be wrong about this, but I’ll believe there’s a reasonable compromised to be reached when I see it.

The good news for Republicans come in the form of rising Hispanic stars like Texas’ Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, and George P. Bush, a nephew of former President George W. Bush who’s said to be considering a run for land commissioner, Sosa said.

Cruz “is our best hope for turning it around, and it’s really primarily up to him in Texas,” Sosa said. “If he carries the banner for fair immigration policies, he could be the leader.”

Um, Lionel? Cruz advocates building a border wall and opposes the DREAM Act, any pathway to citizenship, and the President’s deferred action policy. I hate to tell you this, Lionel, but on matters of immigration Ted Cruz is the problem, not the solution.

There is now a Republican alternative to the DREAM Act out there, but it falls short of the original in some key areas.

According to the Daily Caller, the version would include several steps including applying first for a W-1 visa status, which would allow undocumented youth to attend college or serve in the military. Afterwards, they would be eligible to apply for a four-year non-immigrant work visa dubbed the W-2 visa.

In the next step, they would apply for a permanent visa known as W-3 visa status. As a final resolution, after an undeclared number of years, citizenship “could follow.”

For some DREAM Act advocates, a version that doesn’t offer a pathway to citizenship is a deal breaker.

“As undocumented youth, we will not take anything less than a direct path to citizenship. This is the country we call home and we will assert this position as we move forward,” according to a statement released by Cesar Vargas of the DREAM Action Coalition.

The alternative version would allow undocumented youth to apply if they entered the United States before the age of 14 and no older than 28. It would also require them to attend college or join the military, show good moral standing and keep a felony-free criminal record. That includes no more than one misdemeanor with jail time of more than 30 days.

Yet, Vargas noted in his statement several glitches. He noted that for Dreamers who are interested in serving the country, “the W-1 status does not currently let someone join the military voluntarily, so unless they also amend 10 U.S.C § 504 to allow such persons to enlist, the ACHIEVE Act won’t help much.”

Without a pathway to citizenship, the problem isn’t solved. A bill that leaves the status of millions of people unresolved is not a solution. But at least now there’s a starting point for negotiation, which is more than we’ve had the past couple of years.

This issue should be front and center until a real reform bill gets passed. It doesn’t matter to me if people like Lamar Smith and Ted Cruz see the light and become part of the solution or keep digging their heels in and get run over by reality, as long as the problem gets solved in a humane, compassionate, and forward-thinking fashion. And here’s a reminder from the Spanish-language media that there’s still more to this issue than what’s currently on the table.

A Nov. 8 editorial in Philadelphia’s Spanish-language newspaper Al Día, for example, looks at the limits of the Obama administration’s achievements, from health care to deferred action.

Al Día’s post-election editorial questions “why undocumented immigrants have been wholly precluded from purchasing — with their own money — coverage from insurers in your plan … Further, we wonder why undocumented young adults who are granted deferred action will not be given the ability to purchase health insurance from ACA pools either.”

Have you ever wondered why the Affordable Care Act will still leave millions of people without access to health insurance? It’s because undocumented immigrants and their children were deliberately left out of it. I really don’t expect that problem to be solved at this time, but until it is we can’t truly say we have accomplished immigration reform.

Interview with Candace Duval

Candace Duval

Texas is unfortunately full of lousy Congressmen. Lamar Smith of CD21 has been on that list for over 20 years. Candace Duval is running to take him off it. Duval is an entrepreneur and realtor who once worked on the staff of Comptroller Bob Bullock. She now resides in Austin. Here’s what we talked about:

Candace Duval MP3

I now have the Yahoo! audio player enabled as a plugin for my blog (thanks, Greg Wythe!) and it works a little differently. Basically, as long as this is the top audio file on my index page, you ought to see a “Play” control button next to the link above. If not, or later this week when I have another interview published, simply clicking the link ought to play the audio via the player. You can also right-click to save the file to your PC.

You can still find a list of all interviews I did for this primary cycle, plus other related information, on my 2012 Harris County Primary Elections page and my 2012 Texas Primary Elections page, which I now need to update to include fall candidate information. You can also follow this blog by liking its Facebook page.

Will SOPA sink Smith?

