Saturday, September 20, 2014

A rope-a-dope

It was good to finally be able to watch a governor's debate in Texas.  It wasn't all that good to watch this debate.

Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis came out swinging on issue after issue in Friday's debate against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, the front-runner in their race for governor.

From fair pay to the right to abortion, from the Voter ID law to education funding, to Abbott's comments about the border, Davis sought to portray Abbott as an official who "will favor his insider friends" rather than working for everyday Texans.

Abbott fended off the attacks calmly, painting himself as a warrior against an overreaching federal government while seeking to tie his opponent to an unpopular president, at one point asking Davis whether she regretted having voted for Barack Obama.

As I recommended, she broke some eggs... but as the Chron noted, Abbott remained calm, even confident.  If you didn't listen to the words he was saying, you'd never have the slightest suspicion he was a deeply crazy person.

Davis' delivery, an unquavering monotone, is somewhat robotic; her dry, flat presentation belies her fierce heart and determination.  Her case against the Republican was firm, factual, and direct.  And by full contrast, Abbott's relaxed demeanor shows the experience of a man who has argued before the Supreme Court.  Even as he dogwhistles to the TeaBaggers and pushes every one of the most conservative buttons, he's speaking carefully and smiles slightly.  Just one of the many lies...

"I'm in favor of requiring voter IDs," said Abbott. "Voter fraud is real and the voter IDs is the only way to stop it."

It was disconcerting to watch Wendy Davis win the debate on its merits even as she lost because her opponent simply dodged all of her punches.

The moderator, Ryan Wolf, was truly awful.  He screamed over Davis as she rebutted in the candidates' Q&A, an exchange he was compelled to acknowledge afterward that he was wrong about for not understanding the ground rules.  It made Davis look as if she was hyper-aggressive.  Abbott's campaign has already turned the focus to 'hysterical woman'.

Oh, could we complain about this format.  The only thing worse than funereal table cloths, two candidates at separate tables twenty feet apart, and three Valley journalists who didn't seem all that knowledgeable about state issues was the fact that none of the TV stations in Houston who were listed as carrying the live event actually did so (with the exception of Univision).

Suffice it to say that Abbott made no unforced errors, avoided any direct response to either his challenger's or the moderators' questions, spoke in platitudes about his Latina wife and the wonderful Texas economy -- a conservative tale as tall and false as they come, for a long time now -- and was thus able to roll off the field and declare victory.

It felt a lot like 2006, as when Chris Bell mopped the floor with Rick Perry's hair while Kinky and Grandma kicked the governor while he was down, and yet still won re-election (39%) because the majority of the electorate in Texas doesn't really care about any of this.

They're off watching high school football on a Friday night.  Which is the most perfect analogy of the next generation's brain damage in regard to civic affairs that can be observed.

More from the Startle-Gram, the Chronic, the AP via Indiana, Reuters, and Houston's KPRCUpdate: And Kuff, more succinct and still spot-on even without watching it.

One more of these at the end of the month.  Hope it's more watchable.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Proposition 1: Texas state highway repair

Richard Whittaker at the Austin Chroncle with the helpful assist.

There's a multibillion-dollar transportation initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot. [...] State Proposition 1, which could put $1.5 bil­lion a year into road repair and maintenance. And chances are good that you have heard nothing about it.

Currently, what happens is basically that a portion of state gas and oil tax revenue goes into the Economic Stabilization Fund (better known as the "Rainy Day Fund"). If Prop. 1 passes, half that sum would move instead into the State Highway Fund. Unlike Austin's rail proposition, the money will not go to a specific project, but will be spent like any other revenue on the general upkeep and maintenance of Texas roads. Even should Prop. 1 pass, the results will be, at best, a patch job. Lawmakers heard last session that, if current hydrocarbon tax revenues hold, the measure will provide $1.5 billion a year. Unfortunately, the Texas Department of Transportation estimates it faces $5 billion a year in unmet needs.

There's lots of caterwauling from conservatives about fixing our roads -- generally directed at mayors and city councils because of the condition of local streets -- but the neglect of the state's infrastructure has produced a gaping pothole in the budget.

