Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October surprises (and other campaign updates)

-- Republicans who voted a straight ticket in Harris County are waking up this morning with some buyer's remorse.

A $25,000 political contribution from the owner of a strip club being sued by Harris County lawyers found its way, via the Harris County Deputies Organization, into the campaign coffers of the man challenging Sheriff Adrian Garcia in November, according to campaign finance reports.

Ali Davari, who with his brother Hassan Davari owns a handful of prominent local strip clubs, including Treasures, Gold Cup and Trophy Club, gave $25,000 to the deputies union political action committee on Oct. 15. It was the only contribution the organization received during the time period covered by the report, which was filed Thursday. The union donated the same amount, in its only listed expenditure, to Republican Louis Guthrie's campaign a week later, earmarking it for political advertising.

Guthrie reports receiving a $25,000 check from the union on Oct. 9; Guthrie's campaign manager Sara Kinney said the campaign listed that date because that was the date on the check. HCDO Vice President Eric Batton could not explain the discrepancy in the dates. 

You had plenty of opportunities to educate yourself on the candidates in this race, people. Adrian Garcia loves accelerated deportation; that makes him the Republican, even though there's a D behind his name. We have known since before the May primary that Guthrie is corrupt beyond comprehension.

Remington Alessi is the only decent option. Try to fix this with your friends and neighbors in the remaining days.

Update: John, in his inimitable style, has more.

-- Henry Cooper hosted his opponent, Rep. Jessica Farrar, on his KPFT radio show, Proyecto Latino Americano, last night. I can't wait to listen to the archived recording.

-- Keith Hampton has been endorsed by every newspaper in the state. Even the wildly Republican ones like the San Angelo Standard-Times, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and the Amarillo Globe-News. Hampton was in fact the only Democrat some of these papers endorsed. Yet another reason why Republicans shouldn't vote a straight ticket.

Are you paying attention, Republicans?

-- Max Martin had an interview with Khambrel Marshall of KPRC-TV, and participating in it with them was my friend Aimee Turney of the League of Women Voters. Pay close attention at the 4:50 mark when Martin talks about the Republican who ran in the primary that told him they were voting for him. When your only other option is Steve Stockman, you just have to hope the voters of CD-36 are smart enough to figure it out.

(By the way, you can also download the League's Voter Guides available in English and Spanish for the positions on all candidates on your ballot. The best source of information available anywhere. Much better than anyone's slate card in your mailbox.)

Update: I should have also included this link to the debate/discussion between CD-09 candidates Vanessa Edwards Foster (G),  Libertarian John Weider, and Republican Steve Mueller. No Al Green sighting.

-- The TexTrib's poll revealed a surprise: Green candidate Chris Kennedy with 6% of the vote in the Texas Railroad Commissioner's race.

As you see, that's the one with a Democrat in it; the other TRC race does not. What do you suppose this portends for these races left uncontested by the Democrats, like the Texas Supreme Court?

I have taken great exception to the polling conducted by the Texas Tribune in the past, but these late results seem to have a bit more sanity baked in to them.  Note, though, that projecting the Lite Gov field for 2014 is a waste of effort. Long-range prognostication is typically where this poll fails.

But the question prompted by these numbers: is it possible that the Democratic rank-and-file is getting the message? That is, to send a message to the Democratic insiders?

I'll be very anxious to to see these results next week.

Update: Via Greg, this from KHOU...

The poll shows (President Obama) leading in Harris County with the support of 46 percent of surveyed voters, compared to Romney’s 42 percent.  Libertarian Gary Johnson cracked the survey with 2 percent.

In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Paul Sadler’s 44 percent leads Republican Ted Cruz with 42 percent in Harris County.  With a 3.5 percent margin of error, that’s a statistical dead heat in the largest county in Texas.


Nonetheless, the poll revealed that large numbers of voters allied with both parties are breaking away from casting straight-ticket ballots in two high-profile races.  In both campaigns, Republicans and Democrats are eschewing party loyalty to vote against candidates who’ve been hit with waves of bad publicity.

Republican crossover voters are helping push Democratic Sheriff Adrian Garcia to 51 percent in this survey, compared to Republican challenger Louis Guthrie’s 32 percent.  Another 13 percent were undecided.

On the other hand, many Democrats told pollsters they’re voting for Republican district attorney candidate Mike Anderson, who’s polling at 41 percent.  Nonetheless, Democrat Lloyd Oliver is close behind with 35 percent.  Another 19 percent are undecided.   That number is especially striking because Democratic Party leaders were so embarrassed by Oliver’s candidacy they tried to remove him from the ballot.

“What we’re seeing is a much more significant ticket-splitting among Republicans than Democrats,” said Bob Stein, the Rice University political scientist and KHOU analyst who supervised the poll.  “I don’t know if that’s because they’re more bipartisan, or they simply are more capable and more likely to make that choice, which is not easy to do on an e-Slate ballot.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Three things to do instead of watching the Weather Channel for Sandy news

From Credo Action Network (with some minor modifications by me)...

Words can't do justice to the fear and peril being experienced by millions of people on the East Coast right now. For those of us who are lucky enough to be out of Sandy's path, it is difficult to know what to do with ourselves.

What we do know is that this is potentially a big moment in the movement to address climate change -- particularly since Mitt Romney and Barack Obama failed to mention it in their debates. (Global warming as a topic came up in every presidential debate since 1988. But not in 2012.)

There is growing evidence that storms like Sandy will be the new normal rather than a freak of nature. There will always be storms, but as the oceans warm and the Arctic melts, Sandy is a foreboding glimpse of the stronger storms (along with floods, droughts, wildfires, etc.) of the future.

So in between checking on your friends and loved ones in Sandy's path, looking at the latest disaster pics online, refreshing The Weather Channel home page (or seeing if the polls have changed in Ohio), here are three valuable things you can do instead, and right now:

1. Commit to vote against anyone who denies climate science or who expresses doubt that attacking global warming is an urgent priority. The League of Conservation Voters maintains a useful scorecard of our Representatives and Senators' votes on the environment.

