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Steve Brown

2018 primary results: Congress

Sen. Sylvia Garcia

Statewide Dem totals
Statewide GOP totals

Harris County Dem totals
Harris County GOP totals

(Please note that all results were coming in very slowly. I expect there will still be some precincts not yet reported by the time this publishes. So, I’m going to be less specific than usual, and may have to make a correction or two by Thursday.)

Barring anything strange, Texas will have its first two Latina members of Congress, as Sylvia Garcia (CD29) and Veronica Escobar (CD16) were both over 60%. I for one approve of both of these results. Now we can have that important debate about whether one of them is officially the “first” Latina or if they both get to share that designation; I lean towards the latter, as you know, and it appears that the Trib is with me as well. Maybe this will be a short debate. In any event, my congratulations to both women.

Veronica Escobar

Todd Litton was over 50% in CD02 with about a third of the precincts in. Lizzie Fletcher and Laura Moser were headed towards the runoff in CD07 with just under half of the precincts reporting; Jason Westin was within about 850 votes of Moser, but he was losing ground. I will note that Fletcher, who led Moser by about seven points overall, led her in absentee ballots by 36-18, in early in person votes by 30-23 (nearly identical to the overall tally), and on E-Day 28-27. Maybe that’s the DCCC effect, maybe Fletcher has earlier-by-nature voters, and maybe it’s just one of those random and meaningless things.

Other Dem Congressional results of interest:

– Gina Ortiz Jones was at 40% in CD23, so she will face someone in the runoff. Judy Canales and Rick Trevino was neck and neck for second, with Jay Hulings trailing them both by about two points.

– Colin Allred was also around 40%, in the CD32 race. Lillian Salerno, Brett Shipp, and Ed Meier were competing for runnerup, in that order.

– Joseph Kopser and Mary Wilson were right around 30% for CD21, with Derrick Crowe just under 23%.

– Jana Sanchez and Ruby Faye Woolridge were both around 37% in CD06.

– MJ Hegar and Christine Eady Mann were well ahead in CD31.

– Jan Powell (53% in CD24) avoided a runoff. Lorie Burch (49% plus in CD03) just missed avoiding one.

– Sri Kulkarni was at 32% in CD22, with Letitia Plummer and Steve Brown both around 22%. In CD10, Mike Siegel was up around 43%, while Tawana Cadien, Tami Walker, and Madeline Eden were in the running for the second slot.

– Dayna Steele was winning in CD36 handily. This is one of those results that makes me happy.

– On the Republican side, Lance Gooden and Bunni Pounds led in CD05, Ron Wright and Jake Ellzey led in CD06, Michael Cloud and Bech Bruun were the top two in CD27. I have only a vague idea who some of these people are. Ted Cruz minion Chip Roy led in the CD21 clusterbubble, with Matt McCall and William Negley both having a shot at second place. Finally, Kevin Roberts was leading in CD02, and while Kathaleen Wall had the early advantage for runnerup, Dan Crenshaw was making a late push, leading the field on E-Day. Dear sweet baby Jesus, please spare us from two more months of Kathaleen Wall’s soul-sucking TV ads. Thank you.

– I would be remiss if I did not note that Pounds has a decent shot at being the third woman elected to Congress from Texas this year; if she prevails in the CD05 runoff, she’ll be as in as Garcia and Escobar are. Wall’s path to that destination is a bit cloudier now, but unless Crenshaw catches her she still has a shot at it.

– Some of these results were changing as I was drafting this. Like I said, I’ll likely have some cleanup to do for tomorrow. Check those links at the top of the post.

Two upcoming candidate forums

Mark your calendars, Part I, for the CD2 Democratic Primary Candidate Forum.

CD2 Democratic Primary Candidate Forum
Hosted by Humble Area Democrats, Kingwood Area Democrats, Spring Democratic Club, and Democracy for Houston

Tuesday, January 23 at 6 PM – 9 PM
Teamsters Local Union No. 988
4303 N Sam Houston Pkwy E, Houston, Texas 77032 (Map)

The Democratic Primary candidates, running for U.S. House Representative District 2, will participate in this moderated Forum to express their stances on important issues affecting constituents in Texas’ Congressional District 2.

Candidates (as they will appear on the ballot) are:

H.P. Parvizian, Ali A. Khorasani, Silky Malik, J. Darnell Jones, Todd Litton

The event begins with a Meet & Greet (6:00 pm – 6:45 pm)
The Forum will begin at 7 pm.
(Attendees will be offered an opportunity to submit questions, which will be answered, as time allows, at the end of the program.)

Come meet your candidates and discover where they stand on issues of importance to you. Visit representatives from each of our partners in this event to learn how you can get more involved.

Co-Hosts of this Forum are:

Humble Area Democrats
Kingwood Area Democrats
Spring Democratic Club
Democracy for Houston

Joining us to put this event together:

The Harris County Democratic Party
Indivisible TX-02 – Northeast

I’m publishing interviews of CD02 candidates beginning today, so you can get to know them before you go see them for yourself. We’ve all got a lot of important decisions to make this season, so we all need to do our due diligence.

And Part II:

See here for event details, and here for a map to the location. I’m not interviewing in any of these races at this time, though I may get to CD22 for the runoff, so you’re on your own. Get out there and meet some candidates.

Filing roundup: Outside Harris County

A look at who filed for what on the Democratic side in the counties around Harris. These are all predominantly Republican counties, some more than others, so the Democrats are almost all challengers. On the flip side, there are many opportunities for gains.

Lisa Seger

Montgomery County

CD08 – Steven David

HD03 – Lisa Seger
HD15 – Lorena Perez McGill
HD16 – Mike Midler

County Judge – Jay Stittleburg
District Clerk – John-Brandon Pierre
County Treasurer – Mandy Sunderland

First, kudos to Montgomery County, hardly a Democratic bastion, for having so many candidates. They’re a County Clerk candidate away from having a full slate. I’m not tracking judicial candidates, County Commissioners, or Constables, but the MCDP has those, too. Steven David is a business and efficiency expert for the City of Houston. He’s running against Kevin “Cut all the taxes for the rich people!” Brady. Lisa Seger, whose district also covers Waller County, is a fulltime farmer in Field Store Community who has helped feed first responders during the fires of 2011 and is also involved in animal rescue. Her opponent is Cecil Bell, who was possibly the most fanatical pusher of anti-LGBT bills in the State House. She’s also a Facebook friend of my wife, who knows a lot of local farmers through her past work with Central City Co-Op. Jay Stittleburg is a Navy veteran and Project Management Professional who has worked in oil and gas. John-Brandon Pierre is a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq. A very solid group.

Fort Bend County

CD22 – Letitia Plummer
CD22 – Margarita Ruiz Johnson
CD22 – Mark Gibson
CD22 – Sri Preston Kulkarni
CD22 – Steve Brown

SD17 – Fran Watson
SD17 – Rita Lucido
SD17 – Ahmad Hassan

HD26 – Sarah DeMerchant
HD27 – Rep. Ron Reynolds
HD27 – Wilvin Carter
HD28 – Meghan Scoggins
HD85 – Jennifer Cantu

County Judge – KP George
District Clerk – Beverly McGrew Walker

Gotta say, I’m kind of disappointed in Fort Bend. They had a full slate for county offices in 2014, but this year there wasn’t anyone to run for County Clerk or County Treasurer? I don’t understand how that happens. Mark Gibson and Steve Brown list Fort Bend addresses, while Letitia Plummer and Margarita Johnson are from Pearland and Sri Kulkarni is from Houston. The Senate candidates we’ve already discussed. For the State House, Sarah DeMerchant ran in 2016, while Wilvin Carter is the latest to try to take out Rep. Ron Reynolds, who is the only incumbent among all the candidates I’m listing in this post and whose story you know well. Meghan Scoggins has a background in aerospace but works now in the nonprofit sector, while Jennifer Cantu is an Early Childhood Intervention therapist for a Texas nonprofit. KP George is a Fort Bend ISD Trustee and past candidate for CD22.

Brazoria County

CD14 – Adrienne Bell
CD14 – Levy Barnes

SBOE7 – Elizabeth Markowitz

HD29 – Dylan Wilde Forbis
HD29 – James Pressley

County Judge – Robert Pruett
County Clerk – Rose MacAskie

CD22 and SD17 also contain Brazoria County. HD25, held by Dennis Bonnen, is in Brazoria but it is one of the few districts that drew no Democratic candidates. I haven’t focused much on the SBOE races, but as we know longtime Republican member David Bradley is retiring, so that seat is open. It’s not exactly a swing district, but maybe 2018 will be better than we think. Adrienne Bell has been in the CD14 race the longest; she’s a Houston native and educator who was on both the Obama 2012 and Wendy Davis 2014 campaigns. Levy Barnes is an ordained bishop with a bachelor’s in biology, and you’ll need to read his biography for yourself because there’s too much to encapsulate. Dylan Wilde Forbis is one of at least three transgender candidates for State House out there – Jenifer Pool in HD138 and Finnigan Jones in HD94 are the others I am aware of. The only useful bit of information I could find about the other candidates is the Robert Pruett had run for County Judge in 2014, too.

Galveston County

HD23 – Amanda Jamrok
HD24 – John Phelps

CD14 and SBOE7 are also in Galveston. Remember when Galveston was a Democratic county? Those were the days. I don’t have any further information about these candidates.

Hope these posts have been useful. There are more I hope to do, but they’re pretty labor intensive so I’ll get to them as best I can.

Filing news: Jeffrey Payne and a whole lot of Congressional candidates

And then there were six Democratic candidates for Governor.

Jeffrey Payne

Signing paperwork and presenting a $3,500 check, [Dallas businessman Jeffrey] Payne became the sixth Democrat to file for the state’s top office. In addition to Payne, the list currently includes Houston electronics businessman Joe Mumbach, Dallas financial analyst Adrian Ocegueda, former Balch Springs Mayor Cedric Davis Sr., retired San Antonio school teacher Grady Yarbrough and San Antonio businessman Tom Wakley.

Two more, Houston entrepreneur Andrew White and [Dallas County Sheriff Lupe] Valdez, are expected to declare their candidacy before the filing period ends in a week, on Dec. 11.

“I have had great response to my campaign and, after touring the state for the past several months, I think we can win — even though it’s going to be uphill,” Payne said at the Texas Democratic Party headquarters, where he filed his candidacy papers. “People want a politician who listens to them.”

Payne said he thinks he will have to raise $8 million to win the March primary. He had earlier pledged to put up to $2.5 million of his own money into his campaign, but said Monday that he hasn’t had to tap his accounts yet.

He also said that if Valdez runs, the campaign will mark a milestone by having two gay candidates running for governor. “That says something about where Texas is now,” he said.

Payne was the first announced candidate to be considered newsworthy. He’s not the last. Going by what I’ve seen on Facebook, White appears poised to announced – at Mark White Elementary School in Austin Houston – his official filing on Thursday the 7th. I don’t know exactly what will happen with Sheriff Valdez, who had that weird “she’s in/not so fast” moment last week, but the consensus seems to be that she will be in. I’ll have more fully formed thoughts later, but for now it is clear we are in for the most interesting and active set of Democratic off year primaries since 2002.

Moving along, in bullet point form…

– Steve Brown filed as promised in CD22. The total number of Democratic candidates in each Congressional district in Harris County:

  • Four in CD02, with at least one more expected
  • Five in CD07, with one more expected
  • One in CD08, and one in CD09, the only two that do not have contested races
  • Two in CD10, with at least two more potential candidates out there
  • Two in CD18, as Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee draws a challenger
  • Four in CD22
  • Four in CD29, with Adrian Garcia still in the wind
  • Two in CD36

Looking around the state, the only districts that don’t have at least one Democrat running are CDs 04 and 13, two of the reddest districts in the state.

Gina Calanni filed for HD132, leaving HDs 134 and 135 as the only two competitive State House districts in Harris County that still need candidates. I don’t have a good read on the rest of the state yet.

– District Clerk and County Treasurer are now contested primaries as Kevin Howard and Cosme Garcia (respectively) filed in each. She hasn’t filed yet, but Andrea Duhon appears to be in for HCDE Board of Trustees Position. 4, Precinct 3. That was the last county office that really needed a candidate.

Still more to come. If you know of something I’m missing, leave a comment.

Post-holiday weekend filing update

Pulling this together from various sources.

– According to the Brazoria County Democratic Party, Beto O’Rourke has company in the primary for Senate. Sema Hernandez, whose campaign Facebook page describes her as a “Berniecrat progressive” from Houston, is a candidate as well. I’d not seen or heard her name before this, and neither she nor Beto has officially filed yet as far as I can tell, so this is all I know. Some free advice to Beto O’Rourke: Please learn a lesson from the Wendy Davis experience and run hard in South Texas and the Valley so we don’t wake up in March to a fleet of stories about how you did surprisingly poorly in those areas against an unknown with a Latinx surname. Thanks.

J. Darnell Jones announced on Facebook that he will be filing for CD02 on November 30, joining Todd Litton in that race. Jones is a retired Navy officer (he has also served in the Army) who ran for Pearland City Council this past May. He had been associated with this race for awhile, so this is just making it official.

