Category Archives: State news

Being the first female for an office isn’t a ‘selfish’ motive

A Houston appellate court judge running for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court has come up with one of the more, um, creative epithets to hurl at a primary opponent.

Jerry Zimmerer is running in the Democratic primary for the SCOTEX chief justice spot. His opponent, Amy Clark Meachum, wants to become the first woman ever elected to the chief justice on the state’s highest civil appellate court.

Zimmerer calls Meachum “selfish” because she wants to the first female. Yep, that’s what he says. It’s selfish of her to break through a barrier that has lasted too long as it is.

He says he wants the “best candidate to win.” Hey, so does Meachum. She believes she’s the better candidate for the office. She believes she’s better than Zimmerer … and not because she’s a woman and he’s a man.

They both are judges. Meachum was elected to the trial court in Travis County in 2011; Zimmerer was elected in Harris County in 2018.

So, let them fight it out over who is better qualified.

The idea that one of them wants to be the first woman ever elected to an all-male political stronghold is no reason to vote against her.

I am now leaning toward Amy Clark Meachum when the time comes to cast a vote.

So there …

Beware of Super Tuesday mischief

Listen up, my fellow Texas residents. I want to alert y’all to what might be lurking as we prepare to vote on Super Tuesday.

Democrats are going to vote on March 3 for president, choosing from a still-lengthy list of contenders vying for the nation’s top office. One of them, a “democratic socialist” named Bernie Sanders, has stolen the momentum from the rest of the field. Sen. Sanders is going to march into Texas as the man to beat. I saw a poll just the other day that shows Sanders with a 3-point lead over Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Republicans, meanwhile, have no seriously contested primary awaiting them. Donald John Trump, the nation’s current president, is going to cruise to the GOP presidential nomination.

Meanwhile, millions of Texans have voter registration cards that don’t have a mark on them, other than their signatures. We haven’t voted yet in either primary.

I am suggesting there might be some mischief-making on the horizon. By that I mean that some Republican voters can cross over and vote in the Democratic primary for the candidate they want their guy, Trump, to face in the fall election campaign.

I mentioned Bernie Sanders a moment ago. Do you get my drift?

Sanders is a far-left winger. He talks a good game about being “electable.” I have serious doubt about that. He is a prime target of the GOP slime machine that is going to smear him as a godless socialist/communist. Indeed, many of his proposals have set himself up for the Republican attack machine.

Given that Texas’ open primary system enables voters to cross over into the “other party’s” primary, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see a gigantic Democratic turnout with numbers inflated by a significant number of GOP voters seeking to cause a bit of trouble among Democrats.

Consider yourselves forewarned.

Newspaper gets it right with its non-endorsement

I questioned the New York Times’ decision to endorse two candidates for president in the Democratic Party primary.

Also, I cast aspersions on the Dallas Morning News’ decision to recommend two candidates for the U.S. Senate in Texas, also in the Democratic Party primary.

However, I see where the DMN is coming from in announcing Sunday that it will not endorse anyone in the race for president in 2020. Instead, the paper said it plans to focus on the issues that it deems important for voters to consider.

The paper is planning a series of articles titled “What’s at Stake 2020.” It will examine issues such as climate change, education reform, energy policy, war and peace, taxation, federal budgeting, defense policy … a whole host of issues that it believes should be the focus of the presidential campaign.

The paper didn’t say so, but my strong hunch is that the editorial board at the Dallas Morning News might have made a critical determination about the candidates seeking to win election. One is that the incumbent, Donald Trump, has not earned — nor will he ever earn — the paper’s endorsement based on his term in office. The other is none of the Democrats running to succeed him excite the paper enough to win its endorsement.

Near the end of its lengthy editorial, the paper appears to long for a return to civil discourse and declares that its turning to the issues is an avenue toward that noble goal. The Morning News cites President Lincoln’s second inaugural, given as the Civil War was drawing to a close. The president declared his intention to govern “with charity for all and malice toward none.” An assassin, tragically, prevented President Lincoln from fulfilling that noble pledge.

The paper says the election is bigger than Donald Trump or bigger than any of the men and women running to succeed him. It wants to turn its focus on the issues that matter, and away from the personalities who seek to outshout each other.

