Category Archives: State news

That did it: Valdez has lost me

I know this isn’t exactly a scoop, that it’s been out there for a bit. I guess I’m a little slow on the uptake but what the heck. Better to know it now than after an election.

Democratic candidate for Texas governor Lupe Valdez will not get my vote in two weeks. I am not yet sure whether Republican Gov. Greg Abbott will get it; I’m inclined to vote for the incumbent, if only to hope that he is willing to reel in a wacky lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, who wants to discriminate against transgender individuals by forcing a Bathroom Bill down our throats.

The Beaumont Enterprise, where I used to work for nearly 11 years before we moved to the Panhandle, endorsed Abbott’s re-election today. It noted the following about Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff: The Democratic candidate for governor, Lupe Valdez, disqualified herself from any serious consideration for this job when it was revealed that she was delinquent on $12,000 in 2017 taxes on seven properties is Dallas and Ellis counties. If candidates for public office don’t pay their tax bills, it’s hard to have confidence in them handling the tax revenues of other people. If nothing else, Valdez should have understood how embarrassing this would be in political terms and taken care of her obligations. The fact that she did not shows she is not ready for the highest job in state government.

That’s a two-fer. Failure to pay taxes and failure to understand the blowback she would get once that failure became known.

I had hoped that Valdez would have done better as a major-party candidate for governor. Well, nice try, sheriff.

If she cannot pay her own tax bills, Texans have no reason to trust her with our money.

Hoping for a change of direction in Austin

I am beginning to make up my mind on some of Texas’s higher-profile statewide races in this year’s election. It involves my desire to see a change in the makeup of many public offices.

I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you here … just for grins and giggles.

Lieutenant governor: Mike Collier, the Democrat, needs to succeed the incumbent Dan Patrick. I don’t know a great deal about Collier, but I know plenty about Patrick, the main force behind the 2017 Bathroom Bill that met its demise in the Texas Legislature. The bill would have required people to use public restrooms in accordance with their gender at birth. It discriminated against transgender individuals. It was a patently poor idea that needed to die. Patrick needs to go.

Agriculture commissioner: This office usually is hidden in anonymity. Republican incumbent Sid Miller, through his buffoonery and bloviating, has elevated it. Democrat Kim Olson needs to replace him, if only because she appears to be a more serious individual who can devote her full attention to promoting Texas farming and ranching interests.

Attorney general: Texas needs an AG who isn’t under criminal indictment. Republican Ken Paxton is facing a trial for securities fraud. Democrat Justin Nelson is clean. He teaches law and practices law. Paxton’s tenure as attorney general has been shadowed by the pending trial that awaits.

U.S. Senate: I won’t belabor this one. My feelings about GOP Sen. Ted Cruz are well known to readers of this blog. I want Democrat Beto O’Rourke to win next month. Cruz puts himself first and Texans’ needs second.

There’s one more race I want to mention. The governor’s race is important, too. GOP incumbent Greg Abbott is running against Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez. This race is a snoozer. I am still undecided. I happen to think well of Gov. Abbott personally. I have had the pleasure of interviewing him when he was serving on the Texas Supreme Court and later as state attorney general. I don’t know Valdez, although I am aware she is the former Dallas County sheriff.

She has made next to zero impression on me. Abbott will win handily. He might have my vote. Or, I might leave that ballot spot unmarked.

I’m still weighing my options for Texas Legislature and for the Third Congressional District.

Time is running out. I have to get busy and make up my mind. Wish me luck.

Bathroom Bill looms over Patrick candidacy

I cannot forget or forgive the effort to legislate a patently discriminatory policy regarding the use of public restrooms.

And I put the responsibility for that effort right at the feet of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is running for re-election against Mike Collier.

Spoiler alert: I plan to vote for Collier.

Patrick managed to engineer a Texas Senate approval of a bill that would have required people to use public restrooms in accordance with the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate. It’s known now as the Bathroom Bill.

The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate and is arguably the state’s most powerful elected official. The Senate approved the Bathroom Bill at Patrick’s insistence. Then it ran into House Speaker Joe Straus, another Republican, but one with common sense and the belief that Texas should not discriminate against transgender individuals, which is what the Bathroom Bill would have allowed.