– The field in CD10 is growing. Richie DeGrow filed at TDP headquarters before Thanksgiving. He lives in Austin has kind of a meandering biography that among other things indicates he has had a career in the hospitality industry; I’ll leave it to you to learn more. Tami Walker is an attorney in Katy who has experience with various state and federal regulatory agencies; I’m told she’s active with Indivisible Katy. Tawana Cadien, who has run a couple of times before, is still out there, and Ryan Stone has filed campaign finance reports, though I can’t find a web presence for him, and neither has filed yet as far as I can tell. Finally, Michael Siegel, who is an assistant City Attorney in Austin is collecting petition signatures in lieu of paying the filing fee.

– In CD22, we have Mark Gibson, a businessman and retired Army colonel who was the candidate in 2016, and Letitia Plummer, a dentist in Pearland who is unfortunately an object lesson in why you should register your name as a domain before entering politics. I am also hearing that Steve Brown, the 2014 Democratic candidate for Railroad Commissioner and former Chair of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party, is planning to jump in.

– We have some interesting primaries for State House in Harris County. The rematch from 2016 in HD139 between first term Rep. Jarvis Johnson and former Lone Star College trustee Randy Bates may be the headliner, but there’s also Adam Milasincic versus two-time Council candidate Jenifer Pool for the right to run in a very winnable HD138. Finally, there’s Marty Schexnayder and Sandra Moore (about whom I can find no information) in the much less winnable HD133.

– In Fort Bend County, Sarah DeMerchant is back for a return engagement in HD26, Meghan Scoggins is running in HD28, and Jennifer Cantu, who does not yet have a web presence, is in for HD85. Rep. Ron Reynolds will once again have an opponent in HD27, this time facing Wilvin Carter.

– Still missing: Candidates in HDs 132 and 135 in Harris County, and 29 in Brazoria County. Also, Fort Bend has a number of county offices up for election this year – District Attorney, County Clerk, District Clerk, Treasurer – and no candidates for those offices that I am aware of. There’s two weeks left. Let’s not miss out.

A look ahead to Fort Bend County elections in 2017

(Note: From time to time I solicit guest posts on various topics, from people who have a particular interest or expertise in a particular topic. I don’t know much about local and municipal elections in Fort Bend County, so today’s post is by Steve Brown.

As has been aptly reported here over the last couple of weeks, Secretary Hilary Clinton was able to carry what was once seen as dependably “red” Fort Bend County. Those of us who’ve been working to turn Fort Bend purple, if not blue, have long known that our county wasn’t as conservative as most people believed. Our demographically diverse population, young families and growing base of millennials point to a Fort Bend ready to embrace more progressive values like adequate public school funding and climate change and denounce divisive, hate driven agendas. I have confidence that local Democratic Party leaders will continue working in advance of the 2018 midterms to keep that momentum going, but there are a few local elections on May 6, 2017 that can help to cement support among persuadable suburban voters and build our bench of new leaders.

There are a number of municipalities, school districts & MUDs that will hold elections this year – like Stafford, Rosenberg, Fulshear, Lamar Consolidated ISD to name a few. However, I want to draw your attention to the Fort Bend ISD and Sugar Land races.

If there’s one thing that the 2016 election taught us, it’s that a majority of voters in Fort Bend’s Commissioner 4 precinct either embraced Clinton’s message, rejected Trump or both. These voters live in diverse, highly educated communities like Telfair, Avalon and Sweetwater. Democrats have traditionally done well in our strongholds of Missouri City (which moved its city council election to November) and Fresno. The emergence of winnable precincts in and around Sugar Land create unique electoral opportunities. Although Clinton didn’t have the coattails to boost our down ballot candidates, she did leave behind a road map for these local races.

Fort Bend ISD

Fort Bend ISD trustees are elected district-wide. This year, three school board seats are up – one for a trustee who lives on the east side of the district, one from the west side and one elected at-large. Currently, there are only two minorities on Fort Bend ISD’s Board, and one of them, K.P. George, is up for re-election in May. It would be ideal to add at least one more progressive and/or minority to a Board that governs a district representing one of the most diverse student populations in the country.

Sugar Land City Council

Similarly, a progressive candidate in one of Sugar Land’s 4 district races could help to reshape that governing body as well. Clinton won about half of the precincts in Sugar Land and came extremely close in a handful of others to arguably make Sugar Land a “toss-up” municipality. Sugar Land’s four district council members will be up for re-election in May. Sugar Land recently annexed two master-planned communities so it may be too early to predict how that might impact electoral outcomes there. Nevertheless, good candidates should definitely consider running this Spring, and possibly win office with as few as 3500 votes.

2018 Midterms

As we look forward to the 2018 mid-term elections, having solid candidates to engage persuadable voters in the parts of Sugar Land and Fort Bend ISD that overlap with Commissioner’s Precinct 4 will help lay the groundwork to win that commissioner’s precinct in 2018. A prospective nominee for that office could be buoyed by the support of a newly minted school board trustee and Sugar Land city council member- not to mention access to their voter base and donors. With the right collaboration and coordination it’s plausible that GOTV in Precincts 2 and 4 (which would both be on the ballot in 2018) could help to elect Democrats countywide – including County Judge, District Attorney and various judicial benches. A competitive commissioner’s 4 race could also have a positive effect on the HD 26 race in 2018 and 2020.

Democrats can’t win the state if we can’t win suburbs – especially the diverse ones. Fort Bend has been on the cusp of political change for some time now. We can finally reach that tipping point by taking seriously these low hanging local elections. All elections matter.

Steve Brown is a former Chair of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party and Managing Director at Capitol Assets Sustainable Energy Development LLC.

More on commuter rail to Fort Bend

The Chron picks up the ball.

HoustonMetro

In a blog post for Off the Kuff, a local progressive politics blog, former Fort Bend Democratic Party chairman Steve Brown said now is the time for local officials to form a commuter rail district. Under state law, the district, if formed, could work with Metro to develop the line and apply for grant funding.

“Adding a commuter rail district would ensure better local accountability and avail us to more options to secure private investment, issue revenue bonds or even impose taxes to finance this project,” Brown said.

[…]

Rail districts are not unique to the Houston area. The Gulf Coast Rail District – which spans a large part of the Houston region – has a host of freight and passenger rail projects in mind, though it lacks funding for many of its major projects. Gulf Coast is already empowered to act as a commuter rail district, said its executive director, Maureen Crocker.

In fact, Crocker said, Gulf Coast is preparing for more study of a freight rail bypass in the same rail corridor around U.S. 90A that Metro is exploring for its rail line. The freight bypass could make commuter rail along the tracks more likely, as it could address concerns by freight haulers that passenger trains would delay their operations.

Though a regional rail district has a role, Brown said he envisions Metro working with a more focused commuter rail district to develop the 90A line.

“I feel pretty strongly that empowering an entity comprised of local Fort Bend community and business leaders to take the lead on this project is the only way to ensure that it happens,” he said.

Importantly, a dedicated district could be a conduit to increased state investment, he said.

Always happy to help move the conversation along. I’m also happy to have the Gulf Coast Rail District involved, whether as the lead entity or as a component. Whoever is at the rein, let’s get started on a vision for where this line ought to go, and what action is needed by the Legislature to facilitate it. State a vision, get stakeholders behind it, and let’s get moving.

Steve Brown: Why we need the US90A rail line

(Note: From time to time I solicit guest posts on various topics, from people who have a particular interest or expertise in a particular topic. Today’s post is by Steve Brown, on the newly revived US90A commuter rail line.)

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

In May 2015, Metro began operating two light rail lines serving the East End and Southeast communities. Those routes, along with an extension of the Main St. line, were part of the 2003 Metro Solutions referendum. Included in that referendum was also a nine mile commuter line connecting Southwest Houston to Missouri City along Main/90A. Despite its bi-partisan support, that route has yet to break ground…or even clear its final environmental stage.

When the METRO Solutions referendum squeaked out a victory with 51.7% of the vote, it was the votes from Fort Bend that pushed it into the winner’s column. The METRO Solutions referendum received 66% of the Fort Bend County vote. That shouldn’t be a surprise. According to the most recent Kinder Houston Area Survey (2016), Fort Bend residents beat out Harris and Montgomery County in favoring more spending for rail and buses. That study also found that a majority of Fort Bend residents believe that the development of a much improved mass transit system is “very important.”

Fort Bend County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, and is projected to increase by 60 percent by 2035. According to METRO, 24,000 daily work trips are made along the 90A corridor between Fort Bend and the Texas Medical Center. That number is expected to jump to 32,000 by 2035. The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) also estimates that trips along US 90A to all major employment centers, such as downtown Houston, Uptown/Galleria, and Greenway Plaza in Houston will increase approximately 37 percent in that same time period. That’s why I was overjoyed to hear that METRO’s Board recently voted to submit this project to FTA for project development. The project development phase is a preliminary stage, so it doesn’t guarantee full funding.

What’s needed now is a robust strategy for the next legislative session to advocate for state funding for the 90A line, and the creation of a special district to spearhead this effort.

Under the state’s Transportation Code, the legislature can create special “Commuter Rail Districts” (CRD). These Districts have the statutory power to develop, construct, own, and operate commuter rail facilities and connect political subdivisions in the district. The Fort Bend CRD, for instance, could accept grants and loans from the federal and state government. It could also issue revenue bonds and impose taxes. This district would function as the project leader and fiscal agent in partnering with METRO, local municipalities, private investors, Fort Bend Express and other key stakeholders.

A lot has changed along Main/90A since 2003. The 90A line should definitely stop in Missouri City but it shouldn’t end there. Constellation Field in Sugar Land has become a major local attraction, and the Imperial Market development will break ground later this year. Combined, they will be a hub for Sugar Land’s retail, entertainment, residential and office growth. As such, having the 90A commuter line terminate at Imperial Market (or even the Sugar Land airport) makes a lot of sense…assuming they’re willing to coordinate with the CRD.

Additionally, Missouri City’s residential growth and development has steadily drifted towards SH6 in recent years. In addition to the 90A route, we should also examine the feasibility of having a Hillcroft spur with stops around the Fountain of Praise/Fountain Life Center, Chasewood/Briargate and traveling adjacent to the Fort Bend Tollway before terminating on SH6. Not only would that route help to spark needed economic development in key East Fort Bend communities, it would also serve commuters from Fresno, Sienna Plantation and Riverstone. This “Hillcroft Spur” could function as a Bus Rapid Transit alternative to rail, at least initially, and potentially replace the 2 METRO Park and Rides in Fort Bend.

Finally, the state legislature needs invest in urban and suburban transit. We’re not going to be able to adequately address traffic congestion in this state with more toll roads. According to the American Public Transit Association, commuter rail annually yields $5.2 billion in economic and societal benefits. Those benefits are often greater than the initial investment and include cost savings from avoided congestion, mitigation of traffic accidents and tax revenue generated. These projects are also dynamic job creators and economic development incubators.

It’s time that we get the right people at the table to brainstorm innovative mobility solutions in Fort Bend, and finally make the METRO 90A/Southwest Houston commuter line a reality.

Steve Brown is a former Chair of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party and a past Director of Government Affairs for Metro.

Endorsement watch: What Brown can do for you

The Chron picks its favorite among the challengers in HD27.

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

[Rep. Ron] Reynolds, a three-term incumbent, was named Freshman of the Year by the House Democratic Caucus at the end of the 2011 session; two years later he landed on Texas Monthly’s “Worst” list. This year he needs to attend to his own problems while someone else takes on the task of representing District 27. The district covers most of Missouri City and parts of Houston and Sugar Land.

Challenging the incumbent are first-time candidate Angelique Bartholomew, 46, a certified mediator and director of compliance for a medical firm; Chris Henderson, 30, an assistant district attorney in Galveston County who also is running for the first time; and Steve Brown, 40, a former White House intern who owns a public affairs firm. The former Democratic Party chairman of Fort Bend County, Brown also worked as a budget analyst for then-state Rep. Sylvester Turner and was the Democratic nominee for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission in 2014.

Our choice for the Democratic primary is Brown. With 15 years of experience in politics and public affairs, including an unsuccessful run for the District 27 seat in 2006, he’s conversant with issues that resonate in this diverse, fast-growing district, including education and school finance, health care and economic development.

My interview with Steve Brown is here, and with Angelique Bartholomoew is here. The Chron has been pretty harsh on Reynolds lately – they begged people to challenge him after he was sentenced to jail time for barratry – so it was just a matter of who they liked. They had some good options here.

And as long as we’re discussing candidates the Chron doesn’t like:

Candance White brings a broad perspective and a wealth of experience to her quest to secure the Democratic party’s nomination for [Justice, 14th Court of Appeals District, Place 2]. White, 49, who graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and obtained a master’s in law from the University of Houston Law Center, began her career as an environmental lawyer. She has worked in private practice, served as a city of Houston municipal court judge, as an attorney for Adult Protective Services and as the inter-regional managing attorney for both Adult Protective Services and Child Protective Services. Currently, White serves as the Child Welfare Director for Protective Services for Harris County. “I know how to make complex decisions. I make them every day,” White told the editorial board. Her record is even more impressive when compared to that of her primary opponent. Former state appellate court judge Jim Sharp – booted out of office by voters following an episode of bullying behavior – lacks the necessary temperament to hold judicial office. Primary voters should unite behind White and give her a chance to serve on this important bench.

