Tag Archives: Greg Abbott

Is hell about to freeze over?

Hell is going to have to freeze over if Greg Abbott is going to lose his bid for re-election next year as Texas governor.

This is not a statement of preference, mind you. I’m merely stating what I believe is a stark reality facing any challenger who might square off against him.

A Texas Tribune analysis points out that eight Democrats are lining up to run in the state’s primary next spring. Ross Ramsey believes the early Democratic favorite is likely Lupe Valdez, the recently resigned Dallas County sheriff. Another key Democratic challenger could be Andrew White, son of the late Gov. Mark White.

Read Ramsey’s article here.

Valdez has won election and re-election several times in the state’s second-most populous county, Ramsey points out.

But if she wins the Democratic primary — which is a huge first test —  get a load of the hurdle she faces. She is going to seek to become the first governor on a couple of important levels … and Texas has not been known in recent years as a place prone to establish significant political precedent.

First, Valdez is a Latina. She wants to become the first Latina ever elected governor. Indeed, the state never has elected anyone of Latin American descent. That’s one hurdle.

Here’s the big one: Valdez is openly gay.

She wants, therefore, to become the first openly gay, Latina candidate ever elected governor.

I feel the need to point out that Texas voters a few years ago approved an amendment to the Texas Constitution that outlawed same-sex marriage, even though there already was a statute on the books that prohibited it. That didn’t matter. The state’s voters said not just “no,” but “hell no!” to gay marriage.

Do you believe Valdez can win the governor’s race in a state that has enacted a double-whammy prohibition against same-sex marriage?

As the Tribune piece illustrates, whoever wins the Democratic primary is going to face an enormous task as he or she seeks to topple a Republican incumbent governor.

As Ramsey describes Abbott: He’s a well-financed, popular figurehead for a political party that hasn’t lost a statewide election in Texas in almost three decades.

But … you never know. Hell could get mighty cold.

Is she — or is she not — the Dallas County sheriff?

Lupe Valdez says she’s still the top cop in Dallas County, Texas.

She denies reports of her resignation. But she still is thinking about running for Texas governor, as a Democrat. She might challenge Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican who recently announced his re-election campaign.

I am not going to comment on Sheriff Valdez’s work as Dallas County sheriff, given that I live way up yonder in Amarillo. I would like to offer a brief comment on the reasons she has posited for considering a run for governor.

She has grown weary of Republican dominance of Texas politics.

To be candid, so have I. So have other Texans. Democrats have been yearning for a serious challenger to Abbott in 2018. None has emerged. Valdez might be the one.

Now … before you get on my case for being one of those partisan Democrats who wants to see Republicans toppled at every turn, I want to make an important stipulation.

It is that one-party political dominance — no matter which party is in command — too often produces an arrogance that diminishes the cause of what I like to call “good government.”

I moved to Texas in the spring of 1984. I took up my post as an editorial write — and later editorial page editor — of the Beaumont Enterprise. The Golden Triangle in the early 1980s was still a heavily Democratic bastion. Every elected office belonged to Democrats. And I noted at the time that I believed that good government would do well to see greater Republican challenges of Democratic officeholders.

Sheriff Valdez and I are on the same page. According to the Texas Tribune: “Last month, Valdez told the Tribune she believes it’s “time for a change” in GOP-dominated state government. “Too much of one thing corrupts, and I’m a strong believer in a two-party system,” she said. “I’m hoping that enough people are seeing that too much one-sided is not healthy for Texas.”

Read the Tribune article here.

Healthy challenges force incumbents to defend their record. They must make the case for their re-election. Texas, which once was dominated by Democrats, has totally shifted its political tilt. Republicans have commanded every statewide elective office for more than two decades; the one exception occurred four years ago when Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Larry Meyers switched from Republican to Democrat while he was still in office, only to lose his bid for re-election in 2016.

I hope Valdez runs for governor. I might even vote for her if she wins the Democratic primary and challenges Abbott in the fall of 2018.

If it comes to pass, then let the debate commence.