2, Donate to a local emergency shelter or to the Red Cross.

3. Listen to Bill McKibben in conversation with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! explain why Sandy should be a wake-up call, and then share it widely with all your friends and family.

Every good wish for safety and the fastest possible recovery to all on the East Coast.

I'll add three more to this list.

1. If you're an Obama supporter making phone calls to Florida, STOP DOING THAT. Call TransScamada, the assholes threatening protestors' lives, East Texas property owners' land, and our environment by calling them and telling them cut it the fuck out. Or call Democratic-leaning voters in Travis, El Paso, and Hidalgo counties, where Democratic turnout is lagging a bit. Especially since the races in Texas that are contested at this point are down the ballot.

2. If you haven't voted yet and you're still undecided about whom to vote for, then tune in next Monday night to hear two presidential candidates debate issues that include climate change -- and undocumented immigration, human trafficking, gay marriage, and any nation not named China, Israel, Afghanistan, or Syria.

3. Stop obsessing over who's going to win next week. This presidential election is all but over. The corporate media needs to keep promoting the horse race, however, so just tune it out.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The last-week-to-vote-early Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance urges you to take advantage of early voting this week -- if you haven't already done so -- as it presents this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the 30-day finance reports for various legislative races.  

BossKitty at TruthHugger is sick of the prevailing backwards attitude of some GOP candidates. Maybe their flawed understanding demonstrates where America's education system has failed: Legitimacy Denied for Rape and Climate. And, with permission, is able to share this awesome Republican Rape Advisory Chart that speaks for itself. And BossKitty sees significance in the clash between a hurricane and a cold front: God’s Will And The 2012 Election.

The Texas Cloverleaf asks if no paper ballots mean no problem at the polls?

It's closing in on 10 years since the GOP took full control of Texas. WCNews at Eye on Williamson has a rundown of how things have changed.

Not all Republicans favor rapists... but all rapists -- just like all racists -- vote Republican. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs gets the breaking news straight from a rapist himself.

Rick Perry has his own Solyandra problem Libby Shaw tells us about the governor's high tech investment bust. Unlike the phony baloney Soladra issue, Rick's little scheme managed to pick four losers to back. Read all about it at TexasKaos.

At the local level, Neil at Texas Liberal said that Ann Johnson merits your support and your efforts in Texas House District 134. At a global level, Neil said that global warming may well play a part in the big super storm impacting the United States.  

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know how shooting a truck full of unarmed Latinos from a helicopter can be good criminal justice procedure for the DPS?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Houston freeway blogging

In the Burma Shave tradition.

Watch for it again next week on US 59 N, between Greenway Plaza and the downtown exit. A press conference is scheduled for Tuesday, October 30, at 5 p.m. at the Montrose bridge.

Sunday Rape-is-not-Funnies

Friday, October 26, 2012

Not all Republicans favor rapists

But all rapists, just like all racists, vote Republican. That's only the opinion of one rapist, though. Herewith, the darkest humor you -- certainly I -- have read this election cycle.

Hi! I’m a rapist. I’m one of those men who likes to force myself on women without their consent or desire and then batter them sexually. The details of how I do this are not particularly important at the moment — although I love when you try to make distinctions about “forcible rape” or “legitimate rape” because that gives me all sorts of wiggle room — but I will tell you one of the details about why I do it: I like to control women, and also and independently, I like to remind them how little control they have. There’s just something about making the point to a woman that her consent and her control of her own body is not relevant against the need for a man to possess that body and control it that just plain gets me off. A guy’s got needs, you know? And my need is for control. Sweet, sweet control.

So I want to take time out of my schedule to thank you for supporting my right to control a woman’s life, not just when I’m raping her, but for all the rest of her life as well.

You really need to read. the whole. thing.

We are swiftly headed toward a nation that prosecutes women for trying to end a rape pregnancy (or any other one for that matter). We are already one which prevents women -- by law in 31 states -- from denying visitation rights and even custody to the rape baby daddy.

Somebody needs to put The Handmaid's Tale into their Netflix queue.

If this conversation doesn't sway the undecided women who have swung Romney in recent weeks, then something is very wrong in this country. (I think it is swaying them, FWIW.)

Two years ago Republicans ran on jobs and governed on restricting women's reproductive rights. How does anyone think that's going to change in 2012?

Update: You think I'm exaggerating? Really?!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Metro bonds: when no means yes

Boy, I hate to pass along a rape play-on-words today. Consider the following as it is intended, explaining the Harris County referendum on Metro's bond issue, and completely disconnected from that Mourdock stupidity.

When you go to the polls, you’ll vote on a ballot item that allows “the continued dedication of up to 25% of METRO’s sales and use tax revenues for street improvements and related projects” through December 31, 2025.

If you don’t know the facts, you’ll probably vote “for,” since – statistically – you’re with the majority of Houstonians in wanting more and better public transit options (as indicated in Rice University’s 2012 Kinder Houston Area Survey). You’ll walk out of your polling place feeling good about voting for a sustainable Houston.

And, without knowing it, you’ll have just voted to effectively shut down light rail and bus expansion until 2025.

Yeah, I voted 'for' but that's because I wasn't paying attention. Don't make my mistake.

I'm still good with a 'yes' vote on the rest of the propositions.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Republicans are worried about voter suppression.

Yes, you read that right.

Conservative blogs and news media are all buzzing about a team of international election monitors coming to observe the presidential elections in November. The observers are arriving at the invitation of the State Department and the behest of a number of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, ACLU, and others.

The latter groups’ call for an international team to keep an eye on the U.S. elections focuses particularly on states that have enacted strict voter I.D. laws and other curtailing of voting rights. An NAACP delegation visited the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland in September to bring attention to the issue. The NAACP’s move, and the idea of foreign presence in the U.S. to observe elections, has infuriated many on the right.

Such as Greg Abbott.