Probably not, but I sure don’t mind seeing his opponents use it against him.

Republican long-shot candidates are citing high-tech discontent over Rep. Lamar Smith’s proposed government regulation of the Internet in an attempt to knock off the 13-term incumbent in the primary election.

Even two Democrats, seeking to win their party’s nomination, have cited the proposed regulatory bill in their hopes to defeat Smith in the general election this fall.

But Smith, 64, has a campaign war chest of $1.3 million and has represented the Hill Country congressional district that includes North San Antonio since 1987. He will be hard to unseat in the 21st Congressional District on May 29, political experts say.

Smith was author of the Stop Online Piracy Act, which was designed to protect U.S. film, recording and intellectual property rights but opposed by Internet providers as censorship.

The bipartisan legislation was pulled after it was attacked by Google and other social media giants.

“Lamar Smith is completely out of touch with Texans. He will hurt Texas business,” said Richard Mack, 59, of Fredericksburg.

Richard Morgan, 24, a former software engineer in Austin, cited Smith’s SOPA bill as a reason he is running in the Republican primary, as well Smith’s long tenure in office.

“He’s been in Congress longer than I’ve been alive,” Morgan said.


In the Democratic primary, two candidates are vying for the nomination: Daniel Boone, a retired Air Force psychologist, and business consultant Candace Duvál.

Boone, 76, of Canyon Lake, a descendent of the Kentucky pioneer, ran unsuccessfully for the State Board of Education and was defeated in the 2008 Democratic primary for Texas House District 73.

He filed last year as a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican, but switched to the congressional race because he didn’t have the money to run a statewide campaign.

Both Boone and Duvál have raised less than $5,000 each, according to FEC records.

Both cite Smith’s SOPA bill and their opposition to it in their campaign literature.

None of these people are likely to be sworn into office next January, but this is the sort of issue that could at least be a little annoying for Lamar Smith to have to deal with. It may cost him a few votes, though it would have to be a lot more than that to make a difference in CD21. At least he’s being called out for his authorship of a lousy bill. It’s a start.

DC court sets date for preclearance trial, primary dates still up in the air

Via email from the Lone Star Project:

[Monday], a three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Federal District Court set January 17, 2012 through January 26, 2012 as the trial dates to formally review the Congressional, State House and State Senate plans enacted by the Texas Republican leadership this summer.

The DC Court will review the plans under Section 5 of the US Voting Rights Act which prevents states like Texas with a long history of racial discrimination from adopting redistricting plans that reduce the ability of Hispanics or African Americans to elect their candidates of choice.  Earlier this fall, the DC Court denied a motion filed by Texas Republicans to gain approval of their plan without a trial.  In fact, the DC Court signaled their concern about potential violations in the GOP plan in its denial by saying that the state has used an, “improper standard or methodology to determine which districts afford minority voters the ability to elect their preferred candidates of choice.”

The Section 5 trial in DC will begin just a week after the US Supreme Court hears arguments concerning the interim redistricting plans ordered by a San Antonio Federal Court late last month.  The San Antonio Court ordered the interim maps because the State enacted plans had not yet received Section 5 preclearance.  With the preclearance trial date now set, the violations in the State’s plan can be specifically identified.

There is considerable evidence showing that not only do the State’s plans violate the Voting Rights Act but that the Republican controlled Legislature adopted the plans with a discriminatory purpose.  Extensive testimony has already been provided in both DC and in San Antonio detailing the efforts of Legislators to prevent representatives of large minority communities from participating meaningfully in the redistricting process.

The failure of Texas Republicans to draw maps that fairly reflect the minority voting strength in Texas is dramatically illustrated in their congressional plan.  Under the current congressional map, minority voters are allowed to elect their candidate of choice in 11 of 32 districts.  Under the State’s adopted plan, even though Hispanics and African Americans make up nearly 90 percent of the state’s population growth over the past decade, minority voters could elect their candidate of choice in only 10 of 36 districts.

State Attorney General Greg Abbott has expanded his legal efforts beyond simply advocating for the state’s controversial plans and has set his sites on the Voting Rights Act itself.  Abbott, on behalf of Governor Perry and other Texas Republican leaders is expected to argue to dramatically weaken, if not eliminate outright, the protections for minority voters spelled out in the Voting Rights Act.

