Tag Archives: Texas Republicans

Texas Democrats optimistic; but let’s keep it (more or less) in check

Texas Democrats reportedly are optimistic heading into the 2020 election season. They think a Democratic presidential nominee can carry the state, handing Texas’ 38 electoral votes to the party’s nominee.

Were that to happen, the GOP president, one Donald Trump, can kiss his re-election goodbye. Indeed, I figure that if Texas is going to flip from Republican to Democrat, then the 2020 election will be a dark, foreboding time for the GOP throughout the ballot in Texas.

However, Democrats would be wise to curb their optimism in Texas.

It’s not that I don’t want Texas to help elect someone other than Donald Trump, or that I don’t want the Texas Legislature to turn from GOP to Democrat. I want to see at minimum a contested political playing field, one that features two strong political parties arguing vehemently to persuade voters to buy into whatever ideology they are trying to sell.

However, Texas’ turn from Democratic to Republican control was dramatic and total over the course of about 20 years.

I get that Democrats got all fluttery when Beto O’Rourke nearly defeated GOP U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. O’Rourke then tried to parlay that near-miss into a presidential candidacy. He failed.

Texas Democrats have been floundering in the wilderness since the late 1990s, when they won their last statewide political campaign. Is the upcoming year going to mark the turnaround for the Texas Democratic Party. My bias tells me to hope it does.

My more realistic side tells me to wait for the ballots to be counted.

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.

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.

Rep. Castro gets Dems’ hearts to flutter


That pitter-patter you might be hearing belongs to the hearts of Texas Democrats who might seem to be excited at the prospect of an actual serious challenger to run against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

The cause of the racing heartbeat is U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, who has let it be known that he might run in 2018 against the man I’ve enjoyed referring to as the Cruz Missile.

Cruz is a Republican lawmaker who was the last man standing in the fight to deny Donald J. Trump the GOP presidential nomination. He made a heck of splash at last week’s Republican national convention by declining to endorse the man who beat him to the finish line.

He got booed off the Cleveland stage.

Will this damage him in Texas? My gut tells me he might face a stronger challenge from within his own party than he might face from a Democrat, even one as attractive, articulate and polished as Joaquin Castro.


I remain fervent in my belief that Texas is better served with a vibrant two-party system. We do not have a Democratic Party that is yet able to challenge Republicans at the statewide level. Republicans win big — every time. They’ve held every statewide office in Texas since 1998. I don’t see any sign of weakness in the GOP vise grip.

Will it present itself in 2018 when Ted Cruz runs for re-election to the U.S. Senate. Rep. Castro seems to think it might.

I hope he’s correct. Cruz simply is not my kind of senator.

However, I’m not yet ready to presume that the Cruz Missile will fizzle out.

Texas Democrats take a punch in the gut

You want to know how Texas Democrats are feeling today?

Like pure dookey, based on what happened way down yonder in San Antonio over the weekend.

Get a load of this: A veteran former Democratic state senator, Leticia Van de Putte, who’s lived in the Alamo City for virtually her entire life, got beat in the race for mayor by Ivy Taylor, who was born in New York City and who’d never run for a partisan office before..


Van de Putte was supposed to win, although she was far from a shoo-in. Let’s be clear as well: Taylor also is a Democrat, so the mayor’s office is remaining in Democratic hands.

But the former state senator, who got thumped in her bid for Texas lieutenant governor last year by Republican Dan Patrick, figured to remain in the public eye and the state’s Democrats figured to count on her to remain one of its key voices on issues across the state.

Texas Democrats keep offering up brave talk about coming back from the political wilderness. They vow to make the state competitive in the next presidential campaign. They vow to take some of those statewide offices all held exclusively by Republicans since I can’t remember when.

Even here, in the Panhandle — the heart and soul of the Texas Republican Party — this kind of bravery can be heard.

I hope one day for a return to a competitive two-party state.

With two major parties fighting on equal footing against each other, there’s bound to be some semblance of moderation from the GOP, which has been running roughshod over the opposition. The same thing happened when Democrats owned all the political power in Texas.

Leticia Van de Putte might have symbolized a return to that competitive posture.

Instead, she becomes just another political casualty.


Is Austin a ‘thorn’ in the Republicans’ side?

An interesting back story is profiled by an Associated Press story about how Texas Republicans are trying — finally — to remove what some have called a “thorn” in the GOP side.

