Tag Archives: Ross Ramsey

Lt. Gov. Patrick in line for a job with Trump? Oh, let’s hope so

What little I know about Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune — and it’s really not all that much — I am inclined to believe he doesn’t toss rumors out there just to make a spectacle of himself.

So, when he wrote this in an analysis published by the Tribune, I kind of sat up a little straighter in my chair:

“(Lt. Gov. Dan) Patrick’s visit to Washington sparked a rumor that he might be in line for a post in the Trump administration — a rumor that prompted speculation about how the legislative session would go with senators choosing his replacement from among their own ranks. That hasn’t happened since George W. Bush became president and then-Lt. Gov. Rick Perry succeeded him as governor. Senators made Bill Ratliff the lieutenant governor until the next election.”

Then Ramsey offered this: “Scratch all that.”

Read Ramsey’s analysis here.

Patrick met the president in McAllen earlier this week and offered to help him build The Wall along our border with Mexico. He said Texas could pony some of the $5.7 billion that Trump wants to spend.

So, what would that mean if Patrick gets whisked off to D.C. to serve in the Trump administration? That would allow senators to select a new lieutenant governor. I know one of those 31 senators pretty well: Republican Kel Seliger of Amarillo, who I believe would make an outstanding lieutenant governor.

He calls himself a “conservative,” but he sounds more, shall we say, moderate than some of the righties who populate the Texas Senate. That is fine with me. For instance, I cannot imagine a Lt. Gov. Seliger pushing a “Bathroom Bill” through the Senate to make some sort of statement to appease cultural conservatives within the Texas GOP Senate caucus.

I’ve known Seliger for nearly 25 years. He and I have developed a good relationship. I was editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News and he was Amarillo mayor when we first met in early 1995. He then left City Hall and was elected to the Senate in 2004 after the late Teel Bivins received an ambassadorial post from President Bush.

I have long supported Seliger’s work as a state senator.

Would he make a good lieutenant governor? Of course he would! I realize I am getting way ahead of myself. Lt. Gov. Patrick likely isn’t going anywhere.

Then again . . . my hope springs eternal.

Why did you want Duncan to go, regents? Come clean!

I have to hand it to the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey: The man knows how to lay political injustice out there in the great wide open for all to see.

Ramsey thinks Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan got hosed by the university’s board of regents. They voted — possibly illegally in an executive session — to issue a no-confidence verdict on Duncan.

What does Ramsey think of Duncan? Get a load of this excerpt from the Texas Tribune: He has been solid gold the whole way: As a legislative staffer, a lawyer working for state Sen. John Montford, D-Lubbock; as a member of the Texas House and then a state senator; and finally, as the chancellor.

No scandals. No meaningful enemies (until now, anyway). His has been a stellar career. It’s what the optimists hope for and what the pessimists bet against. He’s straight out of a Frank Capra movie, or a civics textbook. Imagine a guy walking through a spaghetti factory in a white suit and leaving without a spot on him. Duncan is really something.

Which is why it’s a shame that the rest of the crabs pulled him back into the bucket. The regents at Texas Tech showed their mettle — demonstrating why they’re little fish and not big fish — when a more brazen academic institution bellowed about their plans to launch a veterinary school in the Panhandle. Texas A&M University, headed by former legislator, railroad commissioner and comptroller John Sharp, believes one vet school is enough.

Ramsey thinks that someone connected to the A&M System got to Gov. Greg Abbott, who might have told the Tech regents — who are appointed by the governor — to reel Duncan in.

What is galling to me is that regents haven’t yet given a hint of detail as to why they want Duncan to leave the post he has held for the past four years. By most observers’ reckoning, he was doing a bang-up job as the system’s chief administrator.

Regents have sought to cover their backsides by declaring their continued support for the school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. That’s great!

Read Ramsey’s excellent analysis here.

First things first. They need to explain to Tech’s constituents why they have pushed a “good guy,” as Ramsey described Duncan, over the proverbial cliff.