Straus, who isn’t seeking re-election, blocked the Bathroom Bill, much to his credit. The House never approved it in its special session in the summer of 2017.

The Bathroom Bill remains an indelible scar on Lt. Gov. Patrick’s tenure as the Man of the Senate.

Collier is a former Republican who switched to the Democratic Party. The Houston Chronicle, which has endorsed Collier’s candidacy, likens him to another former lieutenant governor, Republican Bill Ratliff, one of the state’s great statesmen.

The Chronicle’s endorsement notes that Collier doesn’t look for simple solutions to complex problems.

Patrick, meanwhile, is quick with the quip — owing to his days as a radio broadcaster — and simplistic demagoguery.

The Bathroom Bill died the death it deserved in 2017. I don’t know what’ll happen when the 2019 Legislature convenes. My hope is that the next Texas Senate will be run by someone who won’t seek to demonize transgender individuals by resurrecting this patently hideous legislation.

Beto backs off from an attack line against Cruz

As a former colleague and friend was fond of saying, “You can’t unhonk the horn.”

Beto O’Rourke is trying to unhonk the rhetorical horn by telling a CNN correspondent that his use of the “Lyin’ Ted” epithet against Ted Cruz perhaps is a step too far. He now sounds as if he regrets going quite so negative in his most recent debate with the Republican U.S. senator.

There’s a bit of charm in hearing the Democratic challenger acknowledge a case of weak knees in using the tag first hung on Cruz by Donald Trump when the men were competing in 2016 for the GOP presidential nomination.

Trump called him “Lyin’ Ted” and got huge laughs from campaign crowds. O’Rourke said in the men’s debate that the negative moniker sounded true to him, so he used it against Cruz.

Meeting in a town hall in McAllen with CNN’s Dana Bash, O’Rourke said he doesn’t feel “totally comfortable” taking what he called “a step too far.”

O’Rourke has second thoughts

The midterm campaign is drawing to a close. Cruz appears to be clinging to a lead of about 6 to 8 percentage points. O’Rourke is looking for any edge he can find. He has gone negative in his TV ad campaign in recent days. Indeed, he now joins Cruz, who’s been firing shots at O’Rourke for several weeks. We likely won’t hear any utterances of regret from The Cruz Missile over the tactics he has used to (mis)characterize O’Rourke’s policy pronouncements.

Do I believe O’Rourke went too far with the “Lyin’ Ted” reference? Aww … no. He didn’t. However, I don’t have to deal with any blowback from campaign rhetoric. O’Rourke believes he “may” have gone too far.

I would prefer O’Rourke to stay on the high road.

And … by the way … I still plan to vote for Beto.

Where did this ‘open borders’ nonsense originate?

I have taken a look at Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke’s campaign website. I looked high and low for anything in there that suggests that O’Rourke favors “open borders.” I cannot find it.

Which makes me wonder: Where is this nonsense coming from, other than from the pie holes of demagogues intent on distorting the young man’s record.

You can look for yourself on the link attached directly above this sentence.

Sen. Ted Cruz, O’Rourke’s Republican opponent, accuses O’Rourke of favoring “open borders,” suggesting that he wants to let anyone walk into this country without any kind of documentation. I don’t see anything approaching that kind of policy on Beto’s policy profile.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, another Texas GOP demagogue, accuses Democrats of “favoring open borders.”

Oh, and then we have the Republicans’ Demagogue in Chief, Donald John Trump, saying the same thing on campaign stumps across the country as he seeks to bolster the campaigns of GOP candidates.

O’Rourke and other Democrats keep talking about “reforming immigration policy.” They want a policy that doesn’t result in erecting a wall along our southern border. They want to allow the so-called “Dreamers” — immigrants who were brought here illegally as children by their parents — to remain in the United States, the only country they know; they want to grant the Dreamers a “fast track” to obtaining U.S. citizenship. O’Rourke wants to “modernize the visa system” to enable employers to fill jobs that Americans won’t do.

This is reasonable stuff, man. It doesn’t call for an opening up of our borders. It doesn’t suggest that we allow anyone — including known criminals — free and unfettered access to the United States of America.

