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Ron Paul

The other “faithless elector” speaks up

Meet Bill Greene, political science professor at South Texas College, and the other Texas member of the Electoral College who did not cast a vote for Dear Leader Trump.

Greene, who has kept a low profile since the vote, explained his decision Monday, telling The Texas Tribune he had wanted to “bring the process back into the classroom” and affirm the founders’ view that the Electoral College should not necessarily be a rubber stamp for the popular vote.

“I take very seriously the oath of office that we had to take and what the framers of the Constitution, what the founders, wanted electors to do … to basically come up with their idea for who would be the best person in the entire United States to be the president,” Greene said in a phone interview. “I take the job very seriously, and I did. I felt Ron Paul was the best person in the United States to be president, and that’s who I voted for.”


Unlike Suprun — who became a well-known Trump critic weeks before the vote — Greene said he “had no desire for publicity or anything like that in advance.” He immediately went on vacation for a week after the vote then fell ill when he came home. He said Monday he was just catching up on emails and calls — which electors were deluged with in the lead-up to the vote, many begging them to vote against Trump. (For the record, Greene said he was “not swayed by the 80-100,000 emails I received.”)

Greene said the “vast majority” of feedback he has gotten since the vote has been positive. Top Texas Republicans, however, have taken a different view, using the defections by Suprun and Greene to push for legislation that would require electors to vote in accordance with statewide popular vote. That’s currently the rule in 29 other states.

Greene made clear he is not a fan of so-called “elector-binding” laws.

“God forbid they actually do what the Constitution bounds them to do,” Greene sarcastically said of electors. The elector-binding bills, he added, are “completely unconstitutional legislation, and my hope is that it does go into the courts.”

See here for the full saga, and here for the first time we heard Bill Greene’s name. Greene has a long history with Ron Paul, whom he supported in past Presidential campaigns. You just knew that there would be a Ron Paul connection, right? It would have been an upset if there hadn’t been at least one elector going full on for Ron. Beyond that, I agree with him about the unconstitutionality of forcing electors to cast their votes for a specific candidate. Whatever you think about the Electoral College, the intent of the framers is pretty clear, and in the absence of an amendment I don’t see how you get around that. I don’t have any particular point to make, I just wanted to note this for the record. What do you think are the odds that the state GOP does a more thorough job of vetting their electors for the 2020 campaign?

Precinct analysis: Brazoria County

I had some time to spare, so I spent it with the canvass reports from Brazoria County. You know, like you do. Here’s what I was able to learn.

        Trump   Clinton   R Avg   D Avg   Weber    Cole
Votes  36,572    15,127  37,036  14,996  37,917  14,678
Pct    68.58%    28.23%  71.18%  28.82%  72.09%  27.91%

        Trump   Clinton   R Avg   D Avg   Olson  Gibson
Votes  36,219    28,073  39,026  26,713  40,179  26,178
Pct    54.08%    41.92%  59.37%  40.63%  60.55%  39.45%

        Trump   Clinton   R Avg   D Avg   Thomp   Floyd
Votes  40,666    30,564  43,599  29,181  44,713  28,505
Pct    54.83%    41.21%  59.95%  40.05%  61.07%  38.93%

Votes  32,125    12,636  32,462  12,528
Pct    69.23%    27.23%  72.15%  27.85%

Brazoria County is part of two Congressional districts, CDs 14 and 22, and two State Rep districts, HDs 25 and 29. The latter two are entirely within Brazoria, so the numbers you see for them are for the whole districts, while the CDs include parts of other counties as well. The first table splits Brazoria by its two CDs, while the second table is for the two HDs. Incumbent Republican Randy Weber was challenged by Democrat Michael Cole in CD14, while Republican Pete Olsen was unopposed in CD22. The second group of numbers in the first table are the relevant ones for CD22; I didn’t include Olsen because there was no point (*). There were no contested District or County Court races, so the “R Avg” and “D Avg” above are for the four contested district Appeals Court races; these are the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals, which as you know includes Harris County.

The second table is for the State Rep districts. In HD29, incumbent Republican Ed Thompson faced Democrat John Floyd, while Republican Dennis Bonnen was unchallenged in HD25. You can sort of tell from the tables and I can confirm from the raw data that HD29 mostly overlapped CD22, and HD25 mostly overlapped CD14. As I have done before, the percentages for the Presidential races are calculated including the vote totals for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, which is why they don’t add to 100%. The other contested races all had only two candidates.

Still with me? If so, you can see that HD29 was much more interesting than HD25, and was where basically all of the crossover Presidential votes were. Trump lagged the Republican baseline in HD25, but those voters mostly either skipped the race or voted third party. Viewed through the Presidential race, HD29 looks like a potentially competitive district, but if you pull the lens back a bit you can see that it is less so outside that, and that Thompson exceeded the Republican baseline on top of that. It would be nice to point to this district as a clear opportunity, but we’re not quite there. There is another dimension to consider here, however, and that is a comparison with the 2012 results:

       Romney     Obama    Cruz  Sadler   R Avg   D Avg   Weber Lampson
Votes  35,571    13,940  34,618  13,865  33,931  14,444  33,116  14,398
Pct    70.82%    27.75%  69.34%  27.77%  70.14%  29.86%  69.70%  30.30%

       Romney     Obama    Cruz  Sadler   R Avg   D Avg   Olsen  Rogers
Votes  35,291    20,481  34,879  19,879  34,466  20,164  35,997  17,842
Pct    62.49%    36.27%  62.14%  35.42%  63.09%  36.91%  66.86%  33.14%

       Romney     Obama    Cruz  Sadler   R Avg   D Avg   Thomp   Blatt
Votes  40,170    22,480  39,657  21,866  39,203  22,204  40,642  21,388
Pct    63.32%    35.44%  62.86%  34.66%  63.84%  36.16%  65.52%  34.48%

Votes  30,692    11,941  29,840  11,878  29,194  12,404
Pct    70.95%    27.60%  69.45%  27.64%  70.18%  29.82%

In 2012, Randy Weber was running to succeed Ron Paul in the redrawn CD14, which had a nontrivial amount of resemblance to the old CD02 of the 90s, which is how former Congressman Nick Lampson came to be running there. He ran ahead of the pack, but the district was too red for him to overcome. Pete Olsen was challenged by LaRouchie wacko Keisha Rogers, Ed Thompson faced Doug Blatt, and Dennis Bonnen was again unopposed. I threw in the numbers from the Ted Cruz-Paul Sadler Senate race in these tables for the heck of it.

The main thing to note here is that HD29 was a lot more Republican in 2012 than it was in 2016. Ed Thompson went from winning by 31 points in 2012 to winning by 22 in 2016, with the judicial average going from nearly a 28 point advantage for Republicans to just under a 20 point advantage. Total turnout in the district was up by about 11,000 votes, with 7K going to the Dems and 4K going to the Republicans. That still leaves a wide gap – 14K in the judicial races, 16K for Ed Thompson – but it’s progress, and it happened as far as I know without any big organized effort.

And that’s the thing. If Democrats are ever going to really close the gap in Texas, they’re going to have to do it by making places like HD29, and HD26 in Fort Bend and the districts we’ve talked about in Harris County and other districts in the suburbs, more competitive. If you look at the map Greg Wythe kindly provided, you can see that some of the blue in Brazoria is adjacent to blue precincts in Fort Bend and Harris Counties, but not all of it. Some of it is in Pearland, but some of it is out along the border with Fort Bend. I’m not an expert on the geography here so I can’t really say why some of these precincts are blue or why they flipped from red to blue in the four years since 2012, but I can say that they represent an opportunity and a starting point. This is what we need to figure out and build on.

(Since I initially drafted this, Greg provided me two more maps, with a closer view to the blue areas, to get a better feel for what’s in and around them. Here’s the North Brazoria map and the South Brazoria map. Thanks, Greg!)

(*) – As noted in the comments, I missed that Pete Olsen did have an opponent in 2016, Mark Gibson. I have added the numbers for that race. My apologies for the oversight.)

Two “faithless electors”

In the end, Donald Trump got thirty-six of Texas’ 38 electoral votes.

