Category Archives: State news

Early vote numbers look like a record-breaker

Texans appear to be answering the call.

Final unofficial early vote totals for this year’s midterm election tell a potentially amazing story that might portend a record year in Texas electoral history.

About 4.9 million Texans have voted early. That number exceeds the total number of ballots cast in the 2014 midterm election. We still have Election Day awaiting us Tuesday. There will be a chance, therefore, for Texans not only to smash the previous midterm vote record to smithereens, but also to approach presidential election year vote totals.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll break the 2016 turnout.

Conventional political wisdom suggests that big midterm election turnouts traditionally bode well for Democrats. I am hoping that’s the case, not just in Texas but around the country. The U.S. House is poised to flip from Republican to Democratic control next January. That gives the so-called “other party” a chance at controlling legislative flow in one congressional chamber. The Senate remains a high hurdle, a steep hill for Democrats to clear.

But … there’s a flicker of hope — based on those early vote totals in Texas — that Democrats might be able to flip a Republican seat. It remains a long shot, from all that I can gather. Beto O’Rourke is mounting a stiff and stern challenge against Ted Cruz. The young Democratic congressman from El Paso has trudged through all 254 Texas counties, telling voters they should support him rather than the Republican incumbent.

I am one of those Texans who will vote Tuesday for O’Rourke. My hope is that there will be enough other Texans who will join me. Cruz long has been seen — even by many of his Senate colleagues — as a self-centered egotist far more interested in his own ambition than in the people he was elected in 2012 to serve.

O’Rourke has pledged, from what I understand, to serve his entire six-year Senate term if elected; Cruz has declined to make that pledge if he is re-elected. What does that tell you? It tells me the Cruz Missile is considering whether to launch another presidential bid in 2020, even against his new BFF, Donald Trump, who he once called a “sniveling coward” and an “amoral” and “pathological liar.”

Are we going to break records Tuesday? I do hope so.

Remember: Immigrants built this great nation

The Donald Trump Republican lies keep piling up.

Here is one of them: Immigrants are pouring into our country intent on harming innocent, defenseless Americans; they will steal our children and sell them into sex slavery; they will rape our women; they will peddle deadly drugs. We have to stop them now by sending thousands of heavily armed “patriotic” American fighting men and women to our southern borders.

What’s more, the lie continues, Republican opponents — Democrats, if you please — favor “open borders,” they believe we have “too much border security” and want to grant illegal immigrants “the right to vote.”

The lying is prevalent in border states, such as Texas, where a U.S. Senate campaign — Democrat Beto O’Rourke vs. Republican Ted Cruz — is heading into the home stretch.

Donald Trump is fomenting those lies with his reckless, feckless rhetoric on the stump. He whips his crowds into a frenzy with the blathering about how Democrats favor lawlessness and Republicans favor “safety and security.”

Look, this nation owes its greatness to immigrants. My sisters and I are the grandchildren of immigrants. Two of our grandparents came here from Turkey, which the president might define as a “sh**hole” country, given that it is a predominantly Muslim nation; the other two came from southern Greece. Yes, they got here legally, but they shared the same dream as others who are sneaking in illegally: They wanted to build a better life than the one they had back in the “old country.”

The same thing can be said of those who are fleeing oppression in Latin America. Yet the president seeks to lump them into a single category of “violent criminals.”

As for Democrats wanting to grant illegal immigrants the immediate “right to vote,” I am waiting to hear or read a single comment from any politician in this election cycle say such a thing. Beto O’Rourke hasn’t said it, nor has any other so-called squishy liberal/progressive politician.

What I hear them say is that they want to grant temporary reprieves from deportation for those who are here illegally; they want to ensure, through thorough background checks, that they want in for the right reasons, and they want to enable them to gain permanent resident status or — yes! — citizenship.

Once they become citizens, then they can vote! Not before! That’s what I am hearing.

I know the lying will continue, so my plea isn’t for the liars to cease. It is for the rest of us to stop swilling the poison.

Beto wants to legalize heroin? Nope

I’ll admit to some alarm when I heard a campaign ad from Ted Cruz that asserted that his opponent, Beto O’Rourke, had pitched a notion to legalize all narcotics, including heroin.

Then I looked it up. I found out that the Republican U.S. senator from Texas has grossly misstated his Democratic challenger’s view on the subject. Cruz’s lie about O’Rourke’s view on the subject suggests to me that the campaign in Texas is heading for a photo finish next Tuesday.

I discovered this item on Politifact, which declares Cruz’s statement to be “False.”

Read the article here.

Politifact discerned that while he served on the El Paso City Council, O’Rourke called for a wide-ranging debate on the “war on drugs,” which he has declared to be an “abject failure.” He has called for the decriminalization of marijuana use. But legalizing heroin? Or other hard drugs? Not even close.