That was from last week. Strictly speaking, Sharp lost a general election in which all Democratic candidates for the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeal were defeated, so the Chron is assuming facts not in evidence. Be that as it may, it was clear who they were going to pick in that race.

Interview with Steve Brown

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

While HD137 is the only Democratic legislative primary in Harris County that features an incumbent and a serious opponent, it’s not the only one in the greater area. Over in Fort Bend, three-term Rep. Ron Reynolds has drawn three challengers in HD27. You’re aware of Rep. Reynolds’ recent issues, and he is aware of what I have said about him here. As such, he declined to be interviewed. You can check out the interview I did with him for his first campaign in 2008 here if you’re interested. Steve Brown was the first person to declare his candidacy against Reynolds this cycle. A former White House intern and legislative staffer, Brown owns a public affairs firm that has counted Houston Metro as a client. He served two terms as the Fort Bend County Democratic Party chair, ran for Railroad Commissioner in 2014 (you can listen to that interview here), and made a previous run for HD27 back in 2006. Here’s the interview:

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2016 Election page.

Chron overview of HD27 primary

Also known as Ron Reynolds versus the world.

Rep. Ron Reynolds

“This is the biggest challenge of my political career,” Reynolds said. “It will be an uphill climb, but I’m confident.”

The March 1 primary includes lawyer Angelique Bartholomew, prosecutor Christopher Henderson and Steve Brown, former chairman of the Fort Bend County Democrats. House District 27 covers most of Missouri City and parts of Houston and Sugar Land.

[…]

Despite the legal mess, Reynolds said he has held onto the support of many local Democratic officials, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green.

“No one has told me to resign,” Reynolds said. “It has been the opposite. They tell me, ‘You have got to keep fighting.’ They see (the conviction) for what it really is. They know the history of Montgomery County, and they know the charge.”

Prosecutors and media, he said, “made it appear that I was convicted of a heinous felony. It was a misdemeanor.”

Reynolds, 42, is well-known and well-liked within the district, said Don Bankston, chairman of the Fort Bend County Democrats. Still, the lawmaker is taking the challengers seriously.

“Reynolds is all over the place,” Bankston said. “His signs are everywhere, and he attends every event.”

[…]

Whether Reynolds’ criminal case matters to voters remains to be seen. While campaigning door-to-door, Brown said he has heard few people bring it up.

“People hear bits and pieces of it, but I don’t think they know details,” said Brown, who entered the race in part because he considers Reynolds’ legal problems a distraction. “I’m sympathetic. But we have to separate sympathy from being able to move forward as a district.”

Bartholomew, a first-time candidate who has raised money for other Democrats, said she also was concerned about how well Reynolds can serve the district with legal and professional problems swirling about him.

“Distractions like that are difficult for anyone to manage,” she said.

Bartholomew has not mentioned Reynolds in her campaign. Instead she has focused on fixing the school finance system and reducing class sizes, often using the hashtag #allschoolsmatter on Twitter.

“I’m focused on what is important to the district and families like mine,” said Bartholomew, who has five children, ages 7 to 18.

Henderson, meanwhile, has made an issue of the incumbent’s legal woes. On his campaign site, he wrote that barratry is the legal profession’s version of fraud because attorneys are “duping” clients into hiring them.

Anyone committing fraud should not be allowed to hold public office, wrote Henderson, an assistant district attorney in Galveston County. “Elected officials are put in place to create the law. They must also follow the laws they create.”

I will have interviews with Brown and Bartholomew (who was recently endorsed by Annie’s List) next week. I inquired with Rep. Reynolds to do an interview with him as well, but he declined.

I’ll say again, I like Rep. Reynolds and I respect his service in the Lege, but I believe it’s time for a change in HD27. Of course, I don’t live there and I don’t vote there, so it’s not up to me. Objectively, Rep. Reynolds ought to be in political trouble, but it doesn’t always work that way. His legal woes have certainly been news, but they’ve hardly drawn the kind of coverage that Rick Perry or Ken Paxton have for their cases. It’s likely that a fair number of voters know little about his barratry conviction. That’s just the way things are. Those who do know of his travails may well agree with him that he’s being railroaded, or they may decide that this issue doesn’t affect his ability to serve in the Legislature, or that his good service outweighs this problem, or that he’s still the better choice than his opponents. People will make their own decisions for their own reasons, and it doesn’t matter what you or I think. What I do think is that everyone would be better off if Rep. Reynolds dropped out to focus on taking care of his personal business. I think he’s still a favorite to win, though he’ll probably have to survive a runoff to do that. We’ll see what the voters think.

Steve Brown to run in HD27

This ought to shake things up a bit.

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

The bad week for state Rep. Ron Reynolds is getting worse.

Steve Brown, the former chairman of the Fort Bend County Democrats, wrote on Twitter Wednesday that he will challenge Reynolds in the March primary. A formal announcement will be made after Thanksgiving, Brown wrote.

[…]

Despite his legal problems, Reynolds is seeking a fourth term representing House District 27, which covers parts of Houston, Missouri City, Sugar Land, Pearland, Stafford, Fresno and Arcola.

Brown has worked on campaigns and in legislative offices of several public officials, including U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Houston; state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston; and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. In 2014, he lost to Republican Ryan Sitton for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates the oil and gas industry.

Here’s the tweet in question:

See here and here for the background. Brown ran for HD27 back in 2006 against then-Rep. Dora Olivo, getting 39.6% of the vote; Reynolds also lost to Olivo in 2008, then defeated her in 2010. I don’t live in that district, but if I did Steve Brown would get my vote. I’ll have more when he makes his formal announcement.

A Denton fracking overview

The Trib has a long piece on the Denton fracking fight, also published in Politico to help non-Texans understand what this was about. It’s a good read that goes over all the main points if you need a refresher on the details. There are two bits of interest I’d like to highlight:

Cathy McMullen taps the brakes of her Toyota Prius after driving through a neighborhood of mostly one-story homes in Denton, about an hour northwest of Dallas. “There,” she says, nodding toward a limestone wall shielding from view a pad of gas wells. McMullen, a 56-year-old ­­­­home health nurse, cruised past a stretch of yellowed grass and weeds. “They could have put that pad site on that far corner right there,” she says, pointing ahead. “The land’s all vacant.”

Instead, the wells sit on the corner of Bonnie Brae and Scripture Street. Across the way: Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Across another street: the basketball court, picnic tables and purple playground of McKenna Park. That was where Range Resources, a company based in Fort Worth, wanted to start drilling and fracking in 2009.

McMullen, who at that time had just moved into a house about 1,500 feet away from the proposed site, joined others in raising concerns about bringing the gas industry and hydraulic fracturing — widely known as fracking — so close to where kids play. Fracking, which involves blasting apart underground rock with millions of gallons of chemical-laced water to free up oil and gas, “is a brutal, brutal process for people living around it,” McMullen says.

Their efforts in city hall failed.

If McMullen felt invisible five years ago, she doesn’t anymore. Today, state lawmakers, the oil and gas industry and national environmental groups have become acutely aware of Denton, home to two universities, 277 gas wells and now, thanks to a rag-tag group of local activists, Texas’ first ban on fracking.

Thrust into the saga is George P. Bush, who in January will take the helm of the Texas General Land Office, an otherwise obscure office that manages mineral rights on millions of acres of state-owned property. In his first political office, Jeb’s eldest son and George W.’s nephew will inherit one of two major lawsuits filed against Denton, home to a sliver of that mineral portfolio.

We don’t need a patchwork approach to drilling regulations across the state,” Bush, a former energy investment consultant, told The Texas Tribune in July as the anti-fracking campaign gained steam. It appears to be his only public statement on the issue.

Bush’s role in the dispute — however peripheral — only brightens the spotlight on Denton, and it forces him and others to choose between two interests Texans hold dear: petroleum and local control.

I’m sorry, but the idea that “local control” is a dearly-held ideal, especially by Republicans, is a complete myth. Just look at the myriad bills Republican legislators have introduced in recent sessions and/or will introduce this session to limit or eliminate the ability of cities to pass and enforce anti-discrimination ordinances and to regulate a wide variety of things, from fracking to single use plastic bags to payday lending. Throw in other top legislative priorities to require cities to enforce federal immigration laws and to limit their revenue growth via tighter appraisal caps on top of that. As I said before, Republicans are at least as interested nowadays in nullifying municipal laws as they are of nullifying federal laws. Whatever fealty there is to the idea of “local control” has long gone out the window any time some local entity has tried to do something state Republicans – or more specifically, their corporate masters – don’t like. It’s time we recognized that.

McMullen’s group — Frack Free Denton — persuaded nearly 59 percent of Denton voters to approve a fracking ban on Nov. 4, after knocking on doors, staging puppet shows and performing song-and-dance numbers. The movement had help from Earthworks, a national environmental group, but its opponents — backed by the oil and gas lobby — raised more than $700,000 to spend on mailers and television ads and a high-profile public relations and polling firm. That was more than 10 times what Frack Free Denton collected.

[…]

Trying to make sense of the Nov. 4 landslide vote, some industry officials suggest that the voting power of Denton’s roughly 51,000 university students effectively drowned out the town’s permanent residents. The gowns, the argument goes, drove the town. “If we’re looking at Denton and trying to glean some sort of national significance out of this,” says Steve Everley, the national spokesman for Energy In-Depth, which promotes the petroleum industry, “then the significance is that activists are having success in college towns and in populations with few if any wells.”

But Denton’s voting records cast doubt on that argument. It’s not clear that college students turned out in high enough numbers to single-handedly tilt the vote. Voters closer to campuses overwhelmingly supported the ban, as well as Democrat Wendy Davis in the race for governor. But plenty of conservatives also rejected fracking. Both Republican Greg Abbott, who ultimately defeated Davis, and the ban prevailed in 11 of Denton’s biggest 33 precincts. Roughly 25,000 votes were cast in the fracking question and those opposed to fracking outpaced supporters by some 4,400 votes. Denton would have still passed the measure by 412 votes even if voters younger than 30 were disregarded. Voting data also shows that the average age of a voter was 52.

I’ve mentioned before that Democratic turnout in Denton was helped by the referendum, and that’s good, but it could and should have been better. I wonder how many people in Denton voted for the fracking ban and also voted for Ryan Sitton for Railroad Commissioner and George P. Bush for Land Commissioner, perhaps without realizing that by doing so they were partially undermining their own vote. Some of that was probably force of habit – partisan affiliation is strong – some of it was probably just not making the connection. I’m sure there were missed opportunities for Dems to work with the anti-fracking folks to help make that connection. Of course, that can be a dicey proposition when you need Republican support to win and thus need for your effort to appear as non-partisan as possible so as not to turn any of those folks off, and besides I’m sure it would have been difficult to get that message through when the city is already drowning in pro- and anti-fracking ads. I don’t have a good answer here, I’m just saying this is the sort of thing we need to be thinking about.

Endorsement watch: One for Steve Brown

The Express News makes a nice call.

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

In this year’s contest, Democrat Steve Brown is the best candidate.

A former party chairman of Fort Bend County, Brown has not worked in the oil-and-gas industry and can bring a much-needed outsider’s viewpoint. He is clearly the best candidate to voice concerns raised by people in communities most affected by the oil-and-gas boom.

Brown takes concerns about water usage, disposal wells fueling tremors in West Texas and the effects of flaring on our air quality seriously.

He has endorsed recommendations from the Sunset Advisory Commission to change the Railroad Commission’s name, place limits on fundraising from the oil-and-gas industry, and expand its recusal policy so conflicts are placed in writing.

The powerful oil-and-gas industry has excessive influence on the commission. Industry interests and public interests are not always the same.

I’ve talked before about how I expect some of the newspaper endorsements to go – I expect Leticia Van de Putte and Sam Houston to sweep, Mike Collier and Wendy Davis to do well, and Baby Bush to be the Republican standard-bearer – but the Railroad Commissioner race is harder to read. The E-N pretty much lays out the choice: Ryan Sitton will get the nod from the papers that think experience matters for this office, and Brown will be endorsed by those that think an outsider is needed on this industry-dominated commission. The fact that Brown is smart and a good communicator, has worked hard to learn the details of the job and has put forward some good policy ideas has helped his cause. I hope the other papers see it as the Express News did.

In other endorsement news, the Corpus Christi Caller has been busy. They put out nice recommendations for Mike Collier and Sam Houston. From the latter:

Houston lawyer Sam Houston, the Democrat running for attorney general, would make a compelling case for our endorsement even if the Republican nominee could match his resume and unblemished reputation for ethics. Republican Ken Paxton should be disqualified from consideration because his compromised ethics are a matter of record. We’re disturbed that Republican voters didn’t do that in the primary or the runoff.

[…]

Houston would focus the office of attorney general more forcefully upon its core functions — enforcing consumer protection laws, collecting child support, issuing open-records opinions — and less on suing the federal government at Texas taxpayer expense. Attorney General Greg Abbott famously sued the government to obstruct environmental regulation and Obamacare implementation, and to stop a federal judge’s ruling that would have protected the endangered whooping crane. All of the Republican candidates for attorney general, especially Paxton, promised more of the same. So, we probably would have endorsed Houston anyway had Rep. Dan Branch or former Railroad and Public Utility commissions chairman Barry Smitherman been the GOP nominee — but not without acknowledging their undeniable fitness for the office.