(Abbott) sent a sharply worded letter to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a group affiliated with the U.N. that plans to monitor Texas' elections on Nov. 6.
Abbott's message to the group, which has been dubbed the world's biggest election monitoring organization: Come at your own risk.

"The Texas Election Code governs anyone who participates in Texas elections — including representatives of the OSCE," Abbott wrote. "The OSCE’s representatives are not authorized by Texas law to enter a polling place. It may be a criminal offense for OSCE’s representatives to maintain a presence within 100 feet of a polling place’s entrance. Failure to comply with these requirements could subject the OSCE’s representatives to criminal prosecution for violating state law."

Let's go to Catherine Engelbrecht, of True the Vote (sic) and her interview on Fox News.

Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote appeared on Fox News on Monday claiming that the monitors’ presence was actually intended to prevent and discourage U.S. voters from exercising their rights. Fox’s Megyn Kelly readily agreed, stressing the left-leaning nature of the civil rights groups, seemingly unaware of the State Department’s role in inviting the monitors. It’s worth mentioning that True the Vote, itself a Tea Party group voter suppression effort, is currently under investigation for possible criminal conspiracy.

The most effective conservative meme feeds into a handful of paranoid conspiracies at once, and this one fits the bill. (Did you notice how quickly the United Nations connection was seized upon?)

As commenter Laura Miller notes...

The GOP is so vociferously concerned about voter fraud, you'd think they'd welcome outside observers to make sure there are no problems.

What are they so afraid of?

Why, that would be losing a fair election, of course. Or getting caught trying to steal one again, like they did in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. Or that "American exceptionalism" might not be all it's purported, with all of the voter fraud committed by Republicans that's been coming to light lately.

If you're not doing anything wrong, Republicans, you don't have anything to worry about.

On the other hand...

I certainly hope the election observers will be wearing body armor, because the Texas Taliban are capable of showing up armed and deranged when their fear and xenophobia are stoked like this.

Updates: Neil with more, and the international monitors respond to Abbott's bluster.

Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), responded in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying that Abbott's threat put the state of Texas at odds with an agreement between the body and state authorities.

“The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable,” Lenarčič said. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”

Lenarčič took issue with insinuations that officials in the group would meddle with elections, reiterating that they were bound by national laws and regulations, as well as their own strict code of conduct.

“Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way,” Lenarčič said. “They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them.”

Let's separate and add some emphasis to this last sentence.

A release relaying Lenarčič's comments pointed out that the OSCE has observed five previous U.S. elections since 2002, all without incident.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Obama 290, Romney 235 and another debate tonight

With Colorado and New Hampshire uncalled. That's my prognostication today. Try your hand there. Ohio is the linchpin for both campaigns, as Nate Silver elaborates.

I have thought for some time now -- weeks at least, months maybe -- that North Carolina and Florida would go to Romney (with as much anecdotal evidence from people I know in both states as empirical). Likewise, I don't think that either Pennsylvania or Nevada or Wisconsin are in as much play as some people believe. I give Virginia to Obama on the strength of Virgil Goode and Gary Johnson. NH and CO are legitimate tossups, and Obama has a small lead in the Buckeye State. All eyes there, right through to November 6.

Update: One of my old favorites,, has it 303-235 without Rasmussen, and the Senate 54 D - 45 R with one tie (which is actually independent Angus King in Maine).

If there is actually anyone who is genuinely undecided -- and not just an undecided Republican -- then there's another debate to watch this evening.

The 'RSVP online' is only there in order for organizers to plan server load (in other words, it is not required that you reserve online to watch). If you have cable or satellite you can watch the debate on C-SPAN, Link TV(Direct TV channel 375, Dish Network channel 9410), and other outlets.


Who knew that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney could be so agreeable?

With the race as tight as ever, and in light of last week’s spirited and heated debate between Obama and Romney, all eyes were on Boca Raton, Fla., on Monday night as the presidential candidates squared off for the third and final time before the election. 

It wasn't long before Obama sunk Romney's battleship, however.

But perhaps the best exchange of the night was when Romney discussed increasing the military, repeating a claim that the U.S. Navy is the smallest it’s been since 1917.
“I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works,” Obama’s responded. “You mentioned our Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we had in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have ships that go underwater.” He added, “The question is not a game of Battleship where we’re counting ships.”

I don't think the debate was even close, but apparently it won't matter.

On the substance, Obama won the debate. "Governor Romney reminds me of Pinocchio," Obama foreign-policy adviser Richard Danzig, a former Navy secretary, told me afterward. "He wants to be a real boy. He wants to talk strategy. But I don't think Governor Romney really lives in the 21st Century." (Danzig also rolled his eyes at the GOP's contention that Obama had dissed the Navy. Modern naval carriers, he said, are the equivalent of numerous turn-of-the-20th-century ships.)

But Romney's team was just as convinced that the Republican prevailed on style. "The only importance this debate had is it permits people to envision Governor Romney as commander in chief. That was his test," Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said. "The president showed up not defending America's position in the world but defending his deteriorated position in the race. I think President Obama came across as someone falling behind in the race."

The debates are over. There are two weeks until Election Day. More than anything, the last debate revealed where the candidates think they stand: Romney confident, convinced he has only to maintain his momentum to keep floating to the top of the polls; Obama fighting like an underdog to stop Romney's rise and knock him off his pedestal. 

I do think that, with a few notable exceptions, the contest is now about who gets their supporters to the polls. To that end, at Houston's third or fourth-most popular (predominantly D) polling place yesterday afternoon -- Fiesta on Kirby at OST -- I waited on queue about an hour to vote. The line moved steadily so the time passed quickly. That was about 15 minutes longer than I waited four years ago at the same location (but I went later in the first week of EV). Update: Archives reveal this post projecting 500,000 total early voters in 2008, and there were actually 730,000 (via Charles). Note there also that turnout on Election Day proper was soft, bringing the total in short of the initial goal of 1.2 million Harris County voters. (There were some recriminations about Obama's campaign posted here with respect to that.)

We'll see how those numbers compare in a couple of weeks. But we all remember how 2008 turned out, right?

