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Mark Shelton

The equal pay issue in SD10

Just as the issue of equal pay has become a big deal in the Governor’s race, so is it an issue in the race to succeed Sen. Wendy Davis in SD10.

Libby Willis

In the battle for Senate District 10, [Konni] Burton and [Mark] Shelton head to a May 27 Republican primary runoff to determine who takes on [Democrat Libby] Willis in November.

Davis has represented the district since 2009.

Burton, a leader in the NE Tarrant Tea Party, said Willis is pushing issues like this while avoiding “tackling serious issues facing Texans,” like the “crippling” impact of Obamacare.

Shelton, a pediatrician and former state representative who lost a bid for this seat in 2012, said no more legislation is necessary.

“Equal pay for equal work is the law of the United States and the state of Texas,” he said. “Current law should be enforced and additional laws are unneeded.”

Willis said something must be done.

“Republicans, Democrats and independents support equal pay for women,” she said. “Equal pay is not only a fairness issue, it’s a family economic issue.”

To whatever extent this issue has salience in the statewide race, it ought to have a similar effect in SD10. Maybe more, since the SD10 Republicans have a harder edge than Greg Abbott. I think Abbott would rather just have this issue (and most others) go away, while Burton and Shelton will campaign loud and proud against the Ledbetter law. Whatever it takes, because it sure would be nice to hold onto this seat. Between Donna Campbell, Don Huffines, and whoever wins the special election to succeed Tommy Williams, the Senate is stupid and mean enough already. Let’s not make it any more so.

Taking back the Texas Senate

Colin Strother says the Democrats should not overlook opportunities to make gains in the upper chamber of the Legislature.

The conventional wisdom is that Democrats need a miracle to pick up any single seat, much less turn the chamber Blue. The numbers show this reaction is based more on assumptions rather than any empirical evidence.

Here are some districts that should be immediate targets:

Low-Hanging Fruit

SD9 Kelly Hancock (R) Non-White VAP*= 47% (272,400) 2012 Total Vote=233,577

SD16 John Carona (R) Non-White VAP= 47% (288,695) 2012 Total Vote=181,746

SD17 Joan Huffman (R) Non-White VAP=47.5% (287,575) 2012 Total Vote=238,707

*voting age population

First of all, I am well aware that a sole reliance on non-White voters would mean we need astronomical turnout (except in SD 16 where a mere 35% turnout of non-white voters bests Carona). Non-White voters are a piece of the puzzle–not the panacea some think it is. I am also aware that Romney rolled in these districts, as he did in 20 of the 31 districts.

It is also important to note that the 3 districts hold meaningful populations in counties that are nearly 100% Blue from top to bottom (Dallas & Harris), so we are not exactly talking about a handful of voters scattered across a 37-county district like District 31. We are talking about large concentrations of non-white voters in large, urban counties where active GOTV programs are already in place.

For the sake of comparison, SD 10′s non-white VAP is 47.3%, the 2012 total vote was 287,759, Romney won it in the mid-50s, it has numerous down ballot Democratic officeholders, and it holds a meaningful population in an urban county where active an active GOTV program is already in place. Basically, it looks identical to 9, 16, & 17 on paper. The only difference? We made SD 10 a priority, got a good candidate, dedicated the resources, and made it happen.

These 3 districts have good bones, a good bench, and access to existing infrastructure. For a party that desperately needs to grow its market share, these look like a good place to start. (I can assure you that when the Republicans swiped SD 3 in 1994 and SD 5 in a 1997 special, their numbers didn’t look this good.) With a dash of candidate recruitment, a splash of smart staffers, and a chunk of cash, Texas Democrats can be knocking on the door of a 16-15 minority status…not in 10 cycles, but in 2-3.

I looked at the Senate district numbers back in February, and while I agree with Colin about which ones are the most targetable, I’m less sanguine about our chances in the near term. As a reminder, you can find the 2008 results by district here, and the 2012 results here. The basics are as follows:

Dist McCain Obama McCain% Obama% ====================================== 09 145,020 103,614 57.8% 41.3% 10 158,677 143,651 52.1% 47.1% 16 161,779 129,105 55.0% 43.9% 17 174,371 124,939 57.8% 41.4% Dist Romney Obama Romney% Obama% ====================================== 09 142,499 94,117 59.3% 39.2% 10 155,936 132,707 53.3% 45.4% 16 159,759 116,603 57.0% 41.6% 17 178,241 117,562 59.4% 39.2%

I think you can only call SDs 9 and 17 “low hanging fruit” in the sense that there is no fruit besides those districts and SD16. Romney not only did better than McCain in all three districts – and in SD10, home of Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis, whom I include for perspective – he also had a wider margin in SDs 9 and 17 than he did statewide. Other than the fact that every other district is worse, one normally wouldn’t look at these and see much in the way of opportunity.