Again, this one is such a no-brainer that I will be shocked if any paper comes up with a reason to tout Paxton. It’s just no contest. As for Collier:

If the state comptroller were a non-elected professional, sensible Texans would hire what they’ve never voted into that office — an accountant. Democrat Mike Collier — CPA and former oil company chief financial officer — would be a shoo-in. And the Republican nominee, state Sen. Glenn Hegar, a farmer — nothing wrong with farmers — would be irrelevant.

Hegar is an example of a recurring mistake voters make — a politician seeking a promotion to comptroller to then what?

Collier is believable when he says comptroller wouldn’t be a steppingstone for him. He’s easy to envision as a comptroller. Lieutenant governor? That would require some imagination. He has never run for office, says he wants to take the politics out of this one and — call us naive — we take him at his word.

[…]

Collier proposes quarterly revenue estimates, which would help lawmakers and the public know where Texas stands financially. He praises Combs for one thing — transparency — but says all she did was dish out mountains of unexplained data. He proposes explaining what it means — a task he’s uniquely qualified to do.

A very strong endorsement for a strong candidate. How much do these things matter? Not much. But it’s still nice to have.

And on a less serious note, there’s the Ag Commissioner race. Texpatriate surveyed the field, and after ruling out the useless Jim Hogan and the troglodyte Sid Miller, chose to endorse Green party candidate Kenneth Kendrick. Apparently, someone notified Hogan about this, and he paused “Storage Wars” and put down his bag of Funyons long enough to tweet his displeasure at this insult to the integrity of his campaign. Snarkery ensued, and so, I hope, will a drawn-out slapfight on social media. You take your diversions where you can, you know? To re-engage serious mode for a moment, it will be interesting to see how the papers handle this race. If there was ever a race in which a third-party candidate could rack up a few endorsements, this would be it. I don’t know that I’d bet on it, but I don’t know that I’d bet against it, either.

Who watches the fox while he guards the henhouse?

The Railroad Commission needs an ethics upgrade.

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

The race for Texas railroad commissioner has revived — at least in the short term — debate around a series of thwarted legislative proposals to overhaul the state’s curiously named oil and gas agency.

Calling the Railroad Commission too heavily influenced by the industry it regulates, Steve Brown, a Democrat, last week unveiled a slate of proposals aimed at reworking its image — measures first proposed by a panel of state lawmakers in 2013. The proposals include changing the commission’s name, shortening the period in which commissioners can fundraise, barring commissioners from accepting contributions from parties with business before the commission, expanding its recusal policy and requiring commissioners to resign before running for another office.

“The agency is broken itself, and so, you know, because of that, there are so many people in the community — out in the state of Texas — who just don’t trust the process,” Brown, the former chairman of the Fort Bend Democrats, said in an interview.

The move revealed stark differences between the campaign priorities of Brown and Ryan Sitton, his Republican opponent and the clear front-runner in the race, as they vie for an office that toes a line between industry champion and watchdog.

Sitton’s campaign criticized Brown’s announcement but did not directly weigh in on the bulk of the proposals, saying Sitton’s attention is focused on other issues. “We’re focused on making sure that Ryan is communicating his message, not in responding to ideas from his opponent,” said Jared Craighead, a spokesman for Sitton. Sitton is an oil and gas engineer who touts his industry expertise in his campaign credentials.

Which is to say, the status quo suits him just fine.

Brown’s proposals are the word-for-word recommendations of the 2012-13 Texas Sunset Advisory Commission, the legislative body that periodically reviews how state agencies operate. Lawmakers last session debated but failed to pass several pieces of legislation incorporating the recommendations. The Railroad Commission opposed the overhaul, arguing that commissioners should not be subject to stricter fundraising standards than other statewide officials and that the agency’s current ethics policies were plenty robust.

Brown called it a “vast mistake that the Legislature has been unable to pass these reforms.”

But Craighead panned Brown’s proposal as unoriginal. “I think to cut and paste the Sunset review commission’s work shows a lack of thought, and certainly, those are not the types of things that Ryan is talking about,” he said. He added that Sitton considers ethics and transparency issues important.

Again, the status quo suits Ryan Sitton just fine. Look, there’s a reason why the RRC gets singled out for special ethics rules. For one thing, Commissioners serve six-year terms with no resign-to-run requirement, which means they all get one guaranteed shot at another office without having to step down first. More to the point, Commissioners and Commission candidates, much like judges and judicial candidates, tend to draw financial support exclusively from the parties that have business before them. For judges that means lawyers, and for Railroad Commissioners that means the energy industry. In both cases, it creates at least the appearance of impropriety. And in both cases, the answer is campaign finance reform. I’ve been arguing for public financing of judicial races, which is a long enough shot on its own and even less likely here. The Sunset recommendation of limiting the dates for contributions doesn’t really solve the impropriety issue but at least provides a bit of separation, and it has a chance of passing the Legislature. I’ll take what I can get. If you want more of the same old same old, Ryan Sitton’s your man. If you want a change, vote for Steve Brown.

Convention coverage

Wendy and Leticia and a whole host of others rally the crowd in Dallas.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte shared the spotlight at the Texas Democratic Party convention on Friday night, promising to change the direction of the state, ripping their Republican opponents and imploring Democrats to break the GOP’s two-decade grip on state government.

Davis attacked her Republican opponent, matching his attacks at the GOP convention in Fort Worth earlier this month, and talked fighting insiders in Austin.

“I’m running because there’s a moderate majority that’s being ignored — commonsense, practical, hardworking Texans whose voices are being drowned out by insiders in Greg Abbott’s party, and it needs to stop,” she said.

Davis spoke about her background, her kids and her grandmother, all as a way of establishing her Texas roots and values.

She talked about what she would do if elected, promising full-day pre-K “for every eligible child,” less testing in public schools, less state interference with teaching, more affordable and accessible college. She also implied she would end property tax exemptions for country clubs as part of property tax reform, and end a sales tax discount for big retailers who pay on time.

She took some swipes at her opponent, too.

“Unlike Greg Abbott, I’m not afraid to share the stage with my party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, my colleague, mi hermana, Leticia Van de Putte,” she said. When the audience hooted, she cautioned them: “Now you guys don’t clap too much or Greg Abbott will sue you.”

The insider slam on Abbott was woven into Davis’ nine pages of prepared remarks. “You see, Mr. Abbott cut his teeth politically as part of the good old boys network that’s had their hands on the reins for decades,” she said. “He’s been in their service and their debt since he ran for office, and as a judge and a lawyer he’s spent his career defending insiders, protecting insiders, stacking the deck for insiders and making hardworking Texans pay the price.”

Davis said Abbott accepts large contributions from payday lenders “and then clears the way for them to charge unlimited interest rates and fees.” She blasted him for taking contributions from law firms that handle bond deals approved by the office of the attorney general, and for saying state law does not require chemical companies to reveal what they are storing in Texas communities.

“He isn’t working for you; he’s just another insider, working for insiders,” she said.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Van de Putte, who spoke immediately before Davis, promised not to back down from the fight against Dan Patrick, her opponent for lieutenant governor. She said she would instead fight to “put Texas first.”

When she ran for student council president in junior high, she said, she was told she could not run because she was a girl.

“Well I did, and I won,” she said.

She said that lesson remains relevant now. “I need to run, not just because I am a girl, but because I want the responsibility. Because I know what needs to get done. And I know I’m the right person for the job.”

I love it when they talk tough. I’m not up in Dallas, though several of my blogging colleagues are. So far the reports I’ve heard are positive – lots of energy and excitement. One person even compared it to 2008, which is music to the ear. Obviously, the folks who take the time to go to a party convention aren’t the ones that need to be inspired to go vote, but they are the ones that will be doing a lot of the work to inspire others, so the more enthusiastic they are, the better.

As I said on Friday, the best thing you can do is work to help get the message out and get the voters to the polls. The next best thing you can do is pitch in financially. Democrats have done phenomenally well in grassroots small-dollar fundraising of late, which is both great and necessary since the other guys have a lot more megalomaniac billionaires on their side. Monday is the last day for this fundraising period, and while we can’t do much about the polling narrative right now, we can at least make sure that one part of the story is that our candidates will be in good shape to take the fight to their opponents this fall. So with that in mind, here’s where you can park that loose change that’s burning a hole in your pocket:

Wendy Davis

Leticia Van de Putte

Sam Houston

Mike Collier

John Cook

Steve Brown

If you can only give to one, I would advise you to donate to Leticia Van de Putte. Wendy Davis has already demonstrated that she can raise a ton of money, but Leticia needs to post a big number in July to ensure that every story written about her doesn’t contain a disclaimer about her ability to get her message out. Sam Houston and then Mike Collier are next in line. Those two plus John Cook and Steve Brown will have less effect on the ultimate outcome than the ladies will, but they are still very important.

“You just work with what you have rather than complaining that you don’t have it,” said John Cook, the land commissioner candidate. “That’s what our campaign is all about.”

Cook said he will focus less on the General Land Office and home in on the GOP’s controversial platform on social issues, which touts reparative therapy for gays and lesbians, among other measures.

“My job now is to point out the shortcomings of the Republican Party and the inclusiveness of the Democratic Party,” he said.

Brown, running for a seat on the state board that regulates oil and gas, has campaigned on increasing the Railroad Commission’s environmental stewardship and improving the agency’s fairness. He said he would work on communicating that to delegates at the convention.

Houston, vying to become the state’s chief lawyer, said he wants to depoliticize the attorney general’s office, saying that under Greg Abbott it too often has focused on fighting the federal government rather than finding solutions.

Collier said he intends to paint the tea party – and the Texas GOP, by extension – as anti-business for failing to support fully funding key state programs, such as public education, that ultimately aid business.

“If you understand business, you understand that you’ve got to invest to plan for the future,” Collier said.

The badness of the Republican statewide ticket doesn’t end with Dan Patrick. It’s rotten all the way down. Don’t forget about these guys, who will be working as hard as Wendy and Leticia with far less attention being paid to them.

John Cook mentioned the party platform, so let’s talk about that.

Roughly 7,000 delegates have converged on the Big D this weekend, two weeks after Texas Republicans met at the Fort Worth end of the Metroplex to hammer out a platform that drew national attention for its controversial planks on immigration and support for so-called “reparative therapy” to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality.

“All they did was talk about hating people,” Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said at a Thursday night reception. “This week, we’re in Dallas, Texas, talking about love, right?”

The Democratic Party platform will reflect that feeling, said Garnet Coleman, the Houston state representative in charge of leading the drafting committee for the last decade.

“Our platform is designed to include, not exclude,” Coleman said on Friday, the day before the draft document is viewed, debated and voted on by the permanent platform committee. “And I think their (the Republicans’) platform is an expression of values that are, quite frankly, outside of the mainstream.”

Coleman predicted the Democrats’ platform will not spark the heated debates of the Republican convention, where delegates fought over planks on immigration, medical marijuana and homosexuality, because of a “set of values” the party approved in 2004 and on which they have been building since.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of change,” Coleman said of the 2014 draft compared with its 2012 predecessor. The party will remain opposed to a guest worker program in favor of comprehensive immigration reform and the issue of child detainees on the border likely will not be included in the platform.

[…]

The most significant departure from previous years’ platforms likely will be the inclusion of a new plank regarding women’s issues, said Coleman. The section will focus on issues that affect women beyond family planning and abortion, such as wage disparity and other workplace challenges.

The transportation section also will see some additions, addressing what Coleman called the “non-sexy” issues of toll roads and highway building and maintenance funds.

“There’s not enough money to just maintain the highways we have, so that affects the ability for Texas to grow,” Coleman said, adding he would like to see a gas tax. “(Gov. Rick) Perry has made Texas highways into franchises for toll roads.”

As I’ve said before, no candidate is bound by their party’s platform, but I doubt you’ll find too many Democrats trying to back away or distract from the TDP platform. That especially includes the provisions on immigration.

Contrasting the GOP positions to their own, Democrats said it boils down to matters of inclusion and respect.

Like the Republicans, Democrats see immigration as a key to motivating voter turnout for the November general election.

In speech after speech Friday, Democratic Party luminaries ranging from Van de Putte to U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro to party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa bashed the GOP platform for its tough-on-immigrants, secure-the-border stance.

And when the Democrats approve their platform on Saturday, party officials said the result will feature most everything the Republicans’ did not.

“We are very supportive of a path to citizenship because there are people who are here and are very productive and have committed no crime and are adding to our economy,” said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, chairman of the party’s platform committee. “We are not for a guest-worker program, because that can become a form of indentured servitude.”

Throughout caucuses and forums on Friday, Democrats spent time focusing on the GOP platform that calls for tightening immigration enforcement, a position underscored in recent weeks by an unprecedented influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied apprehended after crossing the Mexican border.

“The Republicans have gone backward on immigration,” Castro told reporters. “You have a candidate in Wendy Davis that appreciates the contribution of immigrants throughout Texas history, and you have Republican candidates who use the border as a bogeyman. They use it to stoke fear. They use it to divide Texans, to turn Texans against each other and to win elections and the people of our state are tired of that.”

Stace seems to be pleased with developments so far, which makes me happy. There’s a lot more to come, but let’s stay focused on what’s important. Keep organizing, keep talking to the voters, and keep moving forward.

