Monday, March 25, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

Some members of the Texas Progressive Alliance switched from Mueller High Life to Stolichnaya (in order to more quickly drown their sorrows) at the 5 p.m. unhappy hour yesterday.  The gloating also lurched to the right, but is still happening much too early.  When you play two-party politics like it was a football game, that's what it feels like to those of us who aren't fans of either team.

After reading Socratic Gadfly's wrap-up and round-up on the Mueller report and reactions, you're ready to move on to the non-collusion/obstruction-related blog posts and news from across Texas from last week!

The biggest statewide news was the explosion and fire at the ITC storage facility along the Houston Ship Channel, which resulted in a environmental catastrophe that is still ongoing today.  It began burning on Sunday afternoon March 17 ...

By Monday morning, March 18, a shelter-in-place for the nearby city of Deer Park had been issued as the fire burned throughout the night.

And all day Tuesday.

The first air toxicants were reported.

By Wednesday, March 20, the fire was finally out ... for awhile.

As community leaders meet the media, tensions rise.

The first time benzene levels in the air around the facility were reported.

And spill runoffs into the Ship Channel were first noted.

And as we know since last Thursday, it really hasn't.

Beyond Bones tells you some things you should know about the Deer Park fire and public safety.


Under the pink dome in Austin, Stephen Young of the Dallas Observer broke down the fight between Texas Senate Republicans and Facebook over abortion.  Earlier today, Progrexas reports that a Texas House committee failed to advance an anti-choice bill because the Democrats denied a quorum call.

Revisiting news from a few years ago, TXElects says that a deceased Harris County commissioner's multi-million dollar political bank account awaits resolution.

Former Harris Commissioner El Franco Lee, who passed away in January 2016, still has more than $3.6M in his campaign account, reported the Houston Chronicle’s Zach Despart. His widow, Ethel Kaye Lee, is its treasurer and has sole discretion on how the funds may be spent. Under state law, the account’s funds must be dispersed by 2022.

They may be contributed to the Democratic Party, one or more candidates and committees, the state, a charitable organization or a university. Individual donations may also be returned. Among Democrats, Lee’s war chest is the third largest, trailing only Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), who had nearly $8M on hand as of December 31, and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), who reported having $4.3M on hand.

The account could become a significant source of campaign contributions for Democrats in the 2020 cycle.

The Texas Tribune's Emma Platoff followed presidential candidate Kamala Harris around Houston this past Saturday.

“This is Harris County!” declared a bevy of colorful signs in the hands of supporters in a crowded auditorium at Texas Southern University. And when Harris began to speak during the biggest event of her first major swing through Texas, the native Californian was implicitly communicating much the same message: There may be two Texas Democrats vying for support in this state nearly a year ahead of Super Tuesday, but she isn’t ceding any ground to the state’s native sons.

“I love being in Harris County!” she declared by way of greeting, enjoying raucous applause and, apparently, the alignment between her surname and the name of Texas’ largest county and one of its most diverse. In unveiling a major pitch for raising teachers’ salaries -- a proposal her campaign has described as “the largest federal investment in teacher pay in history” -- Harris made sure to nod to the last Texas Democrat to occupy the office she seeks.

“[Lyndon B. Johnson] was the last president that made a meaningful investment in public education.” One of his reasons, she said, was “to bridge the gap between helplessness and hope.”

Saturday was Harris’ second public campaign event in Texas after a visit Friday night to the Tarrant County Democrats.

In Houston, on the campus of one of the nation’s largest historically black colleges, she attracted a crowd of some 2,400, including influential area Democrats like U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Sylvia Garcia, as well as state Sen. Carol Alvarado and state Rep. Ron Reynolds.

Rodney Ellis, a Harris County commissioner and major crusader for criminal justice reform, praised Harris as a “career prosecutor, but… a thoughtful prosecutor,” defending Harris against criticisms of her record. When he introduced her, he declared, “I’m endorsing her right now!”

In immigration developments, Robert Moore at Texas Monthly reports that inland checkpoints have been closed so that Border Patrol agents can process an influx of families seeking asylum.  NPR also has news that USBP is releasing recently-apprehended migrants without detaining them because, officials say, facilities are filled to capacity.

LareDOS has an account from longtime Zapata County residents who are reminded that the border wall's eminent domain prospects reminds them of the 1950s-era Falcon Dam/Reservoir project.

Sophie Novack at the Texas Observer writes about the diabetes crisis in the Rio Grande Valley spawning an amputation crisis.

The Lunch Tray debunks the arguments for Trump's school nutrition rollbacks.

