Tag Archives: Texas GOP

GOP seeks to bolster Sen. Cruz

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a first-term Republican, was expected to — um — cruise to re-election in a heavily Republican state such as Texas.

Then something happened. Democratic voters nominated a young man named Beto O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso. O’Rourke has visited all 254 Texas counties. He has appeared before small gatherings and large crowds. He tries to carry a positive message forward.

Then those polls started showing some movement toward O’Rourke. The race between them is now too close to call. O’Rourke has the momentum, or so many observers believe.

Republicans now reportedly are looking for ways to salvage Cruz’s re-election campaign. In Texas? Are you serious?

I guess so.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick went to Washington to ask Donald Trump to campaign for Cruz. The president agreed. He’s now planning a blow-out rally sometime next month in the “biggest stadium we can find.”

As Politico reports: Trump’s rally is just the most public display of a Republican cavalry rushing to the senator’s aid. Cruz remains a favorite to win another term, and some senior GOP figures insist the concern is overblown. Yet the party — which has had a fraught relationship with the anti-establishment Texas senator over the years — is suddenly leaving little to chance. Behind the scenes, the White House, party leaders and a collection of conservative outside groups have begun plotting out a full-fledged effort to bolster Cruz.

The battle has been joined. Democrats think they have the momentum on their side. O’Rourke has become a high-demand “get” for TV talk shows. He’s raising a more money than Cruz, although I remain dubious as to whether more cash translates to more votes. I hope it does, but one cannot always equate the the factors.

Yep. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Memo to Beto: Money doesn’t win elections

All these news stories I read about the Beto O’Rourke-Ted Cruz fight for Cruz’s U.S. Senate seat keep harping on the same theme: O’Rourke is raising more money than Cruz.

To borrow a phrase: Big … fu***** … deal.

O’Rourke is the Democrat challenging the Republican incumbent, Cruz. Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994. Texas Democrats are feeling it this year, man. Maybe it’s for real. Then again, we are talking about Texas, where Republicans generally have both legs up merely by being Republican.

Make no mistake: I want O’Rourke to shoot down the Cruz Missile. The Washington Post story accompanying this post tells of O’Rourke’s meet-the-people strategy and how well he is performing in places one might not expect a progressive Democrat to do so well.

Such as the Texas Panhandle, where we used to live.

See the Post story here.

But money alone won’t win this election. Andrew Gillum got outspent by a factor of about 20 in Florida, but he still managed to win that state’s Democratic primary for governor this past week. The same can be said of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won a New York congressional Democratic primary a few weeks ago against a powerful incumbent despite being outspent by 40 or 50 times.

It is with that I offer Beto O’Rourke and his avid followers a word of caution.

I want him to win. I will use this blog to advance his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. His opponent, Cruz, isn’t concerned with the state nearly as much as he with his own image, reputation and political ambition.

Do not try to tell me that O’Rourke is some flaming “socialist” or extremist who is going to vote to disarm our armed forces, open our borders to criminals and confiscate everyone’s firearms.

He is a reasonable young man who deserves a chance to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate.

Sure, he’s raising a lot of money. However, the pile of campaign cash doesn’t always equate to more votes than the other guy.

Keep working and hustling, Beto.

Many of us in Texas will have your back.

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.

Debates do matter, Lt. Gov. Patrick

The word is out: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick doesn’t want to debate his opponent before Election Day.

That’s too bad. Actually, it’s a shame. Hey, I’ll even say it’s a disgrace to the cause of learning all we can about the individuals who want to represent us at the highest levels of state government.

Patrick, the Republican, is running against Democratic challenger Mike Collier, who has been needling Patrick for weeks about debating.

I cannot quite fathom why Patrick is so reticent. He comes from a media background; he was a radio talk-show host before entering politics as a state senator from Houston.

The Texas Tribune reports: “It’s no secret Lt. Governor Patrick relishes debates, but since his opponent shows no sign of grasping even the most basic rudiments of state government, our campaign has no plans to debate him,” Patrick strategist Allen Blakemore said in a statement to the Tribune. “There isn’t anyone in the Lone Star State who isn’t absolutely clear about where Dan Patrick stands on the issues. He told us what he was going to do, then he did it. That’s why Dan Patrick has the overwhelming support of the conservative majority in Texas.”

