Category Archives: State news

Ernst follows Perry model: Who needs editorial boards?

Joni Ernst is staking out an interesting — but not unprecedented — tactic in her campaign for the U.S. Senate in Iowa.

The Republican is forgoing interviews with major Iowa newspaper editorial boards. Media observers in the Hawkeye State are wondering whether she’s afraid of being questioned by the editorial boards. She’s canceling interview appointments left and right.

Her opponent, Democrat Bruce Braley, is meeting with them, hoping — I can assume — to gather up newspaper endorsements.

Do you remember when Gov.Rick Perry kissed off newspaper endorsements in 2010 when he was running for re-election in Texas? He stiffed newspaper editorial boards all over the state. He was quite clear: I don’t need no stinkin’ editorial endorsements; I’m going to “talk directly” to Texans.

Texas newspaper editors and publishers took the snub personally, with most of them endorsing his Democratic opponent, former Houston Mayor Bill White. The paper where I worked at the time, the Amarillo Globe-News, followed suit. We backed White and when we did, you’d have thought Planet Earth had just spun off its axis. The reaction from our deeply Republican readers in the heart of the Texas Panhandle was ferocious.

Not to fear, Perry’s handlers reckoned — correctly, I should add.

The governor was re-elected handily four years ago with a 13 percent victory over White.

I figure, though, that Perry knows Texas voters as well as any politician who’s ever held public office.

Does Joni Ernst know Iowans as well? We’ll find out in about 12 days.

Voter ID laws miss real culprit

Texas’s voter identification law is in place to guard against voter fraud.

Is it working? Does it seek out the most common culprit? Frontline, the acclaimed PBS news documentary series, suggests it doesn’t.

The most common abusers are absentee voters, according to Frontline. The Texas law, which has been upheld by the courts, targets those who show up at the polls without proper identification or who have false ID and seek to pass themselves off as someone else.

Yes, those incidences do occur — rarely.

The more common element of fraud occurs away from the polling place.

Frontline notes that most absentee votes are white and older than the rest of the voting population. Accordingly, voter ID laws draw their aim on those who are least able to afford to pay for the kinds of identification that many states now require. As Frontline reports:

“Laws that require photo ID at the polls vary, but the strictest laws limit the forms of acceptable documentation to only a handful of cards. For example, in Texas, voters must show one of seven forms of state or federal-issue photo ID, with a valid expiration date: a driver’s license, a personal ID card issued by the state, a concealed handgun license, a military ID, citizenship certificate or a passport. The name on the ID must exactly match the one on the voter rolls.

“African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to lack one of these qualifying IDs, according to several estimates. Even when the state offers a free photo ID, these voters, who are disproportionately low-income, may not be able to procure the underlying documents, such as a birth certificate, to obtain one.”

Therein lies the problem that some see in these voter ID laws. They make it harder for some Americans to vote and those Americans happen to be among the more disadvantaged among us.

Didn’t we pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit such a thing?

Where does Davis go from here?

This is not a particularly bold prediction: Wendy Davis is likely to lose her bid to become Texas’s next governor.

The Democratic nominee is being whipsawed by a combination of circumstances: She’s running in a heavily Republican state; she hasn’t gotten serious traction on the serious issues she’s sought to raise; her opponent, Greg Abbott, has proven to be unflappable in the face of intense criticism.

My question now is this: Where does the state senator go from here?

Some observers had speculated that Davis could emerge with a moral victory even in defeat. She’s made a name for herself. She gained national fame with that notable filibuster in 2013 of a strict anti-abortion bill. She is an articulate spokeswoman for her party.

The problem is that the Texas Democratic Party is in shambles. Republicans have grabbed every statewide office and have tightened the vise-grip they hold.

Davis had been seen as a possible leader of a Democratic resurgence. Trouble is that the resurgence has failed to take hold.

Davis’s future as a political star in Texas is questionable at best, and not because of anything she’s said or done, but because the party cannot seem to pull itself off the deck.

If she’s going to maintain a future in elected politics, it looks to me as though she ought to follow the Scott Brown model up yonder in New England. Brown, a Republican, lost his U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts to Democrat Elizabeth Warren. Then he moved to neighboring New Hampshire and is mounting a serious challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Jean Shaheen.

Sen. Davis? New Mexico might be beckoning.

'Kick-ass militiaman' discovers humanity

Charles Gilbert has told a fascinating and gripping story about how he changed his attitude toward those who come to this country illegally.

He joined a Texas “militia” organization and deployed to the state’s southern border. He intended to join others who were angry about the illegal immigrant flow.

Then he discovered something. He says in a lengthy article attached to this blog that he found “humanity.”