Comments by Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle

The DC trial will again expose the overt efforts by Texas Republican leaders to adopt plans that protect their power by destroying the voting rights of Hispanic and African American Texans.

Greg Abbott will spare no expense and will cross any ethical or moral line to protect the political power of Republicans.  His willingness to destroy the voting rights of Texas citizens for partisan gain is a shameful reflection of the entire Texas Republican leadership.

In the meantime, the San Antonio court had a status conference to discuss election deadlines yesterday, and various parties in the suit filed briefs about the possibility of a split primary. In the end, not a whole lot was settled.

The Texas primary elections are still set — precariously — for March 6, but a panel of three federal judges extended the filing deadlines for candidates to Monday. But after a day in court, most of the confusion and the big questions persist, like whether some elections could be delayed.

The judges left open for now the question of whether any or all of the state’s primary elections should be pushed to another date, after hearing testimony from several election administrators about the logistical problems and high costs that would result from split primaries. They instead prepared to sign a proposal that would allow candidates to file for office through Monday, and to change their filings later — or to withdraw altogether — as the political maps change. The dates of the elections and the exact matchups of candidates and districts will be settled later.

Initially, the Republican Party of Texas supported keeping the non-affected primaries in March while moving the rest to May while the TDP and various plaintiffs supported a unified primary, which would have to be later than that; May is the most commonly cited month, but there was at least one suggestion for April floating around out there. Turns out that a number of elected Republicans, including 16 of the 19 State Senators and Congressman Lamar Smith, also supported the unified primary. Smith’s position required the RPT to use a substitute lawyer, since they both used Eric Opiela.

Election officials from several of the state’s biggest counties testified about the logistical problems and the costs of holding more than one set of primaries. With two extra elections — a primary and a runoff — the costs double. Voting precincts would have to be redrawn for the first primary and again for the second, once there’s a legal set of political maps. And they said it would take 60 to 90 days, under normal circumstances, to prepare for elections once they have maps in hand. They could reduce that time, said Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, but not too much.

For the political parties, there’s a risk of going to state party conventions next summer with some elections undecided. More importantly for their business is the issue of how to choose party officials from the statewide level all the way down to the precinct level in time for those conventions. Both [RPT Chair Steve] Munisteri and Bill Brannon, executive director of the Texas Democratic Party, said the precinct chairs present particular problems. “You can’t choose precinct chairs for precincts if you don’t know their boundaries,” Brannon said.

Munisteri acknowledged a lack of agreement among the Republicans, but said he’d like to see three things: A March presidential primary so that Texas voters can weigh in before the race is decided; some certainty going into the state political conventions next summer; and something that protects candidates if and when the courts change the district lines.

Quite the mess, no? The parties involved have apparently brought in a mediator, but who knows what if anything will get hammered out. Harold Cook summed it up as follows:

So just to review, regarding the San Antonio Federal court hearing today: we have no hard filing deadline, for seats that don’t yet exist, for an election date we don’t know. Any questions?

Nope, I think that just about covers it. BOR and Michael Li have more.

UPDATE: Twenty-eight members of Texas’ Congressional delegation, including all Republicans running for re-election, have now signed a letter in favor of a unified primary.

Taking aim at the Voting Rights Act

In responding to a petition by State Rep. Marc Veasey and State Sen. Wendy Davis to intervene against the state in its lawsuit to get the federal court to pre-clear the new maps, the Attorney General responded by saying that the Voting Rights Act is too big a burden for it to deal with.

The state’s lawyers wrote that “subjecting the states to a suit where they bear the burden of proving, in essence, that they are not governed by recalcitrant lawbreakers is extraordinary in itself, albeit perhaps once justified by the historic exigencies of the middle 1960s.”


In the brief, the state’s attorneys argue that Rep. Marc Veasey and Sen. Wendy Davis, the North Texas Democrats who have filed to intervene, don’t have standing to join the federal case and shouldn’t be allowed to because their concerns are represented in redistricting lawsuits already filed in Texas.

