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Ramey Ko

More legislative primaries

Freshman State Rep. Tara Rios Ybarra, who knocked off veteran Rep. Juan Escobar in the 2008 Democratic primary, will have a primary opponent of her own.

Kingsville businessman J.M. Lozano, aged 29, announced via a video on Facebook and You Tube that he has a “passion and burning desire in my heart to bring South Texas what it deserves.”

Click here to view the You Tube commentary.

Lozano is the owner of a restaurant franchise. He has a Bachelors degree in Government from the University of Texas at Austin and a Masters degree in Administration from the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio. He has previously served in Congressman Rubén Hinojosa’s office in the Rio Grande Valley.

“I am proud to have been born and raised in rural South Texas. South Texas gave me a good education, strong family values, honesty, and integrity. It showed me to cherish the simple things in life and to remain grounded in reality. South Texas gave me my voice but my voice will always belong to South Texas,” Lozano said, in his commentary on You Tube.

Rios Ybarra, D-South Padre Island, won election in 2008, defeating incumbent Rep. Juan Escobar of Kingsville in the Democratic primary and token opposition in the general election. Lozano is expected to receive the endorsement of Escobar.

[…]

In his interview with the Guardian, Lozano said he is a “moderate” and “fiscally conservative” Democrat. However, he said that as someone who was born and raised in rural South Texas, he knows the region needs investment because it can no longer rely just on oil and gas. “You need to know your community and its needs, whether it has a population of 5,000 or 500 and I do,” Lozano said.

Asked if he was concerned that the Austin lobby money would likely flow to the incumbent, Lozano said, no. “Her money is largely from Republicans and she is beholden to Republicans. For her to hijack a party label and to tell people she is a Democrat, that is misleading,” Lozano said.

I supported Escobar and opposed Ybarra in 2008 because it was widely presumed that Ybarra had the backing of Tom Craddick. As things happened, that wound up being a moot point. I don’t know enough about how Ybarra did in her first session, or about Lozano, to have an opinion at this point, though I’m glad that any Speaker-related issues will have to do with whether or not the Dems get a majority, and not with the disposition of Tom Craddick. Link via BOR.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Betty Brown will have her hands full as well. Vince quotes from Capitol Inside and Quorum Report with various names, and notes that the Asian Political Leadership Fund is considering going all in to defeat Brown; they have a TV commercial ready to air already. They haven’t decided whether to aim for the primary or the general yet; the primary is likely the better bet as Brown’s HD4 is pretty solidly red, but perhaps a strong Democrat can mount a serious challenge if he or she has enough resources.

UPDATE: Burka has more on Lozano and Rios Ybarra.

Dems versus Vasquez

Looks like we’re not ready to make nice with the Harris County Tax Assessor’s office over their handling of voter registration last year.

Any honeymoon between Democrats and the new Harris County voter registrar ended suddenly today.

Democratic state Reps. Garnet Coleman and Ana Hernandez of Houston said Leo Vasquez, who is tax assessor-collector and voter registration chief, is responsible for staffers who allegedly misled state legislators considering whether to require voters to offer more proof of identification before casting ballots.

“It is up to (Vasquez) to clean up his office,” Coleman and Hernandez said in a news media handout. “Otherwise, Leo needs to go.”

[…]

Vasquez, saying he is running the registration agency without regard to politics and will not join the GOP frontlines, since has expanded voter registration efforts and hired a Democrat to help with community outreach.

He said today that testimony in Austin last week on the “voter ID” bill by voter registration staffers George Hammerlein and Ed Johnson was no partisan move. The pair, called to testify by Republican lawmakers, took no position on the bill and provided facts as requested, Vasquez said.

Coleman and Hernandez never have taken their concerns to him, Vasquez said, and they owe his staffers an apology for making baseless allegations.

The Democrats today zeroed in on Hammerlein’s legislative testimony, several hours into hearing that ran past midnight, that thousands of Harris County residents who registered to vote on time were not eligible to participate in early voting two weeks later because they applied relatively late.

Hammerlein acknowledged today that his statement was wrong and said it was due to the strange hour rather than any attempt to mislead the Legislature.

I’ve reprinted the press release beneath the fold, and a copy of the doc that spelled out the allegations against Hammerlein and Johnson is here. I’ve been hearing some grumbling about the way things have been run at the Tax Assessor’s office, in particular complaints about being told that deputy registrars could not deliver new registration forms to annex offices. That turned out to be a case of miscommunication between the head office and the annexes. Perhaps that’s to be expected with a change in command, but it wasn’t a good first impression and it didn’t help alleviate any of the lingering mistrust left over from the Bettencourt days. It’s not surprising, given the stakes in the voter ID fight, that Vasquez isn’t being cut any slack. Stace has more.

Meanwhile, immigration attorney and former Houston City Council member Gordon Quan has an op-ed about voter ID and the Betty Brown incident.