In Port Aransas, plans for a major oil export terminal proposed by the Port of Corpus Christi are colliding with locals who want to preserve the community's small-town tourism draws of fishing, birding, and downscale beach experience.  The Rivard Report has the story.

Grits for Breakfast explains why police should be required to get a warrant to use cell site simulators, also known as "stingrays".

Joel Mathis at The Week blogged about how socialism won at SXSW.

And The Bloggess would like to tell you a ghost story.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sunday Funnies

As the progenitor of the surf rock genre and an innovator who helped stretch the possibilities of the electric guitar, Dale inspired musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Ry Cooder, and the Beach Boys. Dale’s “Miserlou” also notably featured in the opening credits sequence of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

Dale said in 2015 that “I can’t stop touring because I will die” due to medical expenses stemming from cancer treatment, diabetes and renal failure. “I have to raise $3,000 every month to pay for the medical supplies I need to stay alive, and that’s on top of the insurance that I pay for,” Dale said at the time.

Please support candidates that support Medicare For All.  Without exceptions.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

This past Monday's ... err, Tuesday's Wrangle covered Beto's debut, and you perhaps have consumed enough of that for the moment.  Elizabeth Warren had a CNN town hall on Monday night (home run); John Hickenlooper got one Wednesday evening (foul out).  Oh, and Cory Booker's got a hot girlfriend ...

With everyone still waiting on former Vice President Joe Biden to decide if he’s running (and the added speculation that he might pick Stacey Abrams as his running mate), the field did see one more official entry this week. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand transitioned her exploratory committee to a full-fledged campaign on Sunday and officially joined the groundswell of candidates in the 2020 Democratic field.

But Gillibrand is struggling to gain traction in a field that has already seen record fundraising hauls and a collection of bold policy proposals -- a reminder that it’s increasingly difficult for many of the candidates running to stand out.

My prediction is that the junior senator from NY will be among the first to exit the field.

Stacey Abrams

After meeting privately with former Vice President Joe Biden last week, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate signaled that she is willing to meet with any of the Democratic hopefuls in the 2020 presidential contest, but she said she has a couple of ground rules. “My two requirements,” Abrams said Tuesday at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, according to The Associated Press. “One, you have to tell me what you’re going to do about voter suppression. And two, you have to believe Georgia is a swing state.”

Abrams, who is considering a presidential bid of her own, is -- for now-- returning to her roots as an organizer and promoting the nonprofit group she founded to advance voting rights, Fair Fight Action.

On Thursday, Abrams’s spokesperson Lauren Groh-Wargo addressed rumors that close advisers to Biden are pitching a pre-packaged ticket with her as his vice president. “Abrams continues to keep all options on the table for 2020 and beyond,” Groh-Wargo said in a statement to ABC News. “She has met with over half a dozen presidential contenders to discuss their commitment to voting rights and to investing in Georgia.”

Like Beto before her, I suspect that Ms. Abrams is just enjoying her extended time in the limelight.  She should run for the Senate against incumbent Republican David Perdue, who won a closer-than-it-should-have-been 2014 race against the daughter of Sam Nunn.  But she can be almost anyone's vice-presidential running mate as well ... except for Kamala Harris, or Booker, or Gillibrand, or Pete Bootyjudge, or Warren.  It's a shame that this is the only thing John Hickenlooper got right, because it's just one of the many things that's wrong with this country.

It seems to me that the reason nobody is asking that is because a ticket with two women doesn't stand a chance of getting elected, but maybe I'm wrong.  This country, generally speaking, is heavily biased against women; maybe you've noticed?

Hickenlooper demonstrates wrongness again.

I really hope pornos don't become a regular 2020 topic.

Joe Biden

For a brief moment Saturday, it appeared as though the former vice president had inadvertently revealed that he had decided to run for president: At a Delaware Democratic Party fundraiser, he said that he had “the most progressive record of anybody running.”

The audience launched into applause, but Biden quickly corrected himself, explaining that he meant “of anybody who would run.” Even so, those close to Biden, including Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, continue to report that Biden is telling them he is all-but-certain to enter the race.

CNN reported on Monday that Biden discussed with advisers the possibility of choosing a running mate early in the primary to “keep the focus of the primary fight on the ultimate goal of unseating Trump.” That running mate might be Stacey Abrams, according to Axios.

It'll be a gaffe a minute when Uncle Joe finally drops the pretense.

Cory Booker 

The New Jersey senator this week contended with a barrage of questions about his love life. After actress Rosario Dawson confirmed to TMZ that she and Booker are dating, the former Newark mayor told Ellen DeGeneres on her show on Wednesday that Dawson “is just a deeply soulful person and has taught me a lot of lessons about love already.”