All but two of Texas’ 38 electors voted Monday to officially put Donald Trump in the White House, with one elector casting a ballot for Ohio Gov. John Kasich and another casting a ballot for a fellow Texan, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

The votes from Texas were the ones that clinched the presidency of the United States for Trump, pushing the real estate mogul past the 270-vote threshold, according to Politico.

Elector Chris Suprun of Dallas had previously announced he would not support Trump. Another elector, Art Sisneros of Dayton, resigned as an elector, also in protest of Trump.

As electors voted, protesters’ chants picked up outside and could be heard from in the House chamber. They appeared to be saying specific electors’ names, followed by, “Save our democracy!”

The vote was unusually closely watched but largely expected: Both Suprun and Sisneros had shared their plans weeks in advance of the meeting. Suprun, however, did not announce until hours before the vote that he would instead vote for Kasich.

It was not immediately known who voted for Paul, the longtime congressman from Lake Jackson and three-time presidential hopeful. The process is secret ballot, meaning electors’ votes are not public unless they choose to disclose them.

According to the Statesman, the other maverick was a fellow named Bill Greene. As far as I know, he has not said why he did what he did. Art Sisneros was replaced as expected, as were three others who were apparently ineligible to serve.

I didn’t expect anything more exciting to happen, mostly because there was no one else out there joining Chris Suprun in his little exercise of conscience. I admit I harbored a teeny bit of hope that the Electoral College would Do Something about this, but I never really expected that. While I believe that the original intent of the founders was precisely for the Electoral College to prevent a man like Donald Trump from winning this election and that any legislative attempts to coerce them into voting a particular way are thus inherently unconstitutional, I agree that referring to such an intervention as being in any way “democratic” was misguided. The Electoral College is what it is, and we either accept that or we amend the Constitution to get rid of it. The extreme divergence between the popular vote and the electoral vote in this race is as strong an argument as one could want to make a change, but don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

Neugebauer to step down in CD19

At least one Congressional seat will have a new person sitting in it next year.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer

U.S. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock, announced Thursday that he would not seek re-election in 2016.

Neugebauer, who has represented his West Texas district in Congress since 2003, plans to finish his current term.

“To say that this has been an honor would be an understatement,” Neugebauer said in a statement. “Representing the citizens of the Big Country and West Texas has been one of the most rewarding times in my life.”


Buzz had been mounting in recent months that Neugebauer was planning to retire. Texas’ Congressional District 19 is expected to stay in Republican hands, and the primary will all but determine who will follow Neugebauer in Congress.

Immediate speculation for possible successors centered on state Sen. Charles Perry and state Rep. Dustin Burrows — both Lubbock Republicans — as well as Lubbock attorney Allen Adkins. Other names include Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson; Tom Sell, the managing partner of Combest, Sell and Associates; and former Texas Tech Vice Chancellor Jodey Arrington.

Perry does not plan to run for the seat, according to Jordan Berry, his political consultant.

Asked about his interest in the seat, Burrows issued a statement that did not rule out a run.

“Today is Congressman Neugebauer’s day to enjoy the knowledge that he’ll no longer need to commute to Washington, D.C., and to revel in a career protecting West Texas from an overreaching federal government,” Burrows said. “On behalf of West Texans and the Burrows family, we thank him for his service to our nation.”


Tea Party groups have struggled to oust federal incumbents in Texas, and organizations like the Madison Project say they see an opportunity in open-seat races like this one now is, setting up a potential clash between the Tea Party and an establishment candidate.

“I think the Washington establishment is always going to get want who they think they can get, and the local establishment is going to want who they want, and it will not always gel with the Washington establishment,” Berry said.

“The conservative base may want something completely different,” he added. “This could go several different ways.”

This primary will also take place on March 1, when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a conservative favorite, is poised to be on the ballot in the presidential race. Neugebauer’s son Toby has emerged as one of the top donors to Cruz’s presidential effort, giving $10 million to a super PAC supporting the senator. Toby Neugebauer, co-founder of the Houston private-equity firm Quantum Energy Partners, was recently replaced by evangelical leader David Barton as the head of a cluster of pro-Cruz groups.

Yeah, I think we see how this is likely to go. Neugebauer wasn’t exactly the brightest light out there, but it seems fair to say that our Congressional delegation is about to get dimmer. And louder.

This may have the effect of creating another vacancy in the House – it would appear unlikely to create on in the Senate as well, as Sen. Perry would have to give up his seat to try for CD19, and it looks like he’s not interested in that – but the vacancy it’s creating in Congress is a relative rarity in Texas. Here’s a list of the members of Congress as of January, 2005, and the same list as of January, 2015:

Dist 2005 2015 ============================ 01 Gohmert Gohmert 02 Poe Poe 03 Johnson Johnson 04 Hall Ratcliffe 05 Hensarling Hensarling 06 Barton Barton 07 Culberson Culberson 08 Brady Brady 09 Green Green 10 McCall McCall 11 Conaway Conaway 12 Granger Granger 13 Thornberry Thornberry 14 Paul Weber 15 Hinojosa Hinojosa 16 Reyes O'Rourke 17 Edwards Flores 18 Jackson Lee Jackson Lee 19 Neugebauer Neugebauer 20 Gonzalez Castro 21 Smith Smith 22 DeLay Olson 23 Bonilla Hurd 24 Marchant Marchant 25 Doggett Williams 26 Burgess Burgess 27 Ortiz Farenthold 28 Cuellar Cuellar 29 Green Green 30 Johnson Johnson 31 Carter Carter 32 Sessions Sessions

Of the 32 seats that existed in 2005, 23 have the same incumbent now, with one of those incumbents from 2005 (Rep. Lloyd Doggett) moving to a different district thanks to redistricting. Of the eight who are no longer in Congress, only Ron Paul, who stepped down in 2012 to run for President, and Charlie Gonzalez, who retired in 2012, left on their own terms. Tom DeLay resigned in 2006 under the cloud of indictment. Ralph Hall (2014) and Silvestre Reyes (2012) lost in primaries, while Henry Bonilla (2006), Chet Edwards (2010), and Solomon Ortiz (2010) lost in general elections. We’ve seen a lot of turnover in recent years in the State House, but the US House in Texas is a different story. Trail Blazers and Juanita have more.

Courting the Ron Paul voters

Good luck with that.

Libertarian presidential candidate and would-be spoiler Gary Johnson smoked out new campaign cash here this week.

But his hopes are just a pipe dream unless he wins over Republican voters loyal to never-say-quit candidate Ron Paul.

“Hundreds” of Republicans have promised Johnson they will switch his way if the Republican National Convention nominates Mitt Romney on Aug. 30, Johnson said Thursday.

“That’s hundreds telling me personally, which means how many more?” Johnson said during a six-day Texas campaign swing.

He predicted a “gigantic influx” of support after Romney is nominated.


Yet even before any Paul voters switch, his current 8 to 13 percent of the vote in Western states might be enough to tip pivotal Electoral College votes for or against Romney or President Barack Obama.

If Johnson takes away a swing state Romney badly needs — “then let me be the spoiler,” Johnson said.

This story is actually from two weeks ago. I’d forgotten that I’d drafted something, then had my memory jogged after the Ron Paulrelated kerfuffles this week. To put some context on Johnson’s numbers, there were 174,207 votes cast for Ron Paul in this year’s GOP Presidential primary. That would have represented 2.15% of the 8 million plus votes cast in 2008. That’s not very much, and that’s assuming every known Ron Paul supporter in May did in fact vote for Johnson in November. But even that paltry total towers over the past performances of Libertarian Presidential candidates in Texas:

Year Libertarians Pct =============================== 1992 Marrou/Lord 0.32% 1996 Browne/Jorgenson 0.36% 2000 Browne/Olivier 0.36% 2004 Badnarik/Campagna 0.52% 2008 Barr/Root 0.69%

The Secretary of State data don’t go back any farther than that, but thanks to Dave Liep’s Election Atlas, I can bring you the other two results:

Year Libertarians Pct =============================== 1980 Clark/Koch 0.83% 1988 Paul/Marrou 0.56%

I suppose you can look at Bob Barr’s 2008 performance as having doubled the Libertarian total in only eight years, or as finally getting back towards the high-water mark of 1980. Either way, I’ll bet the under on that 2.15% mark.

A small overview of a large field

The Chron has a partial overview of the cattle call in CD14.