Well done, ‘Smitty’ Smith

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The headline was an attention-getter for me.

“‘Smitty,’ a Texas Lobbyist for the Small Fry, Retiring After 31 Years.” That’s how it appeared in the Texas Tribune.

Why did it grab my attention? Well, for starters, I’ve long admired Tom “Smitty” Smith’s courage in lobbying for causes that aren’t particularly popular in Texas.

He’s lobbied on behalf of environmental groups. consumers, the “little guy,” if you want to call it that.

Smith led Public Citizen of Texas for 31 years, which is nearly about as long as I’ve lived and worked in Texas. I arrived here in1984 and became acquainted almost immediately with Smith once I started standing my post on the editorial page of the Beaumont Enterprise, way down yonder in the Golden Triangle.

We hit it off right away.

To be candid, I have lost contact with Smith over the years. I don’t recall meeting with him with nearly the frequency in Amarillo that I did in Beaumont. Plus, I’ve been away from daily journalism for four years, severing that professional connection.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/09/21/analysis-smitty-texas-lobbyist-small-fry-hangs-it-/

Ross Ramsey’s piece in the Tribune, though, encapsulates Smith to a “t.” He is an everyman. As Ramsey notes: “He’s from that part of the Austin lobby that doesn’t wear fancy suits, doesn’t drive the latest luxury cars and doesn’t spend its time fawning over and feeding elected officials. Smitty has a beard, an omnipresent straw hat and, often, a colorful sheaf of flyers making his points on whatever cause he’s pushing at the time.”

I particularly liked Smith’s commitment to environmental issues, which in Texas can be seen as a tough sell. Texas isn’t known as a haven for tree-huggers. We remain pretty much a throw-away society. We still love our big cars and trucks. Oil refineries and petrochemical plants still pour toxins into the air.

Smith, though, has been a champion for alternative forms of energy. He likes wind and solar power. Although the sun isn’t yet a major energy producer in Texas, wind certainly has assumed its place. Texas is now the leading state in the production of wind energy. “Smitty” Smith had a big hand in that development.

Smith seemed a bit out of place in a state that, according to Ramsey, is anathema to the values that Smith promotes: Ramsey writes: “Smitty has been a leading voice for government intervention and regulation of big industries and interests in the capital of a state with conservative, business-friendly politicians from both parties who pride themselves on light regulation, low taxes and a Wild West approach to money in politics.”

I regret not keeping up with “Smitty” Smith better in recent years. I wish him well in his retirement. He has fought a good fight on behalf of everyday Texans.

Well done, Smitty.

Texas may prove to be Trump GOP testing ground

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If Donald J. Trump is having trouble wooing Texas Republicans into his embrace, then he might be having even more trouble everywhere else.

Ross Ramsey’s excellent analysis in the Texas Tribune lays out the problem that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is having as he tightens the grip on his quest for the White House.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/06/06/analysis-texas-pols-trying-muster-words-support-tr/

Ramsey hold up Ted Cruz as an example of Trump’s Texas dilemma.

A lot of Texas politicians backed the junior U.S. senator’s bid for the White House. Cruz backed out of the race after the Indiana primary. He’s been mainly silent about Trump’s campaign ever since. Cruz has returned to work in the Senate.

His friends and allies, though, aren’t any more eager to attach themselves to Trump’s train than Cruz has been.

Trump said some pretty spiteful things about Cruz during the campaign. And, no, they didn’t gin up much sympathy from me … as I didn’t want Cruz to be the next president of the United States. If you’re Cruz, though, you should take some of these epithets personally.

And then there was that hideous attack on Heidi Cruz, for crying out loud!

Gov. Greg Abbott is kinda/sorta backing Trump. Ramsey noted that recently Abbott made a speech backing Trump without ever mentioning the candidate’s name. How do you do that?

Then again, Abbott has his own Trump burden to bear, given the state’s investigation into the defunct Trump University and the campaign contribution that showed up immediately after Abbott — while he was Texas attorney general — dropped the state’s legal action.