To that end, the Dallas Morning News has set a constructive path forward as we move more deeply into a contentious election year.

R.I.P., Texas GOP trailblazer

I never thought of Clayton Williams as a political trailblazer.

Then comes word today that Claytie — a Midland oil and natural gas tycoon who ran for Texas governor in 1990 — has died at age 88.

I extend my condolences to Williams’ friends and family. I do want to offer a comment on his single, but futile run for public office.

He sought the governorship running against the late Texas Treasurer Ann Richards — who had rocketed to national notoriety with her stellar 1988 Democratic National Convention keynote speech in which she declared that then-GOP Vice President George H.W. Bush “can’t help it, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

Richards and Williams, a Republican, faced off two years later. Williams was poised to win. Then he started committing a series of gaffes. He compared inclement weather to rape, urging Texans to “relax and enjoy it”; he refused to shake Richards’ hand at an event, a gesture that rankled many Texans who believe a gentleman shouldn’t act that way toward a woman; then he revealed he didn’t pay federal taxes when the oil industry was collapsing in the 1980s.

Richards won the governorship. She served a single term before losing in 1994 to the “silver-footed” VP’s son, George W. Bush.

The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey makes a fascinating point, though, about Williams’ political legacy. He notes that Bill Clements was the lone Republican to win the governorship since the Civil War Reconstruction era. Williams lost in 1990, but well might have paved the way for “W” to win in 1994.

Since then, according to Ramsey, Republicans have clamped a vise grip on the governorship, as well as every statewide office.

The things you can learn …

Rest in peace, Claytie.

Hoping the Legislature wises up to Empower Texans’ trickery

Empower Texans is a political action committee that has tremendous sway in the Texas Legislature, which at the moment comprises many legislators who adhere to Empower Texans’ extreme right-wing dogma.

We’ve got 181 legislators in both chambers, many of whom think Empower Texans speak for millions of Texans and deserve a special place at the legislative table.

The cabal of zealots deserves nothing of the sort.

My hope for the 2021 Legislature, which convenes next January, is that the legislative leadership — particularly in the House of Representatives — keeps its distance from Michael Quinn Sullivan’s PAC.

It’s not as though Sullivan hasn’t earned legislators’ scorn. Witness what he did to soon-to-be former House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. He and Bonnen had a “secret” meeting. They agreed that Bonnen would provide the names of 10 Republican lawmakers that Empower Texans could work to defeat in the 2020 election. Sullivan recorded the meeting without telling Bonnen. Then he spilled the beans on the speaker, who at first denied saying the mean things he said about his GOP colleagues. The denial lasted right up until the moment Sullivan produced the audio recording.

As they say … Oops!

Sullivan is untrustworthy. So, too, is Empower Texans, which Sullivan runs. Yet the PAC continues to throw its weight around. It seeks to demand that local legislators follow Empower Texans’ agenda.

I want Empower Texans to be put in its place. I want Michael Quinn Sullivan, who has launched efforts against legislators I happen to know and respect, to cease playing an outsized role in determining the Legislature’s political course.

He won’t bow out voluntarily. It then falls on legislative leaders to exert the power they possess to keep Sullivan and Empower Texans at arm’s length.

Texas AG to California: Butt out of our affairs

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This item was published initially on KETR-FM’s website, ketr.org.

I am inclined as a general rule to oppose Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s world view on most matters.

However, on the issue of seeking to remove one state’s non-essential travel ban to Texas because of our state’s strong stand in favor of “religious liberty,” I believe he is onto something.

What constitutes “essential travel”? I suppose one example would be in the event of a natural disaster emergency, in which firefighters or other first responders travel from California to Texas to lend aid.

Here’s the issue: In 2017, Texas legislators enacted a law that, among other things, allows foster-care agencies to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children. California responded by banning non-essential publicly funded travel from California to Texas, citing what California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called a discriminatory policy against gay Americans. It falls under the religious liberty doctrine, of which Paxton has become an aggressive advocate.

At one level, Becerra has a point. I don’t like the Texas law either. I believe – on this point – that gay couples are fully capable of being loving parents to children who need a home. As one who believes homosexuality is a matter of genetics rather than upbringing or of choice, the Texas law looks to me to be an overreach.