The public vote is an oddity, and nearly didn't happen. Austin Sen. Kirk Watson noted that, between the anti-tax, anti-fee, anti-toll, anti-rail, and anti-debt groups, "everyone had a way to be against whatever the funding was." Normally, constitutional amendments like Proposition 1 take place in the first election after the session in which the Legislature approves them; but knowing the measure was controversial, Speaker Joe Straus got lawmakers to delay it a year, so it would not endanger voter approval of the new $2 billion State Water Implementation Fund. Now the road funds are the only statewide proposition, and seemingly have fallen into oblivion.

"It's definitely flying under the radar," said Scheleen Walker, director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. The group has not taken an official position on the measure, instead concentrating on endorsements in local and statewide races. It's a complicated issue: Environmental groups generally are frustrated by the lack of rail and public transit options in the proposition, but then, congested roads generate more pollution. Still, Walker said she's been telling voters to ask themselves one simple question: "Is this the issue that you really want to tie up Rainy Day funds?"

Starting to see the big picture?  By refusing to raise gas taxes for twenty years -- a period of time that coincides with the takeover of state politics by Republicans -- Texas now has crumbling roads and bridges.  And as usual, blames Washington for it.

So why aren't Texans talking about the first serious investment in road infrastructure since the last gas tax increase, two decades ago? Watson suggests there's no spare political energy. He said, "There's been a few editorials, but it's all being subsumed in everything from the governor's race to, right here in Austin, the other Prop. 1" (the local transportation bond). He's still optimistic the measure will pass. "Most people, when they hear what the proposition is and does and will achieve, they'll go, 'well that's a no-brainer'."

It's somewhat revealing that well-connected Republicans are all in.  Even the most crony of conservatives are fully cognizant of the fact that the biggest obstacle to progress they must overcome is the "NO" caucus in their own party.

A handful of "Yes on One" groups have sprung up, most with strong links to the GOP: Former TxDoT chair and Gov. Rick Perry's chief of staff Deirdre Delisi sits on the board of Move Texas Forward, while Karen Rove, wife of Karl Rove and a heavy-hitting lobbyist in her own right, serves as treasurer of Texas Infrastructure Now. However, neither group has made a major splash. The most high profile campaigning has actually been from out of state: In July, Wisconsin-based Case Construction Equip­ment sent its Dire States tour, highlighting collapsing infrastructure, on a seven-day excursion to Texas in July, and returns on Sept. 22. Why does a Wisconsin corporation care about a Texas proposition? Spokesman Bill Elverman admitted that, in part, it's because they have large commercial construction customers in Texas. Yet there's also a worrying lack of national discussion about infrastructure investment. Congress is at an impasse over the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and Missouri voters recently rejected a temporary sales tax increase for bridge and road investment. By contrast, he called Prop. 1 "a very unique opportunity, because there's no new taxes and no tolls."

No taxes, no tolls, just spending our Rainy Day money.

If Watson is right, and voters approve the $1.5 billion a year this November, that still leaves the big question of how to cover the other $3.5 billion needed just to maintain the status quo. The Democrat will be pushing to end gas tax diversions ("I'm going to scream bloody murder to make that happen," he said, and he will seemingly have Straus' support). However, that would only raise another $1 billion, and Watson expects to fend off the only major suggestion coming from the right: Transfer all sales taxes on motor vehicles to roads. Continuing to advocate for fiscal transparency, Watson slammed that as just another diversion, one "that would blow a $3.2 billion hole in the state budget."

Republicans decry 'tax and spend', but their "cut taxes too much and keep spending too little" policies result in a poorer Texas for everyone.  Forcing them to manage the state budget by increasing a consumption tax -- just once in ten legislative sessions -- is too painful a price for them to pay, politically.  So we'll have to see what rabbits they can pull out of their hat next year to balance the budget.  There probably won't be any federal stimulus funds that can be moved around in order to put Texas in the black.

Maybe with all of the rain we've been getting this year, the Lege can kick the can down the road in dealing with the drought for a couple more years.  Yes! That's the ticket!

Update: More from Eye on Williamson on how Rick Perry sees it as part of his legacy.  Those glasses he's wearing are completely worthless.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Payback, TXGOP style

When you go up against these thugs, you better be well-armed and well-prepared.

Nearly seven months after the 4th Court of Appeals ruled prosecutors had missed the deadline to file a contempt claim against local defense attorney Michael McCrum, the decision was reversed Wednesday by Texas' highest court for criminal matters.

The Court of Criminal Appeals opinion again opens the possibility that McCrum — currently serving as special prosecutor in the case against Gov. Rick Perry, who is also accused of professional misconduct — could spend up to six months in jail if found in contempt of court.