Update II: From an e-mail delivered this morning, and in the Chron this afternoon...

(County Clerk) Stan Stanart announced today that Harris County voters set a new record for voting during the first day of Early Voting in person. 47,093 persons voted on Monday, shattering the November 2008 first day total of 39,201. 

Update III: And 51,578 voted today.

Related reading:

Hawks of a Feather Flock Together

Fact check: Romney flubs Middle East geography while Obama gets foe's record as Massachusetts governor wrong

Romney shows he's no expert on foreign policy, but seems to avoid getting knocked out by Obama

And Joe Klein...

I was flipping around the channels, watching the talking heads afterward and saw Chris Wallace — an estimable journalist, in most cases — do something really Fox News reprehensible. He mentioned that a Marine had tweeted that Obama wasn’t in touch because Marines still use bayonets. True enough, but does Wallace really think that bayonets are nearly as important as they were 100 years ago? They certainly haven’t been in my experience in war zones over the past 30 years.

And meanwhile, Romney made the sort of mistake that makes Marines cringe: early on in the debate, he called our troops overseas “soldiers.” That drives Marines up a wall. The Army consists of soldiers. The Marine Corps consists of Marines. Both exist under the umbrella of American troops or forces serving overseas. This distinction has been so noxious to the Army that in recent years, it has capitalized its troops — Soldiers — to match the Marine code. I would guess that Fox News may have gotten a few e-mails about that, unmentioned by Fox.

This may seem petty, but it is part of the other-than-reality-based world of RushFoxland — like the alleged Apology Tour that wasn’t. That world, so far as foreign policy is concerned, came crashing down tonight.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Early Vote Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance reminds everyone that early voting is now under way as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff has one more poll of Texas to discuss.  

BossKitty at TruthHugger has mixed feelings about the extravaganza of F1 Circuit of the Americas and what it's doing to the sleepy little community of Elroy and Cedar Creek -- which will see little benefit for many years -- in The Road to Elroy for F1 Wheeler Dealers. And why do corporations decide what news Americans need to hear and see? Why was such a significant news story first discovered on al-Jazeera: Foreign News and HuffPo Get What American News Media Misses. And after watching the talking heads, gotta share this: Hey ya’ll, we are NOT electing a President.

This week WCNews at Eye on Williamson posted about the "Wal-Mart-ization" of transportation in Texas: Profit, greed and ideology.  

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is just disgusted with Greg Abbott and his Republican cronies pandering to the people who want to force their religion on every American.

The passing of Sen. Mario Gallegos will set off a scramble to lay claim as his successor in the Texas Senate, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at Texas Liberal offered up a list of Green Party candidates on the ballot in Texas in 2012. It is at least worth a look to give Greens a thought as Texas Democrats offer another lackluster effort in 2012, and as our political system increasingly seems unable to deal with the most important questions of long-term job creation and climate change.

Libby Shaw writes about Rick Perry's latest mission: promoting Romney in Colorado. That should turn out real well for him. Check out Rick Perry To Go to Colorado to Promote Mitt Romney at TexasKaos.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Remaining Brainy Endorsements, Part II (Harris County and statehouse)

(See Part I for the federal and statewide endorsements.)

Texas State Board of Education

I previously endorsed G.C. Molison in District 6, where I reside, but residents of Districts 4 and 8 should cast their ballots for Democrats Lawrence Allen and Dexter Smith, respectively.

State Senator

Similarly, David Courtney in my home district of SD-17 has a Libertarian opponent and a Republican incumbent, so if Democrats can see their way past an STD ballot then he will reward them with effective leadership in the Senate. Other state Senate candidates worthy of your vote include...

SD-06: The late Mario Gallegos. If he defeats his GOP challenger as expected, there will be a special election called by the governor to replace him.

SD-7: Sam Fayed (Tejas) Texas. A ham sandwich would be better than Dan Patrick. Tejas/Texas is all but a rotten ham sandwich. Charles Kuffner doesn't think he's worth it; I'll let you decide.

SD-11: Jackie Acquistapace (D). Conservative, Christian, fairly poor with the English language, and still better than Larry Taylor.

SD-13: Rodney Ellis (D). Still the liberal stalwart of the Texas Senate.

SD-15: John Whitmire (D). He drew a Republican opponent, and he could be better on progressive issues, but Whitmire can continue to be the Dean as long as he likes.

Texas House of Representatives

State Representative, District 127: Cody Pogue (D). Pogue is challenging "Rookie of the Year" Dan Huberty in this Humble/Kingwood-area district. Egberto Willies has written extensively about Pogue's campaign.

District 130: Art Browning (G). Browning is challenging Republican incumbent Allen Fletcher in this northwest Harris County district. Fletcher, whose brushes with illegality are mounting, is bound to collapse of his moral turpitude sooner rather than later; he needs to be removed from the Texas House before that happens.

Browning, a semi-retired petroleum geologist, ran for Texas Railroad Commission in 2010.

District 131: Alfred Molison (G). One of the first Brainy Endorsements.

District 134: Ann Johnson (D). Also an early Brainy Endorsement.

District 135: Paul Morgan (D). A retired printer, Morgan is challenging Republican incumbent Gary Elkins in this Jersey Village -area district. Elkins couldn't even be bothered to fill out the Vote 411 questionnaire. He was described as "used furniture" by Texas Monthly...  in 2003. Isn't it about time we throw that ratty old chair out?

District 137: Gene Wu (D). Wu won a challenging primary and deserves to be the able replacement for the indomitable Scott Hochberg. A legacy Wu can live up to, I believe.

District 139: Sylvester Turner (D). Turner is one of the most capable legislators in the Harris County delegation.

Districts 140, 141, 142, 143: Armando Walle, Senfronia Thompson, Harold Dutton and Ana Hernandez-Luna (all Ds). All four are experienced and capable, face token November opposition if any at all, and have been mentioned as successors to the SD-6 Texas Senate seat after the passing of Mario Gallegos.