Precinct analysis: Democratic primary elections

I finally got around to asking for the canvass reports for the primaries in Harris County. I didn’t have any specific agenda in looking at the data from each, I just wanted to see what I could learn. Let’s start on the Democratic side with a look at the vote totals in each State Rep district for the Senate race.

Dist Kim Kesha Alameel Fjet Scherr ============================================= 126 119 276 513 40 165 127 128 346 531 25 234 128 128 163 603 43 145 129 175 318 991 133 275 130 121 201 431 35 146 131 412 1,200 1,827 72 361 132 131 319 384 41 139 133 131 169 1,040 82 297 134 277 246 2,773 176 613 135 134 280 483 29 135 137 97 193 447 27 107 138 117 224 635 45 203 139 353 1,140 1,735 97 366 140 152 227 455 37 95 141 283 721 1,307 54 273 142 310 864 1,243 72 264 143 232 436 814 50 193 144 123 117 514 24 113 145 232 285 995 80 265 146 391 1,068 2,391 106 374 147 422 1,018 2,738 134 411 148 260 300 1,521 76 376 149 224 326 539 45 145 150 121 273 500 50 129

The main conclusion I’d draw from this is that people seem to have gotten the message about Kesha Rogers. None of the districts had any surprises. Even in the African-American districts, where one might be concerned that Roger’s name could earn her some votes in a low-information race, she scored only 27%, not much higher than her 20% overall. Straight up against David Alameel, she got about 35% in the African-American districts. I was already feeling pretty good about the runoff, and the data here reinforce that.

Here’s what the Governor’s race looked like:

Dist Davis Madrigal ======================= 126 1,093 71 127 1,228 91 128 1,010 107 129 1,849 111 130 911 61 131 3,788 288 132 968 74 133 1,783 68 134 4,310 104 135 1,031 85 137 833 73 138 1,204 83 139 3,678 273 140 803 208 141 2,612 162 142 2,778 216 143 1,465 359 144 794 145 145 1,560 447 146 4,302 240 147 4,719 282 148 2,464 275 149 1,184 132 150 1,045 77

For all the tsuris around Davis’ performance in South Texas, she did just fine in the Latino districts here, scoring over 83% of the vote. More is always better, but hey, she didn’t campaign. There’s nothing to see here.

The headscratcher race was of course the Ag Commissioner race.

Dist Hogan Kinky Hugh ============================ 126 445 342 301 127 468 403 363 128 466 350 251 129 617 582 640 130 361 322 248 131 1,822 1,049 796 132 429 335 237 133 439 591 687 134 981 1,445 1,571 135 437 344 273 137 308 282 234 138 413 437 358 139 1,691 1,041 781 140 508 290 155 141 1,415 642 436 142 1,397 787 539 143 856 560 273 144 422 331 143 145 730 707 404 146 1,905 1,263 936 147 1,904 1,487 1,083 148 843 1,063 610 149 540 424 271 150 419 342 285

The voters in HD134 got the message about Hugh Fitzsimons, but that’s about it. Maybe if he’d had Alameel money, it would have been different. As for Hogan, I’m going with the theory that he did well by being the first name on the ballot. Doesn’t explain how he did in other counties, but it’s the best I can do.

And finally, the Railroad Commissioner race, which in its own was is also a mystery.

Dist Henry Brown ==================== 126 352 687 127 413 775 128 408 622 129 644 1,063 130 319 566 131 1,034 2,654 132 361 599 133 450 1,078 134 942 2,508 135 402 598 137 275 510 138 362 779 139 1,079 2,396 140 362 574 141 717 1,784 142 913 1,787 143 622 1,042 144 334 498 145 602 1,125 146 1,206 2,821 147 1,268 3,012 148 824 1,424 149 414 796 150 378 627

Like Jim Hogan, Dale Henry was first on the ballot, but unlike Hogan it did him no good. It’s reasonable to think that Steve Brown would do well in his backyard, and he is an active campaigner and social media presence. But let’s be honest, anything can happen in a downballot no-money race. I’m just glad the better outcome is what happened here.

Primary results: Statewide

So Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott won easily.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

They never had to sweat their primaries, so on Tuesday night Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis turned their attention to a fall election that is shaping up to be one of the most hotly contested and closely watched Texas governor’s races in decades.

Davis, who was winning almost 80 percent of the vote in early returns, and Abbott, who was pulling in more than 90 percent at last count, both gave early victory speeches on a night when uncertainty and surprise shook up candidates in several other key state races.

Davis went first, focusing her remarks on job creation and education, saying Texas badly needed new leadership after years of uninterrupted Republican rule.

“I want you to know this: I am ready to fight for you and to fight for every hardworking Texan across this state,” Davis said at her campaign headquarters in Fort Worth. “Now is the time to fight for our future. This is not a time to stand still.”

But Davis’ remarks quickly turned into an attack on Abbott. She criticized him for defending in court steep cuts made by the Legislature to public education in 2011 in response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of school districts that say the state’s education system is flawed and doesn’t appropriately fund schools.

“He’s defending those cuts,” Davis said. “Cuts that laid off teachers and forced our kids into overcrowded classrooms.”

She also mentioned the ongoing abortion debate in Texas — the issue that helped turn her into an overnight sensation last summer when she filibustered a restrictive abortion bill. Davis bashed Abbott for his stance on abortion, saying that he wants to “dictate for all women, including victims of rape and incest.” Abbott has said he believes abortion should be legal only when the mother’s life is in danger.

“I will be the governor who fights for the future of Texas,” Davis said, adding that “Greg Abbott is a defender of the status quo.”

There were a lot of uncounted ballots at the time I called it a night last night, but turnout on the Dem side will probably be around 600,000, or about what we had in 2012. A bit more than half the votes were cast early, which strongly suggests yesterday’s rotten weather had some effect. Republicans also had more than half their turnout come in early, so it affected both sides. This is why I always vote early, y’all.

John Cornyn easily won his primary, but with a not-terribly-impressive 58% or so of the vote. Barring any late surge, David Alameel will finish with about 47% and will face (sigh) Kesha Rogers in the runoff, as she finished second with about 22%. I expect he’ll win easily in a low turnout race, and I have to wonder if this is the reason he got those early endorsements from Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, and a whole passel of Dem officeholders. Maybe someone in the hive mind had the foresight to think that he had the best shot at solving the Kesha problem, hopefully in March but surely in May if it comes to it. Be that as it may, let me take this opportunity once again to spit on that crappy Trib primary poll. Use a dartboard next time, fellas.

Anyway. Alameel will be joined in the runoff by Kinky Friedman and Jim Hogan, who led the field for Ag Commissioner for no apparent reason. At least Steve Brown won the Railroad Commissioner nomination, so there was just one random result.

On the Republican side, Baby Bush collected 73% in the Land Commissioner race, so he joins Abbott in getting to start running for November. Glenn Hegar was within an eyelash of 50% at the time I closed up shop; if he falls back, Harvey Hilderbran will get another shot at him. All Supreme Court incumbents won, and all Court of Criminal Appeals races had clear winners. Otherwise, here are your runoff lineups:

Lite Guv – Dan Patrick versus David Dewhurst. Sure looks like The Dew is going down.

Attorney General – Ken Paxton versus Dan Branch. Back to the Railroad Commission for you, Barry Smitherman.

Ag Commissioner – Sid Miller versus Tommy Merritt. If things hold to form, Ted Nugent will have had quite the successful primary himself.

Railroad Commissioner – Wayne Christian versus Ryan Sitton. Yeah, I know, who?

That’s all I got. What are your thoughts about the primaries?

What’s at stake in the Democratic primaries

I’ve had my fun poking holes in Mark Jones’ ridiculous argument that we should all just vote in the Republican primary, but now it’s time to talk about the Democratic primary and why these races matter.

US Senate

David Alameel

David Alameel

On Monday and Tuesday I published interviews with Mike Fjetland and Maxey Scherr. I wish I could present an interview with David Alameel today, but as you can see I don’t have one. I made contact with his campaign manager, but after some initial back and forth I heard nothing for a couple of weeks, then got an email out of the blue late last week from another campaign staffer; after replying to him I heard nothing further. Team Alameel is welcome to contact me any time between now and Primary Day and I’ll do my best to accommodate his schedule, and run the interview the next weekday. Y’all have my email address and my cell number. I’m not going anywhere.

There are twenty-one candidates running for the Senate, including the incumbent, and five of them are Democrats. Two of them, Fjetland and Scherr, are clearly worthy of your consideration. I personally lean towards Scherr because I have a preference for younger candidates and I think there would be value in having three women at the top of the ticket, but both of them are honorable and will run respectable campaigns. One candidate, Harry Kim, is largely unknown to me and I daresay to most people reading this. He has a website now, though the content is generic to the point of being formless, his campaign Facebook page was last updated on January 7 when he uploaded a cover photo, and his campaign Twitter account has yet to tweet anything. I don’t think I’m asking too much of first time candidates operating on a shoestring to at least take advantage of the free tools that are available to them so those of us that will not otherwise get to interact with them can learn a little something about them.

One candidate should come with glaring spotlights and screaming klaxons, to warn everyone in her path to stay the hell away. I speak of course of the LaRouche nutball Kesha Rogers, who for the last two elections managed to get herself and her message of impeaching President Obama nominated in CD22. That’s mortifying to say the least, but in the end neither nomination had any effect on anything. Nominating her for the Senate – even allowing her to slip into the runoff – would make all of us a laughingstock on a national scale with the force to knock Chris Christie out of the news cycle and with the potential to administer real damage to Wendy Davis’ campaign. This is what we get with Kesha Rogers. She has thrived in the past on obscurity in low profile, low turnout elections. The only antidote to this is a sufficiently informed electorate. Make sure everyone you know knows about Kesha Rogers.

And then there’s Alameel, who despite plastering the entire Internet with his ads, remains an enigma. Forget my own inability to get an interview with him, I’ve yet to see a profile of him in some other news source. We all know that he made a lot of contributions to Republicans in years past but has been Democratic-only since 2008. We know there are questions about his commitment to reproductive rights, given past and possibly ongoing connections to a Catholic pro-life group. We know that despite these things, both Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte saw fit to endorse him. But we don’t know the answers to these questions, and until someone with a microphone or notebook gets to pose those questions to him, we won’t know any more than we do right now. The Davis and LVdP endorsements carry some weight, but without knowing more about him I can’t recommend even considering a vote for him at this time. If I get the opportunity to interview him, even if I just get the opportunity to read something written by someone who has had the opportunity to speak to him, I may change my mind about that. I’ll let you know if that happens.

Governor

We’re all voting for Wendy in the primary, right? I mean, whatever misgivings you may have about her campaign at this time aside, Ray Madrigal has done no campaigning that I can see, he has no online presence, and he offers zero odds of competing against Greg Abbott, let alone winning. The only real item of interest here is Davis’ vote share. If she fails to get above some arbitrary number – I don’t know what that arbitrary number is, but I do know that it will be decided after her vote total is in – there will be some number of stories written about Democratic “discontent” with her, or maybe just “trepidation” about her. The number of such stories is inversely proportional to her actual vote share, as it the number of “unnamed Democratic insiders/strategists” quoted in those stories. To paraphrase those DirecTV ads, don’t let there be lots of stories written about Democratic “discontent” – or “disenchantment”, there’s another good word – with Wendy Davis, with multiple quotes from “unnamed Democratic insiders/strategists”. Vote for her in the primary and do your part to head that off.

By the way, I do presume there is an arbitrary number for Greg Abbott as well. Partly because he has a gaggle of opponents, and partly because he’s not Wendy Davis, I presume his arbitrary number is lower than her arbitrary number. I also presume the tone of those stories, if they get to be written, will be more of surprise than an opportunity to pile on and air grievances. This is of course an untestable hypothesis – like I said, we don’t know what each candidate’s arbitrary numbers are – but however you want to slice it, I’d bet Abbott would get more slack for a lower-than-you-might-have-expected vote share than Davis would get. Assuming either of them gets less than one might expect, whatever that is.

Ag Commissioner

The stakes here are pretty basic: A well-known candidate that can generate his own press and who is running on a sexy issue but whom basically no one trusts to be a good Democrat, versus a highly qualified and much more acceptable to the base candidate who will be utterly ignored by the press. Dumb ideas aside, Mark Jones did at least characterize this race correctly. Kinky is clearly higher risk, but at least potentially higher upside. Hugh Fitzsimons is solid and trustworthy, but again will get absolutely no attention from the press save for a cursory campaign overview story some time in October. Which do you prefer? Again, I’m ignoring the third candidate, Jim Hogan, who does not appear to be doing much of anything. Maybe that’s foolish after Mark Thompson came out of nowhere to win the Railroad Commissioner nomination in 2008 over two more experienced candidates, but it’s what I’m doing.

Railroad Commissioner

No one is going to claim that this race will be on anyone’s radar, but there’s still a choice, and in my consideration it’s a clear choice. Dale Henry is by all accounts a well-qualified candidate, having been the Democratic nominee for RRC in 2006 and 2012. He’s also, to put it gently, old school in his campaign style and methods. Steve Brown is young, dynamic, an outsider for an agency that could use a fresh perspective, a modern campaigner who will work hard for himself and the top of the ticket, and has a future even if all he gets out of this election is the experience of running statewide. I think he’s the obvious call to make, but in a low profile campaign anything can happen. But if you’re paying attention and you want a better slate overall, you’ll be sure to vote for Steve Brown.

