Friday, February 29, 2008

How Craddick Was My Olivo?

Just as in the novel How Green Was My Valley, where the main protagonist, Huw (Hugh) Morgan is the smarter brother who wants to rise above his condition, Ron Reynolds is the smarter candidate who wants to rise above Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick’s machine politics.

Early on, after Ron Reynolds made his announcement that he was going to run for his party’s nomination for State Representative for Texas House District 27, before his opponent, Dora Olivo, indicated her desire to run for another term, Reynolds received a telephone call from Texas House leadership probing the possibilities of his support for a 4th Tom Craddick Speaker’s term for the 81st Legislature.

At that time, Reynolds stated categorically to his caller that he was opposed to the dictatorial tactics of Tom Craddick and would oppose his candidacy for Speaker.

Tom Craddick dearly wants to be speaker of the Texas House for another term. He cherishes the power, the prestige and the perquisites that go with the job. Not to mention the fact that he can order money thrown at or withdrawn from anyone he wants.

And because of this, and the fact that Craddick is running out of friends in his own party, and may lose some allies next week from primary challenges within the party that opposes him, Tom Craddick is looking for some new friends.

Some new Craddick D’s.

And where better to look for new friends and allies than in a primary where a progressive Democrat has mounted strong opposition against a moderate Democratic incumbent? A Democratic incumbent whose campaign contributions have lagged behind her upstart opponent’s war chest?

We have been talking about these campaign contributions for awhile. In this piece, I made some noise about Olivo’s acceptance of a $1000 contribution from one of Tom Craddick’s favorite PACs whose disbursements he is said to control: HillCo PAC. This is a very exclusive club of Craddick’s most loyal friends. The club includes, but is not limited to the following Republican State Representatives: Phil King, Betty Brown, John Davis, Mike Jackson and Mike Krusee.

Nice bunch of bedfellows, don’t you think?

Reference to this funding was also made in this piece which reproduced a Ron Reynolds flyer that was circulated in order to beat back a smear campaign that had been mounted against him by the Olivo people.

I have also been watching contributions from the Texas JOBS PAC, a Craddick-run political action committee that got a huge cash infusion from Tom Craddick’s campaign early this year. The next day the PAC made huge cash contributions to several state representatives, all of them former supporters. Only Dawnna Dukes, a Craddick D who is fighting a primary challenge in her district returned the $50,000 wad of cash.

And now, to Dora Olivo, a check for $2,500.00.

Perhaps to keep things below the radar, Texas JOBS PAC made a very recent (recent as in February 26th recent) contribution to State Rep. Dora Olivo’s campaign fund, a not so insignificant $2,500 donation. One wonders why this entry was placed in the TEC campaign report form with the PAC’s full name (Texas Builds Jobs & Opportunity For A Secure Future PAC INC), to confuse and befuddle people?

To hide something?

No, what we have here is an incipient Craddick D. Vince at Capitol Annex, who has written, in the past, some uncomplimentary words about Ron Reynolds, is also somewhat alarmed at these events. He asks the question “So, what is the deal? Is Craddick trying to buy her love (and her vote)…”?

My question is rather, since these contributions have not been turned away by Olivo, when did Dora Olivo start becoming a Craddick D?

And if you have not voted yet, it’s time to get off the dime and vote for the man who will not be Tom Craddick’s pawn in the next session.

Ron Reynolds.

And, oh yeah, vote for Barack Obama, too.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Fighting 22nd: Shelley is Conducting Another Push Poll

I was just writing tonight’s piece on all the Clinton supporter defections to Obama when I got a phone call from a pollster. I stayed on and didn’t brush the young man off because he said he would ask only three questions. I said “OK, fire away”.

“If you were to vote today for the Republican candidate for Texas Congressional District 22, which of the following would you vote for: Shelley Sekula Gibbs, Pete Olson, John Manlove, Dean Hrbacek, Bob Talton or Jim Squier”?

I said “What? You didn’t name all of them!” He laughed and offered that maybe I was looking at his screen.

“No," I said. "I know there are ten of them running and you only named six”.

He laughed again and then asked me which one would I vote for, so I hemmed and hawed a bit and came up with “’Crazy Bob’ Talton”.

“OK [I could hear a click in the background as my vote was recorded], now if there was a runoff election, which of these two candidates would you vote for, Pete Olson or Shelley Sekula Gibbs?”

I thought and thought for a bit, then said what can be construed as a factual statement: “I wouldn’t vote in the runoff. I wouldn’t vote for either of those jokers”.

Oddly enough, they had a place to record that vote, too.

Home stretch. Third question:

“Now if someone were to tell you that one of the candidates had not lived in the congressional district until just recently, what would you think about that? Would you be inclined to vote for that candidate?”


I started laughing. “Oh! It’s a push poll.” Pollster said “What?” Reply: “A PUSH poll!” I laughed again and then said “Tell Shelley I said ‘Hi’.”

And I replaced the receiver.

Honestly, it has been really quiet here at my place since my vote has been registered on Fort Bend County’s Early Vote tally sheet. Apparently Shelley Sekula Gibbs’ campaign has not been clued in to the fact that you can really trim your call lists if you get a list of people who have already cast their ballot. A poll is one thing. It gets an idea of who is ahead. But this was a push poll designed to persuade voters. A call wasted on me, for more than one reason.

So it is as I suspected, and Pete Olson, the DC insider, the golden-haired boy sent to the district to derail Shelley from getting on the November ballot again, is the one the Sekula Gibbs campaign fears most.

And well they should. Here’s what I get from my personal lawn-sign-at-residences poll. I’ve seen 4 Taltons, 2 Manloves, 2 Bazzys, 1 Hrbacek, 2 Squiers and 8 Olsons. I have seen NO Sekula Gibbs signs anywhere. And more importantly, where I saw those annoying maize and blue Sekula Gibbs signs in October/November 2006, there are Olson signs planted there now.

This is the absolute truth. Swear to Jesus.

So even with Tom DeLay gone for now going on to 19 months, Texas Congressional District 22 has not lost its daffiness. Everyone’s pointing their fingers at Olson, calling him an outsider. Threats of lawsuits for defamation have been made, heads have been photoshopped onto a slimmer, trimmer body, one vet is being accused of exaggerating his military record, and Sekula Gibbs is still conducting push polls.

Well, my Republican neighbors, there are 5 more shopping days until the March 4th primary.

I would say “choose wisely”, but since that’s not an option in your case, choose the best person to give us all a big laugh in the fall.

You guys are getting pretty good at that.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Noriega Releases His Military Records: Let the Swifboating Begin

As promised, Texas State Rep. LTC Rick Noriega has released a complete set of his military records. Anyone can download them from the Noriega campaign website.

We now know what is going on in the Cornyn campaign. They are going through these records with a fine-toothed comb, searching, searching, for anything that they can use to skewer Rick in a television ad that will make the Swiftboaters for Truth smear campaign against John Kerry in 2004 look like a child’s tea party.

Heading this off, the Noriega campaign still wants you to sign this petition to “tell John Cornyn and his cronies that we won't stand for a smear campaign in our great state.” Two thousand have already signed. If you haven’t yet, there’s still time to make your voice heard. Click here to sign Rick’s petition.

Now go ahead, take a look at the records. If you don’t come away impressed, there is something deeply wrong with you. Something akin to being John Cornyn, for instance.

OK, need a taste? Try these on for size:

LT Noriega is an exceptionally dedicated officer. He sets high standards and sees to it that they are obtained and maintained through example.

Comments on Professional Competence (received all 1’s on a
1 to 5 scale, 1 being highest):
Outstanding in dedication to his job and mission.
Unexcelled in loyalty
Integrity is above reproach
Selflessly gave of his time and energies

Officer’s integrity and high moral standards have been significant factors in his success.

LT Noriega has unlimited potential. He should be given every opportunity for further training and upon completion of this command assignment be given an opportunity to serve as a battalion or brigade staff officer. With experience and training, he will soon be able to serve with distinction as a battalion commander.