However, so is the California response to this state enacting a law that comports with its residents’ generally conservative world view.

Paxton has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene on Texas’ behalf. He is asking the highest court in the land to overturn the California travel ban, saying that California is trying to police how other states conduct their affairs.

“California is attempting to punish Texans for respecting the right of conscience for foster care and adoption workers,” Paxton said.

As the Texas Tribune reports, this latest salvo is just the latest in a long-running feud between the states, with California and Texas being the country’s top Democratic and Republican strongholds, respectively. Do you remember how former Gov. Rick Perry would venture to California to lure businesses from that state to Texas? Critics of that effort – and I was one of them – called it “job poaching.”

Paxton – who is in the midst of another fight involving his own indictment for securities fraud – has now joined the battle.

Texas is one of 11 states that have received travel bans from California, which to Paxton’s eyes is acting like a state run by busy-bodies. One of those states, Oklahoma, responded by banning non-essential travel to California from Oklahoma. I suppose Texas could respond accordingly.

Paxton is likely to have a friendly audience if the high court decides to take up the case. It has a solid conservative majority. Yes, it’s only 5-4 at the moment, but the five conservative justices – with the possible exception of Chief Justice John Roberts – are inclined to stand solidly behind GOP policymakers’ point of view.

I will say that I think Paxton makes a solid argument that California need not intrude into the affairs of other states governed by politicians who don’t hue to that state’s political leaning.

How will the Bloomberg strategy play in Texas?

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This essay was first published on KETR-FM radio’s website, ketr.org.

The Super Tuesday Democratic Party primary presidential race is just a shade less than a month away.

On March 3, Texans will get to vote for who should be the next Democratic nominee for the presidency. The Texas ballot is going to include a name that’s been missing from ballots that will precede this huge political event.

Michael Bloomberg is the man of the hour. Or at least he wants to be the man of the hour – or the man of the primary – at the end of that quite important election.

I am trying to assess whether Bloomberg’s strategy of staying out of the early primary states while concentrating initially on the Super Tuesday.

Democrats are going to select a significant majority of their convention delegates that day. Bloomberg wants to gather up most of them. Will his Super Tuesday strategy pay off?

My wife and I watch a good bit of TV during the day in our Princeton home and we see and hear millions of dollars’ worth of ads touting the candidacy of Bloomberg, the former three-term New York City mayor. The latest round of ads includes a spot that features former President Barack Obama saying nice things about the leadership qualities that Bloomberg has exhibited while running the nation’s largest city.

Oh, wait! Joe Biden, the former president’s “brother from another mother,” also is running for the presidency this year. Obama hasn’t endorsed Bloomberg. He also hasn’t endorsed his good friend and former political partner (Biden served as vice president for eight years during the Obama administration). The former president is staying out of the nomination fight. He’ll likely endorse whomever his party nominates this summer.

Bloomberg is opening 11 more campaign offices in Texas. He is hiring hundreds of political workers. He is setting up what they call a “ground game” here. What I’m trying to grasp as Bloomberg’s date with Super Tuesday draws closer is how his platform will play here.

He talks about gun control. He speaks in support of a woman’s “right to choose” whether to remain pregnant. Bloomberg wants to amend the Affordable Care Act, not toss it aside. From what I’ve witnessed in Texas is that (a) Texans don’t want to mess with the Second Amendment, (b) Texans are mostly “pro-life” on the issue of abortion and (c) Texans don’t think much of the ACA.

Michael Bloomberg, though, needs to demonstrate that he’s a real Democrat, as opposed to some sort of faux Democrat who changes his party affiliation to suit the political mood of the moment. I mean, he once was a Republican; then he became an independent; now he’s a Democrat.

What’s more, Hizzoner also once declared his intention to stay out of the 2020 presidential campaign. Now he’s all in.

But … is he? All in?

Sanctuary cities for unborn? Oh, my … get ready for the fight

Three Texas communities — Big Spring, Colorado City and Rusk — have thumbed their collective noses at a legal activity that I acknowledge fully has its sworn enemies.

The cities all have created what they are calling “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn.” They have declared that abortion is illegal in their cities and I will presume women who obtain them are subject to criminal prosecution.