This kind of perversion of stated public policy is nothing new. It’s been going on since The Flood. However, I still detest its effectiveness when pitched to a gullible audience.

Amarillo no longer ‘ignored’ by state

It’s hard for me to believe that at one time many residents of Amarillo and the rest of the Texas Panhandle felt “ignored” by the powers that be way down yonder in the state capital in Austin.

Every now and then I still hear the occasional gripe that Austin doesn’t give a damn about Amarillo, or the Panhandle, or those who live there. Those who say such things — or think them privately — need to get out more.

I’ve moved away from there but I return on occasion with my wife. I am amazed at what I see transpiring along the city’s major highways.

I see dozens, maybe hundreds, of work crews toiling to renovate Interstates 40 and 27. I see dozens of trucks, front-end loaders, backhoes, road-grading equipment and assorted vehicles of all shapes and sizes  with “Texas Department of Transportation” decals plastered on the doors.

No longer can anyone with a straight face complain about Amarillo being “ignored” by the state.

I don’t know what the dollar figure is on all this work, but it’s got to be in the mid- to high eight figures.

A former state legislator, Republican David Swinford, was known to grumble out loud about the lack of attention Austin was paying to the Panhandle. I arrived in Amarillo in January 1995 to become editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. I met the Dumas lawmaker shortly after arrival and asked him whether it was true — as I had heard — that he wanted to split the Panhandle off from the rest of the state. Swinford didn’t deny it categorically and said that he was miffed that the state didn’t pay the Panhandle enough attention.

Well, I guess my old buddy David Swinford has seen his wishes come true.

These work crews are tearing up the highways, not to mention along Loop 335 along the southwest corner of the city. Eventually, TxDOT will begin work extending the loop along Helium Road about a mile west of Soncy Road.

I look forward to watching this all take shape from some distance — except when my wife and I return to do battle along the I-40 as we enter from the east.

You’ve heard it said to “be careful what you wish for”? These days, the grumbling I hear in Amarillo speaks mostly to there being too much attention being paid by the state.

Cruz had the paper’s nod, then he lost it

Six years ago, Ted Cruz scored a key endorsement from a major Texas newspaper, the Houston Chronicle.

He was the hometown guy, a Houston resident who had become Texas solicitor general. Then he knocked Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst out of the saddle while winning the 2012 Republican U.S. Senate primary; he would win the Senate seat handily that year.

Six years later, Cruz has squandered the support of the Chronicle, which has “enthusiastically” thrown its support behind Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

At one level this is a big deal. The Chronicle’s editorial spells out why Cruz has disappointed the paper’s editorial board. He’s self-serving, overly ambitious, too intent on furthering his own political interests, he ignores Texas’s needs, he is a grandstander.

Read the editorial here.

The paper suggests that O’Rourke, a native of El Paso and a member of the U.S. House, might be “the next Bobby Kennedy.” The paper is impressed with O’Rourke’s enthusiastic campaign and his stated commitment to Texas and to Texans. It notes that O’Rourke has “strong opinions” but “reaches out” to those with whom he disagrees.

At one level, I welcome the endorsement. Then reality kicks in. Will a newspaper’s statement matter? Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry kicked sand in the faces of editorial boards statewide in 2010. He said he wouldn’t meet with editorial boards, preferring to “speak directly” to Texans as he campaigned for re-election; newspapers across the state endorsed former Houston Mayor Bill White — and Perry still won by a double-digit margin.

That all said, it’s advisable to take the Chronicle’s endorsement with a degree of skepticism. I don’t doubt for a moment that the paper believes O’Rourke would do a better job in the U.S. Senate. I agree with the paper, which makes it credible to my eyes.

I want to take particular note of how Cruz has become a Trump acolyte — even after Trump hung the “Lyin’ Ted” insult on him during the 2016 GOP presidential primary; he also denigrated Heidi Cruz, the senator’s wife; and suggested that Cruz’s father was involved in President Kennedy’s assassination. O’Rourke is likely to serve as a necessary check on a president who presents a host of dangerous notions for Americans to ponder.

If only this endorsement can turn the tide. One can hope. I will do so.