I could go on and on, but it ALL reads like that. Honest to God, the man is so outstanding it becomes boring to read about it. Reading plaudit after praise, you start to WANT to find a comment like, “Noriega showed up to inspection with scuffed shoes”.

But you just don’t.

How is John Cornyn is going to twist this into an attack? Only time will tell. OK let me give you an example of how this is going to go. What about the comment “Unexcelled in loyalty”? Doesn’t “un” mean “not”? Isn’t that like “unsportsmanlike”? OK, unexcelled could mean that no one excels him, but couldn’t it also mean that he does NOT excel?

Hmm. Yesssssss. The possibilities are ENDlesssss.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Crossover Voting For Obama, Blip or Scale Tipper?

I don’t think it is a secret anymore that Texas Republican voters are showing up at the polls to vote in the Democratic primary, and doing so to vote for Barack Obama. A small article in the Houston Chronicle had some anecdotal evidence to back this up.

Bennet Roth, in this Chron article, interviewed individuals in an Austin barbershop, Republicans who claim that they have voted, or will vote for Barack Obama. One thing he did not uncover was a vast Republican conspiracy to stack the deck against Hillary Clinton: there just wasn’t a unity there. Yes, some voters were definitely going out there to vote for Obama in order to, as one pollster put it “get rid of Clinton once and for all.” And some of these voters fully intend to turn around and vote for the Republican candidate in the fall. Yet, on the other hand, the same poll reports that 15% of these voters are disenchanted with the Republican party, or their choices, or both, and will continue on in the Fall to vote for Obama.

The first thing that comes to my mind, though, is the record turnout at the early vote polling sites, and how Democratic early voters outnumber Republican voters by anywhere between 2 and 4 to 1. Is the effect we are seeing a result of mass Republican cross-party voting? I really doubt it. First, look at the trend nationwide. In every state where a primary has already been held, Democrats have outnumbered Republicans at the polls, and this took place long before the Texas primary. Here and now in the Texas primary, the race for the Democratic nomination seems to have developed into Hillary Clinton’s last stand. So if early vote turnout numbers in Texas reflect a special effort by Republicans trying to “get rid of” Hillary, why do these turnout numbers match what we have seen in other states?

The Chron article exposed a fractionated Republican party. There appears to be no single-minded monolithic effort to send Republicans to the polls in droves to vote in the Democratic primary, despite what seems to be the case from an email being circulated last week and this week. This email, in short, would confirm the Clinton campaign’s worst fears, that Republicans are showing up at the polls to “get rid of the Clintons”. From the email:

“Since Texas has on open primary, Republicans and Independents should sign in at their polling place and request a Democratic ballot. They should then vote for Barack Obama. Even James Carville admits that if Hillary loses Texas, "she's done!" Republicans can help make this a reality!!! Just think, no more Clintons in the White House!”
It purports to have come from the website Republicans for Obama, and makes a specific reference to this URL, but nowhere on that URL is the message to be found. Indeed, if you check the website here, you will see reference to the email message, and this enigmatic explanation:

“It is not, nor has it ever been, the goal of this organization to support Barack in order to keep Hillary out of office. You can see the official statements of support for Senator Obama under the "About Us" and "Why Obama" tabs at the top of the page.”

“That said, there are many Republicans who have strong negative feelings toward both the Clintons, and toward Hillary in particular. While posters are free to express their feelings in our forums, those posts should not be considered representative of the membership of RFO as a whole, nor of the RFO leadership team itself.”
So it looks like the Republicans for Obama are disavowing this email, but don’t go as far as to say they don’t know where the email came from.

What this campaign is not, by all indications, is an Obama campaign attempt to torpedo Clinton’s chances in Texas. There is no evidence for it, and to suggest that it is part and parcel of the Obama campaign strategy, as some have suggested, is paranoid in the best of all worlds, and lunatic in the worst.

In the end, all this is going to do is further weaken the Republican Party. Let’s say that the party loses an invariant 15% of its moderate voters in all of their primaries as they vote for Democrats. Any Republican primary contest in Texas, with a moderate and a conservative in the race, will be favored toward the conservative. The resulting candidate pool of the Republican Party then, becomes skewed to the right as the rest of the nation goes left. Making the Republican Party of Texas even more of a national oddity than it already is.

But let’s add to the pile. If their fractious plan comes to fruition, Republicans in Texas will have helped to put Barack Obama over the top in his race, possibly tipping the scales in his favor for the nomination. All this does is put a statistically stronger candidate in as their opposition in November. So much for long-range thinking Republicans. By “getting rid of the Clintons” they will have had played a role in the creation of a Democratic presidency.

What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks? A win’s a win.

Monday, February 25, 2008

For Texas HD 27: Reynolds or Olivo?

When it comes down to it, people should decide for themselves. Newspapers and other mainstream media can weigh in on who you should vote for . . . and even blogs.

Like mine. My recommendation is to vote for Ron Reynolds. I know the man and I know the people who support him. But don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at this list for a sample of the people who support this young up and comer.

My blogging colleagues have all been silent on their support for Reynolds, but I basically view this as a victory in that it is most often the case, unless there are extenuating circumstances, an endorsement goes for an incumbent. In the two blogs I have monitored, both declined to make an endorsement for the incumbent in HD 27. I find this to be not surprising. They apparently are doing what I am doing here: inviting the voter to take a look for themselves.
And choose for yourself.

First, take a look at Ron Reynolds’ introductory video.

Yeah, I know, Election Day is March 4th.

Now I have just discovered Dora Olivo’s campaign video. Take a look and judge for yourself. Use your own criteria in coming to a conclusion. I won’t help.

Now go and vote.

Texas Progressive Alliance Presents: Cool Blogs We Wrote Last Week

It's Monday, and in eight, count 'em, EIGHT days the primary will be upon us. Members of the Texas Progressive Alliance continue to nudge and jab each other for reader traffic for their respective candidates. As things get close, it is getting bloody out there.

So will March 4th be the day that Democrats crown their standard bearer? Who will be in the CD 22 runoff election? For answers to these questions and more, don't look here. I'm a spectator just like the rest of you.

This week's round-up is compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex.

TXsharon has a broken modem so Bluedaze is suffering but she managed to post about The RRC's approval of Atmos Energy's extravagant spending--bendover Texans. Also read about howPhil King meets Karma in Wise County and hear the horrendous sounds of the Barnett Shale.

Off the Kuff offers his incomplete list of endorsements for the Democratic primaries, and for his birthday rounds up his complete list of candidate interviews.

Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News has blogged an eventful week or two climaxing with Paul Burka becoming a believer in the Obama Borg - Democrats can take back Texas. Wow.

Over at McBlogger Mayor McSleaze commemorates Kirk Watson's Deer In The Headlights Moment while McBlogger, beverage in hand, watches the Debate and puts the smackdown on wingnuts still drinking the school voucher Kool-Aid

The Texas Cloverleaf makes it back safely from Oklahoma City and discusses the National Stonewall Democrats meeting there, as well as the upcoming LGBT Presidential Town Hall in Dallas on Monday night.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs had a report on Obama's visit to Houston last Tuesday, and also noted the end of the Fidel Castro era in Cuba. Open Source Dem had part three of his "Texas in Play" series, entitled "Jim Crow Lives".

Hal, who writes Half Empty, went to early vote last Wednesday and has some poll observations and some Fort Bend County stats.

Bill Howell of StoutDemBlog reminds us of some Texas election history that is relevant for this year's Democratic Primary, in Don't Be Confused By Names.

Muse was at the Bill Clinton fundraiser in Houston this week where she fulfilled a lifelong dream to touch him – handshake! She notes that not all college students are for Obama – witness the Daily Texan endorsement for Hillary. And, she receives an email where Obama encourages Republicans to crash the Democratic primary, to vote against the bad, scary Hillary. More Hillary stuff coming this week on musings!

WhosPlayin tries to explain the "Obama Movement", and has a run-down of which Texas blogs are endorsing Clinton or Obama.

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that the Texas Democratic Party has instructed county and precinct officials not to interpret election results for the media or political campaigns, and asks if national Democrats will still respect us (or call or visit) after March 4.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Endorsements? We’re Doing Endorsements?