That said, Colin is right that we’re not going to get anywhere if we sit around waiting for easy races, and whether we run a decent statewide slate this year or not, we need to aim at some targets bigger than State Reps. If nothing else, the VAP numbers suggest there’s material here for Battleground Texas to work with. There is a huge benefit for each additional Senator – among other things, without Sen. Davis, we wouldn’t have been able to block all those awful abortion bills this session – and the Senate is a great proving ground for future statewide campaigns. Even as longshots, there’s enough value in a Senate seat to support any good candidate.

It may be instructive to review Sen. Davis’ two wins to see what we can learn from them for future campaigns. A lot of stars came into alignment in 2008. It all began with Wendy Davis, who was an excellent candidate and who has proven to be an outstanding Senator, but equally important is the fact that she was available and ready to take on the race in the first place. She was a term-limited Forth Worth City Council member, so had no incumbency to lose by filing for another office. That’s an important consideration when you remember that the bulk of our up and coming stars are State Reps, who would be giving up their seats to challenge a Senator in a regular election. She went up against an ethically-challenged incumbent, which is always a bonus. The seat was clearly winnable and was seen as such, which surely helped Davis with fundraising and campaign energy. And of course, 2008 was a pretty good year for Democrats – no doubt, Davis was helped by the Obama surge.

As an incumbent herself in 2012, Sen. Davis needed less help, but she still got a gift in the form of her opponent, then-Rep. Mark Shelton, who was one of only a handful of House members to vote against a bill by Davis to provide state grant money to local law enforcement agencies to help clear rape kit backlogs. It was such a bad vote that even Sen. John Cornyn, who was sponsoring similar legislation in Washington, couldn’t defend it. Votes like that are an oppo researcher’s dream, and making it in the same cycle that gave us the likes of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock was icing on the cake. We know Sen. Davis drew crossover support in her successful re-election bid. I don’t have polling data handy, but I’d bet good money a significant chunk of that crossover support came from female voters.

So what lessons can we take from this? Well, first and foremost, the best candidate is no help if he or she is unavailable or unwilling to make the race. We all agree that the future of the Texas Democratic Party is largely in the House, but we can’t expect tomorrow’s stars to risk that status on races where they’d be big underdogs. That means we need to be thinking outside the box for potential Senate candidates, and as a corollary to that it means getting involved in city, county, and school board races, where new talent can be incubated and other offices can at least some of the time be explored because there’s no filing conflict.

Two, it means seek out candidates that can best exploit the weaknesses of the incumbents. In the case of SD09, Sen. Kelly Hancock is a slash-and-burn teabagger, and I’m sure his House record will show plenty of anti-education votes, and surely more than a few anti-women votes. A female candidate with an education background, perhaps a school board member, would be high on my list. Sen. Joan Huffman is coming off a session where she carried a lot of water for the prosecution lobby, and got was responsible for an emotional outburst by the brother of Tim Cole, the man who died in prison after being convicted of a crime for which he was later exonerated. Here, a person of color with a background in criminal justice reform and/or innocence advocacy would be ideal. Do such people exist? Very likely. Is anyone talking to them about their future in politics? Very likely not.

And three, keep focus on the stuff we’re already working on, or at least that we say we’re working on. Register those unregistered folks, and engage them in a manner that will get them to the polls. Remind our Presidential year voters that we need them in other years, too. Figure out why Texas Democrats aren’t doing as well with female voters – specifically, Anglo female voters – as Democrats elsewhere. I’m thinking Wendy Davis and her campaign team might have some insights of value there. As Colin says, this isn’t rocket science. I’ve given Battleground Texas plenty of goals already, but taking back at least one Senate seat this decade needs to be on that list. The targets may not be easy, but they are there. We just have to make sure we take our best shots at them.