Hmmm.

Let’s not forget former Gov. Rick Perry, who once called Trump a “cancer on conservatism.” He’s now backing him out loud and proudly. As Ramsey points out, Perry also said he’d accept a vice-presidential invitation if it came from Trump.

Many actual Republicans in Texas accuse Trump of being one of them in name only. You know, a RINO.

But as Texas Republicans have demonstrated time and again since ascending to power in this state, they are willing to put actual qualifications and fitness aside when selecting candidates for high political office. Party labels matter more than anything else.

To be fair, Democrats did much the same thing when they ran the show. We still actually have a smattering of those “Yellow Dog Democrats” out there who’d vote for a yellow dog before they’d vote for a Republican.

Trump’s fight for the love of Texas Republicans remains a daunting task. As Ramsey notes:

“Many others in the GOP seem stuck on the road between their original choices for the Republican presidential nomination and Trump, the apparent winner.  Some will convert. Some will get out and proselytize for the nominee.

“But not yet. That first sale is the hardest one to close.”

‘Size matters’ in this year’s primary campaigns

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Texas is back in the big leagues of the presidential primary season.

The state goes to the polls on March 1 with both the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations very much in doubt . . . although the GOP nomination is more in doubt than the Democratic contest.

As the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey notes in his excellent analysis of the upcoming Lone Star State primary: Size matters.

Texas is back in the game

It’s not clear yet whether the Texas primary, which occurs with several other states, will be decisive. Let’s just presume for a moment that it will be more decisive than, say, the New Hampshire primary that occurs Tuesday, or the Iowa caucus that took place this past week.

On the Democratic side, Vermont’s U.S. senator, Bernie Sanders, is basically running essentially as a favorite son in neighboring New Hampshire. He figures to win. He might even win big. Hillary Clinton hopes to carve into his lead in the final hours before voting starts and if she can finish anywhere near Sanders, she will look for a reason to declare some form of “victory.”

On the Republican side, Donald J. Trump appears headed to victory — if we are to believe those polls.

But none of it matters — truth be told — as much as the big Texas primary that’s about to take place.

Texans are going to cast many more ballots and will select huge delegations to the parties’ political conventions later this year.

In many prior election cycles, the contests were virtually decided by the time the primary caravans rolled into Texas. This year, by the grace of the state and national parties, we get an early shot at making this most critical political decision.

My own hunch is that the Republican primary will be much busier than the Democrats’ primary. One reason is quite obvious: Texas has many more Republicans than Democrats. The other reason is that the GOP primary will be up for grabs and with candidates like Trump and Texas home boy U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz garnering most of the attention, then the Republican polling stations are bound to get most of the election day business.

Still, as an avid political junkie, I happen to be glad to see Texas back in the thick of the presidential selection fight.

 

Politics getting even more fickle

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The Texas Tribune has published an interesting analysis of three Texas politicians who’ve gotten themselves into a bit of a legal jam.

They face different political fates.

Former Republican Gov. Rick Perry was indicted in Travis County on charges of abuse of power and coercion of a public official. He says it damaged his second presidential campaign, according to the Tribune’s Ross Ramsey.

Now we come to Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whom a Collin County grand jury — his home county, by the way — indicted on charges of securities fraud. Paxton is fighting those charges. Indeed, Texas voters elected him to the AG’s post after Paxton actually acknowledged he had done what the grand jury accused him of doing. Wow …

Then we have the case of Democratic state Rep. Ron Reynolds, who has been convicted of misdemeanor barratry — aka ambulance chasing — and faces a jail term of as long as a year.

What’s weird, according to Ramsey, is that Reynolds is facing less political flak than the other two. Good grief! He’s been convicted of a misdemeanor, but might still be able to serve if he avoids any jail time.

This isn’t his first brush with ethical lapses, according to Ramsey, who writes: “His voters have been through this before. Last year, he was convicted on similar charges related to the same set of circumstances. Reynolds and seven other lawyers were accused of paying Robert Valdez Sr. for client referrals, and since he was finding them clients by scrounging through fresh accident reports, prosecutors said the lawyers were in effect illegally soliciting business.”