McCrum has denied any wrongdoing.

The Bexar County district attorney's office filed the contempt motion against McCrum in January, several months after a trial in which his client, Taylor Rae Rosenbusch, was convicted of intoxication manslaughter.

Prosecutors alleged McCrum had instructed Melanie Little, a punishment-phase witness who had served as Rosenbusch's addiction counselor, to “get lost for awhile,” turn off her cellphone and take a long lunch to avoid coming back to testify.

He was also accused in court documents of having told her “the DA was out for blood” and “wanted Taylor to be put away for a long time.”

A contempt hearing began in January, but it was halted after McCrum's attorneys took the case to the San Antonio-based 4th Court of Appeals, arguing that the state missed its deadline. The 4th Court agreed, ruling in February that the state was five days late.

The article goes on to detail some of the long-standing grievances between McCrum and the Bexar County DA's office.  Bad blood indeed.

The Fourth Court of Appeals, noteworthy for its seven women justices -- several are Latina -- has jurisdiction over thirty-two Central and South Texas counties, and the evidence suggests that it is a good mix of Democrats and Republicans.  The Court of Criminal Appeals is an entirely different kettle of (Republican extremist) fish.  Presiding judge Sharon "Killer" Keller is someone I've long blogged about; she has her own ethical challengesThree of the nine seats on that court are on your November ballot, and one of the Republican candidates, Bert Richardson, is the man who appointed McCrum special prosecutor.

That could make for some awkward moments next year in the CCA building.

I'd like to see more develop out of this investigation or hearing or whatever it may be called as it moves forward, but I expect McCrum and his counsel to be ready and able to defend his integrity, should the claims against him proceed.

I just don't think Rick Perry's indictments are going away so easily.

Update: More from Texas Lawyer.

The Friday Night Fight

A few more things worth noting as we move closer to the action.


They’ve sniped at each other from afar, blasted the airwaves with TV ads, held rallies, made phone calls and raised money.  Now, for the first time, the candidates for Texas governor will face each other in person in a live, televised debate.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, the front-runner, has the most to lose in the high-stakes Friday night encounter. The Republican is favored to win and has been limiting his unscripted public appearances lest he blow his sizable lead.

Despite his front-runner status and longevity in Texas politics, Abbott has only appeared in one formal TV debate as a statewide candidate — a 30-minute 2002 encounter with then-Democratic attorney general candidate Kirk Watson, the Abbott campaign confirmed.

I'm not sure how Abbott's campaign defines 'formal', but he did appear with Barbara Radnoksy, his Democratic challenger and Jon Roland, the Libertarian, on Houston public television's 'Red, White, and Blue' in 2010.  She called him "Rick Perry's consigliere".  I posted about it here; the video link is still alive.  It's accurate, however, that Abbott completely ignored David Van Os in 2006 (I know this because I helped run that campaign).  And Van Os also ran against Abbott in 1998, for the Texas Supreme Court, a contest I'm certain was covered in the same great detail as today's media does SCOTX races.  The scalding truth is that Greg Abbott has pretty much coasted through his several elections.  Not this time (even if the general consensus suggests it).

“For Abbott, it’s going to be seen more as a source of risk than opportunity,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “He needs to stay on message for Republican voters and not produce anything that is a headline the next day that will disturb existing patterns.”

Or, in football parlance, Henson predicted Abbott’s strategy will be: “Play defense, declare victory and exit the field.”

Yeah, we'll see how that goes.  It should be fun to see if he can avoid screwing up.

The one-hour debate, hosted by The Monitor newspaper, will be held in the Rio Grande Valley at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance this Friday at 6 p.m.  Davis won a coin toss and elected to take the first question.  Each candidate gets a minute to respond to questions, and the opponent will be offered a 45-second rebuttal.

There will be ample opportunity for fireworks when the candidates are prompted to ask their opponent a question.

Voters can tune in to a livestream of the debate at The Monitor newspaper’s website, themonitor.com.  TV stations owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, including KEYE in Austin and WOAI in San Antonio, will also air the debate live, organizers said.