Gerry Hebert, Veasey and Davis’ attorney, said they sought to get involved with the D.C. case because the judges are looking specifically at whether the redistricting plan reduces the minority opportunity for representation in the Texas Capitol and congressional delegation.

“That’s the purpose of the preclearance provision, to really put the burden on the state to prove nondiscrimination,” Hebert said.

Yes, that is the point. And the point of the AG’s response, which you can see here via Texas Redistricting, is to raise the question about whether the VRA is even needed any more so that (the GOP hope is) it can be narrowed or even voided. The GOP’s grand strategy all across the country is to make it harder to vote. This is part and parcel of that.

On a related note, Roll Call writes about the time pressure the court is under.

In Texas, either courts or the Justice Department must clear the new map before the Dec. 12 candidate filing deadline for the March primary.

Texas officials filed their case with federal courts last month, but there is no set time frame for a ruling.

It’s possible that the federal courts could strike down the map without giving state lawmakers enough time to pass a new plan and resubmit it. In that case, a three-judge panel would likely redraw the map — and it’s anyone’s guess what the final result would be. Candidates would run in the primary and general election under those court-mandated Congressional boundaries — and not those drawn by state lawmakers earlier this year.

The courts ultimately drew the Texas Congressional map a decade ago after state lawmakers could not agree on a plan. That ruling precipitated the infamous mid-decade redraw orchestrated by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

“The Congressmen are deathly afraid of it being sent to the three-judge panel based on what happened in 2001,” said one Texas Republican operative close to the redistricting process.

The reason for that, as David Nir suggests, is that a judicial redraw could cost them as many as four Congressional seats. The basic math at play here is simple enough: Latinos accounted for 80% of Texas’ growth, but only one of the four new seats can be considered a Latino opportunity seat. Had the GOP gone with the Lamar Smith option of two new Latino seats, they’d likely have a much stronger hand to play. You never know what the court will say, of course, and however despicable most of their goals are you have to admit the GOP has done pretty well swinging for the fences these days, so let’s not put the postmortem ahead of the cart here. I do wonder if anyone is now ruing the decision to stick with the March primary date instead of moving it back, which would have allowed for more time to get a preclearance ruling. Hindsight.

Will Perry call a special session to force the Lege to draw a Congressional map?


Gov. Rick Perry today said state lawmakers should be the ones to draw new congressional districts, not judges.

“I do think that the responsibility is with the members of the Legislature,” Perry said this morning. “To allow the courts to do that is not in the best interest of the people.”


There are six days left in the legislative session, and while Perry says he hopes lawmakers will get the job done, there is virtually no way that lawmakers can still tackle the task of congressional redistricting.

And here is the problem for Perry: The 2001 Legislature did not draw a new congressional map, leaving that job to federal courts. In 2003, Perry called lawmakers into repeated special sessions to do so.

So will he do that again? Numerous people close to Perry have said he will not.

I’m a little surprised by this. Greg has a theory (see second comment) that Perry is looking to get something from the Congressional delegation and will act when he has it. I think he may not want to get in the way of an intra-Republican pissing contest, between Lamar Smith and Joe Barton, and may just not care to have any distractions as he tries to get himself drafted to run for President. He’s usually pretty clear about what he wants and what he’ll do to get it, so it shouldn’t be too hard to tell. If the ongoing school finance negotiations fail to bear fruit and a special is needed to sort that mess out, then I don’t see how he avoids adding Congressional redistricting to the call. Will he do it just for that? So far I have no reason to believe he will, but that could change.

What’s different between now and 2001, when the Congressional map was also judicially drawn? (I seem to recall it’s been that way every time since 1971, the difference being that now Republicans have the control over the process.) In 2001, the House was still majority Democrat, and the two chambers could not agree on a bill. In addition, the Texas Congressional delegation was 17-15 D (though one of those Ds was Ralph Hall, who doesn’t count and who later switched to keep his seat), so the Republicans had a reasonable argument that the districts did not reflect the state’s political reality. (Much like Latinos have a decent argument now, not that it’s gotten them anywhere.) They also had a backup plan, which was to dominate the 2002 elections and redraw the map at that time to their preferences in the 2003 session.

