Friday, July 03, 2020

Friday Lone Star Round Up: Reds have the Blues, #MaskUpTexas, die from COVID or by HPD, etc.

Let's begin with something other than the latest broken news.

Larry Sabato offers more enthusiasm for Congressional Donkey hopefuls in the fall, presented as a frantically waved caution flag and a blaring red alert.

Tellingly, of 18 Texas polls in the RealClearPolitics database matching Biden against Trump dating back to early last year, Trump has never led by more than seven points -- in a state he won by nine in 2016. It seems reasonable to assume that Trump is going to do worse in Texas than four years ago, particularly if his currently gloomy numbers in national surveys and state-level polls elsewhere do not improve.

In an average of the most recent polls, Trump leads by two points in Texas. In 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz won re-election over then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke by 2.6 points. If Trump were to win Texas by a similar margin this November, the congressional district-level results probably would look a lot like the Cruz-O’Rourke race. Those results are shown in Map 1 (see larger version at original link).

Cruz carried 18 districts to O’Rourke’s 16. That includes the 11 districts the Democrats already held in Texas going into the 2018 election, as well as the two additional ones where they beat GOP incumbents (TX-7 and TX-32) and three additional districts that Republicans still hold. Those are TX-23, an open swing seat stretching from San Antonio to El Paso; Rep. Michael McCaul’s TX-10, an Austin-to-Houston seat; and TX-24, another open seat in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

TX-23 is competitive primarily because it’s two-thirds Hispanic, and it already leans to the Democrats in our ratings. TX-10 and TX-24 better fit the suburban mold: both have significantly higher levels of four-year college attainment than the national average (particularly TX-24), and Republican incumbents in both seats nearly lost to unheralded Democratic challengers in 2018.

Cruz won the remaining districts, but several of them were close: TX-2, TX-3, TX-6, TX-21, TX-22, TX-25, and TX-31 all voted for Cruz by margins ranging from 0.1 points (TX-21) to 5.1 (TX-25). These districts all have at least average and often significantly higher-than-average levels of four-year college attainment, and they all are racially diverse.

In other words, these districts share some characteristics of those that have moved toward the Democrats recently, even though they remain right of center.

This is all a long preamble to an alarming possibility for Republicans: If Biden were to actually carry Texas, he might carry many or even all of these districts in the process. In a time when ticket-splitting is less common than in previous eras of American politics (though hardly extinct), that could exert some real pressure on Republicans in these districts.

We already have several of these districts included in our House ratings (see Table 2 at original). But we are moving four additional ones from Safe Republican to Likely Republican: Reps. Dan Crenshaw (TX-2), Van Taylor (TX-3), Ron Wright (TX-6), and Roger Williams (TX-25). They join Rep. John Carter (TX-31) in the Likely Republican category.

To be clear, we don’t really see any of them in immediate danger, and they certainly can and probably will run ahead of Trump in their districts, just like they all ran ahead of Cruz in 2018 (they also likely will have the kind of resource edges that can help make this happen). The same can be said of Sen. John Cornyn at the statewide level, who appears to be doing better than Trump in polls (although that may not last in the end).

Trump’s Texas sag in 2016 didn’t immediately imperil any Texas Republican U.S. House members, except for retiring Rep. Will Hurd in the perpetually swingy TX-23; it took the 2018 midterm, when Trump’s unpopularity led to big House losses for Republicans, to make many of these districts much more competitive. So it’s possible that Biden could do really well, but not have strong enough coattails in these and other similar kinds of districts. We also still like Trump’s chances in Texas, despite the close polls.

However, if that changes -- and if Biden wins the state without much ticket-splitting -- there could be some unpleasant surprises down the ballot for Republicans in Texas. That could also include control of the Texas state House of Representatives, which might be in play if things get bad enough for Republicans this November.

Redistricting looms for 2021; at the very least, Republicans who currently control state government in Texas may have to dramatically re-draw the map to shore up incumbents whose safe seats have eroded over the course of the decade while also accommodating a few new House seats because of Texas’ explosive growth. For Republicans, their gerrymander after the last census (albeit blunted a little by judicial intervention) made practical political sense, but demographic changes and coalition shifts pushed 20 of the 36 districts to vote more Democratic than the state in the 2018 Senate race.