C-SPAN will re-broadcast the debate at 9 p.m. Central Standard Time on Friday, the network said.  The Monitor is sponsoring the one-hour debate along with KGBT Action 4 News, the local CBS affiliate, and KTLM Channel 40, the Spanish-language Telemundo TV station.  The candidates will be grilled by Action’s 4’s Ryan Wolf, KTLM’s Dalila Garza and The Monitor’s Carlos Sanchez.

So what about that polling, anyway?

...The best way to “know” what’s truly going on, besides polling everybody (or having an actual election), is to use an estimate based on the average (loosely speaking) of the public (i.e., non-internal) polls that have followed professional norms of disclosure. As already stated, one poll is usually pretty robust if that’s all you have, but two are better than one, and three are better than two. In the case of the Abbott-Davis contest, the averages show — even with intermittent polling from various sources — about a 12- to 13-point gap in Abbott’s favor.

This estimate makes a fair amount of intuitive sense, particularly if you factor in the margins of error in the public polls we have to work with in Texas. Polls come with a margin of error, which in most of the Abbott-Davis polling has been 3.5 to 4.5 percentage points. So a poll that posits an 8-point race could be a 4- or 12-point one, and an 18-point race could be a 22- or 14-point one. Based on previous vote margins in Texas (for example, Rick Perry’s 55-42 defeat of Bill White in 2010), a 12- to 14-point race — somewhere between the two numbers that have been so heavily reported — sounds plausible right now.

Noah said a few days ago that he thought it was ten.  Fifty-five to forty-two sounds about right to me today, same as Rick Perry versus Bill White four years ago as the TexTrib noted.

Senator Davis is going to have to break some huevos in order to scramble this race.

The Texas State Bored of Education

Yes, it's a headline I have used previously.  Sadly it remains apropos.  When you combine Republican straight-ticket voting with abysmally low turnout, this is what you get.

Amid uproar in conservative circles about perceived anti-American bias in the new Advanced Placement U.S. History course and exam, Texas on Wednesday moved to require its high school students to learn only state-mandated curriculum — not be taught to the national test.

The Board of Education approved a measure declaring that the history curriculum its members set trumps that covered by the AP history course created for classrooms nationwide. That class concludes with an exam that can earn college credit for students who score high enough.

The board must still take a final vote, but the measure's content isn't expected to change.

Just so everyone's clear, this is a similar problem -- but not the same one -- with respect to the ongoing controversy about what goes into the school texts in Texas.

The controversy stems from the recent overhaul of the AP test, administered by the New Jersey-based College Board, that was meant to de-emphasize memorization. The new exam will be given for the first time in May and includes a lengthy framework to help teachers better-prepare students for the requirements.
Conservative activists, though, have decried the new course, the teachers' framework and even the exam itself as rife with liberal themes and focusing on the negative aspects of U.S. history. Some have even likened it to "mind control" engineered by the federal government.

Board Member Ken Mercer, a San Antonio Republican, called for Texas to delay implementation of the new AP test in Texas. But since the board has no jurisdiction over a national test, members compromised with Wednesday's measure.

In 2013, about 47,500 Texas high school students took the AP History exam, and about 18,600 earned college credit. AP History students this year will still take the new exam, but will prepare for it by studying Texas-sanctioned curriculum.

Personal aside: I don't have children so I won't be having any grandchildren.  So conservatives ask me -- too often -- why do I care what they teach in public schools?  Why am I not busy complaining about the taxes I pay to school districts?  And such as that.

The answer is easy:  I don't want to live in a nation of morons and a state full of simpletons.


When conservative and religious extremists get elected to the Texas SBOE -- because of the afore-mentioned straight-ticket voting that isn't countered by the minority, the thinking class -- we get science textbooks that deny climate change, history textbooks that downplay segregation in the South, and social studies textbooks that allege that Moses was the father of American democracy.

Two things.

1.  When people say they don't vote, ask them why they want their school children taught that Jesus rode a dinosaur 6,000 years ago... when the Earth was first created by God?

The SBOE races on your November ballot might just be the most important ones.

2.  This goes well beyond making Texas a laughing stock.  It is understood in certain business and entrepreneurial circles that the low tax environment in the Lone Star State isn't enough to overcome the low education of its next generation of workers, to say nothing of the disservice already done to low-income and minority students.

An analysis from the state higher education board estimates that almost 6,000 additional students would need remedial education once they reached four-year and community colleges at a cost of $2.3 million annually as a result of altering the high school curriculum.