The history of the 2003 legislative sessions is told as best I could at the time in my Killer D’s archive. Late in the session, some maps began to emerge, and though it wasn’t clear that anything could pass the Senate, House Democrats decided to take no chances and broke quorum on May 12, departing the state for Ardmore, OK, where they stayed for five days, returning after the House deadline for passing new bills had passed. After a number of redistricting hearings were held around the state, a special session was called to try again. After the House passed a map, everything came to a screeching halt as ten Senate Democrats plus Republican Bill Ratliff signed a letter saying they would not vote to suspend the rules and allow a redistricting bill to come to the floor. With the Senate’s two thirds rule in effect, that meant redistricting was dead for the session.

And that’s when it got even stranger. A second special session was called immediately after the first one ended, only this time with no “blocker bill”, meaning that the Senate’s two thirds rule was not in effect. This time, Senate Democrats took a powder, having previously announced their intent to do so under these conditions. They headed west to New Mexico and stayed there through the end of the second session. Two weeks after that, Sen. John Whitmire returned to Houston and announced his intent to attend Session #3; his comrades followed him home shortly thereafter and the next session was called. Finally, as time was running out in the third overtime, Tom DeLay swept into town, cracked a few heads, and got a deal done.

I give all that history to say that I can’t really think of a good reason why Rick Perry wouldn’t call a special session on Congressional redistricting. The two thirds rule in the Senate is hardly an obstacle, as they have demonstrated numerous times. There’s no way that a court will draw a friendlier map for Republicans than the Republicans themselves can. The only thing that makes sense to me is that he’s just biding his time, for whatever purpose. He waited 30 days before calling the first special session in 2003, so who’s to say he needs to act now. All I know is that if we go into 2012 with a map drawn by a three-judge panel or the like, it’ll be the biggest political mystery of recent years.

Finally, I should note that while the Senate Redistricting Committee may be fallow, other folks are taking on the map-drawing task. State Rep. Marc Veasey released a statement saying he “will present a statewide congressional redistricting map that provides the opportunity for Latino and African-American Texans to elect their candidate of choice as required by the Voting Rights Act, in recognition of the fact that minority population growth is the only reason Texas is receiving four additional congressional districts”. That’s happening at 9AM in the Speaker’s room at the Capitol. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

UPDATE: Welcome Kos Elections readers, and thanks very much to David Nir for the kind words. Roll Call suggests another possible reason why Perry isn’t motivated to call a special session on redistricting this time around:

If state lawmakers pass a map during special session, Perry will ultimately have control over it — and it’s likely the delegation won’t love the result. There’s still bad blood between Perry and the Texas delegation, which largely supported Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R) bid against the governor in 2010.

“If Perry takes control of the process, then at least you know that it will be a Republican-friendly map. It may not be a delegation-friendly map,” said one Texas GOP source close to the redistricting process. “He’s essentially let the Texas delegation know, ‘Don’t come to me with any favors.’ Read between the lines: The Congressional delegation, at least two-thirds of them, endorsed KBH in the primary.”

Never underestimate the power of spite, especially where Rick Perry is concerned.

Lege officially punts on Congressional redistricting

If you had told me at the beginning of the session that this would happen, I would not have believed you.

The chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, just confirmed to LegeLand that it won’t happen this session.

“It’s too late to get a map through the process,” Seliger said. “The federal courts will decide [how to draw the lines]. Or if a special session is called on any subject, we will ask to have it added to the agenda.”

Unlike redistricting of the House or Senate, which go to the Legislative Redistricting Board if maps aren’t passed by the Lege, state law says failure to pass a congressional map must be settled in special session or in state or federal court.

Other media sources have reported that Gov. Rick Perry is unlikely to call a special specifically for redistricting, but specials on other issues look likely.

I could have believed that they’d run out of time, but to not even present a map? That blows me away. I think that Greg is right and that this does no favors to freshman Reps. Quico Canseco and Blake Farenthold, and I imagine that the Todd Hunters of the world are none too pleased to be cut out of the loop, either. Still, with a school finance deal looking increasingly questionable, a special session is a real possibility, and if you’re going to have one anyway, you may as well take advantage of it and have another crack at producing a map. Assuming the Republicans can work out their own disagreements over it, of course.