You know, time was someone might have asked me who I was voting for and I might have, or might have not told them. It’s a secret ballot, you know. But all the Texas bloggers around here are Endorsing candidates.

Like the Houston Chronicle.

Or the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Last election cycle I did not endorse candidates because I felt that anyone who reads this blog for any length of time pretty much knows where I stand on the candidates. But then I thought today, there might be the occasional reader, or even the accidental reader who might encounter this blog through some Google accident, much like the 2 or 3 hits a day I get on my Susan Combs piece of some time ago. These hapless individuals are all googling the keywords “giving head” or something like that. So they all get to learn about Susan Combs, our State Comptroller.

These occasional readers need to know which candidates I support, don’t they?

So anyway, I thought I’d give this endorsement thing a whirl. I am only making endorsements on contested races so if you wonder why I am not endorsing any of the uncontested ones, that’s why. Also, if you disagree, I just don’t want to hear about it, OK?

I voted already.

President of the United States:

Democratic Party: Barack Hussein Obama

U.S. Senate:

Democratic Party: Richard “Rick” Noriega

U.S. Congress:

Republican Party: Don’t Bother (CD 22)

Railroad Commissioner:

Democratic Party: Dale Henry

Texas House of Representatives:

Democratic Party: Ron Reynolds (HD 27)
Republican Party: Paula Stansell (HD 26)

Justice Supreme Court:

Democratic Party: Sam Houston (Place 7)
Democratic Party: Susan Criss (Place 8)

Fort Bend County Sheriff:

Republican Party: Billy Frank Teague

Precinct 1 Fort Bend County Commissioner:

Democratic Party: Richard Morrison
Republican Party: Pick anyone (Richard will beat any one of them in November)

Precinct Chair No. 1040:

Democratic Party: Marsha Rovai (if you don’t she’ll make everyone’s life miserable)

Republican Party Referendums:

Referendum 1: Federal, state and local officials should be required to enforce U. S. immigration laws in order to secure our borders.


Referendum 2: The Texas Legislature should make it a priority to protect the integrity of our election process by enacting legislation that requires voters to provide valid photo identification in order to cast a ballot in any and all elections conducted in the State of Texas.

H-E-Double Hockey Sticks No

Referendum 3: Every governmental body in Texas should be required to limit any annual increase in its budget and spending to the combined increase of population and inflation unless it first gets voter approval to exceed the allowed annual growth or in the case of an official state of emergency.

You’ve Got To Be Kidding!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Night With The Future Speaker of the Texas House

It came off without a hitch. The Fort Bend Democrats’ annual winter fundraiser purred at idle like a finely tuned Maserati, and then revved to a thundering conclusion as the fundraiser honoree, State Representative Senfronia Thompson, in her concluding remarks, brought her audience to their feet in thunderous applause.

Or something like that.

Actually it was a rather sedate evening, punctuated by moments of raucous laughter, loud cheering and hooting as good news on Texas early voter turnout numbers were announced. In case you have been hibernating for the past week, you probably don’t know that the Democratic turnout in Texas’ primary has been stunning. A fact repeated over and over again through the evening.

Candidates were as thick as . . . as thick as molasses. Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage was in one corner, and Precinct 2 Constable Ruben Davis in another. Two candidates for Precinct 1 County Commissioner were present: Richard Morrison and Sharon Wallingford. Albert Hollan and Milton Flick, candidates for district judges (434th and 400th, respectively) were there, as were James Sharpe (1st Court of Appeals, Place 3), Leslie Taylor (1st Court of Appeals, Place 5), Bert Moser (14th Court of Appeals, Place 4) and Susan Criss (Justice, Supreme Court, Place 8). Dorothy Bottos (Texas HD 28) was there with her husband, Richard, as was Ron Reynolds (Texas HD 27) with his wife, Jonita. Art Hall, running for Texas Railroad Commissioner was also working the room.

CD 22 Congressman Nick Lampson got there late and upon his arrival, was immediately called to the podium for a brief speech. Nick did that thing with his voice to get people roused and excited about the primary, and the rosy prospects that we Democrats have in the coming year. On a sober note, Nick dropped the bomb that America’s 9 trillion dollar debt pales in comparison to the 50 trillion dollars that it has in overseas debt.

Rick Noriega, sitting near the very top of the ballot, was in Laredo last night, but his wife, Houston City Councilwoman Melissa Noriega, was there in his place, sitting at the front table with her parents, both longtime Fort Bend Democrats.

Melissa was asked to introduce the guest speaker, State Representative and soon-to-be speaker Senfronia Thompson.

In her opening remarks, Melissa said that Senfronia Thompson was “a force of nature” who believes that “sometimes you have to grab the mike to take over”. Melissa, who served in her husband’s place in the state house while he was deployed in Afghanistan, characterized a female state rep’s style as being a little different than they were expected to be. Where other state reps expected them to “be good girls”, Melissa said, Senfronia Thompson’s approach was to “get out there and get it done”.

The tone was set, and State Rep. Thompson sought to explain why anyone would want to take a job for 36 years that pays $7 a day by explaining that the Texas state legislature is “the only place where I can raise hell without getting arrested. I . . . can . . .RAISE. . . HELL”.

Rep. Thompson touched on the variety of issues that came through the 80th Legislative session including the costs of education versus incarceration: it’s cheaper to educate our youth to be useful in our society than to hold them under lock and key for years on end, the need for state funding of stem cell research, and health insurance for all.

She spent a good bit of time recalling the days when the Democratic caucus, minus a few, who took flight across the state line instead of allowing the passage of Tom DeLay’s 2nd in a decade redistricting, an act that later cost the seats of several Texas Democratic congressmen. She recalled that Tom DeLay sought to have them all arrested by FBI agents for violations of the US Patriot Act. She recalled the actions of fellow state reps, gentlemen who she called WD-40s (white Democrats over 40), who were concerned how their actions in Ardmore, Oklahoma were starting to look back home as Tom Craddick’s political machine unleashed television ads that criticized them for their actions. There was a whimsical story of Willie Nelson’s gift of a case of Jack Daniels Black Label to the Ardmore Democrats, along with a bunch of red and blue bandanas, and about how soon after receipt of both, the WD-40’s went on television sporting the bandanas announcing that “We will stand our ground”.

This became important later on in her speech, as Ms. Thompson urged us all that it is important that we stand our ground as Democrats, especially now as Democrats are going to the polls in numbers that range up to 3 to 1 higher than the Republican showing. She urged us to stand up, to stand our ground and to “get them out to vote on Election Day” “From the courthouse to the White House, leave no stone unturned.”

Or something like that.

Gonna Be Wars

Three little words. Three little words from the Republican nominee-apparent.

Gonna be wars.

How can Americans even be contemplating a vote for a man – the oldest white man that the Republicans could find – a man who promises us that there will be 100 years of war?

I don’t care who you support, whose campaign button you wear, or whose bumper sticker you have on your car, anyone that the Democrats nominate to face this man in November will be better than this warmonger.

Want more war? Vote for this guy.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Was I At the Wrong Meeting or Was The Chron?

Apparently a Houston Chronicle reporter also attended Wednesday's S.T.O.P. meeting and came away thinking that every candidate had a huge problem with the Grand Parkway toll road to nowhere. I was there and as reported yesterday, came away with the distinct impression that Republican challengers Greg Ordineaux and Bill Dostal were not exactly saying they were against it, or for it either.

Dostal merely said that the existing free access portion of the Grand Parkway should never be converted to a toll road. Then he went on in another direction.

Ordineaux was even cagier. Ordineaux simply said that either the road would be built as a toll road or that the Fort Bend residents could vote for or against it in a bond election, and then pay for the bonds in increased taxes.

That last bit, "increased taxes", is Republican newspeak for "nuclear war", as in "we can have a road built using toll road fees or we can have nuclear war".

Just so you know.