[State Rep. Randy] Weber, 58, is one of nine Republicans vying for the party’s nomination in Paul’s congressional district, which includes Lake Jackson, where the 76-year-old Paul delivered hundreds of babies as an obstetrician, sends out holiday cookbooks with his wife Carol, and goes jogging or biking along Oyster Creek Drive.

In 2008, when Paul ran unsuccessfully for president, he also simultaneously ran for and was easily re-elected to Congress. This year, he only made a failed bid for the White House — and hasn’t endorsed anyone in a crowded GOP field to take his House seat. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the party’s vote during Texas’ May 29 primary, a runoff will be held July 31.

“It’s sort of like being the coach after Bear Bryant,” said Jay Old, a 49-year-old Beaumont defense attorney and another Republican contender, referring to the University of Alabama legend.

While there’s no reliable polling, the top Republican choices are thought to be Weber, Old, former Texas State University System regent Michael Truncale and Felicia Harris, a city council member from Pearland.

Jeff Crosby is a Democratic consultant in Austin who grew up in Paul’s district and worked for challengers who previously tried to unseat him. He said locals like hardboiled politicians: “a lot of people down there, they’re grumpy. There’s no other way to put it.”


Paul represented the district for 24 years but not consecutively. He retired from Congress in 1984 and ran for president as a Libertarian four years later, before winning the Republican nomination to return to the House in 1997. Also, redistricting means the new district stretches along the Gulf Coast to encompass cities like Beaumont while skirting the suburbs south of Houston.

That could be good news for the likely Democratic nominee in the general election in November, former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson. He served four terms in the House but was defeated in 2004. Lampson says about 80 percent of the geographic area in the district Paul is leaving behind now overlaps with his old district.

I say “partial overview” because the two quoted Republicans and the implicitly quoted Lampson are the only candidates mentioned more than in passing in the story. I don’t know if the Chron had trouble reaching some of these campaigns or if they just decided there were too many candidates to bother, but it’s still weird. I mean, if Truncale and Harris are two of the top contenders, don’t you owe it to the reader to say something about them? I don’t get it. I imagine the Weber and Old campaigns are a lot happier with this story than the others are.

Ours aren’t the only primaries being delayed

Americans Elect has postponed theirs, but in their case litigation had nothing to do with it.

The deadline for candidate ‘support clicks’ at Americans Elect Corporation was midnight last night (May 1), according to both its official Pre-Election Convention Rules and their online summary. That deadline came, and went, ten hours ago as we write. But as yet there is not hardly a peep from Americans Elect noting this significant (and, we guess, embarrassing) event in its short but troubled life.

  • Not a press release…
  • Not a notice on the web site’s ‘Candidates’ section that further votes won’t count toward candidate qualification for the next round of voting (although we note that new votes are still being recorded)
  • Not an email to delegates
  • No posted Board decisions regarding the impact of the failed vote on the upcoming Primaries
  • No response to repeated voicemail messages from us to AECorp’s press secretary, Ileana Wachtel, requesting AECorp’s comment [EDIT]: See 11 AM update at the end of this article
  • Nothing. Zip. (…crickets…)

Over the past few days our Kremlin-watchers here at AE Transparency have been considering and raucously debating the likelihood of various scenarios regarding how AECorp would be likely to finesse an explanation…and a disaster recovery response…for its failed first-round voting effort, but we must confess that we never even dreamed of this, the corporation’s actual response: pretending the whole thing just didn’t happen.

Not since the final episode of The Sopranos have Americans been so let down by a dramatic denouement.

Click over to see the various updates to that post, and go here to see how far off they were from meeting their goals. Of the four declared AE candidates, leader Buddy Roemer had a bit more than 20% of the required vote needed to make it to the second round; the other three declared candidates were all around five percent. Ron Paul, who isn’t an AE candidate and likely won’t be regardless, was the leader overall with more than double Roemer’s vote share, but that was still less than half the needed total. Given that, it’s hard to say how much good the postponement will do them, but clearly they had no choice. All this makes me wonder how their efforts to get on the Texas ballot in November are going. As a reminder, they need 49,799 valid signatures of registered voters, and their petitions are due later this month. Anybody have any information about this? If you’ve seen a petition for this, let us know. Kos has more, and thanks to Jason Stanford for the catch.

PPP’s April poll of Texas

Here’s Public Policy Polling’s latest snapshot of Texas heading into May and the primaries.

If Newt Gingrich was going to win a big victory anywhere between now and the Republican convention Texas would be a logical candidate…but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Mitt Romney leads the state with 45% to 35% for Newt Gingrich and 14% for Ron Paul.

Texas really shows the extent to which GOP voters have unified around Romney over the last few weeks. When we polled the state in January Republicans were evenly divided in their feelings about him with 44% rating him favorably and 44% giving him poor marks. Now his favorability is a +43 spread at 66/23. That’s very much indicative of people jumping on board the train.


Texas looks like it will remain Republican in the general election, although it might be closer than it was in 2008. Romney leads Obama by 7 points at 50-43. John McCain took the state by 13 points in 2008. Obama leads Romney 56-34 with Hispanics and 57-35 with young voters. This is not likely to be the year Texas goes Democratic, but the trends with those groups make it seem possible it will happen some day.

One thing that would make Obama more competitive in Texas is the- very, very off chance- that Rick Perry was on the ticket. In that case Romney’s advantage over Obama would be reduced from 50-43 to 50-45. Perry’s Presidential bid clearly did a lot of damage to his reputation. His approval rating has sunk into the 30s at 39%, with 53% of voters disapproving of him. With independents he’s even worse off at 30/62. We’ll have more on how Texans feel about Perry’s political future later in the week but it’s clear the hurt to his image from his failed campaign hasn’t dissipated yet.

I’m sure I’ll have something to say about those results as well. You can see PPP’s full data here. If you scroll down to page 9, which is where the general election matchup stuff starts, you will see that Perry’s approval rating in Texas is slightly worse than Obama’s; the President’s numbers are 42% approve and 52% disapprove. Oh, the humanity!

PPP’s April numbers are nearly identical to their January numbers, in which Romney and flavor-of-the-month Rick Santorum both led Obama by a 49-42 margin. It’s consistent with all other polling we’ve seen so far, with the exception of that UT/Trib poll from the time of Santorum’s surge, and that’s only if you apply their strange “likely voter” filter. I figure we’ll get another set of their numbers soon, perhaps before the May 29 election date, so we’ll see how they compare. While I’m sure PPP did not include Santorum as an option for poll responders since he’s suspended his campaign, he will be on the ballot. I think the effect of not mentioning him likely overstates Gingrich’s support, but it would not surprise me if Romney’s numbers dipped a bit as well. Interesting that even with the consolidation of support Romney still can’t get to 50, isn’t it? As they say, the only poll that matters is May 29.

The Congressional Geezer Caucus

The DMN notices that a sizable portion of Texas’ Congressional delegation is, um, old.

Of the most populous states, Texas has the oldest congressional delegation, averaging nearly 63 years old, while the average for Congress as a whole is about 58.

North Texas accounts for a big slice of that, paced by Hall, a Republican who is the House’s oldest member; Rep. Sam Johnson, 81, R-Plano ; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, 76, D-Dallas; Rep. Kay Granger, 69, R-Fort Worth; and GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, 68, of Dallas.

It’s a record of longevity, solidified by one-sided districts, smart hometown politics and relatively satisfied voters who don’t often kick out incumbents.

That the state sends an older group to Congress is especially striking because Texas has the nation’s second-youngest population, with a median age of 33.6.


Moving forward, it doesn’t seem likely that the Texas delegation will get much younger any time soon.

Most of the older representatives are in safe seats. And several of the more prominent members — including Sen. John Cornyn, and Dallas Reps. Jeb Hensarling and Pete Sessions — are only in their mid-50s to early 60s — prime years by congressional standards.

Still, the 2012 races may knock Texas off the top of the gray-hair rankings, because it is gaining four new House seats, giving the state 36.

And three of its oldest members — Paul, Hutchison and Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, 66, of San Antonio — are not seeking re-election, although the front-runner for Hutchison’s seat, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, would be 67 if he wins.