Despite the focus on his personal life, Booker managed to resurface an issue that had fallen out of the news a bit when he indicated he was willing to consider eliminating the filibuster.

“I’m going to tell you that for me that door is not closed,” he said on “Pod Save America” on Wednesday.

Pete Buttigieg

Over the weekend, Buttigieg, who is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, qualified for the first Democratic debate — hitting the 65,000-donor threshold.

In an appearance on MSNBC, Buttigieg made his case for why a mayor of a city of 100,000 people should be president. Buttigieg said becoming president is “a tremendous leap for anybody,” adding that he thinks “this is an executive position that requires executive experience.”

Mayor Pete is enjoying some resurgence among online activists, from what I can tell.  He's not quite first-tier yet, but he's got a nice groundswell.  His voice in the debates is welcomed.

Kamala Harris 

Harris edged up the candidate leaderboard this week; in a new CNN poll, she climbed into third place, with 12 percent support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. This was a significant increase for the California senator, whose support was 4 percent in December. Biden and Bernie Sanders captured first and second place, respectively.

Harris also joined ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” this week and said she believes that voters want a nominee who holds the ability to “prosecute the case” against President Trump.

The Associated Press reported that two of Hollywood’s elite, Shonda Rhimes and J.J. Abrams, were hosting a fundraiser for Harris, with tickets costing $2,800 per guest. Harris visits Texas this weekend for a campaign rally in Houston and an event hosted by Tarrant County Democrats in Grapevine before heading to Atlanta.

Here's more on Harris' Houston visit.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders committed this week to offsetting emissions from his travel and events by partnering with a carbon offsets provider that will support renewable energy and carbon reduction projects.

This effort follows the Vermont senator’s announcement that his workers will be the first presidential campaign staff to unionize.

Sanders holds rallies in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco starting Friday as he makes his first visit to California since launching his second presidential campaign.

Elizabeth Warren 

Warren, known for her pace-setting policy proposals, started a swing through the South in Memphis, Tennessee, before heading to Jackson, Mississippi, for a CNN town hall on Monday and unveiled her support for a bold proposal.

“My view is that every vote matters,” she said. “And that means getting rid of the Electoral College,” she went on, to applause from the audience.

“Presidential candidates don’t come to places like Mississippi, they also don’t come to places like California or Massachusetts, because we’re not the battleground states.”

The Massachusetts senator then headed to Alabama for two stops in Selma and Birmingham this week. She returns to New Hampshire this weekend for a conversation on the opioid crisis in Littleton and a pair of meet-and-greets in Berlin and Conway.

Warren is really on her game right now.

FiveThirtyEight has more candidate news.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

Winding up SXSW in Austin and RodeoHouston on Saint Patrick's Day was a little too much for this Texas Progressive Alliance blogger.  Your round-up of the best of the left of the Lone Star State is, accordingly, a day late (but never a worthy blog post short).

The biggest Texas news of the week was Beto O'Rourke ending the suspense and entering the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.  The morning after his Annie Leibowitz/Vogue cover, he made his formal announcement and traveled to Iowa, where he stood on a diner counter and gesticulated enthusiastically, inviting the playful snark of of CNN's Jeannie Moos.  His first-day fundraising numbers were purposely delayed for 24 hours, then announced as just barely exceeding those of Bernie Sanders (but without disclosure of Beto's per-donor average.  We should know whether O'Rourke's claims about being grassroots- and small donor-driven are accurate by the early April, as federal campaign financial reports are at the end of March).

Here's a handful of reactions to the Texan's kickoff.

Ring of Fire: Beto'Rourke raised a ton of money but won't tell us where it came from

Daily Dot: Beto likes to stand on counters -- and there are memes to prove it

Texas Tribune:

-- Beto O’Rourke acknowledges involvement with hacking group as a teen, expresses regret for writings

-- In Iowa, Beto O'Rourke works to find his footing on health care

-- Beto O'Rourke gets crash course in presidential scrutiny over two days in Iowa


-- Beto's excellent adventure drips with white male privilege

-- Beto O'Rourke apologizes for jokes about wife, says he has benefited from 'white privilege'

Politico: ‘Not one woman got that kind of coverage’: Beto backlash begins

Op-Ed News (Bill McKibben): How to tell if Beto O'Rourke is for real: A Green New Deal and natural gas

Last October, in the heart of Texas hydrocarbon country and in the final weeks of his Senate contest with Ted Cruz, O'Rourke told the Midland Reporter-Telegram that "the natural gas that we use as a cleaner energy source here in this country could be something that replaces coal-fired plants in China, in India -- two of the largest economies on the planet that are burning coal and contributing to climate change. I'd much rather they burn natural gas from Texas that's connected to jobs here."