But I have to agree with S.T.O.P. member Geri Wells, quoted at the end of the Chron article. You really don't know what they are really thinking, especially the ones who either used to support the notion of another tollway in Fort Bend, or have been quietly working behind the scenes to enable the eventuality of a tollway.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Candidates Forum In Richmond, Texas: A Whole Lot Of Agreein’ Goin’ On

Despite the crummy weather we had last night, I kept my promise to myself to go to the S.T.O.P. candidates’ forum at the River Pointe Church in Richmond. I got there early because all of the problems that I anticipated getting there, with the weather and road conditions. They failed to materialize, affording me a most pleasant surprise. But then I had to suffer through a 45 minute wait, a half-hour past the reported 6:30 start time, before things began in earnest.

Yes, there was plenty of visiting going on in the atrium, but I never go to these things to schmooze.

The sponsors, S.T.O.P. a recently-formed citizens grassroots organization whose single purpose is to Stop Tolls on [the Grand] Parkway, put the forum together to give local, countywide and state legislature candidates a chance for public exhibition and to let them hold forth on their opinions on TxDOT’s plans to build Section C of the Grand Parkway (aka Texas 99) as a toll road extending south from Highway 59 in Sugar Land to Brazoria County. See the map at S.T.O.P.’s website.

And what a surprise, almost to a man, and woman, the candidates all came out firmly opposed to construction of the Grand Parkway. Some qualified their stance with an “at this time”, but for the most part they all stood shoulder to shoulder against TxDOT’s plans to plop a ribbon of elevated concrete through several master planned communities in Fort Bend County.

What a surprise.

First to speak yesterday evening were the county sheriff candidates. Billy Frank Teague is challenging Sheriff Milton Wright on the Republican ballot. Neither of them said that they favored a toll road, Neither claimed that the sheriff would have any voice or sway with TxDOT, and both pointed out that increased traffic on these roads due to growth, and growth in the county itself (something that the toll road will enhance) will impact the department’s ability to respond to service calls. Wright then embarked on the grand tour of his domain and all of his good news. Teague then spent his time acquainting the audience with his experience and his impressive grasp of several local issues.

Focus was then shifted to the Precinct 1 Fort Bend County Commissioner’s race. County Commissioner Tom Stavinoha, and the 7 people standing to oppose him either in March (two other candidates on the Republican ballot) or later on (should he win the primary) in November by one of five candidates on the Democratic primary ballot was asked his opinion on the toll road. Stavinoha, while allowing that “growth will happen”, and that there is “nothing to stop it”, made the observation that the Segment C extension of the Grand Parkway is “not needed right now”. He observed that since Brazoria County, is “not doing anything” with their proposed Sections A and B of the parkway, he is opposed to its construction “at this time”.

Dittos could be heard up and down the table on the stage. The lone holdouts were Richmond City Commissioner Bill Dostal, and former Treasurer of the Fort Bend Toll Road Authority Greg Ordineaux. Dostal said that he simply opposed making existing free portions of the Grand Parkway a toll road. He then embarked on an opinion that gasoline tax revenues ought to be restored to TxDOT so it could repair existing roadways. Ordineaux, while pledging that candidates must listen to the voters, then said that if Fort Bend County wanted a Section C limited access highway, it should be built with bonds and those bonds paid for with county taxes, or it would be a toll road. Period.

Democratic candidates Anderson, Carreon, Morrison, Rocha and Wallingford were all in solid opposition to the tollroad.

I liked Gerald Anderson. He looks young but says he has been married for 31 years. His opposition to the toll road was matched by his citizen advocacy of neighborhoods in the Arcola area that still have no running water. Rodrigo Carreon was his usual fighting self, opposed to the toll road, to the Blueridge Landfill expansion, and promoted the notion that citizens need to attend more public meetings and voice their concerns. Marty Rocha came fully dressed in his sheriff’s deputy’s uniform, the only fully armed candidate in the room (that you could easily observe, at least), Rocha was against the toll road, preferring that the county address a less expensive rail system. He stressed his years of public service and his strong ties to the community. Sharon Wallingford always impresses me with her grasp of facts and details. She has an anecdote for umpteen meetings she has attended, and quotes TxDOT officials verbatim from memory. Wallingford stressed her experience with the proposed road going back to the years before it was ever proposed as a toll road. Wallingford stressed her belief in mobility, but that mobility should be all about safety, and not about tolling.

I saved Richard Morrison for last because he stood out, and stood up. Morrison is well-known in Fort Bend County, and will have no problem with name recognition on the primary ballot. Morrison stood up, handled the microphone like a pro, and then lit into Commissioner Stavinoha. Morrison stood out as the scrapper – everyone else was fairly sedate and courteous – Morrison said in several verbal assaults, pretty much the same thing: “If you want a Grand Parkway Toll Road,” said Morrison, pointing, “vote for him” [Stavinoha].

Last but not least, candidates for state legislature, most of whom were seated on the stage, were asked to say a few words. District 27 State Rep. Dora Olivo, asked to speak first, voiced her support of the original 4 lane highway, and parted with the words “I’m here with you to fight for you”.

Steve Host, the Richmond coffee shop owner, commiserated with the business owners who stood to lose their businesses if Section C of the Grand Parkway is built. As an owner of a business along Highway 90A in Richmond, he explained how TxDOT wanted to eliminate his business as they widened 90A in Richmond. Apparently the lesson to be learned here is if you don’t want your business bulldozed by TxDOT, have it in a Texas Historic District. Host opposes the toll road, and says that TxDOT has too much power.

Ron Reynolds, challenging Dora Olivo in District 27, stated that he was proud to be a member of S.T.O.P. He agreed with Host and Olivo on the toll road, but in a gentle chide to Olivo, said that the legislature must not let lobbyists “run them”. Legislators have to be neutral when they are being asked to support a development project (more on that at a later date).

District 26 State Rep Charlie Howard weighed in on the toll road, first saying that TxDOT, as a government agency was “out of control” and will be reigned in, in a “sunset review” currently ongoing in Austin. Using his hand with emphasis, Howard proclaimed that “TxDOT doesn’t build roads unless we give them money”. I’m pretty sure everyone in the audience wondered if Howard knew that they were planning to build the road without taxpayer money.

Challenging Howard in the Republican primary, Paula Stansell got up from her seat in the audience and commented that “I sit with you in the audience”, and proclaimed that she was “not a politician”. In the second gentle chide of the evening, Stansell sent one across Howard’s bow, in reference to his inaction on these matters until citizens organized a grassroots protest movement. “We wait too long and wait for community uproar before we act”.

You go girl.

That brought the forum to a conclusion except for the question and answer period. I stayed for a bit of this, but frankly I was getting hungry and needed to leave. I did stay for one question addressed to Sheriff Wright and Richmond Police Lt. Billy Frank Teague. The question dealt with the Precinct 1 Constable’s contract with the Greatwood community: would that be continued?

Wright answered first, and simply said that was up to Constable Dorr. Teague took the microphone, stood up tall and solid, and expounded on the service of the constable, identified the patrolling deputy constables by name, and talked at length of the cooperation and purviews of both law enforcement agencies. A fine exposition. Then Sheriff Wright asked to hear the question again, as the audience did a fine job of suppressing their laughter.

I have to say this about Billy Frank Teague: he’s a lot smarter than he looks. This is no slouching doughnut-chomping beat cop. This guy is the real deal.

Billy Frank Teague and Paula Stansell are the only two reasons that I regret not voting in the Republican primary.

There, I said it.

Rick Noriega’s First TV Ad Being Aired on CNN During Debate

Well, since you aren’t going to be doing anything else tonight but watching the Austin Obama/Clinton debate, keep the sound up during the commercials so you won’t miss Rick Noriega’s first TV ad. It’s short but sweet, and hits the high points; just right for an introductory piece. It’s a big day for the campaign, and a great day for Texas.

In case you miss it, it’s embedded below and also at YouTube

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

So I Early Voted Today

On Day 2 of early voting here in Texas, the next battleground for Obama/Clinton convention delegates, I showed up at my usual early voting location, conveniently located between my place of work and my place of residence.

The line was long by standards that I am used to at this polling place.

Two individuals were in front of me in the Democratic Party line. Looking over, I noticed that no one, not a single solitary Red State voter, was in line, checking in, OR voting. Not a single Dark Side voter was on the scene.