That allegation is a grotesque distortion of O’Rourke’s view on the subject, much like the distortion of O’Rourke’s view of immigration, which Cruz and other Republicans contend includes what they call an “open borders” policy.

The success of the nation’s drug war certainly is a debatable point. I tend to agree with those who contend that we cannot declare victory in this war against drugs. It’s never-ending. The cops pull a lot of vehicles over on the highway ostensibly for “traffic violations,” only to find loads of drugs and cash on board. They confiscate the dope, arrest the drivers, try the accused, convict them, send them to prison. Does that stop the drug flow? No. It doesn’t.

Do I want heroin legalized? Of course not! Based on what I’ve been able to discern, neither does Beto O’Rourke. The half-baked assertions from his political foe tell me that Cruz — who was supposed to win re-election in a stroll — is in the fight of his life.

Ted Cruz shouldn’t be allowed to lie his way back to office.

O’Rourke attack on Cruz carries an implied promise

Beto O’Rourke has gone negative as his campaign against Ted Cruz heads down the stretch. The Democratic challenger wants to succeed the Republican incumbent in the U.S. Senate seat representing Texas.

O’Rourke hasn’t been nasty the way some candidates around the country have become.

I want to look briefly at one TV ad that’s getting a lot of air time in the final days of the midterm election campaign.

Beto says Cruz missed 25 percent of his Senate votes in 2015 and half of them in 2016. Why? Because Cruz was seeking the Republican nomination for president of the United States.

O’Rourke then asks rhetorically whether “your employer” would keep you on the job if you missed that much work. Good question. He makes a valid point.

Let me suggest, though, that Cruz was within his right to run for president. It’s always a gamble for an incumbent officeholder to campaign full-time for the nation’s highest office, given the amount of time he or she must spend away from the job for which he is being paid; in Cruz’s case, Texans and other Americans are shelling out $175,000 annually for representation in the U.S. Senate. That ain’t chump change, man.

Cruz and other incumbent officeholders need to be mindful of the job they don’t have time to do while they seek higher office.

O’Rourke’s complaint about Cruz’s absenteeism does suggest something else. It suggests to me that if O’Rourke wins the Senate seat next week and takes office next January, he is going to commit full time for the entire length of his Senate term to serving Texans and their needs.

As I understand it, O’Rourke already has made such a pledge on the stump as he campaigns around the state. Sen. Cruz hasn’t done so.

Hmm. I want my U.S. senator to be on the job all the time on my behalf.

Yep. I’m still with Beto.

Beto crawls back into the belly of the GOP beast

Democratic U.S. senatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke says he doesn’t have any pollsters on his campaign staff.

If that is true — and I don’t disbelieve him — then someone is telling the young man that it is in his political interests to spend so much time in Texas’s most Republican regions as he campaigns against GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke had yet another campaign rally this morning in Amarillo, which many have labeled as a sort of Ground Zero of Texas Republican politics.

Public opinion polling puts Cruz up by a 5 to 7 points, depending on the polling outfit. I’ve noted already the view expressed by some around the state that O’Rourke’s strategy appears to be to cut his expected losses in GOP-friendly rural Texas while trying to shore up his expected majorities in the state’s urban centers in places like Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

O’Rourke certainly gins up energetic crowds wherever he goes. I have to hand it to the young congressman from El Paso for the guts he shows in venturing into the belly of the proverbial Republican beast.

He appeared recently on late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert’s show and told Colbert how he has visited every one of Texas’s 254 counties. He mentioned Muleshoe (in Bailey County) by name as one of the communities he has visited, prompting Colbert to wonder aloud that a “town with the name of Muleshoe must have great barbecue.”

Whatever. It also has great people who seem willing to listen to what this outlier Democrat has to say to them.

So it is with Amarillo residents and those who live in many rural communities throughout the state.

I don’t know whether O’Rourke’s strategy will work. The polling, if we are to believe it, tells us Cruz is leading.

Then again, the pollsters told us Hillary Clinton would be elected president in 2016 by a narrow margin. Might there be another surprise awaiting us this time around?

My hope continues to spring eternal.

Our votes matter a lot … always!

It looks as though there well might be a record voter turnout for a midterm election in Texas, based on the early vote totals being recorded across the state.

Does that diminish the individual value of Texans’ vote? Not in the least.

We all know about tiny jurisdictions where races for public office — say, school board or city council — are decided by a vote or two. A rural Texas community can elect governing councils from a total of perhaps 20 or 30 votes. You know your vote counts in that context.

Let’s broaden our horizon, shall we? Texas is going to take part on Nov. 6 in electing all 36 members of the House of Representatives and one of two members of the U.S. Senate. A number of those races are bound to be close, too close to call, within the margin of polling error. We’ll also have a number of state offices to decide.

The number of total votes cast in those races figures to be huge. That doesn’t diminish the value of our votes, yours and mine.