OK, I’ll come clean: He doesn’t have my support. He has sought to yank the state into far-right territory that makes me uncomfortable. The Bathroom Bill he sought in 2017 is the example of what I’m talking about. He sought to make it illegal for transgendered individuals to use public restrooms in accordance with their current gender; he intended to make the use restrooms that matched their birth certificate gender. The bill died in a special session.

That’s out of the way.

He should debate Collier. GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez are likely to debate each other, even though Abbott is going to be the prohibitive favorite to win re-election.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican, will likely debate his Democratic foe, Beto O’Rourke. That contest figures to be a whole lot closer.

So, the lieutenant governor isn’t likely afraid to meet his challenger head to head. Why not just quit playing games, Lt. Gov. Patrick?

Step onto the stage and have it out with your challenger and make the case on why you should be re-elected.

And, yes, if that’s what happens on Election Day, it will be in spite of the ballot I will cast.

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.

Empower Texans: Are you out there?

Some of us who watch Texas politics are acutely aware of the state’s right-wing activism, particularly embodied by a group called Empower Texans.

These folks got seriously involved earlier this year in Texas Panhandle Republican Party primary politics. They sought to oust state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo from the GOP primary. They came up short, as Seliger was able to win his party’s nomination without a runoff against two fringe challengers. They also drew a bead on state Rep. Four Price, another Amarillo Republican, in his race for re-election. Price thumped his challenger.

OK. What’s next for Empower Texans, an Austin-based political action committee that sought to Republicans in disparate regions around the state how to vote?

Are these zealots going to get involved in some of these statewide races? Are they going to pump big money into the candidates of their choice?

I’m wondering at this moment if Empower Texans is more interested in “purifying” the Texas Republican Party than in advancing the party’s long-standing death grip on the state’s political infrastructure.

Empower Texans didn’t do too well in the GOP primary. Part of me wouldn’t mind if Empower Texans decides to lay low during the general election.

Another part of me wishes it gets involved and exposes to Texas voters yet again in the same year how narrow-minded they want their party to remain.

Stand tall, Speaker Straus

Joe Straus offers living, breathing, demonstrable proof that not all Texas Republican politicians have gone around the bend, that they all aren’t bat-crap crazy.

Straus, the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives — until the end of this year, when his term ends — has emerged as a leading GOP opponent of Donald J. Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.

The speaker, who is not seeking re-election, wrote the president a letter urging him to end the program that allows for children to be snatched from their parents’ arms at the southern border and sent to, um, somewhere apart from Mom and Dad.

As the Texas Tribune reported: “I know that members of Congress from both parties have proposed various ways to address this issue in the form of legislation, and while I applaud their attention to the problem, I also know that congressional action often does not come quickly,” the speaker told Trump in a letter. “In order to at least begin addressing this issue, there is no need to wait for Congress to act. That’s why I respectfully ask that you move immediately to rescind the policy that [Attorney] General [Jeff] Sessions announced in April and any other policies that have led to an increase in family separations at the border.”

There’s more: In the letter, Straus also rejected arguments by the Trump administration that the policy could be used as leverage against Democrats in Congress. “It is wrong to use these scared, vulnerable children as a negotiating tool,” Straus wrote.

Straus hails from San Antonio. While the state’s second-largest city isn’t on the border with Mexico, it is close enough to be considered near Ground Zero of this still-boiling crisis. The city has a huge Latino population, comprising many recent immigrants. Speaker Straus is listening to them as well as the better angels of his own conscience in seeking relief from this hideous policy.

I want to add, too, that Straus is no stranger to political sanity in a state that at times veers into fits of partisan hysteria.

Gov. Greg Abbott called the 2017 Legislature into special sessions to consider, among other items, that goofy “Bathroom Bill,” which required people to use public restrooms in accordance with the gender assigned to their birth certificate. The bill was clearly discriminatory against transgender individuals.

It passed the Senate — which is led by GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — on a partisan vote. Speaker Straus, as the Man of the House, would have none of it.

Through the speaker’s leadership, the Bathroom Bill ended up dead and buried. Which is where it should remain now and forever.

Straus is turning his speaker’s gavel over to someone else in 2019. I do hope, however, that he remains a clear voice of reason among Republicans whose hearts, minds and souls have been captured by the lying carnival barker/flim-flam artist who in 2016 got elected president of the United States.