Furthermore, Reynolds likely will seek re-election next year.

Ugh!

I think there ought to be a campaign mounted in the Missouri City area that Reynolds represents to find a credible challenger. They can start by looking for someone who doesn’t possess a criminal record.

Check out Ramsey’s story here:

I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

 

 

Texas Democrats … wherefore art thou?

AUSTIN, TX -  FEBRUARY 18:  Texas Governor Greg Abbott (2nd L) speaks alongside U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (L), Attorney General Ken Paxton (2nd R), Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) hold a joint press conference February 18, 2015 in Austin, Texas.  The press conference addressed the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas' decision on the lawsuit filed by a Texas-led coalition of 26 states challenging President Obama's executive action on immigration.  (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Ross Ramsey is as smart a Texas political analyst as they come.

Thus, his analysis of the moribund state of the Texas Democratic Party is worth your time to read.

Democrats nowhere to be found.

The Texas Tribune editor hits out of the park.

His thesis basically is this: If Texas had a viable two-party political system, the big mistakes being made by two statewide Republican officials would become immediate fodder for the opposing party.

He references Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

Paxton’s been indicted for securities fraud by a grand jury in his home county … that would be Collin County.

Miller — who Ramsey refers to as “Yosemite Sid” — has come out for cupcakes in classrooms and said he want to return deep fryers to public school kitchens. Ramsey also reports: “His campaign Facebook page shared a post featuring a picture of an atomic bomb blast and the words ‘Japan has been at peace with the US since August 9, 1945. It’s time we made peace with the Muslim world.’ His political staff removed it, said one of his workers had posted it and stopped short of an apology.”

What’s been the fallout of all this? Nothing. As Ramsey reports: “You can argue about what Democratic voters might think about Paxton and Miller. But those Democratic sentiments, whatever they are, apparently don’t matter to the Republicans. If they were worried about the reaction from the other party’s voters — or concerned that GOP officeholders were creating opportunities for candidates from the other side, they’d be doing something about it.”

When you’re the king of the mountain, by golly, you can say and do almost anything in a one-party state.

 

Perry faces big hurdles

Ross Ramsey is about as smart a Texas political analyst as there is, and he’s laid out three things Rick Perry must do to wage an effective campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Ramsey, writing for the Texas Tribune, listed them in this order: (1) stay the course while the field thins out; (2) get rid of the prosecutor who’s trying to convict him of abuse of power; (3) do well in the debates.

If Ramsey was listing them in order of importance, I’d flip the first and second points.

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/06/04/analysis-three-steps-perrys-comeback-trail/

Those “pesky prosecutors” represent every possible stumbling block for the former Texas governor.

Perry, who today went to Addison to announce his candidacy, appears to the be the first major candidate ever to run for president while facing felony indictment. A Travis County grand jury indicted him for abuse of power and coercion of a public official in 2014.

The history is out there. Ramsey goes through it in the link attached here.

If Perry cannot shake those prosecutors, then it’s game over.

And by “shaking” them, he must get the indictments tossed out.

As Ramsey notes: “Perry and his legal team have argued that the case is a political one brought by liberal prosecutors in a liberal county to a liberal grand jury, that his veto was legal, and that the whole thing was designed to spoil his political future.”

The veto might have been legal, but it also was done with considerable public-relations fanfare, which is why — in my view — the coercion charge might be the one that sticks more stubbornly than the abuse of power allegation.

All the then-governor had to do was veto the money appropriated to the Public Integrity Unit without making such a public case about the district attorney’s arrest for drunken driving and his public threat to veto the money if she didn’t quit her job as Travis County DA.

Was it legal? Sure. Was it a matter of coercion? Yes to that, too … allegedly.

Ramsey is correct on this other point: “The better (Perry) does, the bigger the indictment obstacle becomes. It’s a bother now. It’s a potential deal-breaker if he becomes a real contender.”