Then we have the county races and state legislative contests that voters will decide. Our votes count there, too.

Will there be runaways? Sure. The way I look at it, even if you cast your ballot for the candidate who loses an election by a huge margin, you still get to have your voice heard. To my way of thinking, that vote gives you an extra measure of credibility if you choose to gripe publicly about how the winner of that race is doing his or her job on your behalf.

The Texas Tribune reports that after five days of early voting, 2.14 million Texans have cast ballots. We have until the end of this week to vote early. Don’t expect the numbers to double the total of early votes, but we’re going to finish the early-vote period with a tremendous spike from the 2014 midterm election.

Do not think for an instant that the huge number diminishes the value of your individual ballot. Even statewide contests in a state as large as Texas can be decided by a single vote.

Beto reels in another key endorsement

Another major Texas newspaper has aligned itself with a young challenger who is trying to redraw the state’s political map.

The Dallas Morning News today endorsed Beto O’Rourke for the U.S. Senate. The Democratic congressman from El Paso is challenging Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

The DMN’s editorial approach is quite interesting. The newspaper endorses many of O’Rourke’s policy stances, such as developing Texas’s vast array of alternative energy sources, comprehensive immigration reform (while opposing construction of a wall) and calling for universal background checks on those who want to buy a firearm.

The newspaper’s editorial board also endorses many of Cruz’s policies — on taxes, on relaxing business regulations and on his views of improving security at our public schools.

The paper, though, favors O’Rourke because of the huge potential of seeking unity and compromise were he elected to the U.S. Senate. The DMN is critical of the divisive tone Cruz often expresses. The newspaper also suggests that Cruz is more interested in his own future than in the state’s future.

O’Rourke has been taking a largely positive message across our vast state, according to the DMN, although the paper does criticize O’Rourke for invoking the “Lyin’ Ted” epithet that Donald Trump hung on Cruz during the 2016 GOP presidential primary campaign.

Is this endorsement going to prove decisive? Probably not. Cruz continues to hang on to a slim lead and he well might win re-election in less than two weeks. Plus, the public’s trust in newspaper editorial boards has waned in recent years.

I’ll just add that the Dallas Morning News is no “liberal mouthpiece.” It has a long tradition of supporting conservative candidates and causes, just as the Houston Chronicle has exhibited — even while it endorsed O’Rourke’s campaign against Cruz.

Read the DMN endorsement here.

The paper has made a strong statement in favor of fundamental change in the state’s political leadership. Yes, I agree with it, but the point here is the way the newspaper has framed its endorsement.

The Morning News is spot on.

Living near the center of the early-vote explosion

I reside in the sixth most populous county in Texas, which has 254 of them spread over 268,000 square miles.

I am pleased to report that Collin County has taken its place at the head of the parade of counties where early voting totals for this year’s midterm election has smashed prior records.

The Texas Tribune has published voter turnouts for the state’s 30 largest counties. The early vote response is astonishing.

In 2014, the previous midterm election year, 18.336 Collin County residents voted early after the first couple of days. This year, the total of early votes so far is 74,273. What’s more, the 2016 early-vote totals — in a presidential election year — totaled 68,241 ballots. So this year’s midterm, non-presidential election year, so far is exceeding the turnout for a presidential year. Astounding!

Early vote totals exploding

The early returns on the number of early votes is encouraging … if it means a commensurate spike in the overall turnout. I hope that’s the case. I’ve long lamented the state’s historically miserable voter turnout performance. Texas ranks near the bottom of the nation’s 50 states in that regard. We ain’t No. 1 there, folks.

Maybe when all the ballots are counted in less than two weeks, Texas can finish somewhere up the list of states. The early numbers ae encouraging.

As I’ve noted longer than I can remember, representative democracy works better when more of us take part in this fundamental right of citizenship in a free and liberated nation.

Due process anyone? Anyone?

Hey, what happened to due process, the presumption of innocence, the, um, rule of law?

Ted Cruz, the Republican running for re-election to the U.S. Senate in Texas, fired off a real knee-slapper Tuesday night in response to a supporter yelling “Lock him up!” in reference to Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.

“Well, you know, there’s a double-occupancy cell with Hillary Clinton,” Cruz said. “Y’all are gonna get me in trouble with that,” he added at a campaign rally in Georgetown, Texas.

Doesn’t that just crack you up? That guy is hilarious, man!

Hillary Clinton was the object of GOP mobs yelling “Lock her up!” during the 2016 presidential campaign. They were just so darn angry over that email matter, Benghazi and other assorted fabricated crimes that they were ready to send her in shackles to the nearest — or farthest — penitentiary possible.

Now it’s Beto O’Rourke feeling the Republicans’ burn as he campaigns against the Cruz Missile.

I am unaware of anything in O’Rourke’s history that would prompt such a ridiculous shout-out from a Cruz clown.

Oh, but hey. That’s just politics … I guess.

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.