I had to laugh at the one voter casting his ballot in the voting booth on the Democratic side. He came back to the front and asked about the ballot, saying that he votes for both Democrats and Republicans, and where was that ballot? So they explained to him that he had to choose one or the other.

On further reflection I had to ask myself if this gentleman was just faking them out. Democrats here in Fort Bend County quite often feel the need to disguise themselves so their neighbors won’t think ill of them (or leave them off their daughter’s wedding invitation list). I know this must sound strange to those of you tuning in from saner parts of the world, but that’s how it really is here.

Nevertheless, it looks like Fort Bend County voters are on trend with the rest of the country. Take a look at the daily early vote numbers. It is posted here at the Fort Bend County elections site. Numbers aren’t up yet for today (it is, at this writing a scant 21 minutes since early vote polling sites closed), but on the first day of early voting, a total of 2564 voters showed up county-wide, and of them, 1710 of them were Democrats (or voters who voted the Democratic ballot).

Is that good? Well let’s compare the primary voting trends in 2004 compared to the present. In 2004, a total of 2106 Democratic voters turned out in the early voting – ALL of the early voting. Holy H-E Double Hockey Sticks! In the 2008 primary, Democrats have posted a turnout total for the FIRST DAY of early voting in 2008 that is just shy of 400 voters for the ENTIRE early voting period in 2004.

That’s what I call some fed up voters.

How does that compare to our Dark Side neighbors? I knew you’d ask. In 2004, a total of 4575 Republican voters turned out for early voting in that year’s primary, compared to 944 for the first day of early voting in 2008. So their numbers are slightly higher also if the trend continues on pace.

But if these numbers are a reflection of how much county voters want change in this Reddest of Red counties, we are going to see something magical this time around.

Finally, finally, Democrats are stirred up and out voting in force.

UPDATE as of 2/29:
Democrats on Tuesday 2/19: 1710
Democrats on Wednesday 2/20: 1515
Democrats on Thursday 2/21: 1827
Democrats on Friday 2/22: 2511
Democrats on Saturday 2/23: 4139
Democrats on Sunday 2/24: 1644
Democrats on Monday 2/25: 2786
Democrats on Tuesday 2/26: 3067
Democrats on Wednesday 2/27: 3319
Democrats on Thursday 2/28: 4421
Democrats on Friday 2/29: 7448
Total Democrats voting in 2008 primary t0-date: 34,387
% total Democratic turnout increase over 2004 presidential primary (to-date): 1634%
Democrat to Republican ratio to-date: 2.40: 1

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Swiftboating for Shelley Sekula Gibbs: Texas Style

Guess what I got today? I got a recorded call from John O’Neill.

THE John O’Neill. The guy who torpedoed John Kerry’s presidential campaign like no one else could. The Vietnam veteran who took money to smear the military record of another vet.

Now it appears that O’Neill is taking money from the campaign coffers of Shelley Sekula Gibbs, money spent in order to get him to record a message endorsing her candidacy for the Republican candidate in the TX-22 congressional race.

Now that’s what I call class. He praises her efforts while on the Houston City Council to lower taxes three times. Not to mention her solid anti-immigrant stance (now just WHEN did she come out against those labor depots in Houston? I forget).

Anyway, hopefully you won’t get treated to his gravelly voice.

Oh, and on that concerned citizen stuff who just wanted to “out” a fellow veteran who he regarded as a fraud?

Guess we can lay that to rest.

Oh, hey, The Blue State has a blurb on this very thing.

Fort Bend County Elections Chief Resigns On Opening Day

Just when we here in Texas are just settling down for a nice primary vote, early voting began today for the March 4th primary, our county elections administrator, J. R. Perez, pulled the plug and said “adios” to the Fort Bend Elections Commission.

But wait, when you tender your resignation, there is some sort of notice given, right? So the employer isn’t left in the lurch (especially on the first day of early voting). Most telling in all of this is the fact that the Commission made his resignation effective immediately.

According to FortBendNow:

“‘We have removed him from his responsibilities and replaced him with Robin Heiman,’ the first assistant elections administrator, said Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert, who also serves as Election Commission chairman, after the commission meeting.”
Yes, you heard that right: the county elections administrator quit on the first day of early voting in what is to be, very arguably, the biggest primary election voter turnout in living memory – and most likely, the largest turnout in Fort Bend County history.

The meeting today was behind closed doors. The press was barred from attending, being presented with an opinion of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on whether a meeting of an Elections Commission constituted a public meeting under the “Texas Open Meetings Act”. It wasn’t said Abbott.

So we will never really know what went on behind those doors, even though that particular meeting affected the voting ability of each and every registered voter of Fort Bend County.

Nothing new here. It fits the transparency test of “clear as Brazos River mud” Fort Bend County government.

In they all went, slam went the doors, and then 15 minutes later J. R. Perez left in the company of a county attorney.

Rumor has it that if J.R. didn’t tender his resignation, it would have been requested. By whom no one knows, but I assume it would have been requested by County Judge Hebert, who is the common denominator between the Elections Commission and the County Court. There, at the Court, it has been a most acrimonious time with county commissioners nipping at J.R’s heels over his remarks to the news media that he had not been receiving support from the county commission.

Then came J.R.’s recommendation that the county scrap its paperless electronic voting system, the infamous product of Hart Intercivic, in favor of an optical scanning system. This, by the way, would do nothing to alleviate the predicted long lines in the primary, or even in the presidential election in November. Perez said it was far too late in the day to make changes to prevent voter angst now or then.

But now, not only do we have ill-equipped polling sites, we have a decapitated county elections office.

Karl Rove, the Republican mastermind of voter suppression, couldn’t have done any better. Thanks to poor planning by the county commission, including their opting for the expensive dial-a-vote paperless system hated by every county voter I have talked to, and the hasty appointment of a county assistant who will run things, voters can now worry, and worry well, over whether their vote is going to count.

Early voting, Fort Bend voters. Early voting is your only real hope to get your vote in and counted. Get there early if you can, too. Stories of crowded early voting locations are already beginning to surface.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Is Barack Obama the Messiah?

Now look, I didn’t ask that question and it has never in all creation dawned on me to ask that question. I just copied it from here.

Now if you looked at the article you might have come back a little confused. Is the author serious? The web page is after all, found within the “On Faith” section of the Washington Post. But to answer the question, no, I don’t think they are totally serious.

They do make some fairly astute points about the Obama Effect though. They cite Chris Matthews, who in maybe a little bit of exaggeration (about the 5 year old thing) says this:

“I’ve been following politics since I was about 5. I’ve never seen anything like this. This is bigger than Kennedy. [Obama] comes along, and he seems to have the answers. This is the New Testament. This is surprising.”

And then, if you want to dismiss the whole thing as Obama-rama, then read this blog, a blog that seems to be dedicated to the divinity of Barack.

And THEN, if you want to dismiss the whole thing as Baracka Hoopla, witness the curative powers of The Barack, on this embedded video.

OK, all kidding aside, Barack Obama does have an affect on people. He is coming to Houston tomorrow and will address a packed house at the Toyota Center – an arena that holds 16,000 souls. Tickets are (were) free, were because they’ve been gone since Saturday when the event was announced.

And finally, want still more proof? Take a look at the Obama detractors in the comments section at that WaPo website. Jesus H. Christ himself didn’t have such frenzied critics. The Pharisees and Sadducees have nothing on your typical Clinton supporter. I’ve never seen such venom spewed by one Democrat on another (RE: comment Feb 18 at 1:20). The other day I was in conversation, of sorts, with Democrats and was told under no uncertain terms that the uncultured remarks and vehement attacks from Barack supporters were very low brow, and not very classy at all, whereas Clinton supporters were always kind, thoughtful and courteous.

Beg to differ.

TPA Texas Two-Step: Weeky Round-Up PLUS Prez Endorsements

Since it's Monday, why not have yet another installment of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly blog round-up? And since it's President's Day, why not feature a few of our group's presidential endorsements? I think it's a great study because it reveals yet again that the TPA is anything but a united front; it's more like a bunch of bloggers who frequently agree to disagree. This week's round-up is compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex.

