Tag Archives: Golden Triangle

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.

Happy Trails, Part 121: Getting used to this response

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — So … I was waiting this afternoon for Old Faithful to shoot itself into the air.

I turned to a gentleman and his wife sitting behind us on a bench. We talked for a moment or two: about Vietnam (we both were wearing caps revealing our war connection) and about the fact we were sitting on a huge volcanic fault that might explode some day, maybe soon.

Then he asked, “Where are you from”? I stumbled for a moment.

Then I mumbled being “from near Dallas.”

My retirement has taken my wife and me to Fairview, just north of Dallas between Allen and McKinney. I haven’t grown entirely comfortable telling strangers that I am “from the Dallas area.”

I can’t explain it, other than to suggest that Fairview isn’t as widely known to folks as, say, Amarillo and Beaumont, where we lived for more than 30 years while I worked for a living in daily print journalism. Most people I have met over the years know where Amarillo and Beaumont are on the map. Indeed, when I mention “Amarillo,” I often get a response that goes something like, “Hey, isn’t that the place with the big steak?”

As I grapple momentarily for the right way to tell folks where I now reside, I am left sounding awkward and perhaps a bit feckless.

It’ll come. Soon.

‘Gotta love minor league ball’

I suppose it could be a lot worse, or a lot more worthy of argument, as Amarillo, Texas, awaits the naming of its new AA minor-league baseball team.

The team owners are pondering a list of five names that emerged as “finalists” to be considered for the new team name.

My favorite, if you want to call it that, is Sod Poodles, which the Elmore Group said is an old-time term used to describe prairie dogs, a critter common throughout the High Plains.

But I got an interesting message from a friend of mine who wanted to provide a bit of perspective to this whole matter of team-naming.

My dear friend writes: I know you’ve been agonizing over the Amarillo team’s name, but here are some examples from Thursday’s Word Sleuth: Bees, Curve, Fire Frogs, Hooks, IronPigs, Lugnuts, Muckdogs, Owlz, Rawhide, Snappers, Stone Crabs, TinCaps, Yard Goats, and my personal favorite, Biscuits and Gravy. Love that minor league ball!

My friend, who lives in Beaumont, Texas, also wants me to mention “Golden Gators,” which was the name of a team that once played hardball in the Golden Triangle.

Yep, I love minor league ball, too.

The Amarillo team’s ownership said it wanted to build a community talking point with the list of finalists. It seems to have succeeded in that mission. Whatever name they reveal for the team is sure to get ’em talking.

But … I’m still all in for the Sod Poodles. Yeah, it’s a weird name, but the fans will get used to it. Of that I am certain.

What do I miss? The weather!

AMARILLO, Texas — Yep. we’re back where we lived for about a third of our lives on Earth.

Tonight I think I have discovered what I miss the most (sort of) about the Texas Panhandle.

I’ll stipulate up front that we made many friends here before departing for the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex earlier this year. I miss them terribly already.

The next thing? Man, it’s gotta be the weather.

We’ve been getting re-accustomed to downstate humidity while we have settled into our new digs in Fairview. It hasn’t been narly the struggle it was when we first moved to Texas in the spring of 1984; we left Oregon for — gulp! — Beaumont, in the Golden Triangle, or, as I like to call it, The Swamp.

Then we moved to Amarillo in 1995. It was in January. My blood had thinned out (if that’s possible) during our years way down yonder, so getting used to the Panhandle winter was a project. But we did.

We have returned for a few days while we prepare to depart for Yellowstone National Park and Grand Coulee, Wash.

We’ve had a hot, humid, sticky summer in Fairview. We parked our fifth wheel tonight at an RV park and have enjoyed the cool breeze wafting through our vehicle.

Ahh, yes! The weather. We likely are going to miss the Texas Panhandle’s version of the four seasons.

Why endorse in primaries?

A newspaper editorial endorsement for a political primary election brings to mind a decision I made several years before the end of my own journalism career.

It was that we shouldn’t make such an endorsement unless a primary race was tantamount to election, meaning that there would be no contested two-party primaries for that particular office.

The endorsement that got me thinking about the issue came from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which recommended former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in that state’s Republican primary.

Read the endorsement here.

It wasn’t always that way. I used to work for newspapers in Beaumont, Texas and in Oregon City, Ore. We made primary endorsements at those newspapers.

Then I moved to Amarillo to become editorial page editor of the Globe-News. After a period of time, I persuaded the publisher that primary endorsements were not nearly as relevant as general-election endorsements. So, why do them, especially when the candidates had another election in the fall?

Amarillo is in the middle of heavily Republican territory. In many instances, particularly in Randall County — which comprises the southern half (roughly) of Amarillo, Democrats damn near never run candidates for local offices. That means the GOP primary means the winner is all but assured of election, barring a surprise and successful write-in campaign.