Yes, the Texas Observer is a left-leaning publication based in Austin. One isn’t likely to find such a story in, say, the Amarillo Globe-News or other right-leaning publications.

Gilbert’s story is a lengthy one as published in the Observer.

The most interesting thing he said, however, is the one about discovering that the illegal immigrants coming into Texas merely were human beings seeking a better life.

He describes himself as a typical “angry white male.” He was ticked off when he went to the border. Gilbert told the Observer: “‘I decided I wanted to go down to the border and kick some ass,’” Gilbert says. ‘I’m your typical angry white male. I’m conservative. I’m pissed off at the double-standard in the media. I’m that guy.’”

Then he got up close and personal with the folks he sought to stop.

Not only did he discover the humanity in the form of the people who came to Texas from Mexico and beyond, he also found some humanity within himself.

Wishing to know how pols actually vote

Early voting for the Texas mid-term election starts Monday and it brings to mind something that’s been on my mind of late.

It’s my wish that I could learn how people in high public political places vote for their peers … other high-profile political figures.

I pose the notion with state Sen. Dan Patrick in mind. Patrick is the Republican candidate for Texas lieutenant governor, who I believe has as many foes on his side of the aisle as he has on the other side.

It’s just a hunch.

I must stipulate that I’ve never met Patrick. I know about him based only on what I’ve read in the media. What do I know about him? That he’s mercurial; he’s a fiery conservative who’s all but acknowledged he doesn’t care about any public official who doesn’t share his philosophy; he is quick with the quip and short on compassion.

So I wonder whether he’s going to get the full-throated support of Texas senators from within his own party.

Yes, we vote in private. I cannot in good conscience ask a state or Panhandle public official whether they actually are going to vote for someone such as Patrick. We call them “secret ballots” for a reason, even though such secrecy hasn’t stopped the critics over in Kentucky from wondering why Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes won’t say whether she voted for Barack Obama for president.

In 1998, George W. Bush was running for re-election as governor. He came to the Amarillo Globe-News to meet with its editorial board for the purpose of obtaining the newspaper’s endorsement. Gov. Bush was affable, talkative, well-versed on the issues and we had a thoroughly engaging and sometimes-frank discussion of his candidacy.

Then I asked him this question: “Governor, who are you supporting for lieutenant governor?”

Before the final word of that sentence came out of my mouth, he blurted out: Rick Perry!

Why bring this up? Well, it struck me odd at the moment that Gov. Bush didn’t elaborate on why he backed his fellow Republican over Democrat John Sharp. He didn’t say, “I’m supporting Rick Perry because he’ll continue the tradition of working across the aisle, as Bob Bullock has done,” or even that “Rick Perry is a friend of mine and he and I share the same conservative values that most Texans hold dear.”

No. He said, “Rick Perry” — and not a single word more.

I’ve long had this notion that despite that public pronouncement that Gov. Bush well could have voted differently when he stepped into the voting booth.

Dan Patrick’s fiery reputation has me wondering the same thing now about those who proclaim their support for him.

No surprise: High Court upholds Texas voter ID law

Early voting in Texas begins Monday and everyone who votes in this mid-term election will be required to produce identification that proves they are who they say they are.

This comes courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court, which today ruled that the Texas voter ID law is valid and that, by golly, it does not amount to an unconstitutional “poll tax.”


A federal judge in Texas had struck down the law, saying it discriminated against low-income Americans — notably African-Americans and Hispanics — who might be unable to afford such identification. The judge, a Barack Obama appointee, is a Latina jurist.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals then reversed the judge’s ruling. The case then went to the highest court in the land, which today ruled 6-3 to reinstate the Texas voter ID law.

The three dissenters: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a Bill Clinton appointee), and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan (Barack Obama appointees).

Ginsburg said this in her dissent: “The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”

Those who support these laws contend that they prevent “voter fraud” and keep illegal immigrants from voting. That, too, is interesting, given that there is so little evidence of such fraud existing in Texas or anywhere else.

The reinstatement of this law is now more than likely going to stand for the foreseeable future.

We’ll see how many American citizens will be turned away from polling places across Texas. Let’s also take a look at their ethnicity, shall we?

Ban texting and driving

To be honest, I had to blink hard a couple of times when I read what state Rep. Four Price said regarding texting and driving.

He favors a statewide ban. The Amarillo Republican also said he believes the issue will come up in the 2015 Legislature and that absent an overt threat by the new governor — whoever he or she is — to veto it, that it is likely to end up on the governor’s desk at the end of the session.

I’m all for it.

Price is a self-proclaimed small-government conservative who said he’s voted for the statewide ban in previous sessions. He told the Amarillo Globe-News that motorists driving through our huge state are subject to varying municipal ordinances. Motorists need to be aware of what each city and town allows or prohibits regarding the use of telecommunications equipment while driving.