Being in a safe seat makes partisan turnover unlikely, but it does nothing to protect an incumbent from a primary challenge. Take a look at the list of Teaxs’ oldest Congressional members, included at the end of the story:

AT A GLANCE: Oldest Texans in Congress

Rep. Ralph Hall, 88, R-Rockwall
Rep. Sam Johnson, 81, R-Plano
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, 76, D-Dallas
Rep. Ron Paul, 76, R-Lake Jackson
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, 71, D-Mercedes
Rep. John Carter, 70, R-Round Rock
Rep. Kay Granger, 69, R-Fort Worth
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, 68, R-Dallas
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, 67, D-El Paso
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, 66, D-San Antonio

As noted, Paul, KBH, and Gonzalez are retiring. As with KBH and Dewhurst, the leading contender for Paul’s seat, Nick Lampson, is someone who won’t bring the average age down that much. But with Joaquin Castro set to step in for Gonzalez, there’s at least some movement in the youth direction.

What the story did not note was that every single non-retiring incumbent on that list has at least one primary challenger. Two of them, Reps. Reyes and EB Johnson, have challengers who have a big money PAC supporting them; the challengers in those cases, Beto O’Rourke and Taj Clayton, are both 40 and under. You can see who the Democratic challengers are here, and who the Republicans are here. I don’t know anything about these folks, including how old they are, and a quick check on the FEC campaign finance reports page suggests that none of the others have any juice, but you never know. There’s more potential for change now than you might think, and projecting forward I’d say it’s a safe bet that the delegation will look a lot different after the 2021 reapportionment and the 2022 election that follows it.

Lampson saddles up

It’s good to have him back.

Nick Lampson

On Monday, former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson told a crowd of about 40 supporters gathered at Texas City’s city hall that he was running in the newly drawn 14th District “because Congress is too polarized to find solutions to our serious problems, and I was there when we could.”

The district has been represented for the past 24 years by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson. Paul is retiring from Congress.

Lampson, 66, a former tax assessor for Jefferson County, served in the House for four terms before being defeated in 2005 in a redrawn House district that favored the GOP. He ran for office again and won a fifth term in 2006 before being defeated two years later by Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land.

Under the redrawn congressional maps, the 14th District will shift eastward into Jefferson County and has a minority population of about 35 percent.

Although the state’s new congressional redistricting plan still is being contested in the courts, the proposed lines for the 14th District are not expected to change. As drawn, it begins at the Louisiana border and follows the coastline past Freeport. It takes in Jefferson and Galveston counties, both areas Lampson has represented in the past, and part of Brazoria County.

Ron Paul may have represented CD14 for 24 years, but they’re not consecutive; he ousted party-switcher Greg Laughlin in the 1994 GOP primary after having been the 1988 Libertarian candidate for President. That story was printed before the new maps were handed down, but as expected CD14 didn’t change.

You know what you’re going to get with Lampson. He’s competent, hard-working, and does great constituent service. He’s also going to run a campaign – and if elected, have a voting record – that will frustrate progressives. That’s partly who he is, and partly what the district is, which is to say competitive but Republican-favored. The gap between President Obama and downballot Democrats in CD14 in 2008 was as much as eight points, so a campaign of measured disagreement with the President is on the menu. You can look at that and see whatever you want, but I see a man who’s been an ally of Planned Parenthood, labor, and education, to name a few. He’s also a heck of a nice guy, and I am very happy to see Nick Lampson out on the trail again.

Ballot failure

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Newt Gingrich will not appear on the Virginia presidential primary ballot, state Republican Party officials announced Saturday, after he failed to submit the required number of valid signatures to qualify.

The announcement was made on the Virginia Republican Party’s Twitter account. On Friday evening, the Republican Party of Virginia made a similar announcement for Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.

Ten thousand signatures are needed to get on the ballot for the Virginia primary, which is March 6, known as Super Tuesday. The Perry campaign says it submitted 11,911 signatures, according to The Washington Post. But at 6:30 p.m. the Virginia Republican Party posted on its Twitter account that after verification, it was determined that Mr. Perry did not submit the requisite amount.

Mr. Gingrich submitted 11,050 signatures, but after verification, the state party said it determined that he had not submitted enough signatures.

Merry Christmas, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Every time I think Rick Perry’s Presidential campaign can’t get any more inept, it goes and proves me wrong.

Our expensive Governor

Another story about our Governor and his expensive travel habits.

The cost is mounting for Texas taxpayers as Gov. Rick Perry pursues the presidency, with new figures showing the tab for the governor’s security detail has topped $364,000 for out-of-state trips since his re-election.

Figures released by the Texas Department of Public Safety in response to a public information request by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News show the security costs for eight recent out-of-state destinations – most in August, the month that Perry announced his bid – totaled $70,869.54.

They included trips to three key early voting states: South Carolina, where he announced he was seeking the GOP presidential nomination, Iowa and New Hampshire. South Carolina was listed twice as a destination, and Iowa three times. The bill included travels to Colorado in July and to Alabama, where Perry spoke on the eve of his Aug. 13 announcement.

That’s on top of $294,096.34 in security detail costs for 30 out-of-state trips by Perry or his wife, Anita, between his November re-election and July 21, as reported earlier.

Those earlier destinations included the Bahamas for a family vacation; economic development trips by Anita Perry; and trips by Perry to promote his book, meet with business leaders or supporters and perform duties related to his then-chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association.

The tally so far extends only through early September. It doesn’t include travels by Perry or his wife for his three debates or for later campaign events.

Perry’s direct travel costs generally are paid by his campaign, but the cost of his security detail is picked up by the state. The security cost – which also went up when then-Gov. George W. Bush ran for president in 2000 – has drawn particular scrutiny because the state’s in a budget crunch.

There are two things I’d like to see. One is a point of comparison. How much did it cost the state when Bush started campaigning to be President? For that matter, how big a state-paid travel bill was Laura Bush ringing up in those days? How much does it cost other Presidential candidates – Ron Paul, for example – to travel? I’d like to be able to calibrate my outrage here, and that’s harder to do without some idea of the scale.

And two, I’d like to see somebody who is either in the Lege or who hopes to be make a big deal out of this. If everybody was supposed to have been made to sacrifice in this last budget, that ought to include Rick Perry as well. Granting that there are legitimate costs being incurred here, what is he doing to ensure he’s minimizing those costs and doing more with less, like the rest of us all are? Is he leading by example, or is he standing out as an exception? I’m pretty sure it’s the latter, and I’m also pretty sure there’s an issue there for someone to make a big deal out of.

Ron Paul got no respect

Poor dear.

Ron Paul says Republican leaders in the Texas legislature asked him how he would like his district to be changed during the recently completed redistricting process.

“So they did exactly the opposite,” the libertarian congressman told Texas on the Potomac Wednesday.

At a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, the Republican presidential candidate described the process as “a terrible business.”

The radical redrawing of Paul’s congressional district is one of the lesser-known subplots of the Texas legislature’s 2011 redistricting wars.

You heard it here first. As Jason Stanford and Abby Rapoport note, Paul and the GOP establishment have never much liked each other, and when you have no one on your side while districts are being drawn, you tend to get screwed. No great mystery, really.

One more thing:

Paul said that despite the line changes, “it’s very possible” that he could have won re-election to Congress in 2012.

Assuming he survived a primary challenge, which would have been no sure thing for him in this new turf, I agree with this. Most likely, he would have drawn only token Democratic opposition, despite the moderately purple hue of the district. The only reason there’s even the possibility of a serious Democratic contender now is that the seat will be open. Whether you think his impending exit is a good thing or not, you have the Republicans in the Lege to thank for it..

Lampson says he’s looking at CD14

Some potential good news from the Chron story about Ron Paul’s announcement that he will not seek re-election in CD14:

One with a definite interest in the race is Nick Lampson, a Beaumont Democrat who represented Texas’ 9th Congressional District from 1997 to 2005 before falling victim to the controversial mid-decade redistricting effort engineered by then-House Majority Leader Tom Delay.

Lampson lost in 2004 to U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, regained a seat in 2006 when he defeated DeLay and lost again in 2008 to U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land.

“I certainly have an interest in taking a look at being back in Congress,” Lampson said. “I don’t want to go back and get caught up in all the divisiveness that’s going on now, but I would really look at an opportunity to explore serving Texas.”