We elected then to endorse only in those primary races featuring contests in just one party. That meant the Republican Party.

I came to realize that primaries are essentially a political party function. They are run by the political parties. The local party chairs are in charge of managing the ballots and ensuring that all the fees are paid.

If by chance there would be contested primaries in both major parties, we would take a pass on offering a recommendation in the primary; we preferred to wait for the general election campaign to make our recommendation known.

That was then. I now wonder whether newspaper endorsements mean anything any longer. Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided in 2010 to forgo any editorial board interviews with Texas newspapers; he was angry at the way newspapers treated him. The Globe-News that year endorsed former Houston Mayor Bill White, as did the vast majority of Texas newspapers. Gov. Perry won big anyway.

Donald Trump got few newspaper endorsements in 2016. You know how that election turned out.

If I had to do it all over again, I think I’d do it the way I decided to do it. No primary endorsements unless a party’s primary meant virtual election to office.

I also might give serious thought to giving up on the idea of offering endorsements for any race … ever!

I mean … what’s the point?

Seeking no credit for this heat

When we moved to Beaumont, Texas from Oregon in the spring of 1984, I would jokingly take credit when it rained for more than a couple of days in a row.

I would give a nod to the same thought when we moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in early 1995. When we would travel from Amarillo to, oh, damn well anywhere in the States, we’d take credit for whenever the wind would blow hard.

However …

There ain’t no way I’m going to tolerate any references to our former places of residence if someone wants to comment on this damn heat.

We’re setting heat records in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The temp hit 109 today. A record. It did so on Friday, too. There might be another record in jeopardy on Sunday and again on Monday.

The heat is an annual event in this part of the world. I’ve known that for many years.

It ain’t the same heat that blankets the Texas Panhandle. This one lingers well into the night, unlike on the Caprock, where it dissipates (more or less) when the sun sets, owing to the 3,650-foot elevation on the High Plains.

This heat requires us to get reacquainted with humidity.

The good news? It won’t last forever. I’m already looking forward to autumn.

Texas on the way to turning purple?

If you live long enough you get to see lots of trends and transitions.

Politically, that’s the case for those of us who’ve spent a substantial amount of time in Texas, a state that once was “blue” before Democrats got tagged with that color label. Then it turned “red” — bigly, if you will.

I arrived in the Golden Triangle in the spring of 1984 to take up my post on the editorial page of the Beaumont Enterprise. The Triangle was among the last “Yellow Dog Democrat” bastions in Texas. That designation ID’d those who’d rather for a “yellow dog” than vote for a Republican. Its strong union movement voting bloc, along with its hefty African-American population, stayed true to their Democratic roots.

Then it began to change. Slowly, but inexorably, right along with the rest of the state.

Over time, Republicans captured long-held Democratic public offices.

These days, the state is about as Republican as any in the nation. The GOP occupies every statewide office. The last Democrat to win a statewide race was in 1998. That’s two decades, man!

Decades later, the state might on the verge of entering another transition stage.

Don’t misconstrue my reasons for welcoming the change. My major reason for rooting for a resurgent Democratic Party is my desire to keep the other major party, the GOP, more accountable for the decisions its officeholders make.

Believe this or not — and you are entitled to disbelieve it if you wish — but I was leery of total Democratic control upon my arrival in Texas. I felt that Democratic pols took voters for granted, much like Republicans do today. And I said so at the time using my forum at the Enterprise.

Are we going to see a sweep of all statewide offices on the ballot in 2018? Hardly. My strong sense is that Republicans will maintain their vise grip on most of the state offices being contested. You know already that I want one of those GOP seats to flip: the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by the Cruz Missile, Ted Cruz, who is running against El Paso Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke; I’ll likely have much more on that contest later.

There might be a more competitive climate up and down the ballot as well. Democrats might be able to declare some sort of moral victory if they make Republican foes squirm.

That is not a bad thing for the general well-being of a state’s general political health.

My hope, thus, for a more “purple” hue does spring eternal.

Growth vs. no-growth in new city of residence

I have learned something about the town my wife and I now call “home.”

There appears to be a struggle within the town of Fairview among residents, some of whom want to see the community grow, while others of them don’t want any more growth. They like the town just the way it is.

Hmm. I haven’t seen this kind of intra-city tension in a good while.

I have made a fascinating acquaintance in Fairview. He is a member of the Town Council. I hesitate to give you his name because he doesn’t know I’m writing this blog post; I’ll respect his privacy.

He tells me about the strife that’s occurring in this Collin County community. Fairview’s population in 2010 was about 7,200; its estimated population in 2014 had grown to more than 8,400 residents.