FWIW I counted the word "Republican", Republicans", or "GOP" in the paragraphs below the map 15 times -- not including named individuals -- compared to four times for the words Democrats or Democratic.  Just in case you weren't familiar with Sabato's bias.  The fear is real and palpable among our Great State Pachyderms, as several of the allegedly smart Congress critters (Pete Olson?) got out early while the gettin' was good.

After the State Republican Executive Committee voted last night, by a 2-1 margin, to proceed with convening in person -- in Houston in two weeks -- the Texas Medical Association withdrew their sponsorship.  It's okay, though; the GOP delegates will be wearing the armor of God.  Which means masks, according to Sylvester Turner ...

... unless Greg Abbott caves again to the right-wing freaks and overrules him.

The game to watch now, all the way into 2022, is the Patrick Anti-Mask Caucus versus the Abbott Tightrope Act.  How easy is it to keep your balance on a razor's edge in a wheelchair?  Probably depends on how much money you can raise.

Okay, that's enough conservative stupidity for the week.

Here is an update on the tragic murder of Army soldier Vanessa Guillen.

Here's some environmental Tweets, embedded in the graf following.  This category has been overshadowed by the more pressing daily topics.  I like this one to open, from across the pond.

If it weren't for government handouts, friends like Ted Cruz shielding them from "harmful legislation" and assorted other favors, it might be time to nationalize the industry and then tax it until it is small enough to drown in a bathtub.  But it's hard to get a true picture of the value of these companies.  They could be so overvalued and poorly managed it might not be worth it to the taxpayers.

Sharon Wilson at Earthworks follows up on Total's plans to frack Arlington, Downwinders at Risk identifies Dallas' air monitoring policy as 'CYA', Big D activists want the city to move 'Shingle Mountain', and Texas Environmental News, the very best aggregator for this topic, brings word of the United Steelworkers' lawsuit against the EPA.

The United Steelworkers, the largest U.S. industrial union, filed a suit in federal court to reverse the weakening of a safety rule implemented during the Obama administration. The Chemical Disaster Rule aimed to reduce risks and improve safety at chemical plants.

The Chemical Disaster Rule set stricter requirements in place for chemical plants. The measure followed an explosion in 2013 in a West, Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15 people, including 12 firefighters. The blast injured many more and damaged more than 500 homes.

In January 2017, before President Donald Trump assumed office, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced several changes to risk management plans companies submit to the EPA. These included requiring more analysis of a company's safety technology, more third-party audits, incident investigation analyses and stricter emergency preparedness mandates.

After President Trump took office, a coalition of chemical and energy industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council and American Petroleum Institute, submitted a petition to the EPA to delay and reconsider the Obama-era amendments.

The new rule, finalized in November 2019, eased requirements that chemical plant owners consider safer alternatives to various technologies, obtain third-party audits to verify compliance with accident prevention rules, conduct root cause analyses following incidents, and disclose certain information to communities about their operations. The new rule also delayed the dates of implementation of provisions on coordination with local emergency services and emergency situation exercises.

The new rule comes two years after the EPA sought to suspend the rule. In March 2018, a federal judge reinstated the rule.

Pandemic next.

This story became news after her Tweets went *ahem* viral.

Police department abuse and incompetence is the stench of the week.

We're about to close out a very busy week and head into a long weekend, with the realization that many Americans do not celebrate it in the same way as Anglos, and with few places to go without risk of contracting the plague.

Allen Young in The Rag Blog remembers an image from his childhood -- an obscure moment from 1951 at the United Nations -- that underscores the long US history of racial injustice.

Marking the passing of a renowned Latino author:

And finally ... beaches on Galveston Island are closed this holiday weekend, so read about a time when you would have also feared for your life if you went there.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

White House Update: The Thirds

Like the languid, stifling humidity of a July afternoon in southeast Texas, the ennui of the 2020 presidential campaign between Joe Biden and Donald Trump has now settled to the pitiable level of a mental competency hearing.

Senility is becoming an overt line of attack for the first time in a modern U.S. presidential campaign.


As President Trump ramps up insinuations that his general election rival is doddering, Joe Biden turned the tables on Tuesday, saying Trump “doesn’t seem to be cognitively aware of what’s going on” with his own briefings about Russia and U.S. service members.

At the same news conference where he took a swipe at Trump, Biden was asked by a reporter if he has been tested for cognitive decline.

  • "I've been tested and I'm constantly tested," Biden responded, adding that "I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I'm running against."
  • A Trump campaign Twitter feed played back the clip and asked, "Did Biden take a cognitive test? What were the results? Why is he getting frequently tested?"