Local races

Here’s where Mark Jones’ idea really makes no sense. Pretty much every county where Democrats are strong features important primaries. We already know about Harris County, where the need to nominate Kim Ogg outweighs Jones’ suggestion all by itself. Travis County is electing a County Judge, as is El Paso County, which also features three hot legislative races. Bexar County has races for County Judge, County Clerk, District Attorney, District Clerk, and a slew of District Court judges. Dallas County has a power struggle between current DA Craig Watkins and Party Chair Darlene Ewing, with the former running his own slate of candidates, including one against Ewing. Tarrant County will be key to Rep. Mark Veasey’s re-election. And those are just the big counties.

Bottom line: We have some important, consequential decisions to make beginning on February 18. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

January finance reports for Democratic statewide candidates

BagOfMoney

With the exception of a stray missing report here and there, all of the January campaign finance reports for state office holders and seekers are up on the Texas Ethics Commission webpage. Here’s a brief look at the reports filed by Democratic candidates for statewide offices. I already have reports for the candidates in contested primaries on my 2014 Election page, so this is a chance to look at the uncontested candidates as well.

Governor

Wendy Davis
Wendy Davis SPAC
Wendy Davis GPAC

Ray Madrigal – No report

As you’ve probably read by now, Wendy Davis filed three campaign reports – basically, the first one is her previously existing Senate account, to which people were contributing before her official announcement that she was running for Governor; the second is her special purpose PAC account for her gubernatorial campaign, similar to the “Friends Of” or “Texans For” PACs that Republicans often use; and the joint Battleground Texas PAC that has gotten every Republican’s panties in a wad. I’m not going to rehash any of that, I’m just going to note with amusement that her total must have really freaked them out to have reacted so strongly instead of just pointing to Greg Abbott’s bottom line, which is enough to make Switzerland salivate. Davis certainly answered the question about her ability to raise the funds she’ll need, but once won’t be enough. She’ll need to post similar, if not better, numbers for July. But we’ll worry about that another day.

Lt. Governor

Leticia Van de Putte
Leticia Van de Putte SPAC

As with Wendy Davis, the first account is the pre-existing Senate account, and the second is for the Lite Guv race. Here are the details from each:

Account Raised Spent Cash on hand ========================================== Senate $154,087 $177,799 $235,084 LG SPAC $290,514 $ 21 $251,756 Total $445,601 $177,820 $486,840

I presume all of the expenditures came out of the Senate account, which makes sense. The SPAC was created on November 23, so basically it represents five weeks’ worth of fundraising, which isn’t too shabby. I didn’t go through its contributions, but I did go through the expenses for the Senate account, and I did not see any transfers from the one to the other, so that $290K figure is accurate and as far as I know doesn’t include redundant funds. For five weeks during the Thanksgiving/Christmas period, that’s a decent total, which would project to $1.5 million to $2 million at that pace for the July report. Not bad as I say, but not really enough, either. LVdP doesn’t need to be in Wendy’s league, but she does need to have enough to do some real statewide outreach. If she doesn’t raise at least $5 million for July, I’d be concerned she won’t be able to do that. On the plus side, she can hit up Wendy’s supporters, including and especially the big-dollar ones. I feel confident that she is more than up to this challenge, but if you’ve donated to Wendy and not to Leticia, you need to rectify that.

Attorney General
Comptroller

Sam Houston
Mike Collier

Account Raised Spent Cash on hand ========================================== Houston $184,595 $ 41,216 $153,678 Collier $213,518 $170,791 $439,015

I put these two together, because they’re the only other candidates to report significant fundraising totals. Houston’s report begins in October, whereas Collier had the whole six month period in which to raise money. Both did pretty well, with Collier’s totals being boosted by $400K in loans ($250K from himself, $150K from his company; Houston reported $10K in loans as well). Collier spent $30K on video production, and $50K on “website design and video advertising”; he also spent many thousands on consultant fees, which I didn’t add up. As Van de Putte needs to kick it up by an order of magnitude this period, so do these two. I’d be happy with $2 million raised from each. We know the base is big enough to support Wendy’s campaign, and I’m confident that support will extend to LVdP. Will it reach this far? I hope so.

Ag Commissioner
Land Commissioner
Railroad Commissioner

Kinky Friedman
Hugh Fitzsimons
Jim Hogan

John Cook

Steve Brown
Dale Henry

Account Raised Spent Cash on hand ========================================== Kinky $26,416 $ 4,256 $22,159 Fitz $27,200 $ 6,549 $74,401 Hogan $ 0 $ 3,750 $ 0 Cook $13,153 $17,010 $ 0 Brown $ 4,455 $ 5,661 $ 0 Henry $ 0 $ 0 $ 0

Not a whole lot to say here. Fitzsimons had $50K in loans, and Cook, the former Mayor of El Paso, had a bit more than $19K in loans. I’m not exactly sure why neither Cook nor Brown reported any cash on hand, but it’s not that important. With the exception of Kinky, none of these folks will have much in the way of name recognition in November, but then neither will any of their opponents other than Baby Bush. From this point on, it’s all about the top of the ticket.

Supreme Court
Court of Criminal Appeals

William Moody
Larry Meyers
Gina Benavides

John Granberg

Account Raised Spent Cash on hand ========================================== Moody $ 7,500 $ 9,358 $ 4,037 Meyers $ 1,000 $ 3,750 $ 441 Benavides $ 2,500 $ 3,750 $ 0 Granburg $ 780 $ 5,296 $ 780

Again, not much to say here. I thought Larry Meyers might have a few bucks stashed away just due to his longevity, but apparently not. He does have about $94K in outstanding loans, presumably money he has already spent. In case you’re wondering, that $3,750 figure you see is the filing fee. Again, these races are determined by the top of the ticket more than anything else. Maybe the state party will raise some money to campaign for the slate as a whole.

That’s it for these reports. I’ll look at others as we go along.

Interview with Steve Brown

Steve Brown

Steve Brown

There are three contested Democratic primaries for statewide office. One of them involves Wendy Davis, which no one expects to be competitive, and one involves Kinky Friedman, which likely will be about how people feel about Kinky Friedman more than anything else. The third primary is for Railroad Commissioner, which is a low profile and unsexy race, but the choice in this one matters at least as much as those other races. Steve Brown was the first announced candidate in the race, with multiple-time candidate Dale Henry filing a few days before the deadline. Brown is the former chair of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party and has been involved with government and Democratic politics for many years. He’s not an oil and gas person but has a strong background with regulatory agencies, and would bring a perspective to the office that it really needs but currently lacks. Brown is also young and well-versed in modern campaigning and communications, which stands in stark contrast to Dale Henry, who while a well-qualified candidate lacks even a basic online presence. Nothing against Dale, but that’s not going to cut it. I’ll be voting for Steve, and I hope after listening to the interview that you will be as well.

You can see all of my interviews as well as finance reports and other information on candidates on my 2014 Election page.

Filing deadline today

Before I get into the details of who has or hasn’t filed for what, I have a bone to pick with this AP story.

Perhaps what the candidate filings reveal most is the relative strength and depth of the political parties in Texas. Four top Republicans are in a fierce battle for lieutenant governor, three for attorney general and five for agriculture commissioner.

Three Republicans are in the race for the Railroad Commission, an entry-level statewide office that gives the winner routine access to the state’s biggest campaign donors as well as the governor and attorney general. The only competition in the judicial races is for open seats vacated by Republican incumbents.

If a party can be judged by the number of people who want to lead it, Republicans certainly remain popular and thriving. Most of their statewide candidates have decades of experience winning elections.

Democrats have yet to field a complete slate of statewide candidates and have just one candidate each for lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller and land commissioner. The only potentially competitive race pits failed gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman against Jim Hogan for agriculture commissioner.

San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, the only Democrat running for lieutenant governor, was first elected to the Texas House in 1990 and to the Senate in 1999. She has the most campaign experience among Democratic candidates followed by Davis, who won her Senate seat in 2008. Freidman and attorney general candidate Sam Houston have run statewide offices before, but have never won.

That lack of experience and the shortage of candidates reveal the shallowness of the Democratic bench after 20 years out of power. There are young Democrats who have statewide potential, such as San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and his twin brother U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, but they’ve decided like some others to sit out the 2014 race, likely to let others test the waters before they take the plunge themselves.

I’ll stipulate that the Republican side of the ballot has more overall experience. For obvious reasons, it’s the only primary that features statewide officeholders. But to say “most of their statewide candidates have decades of experience winning elections” overstates things considerably. Outside of the Lt Governor’s race, most of their candidates are current or former legislators, and I submit that decades of winning a gerrymandered legislative district is hardly indicative of statewide potential.

To break it down a bit more scientifically, the GOP field for the non-Governor and Lt. Governor races are made up of the following:

Railroad Commissioner: One former State Rep and three people you’ve never heard of.
Land Commissioner: One scion of a political dynasty making his first run for office, and some other dude.
Ag Commissioner: Two former State Reps, the Mayor of a small town, and a state party functionary who lost a State Rep race in 2004.
Attorney General: A State Senator, a State Rep, and an appointed Railroad Commissioner that defeated a Libertarian in 2012 in the only election he’s run to date.
Comptroller: A State Senator, a State Rep, and a failed gubernatorial candidate.

Not exactly Murderer’s Row, is it? What they have first and foremost is the advantage of their party. That’s no small thing, of course, but it has nothing to do with anything any of them has done.

That said, most current statewide officeholders made the initial leap from legislative offices – Rick Perry and Susan Combs were State Reps before winning their first statewide elections, with Combs spending two years in Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office in between; Todd Staples and Jerry Patterson were State Senators. Dems have plenty of legislators that would make fine candidates for state office – two of them are currently running – but it’s a lot harder to convince someone to give up a safe seat for what we would all acknowledge is an underdog bid for higher office. How much that changes in 2018, if at all, depends entirely on how well things go this year. If we have one or more breakthroughs, or even if we come reasonably close, you can bet there will be plenty of candidates with “decades of experience winning elections” next time.

Anyway. As we head into the last day of candidate filing, the local Democratic ballot is filling in nicely. Dems have at least one candidate for nineteen of the 24 State House seats in Harris County. Four are GOP-held seats – HDs 126, 127, 128, and 130 – and one is HD142, which is currently held by Rep. Harold Dutton. Either Rep. Dutton is just dithering until the last day, or he’s planning to retire and his preferred successor will file sometime late today. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. The two additions to the Democratic challenger ledger are Luis Lopez in HD132, who appears to be this person, and Fred Vernon in HD138, about whom I know nothing. Dems also now have two Congressional challengers, James Cargas in CD07 as expected, and Niko Letsos in CD02, about whom I know nothing.

By the way, for comparison purposes, the Harris County GOP is only contesting 14 of 24 State Rep seats. The three lucky Dems that have drawn challengers so far are Rep. Gene Wu in HD137, Rep. Hubert Vo in HD149 – we already knew about that one – and Rep. Jessica Farrar in HD148, who draws 2011 At Large #3 Council candidate Chris Carmona. I have to say, if they leave freshman Rep. Mary Ann Perez in HD144 unopposed, I would consider that an abject failure of recruitment if I were a Republican. Beyond that, the thing that piqued my interest was seeing the two worst recent officeholders – Michael Wolfe and Don Sumners – back on the ballot, as each is running for the two At Large HCDE Trustee offices. Putting aside their myriad and deep incompetencies while in office, the only possible reason these two clowns would be running for the HCDE is that they want to screw it up for the purpose of killing it off. As we know, Dems have Traci Jensen and Lily Leal running for one of those seats. Debra Kerner is the incumbent for the other seat and I believe she has filed but with petitions, so her status hasn’t been finalized yet. All I know is that we have enough chuckleheads in office already. We don’t need to put these two retreads back into positions of power.

Statewide, Texpatriate noted on Saturday that Dale Henry has filed to run for Railroad Commissioner, which will pit him against Steve Brown. Henry ran for this office as a Dem in 2006, 2008 (he lost in the primary to Mark Thompson), and 2010. Henry is a qualified candidate, but he’s a dinosaur in terms of campaign techniques and technologies. That might have been charming in 2006 or 2008, but it’s way out of place in 2014. All due respect to Dale Henry, but I’ll be voting for Steve Brown. We are still waiting to see how many statewide judicial candidates we’ll get. Word is we’ll have them, but who and how many remain unknown. Finally, between the Harris County primary filings email and the TDP filings page, I see that Dems have at least two candidates for the 14th Circuit Court of Appeals – Gordon Goodman for Place 7, and Kyle Carter, who was re-elected to the 125th Civil District Court in 2012, for Chief Justice. There are still slots on that court and on the 1st Court of Appeals, so I hope there are more of these to come. As always, if you are aware of other filings or rumors of filings, leave a comment and let us know.

More on LVdP for Lite Guv

Mostly from Monday’s Lone Star Project news roundup email.

AP: Texas Democrats offering stark contrast.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte

Texas voters won’t have a hard time telling the difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates next year.