On Thursday in Keokuk, Iowa, during his first campaign appearance as a presidential candidate, O'Rourke praised the Green New Deal, particularly its call to "get to net-zero emissions." He said, "We have no more than 12 years to take incredibly bold action on this."

The Atlantic: O’Rourke mostly gets a pass for his lack of specifics

Reuters: Beto O’Rourke’s secret membership in America’s oldest hacking group (The Cult of the Dead Cow)

FiveThirtyEight: Is Beto O’Rourke learning how to troll the media?

The Week: Beto O'Rourke is hit with a 'devastating' new 2020 attack ad. Well, sort of.

Texas Observer (Justin Miller): Why is Beto Running for President, Exactly?

SocraticGadfly also took note of O'Rourke entering the presidential scrum, in particular that he still is not unequivocally for single-payer, and wonders when Sema Hernandez will apologize for endorsing him last fall and claiming he did support it.

(This might not be exactly what Gadfly is 'wondering' about ... but he's quite obviously asking for an apology from the wrong person anyway.)

(Click, scroll, and read all the Tweets, please.)

Stace at Dos Centavos wonders if people may be "Beto'ed out".  And Miles Coleman at Decision Desk HQ looks at his 2018 Senate race to see what it may mean for Beto's WH bid.

With much of the state's attention focused on the presidential race, Texas Standard sees an interesting challenge to John Cornyn in 2020 shaping up.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs blogged about that as well, pointing out that the LBJ law would permit both Beto and Julián Castro to run for both president and Senate next year (if they so chose).

The Democrat defeated the Republican in the HD-125 special election for a seat in the Texas House.

Former San Antonio council member Ray Lopez defeated San Antonio construction businessman Fred Rangel, 58%-42%, to win the unexpired term of former Rep. Justin Rodriguez (D-San Antonio), who resigned in January to accept an appointment to the Bexar Co. Commissioners Court. A little more than 9K votes were cast, an increase of around 3K over the February 12 special election. Turnout for the runoff was 9% of registered voters.

Lopez jumped out to a 57%-43% lead in early voting, and he carried Election Day, 61%-39%. Lopez received more than four and a half times as many votes as in the special election, when he squeaked past Coda Rayo-Garza into the second runoff spot by 28 votes. Lopez received 19% of the vote, just over half the vote received by Rangel (38%). The Republican increased his vote total by nearly 1.5K votes, but it was not enough to overcome Lopez’s surge.

From the Texas Legislature, Progrexas watched as the Texas House Public Education committee passed a comprehensive $9 billion school finance and property tax reform bill ... but only after removing a merit pay provision that had angered teachers' unions.  Better Texas Blog already has their hot take on it posted.

Vicky Camarillo at the Texas Observer reported on the bills designed to break the cycle of 'debtor's prison'.  Grits for Breakfast has more on that topic.

As activists rallied at the Capitol yesterday, Texas Freedom Network updates on the legislative threats to LGBTQ equality and fairness.

Off the Kuff looked at the anti-sick leave bill that may serve as a stealth "bathroom bill".  Sanford Nowlin at the San Antonio Current is also on the sick leave/bathroom bill beat.

VICE has a story about the underground marijuana doctors here.

In Marble Falls, Texas, a town of 7,000 about an hour west of Austin, a drug deal of sorts is going down. Underneath cover of a gray, foggy day, local buyers -- average age: 80-plus -- prepare their home for the meeting. Laid out on dining table for guests is coffee, tea, and Girl Scout Cookies while FOX News blares in the background. Republican regalia, like a 2016 Trump-Pence sticker on the laundry door and a picture of one resident’s father arm-in-arm with President Dwight Eisenhower, adorn the walls. Show horses ninny in the fields outside.

[Names have been changed.]

With his partner and wife Vicki, Chad supplies medical marijuana to about 200 patients around Austin through their homemade tinctures, edibles, bath salts, and more. “We’re no medical experts,” Vicki and Chad admit, they just happen to have more information about cannabis than most anyone else their patients meet. Medical marijuana patients themselves, they’ve also assumed roles as political advocates, petitioning state legislators to expand Texas’s severely restrictive cannabis regime.

The Texas Tribune's Alex Samuels writes that while medical cannabis expansion has strong support in the Lege, it will likely be blocked by Dan Patrick.