Along those lines, here’s more on Smokey Joe Barton’s lawsuit to force the Lege to do something about Congressional redistricting.

With the Legislature apparently out of time to produce a congressional redistricting plan before the session ends Monday, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton has filed a lawsuit asking a state court in Corsicana to do the job.

Barton, R-Arlington, filed the suit at 12:01 a.m. Sunday in Navarro County District Court, according to his spokesman and an Austin attorney representing Barton in congressional redistricting matters.

“We’re in a situation where the Legislature can’t draw a map and so from our standpoint we filed a lawsuit to ask the court to draw a map,” said attorney Trey Trainor of the Beirne, Maynard & Parsons firm.


Trainor said Barton’s suit asks the court to draw a new map with “input from both ourselves and the attorney general,” who will represent the Texas Sectary of State in any legal action over redistricting.

Barton’s congressional spokesman, Sean Brown, said Barton sent e-mails to the other 22 Texas Republicans informing them of the lawsuit. “He wanted to be the first on one in that legal arena to make sure he was able to propose a solution for congressional redistricting,” he said.

Translation: He wants to make sure his preferences take precedence over those of Lamar Smith. It’s always a dick-measuring contest when you get right down to it.

Still going after Doggett

Scott Stroud suggests there’s a new ploy by Republicans in the works to get rid of Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

Congressman Lamar Smith, the Republican charged with redrawing Texas’ congressional districts, has floated a map that would transform Doggett’s district into one that barrels from Austin down Interstate 35, 18-wheeler style, through San Antonio’s East Side, then veers west across the mostly Latino South Side.

Under Smith’s proposed map, to be taken up Thursday by the Senate redistricting committee in what is always a fluid process, the district would become majority Latino and — more important to the GOP — its center of gravity would shift to San Antonio. Its brilliance lies in the long odds that voters here would accept being represented by anyone from Austin, Democrat or Republican.


What makes Smith’s ploy slick is that it draws the home of state Rep. Mike Villarreal into Doggett’s district. It would surprise no one if Villarreal, one of the few Democrats with a hand in the process, allowed his own congressional ambitions to trump any impulse to wage an uphill fight to see that his party gains a seat.

Villarreal said he supports adding a majority-Hispanic district for its own sake, regardless of who lives where. He said he sees Hispanics being underrepresented “in a real way every day, in a Texas House that currently is not a reflection of the state’s values and people.”

That hearing was postponed as Republicans were unable to agree among themselves what map to lay out. It’s still possible that Smith’s map won’t see the light of day, though with Friday’s hearing also being canceled and a special session apparently looming, there may be plenty of time for it to re-emerge. We’ll just have to see.

As for the latest scheme, losing Doggett’s seniority would be a blow to Texas, especially if the Democrats can ride the GOP’s attack on Medicare back to the majority. You can certainly argue that it would be bad for Texas Democrats if Doggett doesn’t get a district he can win, and in the grand scheme of things I’d rather have Villarreal knock off Quico Canseco and serve alongside Doggett than have him run a primary against him. Two are better than one.

That said, it’s also bad for Texas Democrats if ambitious, talented, and younger politicos like Villarreal are blocked from advancing. People who feel they have no place to go where they are will find someplace else to go, and it would definitely be a shame to lose Villarreal’s skills to the private sector, or worse a lobbyist shop. Outside of maybe Henry Cuellar, there’s no one in the Democratic Congressional caucus that has any desire to run statewide. We’re never going to build a bench for that hoped-for Democratic future if there’s nobody above the State House that has their eye on bigger things and the capability to fundraise for them. It would be a shame if we were to lose Doggett, but with all due respect, nobody is irreplaceable, and nobody is entitled to a seat. Whatever happens, we’ll get over it and figure it out.

Smith v. Barton on redistricting

From Politico:

A bitter, behind-the-scenes fight has broken out among Texas Republicans over redistricting, pitting Rep. Lamar Smith against longtime colleague Rep. Joe Barton.

The dispute is over the makeup of four new congressional districts for the Lone Star State, and centers on the racial balance — including the controversial issue of “bleaching,” or including more white voters in a district — of the new political map for Texas.

Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the point man on redistricting for Texas Republicans, is pushing to evenly split four new districts between Republicans and Democrats, acknowledging that Texas’s surging Hispanic population will gain minority-majority seats in the Dallas and Houston areas. According to 2010 Census data, Texas is now home to 9.5 million Hispanics, 38 percent of the state’s overall population, yet only six members of the congressional delegation are Hispanic, including freshman GOP Reps. Francisco Canseco and Bill Flores.

Smith, described by fellow Republicans as being driven more by political pragmatism than by partisanship, has been quietly huddling with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) to work out a bipartisan compromise on the new districts.

And with concerns over the Voting Rights Act — which bars congressional districts from being drawn in a way that dilutes minority voting power — coming into play, Smith brought in an official from the Texas Supreme Court last week to tell GOP lawmakers that there is no way to craft solid GOP districts that would meet Justice Department or federal court approval. Under the Voting Rights Act, Texas is one of 16 states that needs outside approval to implement new state and federal districts.

But Barton, who was passed over in January by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for the the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee’s gavel, has pushed to make three, or possibly all four, of the new districts Republican-favored, potentially shutting out Hispanic hopefuls from the new seats. Barton has harshly criticized Smith during Texas GOP delegation meetings, launching a profanity-laced tirade at Smith during one session early last month, and he’s privately tried to oust Smith as the lead Republican negotiator on redistricting.

Three points to make. One, it feels icky to side with Lamar Smith on just about anything, but at least I can say I’m opposing Joe Barton. Two, “acknowledging that Texas’s surging Hispanic population will gain minority-majority seats in the Dallas and Houston areas” is not quite the same as saying that these will be Democratic seats. As Greg has shown, any new “Houston-area” Congressional seat will be drawn from surrounding areas like Montgomery and Fort Bend counties. Putting Gene Green into a district in which Sylvia Garcia could successfully primary him would meet the goal of adding a Hispanic seat. Finally, if Barton gets his wish he may find it to be a Pyrrhic victory, in that several GOP Congressmen are currently in seats that are becoming more competitive every cycle, and could easily be washed out in a future good Democratic year. Among those incumbents who failed to crack 60% in 2008 despite facing weak competition: Joe Barton. If you’re a Republican and you’re thinking beyond the next election, Smith’s approach is much less risky. But hey, to each his own. Greg has more.

Don’t fall for it, Mr. President

I have two things to say about this.

Congressional Republicans are pronouncing President Obama’s proposal that the next Congress overhaul the country’s immigration laws as dead before arrival.

In his year-end news conference Wednesday, Obama said his biggest regret about the recent lame-duck session of Congress was the defeat of the DREAM Act, a measure that offered a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

“It is heartbreaking,” Obama said, as he talked about how such immigrants often realize they are without legal status only when they try to go to college or join the military. “That can’t be who we are. To have our kids, classmates of our children, who are suddenly under this shadow of fear through no fault of their own. They didn’t break the law – they were kids.”

Congressional Republicans said in interviews Thursday that their concerns about the measure remain strong, and both House and Senate GOP leaders said they would fight any attempt to legalize any of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country before the administration secured the nation’s southern border with Mexico.

“It is pointless to talk about any new immigration bills that grant amnesty until we secure the border, since such bills will only encourage more illegal immigration,” incoming House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) said in a statement.

1. This is a trap. There is no amount of “border security” that will appease the likes of Lamar Smith. If you try to give him what you think he wants, he’ll just move the goalposts. Going along with this will generate far more ill will among the President’s supporters than good will among his detractors. Don’t fall for it. Keep pushing for a sane and compassionate comprehensive immigration reform bill and the DREAM Act instead, which will put pressure on the Republicans and cause fractures in their coalition. It’s the right thing to do, and will be a political winner.

2. I’m saying it again because it just can’t be said enough: This is the team Aaron Pena chose to play for. Lamar Smith, Ted Poe, Louie Gohmert – they’re all his peeps now.

A redistricting compromise?

I don’t know how realistic this is, but if an agreement on how to divvy up the new Congressional districts can be worked out before the start of the legislative session, it would at least allow for more attention to be paid to matters like the budget.