What I’ll be looking for tonight

Just a reminder that I’ll be on KPFT tonight starting at 7 PM to talk about the elections. Here’s a preview of the things I’ll be looking for:

1. SD10 – Sen. Wendy Davis vs Mark Shelton: Easily the most important race on the ballot in Texas. Davis has been a progressive champion and a pain in Dan Patrick’s rear end, and will make for a strong statewide candidate when she’s ready. She also ensures that the Dems maintain enough votes in the Senate to invoke the two-thirds rule until whenever Rick Perry calls the special election to succeed the late Sen. Mario Gallegos. I am heartened that Robert Miller thinks Davis is leading, though he subsequently amended that, but I won’t rest easy until I see that lead on the Secretary of State’s election results webpage.

2. Legislative races – While Dems start out with only 48 seats in the Lege, they will automatically pick up three today – HDs 35, 40, and 101 – because there are no Republicans running in them. Beyond that, the over/under line for Dems is 55 seats total. Three in particular to watch: HD23, in which Rep. Craig Eiland is one of the only, if not the only, threatened Democratic incumbents; HD134, in which Ann Johnson’s challenge to freshman Rep. Sarah Davis will be a good test of how well a message attacking the Rs for cutting $5.4 billion from public education will work; and HD136, the open seat in Williamson County, which will be a test of whether 2008 was a fluke or a trend for Democrats in places like that.

3. Adrian Garcia and Mike Anderson – Everyone expects both candidates to win, as both have become poster children for not voting a straight ticket this year. As such, they will both likely represent the high-water mark for each party this year, as Garcia and Ed Emmett were in 2008. I’ll be paying particular attention to how they did in various legislative and other districts once the precinct data is out, because that may provide an early roadmap for future electoral targets.

4. Fort Bend County – Fort Bend came very close to going Democratic in 2008. President Obama received 48.49% of the vote there, and no Republican won the county by as much as 10,000 votes out of 200,000 cast. Is this the year Democrats break through? Also worth keeping an eye on is freshman County Commissioner Richard Morrison in his race against double voter Bruce Fleming.

5. CCA – Hampton vs Keller – I think we’re all familiar with this one by now. Whether Hampton has a chance to win depends largely, though not entirely, on how well Obama does in Texas. The presence of a Libertarian candidate in this race means that Hampton can win with less than 50% of the vote. Most of the statewide judicial races in 2008 had Libertarians in them, and they got about 3% of the vote on average. I suspect the ceiling for that may be higher in this case, as some Republicans may prefer to not vote for Keller but not vote for a Dem, either. I will not be surprised if 48% is enough to win. If Obama can improve on 2008, even a little, it makes it that much easier for Hampton to get over the hump. If not, we may be stuck with Keller for another six years or until she finally has the grace to resign.

6. 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals – Jim Sharp broke through for Democrats in 2008, and there’s a nearly full slate of them running for seats on these courts, whose jurisdictions cover multiple counties, this year. As was the case in 2008, a sufficiently strong showing in Harris County may be enough to make it across the finish line, though if Fort Bend is blue as well, that would be a big help. This is where future Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals candidates can emerge.

7. Bonds, Metro, and SA Pre-K – I expect the Houston bonds to pass. Keep an eye on the charter amendments, since if they pass as well there can be no further charter amendments on the ballot till May of 2015. I think the Metro referendum will pass, but I would not bet my own money on it. The San Antonio Pre-K initiative is expected to be close. Given the recent love affair in the national media and from the national party for Mayor Julian Castro, a loss here will undoubtedly be portrayed as a setback for him.

I think that’s plenty to think about. What races are you watching?

July finance reports, other legislative races of interest

Here’s a roundup of campaign finance reports for other legislative races of interest from around the state.