Burnt Orange Report is covering all kinds of races this week. In addition to their notable endorsement of Obama and analysis of how he can win and his Presidential primary poll numbers, Matt Glazer has reported that State Rep. Kino Flores has some ethics violation troubles, beyond the $50,000 he received from Craddick supporters.

Eye On Williamson has two posts on the upcoming Presidential Primary in Texas, Why I'm For Barack Obama and Barack can seal the deal in Williamson County. And locally, The Silly Season Is Upon Us - The WCGOP Machine Makes It's Choice.

WhosPlayin of endorsed Obama for President and Aimlessness thinks Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia needs to go back to law school and get a refresher course on the U.S. Constitution. Talk about your "tortured" logic.

Musings endorses Hillary Clinton for President, citing her toughness, service, compassion, ability to work across the aisle and her solutions-oriented approach to governing as reasons why she is the choice for a new direction in Washington.

Team McBlogger has decided to swim against the tide and endorse Senator Hillary Clinton in the Presidential Primary. Then they compounded the good decision making with a trip to the opening of her Texas HQ in Austin to see Bill Clinton. You know, the guy who's married to the candidate. Apparently, a couple of thousand people also had the same idea

At Half Empty, with Edwards gone, Hal has thrown his support to Barack Obama.

And, after a day of much soul searching, thought and input from great bloggers across the nation, Refinish69 has decided to endorse Obama for President in 2008.

John Coby's mom is for Hillary Clinton. "I can't remember when our country was in such a horrible situation considering the war in Iraq, our debt, our status in the world. My country is in trouble and I believe Hillary Clinton can begin to solve the problems beginning on day one."

And then we have the regular fare. What we wrote last week that was really cool:

TXsharon at Bluedaze, while not a football fan, reports on illegal gifts of SuperBowl tickets to Phil King and Michael Williams. Considering that the most recent pipeline explosion sent flames 600 -700 feet into the air, we need Railroad Commissioners without conflicts making decisions that will keep Texans safe.

The Texas Cloverleaf digs up a report by the GAO that toll road public-private partnerships might not be the best thing for taxpayers. While at the same time, a new state rail system venture is brought back into the public spotlight in Texas.

The Texas Cloverleaf gets its hide chapped when the Dallas Morning News endorses the primary opponent of Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. The endorsement is destroyed in typical Cloverleaf fashion.

CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme wonders if James Leininger is giving up the fight for school vouchers, i.e. destroying public schools in favor a theocratic education. In any case, Leininger is distancing himself from Tom Craddick.

Off the Kuff looks at the yard sign primary in his neighborhood.

Seething anger, Hal at Half Empty asks this question of the Republican Party of Texas, who are acting as surrogates for the John Cornyn senatorial campaign: Are you sure you want a dog in this hunt?

Open Source Dem at Brains and Eggs has`part two of "Texas in Play."

BossKittyat BlueBloggin shows us that voting is still a major problem in this country considering Washington DC Has 10,000 Mystery Voters.

And finally, Vince at Capitol Annex notes that Marissa Marquez in House District 77 has been trashing bloggers, and endorses Hillary Clinton for president.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Endorsement Wars: Let the Games Begin

Polls come and polls go, but endorsements are forever – well one once thought. Witness one and possibly two recent defections from the Clinton camp: the loss of the endorsement of Congressmen David Scott (GA-13) and the possible loss of that of John Lewis (GA-5). Both African-American congressmen once declared their support for Hillary Clinton, and now one and possibly both have bent to the will of the constituents in their respective districts, in which both went heavily for Obama in the Georgia primary. Lewis is viewed as the biggest fish to lose for the Clinton campaign as he stands as a prime mover in the party, with a history that stems from the 1960’s civil rights movement. News of his defection, he now says, are premature. My guess is that the cat was let out of the bag before a deal was signed and sealed – this defection is a no-brainer.

So one starts to wonder at this point whether this is a fluke, a minor calving of icebergs off of, if you will, the Clinton glacier, or whether we are witnessing the incipient effects of a political “global warming” where there is most certainly more to come and a wholesale glacial retreat is in the offing.

The Baltimore Sun puts this whole thing in perspective:

“But it is a visible fracture of support for Clinton among a segment of superdelegates that is especially sensitive to arguments from the Obama campaign that party officials should follow the will of their constituents when they cast their votes as superdelegates.”
Will this have an effect on the local congressional endorsements in Texas? Not appreciably, one would think. Take a look. In Texas Hillary Clinton enjoys the endorsements of Congressmen Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Gene Green (TX-29), Ruben Hinojosa (TX-15), Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18), Solomon Ortiz (TX-27), and Silvestre Reyes (TX-16). Barack Obama, on the other hand, has received the endorsements of Charlie Gonzales, (TX-20) and Al Green (TX-9).

Based on the Georgia model, and on the supposition that Hispanic districts will go heavily for Clinton, one would wonder whether the district represented by Sheila Jackson-Lee, a district dominated by an African-American constituency, will go heavily for Barack Obama, as has been witnessed in other states where primaries have already been held. That being the case, one wonders whether Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee will feel the same pull as her Georgia colleagues, and switch her allegiance to Obama. Similarly, will Charlie Gonzales, coming from an Hispanic-dominant district surrounding San Antonio see a need to change his allegiance if his district goes heavily for Clinton?

Indeed, as this plays out, will the 99 remaining uncommitted superdelegates that comprise the Democratic sitting members of the House of Representatives simply wait and see how their districts vote before making any decisions on where to park their supervotes? Will there be more defections as time goes on?

This defection trend, if you can call it a trend, would be in close alignment, by the way, to what seems to be a growing movement among the Democratic voters, as voiced recently by the Chairwoman of the 2008 Democratic Convention, Nancy Pelosi:

“It's not just following the returns; it's also having a respect for what has been said by the people. It would be a problem for the party if the verdict would be something different than the public has decided.”
A similar notion is promoted by and Democracy for America. In the end though, and all rhetoric aside, what is likely to happen in the very near term, long before there is a floor battle on a hot August night in Denver, there will be a consensus among the superdelegates, and a migration toward the front runner - the so-called bandwagon effect.

What we are going to be seeing, besides the defections mentioned above, is a lot of fence sitting much like what we see in Congressman Jim Marshall (GA-8):

“I have been approached by both sides. I think I’m going to sit tight and just see how things progress in the different primaries that we’re about to have over the next couple of months.”
And that appears to be what is happening among the Democratic heavy hitters: Al Gore, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, and others. Party elders who have withheld their endorsements with the view that perhaps it will all work itself out before the end of the primaries on June 7th. If not, then perhaps exchanging an individual endorsement for a ticket to being a power broker at the convention is not a bad move to make.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

To Republican Request For Rick Noriega’s Military Records: You Sure You Want A Dog in This Hunt?

Texas State Rep. LTC Rick Noriega got a message from the Republican Party this past week. In it, they asked him whether he would release to them his Texas National Guard military records. Here is how they framed it in Republican party spokesman Hans Klinger’s letter to Rick:

“You have indicated that you intend to make military experience, integrity and transparency the cornerstones of your campaign. We are grateful for your service to this great country and we agree that those that seek higher office should support transparency and openness regarding all of their public service records”

“It is with that transparency in mind that we would like to officially request that you sign the enclosed letter authorizing the Texas National Guard to release all of your records from your military service and return it to us no later than . . . ”

I like that part about “transparency”, because it is transparent to me, to Rick’s campaign, and to anyone who reads this message that drips in poisonous sincerity that the Republican Party of Texas, and the Cornyn campaign, have it in mind to pick apart Rick Noriega’s military service record. They plan to do it in the same heinous ways that were perpetrated on the 2004 John Kerry presidential campaign by the Bob Perry-financed “Swiftboater’s for Truth” campaign. The campaign that gave the English language the verb “to swiftboat”. I also like Rick Noriega’s response to their fawning request:

“I am concerned that your intentions in this matter are not honorable. In the past, some Republicans have conducted dishonest and disreputable attacks on veterans.”