District 144: To replace the deceased Republican incumbent, Ken Legler (who had opted not to run for re-election prior to his demise), the Democrats picked Mary Ann Perez, and seek to flip this purple Pasadena-area district. Just a few years ago it was represented by Crazy Bob Talton, so it's evident that the Latino Democratic wave is actually coming in a few places. Perez is running against a Republatino and a Libertarian. Chances are good.

District 145: Carol Alvarado. See D-140-143 above. Texas Monthly wrote about her feisty battle over the sonogram bill in the last session. Her detailed description of the procedure involving transvaginal wanding (pictured at left) had the House transfixed. BOR had more (NSFW). Alvarado is a real fighter, and whether she serves in the Texas House or the Senate in the next legislative session, she will be formidable.

District 146: Borris Miles (D). My representative has regained his footing after some rocky episodes in years past that involved personal troubles. He's a rock-solid progressive.

District 147: Garnet Coleman (D) or Deb Shafto (G). This is mostly a keep-him-honest referendum on Coleman. If you don't think he's done a good enough job, then vote for Shafto, the Green Party's gubernatorial candidate in 2010, and before that, a competitor for Houston city council in 2009.

District 148: Henry Cooper (G) over Jessica Farrar (D) as previously detailed in this Brainy Endorsement from August.

District 149: Hubert Vo (D). Was it only a few years ago that this district was represented by the vile Talmadge Heflin?

District 150: Brad Neal (D). Neal once again picks up the gauntlet against Debbie "Pit of Hell", "Go Live in Afghanistan" Riddle. Maybe some day they'll get tired of her nasty, sorry ass and vote her out. Maybe this November 6.

Justice, First Court of Appeals

Places 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9: Ron Lovett, Chuck Silverman, Natalia Cokinos Oakes, Nile Copeland, and Kathy Cheng (all D).

Copeland was, of course, the very first Brainy Endorsement of this election cycle. Cheng is Copeland's law partner. They have both worked tirelessly, registering new voters at citizenship swearings-in and walking blocks to introduce themselves. I have known Cokinos Oakes' family since I was a child growing up in Beaumont. Silverman barely lost a district court race in 2010 2008; here's the Q&A with his challenger from vote411.

Justice, Fourteenth Court of Appeals

Places 3, 4, 5, and 8: Barbara Gardner, Jim Wrotenberry, Tanner Garth, and Julia Maldonado (all D).

You've seen Gardner's Brainy Endorsement, I take it? She's the best. Maldonado likewise. Wrotenberry and Garth are making bids again for judicial office after narrow losses in 2008 and 2010.

Harris County Judicial Courts

Recommended candidates include: Mike Miller (11th), Al Bennett (61st), Larry Weiman (80th), Kyle Carter (125th), R.K. Sandhill (127th), Michael Gomez (129th), Jaclanel McFarland (133rd), Mike Engelhart (151st), Robert Schaffer (152nd), Alexandra Smoots-Hogan (164th), Josefina Rendon (165th), Ruben Guerrero (174th), Shawna Reagin (176th), Vivian King (177th), David Mendoza (178th), Randy Roll (179th), Tracy Good (333rd), Donna Roth (334th), Herb Ritchie (337th), Hazel Jones (338th), Maria Jackson (339th), and Mack McGinnis (351st).

Please note that some races are left out. That's for good reason.

Harris County District Attorney: No Endorsement.

Lloyd Oliver is both party pariah and Tea Party Democrat. After reading that article, I cannot in good conscience recommend a vote for him. I'm leaving this race blank.

Harris County Attorney (Vince Ryan-D) and Harris County Sheriff (Remington Alessi-G).  Both are previous Brainy Endorsements.

Harris County Tax Assessor/Collector: Ann Harris Bennett. Also an earlier Brainy Endorsement.

Harris County Court at Law #1: Erica Graham, and #2: Damon Crenshaw.

Harris County School Trustee

Position 3, At Large: Diane Trautman
Pos. 4, Pct. 3: Silvia Mintz
Pos. 6, Pct, 1: Erica Lee

Harris County Commissioner

Precinct 1: El Franco Lee
Precinct 3: Glorice McPherson
Precinct 4: Sean Hammerle

Justices of the Peace

Precinct 1, Place 1: Dale Gorczynski
Pct. 2, Pl. 1: JoAnn Delgado
Pct. 3, Pl. 1: Mike Parrot
Pct. 6, Pl 1: Richard Vara
Pct. 8, Pl. 1: Tommy Ginn

And finally...

Harris County Constable, Precinct 1

Carlos Villalobos (G)

Precinct 2: Chris Diaz (D)
Precinct 3: Ken Jones (D)

And don't forget to vote for ALL the bond issues.

The rest of the Brainy Endorsements, Part I (federal and statewide offices)

Here's the list so far.

Nile Copeland for the First Court of Appeals

Alfred and GC Molison for HD 131 and SBOE, respectively

Henry Cooper for HD 148

Keith Hampton for Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Barbara Gardner for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals

Don Cook for Congress, 22nd District

Max Martin for Congress, 36th District

Remington Alessi for Harris County Sheriff

David Courtney for Texas Senate, District 17

Ann Harris Bennett for Harris County Tax Assessor/Collector

Ann Johnson for HD-134

Mike Engelhart, Larry Weiman, and Al Bennett for the Harris County bench

Mark Roberts for Congress, 2nd District

David Collins for United States Senate

Vince Ryan for Harris County Attorney

And so, beginning with the top of your ballot....

President of the United States: Jill Stein, Green Party

Like my friend Neil, if I lived in a swing state I would have to hold my nose and vote for Barack Obama. But the price I pay for living under the fascist theocracy that is the Republicans of Texas is what enables me to vote my conscience and my values. That means I don't have to vote for a president who wants the NDAA to be the law of the land. Who wants to keep assassinating Afghans, Pakistanis, suspected terrorists and civilians and even US citizens with unmanned drones (rather than capture them and torture them, as W Bush did).

It means I don't have to vote for a president who squandered his considerable political capital in 2009 by refusing to fight for single payer universal health care, or even a public option.