With the addition of San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, attorney Sam Houston and party activist Steve Brown last week, the Democratic slate offers a vivid contrast to the Republican ticket, both in demographics and politics. And there are more announcements to come.

So far, Democrats are offering a diverse roster with most running unopposed on a strong progressive record, not unlike the so-called Dream Team in 2002. Republicans are more conservative than ever, with a ticket that is predominantly white and male.

The Democrats lost dramatically in 2002 and haven’t won a statewide elected office since 1994. But this year they are banking on delivering more supporters to the polls, while Republicans are relying on a dependable conservative base that has kept them in power for 20 years.

[…]

Democrats have a long way to go to win in 2014, but no one can say they’re not offering Texas voters a distinct choice.

Not sure what “more announcements to come” is referring to. The story also mentions AG candidate Same Houston.

NBCLatino Opinion: A Texas Latina throws her hat in the ring

We usually think of down ballot races benefiting from the top of the ticket, not the other way around. But in the case of Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial run, the only shot she has of winning is in getting Latino support, and if anyone can get that support it’s LVP as her lieutenant governor.

Senator Van de Putte is a Latina political leader with deep state ties and a national presence. Here in South Texas she has a finely tuned political infrastructure that will be crucial for the Davis ticket. As a co-chair of the 2008 Democratic National Convention and past president of both the National Conference of State Legislators and the National Hispanic Council of State Legislators LVP has a healthy rolodex to aid her fundraising efforts.

“LVdP will help boost Latino turnout in 2014” is one of two themes you see running through these stories, and it’s likely one you’ll see over and over again for the foreseeable future. I believe LVdP will have a positive effect on Latino turnout for the Dem ticket, and I agree that that is a necessary condition for victory, but no one with a realistic view of the situation believes it is sufficient. Wendy Davis et al will also need to do at least a little better among Anglo voters, which is why there is also a focus on suburban Anglo women.

Making that first theme more explicit, The Monitor: Van de Putte likely to boost Hispanic turnout for Dem. ticket

“I think she’s going to be a plus to the party, to the ticket,” said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo. Cuellar’s district includes Starr and western Hidalgo counties as well as parts of Van de Putte’s state Senate district, which she has held since 1999.

Javier Villalobos, the Hidalgo County Republican party chair who’s said he would not seek another term, offered a verbal shrug when asked prior to the announcement what Van de Putte’s candidacy would mean for voters in the Valley.

“Actually what I think is going to drive the people to the polls is going to be the election for district attorney,” referencing the Democratic primary in March between incumbent Rene Guerra and former judge Ricardo Rodriguez. “Right here in the Valley, I really don’t think she’ll make it stronger or weaker.”

But another partisan opponent believed Van de Putte could change the race.

“Texas Sen. Leticia Van De Putte is a formidable candidate that presents long term challenges to the Texas GOP,” tweeted Aaron Peña, shortly after Saturday’s announcement. “Take note.” Peña is a former state representative from Edinburg who now chairs the Texas Hispanic Engagement Team for the Republican National Committee.

As a Latina — albeit without the benefit of a common Hispanic surname — Van de Putte could appeal more to Latino voters than whichever of the four leading Anglo males emerges from the Republican primary.

“She will be able to draw out the Hispanic vote,” state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said.

But again, Republicans said that claim might be exaggerated.

“Friends of mine who are Democrats don’t even know that Van de Putte is a Hispanic last name,” said Roman Perez, the vice president of the Republican Club of Brownsville. He added that even in the last election cycle, when Democrats nominated Linda Chavez-Thompson for the same spot, it didn’t significantly impact the race.

“Actually, I don’t think the name will make much of a difference,” Villalobos said. “She might have to spend more money down here, when otherwise she might not have to.”

Regardless of her name, Van de Putte represents the type of an experienced, centrist candidate Peña would like to see more of in his own party.

“Sen. Van de Putte is going to present challenges to a Republican Party that, in my opinion, is not moving fast enough to confront a changing Texas,” he said.

It’s adorable seeing Aaron Pena discover that his new Republican buddies aren’t exactly with him on the things he claims to value, isn’t it? I assure you, Aaron, no one could have predicted that. As far as the turnout predictions go, excitement and engaging voters are a big part of it, but so are getting the message out and good old GOTV efforts, both of which require a certain level of funding. The bit in the previous story about LVdP’s national connections and her potential to be able to raise the kind of funds she’ll need to operate a full-scale campaign is encouraging. I don’t know how much she might be able to raise between now and the January finance report, but I sure hope she’s burning up the phone lines.

For the other theme, we have Rangel: Van de Putte, Davis give Democrats best hope in years

[T]here is no question the Davis-Van de Putte ticket is the best hope Texas Democrats have had in 12 years. My Dallas Morning News colleague Wayne Slater hit the nail on the head with his assessment that Democrats seem to be assembling “Dream Ticket II.”

However, as Slater and other Austin watchers well know, Dream Ticket I was crushed in the 2002 election.

The three top Democrats running that year — Laredo businessman Tony Sanchez for governor, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk for U.S. senator and former state Comptroller John Sharp for lieutenant governor, a Hispanic, an African-American and an Anglo — and all Democrats running for statewide office, lost.

Gov. Rick Perry, running for his first four-year term, buried Sanchez with 58 percent of the vote while Texas Attorney General John Cornyn and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst, running for the first time for their current posts, beat Kirk and Sharp with 55 and 52 percent respectively.

What gives today’s Democrats hope Dream Ticket II will fare much better — and possibly win in 2014 — is Davis and Van de Putte have the charisma and passion their three 2002 predecessors, particularly Sanchez and Sharp, lacked.

Yep, the Dream Team, an irresistible analogy and comparison for this year that we likely won’t escape any time soon. Thankfully, Enrique Rangel provides the short answer why this year’s lineup is not like 2002’s.

We close with Burka: Leticia Van de Putte Enters the Race

I have a high regard for Van de Putte as a politician, who earned a spot on this year’s Ten Best legislators list. She is no ideologue. She’ll work with the other side — and did so during the regular session, when she joined forces with Rick Perry to push for more rigor in House Bill 5. She’ll be an asset to Wendy Davis on the Democratic ticket, and she’ll be a worthy opponent for whoever wins the Republican primary.

One of the problems for Democrats is that in counties with large Hispanic populations, particularly in South Texas, the primary is where the action is, not the general election. In the Rio Grande Valley, the races that motivate are those for local positions — city councils, school boards, and courthouse jobs. The elections frequently come down to a battle of one prominent family against another.

The turnout issue again, in a slightly different form. The ingredients are there, or at least can and should be there, to make it happen. We’ll likely have a pretty good idea of how it’s all coming together well before anyone casts a vote.

Sam Houston files for AG

It’s official.

Sam Houston

Sam Houston

Democrat Sam Houston filed for attorney general Thursday, promising to return the office to it’s basic functions of “serving all Texans” rather than “partisan lawsuits and constant disputes with the federal government.”

The Houston Democrat said specifically he wants to increase efficiency of the office’s current responsibilities such as child support enforcement, representing state interests in lawsuits and applying “hesitation” in litigation which use state resources.

“I do not think the office needs to be used to brag about suing the federal government,” he said.

He also said utilizing resources to improve the Consumer Protection division and solve open records request disputes fairly and quickly, particularly with technology-related requests, is a priority.

[…]

“All of their campaign slogans are the same thing: the 10th amendment, gun control, and commitment to defeating the Affordable Care Act,” Houston said. “I don’t hear a lot from them on how to improve everyday claims or improve the Consumer Protection division… these types of responsibilities have been forgotten.”

Houston announced his intent to run a couple of weeks ago. He’s got his website and Facebook page up, so check them out. Everything he’s saying here is correct and sensible and likely to win the approval of newspaper editorial boards, but next to the fire-breathing (and mouth-breathing) rhetoric coming from the Republican side of the race, it’s not very exciting. I don’t want him to change what he’s saying, but I do think he will need to throw some punches, and be very direct about the failures of the incumbent Attorney General – which will of course have the added benefit of helping Wendy Davis – and the need for a complete change of direction. With the possible exception of David Dewhurst, every Republican running for statewide office will be new to that office. One way or another, this is a change election. That can work well for the Democrats, but it will be best if they’re reinforcing each other’s messages. Sam Houston is in a key place to help do that. BOR has more.

Also officially filing is Steve Brown, our candidate for Railroad Commissioner. Brown made his candidacy known recently as well, and also has his webpage and Facebook page up. Did you know that the Railroad Commission deals with abortion and textbooks, by the way? It’s totally true. Maybe instead of proposing to change the name to the Texas Energy Commission or some such, we should call it the Texas Abortion and Textbooks Commission. Anyway, if you want to elect a member of the Railroad Commission that plans to focus on the things that the Railroad Commission actually does, then check out Steve Brown.

Steve Brown confirms he’s in for RRC

It’s official.

Steve Brown

Late Thursday, Steve Brown, the former chairman of the Fort Bend County Democrats, announced his candidacy to join the three-member Railroad Commission, the powerful agency that regulates the oil and gas industry, pipelines and natural gas utilities. He is vying for the seat now held by Barry Smitherman, who is running for Texas attorney general.

Brown said that, if elected, he would look for ways to keep Texas’ oil and gas sector growing while managing its less desirable impacts. “It’s important that we do all that we can to continue the abundant growth of our energy industry, as it is the engine of our state’s economy,” he said in a statement. “It’s equally important that this agency has the resources to quickly respond to everyday Texans’ concerns about safety, private property rights, and the environment.”

According to his Facebook page, Brown has worked on campaigns and in legislative offices of several public officials, including U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Houston; state Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston; and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

Brown said he wants to transform the commission into a “functional, twenty-first century state agency,” likely alluding to the agency’s decades-old computer and software systems that have strained its capabilities. The Legislature recently gave the agency permission to use millions of dollars in fees to begin an upgrade.

His website is here. Stace was first with the news, though we had a preview two weeks ago, and a hint before that. The filing period officially opens today, so expect to hear a bunch of candidate announcements over the next 30 days. Texas on the Potomac lists a few Democratic challengers to Republican members of Congress; note that Smokey Joe Barton is in CD06, so either they got the district wrong or the Dem in question is running against Kay Granger. I’ll be keeping an eye on all the filings going forward. One person who apparently will not be running, much to the disappointment of some observers, is wingnut “historian” David Barton. I’m sure there will be plenty of crazy to go around in other races. Please leave any reports or rumors of interesting candidacies that you know of in the comments.

2014 Democratic lineup updates

In honor of Peggy Fikac, an update on who is running for what as a Democrat in 2014. Starting at the top, folks who attended the HCDP Johnson-Rayburn-Richards event on Saturday had the opportunity to meet Maxey Scherr, a 33-year-old attorney from El Paso who will be filing to run for Senate against John Cornyn. Art Pronin has a couple of pictures of her on his Facebook page – see here and here, assuming his security settings allow for that, and see here for a brief bio and video. I had a chance to meet Maxey on Friday thanks to Barbara Radnofsky, who was hosting her and introducing her around. She would be a first-time candidate, which is daunting to say the least at a statewide level, but she has some connections that will serve her well to get going. She is friends with both Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Rep. Silvestre Reyes, and is good friends with and a former schoolmate of the daughter of John Cook, the former Mayor of El Paso who is now the Democratic candidate for Land Commissioner. Scherr’s father James Scherr is a fixture in politics there and will apparently take a year off from his position as senior partner at their law firm to fundraise for her. I think she has the potential to raise a few bucks, which will be worth keeping an eye on. Rick Noriega took in about $4.5 million over the course of his candidacy in 2008; I think Scherr can top that. I also think she can take advantage of advances in technology and changes in the electorate and how to reach them to stretch those dollars farther. I expect her to run a progressive campaign geared at least in part towards voters of her own cohort, which is something we’re not used to seeing in this state and which ought to provide a good contrast to an old-boy establishment figure like Cornyn. Look for more information and a formal announcement from Maxey Scherr shortly.

A bit farther down on the ticket, BOR confirmed something that I first reported two weeks earlier, that former Fort Bend Democratic Party Chair Steve Brown is exploring a run for Railroad Commissioner. From BOR:

Steve Brown

In our exclusive interview, Mr. Brown spoke with me about his political history, including having served in the Clinton White House and how he was elected as chair of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party in 2010. He resigned the Chairmanship earlier this year when he began considering a run for elected office. He stated that he wanted to run for Texas Railroad Commissioner because the Commission needs an advocate for regular Texans while making sure people who are doing the right things in regards to oil and gas production are not being punished.

Mr. Brown stated his preference to see the Commission change its name to reflect that it is a regulatory commission over the energy sector, and not railroads. He also stated his desire to see stronger ethics rules implemented over the Commissioners. When asked about Republicans who cited federal oversight was a job killer, Mr. Brown responded that people who used that excuse were not being creative when it came to finding solutions. He pointed out again that one of the roles of a Commissioner is to punish bad actors who violate laws, not to give everyone a free pass.

Stephen Brown has been a great advocate for the Texas Democratic Party as Fort Bend County’s Chairman and served the Party with distinction and honor.