Those would be my sentiments.

-- If you haven't been following the Green Party's quadrennial intraparty dysfunction, David Collins has a nuanced and ameliorative take, which I linked in this Tweet.

It may seem as if I don't care who the GP puts up, but I'm all in for Hawkins/Walker.  I like Dario Hunter just fine, wish this squabble between the two weren't happening, but Howie and Angela have secured enough delegates through the proper channels to capture the nom on the first ballot, so the party really should be over for Hunter and his crew of disruptors (Primo Nutmeg, I'm looking at you).  I just don't see where Governor Body fits in to all of this, either, and don't really care.  He had his shot and passed.  Gadfly refried these frijoles in a recent post, which is in Monday's Wrangle.

-- But should the Greens fall into disarray, failing to take advantage of the momentum generated by Berners yearning for a leftist option, then I will write in Mark Charles.

Here's his latest campaign update (from my inbox).

I hope this message finds you well. These past few weeks have been a sobering reminder that the pandemic is still very much with us with skyrocketing Covid-19 cases and it will be a factor throughout the rest of the campaign. Despite this, Donald Trump and Joe Biden have begun holding public and in-person campaign events.

Our campaign, however, is holding to our core stance - we value life. Therefore, we have made the decision to not hold any public, in-person campaign events in the foreseeable future. Voting is essential, but public, in-person campaigning is not. We are living in the 21st century. Most Americans have access to computers, smartphones, internet, television, radio or newspapers. And during a global pandemic, without a vaccine, political candidates certainly can find creative and safer ways to get our political messages out.

Because of this, we will not be collecting signatures in-person to get my name on the ballot in various states. Here is a summary of our current Ballot Access Plan:

  • We are currently collecting signatures electronically and remotely in the states of Illinois, North Dakota, Alaska and Utah.

  • We are making plans to begin remote/electronic signature collection in the states of Connecticut, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Washington.

  • We are raising money to pay a fee to get on the ballot in the states of Oklahoma ($35,000), Colorado ($1,000) and Louisiana ($500).

  • We are also planning to file paperwork to get on the ballot in the state of Vermont (no signatures or fee required).

  • I will not be on the ballot, nor can I be a write-in in the states of New Mexico, Florida, Arkansas, Hawaii, Nevada, South Carolina and South Dakota.

  • In the remaining 32 states I can be a write-in candidate.

This is great news because it means that people will have the opportunity to vote for me in the General Election in 40-44 states!

First 100 Days Plan and other Policies
We are in the midst of unveiling a new policy on a weekly basis. We began two weeks ago with a plan for our first 100 days in office to remove the racist, sexist and white supremacist language from the US Constitution. A draft of the Constitution that contained our proposed edits that we plan to submit to Congress immediately after my inauguration is available here along with a one-page summary of this proposal. Last week we discussed the issues of women’s and LGBTQIA2S+ rights. And this week, leading into the 4th of July, we are discussing Indigenous rights and the Doctrine of Discovery. In the coming weeks, watch for policies regarding human rights, the environment, voting reform, and the economy.

June 2020 has been our best fundraising month to date. As of today we have raised $15,430. We are deeply grateful to everyone who has donated to and supported our campaign. These additional funds have allowed us to bring on more staff, invest more in content creation, promote our campaign and set money aside to pay fees for ballot access.

Looking forward,

  • we need to pay the fees to get on the ballots in OK, CO and LA within the next 5 weeks. None of these states allow write-in candidates, so paying the fee is crucial to get on the ballot.

  • We also have identified some additional staffing needs for our communication team.

We would love to raise an additional $4,700 today bringing our June total to $20,000. And then by raising $50,000 in July, we could cover the fees in these 3 states as well as meet our staffing and other regular campaign expenses. Can you help us meet these goals?

His is a shoestring campaign, with a few handfuls of core supporters.  Whether I ultimately vote Green or not, I count myself as one of Charles' faithful.

I am hopeful as we move into the final months of the campaign. The pandemic along with the recent, and horrific examples of racial injustice have tapped a desire in our nation to break out of the status quo and make some real changes. The Republicans are running with an extremely divisive candidate while the Democrats have nominated a mediocre candidate. But our platform is growing because our message for fixing the foundations is resonating with Americans who really want change. And our vision for building a nation where We the People truly means #AllThePeople will be a compelling option on November 3rd.