Dist Candidate Raised Spent Cash Loans =============================================================== SD10 W Davis (D,I) 824,871 405,628 1,097,238 0 SD10 Shelton (R) 53,293 35,916 301,146 0 SD25 Wentworth (R,I) 316,888 299,629 256,123 0 SD25 Campbell (R) 65,791 12,398 115,551 107,597 SD25 Courage (D) 7,975 5,604 2,377 1,250 HD11 Hopson (R,I) 233,589 68,130 310,413 0 HD11 Clardy (R) 13,960 54,528 21,558 65,000 HD12 T Anderson (R) 16,782 16,455 326 0 HD12 Kacal (R) 35,300 33,487 29,633 0 HD12 Stem (D) 15,272 840 22,150 0 HD14 Raney (R) 20,545 33,229 26,461 0 HD14 LeUnes (D) 1,268 242 817 0 HD24 Bonnen (R) 66,600 72,988 38,102 425,000 HD24 Sitton (R) 4,969 46,799 216 149,686 HD24 Cates (D) 6,545 6,441 104 0 HD29 E Thompson (R) 3,725 21,059 27,205 97,941 HD29 Blatt (D) 778 259 768 0 HD34 C Scott (R,I) 205,528 56,629 199,528 0 HD34 Herrera (D) HD40 Canales (D) HD40 Hernandez (D) HD41 Martinez (R) 0 700 0 0 HD41 Guerra (D) 46,992 144,088 8,576 3,501 HD43 Lozano (R,I) HD43 Wilson (R) HD43 Toureilles (D) HD45 Isaac (R,I) 139,015 45,192 30,175 140,250 HD45 J Adams (D) 8,011 13,135 0 36,000 HD47 Workman (R,I) 47,943 67,010 44,386 12,000 HD47 Frandsen (D) 15,664 14,863 2,193 0 HD54 Aycock (R,I) 77,308 19,685 118,005 0 HD54 C Brown (D) 6,830 5,200 1,640 0 HD59 Miller (R) 155,691 185,723 76,197 0 HD59 Sheffield (R) 16,000 28,021 4,117 50,000 HD59 Norris (D) 1,271 5,022 4,110 7,861 HD67 J Cole (R) 31,365 52,053 91,314 113,000 HD67 Leach (R) 68,525 37,539 51,619 0 HD68 McKnight (R) 20,972 64,764 154,316 345,000 HD68 Springer (R) 8,390 5,882 16,991 25,000 HD68 Odom (D) 0 0 0 0 HD74 Kincaid (R) 100 1,897 2,486 9,400 HD74 Nevarez (D) HD78 Margo (R,I) 71,246 97,616 41,714 126,000 HD78 Margo (R,I) 57,595 12 55,584 0 HD78 Moody (D) 26,671 10,091 27,310 0 HD88 Landtroop (R,I) 105,759 59,129 116,127 0 HD88 K King (R) 44,429 51,839 35,720 300,000 HD91 Sapp (R) 45,000 20,369 38,790 15,000 HD91 Klick (R) 41,104 21,022 32,881 27,000 HD95 Collier (D) 39,746 23,542 9,895 242 HD95 Gaines (D) 7,885 7,642 242 0 HD102 Carter (R,I) 124,040 79,024 28,196 0 HD102 Hancock (D) 18,638 12,713 3,400 0 HD105 HarperBrown (R,I) 86,918 138,981 11,872 56,060 HD105 Robbins (D) 50,446 8,199 51,014 20,505 HD107 Sheets (R,I) 94,869 59,881 59,892 489 HD107 Miklos (D) 32,019 8,700 21,238 0 HD114 Keffer (R) 41,655 39,046 0 0 HD114 Villalba (R) 112,399 68,601 48,903 0 HD114 Kent (D) 142,409 55,755 127,156 0 HD115 Nguyen (R) 196,502 113,049 111,164 0 HD115 Ratliff (R) 57,680 82,321 58,251 45,000 HD115 Fabishak (D) 3,590 3,738 1,599 0 HD117 Garza (R,I) 59,630 57,958 88,949 0 HD117 Cortez (D) 18,950 41,567 2,111 0 HD117 Torres (D) 47,988 29,194 28,858 0

My comments:

“Races of interest” are loosely defined as “runoffs, open seats, takeover possibilities, and anything else I felt like including”.

As before, remember that candidates who had been in a contested primary last filed a report in May, while those who were uncontested last filed in January. This is why there is sometimes a large discrepancy between the amount raised, such as in the SD10 showdown between Sen. Wendy Davis and Rep. Mark Shelton. However, as a press release and comparison sheet released by the Davis campaign noted, if you total up all of Shelton’s reports since January, Davis still outraised him by a three to one margin. Given that she’s easily the highest value target for Republicans this cycle, that’s mighty impressive.