While some will argue that this increases the integrity of the ballot, in reality, voter ID requirements have been overwhelmingly shown to disproportionately disenfranchise older Americans, individuals with disabilities, low income and homeless people, students, married women, minorities and most poignantly, those who, for cultural reasons, may have differing names on differing identification documents. According to the nation’s largest exit poll of Asian Americans, nearly 70 percent of Asian voters were asked for ID at the polls — in states where no ID was required!

Voter ID requirements put an inordinate amount of discretion in the hands of already overworked poll workers. Our state and county election offices already find themselves constantly struggling to find the resources to adequately train poll workers and to recruit diverse poll workers who are versed in every possible cultural circumstance that they may encounter. This legislation would take precious funds away from those programs as well as from real priorities such as transportation and education. As evidenced by this episode with Brown and the Elections Committee, even individuals as well versed in the law as they are were unable to understand the complexities associated with Asian names as they relate to voting. Just imagine the difficulty a poll worker would have and how they could easily not allow an eligible voter even with a valid voter registration card to vote.

If you want to discuss this issue in more detail, there will be a conference call Thursday night with Ramey Ko, US Rep. Mike Honda, State Rep. Hubert Vo, Mini Timmaraju of the Asian American Democrats of Texas, and others. The AAA Fund blog has the details. You can submit a question for Ramey Ko ahead of time, but you must RSVP to join the call, so click over for the info if you’re interested.

UPDATE: Vince has more on Hammerlein’s testimony.

The Onion takes on Betty Brown

I suppose this was inevitable, given how low the fruit was hanging. But now that we’ve had all this fun at Rep. Betty Brown’s expense, I’ve got to agree with David Mauro in that this has largely served to reinforce negative stereotypes of Texas and Texans around the world. So for being this session’s Al Edwards, may I just say to Betty Brown: “Thanks a hell of a lot”.

More Ramey Ko

KXAN’s Jenny Hoff has a really good interview with Ramey Ko about last week’s Betty Brown incident. She gets into some depth about why Rep. Brown’s dumb remarks are problematic and how it all relates to voter ID, and includes a clip from “Saturday Night Live” that makes fun of Rep. Brown as well. Check it out.

Ramey Ko speaks

The Asian American Action Fund blog talks to Ramey Ko about the Betty Brown incident, and also about her apology, which wasn’t particularly well received by the Asian American community. There’s a lot more coverage of this story, which has gone global, at the AAA Fund. Check it out.

What’s in a name, Betty Brown style

You know, I was just thinking the other day that what this legislative session was lacking was a dose of absurdity. Thank God for people like State Rep. Betty Brown.

A North Texas legislator during House testimony on voter identification legislation said Asian-descent voters should adopt names that are “easier for Americans to deal with.”

The comments caused the Texas Democratic Party on Wednesday to demand an apology from state Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell. But a spokesman for Brown said her comments were only an attempt to overcome problems with identifying Asian names for voting purposes.

The exchange occurred late Tuesday as the House Elections Committee heard testimony from Ramey Ko, a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

Ko told the committee that people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent often have problems voting and other forms of identification because they may have a legal transliterated name and then a common English name that is used on their driver’s license on school registrations.

Brown suggested that Asian-Americans should find a way to make their names more accessible.

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

Brown later told Ko: “Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”

Just so we’re all clear here, Rep. Brown is one of the voter ID pushers, who has already tried to attach a voter ID bill as an amendment to an unrelated bill. There’s no particular reason I can see to give her much benefit of the doubt. BOR has video of the exchange as well as the substantive response to this. Miya, whose name I’ve always found pretty easy to deal with, says “Imagine telling a Polish American that his name needs a few extra vowels, just to make it easier to pronounce”. Speaking as someone whose mother’s name was Abbruzza, which is a shortened from Abbruzzese, I can relate to that.

Having dealt with the serious, let me now join in with the mockery, of which there has been plenty. (If you click on only one of those links, make it the last one so you can see what your official Betty Brown American Name is. Mine is Roy “Cracker Barrel” Brown.) See, the problem with Betty’s suggestion is that it didn’t go far enough. Why stop at just Asian names? There’s plenty of so-called American names that are too hard for people to deal with and thus get screwed up all the time. I want to see someone introduce a bill that will enforce a little standardization on names. Like “Katherine” for example – is it spelled with a C or a K? And is that second vowel supposed to be an A or an E? How do you expect poll workers to verify people’s identity if we don’t even know how to spell a common name like that? And that’s just the beginning – don’t get me started on “Kristin/Kristen”, “Stuart/Stewart”, “Mark/Marc”, “Sara/Sarah” – the list goes on and on. Only you can save us, Betty! Assuming that’s “Betty” with a Y and not “Bettie” with an IE, or – God help me – “Bettye” with a YE. You can’t be too sure these days.

UPDATE: Here’s a nice link roundup from the Asian American Action Fund blog.

UPDATE: Still more from Martha, Stace, and Letters from Texas.

UPDATE: Rep. Brown apologizes.