Tag Archives: Texas Democrats

Beto over The Cruz Missile? Here’s why

OK, so what if I haven’t come up with a pejorative nickname for the guy I want Texans to send to the U.S. Senate. Maybe he’ll earn it if he gets the chance to represent Texas beginning in 2019.

I do know this: I want Beto O’Rourke to defeat Ted Cruz in the race for the Senate. Some recent polling suggests a tight race. Texas Lyceum has it at 2 percent for Cruz, which makes the contest a statistical dead heat.

Yes, I often refer to the Republican incumbent as The Cruz Missile. I do so because I do not think he places Texas’s interests over his own ambition. He was elected in 2012 and immediately could be seen on TV screens, blathering about this or that. The media glommed onto him, much as they have done with other senatorial newcomers, such as Democrats Kamala Harris and Corey Booker.

A senator who doesn’t earn his or her place on the front row of the political chorus automatically makes me suspicious as to his or her motivation.

Thus, Cruz has become The Missile.

I am going to turn my attention to Beto O’Rourke.

The young man’s issues pronouncements do not seem overly radical, which many on the right are likely to characterize them.

He speaks with compassion about immigration, wanting to preserve the Differed Action on Childhood Arrivals provision, giving so-called “Dreamers” a chance to achieve U.S. citizenship rather than rounding them up and deporting them. He wants to fix the Affordable Care Act, not trash it merely because it was authored by President Obama. O’Rourke wants to be true to our veterans; and this veteran thanks him for that. He believes Earth’s climate is changing and wants to invest more — not less — in alternative energy production to protect the atmosphere against carbon-induced warming.

I am acutely aware of the steep hill that towers in front of O’Rourke. He is campaigning as a Democrat in a state that tends to elect Republicans just because they, well, are Republicans. We live in a conservative state populated by conservatives. O’Rourke will need to tell us what he intends to do for Texans if he gets elected to represent us — and our interests.

As I have watched Sen. Cruz for the past six years, I do not yet know whether he understands yet that he works for us and that he must keep his personal ambition under wraps.

My head tells me a lot of things have to go right for O’Rourke for him to win. My heart wishes they do … and believes they will.

***

Take a look at O’Rourke’s platform. You’ll find it here.

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.

Lupe Valdez: Democratic stalking horse

Texas Monthly’s R.G. Ratcliffe believes Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lupe Valdez is going to lose — maybe bigly — to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott this fall.

I have to agree. Valdez is the former Dallas County sheriff.  She is Texas’s first openly gay Latina candidate for governor. That’s two strikes against her in the eyes of many Texas voters. The third strike happens to be that she is running against an incumbent who remains popular among a majority of Texas voters.

I’ll be candid. I am likely to vote for Valdez this fall, if only because I have grown weary of single-party domination in Texas. Democrats haven’t won a statewide race in Texas for two decades. I arrived in Texas in 1984, about the time Democrats began losing their vise grip on statewide offices. It was competitive for a time. Then the GOP took complete control … of everything!

The Texas Monthly article, though, does suggest that Valdez — as the leading Democratic Hispanic on the ballot — could serve as a useful stalking horse for many other races on the ballot.

Read the Texas Monthly article here.

I want to mention, however, one statewide race that also might turn as a result of Valdez’s presence on the ballot. That would be for U.S. senator, which features a competitive contest between Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger (and U.S. Rep.) Beto O’Rourke.

That is one contest that interests me seriously. I want O’Rourke to launch the Cruz Missile into retirement. It’s not yet clear to me whether O’Rourke’s rural Texas strategy is going to work; he’s spending a lot of time touring rural counties that one might expect to vote Republican this fall. He likely is trying to cut his losses there while maintaining his expected majorities in urban centers.

Valdez’s gubernatorial candidacy might lure enough Latino voters to the polls to give someone such as O’Rourke — who is fluent in Spanish — a serious push toward the finish line.

I don’t yet have a grassroots feel for how the Cruz-O’Rourke contest is playing in North Texas. O’Rourke is likely to do well in Dallas County, which has been trending Democratic in recent years. My sense is that he must do very, very well there to put him over the top.

Lupe Valdez might give him the push he needs.

I get that Valdez clearly doesn’t want to be seen as a mere “stalking horse” for other Democrats on the 2018 ballot. She wants to be the next Texas governor. I’m one Texas resident who would express gratitude if she is able to make the state at least competitive once again between the two major political parties.

That’s not a bad legacy.

Gerrymandering: sometimes it works!

A blog item I just posted reminded me of one of the few regrets I collected while serving as a journalist for nearly four decades.

I remembered a C-SPAN segment I was honored to do regarding the former 19th Congressional District representative, Republican Larry Combest and the sprawling district he was elected to represent in 1984.