Still need to know more?  Watch these.
  1. VIDEO: Live Stream: First 100 Days plan explained

  2. VIDEO: Live Stream: First 100 Days: Gender Equity

  3. VIDEO: Live Stream: LGBTQIA2S+ Rights

-- The Constitution Party has split, and the breakaways have picked a ticket.  From IPR:

The conservative Life and Liberty Party held its first national convention this past Saturday on Zoom, as reported at American Third Party Report.  It nominated party chairman J.R. Myers of Alaska for president and professor Tiara Lusk of Idaho for vice president.  According to the party’s website, it is currently on the ballot in Arkansas and is attempting to appear on several others.

Myers, who was the Idaho Constitution Party’s vice presidential nominee in 2016 and the Constitution Party’s nominee for governor of Alaska in 2014, founded the party as an alternative to the Constitution Party, which has been plagued with infighting.  According to Politics1, the Idaho, Oregon, Alaska, Virginia, South Dakota, Texas, Illinois, and Indiana chapters of the Constitution Party have all disaffiliated from the national party.  The Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia chapters are reportedly considering disaffiliating as well.  The North Carolina and South Carolina affiliates are currently mulling whether to nominate a candidate other than the Constitution Party’s 2020 presidential nominee, businessman Don BlankenshipPolitics1 believes some of these parties may ultimately give their nominations to the Myers/Lusk ticket.

-- Last, a notable farewell.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The TexProgBlog Wrangle #VoteTexas edition *updates

This week's second post of the best of the left of Texas from last week provides some updates from the start of the runoff elections.  Update: TXElects.

Early voting continues for the July 14 primary runoff and special elections. Because of the inherent “lumpiness” of runoff elections across the state, meaningfully comparing turnout year-to-year is difficult. On top of that, the early voting period was extended by a week by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Voters will have 12 days – 11 in some counties who take Sunday off – to cast ballots in person instead of the usual five days. And on top of that, we anticipate a significant increase in absentee voting as many more voters requested ballots by mail than in recent years.

With all those caveats, nearly 123K people voted in the Democratic runoff in the 15 counties with the most registered voters through the first day (Monday), which is more than the Day 1 totals in 2016 and 2018 combined. The number of Democratic early voters is 65% above 2018 and 187% above 2016. These numbers include all mail ballots received up to and including Monday. Statewide Democratic turnout through Monday was 1% of registered voters. Three quarters of all votes cast through Monday by Democrats were by mail.

Around 53K Republicans cast ballots in person or by mail in those 15 counties by Monday. This is down slightly from 2018, solely because there are no Republican runoffs in Dallas and Williamson Cos., but 14% above 2016. Statewide Republican turnout through Monday was 0.6% of registered voters. Two thirds of all votes cast through Monday by Republicans were by mail.

Last night the two finalists who want to take on John Cornyn in November faced off.

Next we'll check in on "Republicans behaving badly".

Louie Gohmert reveals his IQ again for all to see.

Louie Gohmert spends ample time on the House floor not wearing a mask, often talking with aides and lawmakers at length while not maintaining a social distance. 
Asked why not, the 66-year-old Gohmert had an explanation that defied the science and the recommendations of leading public health experts. 
"I don't have the coronavirus, turns out as of yesterday I've never had it. But if I get it, you'll never see me without a mask," the conservative Texan told CNN Friday.

Told that health experts say that people who don't have symptoms may be carrying the virus and can unknowingly spread it to others, Gohmert responded: "But I keep being tested and I don't have it. So I'm not afraid of you, but if I get it I'll wear a mask."

“Their decision is completely baffling, it's reckless, it’s irresponsible,” (Abhi Rahman, a spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party) said. “It shows you that they haven’t taken this thing seriously from day one. Houston is one of the biggest coronavirus hotspots right now, and they want to go there, they want to hold an in-person convention without requiring face masks, where they're gonna put even more people at risk, hospitality workers at risk ...”

The State Republican Executive Committee will decide at a meeting Thursday (July 2) whether to go forward with the state convention in person in Houston or go the online route, as the Texas Democratic Party did.

Noah Horwitz shares a term paper he once wrote about Greg Abbott, and Paradise in Hell has had his fill of Mike Pence, who made an appearance at a Dallas megachurch last Sunday.

Here's a few stories about the pandemic from different perspectives.

Two friends in Austin went to the same facility to be tested for the virus.