It is tucked between McKinney to the north (population of just less than 200,000) and Allen to the south (population of about 100,000). Collin County’s population likely has surpassed 1 million residents.

This is a high-growth, high-demand region of Texas (just north of Dallas), which is a state that is growing rapidly as well.

We lived 23 years in Amarillo before relocating to Fairview. I don’t recall ever hearing much public squawking in Amarillo about the city’s aggressive growth strategies: its use of the economic development corporation to lure jobs; its courting of manufacturing and medical center jobs. All of that meant growth was certain. Indeed, Amarillo’s population will exceed 200,000 by the time they take the census in 2020.

We lived in Beaumont for nearly 11 years before migrating to the Caprock. The Golden Triangle, too, demonstrated an eagerness to grow and to seek diversity in its economic base, which for generations relied heavily on the petrochemical industry.

My own sense is that the pro-growth faction — whoever comprises it — ultimately will win the argument. I have found little appetite in Texas during my 34 years living in this state for wholesale resistance to growth opportunities when they present themselves.

Growth means more revenue, which produces greater means to pay for services. My new friend in Fairview seems to believe the no-growth faction remains a vocal minority.

I trust he is correct, as he knows the town far better than I do.

That also is my hope.

What was I thinking?

AMARILLO, Texas — I must have been off my rocker, had rocks in my noggin, gone around the bend when I had all those positive thoughts about the Texas Panhandle wind.

Twenty-three years of life on the Caprock have schooled me about the wind. It’s far more of an annoyance than a blessing.

We have returned to the Panhandle for a brief visit. And, oh yes, the wind greeted us — with a vengeance.

There once was a time when I could rationalize the benefit of the wind. Such as:

  • It keeps the bugs away.
  • It cleans the air.
  • It helps reduce the stifling humidity.
  • It provides a relentless, endless source of clean energy.

That’s about it. But I would trot those “benefits” out when someone would gripe about the wind. I now join the gripers. The whiners’ chorus has gained a member, although I remain a huge proponent of wind power as an alternative energy source.

I also understand the threat the wind presents, particularly during the summer months.

The wind exacerbates fire dangers manyfold. It dries out the grassland that has been moisturized by rain or snow. The grass grows, it adds fuel that can ignite easily.

You know how the rest of it goes.

Our new home near Dallas presents some other annoyances, such as the humidity that one doesn’t normally find way up yonder on the Caprock, which sits roughly 3,600 feet above sea level.

But … I look at it this way: My family and I spent nearly 11 years on the Texas Gulf Coast, in the Golden Triangle. We didn’t exactly enjoy the stifling summers there; we merely adjusted to it.

My memories of that period are still vivid. So I won’t let the relative humidity of the Metroplex get me down.

I also remember the Panhandle wind. Those memories are even more vivid. I no longer enjoy what I used to pass off as a flying bug deterrent.

Happy Trails, Part 109: Learning our way around

Our retirement journey has deposited my wife and me — along with Toby the Puppy — into a new community that isn’t entirely foreign to us. It does, however, present enough of a change for us to stop and think about where we are going and, more to the point, how we intend to get there.

We now live in Fairview, Texas. Where is that? It’s a small community tucked between Allen and McKinney in Collin County about 30 miles north of Dallas. Indeed, when I say “Fairview” to our friends in Amarillo, I often get a blank look; some folks claim to know where it is. I have to take them at their word. Most folks know where Allen and McKinney are located.

I believe Fairview’s students attend school in the McKinney Independent School District, as we’ve seen MISD buses cruising up and down the street outside our new digs.

The immediate challenge is to acquaint ourselves with getting to and from certain critical destinations. They include the grocery store, the pharmacy, the home improvement store, the charitable organization where we are donating a whole lot of unwanted items in our continuing effort to downsize.

I’ll stipulate that we aren’t total strangers to our new surroundings. We have been coming here frequently for a number of years, dating back to when our son first moved to the Dallas area to attend college in the early 1990s. He graduated in late 1994 and has never looked back. He got married in 2012 and the following year our granddaughter arrived — who, of course, gave us plenty of incentive to come here frequently.

Now we’re residents. We live about 10 minutes from our granddaughter. We know the way!

Our indoctrination to life in a new community will continue over the next period of time. It took us a while to navigate around Beaumont when we moved there in 1984. Eleven years later, we had to acquaint ourselves with Amarillo. Beaumont has developed significantly since our time there, so we struggle a little when we return to visit friends; I suspect the same thing will happen over time as Amarillo continues its growth and evolution into a place that bears little resemblance to what it is today.

The learning curve, though, isn’t as steep as it was when we relocated to Beaumont and then to Amarillo.

Hey, we’re retired now. We have time to figure it out.