My regret? I didn’t resist my boss’s dogged insistence that Amarillo be “made whole” by the Texas Legislature. You see, the Democrats who controlled the 1991 Legislature split Amarillo into two congressional districts during its once-a-decade redistricting ritual. The idea was to peel off Democratic voters in Potter County to protect the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Bill Sarpalius.

The Amarillo Globe-News went ballistic over that arrangement. It hated the notion of the city being split into two districts, represented by a Democrat, the other by a Republican.

Sarpalius got re-elected in 1992. Then something happened in 1994 that no one foresaw when the Legislature gerrymandered the city’s representation: Sarpalius lost to Republican Mac Thornberry, who happened to be Combest’s former chief of staff.

Do you know what that meant? It meant Amarillo would have two members of Congress from the same political party — which now controlled Congress — representing its interests.

I arrived at my post at the Globe-News in January 1995, the same week Thornberry took office.

But still the newspaper insisted on redrawing the lines and putting Amarillo into a single congressional district. I went along with the publisher’s insistence on that change. For the life me as I look back on that time, I must’ve had rocks in my head for not arguing against it.

Thornberry and Combest comprised a sort of one-two punch for Amarillo. Thornberry’s district covered Potter County, Combest’s included Randall County. I get the difficulty when two House members from opposing parties were representing the city. But after the 1994 election that all changed.

Did the two GOP House members always vote the way I preferred? No. That’s not the point. My point is that our city could depend on two elected members of Congress doing our community’s bidding when the moments presented themselves.

Eventually, the Legislature did as we kept insisting they do. They redrew the boundaries and put the 19th District much farther south and put all of Amarillo into the 13th.

Combest resigned from the House in 2002. Thornberry is still in office. I’m trying to assess what actual, tangible benefit Thornberry has brought to the city all these years later.

Well, you know what they say about hindsight. It all looks clearer looking back than it does in the moment.

Is it possible for a huge upset in Texas?

I’ll say it once more with feeling: I want Beto O’Rourke to win the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke is the Democratic challenger to the Republican incumbent.

There. That’s out of the way.

A new poll by Quinnipiac University suggests that this moment, O’Rourke is well within striking distance of shooting down the Cruz Missile. The poll puts Cruz a 47 percent, with O’Rourke at 44 percent; the margin is well within the poll’s 3.6-percent margin of error.

I’m not going to pop the bubbly. It’s only mid-April; the election will occur in November. That’s about a thousand lifetimes, politically speaking.

Texas remains a heavily Republican state. I get that it always remains a huge hurdle for a Democrat to win a statewide race in Texas, something that hasn’t happened since 1994.

With all this talk of a “blue wave” getting ready to sweep over Congress in this year’s midterm election, I am left to wonder if that so-called Democratic wave is going to wash over Texas this fall. If it does, and O’Rourke at least keeps this contest competitive, then it well might portend something quite significant happening around the rest of the country.

To be truthful, it concerns me that Texas has been so maddeningly non-competitive in these statewide races. It really isn’t critical that Texas flip completely from Republican to Democratic leanings. What I would prefer to see is a competitive political climate that keeps the major parties more intellectually honest.

I don’t like one-party dominance. I don’t like it now and I didn’t like it in the Golden Triangle, where Democrats once ruled supreme over the political landscape. That has changed in that corner of the state. I wish it would happen in the Texas Panhandle.

I also am hoping it can happen in at least one highly visible statewide race: Beto vs. the Cruz Missile.

But … yes, I want Beto to win.

More money: Does it equal more votes?

Beto O’Rourke is raising more campaign money than Ted Cruz.

Yes, that is correct, according to the Texas Tribune.

The Democratic challenger for the U.S. Senate is outraising the Republican incumbent … in heavily Republican Texas!

I know what many Texans are thinking about now: This means Beto is going to win the election this fall; Cruz is toast; he’s a goner; he’s done.

Not so fast, dear reader.

I’ll stipulate that I am no fan of The Cruz Missile. He has p***** me off plenty during his six years in the United States Senate. Cruz is the latest version of former Sen. Phil Gramm, of whom it used to be said that “the most dangerous place in Washington is between Gramm and a TV camera.” Replace “Gramm” with “Cruz” and you get the same punchline.

As the Tribune has reported: Over the first 45 days of 2018, O’Rourke raised $2.3 million — almost three times more than Cruz’s $800,000. 

Hurray for O’Rourke, right?

The Tribune also notes: While this is a sign of momentum for O’Rourke, it’s worth considering that this race, in a state as big and expensive as Texas, could cost into the tens of millions. Moreover, Cruz is likely to have a deep well of super PAC money to help him in the fall, while O’Rourke early on in his campaign pledged to not accept corporate political action committee money.

Hey, I want O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso, to win this fall as much the next guy.

It’s good to remember that Texas Republicans are a dedicated bunch. They go to the mat for their candidates no matter what.