University of Houston political scientist Richard Murray, a redistricting expert, noted that the newly drawn 14th district is very similar to the district Lampson represented before DeLay took it apart. “A strong Democrat deeply rooted in Jefferson County would have a chance,” he said.

Yes, I thought so, too. Lampson is a known commodity and a strong fundraiser, both of which are big advantages. If he can get the Republican-inclined folks who used to vote for him back in the day to do so again, he can win. He’s not the only possible option – Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski would be a good candidate as well, though so far he has not said anything publicly about this – but the fact that at least one credible candidate is expressing interest is a good sign.

Ron Paul not running for re-election in CD14

Looks like we won’t need to challenge him after all.

Late Tuesday morning, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Surfside, sent out the following message to his Twitter followers: “I have decided not to seek re-election to Congress.”

Brazoria County newspaper, The Facts, has more details. The 24-year veteran of the U.S. House of Representatives told them he planned on devoting more time to his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. “I felt it was better that I concentrate on one election,” he said. “It’s about that time when I should change tactics.”

This is a change from 2008 when Paul was in both races; he drew 4.87% of the vote in the Texas primary, which was basically a non-event as John McCain had already wrapped up the nomination, finishing third behind McCain and Mike Huckabee. Either he seriously thinks he’ll still be in contention as of next March, or maybe he’s just had enough of Congress. I don’t much care one way or the other, I’m just happy to see him go.

As I said, this means we don’t need to challenge him, we now just need to find someone to take a crack at an open seat. As BOR notes, that’s a potentially long list, though everyone they name with the exception of Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski would have to give up their own seat to do so, as they will all be on the ballot in their own primary otherwise. (Also, at least one name on that list is looking at CD36.) It’s possible Paul’s decision could have quite the ripple effect. As for the odds of a Democratic win, I will point you to Greg’s numbers and note that despite my moderate pessimism, CD14 is quite reasonably competitive and now deserves even more than before to be vigorously contested. A moderate Dem with crossover appeal, especially in Jefferson and Galveston Counties, would make a race of it. Anyone know what Nick Lampson is up to these days? Because if you’d just woken me up out of a ten-year coma and showed me this map, I’d say this CD14 is a district drawn for him. Texas Politics has more.

UPDATE: One GOP hopeful steps forward.

On challenging Ron Paul in CD14

Jason Stanford has a question.

So why aren’t we targeting Ron Paul again? The Texas legislature drew him the reapportionment equivalent of a target on his back. They took away some of his red meat territory and gave him Galveston and Jefferson counties, something which failed to raise Kuff’s spirits.


Kuff’s not the only one to think this is a non-starter. Everyone in Austin is waiting for relief from the courts or from Obama’s DoJ, and rumor is that the DCCC doesn’t even consider targeting Ron Paul a remote possibility. And yes, though unpopular Ron Paul does have name ID, and he can raise millions at the click of a mouse. And Obama only got 42% in 2008 in this district.

I think all of the arguments against targeting Ron Paul can be chalked up to entrenched pessimism. As I pointed out before, Democrats routinely win these kinds of seats nationwide.

But to really make a case, we’re going to have to see a path to victory in the numbers. First, the placeholder Democrats. Can your average numbnuts candidate do well? Luckily, we have a healthy sample of those, and Kuff breaks down the numbers.

Toss out the 2010 results. We can’t plan for a 100-year-flood every two years. And if 2010 is the new paradigm, we should all quit and sell gold. Those results are pointless either way. Moving on.

The apples to apples argument is statewide judicial candidate Sam Houston, who got 47.3% in the new CD14 in 2008, the last presidential year. Houston didn’t have much cash, was working against years of salesmanship about tort reform, and suffered, at least in the new CD 14, of the effects of a hurricane in Galveston, and he still came pretty close.

It is certainly not my intention to discourage anyone from taking on Ron Paul. I’d be delighted if someone did. My point in the writings Stanford cites is to provide some context, as I believe the partisan numbers in the new CD14 look better than they really are. My basis for this comes down to the trends in Galveston and Jefferson Counties, both of which are entirely within the new CD14, and which are about 75% of its total population. Take a look at how Bill Moody and JR Molina did in consecutive Presidential year and non-Presidential year elections:

County 04 Molina 08 Molina Change 02 Moody 06 Moody Change ================================================================== Galveston 46,065 41,996 -4,069 27,390 29,811 +1,421 Jefferson 48,351 46,024 -2,327 30,805 24,553 -6,252

Like I said, the trends are in the wrong direction. Moody was on the ballot last year as well, and his numbers (26,162 in Galveston; 24,539 in Jefferson) continue that trend. Galveston is a growing county, where most of the growth is coming from the northern, Republican suburbs like Friendswood and League City. Jefferson is a stagnant county made up of staunchly Democratic African-Americans and formerly Democratic Anglos, the latter of which are the bulk of the population and growing less Democratic every day. I hate to be a wet blanket, but I have higher hopes going forward for CDs like 06, 12, 31, and 32, where you can see the population trends be more favorable.

Again, I don’t want to write off any reasonable district. This one absolutely deserves attention, especially given its very different nature from the previous map. Looking beyond 2012, Paul won’t be around forever – he turns 76 this August – so regardless of what the past numbers look like, someone needs to be thinking about the future in CD14. I just want to be realistic about what we’ll be getting into.

WaPo on Texas redistricting

The Fix makes a few curious statements about the proposed Congressional redistricting map for Texas.

Despite the Lonestar State voting 55 percent for Republicans in the 2008 presidential race, the GOP-controlled legislature’s proposed map features 26 districts that went for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) out of a total of 36 districts, according to a Fix analysis based on data from the Texas Legislative Council. That’s 72 percent of districts that favor Republicans on paper.

The big changes are the four new districts the state gained in the decennial reapportionment process thanks to its rapid population growth. Of the four, three lean Republican while one is solidly Democratic. The other big change is the shifting of Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s (D-Texas) district from a strongly Democratic district to a strongly Republican one.

The new Republican-leaning districts went 53 percent, 57 percent and 58 percent for McCain, while the Democratic district went 38 percent for McCain. Doggett’s district would go from 40 percent McCain to 56 percent.

In effect, Republicans appear to be trying to give themselves a good chance to gain three of the four new seats, leaving Democrats to gain just one.

If The Fix’s math here were correct, that would be a net gain of four Republican seats – three new ones, plus the eradication of Lloyd Doggett. As we know, however, two of the four “new” seats are Democratic – CDs 34 and 35 – so two new R seats plus Doggett’s is what takes them from 23 to 26.

The result is a map in which there are 10 very safe Democratic seats — McCain didn’t take more than 40 percent in any of them — and 26 districts that went at least 52 percent for McCain. The fact that there is no district that went between 40 percent and 52 percent for McCain suggests a carefully crafted gerrymander.

Of those 26 McCain districts, the GOP presidential nominee took less than 60 percent of the vote in 13 of them, which suggests they could be competitive under the right set of cirumstances. But 2008 was a very bad year for the GOP, and McCain’s numbers were on the low end of what a Republican presidential — or congressional — candidate will likely get in any given election cycle.

First, it’s not clear what he’s basing that statement about where McCain’s numbers might fall on the spectrum, other than perhaps a reflexive “Texas is a red state” intuition. Second, there’s a surprising amount of variation between the number of votes the Presidential candidate for a given party gets in a particular district and the amount of votes a downballot candidate gets. I’ll explore this in some depth in a future post, but trust me on this. There can be a large difference, amounting to several percentage points. Finally, as we saw in 2008, nearly all of the growth in the Texas voter pool from 2004 came from Democratic voters. That likely won’t be as big and may not be as pronounced this time, but it’s not Republican voters that have caused Texas’ population surge this decade. My belief is that Obama starts out at the level he got in 2008, and is more likely to go up than down in 2012, and that’s before we consider the possibility that he might actually campaign here.

About the closest thing to a swing district would be freshman Rep. Quico Canseco’s (R-Texas) big and rural 23rd district, running from San Antonio to El Paso. McCain’s vote share would increase from 48 percent currently to 52 percent under the new plan, though, so Canseco would have an easier time in what’s looking like a rematch with former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D).