Republicans are ‘eating their young’

The late Texas state Sen. Teel Bivins, in an entirely different context, once told me how Republicans occasionally were prone to “eat their young.”

So this form of political cannibalism appears to be occurring in the current election cycle. We’re seeing Republican officeholders making GOP primary endorsements, picking fellow Republicans over other fellow Republicans.

Donald John Trump endorsed U.S. Sen. Luther Strange in his primary contest against Roy Moore in Alabama. Moore ended up winning that primary and … um … it hasn’t worked out too well for the GOP. Moore has been accused of making improper sexual advances on underage girls. It’s getting ugly down yonder, man.

Closer to home, we have Texas Gov. Greg Abbott endorsing a Republican challenger to a GOP state representative. State Rep. Sarah Davis’s primary foe, Susanna Dokupil, has earned the governor’s endorsement.

As Ross Ramsey writes in the Texas Tribune, it is rare for Texas governors to endorse against incumbents; it’s even more rare for them to get involved in primaries of their own political party. Abbott has scored a two-fer with his endorsement in that particular legislative contest.

Abbott weighs in

And so it goes with the Republican Party’s war with itself.

U.S. senators are lining up against the president, who’s firing back at them. GOP Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are retiring from the Senate in 2019. They both have been highly critical of the president of their own party. Donald Trump has returned the fire with angry statements and a bit of petulant name-calling to boot.

Republicans in both congressional chambers have fought among themselves over how to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. They’re now arguing over “tax reform” proposals that look good to one legislative chamber, but not nearly so good in the other one.

And, let’s not forget that the D.C. Republican establishment is gnashing its teeth over what to do if Roy Moore wins that U.S. Senate election in Alabama.

It’s no fun to be a Republican these days.

Especially if they’re about to be eaten.

Texting and driving? It’s illegal in Texas, man!

I want to present a portion of an editorial that appeared in today’s Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise, where I used to work before I gravitated in early 1995 way up yonder to the Texas Panhandle.

It comes from a regular Saturday feature called “Bouquets and Brickbats.” The Enterprise tossed a Brickbat thusly at: Southeast Texans who continue to text and drive even though that has been illegal since Sept. 1. Most local police and sheriff’s deputies have not been writing tickets for this offense because of Harvey duties and to give residents time to become familiar with the new law, but they say that will change soon. Statewide, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers issued four citations and 46 warnings for texting in the first 12 days. Texas Department of Transportation officials blame texting while driving for more than 3,000 vehicle crashes in Texas last year. The new law prohibits drivers from using their phones to “read, write, or send an electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.” Violations can lead to a fine up to $99 for a first offense, with costs rising for subsequent offense.

I want to call your attention to this pearl of wisdom because it could apply at this end of Texas as well. Motorists seem to be ignoring the state law that took effect at the beginning of September.

I cannot stress enough the importance of this statewide ban. It took some guts for the Legislature to approve it, given that a previous Texas governor, Rick Perry, vetoed a nearly identical bill in 2011. Gov. Greg Abbott saw the wisdom of signing this bill into law.

Are Texas Panhandle drivers any more obedient than our fellow Texans way downstate? Hardly. A day doesn’t go by without my being able to spot someone yapping on a handheld device while driving a motor vehicle. Just the other day I watched a young man doing that very thing while driving past Windsor Elementary School in Amarillo; I should note that Amarillo enacted an ordinance years ago banning such activity in school zones.

I want to make a request of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which does a good job stopping drug traffickers moving along Interstate 40.

How about turning your sights with equal intensity on the yahoos and morons who ignore state law by texting and gabbing on handheld cell phones while exceeding the posted speed limit on I-40?

Still looking for cell phone ban sign at border

I was hoping to see something the other day next to the “Welcome to Texas” sign that greeted us on our way back from a long-weekend trip to Colorado.

It would be a “No cell phone use while driving” sign.

I didn’t see it when we re-entered Texas from New Mexico along Interstate 40. Dammit, anyway! Where is the warning to motorists coming here from elsewhere that they need to put their cell phones away while they’re driving on Texas highways?