It is true that O’Rourke has spent a lot of time at town halls, talking to folks at plant gates, grange halls, saddle and tack shops, shopping malls — you name it — he still is campaigning in a state that hasn’t elected any Democrat to statewide office for two decades. He also has familiarized himself with the expansive landscape of the Texas Panhandle, which is Ground Zero of the Texas Republican political movement.

Now that I think about it, this might be the year for that lengthy streak to come to an end.

Maybe. Perhaps.

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.

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.

Castro clears the decks for Beto O’Rourke

I swear I thought I could hear the faint chants way off in the distance.

“BE-TO, BE-TO, BE-TO … “

And on it goes.

They could be coming from breathless Texas Democrats who have worked themselves into a tizzy over news that U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro has decided to forgo a challenge to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in next year’s mid-term election.

Thus, the way is cleared among Democratic Party loyalists to rally behind the candidacy of U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who’s been barnstorming our massive state of late, acquainting himself with Democrats who want little better than to oust Cruz, the fiery Republican senator who I’ve dubbed — in not-so-friendly terms — the Cruz Missile.

O’Rourke, who hails from El Paso, stopped in Amarillo over the weekend for a meet-and-greet at a local restaurant. From what I have heard, the crowd to meet him was enormous, meaning that O’Rourke’s advance team — with a lot of social media help from a group called Indivisible Amarillo — did a good job of filling the room.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and let’s heed a dose of sobering reality — if you’re a loyal Democrat we used to refer to in this state as “Yellow Dogs,” meaning they’d rather vote for a yellow dog than vote for a Republican.

Texas flips from D to R.

Texas is a seriously Republican state. It has flipped just in the span of a few years from being reliably Democratic. The Cruz Missile represents the colossal strength of the state GOP. He is one of a complete slate of statewide elected officials who wear the Republican label.

Cruz will be difficult to beat, so let’s not believe that just because there might be an attractive and articulate challenger from the other party that it guarantees a neck-and-neck race. Do you remember another Democrat who was thought to be a serious challenger to the GOP vise grip in Texas? Her name is Wendy Davis, the former state senator from Fort Worth. She was supposed to present a serious challenge to then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in the 2014 race for governor; she lost by 20 points.

I am not crazy about one-party control at any level. I prefer a competitive two-party system. A healthy minority party puts the majority party on notice to defend its positions; a competitive environment makes incumbents accountable for the statements and the decisions they make on our behalf.

Maybe we can restore some level of competitiveness to the Texas political battleground. For the sake of those anxious Democrats around the state — and in the Texas Panhandle — I hope it’s O’Rourke who can make Cruz answer for his grandstanding and his transparent self-centeredness.

U.S. Sen. O’Rourke? Let’s wait and see about that one

Beto O’Rourke wants to succeed Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate.

To be honest, few things political would make me happier than to see the Cruz Missile brought back to Earth by a loss to a up-and-comer such as O’Rourke.

Will it happen?

I refer you to “Gov.” Wendy Davis, the former Democratic state senator who once was thought to have an actual chance at defeating Greg Abbott in the race for Texas governor in 2014. She lost by more than 20 percentage points.

O’Rourke represents an El Paso congressional district. He’s seen as one of the next generation of Texas Democratic stars, along with, oh, Julian and Joaquin Castro, the twins from San Antonio; Julian served as San Antonio mayor and then went to work in Barack Obama’s Cabinet as housing secretary. Joaquin serves in the House along with O’Rourke.

Cruz became a serious pain in the patoot almost immediately after being elected to the Senate in 2012. He took no time at all before inheriting the role once occupied by another Texas U.S. senator, fellow Republican Phil Gramm, of whom it used to be said that “The most dangerous place in American was between Gramm and a TV camera.” Cruz loves the limelight and he hogged it relentlessly almost from the moment he took office.

Sen. Cruz repulses me, as if that’s not already clear. Cruz once actually questioned the commitment of two Vietnam War combat veterans — Democratic Sen. John Kerry and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel — to the nation’s military strength; Cruz never wore a military uniform.

But is he vulnerable to a challenge from Beto O’Rourke? There’s no need to count the ways why I don’t think O’Rourke is going to beat him. There’s really only a single factor to consider: O’Rourke is a Democrat and Cruz is a Republican and as near as I can tell, a semi-trained monkey can get elected to damn near any office in Texas — as long as he runs as a Republican.

I say this understanding that a year from now a lot of factors can change. Will any of them turn O’Rourke from prohibitive underdog to overwhelming favorite?

Texas remains a deeply red state and is likely to remain so for, oh, the foreseeable future — if not beyond.

My most realistic hope is that Rep. O’Rourke —  if he wins his party’s U.S. Senate primary next year — makes this enough of a contest to force Sen. Cruz to think of Texans’ needs before he thinks of his own political interests.