Again, you can’t just look at the Presidential numbers. In some districts, Obama ran ahead of other Democrats. In others, including the old and the reconfigured CD23, he ran behind other Democrats. As I said before, every downballot statewide Democrat other than Jim Jordan got at least a plurality in CD23, with Susan Strawn and Linda Yanez getting majorities. This district is friendlier to Canseco than the old CD23, and I call it a Lean Republican district, but it’s far from a slamdunk for him.

Freshman Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) may not have an easy time, either. But his South Texas 27th district would undergo significant changes and would grow seven points more Republican.

(Most of Farenthold’s current district is in what would be the new 34th district, but since most of that “new” district is from Farenthold’s current district — and the new 27th is a patchwork of other districts — we and others consider the 27th to be the new district, along with the 33rd, 35th and 36th.)

Ah, here’s the math error. If you are counting CD27 as the fourth “new” district, then you must also count Farenthold’s “old” district, which is now CD34, as one that would flip from the GOP to the Democrats, much as you counted Lloyd Doggett’s old CD25 as an R pickup. Otherwise, as we saw, you credit the GOP with a four seat gain instead of three. Which is technically a two-seat net gain – they go from a 14-seat advantage (23-9) to a 16-seat advantage (26-10), assuming they can hold onto Canseco.

Among other Republicans, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions gets a two-point bump to a 55 percent McCain district in his Dallas-based 32nd; Rep. Mike McCaul (R) keeps a 55 percent McCain district in the 10th; and GOP Reps. John Carter, Lamar Smith, Kay Granger and Joe Barton all see their districts get less Republican.

Freshman Rep. Bill Flores (R) would take the biggest hit, with his 17th district dropping from one where McCain got 67 percent to one where he would have gotten 58 percent. Flores would be taking one for the team, in order to add Republicans to nearby districts. But besides he and Granger (6 percent drop), no other Republican would see his or her district drop more than 2 percent, according to the 2008 presidential numbers.

And clearly this was either written before the Senate modified the original into Plan C136, or it was written in ignorance of that, as Plan C136 makes Ron Paul’s CD14 a lot less red, at least on the surface. (Plan C141, which made no further changes to CD14, is what was eventually passed by the full Senate.) Stuff does happen over the weekend, fellas, especially when the GOP considers it to be in its interest to get things done before the public figures out what’s going on.

Updated Seliger-Solomons numbers

I had previously run the numbers for the new Congressional districts in the Seliger-Solomons plan. Now that we’ve gone from Plan C125 to Plan C130, let’s see what they look like now. Here’s a side-by-side comparison, with the districts grouped as before. First up, the Safe Republican seats:

C125 C130 C125 C130 Dist Obama Obama Houston Houston ======================================= 01 30.40 30.47 37.01 36.39 02 35.39 35.86 38.14 36.65 03 37.37 37.37 36.79 36.79 04 29.28 29.28 37.55 37.55 05 37.31 37.28 42.07 42.05 07 39.32 39.08 38.10 37.83 08 25.43 26.08 28.59 29.40 11 23.42 23.13 28.44 28.29 13 22.24 27.48 22.24 27.48 14 34.30 39.69 41.96 47.31 19 27.94 32.32 27.94 32.32 22 35.80 36.92 37.65 38.32 26 39.44 39.64 39.44 39.64

Note the big change to CD14, which reflects the fact that it exchanged some of Brazoria and Chambers for Jefferson. I wouldn’t get too excited by this, since as we’ve discussed neither Jefferson nor Galveston (the other main component to CD14) are trending the right way. It does reflect the overall lack of respect that Ron Paul has from the GOP establishment, however, as they’d never do that to anyone else, at least not without that person’s express consent.

You can’t make one district that much less red without making another one more so, and we see that change in the Likely Republican seats:

C125 C130 C125 C130 Dist Obama Obama Houston Houston ======================================= 06 41.67 41.67 44.29 44.28 10 43.81 42.77 44.14 43.41 12 42.50 42.50 43.10 43.10 17 40.71 40.94 43.98 44.08 21 42.51 42.67 40.48 40.61 24 40.55 40.54 39.91 39.91 25 42.40 42.83 43.63 43.95 27 40.78 40.31 46.28 45.85 31 42.61 42.61 42.47 42.47 32 43.79 43.79 43.63 43.63 33 42.64 42.64 43.90 43.90 36 41.02 29.58 47.46 39.30 C125 C130 C125 C130 Dist Obama Obama Houston Houston ======================================= 23 47.19 47.19 49.27 49.27

I went ahead and threw in Lean Republican CD23, since it didn’t change. But CD36 sure did, going from a possible target to a highly unlikely one. I figure losing the SN22 turf had an effect, though I note that CD02 managed to absorb it without any indigestion. (CD02 also got some redder turf from Harris to balance it out.) It now has the Republican parts of eastern Harris instead. At this point, I’d call CD36 Safe Republican and CD14 Likely Republican even though I don’t have much faith in there being a serious challenge. And I wonder who needs to write a thank-you note to Kel Seliger for this bit of generosity.

Not much change on the Democratic side of things:

C125 C130 C125 C130 Dist Obama Obama Houston Houston ======================================= 15 59.15 58.43 61.90 61.19 20 58.40 58.47 58.15 58.34 34 59.11 60.29 62.85 63.87 09 76.42 76.49 76.77 76.85 16 66.44 66.44 68.68 68.68 18 79.48 79.24 78.71 78.47 28 60.40 60.91 63.33 63.82 29 65.18 65.40 70.09 70.29 30 81.87 81.89 82.08 82.10 35 60.70 60.61 61.16 60.98

A precinct here, a precinct there, not much else to it. I will simply add, since Greg has made a big deal about this, that the SSVR% in CD20 has gone from 58.72% to 50.82%. That seems likely to get further scrutiny in the future. I should also note, as Greg did, that Plan C130 gave way to Plan C136, and what was finally passed was Plan C141, but the differences between them and Plan C130 on which these numbers are based are very minor.

Seliger-Solomons 2.0

Go to and have a gander at Plan C130 to see the version of the Seliger-Solomons Congressional plan that was passed last night by the Senate redistricting committee. The biggest changes are in and around Harris County, mostly due to CD36, which Rep. Solomons had admitted was ridiculous. Gone is its bizarre shape, which had been described by me and others as “the Gateway Arch”, a “horseshoe”, and a “Gulf shrimp”, which is my favorite. Here’s a before and after look for comparison. First, the original, Plan C125:

What once was

And here’s Plan C130:

What now is

CD36 loses all of its western turf and takes in territory that had originally been drawn into CDs 01, 02, 08, and 14. While it can now be more accurately described as an East Texas district, it still takes a chunk of Harris County, which I daresay will remain the population center for it. I don’t know if this is more of what State Rep. James White had in mind when he complained about the original CD36, but if it’s not I don’t know that he’s going to get what he wants. East Texas didn’t gain population in the past decade, the Houston area – Montgomery, Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Harris – did. One way or another they’re going to get yoked to this area. This is probably about as good as it’s going to get for them.

The folks in SN22 no longer have to be worried about being represented by someone from 200 miles away, but in return they get stuck with Ted Poe, whose CD02 is now entirely within Harris. CD08 takes most of the non-Harris portions of what had been the west and north ends of the CD36 arch – Grimes, Madison, Houston, and Trinity counties – while CD10 takes the piece of Washington county and the rest of Harris that didn’t go to CD02. Angelina County is reclaimed by CD01. CD22 gives up much of its east Harris turf and picks up more of Brazoria. The Brazoria bit came from CD14, which loses Chambers and picks up the rest of Jefferson.

There are some minor changes elsewhere in the map, which Greg discusses. He also disagrees with the contention made in the Trib that the changes to CD14 target Ron Paul. While I’ve long held the crackpot belief that this next round of redistricting would do Paul no favors, I also don’t think this is much of a threat to him. His district has been changed more significantly in the past, and it didn’t stop him. Short of eliminating his district altogether, I daresay he’ll keep on keeping on. According to this interactive Trib map, the redrawn CD14 is less red by a few points, but still pretty red and encompassing counties that are going the wrong way from my perspective. Paul has no real reason to lose any sleep.