What? No fisticuffs between Beto and Cruz?

It’s likely a good thing that Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz probably won’t be debating any more before the midterm election.

I fear the two men might come to blows during the next joint appearance.

They met Tuesday night in San Antonio and sparred vigorously over guns, immigration, the economy and truth-telling.

O’Rourke is the Democrat who’s challenging the Republican incumbent Cruz for the senator’s seat. It has drawn national attention to a state where this contest is supposed to be a shoo-in for the GOP candidate in deep-red Texas.

This kind of increasing tension between debate contestants is hardly unprecedented. Let’s harken back to the landmark TV debates between two presidential candidates.

In 1960, Sen. John Kennedy faced off against Vice President Richard Nixon. Everyone talks about that first encounter, the one that featured the tanned and fit JFK and the wan and sickly vice president. Nixon “won” the debate to those who heard it on the radio, but Kennedy scored huge with those who saw it on TV.

What few historians ever mention is that the two men faced off twice more and got far more aggressive with each successive debate.

Cruz and O’Rourke managed to maintain a tone of civility in their first debate this past month in Dallas. Much of it vanished in the Alamo City.

This is possibly the final encounter between the Republican and the Democrat. It’s just as well.

Whatever. I’m more than ready to cast my vote in that race. I’m still planning to back Beto O’Rourke.

Entering crucial stage of midterm campaign

I’ve seen this kind of thing happen before. A “wave election” occurs when the least likely incumbent takes a fall, signaling a dramatic change in fortunes for the halls of Congress.

In 1994, I had a ringside seat for one of those events. Longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks of Beaumont represented one of Texas’s last Democratic bastions in the Golden Triangle. He’d been in Congress for more than four decades. His foe that year was a guy who came out of nowhere.

Steve Stockman shocked the political world by beating the late “Sweet Ol’ Brooks” to take his House seat as part of the Contract With America GOP delegation.

I figured at the time if Brooks was to lose, the entire House was going to flip. Sure enough. He did. The House did flip.

Stockman lasted one term before being defeated for re-election in 1996. He was elected again much later, but then lost again after another single term. He’s now facing prison time for fraud.

Fast-forward to the present day. Texas’s U.S. Senate seat is in play. Democrat Beto O’Rourke is trying to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in a state that is as Republican as it gets.

The way I figure it today, if somehow O’Rourke manages to pull off what looks like the Upset of the Ages, then the U.S. Senate stands a good chance of flipping from Republican to Democratic control.

It’s a steep hill for the El Paso congressman. He trails the Cruz Missile. But not by much. I see polls that swing from 2 points to 8 points. Cruz should — by standard political measures — be way up. He’s not.

O’Rourke well might lose on Nov. 6. I don’t want him or his allies to claim some sort of “moral victory” by making it close. A loss is a loss. For my money, Cruz needs to lose. He might represent a lot of Texans’ values. He doesn’t represent mine.

If the Cruz Missile gets blown out of the sky, then I am betting that the entire Senate turns over.

Believe me, stranger things have happened — just as it did in the Golden Triangle all those years ago.

Don’t go low … as the other guys do

I’m going to stand with Beto O’Rourke and his belief that civility should return to our public discourse.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News editorial board, O’Rourke – the Democratic candidate for U.S. senator – said he disagrees with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s belief that “when they go low, we kick them.” That’s not who O’Rourke is, he told the DMN.

I recently chided a Republican candidate for governor in Pennsylvania for declaring his intention to “stomp all over” the Democratic governor’s face with “golf spikes.” Scott Wagner said he was peaking metaphorically against Gov. Tom Wolf. Still, the language is harsh, crude and unacceptable. Wagner later apologized for using such harsh rhetoric.

Holder’s comments about “kicking” the folks on the other side also are unacceptable, although not as graphic as the bellowing assertion that Wagner made.

As for O’Rourke, he is showing remarkable restraint as he campaigns against Sen. Ted Cruz in this year’s Senate race midterm election. I want to applaud him for seeking to remain true to his belief that civility is better for the cause of public discourse – and for the nation – than the angry rhetoric that we’ve been hearing.

I still think former first lady Michelle Obama’s advice is the best: When they go low, we go high.