Texas needs Joe Straus to continue speaking out, as does the nation.

Time to re-calibrate political antennae

Twenty-three years in the Texas Panhandle gave me an up-close look at politics in one of the state’s most reliably Republican regions.

I’m no longer living there full time. I hesitate to say my wife and I have severed our ties to the Panhandle, because we haven’t … exactly. We’re still making periodic trips back to check on family matters.

But the fact remains that we’re registered to vote in Collin County, which brings me to the point of this blog.

I am having to re-calibrate my political antennae. I now must look at other sources for local political grist to help keep High Plains Blogger reasonably fresh. This will be a challenge for me.

I wanted to vote in the next election for the 13th Congressional District. Although I harbor a considerable personal affection for the congressman who has represented the district since 1995, Mac Thornberry has been a disappointment to me. It just so happens that his Democratic opponent this year is a good friend of mine, a fellow I’ve known almost as long as I’ve known Thornberry.

Greg Sagan wants to represent the 13th District when the next Congress convenes in January. Will he be able to step into the job? That remains huge, given the 13th’s significant GOP bent.

Sagan has made one pledge that Thornberry — despite critics who contend wrongly that he did — never made: Sagan has vowed to step aside after serving a set amount of time. Thornberry didn’t make such a declaration for himself, although he has endorsed congressional term limits legislation whenever he’s had the chance to vote on it.

But I believe it’s time for a change in the Panhandle’s congressional representation. Although I cannot vote for Sagan, I can speak on his behalf through this blog, which I intend to do when the opportunities present themselves between now and November.

My former Texas state representative, John Smithee, has a Democratic foe this fall. He is Mike Purcell of Amarillo, with whom I have a casual acquaintance. Smithee is another matter. I’ve known him well since my arrival in Amarillo in 1995. What I’ve always liked about John is his willingness to answer direct questions with equally direct answers. Have I always agreed with the Republican’s legislative point of view? No, but his candor always has meant much to me whenever I sought it from him.

Purcell’s chances of defeating Smithee are, um, zeee-ro!

Again, I cannot vote in that one either.

***

As for the statewide races on the ballot, I’ll be dialed in on one for sure: the U.S. Senate contest between Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

I won’t belabor the point here about the Cruz Missile. I do not want him re-elected. My strong preference is for O’Rourke, if only because I want him to think first of Texans and much less of his own political ambition. Sen. Cruz, to my mind, has demonstrated clearly that he puts his own needs, wishes and desires first. Ted Cruz needs to go.

I’ll chime in later on the race for governor and some of the other statewide races, namely the contest for agriculture commissioner.

I’ll be watching all this unfold from a new perch in the Metroplex. I’ll need to get up to speed in a hurry in the race for the 3rd Congressional District, Texas Senate District 8 and Texas House District 89, all three of which will be represented by freshman lawmakers next January.

Hey, come to think of it, everyone is starting fresh in the halls of power in Austin and on Capitol Hill.

Just like me!

No need to vote today … woo hoo!

Texans are voting today. Big deal, yes? Well, yeah, it is!

I won’t be among them.

Today is Election Runoff Day in Texas. Democrats are going to nominate someone to run against Republican Gov. Greg Abbott this fall: It’ll be either Andrew White (son of the late former Gov. Mark White) or Lupe Valdez (the former Dallas County sheriff).

Here’s the deal: I didn’t vote in the Democratic primary in March. Given that I am registered to vote — for now — in Randall County, I chose to vote in the Republican primary. Randall County is the unofficial capital of Texas Republicanism.

It was important for me to cast my vote for a key Texas legislative race, the contest for Senate Texas Senate District 31. I am happy with the result, which is that state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo won the GOP nomination without a runoff against two primary opponents.

The runoff is important. I know that it’s critical for candidates who must run a second time for their party’s nomination to get the vote out. Texans don’t vote in huge numbers anyway in these primary races; the numbers plummet even more for runoffs.

That’s to our state’s voters’ shame.

We vote often in Texas. Our state constitution gives us plenty of chances to exercise our rights as U.S. citizens, as Texans. We need to do better at performing that duty.

Having said all that for the umpteenth time, I am glad to be sitting this one out.

My plea to the rest of you? Get out and vote! It’s important, man! Really! It is!

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.