Republican and Democratic members of the Texas congressional delegation are discussing a possible compromise designed to cool off the overheated politics of congressional redistricting by dividing the expected spoils once U.S. Census figures are in and the reapportionment process begins in 2011, two members of the delegation say.

U.S. Reps. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, and Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, told me the plan on the table would split the expected four-seat gain in Texas congressional seats into two for the Republicans and two for the Democrats, shfiting the focus of a likely fight from which party gets what to where the new districts are drawn. That would take the current make-up of the delegation from 20 Republicans and 12 Democrats to 22 Republicans and 14 Democrats. Smith said he would be in Austin over the next few days presenting the possible compromise to Speaker Joe Straus and Gov. Rick Perry. Cuellar says he briefed Straus and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst when they were together in South Texas earlier this year. “I talked to both of them,” Cuellar said. “They said, ‘If you guys come up with something bipartisan, we’ll support you.'”

Straus and Dewhurst were a bit more non-committal in the story, as you might imagine. There’s a lot of factors at play here that could strangle this effort before it ever gets started, and of course it depends on Texas actually getting four more seats – better get those Census forms in, all you Republicans – though there’s a plan for what to do if there’s only three extra seats as well. I wouldn’t bet my own money on this happening just yet, but at least the two sides are talking.

The main reason why this might work is that it would allow for the main goal of redistricting in most cases, which is incumbent protection. You figure if the 32 existing Congressfolk are reasonably happy about the boundaries they get, there’s less fuel for the firefight over the new seats. It’s quite clear where four new seats would go. The South Texas district would be Democratic, and the Central Texas one would be Republican. The other two, in west Houston and the Metroplex, could conceivably go either way. The advantage of a Southwest Harris County Democratic district is that it could be easily drawn to be a Hispanic opportunity district, which might allow Houston to elect its first-ever Latino Congressperson. It could also potentially shore up CD07 for John Culberson, by subtracting some of the area south of Westheimer from his district. The main fly in that ointment is that it would be more than a little ridiculous, and might prove technically challenging, to continue to have only one Democratic district in Dallas and Tarrant counties combined. Given the electoral trends in those counties, shoehorning in another Republican district might spread those voters around thinly enough to put as many as three currently GOP-held seats into peril in future elections: Kenny Marchant in CD24, Michael Burgess in CD26, and Pete Sessions in CD32. Not that that would grieve me, of course, but it’s the sort of thing that makes these needles hard to thread. Anyway, there’s many possible ways to do this, and it’s a much more exact science now with computers and whatnot, so we’ll see how it goes.

Johnny Sutton resigns

As is the norm when a new President is inaugurated, US Attorney Johnny Sutton of the Western Judicial District of Texas has resigned his position.

Sutton’s resignation was voluntary, [spokeswoman Shana] Jones said, and his future plans were not immediately disclosed. He was not available for comment.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Sutton “did a good job overall as U.S. attorney.”

Appointed to the office by President George W. Bush in 2001, Sutton followed a time-worn practice of stepping down to allow a new president to nominate a replacement.


The resignation leaves a vacancy in the Western District of Texas, which includes San Antonio, Waco, Del Rio, Austin and El Paso.

There are also U.S. attorney vacancies in the Southern District, which includes Laredo and Houston, and the Northern District, which includes Dallas.

Texas’s two U.S. senators and congressional Democrats will now begin vetting candidates for the positions.

The delegation will offer candidates to Obama, whose final nominees will need Senate confirmation.

Lawyers who have expressed interest in Sutton’s post include Juanita C. Hernández with the Securities and Exchange Commission; Mike McCrum, a former federal prosecutor; San Antonio City Attorney Michael Bernard; and Travis County Attorney David Escamilla.

Also interested are: Austin lawyer Scott Hendler; Robert Pittman, a U.S. magistrate judge in Austin; and John Murphy, a Western District federal prosecutor.

The only name on that list with which I’m familiar is David Escamilla; if anyone knows anything about these folks, please leave a comment. As with the vacancy in Houston, I hope and expect that Democratic applicants be given priority. Assuming that Sen. Cornymandias doesn’t try to change the rules, of course.