It means I get to vote for a president who understands what is necessary to solve the economy's woes and the so-called debt crisis at the same time: stop the wars, raise taxes on the rich, and institute a New Deal-styled federal employment program to rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure and new, "green" technology.

You can watch Stein debate Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, and Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party on Tuesday, October 23rd, the night after the final Obama-Romney debate tomorrow. It will be moderated by Larry King (who will be less under the sword than Bob Schieffer, for sure).

Now then... in top-to-bottom order, federal and statewide races on your Harris County ballot for contests I haven't written about so far...

US Congress, 7th Congressional District: No Endorsement

After the Democratic primary in the spring -- you may recall it was blogged about a little bit here -- I prepared to go to work for the Green candidate, Lance Findley. But he never responded to my e-mails or my phone calls volunteering help. I heard through the grapevine that he said he would not have the resources to mount a campaign. Which turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course, since he ignored all offers of assistance. I never met the guy, never communicated with him. So I can't support him. I can't even bring myself to vote for him.

In a true lesser of four evils contest, none of the men running  for CD-07 is worthy of anyone's -- and I do mean no one's -- vote.

-- Vanessa Edwards Foster over Al Green in CD-9. Green's had his moments, both good and bad, but as befits my endorsement pattern isn't the progressives' best option in this race. Foster is a strong activist for the right causes and has earned the protest vote, like so many others on this list. You can see a short video of Foster here, being interviewed by Egberto Willies.

-- Tawana Cadien, the Democrat running against Michael McCaul in CD-10. Like the rest of the worthy challengers over the years against Lowry Mays' son-in-law, Cadien is the best choice.

-- Sheila Jackson Lee, of course, in CD-18.

-- In CD-29 another Green, Maria Selva, earns the nod over longtime Democratic incumbent Gene Green. Green has long been in the pocket of the oil and petrochemical industry lining the Houston Ship Channel. Selva's progressive bonafides as a persistent community activist are clear. Here's an interview with her from earlier in the campaign season.

Texas Railroad Commissioner: Chris Kennedy (G) over Dale Henry (D).

Henry has disappointed over some anti-Obama rhetoric quietly voiced but still overheard -- of the "Kenyan/Muslim/soshulist" strain.  It's okay not to support the president on policy matters, it's not OK to go all Tea Party Democrat. (More on Harris County DA candidate Lloyd Oliver in the next post.) This is also a least-worst option, as Kennedy has been fairly invisible on the campaign trail as well. Here are side-by side comparisons of Kennedy and Henry on the issues, in their own words.

Texas Railroad Commissioner (unexpired term): Josh Wendel, Green. There is no Democrat running against Rick Perry stooge Barry Smitherman and Libertarian perennial Jaime O. Perez. Those Democrats voting a straight ticket are skipping this race. That's ridiculous.

Justice, Texas Supreme Court, Place 4: Charles Waterbury, Green.

Republican John Devine, a fairly odious fellow himself, defeated incumbent David Medina in May as much on the strength of the allegations by the Runaway Grand Jury as anything else. Sensible Republicans and conservatives should vote for Beaumont attorney Tom Oxford, the Libertarian, and liberals -- progressives and Democrats -- should get behind Waterbury. He's run previously for the SCOTX and since there's no Democrat in this contest either, he could be elected... if the Democrats did their part, by splitting their tickets or simply not voting STD (straight-ticket Democrat).

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 6: Michelle Petty (D) or Jim Chisholm (G).

Your choice. Both candidates are well-qualified and would be a vast improvement over Nathan Hecht, the Republican incumbent and occasional boyfriend of Harriet Myers, GWB's erstwhile SCOTUS nominee and WH counsel.

I also recommend a vote for Libertarians Roberto Koelshch for TSC Place 2, Mark W. Bennett for the Court of Criminal Appeals (Place 7) and William Bryan Strange, III (Place 8), in lieu of any other opposition to the Republicans.

Following up with Harris County-specific contests later today.

George McGovern 1922 - 2012

During my years in Congress and for the four decades since, I've been labeled a 'bleeding-heart liberal.' It was not meant as a compliment, but I gladly accept it. My heart does sometimes bleed for those who are hurting in my own country and abroad. A bleeding-heart liberal, by definition, is someone who shows enormous sympathy towards others, especially the least fortunate. Well, we ought to be stirred, even to tears, by society's ills. And sympathy is the first step toward action. Empathy is born out of the old biblical injunction "Love the neighbor as thyself."

-- George S. McGovern, What It Means to Be a Democrat

Via. More from the LAT.

He chose Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri to be his vice presidential running mate without knowing that Eagleton had a history of depression. When the revelation caused criticism, McGovern dumped him, only to end up looking fickle. He also fell victim to some of the transgressions of Watergate, the scandal that ultimately forced Nixon to resign. But public outrage came too late, and McGovern suffered one of the biggest defeats in U.S. history.

His campaign left a significant legacy, including his proposals, since fulfilled, that women be appointed to the Supreme Court and nominated for the vice presidency. He inspired scores of budding politicians: Bill Clinton was his Texas coordinator before becoming governor of Arkansas, then president. Gary Hart was his campaign manager before becoming a senator from Colorado, then a candidate for the White House.

And the AP.

"Tom and I ran into a little snag back in 1972 that in the light of my much advanced wisdom today, I think was vastly exaggerated," McGovern said at an event with Eagleton in 2005. Noting that Nixon and his running mate, Spiro Agnew, would both ultimately resign, he joked, "If we had run in '74 instead of '72, it would have been a piece of cake."

Chronically Romney

The Chronicle's backing of Barack Obama in 2008 broke a 44-year string of endorsing Republican candidates for president. 

That's really all you need to know.

It's essentially the same mentality that drove the Rafael Cruise endorsement earlier this week.

And just one more reason why I'm voting for Jill Stein and David Collins and all the other Green Party candidates on my ballot. Because the only political party more disrespected by the Texas media establishment than the Democratic Party... is the Greens.