Abortion-rights activists are furious, as they should be. Why? Well, it’s a simple notion, truth be told. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy was legally protected under federal law. Subsequent high court rulings have upheld the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Thus, the activity remains legal. Does it produce a desirable outcome? Of course not. However, I am in no position — nor is anyone else, for that matter — to dictate to a woman how she must make such a gut-wrenching decision. That is her call in consultation with her partner, her physician … and her conscience.

The Texas Tribune reports: The American Civil Liberties Union has said it is seeking to strike them down. Three towns — Mineral Wells, Omaha and Jacksboro — have voted down similar ordinances or walked them back under advice from city attorneys.

Big Spring, Colorado City and Rusk haven’t yet made their decisions final.

I am all for local control. I dislike states telling cities and towns that they cannot, for example, install electronic devices to help police enforce traffic laws. However, the U.S. Constitution remains the law of the land and in the case of abortion, the Supreme Court already has stood behind the Constitution as the final arbiter on the inflammatory issue of whether a woman can choose to terminate a pregnancy.

Texas already has told cities they cannot create sanctuaries to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation. Yes, I am aware of the intense political differences between illegal immigration and abortion.

But the Texas cities that are seeking to create “sanctuaries for the unborn” need to prepare for a fight that they should not win.

Might there be a judicial election reform on tap?

Readers of this blog are aware of this fundamental truth: I detest, hate, loathe the way we elect judges in Texas.

We elect them at every level on partisan ballots. The system stinks. It has resulted in good judges being tossed out of office only because they belong to the party that isn’t in power in the moment. Republican or Democrat. It doesn’t matter. The partisan election of judges sucks out loud, man!

There might be a change in the works. A legislative effort is underway to study how to bring a needed change. It is running into a major roadblock in the form of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Texas Senate.

According to the Texas Tribune, Patrick is “skeptical” of potential changes in the way we choose our judges. He said something about Texans preferring to elect their judges. Well, duh! I get that. I am not totally on board with an appointment system. I want at the very least to see an election system that allows judges to run on non-partisan ballots.

A former state senator, Republican Bob Duncan, has been a longtime champion for reforming the election system. The Legislature has created a commission to study ways to repair the system. Duncan agrees with Patrick that there needs to be total buy-in if there’s going to be a change. If only the lieutenant governor would throw his support behind a judicial reform effort; Gov. Greg Abbott already has done so. We’ll have a new House speaker in the next session and my hope is that he or she will sign on, too.

I keep asking: What is the difference between Republican justice and Democratic justice? I cannot determine a partisan difference. There are differences in judicial philosophy that have nothing to do with partisan consideration. So why not forces judges to run on their judicial philosophy?

I used to argue for a reform that creates a judicial appointment system; it would require judges to run for “retention.” I don’t think that will happen in Texas. I am going to hold out some hope that Texas can find a way to change the judicial election system from a purely partisan effort to a non-partisan system.

It makes sense and in my view is going to deliver a better quality of judges who adjudicate justice on behalf of all of us.

Oh, the irony of Gov. Abbott’s refugee rejection

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, along with other governors, had the opportunity to “opt in” on an executive order issued by Donald Trump to allow refugees into our state.

He chose to opt out. Gov. Abbott has slammed the door on individuals and families who, by definition, are seeking refuge in Texas as they flee repression, violence, crime, corruption and physical harm in their home country.

I am trying to wrap my noodle around this decision. I am left only to ponder the profound irony of Abbott’s decision, making Texas the first state to opt out of Trump’s executive order.

The irony? Oh, well, we have this historical fact: Our nation came into being in the 18th century because men who had fled religious oppression in Europe had come across a vast ocean to form a republic that would become known as “the land of the free,” the “land of opportunity” and “a beacon of liberty” for the rest of the world.

It looks that in Texas at least, the door has been shut to those seeking freedom and opportunity and that the beacon has been turned off.

Abbott’s decision, quite naturally, has drawn plenty of criticism. As it should. To be honest, the governor’s refusal to opt in to the federal order is disappointing in the extreme. He has sought to say that the state should allow those who already are here to remain as refugees. But what about those who continue to suffer human rights abuses in nations south of us?

This is a very distressing decision by Gov. Abbott.

I cannot prove this, of course, but my hunch is that our nation’s founders would be unhappy beyond measure.