Anyway, this is what we’ve got for now. Most of what will happen between now and the eventual adoption of a map is aimed at the lawyers, since there clearly isn’t going to be much public input allowed. See Greg‘s liveblogging of the Senate committee hearing, the Trib, and Texas on the Potomac for more. Finally, while I doubt it will be considered during this session, State Sen. Jose Rodriguez sent out this press release about “legislation which would establish new guidelines for the process of redrawing congressional district lines.” It doesn’t create a non-partisan commission for this purpose as Sen. Jeff Wentworth’s biennial bill would, but it does require that districts “not be drawn based on partisan data nor with int ent to favor or disfavor any individual or organized group”. The bill is SB32 if you want to have a look.

Williams will step down from the RRC

Michael Williams makes it official.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams says he has sent Gov. Rick Perry a letter telling him he will be leaving the commission on April 2 to concentrate on a race for the U.S. Senate.

Williams described the campaign as a “long cycle and a long race” that will, perhaps, have as many as nine candidates vying for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Williams said he thought he could do a better job of concentrating on the race as a private citizen than as an office-holder.

Also, he said by giving Perry such advance notice, it will allow the governor to consider whether to replace him on the commission. There is discussion in the Legislature with taking the three-member panel down to one commissioner or possibly combining it with other agencies.

I’m more interested in the fate of the RRC than I am with Williams’ campaign, which I daresay will be as unoriginal and undistinguished as all of the other contenders’, with the possible exception of Ron Paul. It’s not at all clear to me that a one-person RRC, or whatever it might be renamed to, would be any less corrupt or more accountable than what we have now. But at least it might mean fewer people biding their time while plotting to run for something else.

Is the GOP gubernatorial primary headed for a runoff?

The Trib and Texas Politics both report on that Rasmussen poll, which in addition to giving us our first relevant general election result also shows Debra Medina climbing into double digits, with both Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison under 50% in the GOP primary for Governor. Separately, Burka writes about a different poll that showed similar numbers; he also commented on the Rasmussen result. I’ve said before that I doubt Medina will top 5%, and I still stand by that. She has no money to maintain the positive response she apparently got from the debate. It’s still the case that the Ron Paul crowd, for all the noise they generate and attention they get, aren’t that numerous, as seen by his showing in the 2008 Presidential primary in Texas. I certainly could be wrong and I’ll gladly admit it if it turns out that I am, but my tendency is always to bet the under on candidates like her. If I’m right, the odds of a runoff are slim. We’ll see how the next debate goes, as Medina will be allowed to participate, but I remain skeptical. BOR has more.

A gubernatorial threefer

Debra Medina made her filing for Governor today as well, and she hopes to be allowed in the clubhouse when the big kids get together to play.

“Texans deserve a Governor who is more interested in the needs of Texans,” campaign manager Penny Langford Freeman said in a statement. “We are proud to have a candidate who is listening to the people and offering real solutions for the future of our state.”

Medina, the chair of the Republican Party of Wharton County, wears the “Tea Party” label proudly. According to her website, the central issues of her campaign include eliminating property tax, protecting gun ownership, securing our border, and restoring state sovereignty.

Medina does not have the funds or name recognition of her primary opponents, Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison, but she’s believes there’s more to a campaign than money. She recently told the Tribune, “If we could put a value on the shoe leather and elbow grease that has been applied to this campaign by the same activists that have been leading and attending the tea party and 9/12 events all over the state, we would look very competitive.”


As Medina heads into the fight, she says others — specifically Rick Pery — is running away. The Medina camp released a statement today saying that, when it comes to official debates, “each time we confirm, the governor cancels.”

“That’s just not true,” says Perry spokesman Mark Miner.

Hutchison spokesman Joe Pounder says, “We would welcome Medina’s involvement in the January debate.”

Of course KBH would like Medina to be in any debate. That’s two candidates bashing on Rick Perry instead of one. While I’m skeptical that Medina will have any real effect on this race, I’m sure KBH believes, not unreasonably, that most votes Medina gets will come out of Perry’s hide. There’s little downside for KBH in giving Medina some visibility.

She’ll need all the help she can get. Dubious polls about teabagger ID aside, most people don’t know who Medina is. And all due respect, but speaking from the perspective of the perpetually underfunded statewide party, the value of shoe leather and elbow grease ain’t what you hope it will be when up against money and name recognition.

Meanwhile, Farouk Shami, who shook up his campaign not too long after starting it, is one of those candidates with a spotty record of actually voting.

Shami voted in the 1996, 2002 and 2004 general elections, according to Montgomery County Elections Administrator Carol Gaultney, but skipped the 2006 and 2008 general elections, missing chances to vote for Independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman (to whom he donated $24,400) and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who Shami has called his inspiration. “That’s the man, that’s my man, that’s the man who did not let his strange name or an unconventional upbringing stand in his way,” Shami said of Obama at his November campaign announcement.

Shami’s primary election voting record is thinner. While the haircare billionaire is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination next March, there’s no record of him voting as a Democrat in his home county at least as far back as 1996. He did, however, vote in the Republican primary in 2000.

The campaign is challenging some of the county’s data, saying Shami did indeed cast a ballot in the 2008 election. “He did go vote for Obama, but they can’t find any record of it, so we’ve talked with them about fixing it,” said Jamila Shami, the candidate’s niece and campaign aide.

As for the other skipped elections, Shami spokesperson Jessica Gutierrez says he was otherwise engaged.

“He was focusing on his company, and he had a billion dollar company at the time, and his business came first,” Gutierrez said. “He’s apologizing that he didn’t go vote, so that’s why he’s educating people that they should go vote.”

Okay, look. I’ve said before that a candidate’s previous voting history is not a make-or-break issue for me. It can be a deciding factor if all else is even, but it’s almost never a disqualifier. That said, please spare me the “I was too busy to vote” baloney. Most of the time, it takes just a few minutes to actually go to a polling place, wait your turn, and make your selections. Nowadays you have as many as ten days over which to do this. Nobody is too busy to do this, at least not year in and year out. If you’re one of those hardly-ever-voted-before candidates, don’t insult my intelligence like this. Just admit you should have done better before and then prove to me you mean it when you say you’ve learned your lesson.

Finally, Come and Take It notices that despite having endorsed Rick Perry in the primary, Sarah Palin never actually appeared with him while in the state promoting her book. Make of that what you will.

Medina officially gets into the GOP primary for Governor

And then there were three on the Republican side.

Saying her two high-profile rivals have dropped the ball for Texas, Wharton County GOP chairwoman Debra Medina on Saturday announced her campaign for the Republican nomination for governor.

“We’ve done little to move in the right direction. Some may even say we’ve lost yardage,” Medina said during a rally at the Westin Galleria Dallas. “I’m ready to take the field as quarterback, for a time, for Texas.”

Medina, a top volunteer in U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, joins powerhouse Republicans Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison as candidates in the March primary.


As with Paul, Medina has enthusiastic supporters, which was evident by the decent crowd that braved the wet weather to hear her speech.

“She’s an important voice for liberty,” said Randy Hilton, a precinct chairman in Tarrant County. “She understands that our elected officials should answer to the people.”

Randall Woodman, a 45-year-old software engineer from Allen, said Medina would run a strong campaign, despite the odds.

“People are taking notice,” he said. “She will be a factor in the race.”

But some political analysts doubt she’ll be able to break through — even with the growing tea party movement that helped spawn her candidacy.

“It’s a career builder for her,” said University of Texas Political Scientist Bruce Buchanan. “She’s aware that the odds are against her, but because of her tea party connections, she feels like she has a chance to make a larger statement than usual.”

Enrique Rangel thinks Medina’s candidacy hurts Perry more than Hutchison. Maybe, but it’s not clear to me that her likely voters would have voted for Perry under any conditions; I suspect they’d have either found another protest candidate, or sat it out. And I don’t know how she’s going to appeal to anyone outside her existing circle unless she raises a few million bucks. Anything can happen, especially if her BFF Ron Paul makes a few appeals on her behalf, but I wouldn’t count on it.

And however passionate Ron Paul Nation may be, let’s not lose perspective. In 2008, after raising millions of dollars and getting tons of free publicity, in a Republican primary where the ultimate winner was already known and not a whole lot of campaigning was done as a result, Ron Paul got 4.87% of the vote in Texas. Even if you could imagine all 66,000 Paul supporters coming out next March for Medina, that’s likely to be at most about ten percent of the vote. Which might be enough to force a runoff, and if that happens it would certainly be exciting, but I wouldn’t count on anything more than that.