The talk of diploma endorsements has also raised old fears about the shuttling of minority and low-income students into vocational programs, a concern TEA chief (Michael) Williams often cites in public remarks.

John Fitzpatrick, the executive director of Educate Texas, which promotes college preparation and workforce development, said he worried the lower-quality classroom instruction students in poor, minority neighborhoods all too often received could be exacerbated by the new plans that provide more options for career and technology education.

“Having worked both as a school board member and a teacher, I also know too often what the default is," he told lawmakers.

See, there are even a few Republicans who get it.  If you really think Elon Musk decided to build his gigawatt battery factory outside of Reno because of a few extra tax breaks from the Nevada state legislature... then you might be a recent product of Texas public schooling.

It all starts with voting, folks.  And it ends with knowing who you are voting for.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quotables

"Voters tend to look at governors the way they hire plumbers or electricians. Do they have a good reputation? Will they take care of the problems? Will they leave you alone otherwise?" said John Weingart, director of the Center on the American Governor at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Just no crack in the back, that's all they care about.

"I really don't know anything about who's running for governor right now, because I'm busy with other things in my life," said Gloria Orta-Lopez, 44, an Austin online marketing consultant who says she leans Democratic but likes the tea party mantra of less government.

Nick Davis, a Round Rock construction project supervisor, said he has perused the websites of both candidates and is leaning toward Abbott, although he admitted he is not particularly happy with Texas' current state after a decade of Republican leadership.

"Taxes are too high. Government has gotten bigger and bigger, not smaller. ... Before I vote, I'm going to see which one of them will get us there," he said.

A pox on both your houses.

-- My advice is to stop listening to anything he says.

“I think the first executive order that I would issue would be to repeal all previous executive orders,” (Senator Rand) Paul said, when a man in the audience asked him about the topic, according to multiple reporters present.

“Democracy is messy, but you have to build consensus to pass things. But it’s also in some ways good, because a lot of laws take away your freedom. So it should be hard to pass a law.”

Any rising Republican star with presidential ambitions who promised to wipe out nearly 230 years of executive decision-making would attract attention, and Paul was no exception.

Reporters who followed up with questions about the thinking behind Paul’s promise, however, were told by his staff that he wasn’t serious, and they should not take his words at face value.

"Senator Paul's statement was meant to emphasize this president's overt and unconstitutional executive orders, it was not meant to be taken literally," Paul aide Doug Stafford told The Huffington Post.

Oops.

-- Texas textbooks.  Again.

Jacqueline Jones, chairwoman of the University of Texas' History Department, said one U.S. history high school book cheerleads for President Ronald Reagan and the significance of America's free enterprise system while glossing over Gov. George Wallace's attempt to block school integration in Alabama. She also pointed to a phrase stating that "the minimum wage remains one of the New Deal's most controversial legacies."

"We do our students a disservice when we scrub history clean of unpleasant truths," Jones said "and when we present an inaccurate view of the past that promotes a simple-minded, ideologically driven point of view."

Another running battle with ignorance.  Baby, they were born that way... and built to last.

Dead last.

Update: Kuff with more and many more links.

-- Yes, all women.  Even in the US Senate.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Monday that when a male labor leader harassed her about her weight several years ago after she'd had a baby, she had a few choice words she couldn't say at the time.

"I've just had a baby, I've just been appointed [to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate], I have a lot to learn, so much on my plate, and this man basically says to me, 'You're too fat to be elected statewide,'" Gillibrand recalled on HuffPost Live Monday morning. "At that moment, if I could have just disappeared, I would have. If I could have just melted in tears, I would have. But I had to just sit there and talk to him. ... I didn't hear a word he said, but I wasn't in a place where I could tell him to go fuck himself."

In her new book, "Off The Sidelines," Gillibrand shares several anecdotes about male colleagues and political leaders making comments about her weight during and after her pregnancy. She recalled one colleague warning her about getting "porky" after the birth of her second child. Another lawmaker told her she's "even pretty when [she's] fat," and an older senator once grabbed her waist and quipped that he likes his girls "chubby."

But Gillibrand is refusing to name her harassers, because she's trying to make a broader point about the ubiquity of sexism in the workplace.

"It's more important to elevate the debate, to have a national debate about how women are treated in the workplace," she told HuffPost Live. "Because in the broad scheme, it's a drag on the economy when you're undervaluing women, nearly half of our workforce, and chronically paying them less and treating them poorly and not valuing them." 