“I really believe it would be a wise thing to have a common standard across the state,” Price said.

You go, Four!

Lame-duck Gov. Rick Perry has kept his veto pen handy during previous attempts to enact this wise legislation. He complained about government overreach when he vetoed a bill calling for a statewide ban in 2011. The next Legislature didn’t bother to pass a bill, fearing yet another veto.

Perry will be out of office in January. The new governor — let us hope — won’t threaten a veto and scare off the next Legislature.

A statewide ban won’t prevent idiots from texting while driving, which is why some people still oppose this reasonable law. Still, a law that gives police authority to cite dimwitted motorists and then enables cities and counties to enact harsh punishments might deter some folks from endangering themselves and — even worse — other motorists or pedestrians.

Water: We cannot live without it

Public television is, by definition, supposed to educate viewers as well as entertain them.

That’s how I’ve always understood public TV’s role. Well, on Thursday night, Texas Panhandle public TV viewers are going to get an education about something many of us have taken for granted.

It’s about water. How we acquire it. The value it brings to our economic infrastructure. Its future use. Ways to preserve and conserve it.

Now for a bit of disclosure. I had a teeny-tiny hand in this project. I was a reporter for a segment that Panhandle PBS assembled for this project, which was done in conjunction with other public TV stations around the state.

The program, “Texas Perspective: Water,” airs at 7 p.m. on Panhandle PBS. That’s Channel 3 for cable users; Channel 2 if you don’t have cable in the Texas Panhandle.

The program will air throughout the state because it is a state issue. Every region of Texas has reason to be concerned about the future of its water. Some regions are doing a better job of managing this resource than other regions.

I don’t want to give any of this special away here, on this blog post.

Instead, I merely want to call attention to an important public affairs program that will remind Texans from Hartley to Harlingen and from El Paso to Orange that water is absolutely critical to our survival.

It doesn’t get any more educational than that.

Keep falling, fuel prices

It’s been a strange past couple of weeks around the Texas Panhandle as the price of gasoline drops — occasionally several times during the day.

It’s $2.88 per gallon for regular unleaded gas as of this morning. It’s likely to fall even more, perhaps even today.

CNBC economics analyst Jim “The Screamer” Cramer thinks the price of crude could fall to $70 per barrel. If that happens, he says, we could see a “concerted decline” in oil production.

I’m not too worried about that decline. The energy market’s reaction to many factors is encouraging on a number of fronts.

* Supply is exceeding demand, which means Americans are a bit less gluttonous about oil consumption than we used to be.

* Alternative energy sources are replacing petroleum and coal to fire such things as electrical power plants. Natural gas exploration is way up, including in the Panhandle and throughout West Texas. Natgas burns cleaner and more efficiently, correct?

* Automakers are having to produce more fuel-efficient motor vehicles, which has had an impact on consumption. Hey, weren’t those new fuel-efficiency standards supposed to spell doom for the auto industry? Isn’t that what some in Congress protested?

I’m less worried now than I might have been two decades ago. Americans hadn’t yet absorbed the message about fuel conservation. We seem to be getting it now.

'Hypocrisy' becomes focus of campaign

Wendy Davis is attacking the “hypocrisy” of her opponent.

That is fair game. The question now is the tactic she has used. Was it a “disgrace” that she posted a picture of an empty wheelchair while criticizing Greg Abbott, who also happens to be wheelchair-bound?

I wouldn’t use that kind of term to describe the ad in question. This campaign for Texas governor is now heading into some seriously rough terrain.

Davis is the Democratic nominee; Abbott is her Republican opponent. Abbott remains the favorite to become the state’s next governor, but Davis isn’t going to give up without fighting hard.

The ad in question lasts 30 seconds. It shows an empty wheelchair. The narrator mentions Abbott’s accident that left him paralyzed and how he sued successfully and won millions of dollars in a settlement. It then mentions how he has fought against provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act and how he has opposed large settlements for plaintiffs who have filed suit — just as he did.

Is that hypocritical? Yes.

Davis defended the ad the other day. “This ad is about one thing and one thing only — it is about Greg Abbott’s hypocrisy,” she said.

I remain uncomfortable with the use of the wheelchair in the ad. However, I do not view it as a “historic low,” as Abbott’s campaign has called it. The attorney general has not hidden his use of the wheelchair from the public, which in this era would be impossible. I still believe Davis could have made her point without the wheelchair image, although it could have been a whole lot worse had the ad shown Abbott sitting in his very own wheelchair.

The campaign will trudge on.

Texas politics being what it is — a “contact sport,” as the late Lloyd Bentsen would say — don’t bet the farm that the road doesn’t get a whole lot bumpier.