Texas secession: Views differ

Looks like Rick Perry has found his audience for secession talk: Ron Paul Nation.

If you don’t feel like sitting through that (can’t say I blame you), Bud Kennedy gives the capsule review:

[Paul calls] secession “very much an American principle” and criticizing the idea of “one nation . . . indivisible” as something thought up by a “socialist.”

Secession is nothing new for Paul, who has waxed poetic in previous videos about an independent Texas with no income tax, no military draft and no interest in any military presence outside Texas.

I think that all pretty much speaks for itself, so for the pro-America response, here’s John Sharp:

I think that would be more salient as part of a gubernatorial campaign. Timely, too – is anyone really going to remember any of this in 2011 or 2012 when that Senate seat is finally on the ballot? Be that as it may, good on Sharp for stating what should be the obvious. Burka has more.

White rakes it in for his Senate bid

Among other things, today is the deadline for federal candidates to report their campaign finance status. Of the many contenders for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat, whenever that becomes available, I think it’s safe to say that Bill White had the best start to the year. From his press release:

Mayor Bill White reported contributions totaling more than $2.6 million in just over 100 days since launching his U.S. Senate campaign, according to a report filed with the Federal Elections Commission today.

More than 1,400 Texans contributed through March 31st, the end of the filing period. The contributions for the filing period totaled more than $1.8 million.

Campaign Finance Chair Scott Atlas said, “The outpouring of support from donors and volunteers has been simply amazing. The energy around Mayor White’s campaign shows Texans believe in his ability to bring people together and get things done. People want their next senator to be a voice for our state’s future.”

So far, none of the Senate incumbents or hopefuls have their reports up on the FEC disclosure page, so I can’t give you the details yet. However, Gardner Selby has some information.

Democrat John Sharp topped five other candidates or prospective candidates for the U.S. Senate in cash on hand as of March 31, though his camp didn’t say this afternoon how much of the $2.4 million he piled up since Jan. 1 came from loans. His loan chunk—perhaps tapping Sharp’s personal wealth—may be left to show up when his report, filed with the Federal Election Commission, surfaces online.

Another Democrat, Houston Mayor Bill White, had $2.1 million cash on hand at the end of this year’s first quarter; he’d taken no loans.

Among Republicans, former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams had $388,628 cash on hand; a haul fueled by $200,000 in loans he gave his exploratory committee. State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, had $310,407. She was trailed in her bank balance by two members of the Texas Railroad Commission, Elizabeth Ames Jones with $164,663 and Michael Williams with $113,957.

As Selby notes, we can’t fully judge Sharp’s total till we know how much of it was loaned by himself to the campaign. It’s possible he did better than any of the Republicans and yet still fell well short of White, and it’s possible he outraised White, though to be honest if he’d really taken in $2 million or so, I’d have expected him to be shouting that from the rooftops. We’ll know soon enough. In any case, as BOR notes, the two Dems are way out in from of the Rs – heck, all of them put together can’t match either Dem. That may change if a David Dewhurst or a Greg Abbott jumps in, but for now, it’s a nice position for the Dems to be in.

Other reports of interest, all Congressional:

Pete Sessions, who has been in the crosshairs of the DCCC lately and whose district is trending strongly Democratic, had a good quarter with over $200K raised and almost $900K on hand. Sessions has always been an able fundraiser, no doubt why he’s chairing the NRCC this go-round.

– Mike McCaul doesn’t have a report yet. He already has a well-heeled challenger and a DCCC bulls-eye on his back, but he’s also filthy rich and will not be outgunned financially.

John Culberson had a decent quarter, with $100K raised, though only a modest $70K on hand. He didn’t leave anything in reserve after his expensive re-election fight last year, and though I think he’s likely to skate this time around, I’ll bet he invests some time in restocking his coffers.

Sheila Jackson Lee didn’t raise much, and spent more than she raised, but she starts the year with over $400K on hand, which may give pause to anyone looking to primary her.

– The benefits of running for President, having a national following, and being stalked by Borat not having an opponent in the last cycle: Ron Paul has over two million dollars on hand, despite raising almost nothing and spending nearly $250K.

– Randy Neugebauer in CD19 doesn’t have a report up yet, either, but according to the CREW crew, he wants to use his campaign funds to pay for the use of his yacht to fundraise for his campaign. Just click over and see for yourself. The yacht is anchored in DC, in case you were wondering (as I was) what the heck one would do with a yacht in Lubbock.

– Former Congressman Jim Turner, who was drawn out of his seat in the 2004 Tom DeLay re-redistricting, still has over a million bucks on hand. Which in theory he eventually needs to dispose of in some fashion, either on another campaign of his own or by giving it to other candidates.

That’s all for now. I’ll add to this as I see more reports.

Bruno and Dr. No

Um, wow.

Presidential candidates will do almost anything for publicity. But Ron Paul’s appearance in Sacha Baron Cohen’s upcoming Bruno movie suggests he draws the line at making sex tapes with gay Austrian TV hosts.

In a five-minute scene, comedian Cohen tries—and fails—to seduce the Texas congressman and former Republican presidential candidate in a Washington hotel room. A spokeswoman for Paul confirmed the appearance but declined to discuss details, which were provided by two people who attended a test screening last week.


The scene with Paul, filmed in early 2008, occurs about halfway through the movie, after Bruno gets the idea that you have to make a sex tape to become famous.

I got nothin’. Thanks to Banjo for searing that image into my brain.

KBH leads Perry in early poll

Last week, the polling firm Public Policy Polling asked the readers of its blog which state they should do next. The readers, with a little help from us bloggers, picked Texas. PPP has the results of its first poll up now, which is a look at the GOP gubernatorial primary.

[Governor Rick] Perry trails Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison 56-31 among likely GOP primary voters.

Hutchison is viewed favorably by 75% of voters likely to vote in the Republican primary, while 60% have a positive opinion of Perry.

The 27% of primary voters who have an unfavorable opinion of Perry are obviously a problem for him. Hutchison leads 85-8 with those voters. But perhaps the even bigger problem for him is the Senator’s sheer popularity. 47% of those surveyed have a positive opinion of both Perry and Hutchison, and among those voters she has the 49-33 lead. So while Perry still is viewed positively by a majority of likely primary voters, the simply reality is that they like Hutchison more. He’s going to have to change that for any chance at political survival, and that’s why this race is already and will continue to be quite a nasty one.

Another problem for Perry is that Hutchison leads with every subgroup of the population PPP tracks by gender, race, and age. There is a slight gender gap with Hutchison leading by 28 among women and 22 with men but it’s still a substantial lead either way.

Perry is going to have an uphill climb to keep his seat.

Full results are here (PDF). I agree that this poll doesn’t look good for Perry. Having said that, however, it seems to me that there’s plenty of room for him to catch up, and not just because we’re a year out from the actual election. We all know Rick Perry is going to run a relentlessly negative campaign against KBH. It’s his nature and he’s got nothing else to run on, but more to the point that’s how you run against someone with better positives than you. I don’t know how likely he is to succeed – there’s always some blowback when you run this way, and sometimes the gap is just too great – but whatever else you may say about Rick Perry, the man knows how to campaign. If nothing else, I fully expect KBH’s positives will come down and her negatives will go up, perhaps significantly. And if the Democrats can get behind a good candidate for Governor who can look serious and thoughtful while these two fling poo at each other, so much the better.

One more thing to note: It’s possible this won’t be a straight-up Perry/KBH race. State Rep. Leo Berman is thinking about making a run, which would amp up the crazy factor a few notches. Debra Medina, a former SREC member and RPT vice chairman candidate, has filed her paperwork to run as well. She apparently has the support of Ron Paul, which should add even more zest to the proceedings. Neither of them has any realistic chance of winning, but I could imagine them affecting the outcome. At the very least, people who don’t like Rick Perry but think KBH isn’t conservative enough would have someplace else to go. Just something to keep in mind going forward.

We should expect more results from PPP soon, including some Senate matchups and a look at favorability numbers for President Obama. In the meantime, you can follow more GOP primary stuff at the Kay Versus Rick blog, which also has a Twitter feed, for those of you who are into that sort of thing.