The release goes on:

“Noriega states in the letter that he welcomes honest scrutiny of his over two decades of military service, including his deployment to Afghanistan and his service as the Laredo Sector commander in the fight against drug and human trafficking along the Texas-Mexico border.”

I have a comment and a question. The comment is this: if you are as angry as I am about this attempt to besmirch the military career of Rick Noriega, why not sign Noriega's petition to stop the smear attacks before they start?

Now here is my question, directed to the Cornyn campaign, and to the “Dogs of War” that these Karl Rovian veteran bashers plan to release this election season:

Are you sure you want a dog in this hunt?

Are you sure that your man, the guy who votes against sending our soldiers the necessary equipment to prevent bodily injury, the guy who votes against veterans benefits, is up to this fight?

Where was John Cornyn when his draft number, number 28, was called on that fateful August day in 1971? When men were called to military service that year, draft numbers up to number 95 were called.

When your country called men of your age group to military service, Senator John Cornyn, where were you?

I have friends who were called up that year. I have relatives that served honorably and were killed in action in Vietnam.

Where. Were. You. John. Cornyn?

Are you sure that your dog will hunt in this? Are you sure that Texans, who are very, very sensitive in this area, want to see a Vietnam chickenhawk attack the military record of a veteran of Afghanistan? What you decided to do back when you were of draft age may have seemed like a good idea then, but how do you suppose it is going to play now? Now that we have men and women fighting and dying overseas again?

Better think again about this one.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Ron Reynolds Campaign Responds to Smear Tactics: The Gloves Are Off

I have gotten a copy of a flyer that is going out to Texas HD 27 voters this week. It is perhaps in answer to a door-to-door canvassing that Texas State Representative Dora Olivo's campaign has embarked upon.

Sadly, Dora Olivo's campaign has just demonstrated that it is indeed behind a smear campaign that intends to drag the name of a good and decent young man through the mud. They reproduced a blogger's post on Missouri City attorney Ron E. Reynolds, a posting that I suspect has been heavily influenced by information provided by the campaign. I am in the way of knowing that the blogger has been contacted, and has had circumstances explained to him, but has not presented a more balanced story in any subsequent posting.

That's his perogative.

The Reynolds campaign, from what I can see, has decided to respond to Olivo's smear. They intend to respond to their deception with truth: the sad but true facts about this Texas State Representative.

The following is a reasonable facsimile of a flyer that is appearing all over HD 27 this week. I wanted to reproduce it as faithfully as I could so that you can see what is going on here in Fort Bend County: a primary battle that has gone to the next level.

The gloves are off.

Dora Olivo:

  • Funded by the three biggest Republican lobbyists in Texas, as well as GOP Speaker Tom Craddick, Bob Perry's PACs, and a host of other right-wing donors
  • Routinely crosses the aisle to vote against our party with the Republican party
  • Wrote the bill that outlaws stem cell research
  • Has a hostile relationship with many of her Democratic State Representative peers
  • Not endorsed by ANY local Democratic elected officials
  • Has become an ineffective voice in Austin with the worst bill “fail rate” of any legislator in the last Texas House session





Award-winning Civil Rights Attorney
Former Associate Municipal Judge
NAACP President, Missouri City Branch

Endorsed by over 80 Democratic leaders including
Congressman Al Green, Constable Ruben Davis,
Commissioner Grady Prestage, the Honorable Jesse

Paid for by the Ron Reynolds Campaign, Curtis Williams, Treasurer

UPDATE: I don't know how I missed it but it is always possible. Mark B. left a comment with a link here that the above-mentioned blogger commented in a subsequent posting on the Kuffner podcast of his interview with Reynolds. He follows Kuffner in commenting that "you have to give Reynolds credit for talking about this in this way", so I'd have to say that he has backed off a little from his all out assault on Reynolds' character. That was nice.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Clinton’s Reliance On Strong Hispanic Support in Texas Has A Flaw

I noted this in the New York Times, and now see that a Daily Kos blogger has noted it as well. Texas has just about the most arcane system of delegate selection as you will ever imagine. We actually have to hold seminars on how the process works, and most attendees leave them shaking their heads.

The Texas system of convention delegate selection is not the pro rata system you see in other states. In Texas, delegates are apportioned to our 31 State Senate Districts, and the number of delegates each district is allotted depends on the voter turnout in the previous election cycle, in this case, the midyear election in 2006.

What the New York Times article contends is that in 2006, Hispanic-dominated areas experienced low voter turnouts, whereas African-American dominated areas had unusually large turnouts. That being the case, more delegates will be allotted to the latter districts than to the former. If Hillary Clinton is depending on a huge Hispanic voter turnout, and it may well happen based on turnout in California, the campaign had better plan on a reduced effect, delegate-wise, because Hispanic dominated areas will have fewer delegates allocated to them.

Or at least that’s what they say in the article.

Personally, I don’t know. I recall a fairly low voter turnout in Fort Bend County’s Precinct 2 – an area of eastern Fort Bend County that has a very strong African-American presence. However, voter turnout in Hispanic-dominated portions of western Fort Bend was also disappointingly low. But that’s my local take.

We all know that Hillary Clinton’s campaign is heavily courting the El Paso area as well as Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley; all three are high density centers of Hispanic voters. So how many delegates have been allotted to those areas? All totaled up, these areas comprise Senate Districts 29, 19, 21, 20, and 27. These 5 Senate Districts have been allocated a total of 18 delegates. OK, add to that SD 26, a heavily Hispanic district in and around San Antonio, and you have a total of 22 delegates.

If these districts all go in a big way to Clinton, and there is no reason right now to assume any differently, then she will garner the lion’s share of those delegates. That’s 22 out of 126 up for grabs on March 4th.

I once met a woman who counseled me on the importance of keeping my options open and my nets cast wide. My area of concern was fairly well-defined and narrow, and she wisely advised me to increase the diversity of my clientele. This is also a good piece of advice for Clinton’s handlers, especially here in wild and wooly Texas, where a prize plum in one state is a mediocre Valley orange in another. Barring that, she said, if I wanted to keep all my eggs on one basket, she told me to not to take my eyes off that basket.

And that’s not a bad advice for Clinton’s people, either.

On Hiring Retired Teachers: Why It Isn’t Done

You would think that the State of Texas, and the over one thousand school districts that make up its public education system would be looking for the best teachers it could find these days.

You would think.

These days, the number of qualified teachers coming out of colleges and universities statewide is on the decline. Competition from the private sector, which on the whole pays better than a public school teacher brings home, is largely to blame. And while the starting salary for teachers is starting to become competitive with some areas of the private sector, that salary scale does not keep pace with inflation or any other thing. Year to year salary bumps are largely arbitrary and not based on anything other than time served. So after 5 years, just at about the time novice teachers becomes adept in their jobs, there is a tremendous pressure on them to leave the profession for better paying jobs. Within education (administration or counseling) or without.

One way to fill the ever-widening gap between teacher supply and demand would be to tap one very valuable Texas resource: the retired teacher.

Retired teachers are in overabundance in Texas. Many found themselves prematurely retired due to changes in federal laws which practically forced them to leave teaching or lose thousands of dollars in retirement benefits. Many of these teachers have slowly made their way back to the teaching profession in private schools, but this has not helped to mitigate the teacher shortages in public schools.

Why not? Why do retired teachers avoid work in public education? Answer: it’s not them, it is the state. An agency of the State of Texas purposely engineers it so that retired teachers are not welcome in Texas school districts.

Specifically it is the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. The system that pays retirement benefits to all retired teachers of Texas. If a public school district wants to hire a retired teacher, it seems, the district must pay to the Teacher Retirement System a surcharge of 12.4% of that teacher’s salary.

And because a teacher’s salary is based on years of teaching experience, the surcharge that results from their being hired is no small matter.

So rather than hiring back experienced veteran teachers in an environment that is becoming infamous for its personnel shortages, districts instead are encouraged to hire inexperienced teachers with no state certifications and very little, if any, classroom experience.

And you have the Teacher Retirement System of Texas to thank for that.