The sheer amount of loan money surprised me. I know there have always been self-funding candidates. I can’t even say that this is a disproportionate share of them in this collection. I was just taken aback a bit by the size of it all.

If I understand this correctly, the “total amount of outstanding loans” figure is cumulative, meaning that unlike the amount raised it represent money that may have been provided well before this reporting period. That can make some of the other figures look a bit weird, but remember that we’re just out of a competitive primary for many people. For instance, Greg Bonnen’s eight day report from May shows him spending $283K in that short period, which helps explain how you can have $425K in loans but less than $40K on hand.

Dee Margo has both a COH report and a SPAC report, which is why he is listed twice. The latter was apparently created this year, as the July report is its first. Where most Texas Republicans have a “Friends Of” SPAC, Margo’s is called “Amigos of Dee Margo”. Pardon me while I gag.

As of this publication, some reports are listed as “Filed but not viewable”; this is because if one person in a competitive race has not submitted a report, the other candidates’ reports are not published. In addition, for some odd reason Abel Herrera does not appear to be in the reporting database. I’m sure this will be corrected sometime soon.

As much money as there is in these races, I feel like there’s still a lot more to come. The 30 day reports will tell us a lot.

That’s what I’ve got for now. Still working on those county race reports. What do you think about this?

More pushback from the medical community on Medicaid

Doctors and medical associations had a big effect on public opinion during the fight over the Affordable Care Act. We’ll see whether that is true during the fight over Medicaid.

“Unless our state leaders can come up with a financing plan to replace the current Medicaid structure that’s even better than what we have now, I think it will ultimately end up backfiring and costing more in the long run,” said Dr. Susan Bailey, a Fort Worth allergist and president of the Texas Medical Association.

Republican Rep. Mark Shelton, a Fort Worth pediatrician, said: “I think opting out of Medicaid without a viable alternative is not a good idea. We need to make sure … the vulnerable people in our society — the poor, children and the elderly — are taken care of.”

Shelton is certainly a conservative, so seeing him take this position is notable. I don’t know how much influence he has as a legislator, but as a doctor he might get some of his colleagues to pay attention.

The state’s nearly 500 hospitals have a big stake in the issue, with Medicaid covering more than half the births in Texas. Additionally, federal law requires hospitals to provide emergency room treatment to anyone who needs it, including the indigent. More than $7 billion in Medicaid payments went to hospitals last year, including $4.5 billion in federal money.

Medicaid covers children, people with disabilities, pregnant women and the elderly. Nearly two-thirds of the state’s 90,000 nursing home residents depend on Medicaid, said Tim Graves, president and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association.

“We certainly understand the need to look at options because the state budget is in such bad shape, but I don’t understand how getting out of Medicaid would help,” Graves said.

The loss of billions of federal Medicaid dollars could have a “devastating effect” on Texas healthcare, he said.

Did you hear all that, Warren Chisum? Do children, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and the elderly meet your standard of who is worthy of receiving health care? Or will you find some reason to blame them for their lack of resources?

Perhaps we should learn from what other states have already figured out.

A Wyoming Department of Health study, released in September, on the impact of a Medicaid opt-out said: “While some that lose Medicaid coverage under an opt-out scenario may find coverage as a result of health care reform, it is clear that coverage may not be affordable nor provide the services needed by many. There would also likely remain a significant number of individuals who would not be able to obtain coverage under the current health reform bills.”

The study also said: “The strain that will ensue should Wyoming determine to opt-out of participating in Medicaid without a solid plan to replace it is truly immeasurable. Further, Wyoming residents will be paying Federal taxes for services that residents of this state will never benefit from.”

Texas Health and Human Services is conducting a similar review. Findings are expected in December.

Remember, one of the cornerstones of the Affordable Care Act was making more people eligible for Medicaid. The only way that giving them a subsidy to buy insurance from a private for-profit enterprise makes sense as an alternative to that is if the subsidies are only sufficient to purchase crappy, bare-bones plans. Everything is less expensive if you don’t care about quality or adequacy. If Republicans believe that letting more people, in particular more children, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and the elderly, get sick and die as a means to balancing the budget is an acceptable outcome, then by all means they can go ahead and figure out the best way to make that happen. It’s up to all of us Democrats to make it clear that this is what they’re doing.