I'm thinking maybe if they voted in greater numbers -- and more women were elected -- some of this crap might change.  It won't change if women like Joni Ernst in Iowa get elected though, so women (and men) should carefully choose the right women.

-- You're going to want the brain bleach after reading this.

In the last month I’ve read conspiracies claiming that Common Core has dropped cursive in an effort to make our founding documents illegible to us so that the Muslim takeover can begin, and that the UN is preparing to attack America from their staging ground in Alabama. Gun violence-prevention activists see Sandy Hook truthers who claim the slaughter there was orchestrated by Obama, gun extremists who say that the outrageous open carry crowd who brandish assault weapons in family restaurants are actually liberal operatives paid to make gun owners look bad, and that the murdered children of women I know never even existed. The goal is not to believe what is true or even humane, but what is easy and what makes you feel superior in a world that has not offered you the successes you expected. There are verifiable collusions that promote violence in the United States — the financial ties between gun manufacturers and the NRA; the gun lobby’s role in dismantling state and local gun laws — but those are of no concern to denialists and conspiraphiles. Only fantastical tales of socialist/atheist/Islamofascist gun-grabbers, who start by disarming the populace and end by locking you in a FEMA camp, need be entertained.

Or you can just read the Chron.com comments on any story, any day.  Those would be your neighbors (if you live in the unincorporated areas of Harris County, anyway).  They're very old, very white, very religious, and very scared.  They own lots of guns and crates of ammo and still they're terrified of their own shadow.  It's not just Texas; it's everywhere.

The only thing that really bothers me is that these people think they are the majority.  They are, most unfortunately, too often the majority of those who turn out to vote.  And they elect people like them: Louie Gohmert, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Dan Patrick, Greg Abbott.

The rest of us really need to stop letting them do that.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lib Kathie Glass runs on the "Stop Obama" platform

As part of her outreach to Texas Republicans so deranged that Greg Abbott isn't conservative enough for them, Kathie Glass has decided to go for the jugular.



She was grinning when she said it, so I'm pretty sure she's just joking.

On the chance that some folks don't get the joke, here's a message for the retread (2.19% in 2010) Lib gubernatorial candidate: Kathie, you don't have to tear out the throat of the Republican base voters.  A large volume of evidence strongly suggests that their brains stopped receiving enough oxygen to function properly a long time ago.

The two progressive candidates running for Texas Railroad Commission

The commission that oversees oil and gas regulation in Texas has an old-fashioned name and a huge responsibility.  Because it's just far enough down the ballot that casual, non-straight-ticket voters often don't get to it, it has -- in the two-decades-or-so history of Republican domination in the Lone Star State -- turned into a training ground for the worst and most extreme of the GOP to get their feet wet in politics and then try to springboard into higher office.

We should count ourselves lucky that Michael Williams and Barry Smitherman both fell flat on their faces when they jumped.  So that cleared the field, so to speak, for Tom Craddick's daughter to get her start, and for yet another conservative lickspittle -- about whom the best can be said is that he is not Wayne Christian -- to join her in Austin.

In elections past, liberals and progressives have found some of the very best candidates on their ballots for this office.  Unfortunately, qualifications do not register with the majority party, so they elect conservative accountants who lie awake at night scared that terrorists are coming across the southern border to blow up oil and gas facilities.

The Russians are coming, indeed.  Just more embarrassment for us all to endure.

The pattern holds for 2014: Steve Brown, Democrat, and Martina Salinas, Green, stand out as two of the finest options for voters' choosing to be represented on the TXRR.  Last week Houston's League of Women Voters hosted both potential RR commissioners in their hour-long Conversations with the Candidates, which included Libertarian Mark Miller (but apparently not Republican Ryan Sitton).

That video will appear shortly on the LWVH Vimeo channel (link above).  For now, note that Brown has been actively discussing his suggestions for regulating the frackers, as has Salinas, in this appearance in Denton before the city council there voted to ban the gas drilling procedure in their community (they passed it on to the residents to approve or deny as a November ballot initiative).

After the interviews, Salinas also showed up to bridge-blog with the Harris County Greens.


Unlike my Congressional District choices, I like both of these candidates so much that I can encourage a vote for either one without reservation.  No, I don't know which one I'm voting for yet, but I can also recommend that moderate conservatives give a vote to Miller, the Lib, as a backdoor way to get some mitigating influence on the Railroad Commission.