The Texas Legislature this year approved a cell phone ban while driving bill. Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law, which took effect Sept. 1.

Most states have laws that ban cell phone usage while driving; even more of them ban texting while driving. New Mexico has a “local jurisdiction” ban, by the way; Colorado bans cell phone use if the driver is operating on a learner’s permit. Colorado also bans texting while driving; New Mexico has no such statewide ban.

My point is that states that ban this act of sheer stupidity should be sure to let motorists know it when they enter those states.

I’m proud of our Legislature for agreeing to implement a statewide ban; I also am proud of Gov. Abbott for signing the bill into law, doing something his predecessor as governor, Rick Perry, declined to do in 2011, citing a ridiculous notion that such a bill was too “intrusive” on drivers’ private lives.

The state needs to take the next step and erect those signs at all its entry points that warn motorists: Keep your cell phones put away while you “Drive Friendly, the Texas Way.”

Houses of worship deserve FEMA assistance

I can almost hear the grumbling now: The U.S. Constitution prohibits any relationship between government and religious organization, which means churches shouldn’t be eligible for federal emergency relief assistance.

I’ll respond this way: As Col. Sherman T. Potter would say: Mule muffins!

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help houses of worship ravaged by the wrath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.

Abbott and Paxton wrote in their letter to FEMA: “When Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas, wreaking devastation over a huge swath of the Texas Gulf Coast, scores of churches and houses of worship jumped into action to serve thousands of Americans in their time of need.”

Indeed, those houses of worship also suffered grievously from Harvey’s savagery, just as every other inhabitant along the Texas Gulf Coast.

I get what the U.S. Constitution says about the prohibition against making laws that establish a state religion. This is different. FEMA stands as an agency committed to helping all Americans.

Harvey delivered a killer punch to Texas. It brought substantial misery all along the coast from Corpus Christi to the Golden Triangle — and many miles inland.

Everyone affected by the horrific storm — including houses of worship — deserve assistance from the federal government that aims to serve them.

A word of praise is due two beleaguered governors

I believe it’s time to offer a good word — or three — to two men who’ve been literally and figuratively in the eyes of two monstrous storms.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, both Republicans, have done the jobs they were elected to do, which is to lead their states as they cope with Mother Nature’s unfathomable wrath.

First up was Abbott, who watched along with the rest of us as Hurricane Harvey battered the Coastal Bend region in late August. Harvey wasn’t done with just ripping Corpus Christi and Rockport to shreds; the storm backed out over the Gulf of Mexico and made a second landfall in the Golden Triangle and Houston, flooding that region with a continental U.S. record amount of rain: 50 inches of it, man!

Abbott was seemingly everywhere at once. He called for calm. He received words of encouragement from Donald J. Trump as the president made two trips to Texas to assess the damage, hug some storm victims and pledge the federal government’s full assistance and support.

I also should point out that Houston is Abbott’s hometown, so he’s got some serious skin in the game of restoring the huge city’s infrastructure.

The governor then appointed a “Harvey Czar,” Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, to coordinate the rebuilding of the state. Sharp, a former Democratic state senator from Victoria — one of the cities hammered during Harvey’s first landfall — has taken on a huge task. I happen to believe he is up to the job.

Next up was Gov. Scott.

Hurricane Irma brought its own form of misery, mayhem and madness to Florida. It struck the southwest coast of that state and them essentially covered the entire state under its storm bands.

Just as Abbott did in Texas, Scott was the voice of calm assurance. He told Floridians to flee the storm, warning them they won’t survive the wind and the storm surge.

From Key West to Jacksonville, south to north, the state was pummeled. Imagine trying to escape Key West, at the westernmost point along the Florida Keys island chain, along the single highway toward the mainland. Where, then, does one go from there, given the mammoth swath of destruction brought by Irma?

Irma has now headed north. It is dissipating, much as Harvey has done. The worst of it remains for the stricken victims. My guess is that Gov. Scott will follow Gov. Abbott’s lead and find an “Irma Czar” to lead the Florida cleanup effort.

This is where political executives earn their pay. This form of leadership isn’t written down anywhere, although they do take oaths that bind them to pledges to protect the constituents they serve.