Their tests came back with the same result -- negative, allowing (their) trip to go ahead -- but the accompanying bills were quite different. The emergency room charged Harvey $199 in cash. LeBlanc, who paid with insurance, was charged $6,408.

A recent poll in Bexar County revealed stark differences in points of views about the current threat level of COVID-19 based on political party identification.

A recent surge in coronavirus cases has made San Antonio one of the nation’s hotspots, but respondents to the latest Bexar Facts/KSAT/Rivard Report poll differed on the severity of the pandemic – and what should be done to contain it – based on their political affiliation.

Fifty-two percent of the 616 respondents who identified as Republican maintained “the worst is over” regarding the impact of the coronavirus locally, and 61 percent said continued social distancing and business closures will cause unnecessary damage to the economy and residents’ lives. Only 14 percent of respondents who identified as Democrats thought the worst was over and 16 percent thought social distancing and business closures would cause unnecessary damage.

Seventy-eight percent of Democrat respondents believe the worst is yet to come. The nonpartisan poll was conducted online and via telephone from June 10-14, right before daily COVID-19 cases started spiking in Bexar County.

I still have enough Wrangled for a third post this week, focusing on Black Lives Matter and police abuse topics and an environmental round-up; it will appear at the end of the week, following the regularly-scheduled White House Update.  Let me close here with some of the pictures and stories from the past that I have enjoyed recently.

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Weekly EV Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes that worsening virus statistics as a result of the striking ineptitude on the part of our elected officials were not -- again -- topic de jour for the roundup of blog posts and Tweets and news from around and about Deep-In-The-Hearta ... but it is what it is.

Circumstances took a dramatic turn for the worse last week.

And our so-called leaders continue to lie about it.

The most damaging reveal came from the doctors at the Texas Medical Center.

(Gov. Greg) Abbott had expressed displeasure to hospital executives with negative headlines about ICU capacity, sources familiar with the talks said. Abbott spokesman John Wittman said any insinuation that the governor suggested the executives publish less data is false.

It's not just the state's largest cities that are overwhelmed.

Far west Texas is simply not a place you want to be if you need medical care.

The Chron's Zach Despart also reports that Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is in self-quarantine after being exposed to the coronavirus by a staffer who tested positive.

Moving on to election news, you can go vote this week (if you're feeling lucky).

Willie Nelson and several other special Lone Star guests are raising cash for Joe Biden in a virtual concert later today.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs sees Biden sleepwalking to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in his latest White House Update.  G. Elliott Morris threw some cold water on the positive polling for Biden in Texas. (*ahem* a little ahead of you, dude.)

Kuff blogged about the latest state polls, and SocraticGadfly looked at Howie Hawkins clinching the Green Party nomination and the various haters who still don't like it or him.  With respect to runoff election developments, Grits for Breakfast points out that Rep. Eddie Rodriguez has a tall hill to climb against his SD-14 opponent, former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, in overcoming his missing vote on the Sandra Bland bill when he was in the Lege.

In H-Town, the most recent city council meeting was flooded with peaceful protests to the city's law enforcement reform initiatives.

DosCentavos is not a fan of the latest attempt at police reform by committeeTransform Houston outlines their objections to Sylvester Turner's task force on cop reform.  And Mario Bravo at the San Antonio-based Rivard Report calls on elected officials to lead.  And almost a month after the Dallas PD attacked BLM protesters in that city, the rallies go on.

For the past 27 days, dozens of protesters have gathered at City Hall and marched through the streets of downtown and Uptown in a show of solidarity against police violence and systemic racism. Yesterday evening was no different. Nor was the evening before that.

This Monday marked three weeks since we last saw police become violent toward the protesters, when they kettled and detained 674 peaceful marchers on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge after they shot smoke or tear gas—that’s still unclear—and fired “less lethal” munitions at them.

Democracy Now! interviewed Brandon Saenz, the Dallas protester who lost an eye after DPD shot him with one of those “less lethal” projectiles.  Grits has a lot more from Space City and Big D and also Austin, plus a police union's bitching about working the protests, ridding our schools of cops, and #BlueLeaks in his lengthy CJ round-up.

There's much more Wrangled, including some important environmental developments -- look for another post this week -- but we'll stop here for now with a couple of lighter pieces.

Jim Schutze, formerly of the Dallas Observer, will have a column in D Magazine.

Sunday, June 28, 2020