 

Restrict judges' fundraising

Restricting Texas judges’ ability to raise money from campaign contributors is a smashing, capital idea.

Let’s do it.

Oh, I almost forgot. Texas is the place that doesn’t like restricting political activity even among judges who are supposed to remain impartial and fair to all who appear before them in court. The big-donor lawyer isn’t supposed to be treated differently than, say, the lawyer who gives to another candidate who happened to run against the judge before whom he or she is appearing.

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/05/15/analysis-distance-between-judges-and-politics/

Ross Ramsey’s analysis in the Texas Tribune speaks to possible changes, though, in state law that might mimic a Florida restriction. Florida elects its judges, too, but judges cannot go around asking for money; that’s left to campaign committees.

It’s not nearly a perfect solution. My preferred reform would be to appoint judges initially and then have them stand for retention; if they’ve done a good job, voters can keep them in office, but if they mess up, voters have the option of kicking them out.

That won’t happen in my lifetime in Texas.

According to the Texas Tribune: “If you are an incumbent judge and you call a lawyer and ask for money, what is that lawyer going to say? No?” asks Wallace Jefferson, a former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court who now practices law in Austin. “That incumbent judge is going to raise more money. But no one should feel pressured to contribute.”

Jefferson is one of my favorite Texas judges. He always makes sense and I wish he still sat on the state’s highest civil appeals court. But … I digress.

One interesting ploy that many well-heeled lawyers use is to contribute to both candidates running for the same judgeship. Walter Umphrey is a high-octane plaintiff’s mega-lawyer in Beaumont, where I used to live and work. He is known as a Yellow Dog Democrat, but he would give big money to Republicans, just to cover his bets in case the Republican won a seat in Jefferson County, which at one time — but no longer — was one of the state’s last bastions of Democratic Party loyalty.

The whole notion of judges collecting campaign money from lawyers who might represent clients before those very judges is anathema to me.

Ramsey writes that a lot of Texas lawyers and judges feel the same way. They want to change the system.

The problem, as I see it, lies with the many other lawyers and judges who like the system just the way it is.

 

That 'coercion' thing might stick to Perry

“It appears to those on the prosecutor’s side that his funding veto and the threat that preceded it were an attempt to intimidate and coerce the office that has the job of policing corruption and ethics cases in state government.

“The threat is the thing. Had the governor simply cut the funding without saying anything — especially in public, but even in private — this would just be a strange veto. That is not unprecedented.”

So writes Ross Ramsey, in an excellent analysis for the Texas Tribune.

The more I think about it, the more I’m beginning to believe that the coercion allegation might be the one that sticks to Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

http://www.texastribune.org/2014/08/15/analysis-its-not-crime-its-politics/

A Travis County grand jury indictment of Perry issued this past week accuses the governor of coercion and of abuse of power. He threatened to veto funds for the Travis County District Attorney’s Office if DA Rosemary Lehmberg didn’t resign after she pleaded guilty to a drunk-driving charge. Lehmberg served her time in the slammer, but didn’t quit. Perry cut the money for the public integrity unit run out of Lehmberg’s office.

The grand jury thinks Perry abused his power.

I’m wondering, though, if the coercion matter isn’t the more damaging part of the indictment.

As Ramsey notes, Perry made a pretty big stink about all this stuff regarding Lehmberg. I agree with Perry that the DA should have quit. I also believe the grand jury may have something on the governor regarding the manner in which he sought to pressure the prosecutor to quit.

Perry vows to fight the indictment. He calls it a political farce. He even calls the indictment itself an “abuse of power.”

We’ll see about that.

I like Ramsey’s metaphor describing the indictment: “Meanwhile, the governor and others are already haunting Iowa, the home of the first presidential primaries almost two years from now. This indictment could be to the Perry presidential campaign what a sewer leak is to the opening of a new restaurant: The food might not be the diners’ strongest memory of the meal.”