The city of Austin is just a pain in the Republicans’ rear end.

This liberal bastion — nicknamed by some as The People’s Republic of Austin — keeps electing progressive politicians, which of course is the city’s prerogative. Why not? The Texas capital city is thriving. Its population is booming with high-tech employees, educators and learned professionals moving there.

Someone is doing something right there. About the most serious gripe one hears about Austin is the traffic, worsened by the fact that it’s the largest city in the country with just a single interstate highway coursing through it.

Texas Republicans, though — who control every statewide office in Texas and comprise a super-majority in the Legislature — have had enough of those liberals who populate public offices in Austin and Travis County.


As the story notes, the “last straw” was the Travis County grand jury’s indictment of then-Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts: abuse of power and coercion of a public official.

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s office runs the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates allegations of wrong doing by state officials. Lehmberg, though, got herself into a jam in 2013 when she pleaded guilty to drunken driving. She should have quit, but didn’t. Perry then insisted that she quit. Still, she didn’t. Then he threatened to withhold money appropriated by the Legislature for the Public Integrity Unit if she didn’t step down. She stayed. Then he vetoed the money.

The grand jury said he shouldn’t have done it that way. Thus, the indictment.

The 2015 Legislature has taken action against Austin. The Public Integrity Unit has been moved out of the DA’s office and put under the authority of the Texas Rangers, an arm of the Department of Public Safety, whose head is appointed by, um, the governor, who now happens to be Republican Greg Abbott.

Oh, but hey. They’re going to take politics out of it, isn’t that right?

Sure thing.

Meanwhile, Austin and Travis County voters will get to continue electing politicians more to their liking.

Keep it up, folks.


Texans will have a say in 2016 contest

It’s nice to be loved, isn’t it, Texas voters?

Bet on it. The large and likely cantankerous Republican presidential field is going to cozy up to Texans about a year from now when the state casts its primary vote for president of the United States.


It’ll be just like the old day. Hey, even the not-so-old days. Harken back to 2008, when Democratic U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton were slugging it out for their party’s presidential nomination.

By the time the Texas primary rolled around, the Democratic nomination was far from sewn up. So, what happened? Voters turned out in record numbers.

There’s more. Even in heavily Republican Texas Panhandle counties — such as Randall County — the Democratic Party polling places were far busier than the GOP stations. A lot of Republicans crossed over to vote in the Democratic primary and it likely enabled Sen. Clinton to win most of the state’s Democratic delegates.

As Ross Ramsey noted in a Texas Tribune analysis: “The mix of candidates could make a difference, too. Candidates with Texas ties, like Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry and Rand Paul, could draw their own home crowds if their candidacies are still alive early next year. And candidates from different factions could attract different herds of support.

“This sort of turnout boom does not happen often in Texas. The parties tend to settle their presidential nomination battles in places like New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa. By the time they get to Texas, they’ve already all but chosen their nominees.

“Voters like a fight, and you can see the evidence of that in turnout. When there’s a big race, more people vote.”

They’re going to get one, more than likely, on the Republican side in 2016.

And what about the Democrats? Barring some huge surprise — which is entirely possible — the Dems’ nomination looks like it already belongs to Hillary Clinton.

The Republican field looks as though it’s going to be huge and it’s going to take some time to cull the losers from the field. Thus, when Texas gets its turn to vote, we’ll be in the mix.

Can you feel the love?


Julian Castro: right pick for HRC's ticket?

OK, here’s the deal.

I’ve already noted that it is absurd to try handicapping who will be the Republican and Democratic vice-presidential running mates next year. It’s still absurd to try to look so far in advance.


That all said, one name keeps popping up on the Democratic side that’s beginning to make some sense.

Let’s assume a couple of things.

One is that Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the Democrats’ presidential nominee. Another is that Democrats are going to seek to tighten their grip on the Latino vote. Still another — and this remains a long shot — is that Texas, of all places, might be brought into play as the major party candidates fight for enough electoral votes to put one of them over the top.

Here’s a name to consider: Julian Castro.

This does originate with this blog post. Others have said Castro would be a nearly ideal choice for Clinton.

He’s currently the secretary of housing and urban development. Before that he was mayor of San Antonio. He has an identical twin, Joaquin, who serves in Congress.