Sunday Trick or Treat Funnies

Friday, October 19, 2012

DMN endorses Sadler, HC goes Cruz

On the eve of their final debate before the election, the two metro newspapers in Texas go in opposite directions with their senatorial endorsements. (Which is yet another reason why I am voting for David Collins, the Green.)

Texans face a decision in this election that has come before them only twice over the last four decades: How to fill a Senate seat that has carried with it a proud lineage of service to the state and nation.

Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is stepping down after almost 20 years in Washington, where she made it a top priority to look out for Texans’ national, state and even personal needs. She first won her post in 1993, succeeding Democrat Lloyd Bentsen, who served for 22 years. Like Hutchison, he provided consistent constituent aid as well as leadership on national and state matters.

The committed work of these two bipartisan leaders to their state creates an impressive, demanding legacy for their successor. Recommending the right candidate to follow in the Hutchison-Bentsen tradition is a responsibility this newspaper takes seriously. That’s why we’ve interviewed both candidates multiple times, examined their public careers, reviewed their answers to our questionnaire, spoken with others who know them well and followed their activities on the campaign trail.

After that thorough examination, we believe Democrat Paul Sadler, 57, is the best person to uphold this legacy of service to Texas and to keep our state relevant where it matters most.

Lofty and idealistic, which is how I usually like my editorials. By contrast...

There's a lot we admire about Sadler, particularly his demonstrated ability to reach across the aisle and work productively with his political opponents for the good of Texas. But Sadler is practically poking at embers to keep his campaign from burning out altogether. Why? Because of a simple lack of interest and support from his own party. Sadler's candidacy is well-meaning, but an exercise in futility.

Right. Don't vote for anybody who doesn't have a chance to win. It's just a wasted vote.

Fall in line, vote Republican. Conform. Consume. Obey.

Stay in your low-grade stage of constant fear. Don't question the authorities. Do NOT, under any circumstance, do something that might change the past 25 years of one-party dominance in the Lone Star State. It's not like your vote matters anyway.

In fact, why don't you just not bother voting at all? The game is rigged, you know. Why give the system a semblance of legitimacy?

Just stay in your little bubble, watch Dancing with the Stars, and go shopping. That's how they like you. That's how they want you. Don't let them down.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Services for Sen. Gallegos, and speculation on successors *update*

The late state Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr. will be memorialized both in Austin, where he spent more than two decades in the state Legislature, and in his Houston hometown.

Gallegos, 62, died on Tuesday at The Methodist Hospital from complications of liver disease.
A family spokesman on Wednesday released details of the memorials, adding they are subject to change.

On Friday, Gallegos' body will lie in state in the Senate Chamber in the state Capitol beginning at 2 p.m.

A celebration of his life will begin at 3 p.m. in the Senate Chamber. A reception will follow at the Austin office of the Texas AFL-CIO, 1106 Lavaca.

On Sunday, visitation will begin at 4 p.m. at the University of Houston's Cullen Performance Hall. Rosary begins at 6:30 p.m.

On Monday, the funeral is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the downtown Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1701 San Jacinto. A reception will follow at the Communications Workers of America union hall, 1730 Jefferson.

I hope to be able to attend one of the local services. Meanwhile...

It's the AP, so it is probably in some Texas newspapers this morning. This report comes from the one in Columbus, IN (thanks to Martha for the link).

Political campaigns can be relentless and are rarely known for civility, but nothing is more awkward than the death of a candidate in the final weeks of an election.

Politicians of all stripes issued condolences when state Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr. died Tuesday. But on Wednesday, the buzz centered on what happens next, since it's too late to replace his name on the ballot.

Republicans are on the cusp of gaining a two-thirds majority in the Texas Senate, so Democrats need people to vote for Gallegos in November, forcing a special election they can win with a new candidate. The current balance of power in the Senate is 19 Republicans to 12 Democrats, one of whom is in a tough race in Fort Worth. If Republicans can get to 21 seats, they can pass any legislation they want out of the Senate.

Gallegos' campaign consultant was having none of the punditry Wednesday, refusing to comment while the family was still planning the funeral.

"I have no intention of discussing politics today," Harold Cook said. "This is a week during which Senator Gallegos' legacy will be recognized and honored, whether or not it meets with the needs of inquisitorial reporters."

My apologies to Harold, the Gallegos family, friends, and supporters for the timing of my inquisitiveness (sentiments intended sincerely).

Here is what Senate District 6 looks like. It is majority minority and more than likely to elect a Democrat.

There are, from my vantage point -- and also from Harvey Kronberg's -- two major players and one power couple who could be either king or queen or king/queen maker. That's just from the Latino community.

-- Carol Alvarado and Sylvia Garcia -- not necessarily in that order -- seem to be separating themselves from the pack already. Alvarado had an outstanding session last, has groomed a successor of sorts in Councilman James Rodriguez, and has a nice little political machine in the East End. Garcia has been collecting IOUs from every single Democrat running in the 2012 cycle, hosting fundraisers every weekend, the JRR, and the like. Speculation has been rife ever since she was voted off of Commissioner's Court in 2010 that she would run for something again, sooner than later.

-- One of the Noreigas, Melissa and Rick, are probably willing to serve but may prefer to advocate instead.

-- The A-A community is capable of supplying a strong challenger. QR mentions all of the state representatives with some of the senate district in their statehouse boundaries, but I think the field is realistically thinner than that. It seems from this faction that if Senfronia Thompson wants the job, it's all hers. Or likewise Garnet Coleman. These two, by their stature, clear the field for the most part. If neither seeks a promotion, then Jarvis Johnson probably runs (and may run anyway). I view him as a 'B' challenger to a Latino/a candidate. That is not the case with Thompson or Coleman, who would be quite formidable. In fact, a powerful black candidate can probably draw support from the SJL/Rodney Ellis machine, and IMHO can win the seat based on bloc turnout. This premise might not include Johnson, who challenged Jackson-Lee in a Congressional primary two years ago.