Point to ponder: I wonder when some Texas legislator/alumnus of the Texas education system will use this in a political spin on the value of a school voucher system, where private schools hire veteran teachers because the dastardly, pinch-penny cheap public schools won’t?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Watch Rick Noriega on Live Streaming Video Tonight

It’s official. The Rick Noriega for Senate campaign has just announced that they will carry tonight’s debate to be held on the University of Texas campus via live streaming video on their website.

The debate is scheduled to begin at 8 PM (CST) sharp so make sure you have all your PCs tuned to the proper channel.

Click HERE to go to the live stream website.

The debate is reportedly between State Rep LTC Rick Noriega who announced his candidacy for Senate to run against Bush rubberstamp John Cornyn after a prolonged Netroots draft movement, and a private school teacher named Fred McMurrey. Or Ray. Ray, I think it is. Why this debate has to occur at all is still a mystery to me, but I will watch it anyway just to see how well our man Rick is speaking these days. I heard and read the “Had Enough” speech that he gave to the Texas AFL-CIO convention, and that one was a doozey.

Although Fred was great in the TV series “My Three Sons”, and I especially liked his performance as an absent minded professor in a movie of the same name (but you have to take into account that I was 5 years old when I saw that movie).

I hear that the questions to be asked to the candidates were submitted by email from the online community. Much has been made of the fact that Rick Noriega dominates the blogosphere in having a fiercely loyal support group, as well as having friends in high places who organized this event, so one wonders just how kind the questions will be to the Johnny-Come-Lately challenger who really has no will or resources to mount a state-wide campaign against a well-funded Rovian Republican machine.

My one question, that I didn’t actually submit, is what does Fred . . . er . . .Ray have to complain about now that he has finally gotten his one-on-one debate with the far and away front runner in this race? Stated succinctly, what does he have to whine about now?

I really would like to hear the answer to that.

Well, no, not actually, but it sounded fair and balanced, didn’t it?

The campaign has just provided a link to embed the live stream in any website. So if you want, just click on the link below to get the live feed via US Strem starting at 8 PM central time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obama Sweeps Chesapeake

It has been awhile since my fellow bloggers have made any delegate count postings and I thought maybe they were too busy, so I went and got the CNN tally. CNN, by the way, declared Obama the winner of the Virginia primary by 64% to Clinton's 35%, Maryland by 60% to Clinton's 27% (22% of precincts reporting) and DC by 75% to Clinton's 24%.

Current Delegate Count as of 2/12/2008:

Obama: 1052 Pledged, 156 Superdelegate: Total = 1,208
Clinton: 951 Pledged, 234 Superdelegate: Total = 1,185

The oldest guy that the GOP can field that doesn't have one foot in the grave: still ahead.

For your viewing pleasure and education, I thought I would put up the Washington Post/AP analysis of the historical polling of McCain vs. Clinton should be the race in November, and the same analysis of McCain vs. Obama.

Pretty enlightening

What a Friend We Have in J. R.

J.R. Perez made it to the front page of FortBendNow twice today. A most startling story on the Fort Bend County Elections Administrator first appeared before noon today, disclosing Perez’ fears that there would not be enough of the Hart Intercivic “Dial-A-Vote” voting machines to service the upcoming March 4th primaries. Citing record turnouts in other states, Perez became concerned about having 40% of registered county voters actually showing up to vote in the primary.

A 40% turnout, it seems will crater our county’s voting system.

The voters, Perez has noted, are coming out to the polls in record numbers for a primary season. Democrats mainly. Democrats are most enthusiastically appearing at the polls this year in record numbers to make their wishes known – and maybe to cast a preliminary NO vote against all things Republican.

That notwithstanding, why is our county elections office under-equipped with voting machines? Have we been playing it fast and loose with past trends? Thinking that maybe the status quo is de rigueur here in Fort Bend County? Our commissioner’s court appears to be so enrapt with these high tech wonders, after all.

Now I am beginning to wonder whether that love affair that our county commissioners have had with Hart Intercivic and their abomination that they call a voting machine has all been part of a larger plan. A Karl Rove-ian- hatched plan that proposes to make it as hard as possible for citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Such long, long lines and waiting periods were noted all over the county during the November ’06 general election. Clearly more machines were needed just to handle a mid-term general election. Now we have the biggest primary event to come to Texas in over 50 years, and . . . oh my . . . we don’t have enough machines to go around.

But wait, there’s more.

In the afternoon, Perez met with the commissioners who were pretty disturbed over all of this, especially about Perez’ comments to a Fox News reporter that he wasn’t going to be able to get enough machines for the county, that he would need to buy paper ballots and optical scanners to make up the shortfall, and that the county commissioners would not support him. “…we gave you everything you asked for,” said Precinct 4 commissioner Patterson.

Perez replied that he “recommended in August for paper ballots. I was overruled, and so I went out and bought more equipment.”

And now, since all of that equipment will not fulfill the needs of the county voters, Perez is now proposing to scrap the entire paperless ballot system.

Can I get a big HALLELUIAH?

Yes, J.R. Perez proposes that the county sell the Hart paperless system and buy optical scanners and paper ballots. He predicts that the county should get 50 cents on the dollar for the Hart Intercivic machines (although I would take another look at that market, J.R., I suspect that you’ll find the market pretty soft for paperless ballot machines these days).

So what bodes for the primary just 3 short weeks away? Nothing good. Perez says that he will just have “to grin and bear it. And I hope people appreciate standing in line”.

No, he said that, I didn’t make it up.

Famous last words on the subject come from our Precinct 2 commissioner, Democrat Grady Prestage, who quipped:
“For the primary, you don’t have a lot of choice, just go ahead and hunker down. We were a victim of trying to rush into technology. From everything I can see, we will be back to optical scan systems.”
That is, an optical scan system with a paper trail.

This underlines what lots of us have been saying. DON’T WAIT TO CAST YOUR BALLOT UNTIL MARCH 4th!!! Early voting is for EVERYONE. Avoid the lines and confusion. Early Voting for the March 4th primary starts Tuesday February 19th and goes through Friday February 29th.

Monday, February 11, 2008

How Much Does It Cost to Be Texas Speaker of the House?

According to the complaint filed by the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice, it’s going to take at least 250 large if Tom Craddick has his way.

I don’t know, it looks pretty blatant to me. You be the judge and take a look for yourself. Here is the 30-Day before primary February 4th 2008 electronic filing for the Texas Jobs PAC, a PAC that had a zero balance in its January 15th semi-annual filing, but all of a sudden had well over 300 thousand in contributions in its February 4th filing. One of the largest contributions is to be found at the bottom of page 5, a $250,000 contribution from the Tom Craddick Campaign Fund. This contribution is dated 10 January, 2008. On the very next page, the political expenditures, shows three payments of $50,000 each to House Democrats, Kevin Bailey, Kino Flores, and Aaron Peña – all dated 11 January, 2008. Another such payment allegedly went to Dawnna Dukes, but it is said that she refused the contribution. Of the other three, only Kevin Bailey has commented on receipt of the funds.

I mean, really, it takes only one day and the money is laundered? Has it gotten so perversely corrupt in Austin? One day the Jobs PAC gets a tremendous boost, and the next it is all but gone to three House Democrats who supported Tom Craddick in the last speaker election? Can the intent be any more clear? Here is the gist of the complaint:

"Under the so-called speaker’s statute, speaker candidates are prohibited from using any political funds accepted under Title 15 of the Election Code to aid their candidacy. The $250,000 that Texas Jobs PAC received came from Craddick campaign funds that were accepted under Title 15. "

Well, according to the Chron story, the case, filed at the Travis County DA’s office, as are all complaints of criminal malfeasance of public officials filed in this state, is currently under review in their “Public Integrity Unit”. Out of this same organization sprang the criminal money laundering indictments against Tom DeLay, indictments that are still hanging over his head.

That investigation, by the way, cost Tom Craddick’s campaign fund $75,000 in lawyers’ fees. 75 grand just to get his name taken off the DA’ suspect list.

I wonder how much it will cost him this time?