There’s an interview at the link, so go give it a listen. With Scherr and Brown jumping in, the one remaining hole among the non-judicial offices is Lt. Governor, where we are still waiting on a decision from Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. While she waits, as noted by PDiddie, Maria Alvarado, the 2006 Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov., has announced her candidacy. Good for her and all, but with all due respect, I’m still waiting for Sen. Van de Putte.

That still leaves judicial candidates. Via both Maxey Scherr and Attorney General candidate Sam Houston, whom I saw briefly on Saturday evening, El Paso District Court Judge Bill Moody, the top Democratic votegetter in 2006, will be running for Supreme Court again. Sam Houston told me that the TDP was working with other candidates for Supreme Court and that he expected the Dems to field a full slate there, though he didn’t know what was going on with the Court of Criminal Appeals. This is the first news I’ve heard about the statewide judicial races, and it’s reasonably encouraging. If you have heard anything about these races, please leave a comment and let us know.

Finally, in Harris County, we now have a Democratic candidate for the At Large HCDE Trustee position that Jim Henley vacated in June. Traci Jensen, who ran for the State Board of Education in 2012 and who had expressed interest in being appointed to fill Henley’s seat, announced on Facebook that she would run for the position. Rumor has it that former Trustee Michael Wolfe, who was ousted by Diane Trautman last year, is seeking to reclaim a spot on the Board, so having a strong and well-qualified candidate like Jensen will be important.

Last but not least, Glorice McPherson is out collecting signatures to run for County Commissioner in Precinct 2, which would be against Jack Morman. McPherson ran against Steve Radack in 2012 in CC3, which puzzled me a bit at first, but her voter registration card indicates she lives in CC2, so I presume she moved in the last year or so. A lot of people have been talking about running in CC2 so I don’t expect this will be the last word, but for now there is at least one candidate in the race.

That’s all I’ve got. If you have any further rumor, innuendo, or actual fact about 2014, leave a comment and pass it on. Remember, the filing period begins November 9, so there’s hardly time to catch one’s breath after this election before the next one gets going.

Mike Collier makes his entrance

Mike Collier, the Democratic candidate for Comptroller, has officially rolled out his campaign:

Pretty effective pitch, I think. For sure, he has plenty of material to work with. Collier also got interviewed by the Trib on Monday:

Mike Collier

Nearly as soon as state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, ended her June filibuster, Democrats began talking about her as a 2014 gubernatorial candidate and who should join her at the top of the ticket. Retired businessman Mike Collier is the first to volunteer. After months of exploring a bid, he plans to kick off his campaign for comptroller on Monday. The first-time candidate said he hopes to appeal to Democrats and Republicans while doing what he can to boost Davis’ bid for governor.

Collier, 52, was, until earlier this year, chief financial officer of Houston-based Layline Petroleum. Though he has supported Republicans in the past, he said he now views the Republican Party as too extreme. After Davis’ filibuster, Collier said his interest in running for statewide office increased as he considered becoming part of a broader Democratic ticket led by Davis.

“I have just been working under the assumption all along that she would run,” Collier said.

[…]

The following is an edited and condensed transcript of the interview.

TT: What made you decide to run for comptroller?

Collier: My résumé and experience and education is tailor-made for this job. And to have a Democrat holding the Republican Legislature accountable would be a very worthwhile experience. I should also say that I had already concluded that if I were to go into politics, I couldn’t be a Republican.

TT: How long have you considered yourself a Democrat?

Collier: I’ve voted in every election I can recall. I’ve voted for a lot of Republicans, and I’ve voted for a lot of Democrats. I’ve only voted in one primary, for the [2012] presidential election. I voted against everybody but Mitt Romney. He was the businessman. The rest I had no time for.

[Republicans] have gotten more and more extreme, especially on the social issues. Ultimately, there’s no way I can be a Republican. I’m pro-choice. I support gay marriage. And I think we need immigration reform. So I can stop right there. With those three views, I could not be a Republican.

TT: What are your thoughts on how Susan Combs has performed as comptroller?

Collier: She is a Republican and a former legislator, and I think she just went with the flow. I don’t think she was a dynamic, forceful, impactful, objective executive. She did not play the watchdog role. The comptroller that I was most impressed with was [Democrat] John Sharp. That’s who I compare comptrollers against. I thought he was very dynamic, very effective, very innovative, ran these performance reviews that I thought were a very good thing. I’d like to bring these back.

Again, he sounds good to me. I look forward to meeting Mr. Collier, and to seeing the rest of the ticket get filled out. One more name I can add to the mix is Fort Bend County Democratic Party Chair Steve Brown, who has told me he’s thinking about running for Railroad Commissioner. If everyone else who has been reported to be at least thinking about running is in fact running, we’re already in pretty good shape. BOR has more.

Steve Brown: The Grown-Up’s Platform

The following is from a series of guest posts that I will be presenting over the next few weeks.

Steve Brown

Texas Democrats recently adopted a very progressive platform that addresses critical areas of need in our state. It also gives reasonable, mature Texans an alternative to empty ideological rhetoric.

Although most headlines will center on our bold pronouncements in support of marriage equality, abolishing the death penalty and decriminalizing marijuana (and rightly so), there are a number of other policy proposals worth mentioning as well.

In addition to the familiar themes related to fully funding public education and supporting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform), Texas Democrats also raised numerous emerging issues as additional items in need of public support and legislative action.

State Budget Policy

Texas Democrats support sensible solutions for fixing the state’s multi-billion dollar structural deficit. We need to modernize our tax base so that it reflects our service-oriented economy. What state lawmakers shouldn’t do, however, is continue to dodge responsibility by punting the costs of services to local governments and taxpayers. Cuts to education, health care and transportation may sound appealing to Tea Party activists, but the truth is that these services are still being rendered at local taxpayer’s expense – an expense that’s more costly and less efficient than if it were addressed at the state level.

Texas’ Impending Water Crisis

Due in large part to recent droughts and population growth, Texas’ towns are literally drying up. We need practical, sustainable solutions to ensure that we have enough water to meet the needs of our people, businesses and agricultural enterprises. In fact, we recommend that the Governor elevate this issue to an emergency item at the start of next session, and identify the funding sources to cover the capital costs associated with creating new water management strategies. Failure to meet our water supply could result in catastrophic human and economic losses.

Smokefree Workplaces

Texas Democrats support the need for a comprehensive statewide smokefree law as a top public health priority. We recognize that prevailing science indicates that secondhand smoke causes preventable diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer. Additionally, the health care costs associated with treating these diseases bear an enormous burden on taxpayers and businesses. It’s time to clear Texas’ indoor air.

Castle Doctrine

In the wake of several incidents, sufficient doubt has been raised as to whether the Castle Doctrine actually is being applied fairly. Texas Democrats urge lawmakers to modify its “Stand Your Ground” law to help prevent vigilantism and encourage neighborhood watch groups to work collaboratively with local law enforcement agencies.

Transportation

We recognize that we can’t simply build more roads or toll roads to adequately address the state’s transportation infrastructural needs. Texas simply needs more multi-modal options. Its time for the state to invest in light rail, and partner with communities across Texas to create more transportation options. Such investment will help enhance quality of life, attract a vibrant business environment, improve air quality and leverage federal funding opportunities.

These are but a small sample of the priorities identified in the Democratic platform. Texas Democrats understand that it takes a strenuous, reasonable assessment of the true challenges facing our state to ensure that Texas is as great today as it will be fifty years from now. That means that we have to elevate the seriousness of public debate and elect leaders more interested in long-term, sustainable solutions and not regurgitated ideology.

The grown-ups in Texas will find much to agree with in the Democratic Party’s platform.

Steve Brown is the Chairman of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party and a member of the Texas Democratic Party’s Platform Advisory Committee. Connect with Steve on Facebook at facebook.com/sbrown2 and on Twitter at twitter.com/electstevebrown.

Interview with Stephen Brown

Stephen Brown

I’ve focused entirely on Harris County so far in this interview series. That’s because there are a lot of interesting races here, both at a district and countywide level, and also because that’s where I live. But there’s a lot of action going on in Fort Bend County too, as it has become a battleground as its demographics have changed. To get a feel for what’s going on out there, I sat down for a chat with Stephen Brown, the dynamic new chair of the Fort Bend County Democratic Party. Here it is:

Download the MP3 file

You can find a list of all interviews for this cycle on the 2010 Elections page.

This ain’t your daddy’s Fort Bend

Interesting article about the changing demographics in Fort Bend County and the changes in politics that have come with it.

Today the GOP holds 27 of 31 elective offices in the county.

Rick Miller aims to keep it that way. The 65-year-old retired Navy pilot moved to Sugar Land in 1999, and, with his wife, Babs, started getting politically active in 2006. When an internecine feud led to the resignation of the Republican party chair in 2007, he ran and won.

“The demographics are changing here in Fort Bend County,” Miller acknowledges, “and we’re kind of watching it really closely. We saw the effect of that in the Obama presidential race against McCain. The election was a lot closer than we thought it was going to be. Fort Bend went for McCain, but it was really pretty close.”

In 2004, the county gave nearly two-thirds of its vote to Bush-Cheney. Four years later, the McCain-Palin ticket won the county by a margin of 4,710 votes, 51 percent to 49 percent.

Miller’s Democratic counterpart, Stephen Brown, sees the county as “ground zero” in his party’s bid to emerge from political purgatory. “It’s only when we start to win suburban Texas that we have a chance to take the state back – the House, the Senate and the Governor’s Mansion,” he says.

[…]

In 2004, only 11,000 people voted in Fort Bend County’s Democratic presidential primary. Four years later, that number jumped to 68,517. Brown’s job is to get the newcomers out to vote and to reignite the 2008 momentum. His goal for November is 70,000 Democratic voters.

Political scientist [Richard] Murray says he thinks Bill White “probably will carry Fort Bend – and he must.”

I’m quite certain that Bill White cannot be elected Governor unless he wins Fort Bend. He could carry Fort Bend and still lose the election, but if he loses in Fort Bend, I feel confident he can’t win.

You can see some of the trends in Fort Bend’s voting patterns here, here, here, and here. The pattern is similar to what we’ve seen in Harris County – the number of Republican voters grows a little, while the number of Democratic voters grows a lot. Maybe the enthusiasm gap, if it actually exists in Texas, will counter some of that. On the other hand, Fort Bend’s Democratic Party is vastly better organized now than it was in 2006, thanks to its new party chair, and that will have an effect as well. If I had to place a bet, I’d put my coin on White carrying the county. We’ll see how it goes.

The clown show finally calls it a wrap

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some other state to be the national laughingstock again. The Court of Criminal Appeals gives it a good run for its money, but you just can’t out-embarrass the SBOE, and every time they meet it gets worse. All I can say is thank goodness that two of the worst of these clowns will never hold public office again.

Anyway, here’s your wrapup from the Day Two festivities, which carried over a few minutes past midnight and into Day Three, from the Trib, TFN, and Abby Rapoport. And here’s your Day Three liveblogging and other reports, from TFN, the Trib, TFN again, the Trib again, Abby Rapoport, and Steven Schafersman. Mainstream media coverage is here, here, and here. Burka and Stace also weigh in, and of course Martha was working it on Twitter. May those who had to endure all this get a nice long vacation to recover their sanity.

Most of the heavy lifting came during Thursday’s marathon session. Friday was about finishing touches and final votes. The highlight was the restoration of Thomas Jefferson to the world history curriculum, reversing a decision that has drawn the most derision from pretty much everywhere on the planet. That’s good for TJ, but not so much for his fellow Enlightenment figure James Madison, who didn’t make the cut. The lowlight, if you have to pick just one, was the Board’s ratification of the idea that there is no “separation of church and state”. As noted by the Trib:

[M]embers this afternoon passed an amendment to the state’s socials studies standards calling for students to “contrast” the intent of the nation’s founders with the notion of separation of church and state.

It reads: “Examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed its free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase, ‘separation of church and state.’”

The motion came from Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, a moderate Republican who worked on the language with arch-conservative former chair Don McLeroy, R-Bryan. With the exception of the adding the word “compare” along with “contrast” and including some verbiage directly from the First Amendment, what the board passed mirrored what McLeroy had originally proposed.

I have several statements, from the Texas Freedom Network, Bill White, State Rep. Mike Villarreal, and Fort Bend County Democratic Party Chair Stephen Brown, about this travesty beneath the fold. Texas Politics has a reaction from US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who echoes former Bush Education Secretary Rod Paige. The only thing we can do about this is elect some better SBOE members. Three such candidates running this year are Judy Jennings, Rebecca Bell-Metereau, and Michael Soto. The TDP got video statements from all three at the meeting, which you can see below:

Here’s a video of TFN President Kathy Miller, whose group has been a stalwart all throughout this process and which deserves your support as much as any candidate:

We can’t afford any more of this crap. We have a chance to do something about it this year. Please help these folks out.

(more…)

Meet Steve Brown

Meet Steve Brown, the new Chair of the Fort Bend Democratic Party.

Steve Brown, a 35-year-old with a résumé of political experience, has big plans for the moribund Democratic Party in Fort Bend, and his confidence in the party’s ability to start winning some races as early as this fall is backed up by the research of University of Houston political demographer Richard Murray.

You can see the outline of Brown’s vision in a PowerPoint presentation on his campaign website. As we know, Fort Bend has been trending Democratic in recent elections. With some better organizing and volunteer energy from the FBCDP, they can break through this year.