Finally, the timing of this special election leaves a lengthy vacancy in the Senate during and perhaps throughout the 2013 legislative session, an option the governor is likely to use to his party's advantage. The announcement of Gallego's passing, linked in this post, initially mentioned May 11; that election date would be scheduled right as the six-month term convening the Lege would be drawing to a close. That's when all the heavy lifting, i.e. crafting bills, whipping votes, deal-making, etc. is happening. Is it poor form for a House member to have to spend most of the session campaigning for a Senate seat he or she may not be sworn in for until after it concludes?

If it is, then I read that as giving the advantage to someone not currently serving; ie Garcia or a Noriega or possibly Johnson.

I'm certain Marc Campos has been waking up at 3 a.m. and moving his little chess pieces around for a couple of weeks now. Maybe months. Maybe even years.

I'll save more handicapping for later, but add yours in the comments if you like.

Update: Charles Kuffner has a good deal more.

Update II: While the final decision on the timing of a special election rests with Governor Perry -- in consultation with Secretary of State Hope Andrade -- here's what we know so far, from Mike Morris at the Chron...

The normal route, according to Assistant County Attorney Doug Ray, is to hold an election May 11. That would leave the district without a voice during the upcoming Legislative session, which starts in January.

The other route would be for Gov. Rick Perry to declare an emergency, paving the way for an election that would be held on a Tuesday or Saturday between 36 and 50 days after he made the emergency declaration, Ray said. (Other reports put that time frame at 21 to 45 days). The governor would need to wait until after the election results are canvassed — which can occur anywhere from Nov. 21 to Dec. 6 — before declaring the emergency.

Put all this together, and Josh Havens, a spokesman for Perry’s office, confirms the emergency election likely would be held in late December or early January (Emphasis mine). Havens said it’s too early to say whether the governor would indeed declare an emergency in the event of a Gallegos victory.
A special election runoff, if necessary, would need to be held on a Tuesday or Saturday between 12 and 25 days after it is called, Havens said, adding that the timing of calling the runoff is not clear. The runoff results also would need to be canvassed.

By my back-of-the-napkin calculation, then, that would seem to put the debut of the new senator in January, toward the start of the session, or in late March to early April, near the end.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Comeback Kid

Jeff Greenfield:

As a tactical matter, Obama executed one of the toughest of maneuvers: the counterpunch. When Romney attacked Obama for hindering the use of coal, the President recalled an appearance of Romney as governor of Massachusetts, where he vowed to shut down a coal-fired power plant. (The fact that Romney was probably right about the danger will be the subject of earnest substantive post-debate analyses that have no place here!)
And in talking about an area where the Obama administration has clear vulnerabilities—the attack on the American consulate in Libya—Obama summoned the inherent high ground of the presidency to condemn the “politicization” of the attack.

To be clear: There was nothing particularly off about Romney. He had several strong moments, most especially contrasting what Obama said he would do in 2008 with what in fact had happened over the past four years. This was, and is, the single most powerful argument against returning Obama to the White House, and Romney deployed it effectively.

It’s just that Obama found what he could not find in Denver—a coherent thread to make the case that he understands the middle-class in a way Romney does not. For those Democratic partisans wondering where “the 47 percent” argument was, Obama was saving it for the close which—because of a pre-debate coin flip—Romney could not answer. In this sense, it was like Reagan’s famous “are you better off?” question from 1980.

In a larger sense, however, Obama’s success is unlikely to have anything like the impact of that 1980 debate, nor will it likely alter the terrain of the campaign as the first debate of 2012 did. Had the Obama of this debate showed up two weeks ago, he might well have ended Romney’s effort to present himself as a credible alternative to the president.

That opportunity vanished that night. While it’s clear that Obama’s performance will revive the enthusiasm of his supporters, it seems unlikely that it will cause those impressed by Romney to reconsider. Like they say in show business, timing is everything.

What'd I say yesterday? That I didn't think he could do it. But he did.

Greenfield nails my reaction. Except for Crowley's correction of Romney on Libya, which drew audience applause. That's where the Republican lost his footing, and by the end he was shrill and desperate. "Government does not create jobs! I will create jobs!", he shrieked.

Meanwhile, Obama was drawing his sword. He saved the best 47% for last.

The "Binders Full of Women" thing is the meme to watch for among the cartoonists, comedians, and SNL skits, however.

Eighteen more like that here.

-- 'Walmart Moms' give it to Obama... barely. I question the judgment of anyone who allows themselves to be labeled that, frankly.

-- "Romney hits Obama right in the fist with his nose."

-- The Green candidates Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala got more mainstream headlines yesterday than they have the entire cycle. As we figured, they had to get arrested to do it.

More debate reaction later.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mario Gallegos 1950-2012

State Sen. Mario Gallegos, 62, a Democratic lawmaker whose 22-year career in the Texas Legislature was marked by courage, controversy and dogged commitment to issues of importance to the Hispanic community, died Tuesday afternoon at Methodist Hospital in Houston from complications of liver disease.

Gallegos, the first Hispanic elected to the state Senate from Harris County, took a special interest in public education, minority hiring, criminal justice, redistricting and other issues that he believed would have an effect on the lives of the predominantly working-class residents who made up the majority of his state Senate district.

In 2007, only weeks after undergoing a liver transplant, a sick and weakened Gallegos ignored a doctor's call to return to Houston and installed a hospital bed in the office of the Senate sergeant-at-arms so he could cast his vote against a bill requiring voters to show photo identification. Gallegos argued the bill would discriminate against minority voters.

The rest of his obit at the link, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. Gallegos' name is on the ballot for November.

Gallegos ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, but faced Republican opposition from R.W. Bray in the November election.

If Gallegos is re-elected posthumously in his heavily Democratic district, the governor would call a special election for May 11 (2013)...

The sad demise of the senator sets off an unfortunate behind-the-scenes scrum to succeed him in the state senate.That will be the subject of future posts, however. Today we mourn the loss of a senator who always represented the causes of working people, of Latinos, and of progressives. Rest in peace, Senator Gallegos.