Why should Clinton pick this young man? Well, he’s a handsome fellow. He speaks Spanish fluently; he also speaks English just as fluently. His story is compelling: raised by a single mother, graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Law. He’s an up-by-bootstraps kind of man.

Democrats have done well in recent election cycles with Latino voters. Republican President George W. Bush made serious inroads with that demographic group in 2000 and 2004, but it’s gone downhill ever since.

Clinton could cement the Democratic hold on Latino voters by putting Castro on the ticket.

As for Texas? Well, let’s just say that the hill for Democrats in Castro’s home state remains quite steep. The state remains heavily Republican and at this moment I cannot see how a Democratic presidential ticket — even one with a Latino in one of the spots — carries the state in 2016. Maybe in 2020.

Castro, though, could make the state competitive, forcing Republicans to invest campaign money in a place that since the 1980 election has been a shoo-in for the GOP.

Am I predicting Clinton will select Castro? Come on. Give me some credit. I’ve said it’s too early to make that call.

However, it wouldn’t surprise me.



UT-Tribune poll reveals poor Perry showing

Two things jump out at me from some recent presidential polling in Texas.

One is as a political analyst notes, that Sen. Ted Cruz’s once-huge lead among Texas Republicans has vanished; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is breathing down the Cruz Missile’s neck.

The other one, though, perhaps is even more startling: Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — the TEA party darling and the all-time champeen among Texas Republican vote-getters — is trailing far behind the two frontrunners.


The University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows Perry with just 8 percent of the vote among Texas Republicans. He trails Cruz, Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (a former Texan, by the way), and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

“Scott Walker is clearly breathing some of the oxygen on the right. The big takeaway here is that Ted Cruz is still a giant among Texas Republicans — but he is not invulnerable,” said Jim Henson, co-director of the poll and head of the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “Conservatives are willing to look at another candidate who fits that profile.”

I know. It’s still early. The GOP race isn’t yet formed fully. None of these “candidates” has actually announced formally a presidential candidacy. I’m hoping all of them jump in. I want a full-throated debate among Republicans, who’ve shown quite a talent in recent election cycles for carving each other into a zillion little pieces.

As for Perry, well, he’s got some work to do.

He left office in January, headed off to Iowa to take part in something called a Freedom Summit. He’s trying to dress up his image, make himself sound more presidential. But so far, the attention has been sucked away by Cruz and Walker.

Oh, and the Democrats? Hillary Clinton is favored among 62 percent of Texas Democrats. No story there. She won’t carry Texas in November 2016, no matter how strong she looks today — or on Election Day.

Gov. Perry, though, has to get busy.


Battleground Texas: They're back … or are they?

Battleground Texas — remember that outfit? — says it’s back in the game.

And the game is its goal of turning Texas from a reliably Red Republican state to a Blue Democratic one.

From my perch here in the heart of the most Republican region of this most Republican state, well, Battleground Texas has some work to do. Lots of work, as a matter of fact.


Battleground Texas seriously oversold its impact on the 2014 midterm election in Texas. As one BT official noted rather pithily, “We got the s*** kicked out of us.”

Yeah. Do ya think? Democrats came nowhere close to winning any of the race they hoped would be competitive. The races for governor and lieutenant governor? They each went Republican by more than 20 percentage points. The Legislature’s GOP majority became even more GOP after the ballots were counted.

Democrats keep saying the demographic trends in Texas are working in their favor, with Hispanics comprising an increasing portion of the state’s population. And, yes, Hispanic voters are much kinder to Democrats than they are to Republicans. The problem, though, is that Hispanic voters, um, don’t turn out in numbers that enable Democrats to turn back the Republican tide.

I’m one who is pulling for Battleground Texas to get its act together. I’ve long wanted Texas to become more competitive. I know what you’re thinking: Sure he does, as he’s one of those lefty types who just cannot stand Republican control over all things political in Texas. Perhaps there’s some truth there.

A more competitive environment builds a bit more honesty, though, in both political parties. It deters the kind of arrogance of power one finds when one party holds such dominance over the other one. What’s more, such deterrence is more conducive to the kind of “good government” that should flourish.

That, I submit, is the result when the parties learn to work together rather than have one party trample the other one in the halls of government, which is exactly what I fear is going to happen with the current session of the Texas Legislature.

So, go for it, Battleground Texas. Here’s a word of advice: Be humble as you seek to rebuild and don’t over-promise what you can’t deliver.