These men are fulfilling that pledge at this very moment.

A tiny sliver of good news from Harvey

It occurs to me that Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey has produced a tiny, minuscule sliver of good news for Texans.

The monstrous storm that drowned the Gulf Coast has diverted Texas legislators’ attention away from idiotic notions, such as mandating that people use public restrooms in accordance with the gender designated on their birth certificate.

Yes, the Legislature gathered in special session to consider 20 items put before it by Gov. Greg Abbott. One of them was that goofy Bathroom Bill. The Legislature adjourned its special session with the Bathroom Bill going nowhere. Then came Hurricane Harvey, which turned into Tropical Storm Harvey, which then tore the coast apart from the Coastal Bend to the Golden Triangle.

The storm’s wrath riveted Gov. Abbott’s attention away from nutty notions such as the Bathroom Bill and focused him tightly on his role as chief disaster relief coordinator — a job he has done skillfully; he has exhibited tremendous leadership during this time of crisis.

The Legislature, meanwhile, has gone home across the state. Some of them have returned to flood-ravaged communities along the coast. They all have more urgent matters to which they must attend.

A&M chancellor takes on a huge new rebuilding task

Hurricane Harvey’s devastation along the Texas Gulf Coast has delivered an important political metaphor.

It is that human misery crosses party lines. To that end — and this appointment likely isn’t being done to illustrate that point expressly — Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has tapped a leading Texas Democrat to lead the Gulf Coast rebuilding effort.

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, who’s got a most-demanding full-time job already, is going to lead that rebuilding.

Indeed, Chancellor Sharp has serious skin in this game. He served in the Texas Legislature — in the House and then the Senate — while living in Victoria, a community that was rocked by Harvey’s first landfall on the Texas coast. So, he feels the pain of the folks suffering the ongoing misery that Harvey left behind.

Sharp also is the latest Democrat elected to statewide office in Texas. He served as comptroller of public accounts from 1991 until 1999. I have no particular reason for mentioning that, other than to note that Sharp’s partisan affiliation is well-known; it speaks well, too, of Abbott’s willingness to reach across the political aisle to find someone to lead this massive effort.

I join the rest of the state in wishing the chancellor well and Godspeed as he takes on this huge task. He surely knows what awaits him as he takes charge of the governor’s new task force.

It’s big, John Sharp. Real big.

Oh, by the way, Texas cell phone ban takes effect

Texans have been fixated on news from the Gulf Coast of late.

Flooding. Heavy wind. Thousands of people displaced. Some tragic deaths. Injuries. Devastation from the deluge.

While we were praying for our friends and loved ones, and while some of us were looking toward Washington and the “Russia thing,” a big day arrived in Texas.

On Friday, the state’s ban on use of cell phones while driving motor vehicles took effect. Texas joined many other states in enacting a statewide ban. It’s not entirely clear if the ban supersedes local ordinances — such as in Amarillo — but the statewide ban does accomplish an important mission. It brings continuity to how the state expects motorists to behave while they are traveling on Texas streets, roads and highways.

I’m proud of our Panhandle legislative delegation. They were strongly in favor of the ban. Indeed, so was Republican state Rep. (and former Texas House Speaker) Tom Craddick, who authored cell phone ban bills in several legislative sessions.

Then-Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a cell phone ban bill in 2011, calling it an undue intrusion from the government into the behavior of citizens. What a crock!

Perry’s successor, Greg Abbott, signed the 2017 bill into law. Which makes a lot of Texans quite happy. Count me as one of them.

This law enables the state to post signage at highway entrances at all corners of the state. It puts motorists coming into the state on notice that they need to keep their cell phones quiet — or use their hands-free communication systems inside their vehicles.

To my way of thinking, that is far better than to asking motorists to risk breaking the law if they don’t know whether individual communities have bans on the books.

Texas legislators did well by approving this law. Gov. Abbott did well, too, by signing it into law.

I just wanted to remind you that the law took effect. Now, let’s turn back to worrying about the flooding victims and “the Russia thing.”