No. straight. ticket. voting.  Please.

A 39-year-old wealthy O&G executive is just more of the same, lame "governance by cronyism" that Texas has had too much of for too long.  There are at least two, and maybe three, better choices.  Pick one.

Davis, Abbott trade blows ahead of Friday debate

Some of these items aren't getting big play, so I'm going to try to push them to the top of the pile.

-- The Wendy Davis ad that declares yet another lapse in oversight by the OAG.



The DMN and the HouChron picked up the story from QR, but it didn't get much traction otherwise. Too "inside baseball"?  Too complicated to understand for the passive voters?  The shot landed hard enough that Abbott screamed about it (click on the first link in this paragraph for his response).

And today, Politifact chimed in, essentially covering for him.

Update: Abbott decides he's been whooped enough, starts swinging back.  The amusing part is questioning her ethics (pot, meet kettle), in particular for when she voted for a tax cut.

Will this be debate fodder for Friday night?

-- The HouChron apparently ignored the story that Wayne Slater at the DMN has trumpeted about Wendy Davis' divorce settlement.  She pushed back; Slater stands by his reporting.

Update: Nonsequiteuse smells the sexism. A hashtag is born: #NoShitWayne  And Gadfly thinks it's more than just sexism, and he's not wrong about that.

Will this be debate fodder for Friday night?

 Update II: This spot, and this issue, should certainly be.



-- In terms of analyzing how policy and politics mix together, this by Peggy Fikac was the best from yesterday.  It's behind the firewall so I'm excerpting a lot of it.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott showcases the tenacity with which he approaches his life in a wheelchair as indicative of the determined leadership he would bring to the governor's office.

His recent television ad, entitled "Garage," encapsulated the message, showing him rolling up the floors of a parking garage and saying that when he wanted to quit, he pushed himself to do "just one more."

The ad was praised by Chris Cillizza of "The Fix," a Washington Post politics blog. Cillizza called it "among the most powerful I've seen this cycle" and said it "humanizes him in an extremely personal and moving way."

The ad is so personal, it seemed jarring when a spokeswoman for Sen. Wendy Davis, Abbott's Democratic opponent, stayed relentlessly on message in responding to it by referring to a case in which Abbott ruled while on the Texas Supreme Court.

"If you had told me Greg Abbott was running an ad titled 'Garage,' I would have assumed it would be an apology to the woman he sided against on the Texas Supreme Court after she was brutally raped in a parking garage," Davis spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña said.

When I checked in with Dennis Borel of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities about the ad and response, neither was high on his radar. His focus is the state policy that will ensue when one of these candidates is elected.

"I really strongly believe, and I think most people who are advocates for people with disabilities believe, that a disability is neither a barrier nor an advantage in potentially serving as governor of Texas," Borel said. "It's kind of not that relevant."

What's relevant is an Abbott proposal to increase the pay for personal attendants who help people with disabilities live in the community, an idea Borel likes.

What's relevant is a legal issue that Borel has pressed Abbott on since his announcement last year: If elected governor, would he support a proposal to waive Texas' claims of sovereign immunity in lawsuits brought against the state alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, so people can get their day in court?

Abbott - who as attorney general has asserted the state's immunity - said no last year through a campaign spokesman. His answer hasn't changed.

"Granted to the states by the 11th Amendment, General Abbott believes sovereign immunity is not a concept that should be treated casually. It must be vigorously defended, which is consistent with his absolute duty to defend the state of Texas whether he is attorney general or governor," said spokesman Matt Hirsch last year.

Asked the same sovereign-immunity question, Davis campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas gave only a general answer. "Wendy Davis believes all Texans should be protected from discrimination. She has worked to improve educational and economic opportunities for people with disabilities and will continue to prioritize those issues as governor."

Borel and other activists expect another chance to press the issue with Davis. She has met with them personally, he said, and has agreed to take part in the Texas Disability Issues Forum co-hosted in Austin by advocacy groups on Sept. 24.

Abbott has declined to attend the forum, "and he has known about it for a very long time," said Borel. He said he has met with Abbott's policy director on issues.

Hirsch said Abbott will be in Midland and Odessa the day of the forum. Borel said Abbott declined appearing at the forum by Skype or doing a video segment that would replicate the questions asked of candidates at the live appearance.

Will this be debate fodder for Friday night?