San Antonians with Type 2 diabetes will be among the first to test a breakthrough oral insulin capsule, according to Roseanne Garza at the Rivard Report.

Michael Li previews the return of racial gerrymandering before the SCOTUS.

Ty Clevenger at Lawflog has filed a defamation suit accusing CNN, the New York Times, and Vox of smearing Texas financial advisor Ed Butowsky with false claims about his role investigating the murder of DNC employee Seth Rich.

San Antonio's first draft for a climate action plan is encouraging but needs more, says Texas Vox.

The Bondad Blog proposes using a FICA-styled tax in order to transition to Medicare for All.

Harris ranks 53rd among Texas counties for health (Deer Park refinery fire notwithstanding) in a report linked at Houston Public Media.  The high cost of housing means many residents have to make a trade-off between paying the rent or the mortgage and visiting the doctor.

Kroger's first self-driving, grocery-delivering autos hit the streets in Houston this week, in four southwest-area zip codes to begin, says CultureMap.

And David Collins reviews "The Ministry of Utmost Happiness", Arundhati Roy's second novel.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Beto and Castro can run for both president and Senate *Update

It's the good old LBJ law.  *See news about Joaquin's imminent announcement and a Senate poll at the end of this post.

In his daily posts about something related to Beto, or the Senate race against Crony-n, "Shelley" Kuffner is yet to show any indication he gets this.

He has managed to conspicuously ignore the woman who's been in the 2020 Senate race for months, who got 24% against Bobo last year in the primary, and he's still pissing in one hand wishing for MJ Hegar/Wendy Davis/some other POS retread establishment conservaDem.  The more wars for oil, the better for his retirement plan.  Everybody votes their self-interest, after all.

It's still odd that his pining for Beto and/or Julián overlooks the historical and legal quirk that Lloyd Bentsen last took advantage of in 1988.  Ross Ramsey cleared this up weeks ago.

The law that allows Texans to run for two national offices at the same time is known as the LBJ law because it was passed to allow Johnson to run for both the vice presidency and for re-election in 1960. In his case, and later in Bentsen’s, it meant an incumbent didn’t have to risk the seat he already had for a higher one he wanted. Johnson, as it turned out, didn’t need the protection; Bentsen did. 

I've been saying for weeks that I did not think RFO'R would take on Corndog, and I still don't.  He's a top five presidential challenger upon entry yesterday, with plenty of media calf cramping, and he has 8 months to decide whether to file for another run at the upper chamber of Congress.  Castro is a different story; he's getting no traction, even after gouging Bernie Sanders on reparations at SXSW this past week.  Julián's White House bid is on life support and brother Joaquin would be an idiot to give up his seat in the House.

[B]oth O’Rourke and Castro would be eligible to be on the Texas ticket for Senate and for president or vice president, if they so desired. Texas law prevents candidates from filing for more than one office, except for that LBJ exemption. And the exemption in the Texas Election Code is broader than history might indicate: “This section does not apply to candidacy for the office of president or vice-president of the United States and another office.”

Yes, either dude is more likely, IMHO at this very early stage, to wind up as someone's #2 than the presidential nominee.  They would balance a ticket nicely with Kamala Harris, or Liz Warren, or Amy Klobuchar.  Maybe even Cory Booker.  And fantasize about the possibilities, Donkeys, with both Beto and Castro -- or vice versa, pun intended -- at the top of the '20 Lone Star ballot.  Even George Will knows that the GOP is roadkill if Texas turns blue.

So while my vote still goes to Bernie Sanders and Sema Hernandez as Democratic federal standard-bearers, I get that there are some jackasses that wouldn't be happy with those choices.  Maybe too many.  We'll see how things go in about a year.

But this is a spitballing post, and you decide what sticks or doesn't.  I think the most interesting question could be: what if Beto and Julián both run for president and Senate?  Who might you vote for in that case?  (I'd still be voting for Bernie and Sema.)  And what if there was a Senate runoff between O'Rourke and Castro next April, after the March 3rd, 2020, "Super Duper Tuesday" presidential primary results were known?

How about that!

Update: Within just a few hours of this post, the Texas Tribune reported that Joaquin is all but in against Cornyn.  He gives up important committee chairs and seniority to do, which I deem to be stupid, but it is accurate that some other San Antonio Democrat will announce for his House seat the instant he officially declares for the Senate.  Castro is pegged as the frontrunner for the nomination in a PPP poll just released.

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

Hellza been poppin' the past week.  Been hard for me just to keep up on Twitter.

Should I post anything serious about Bob, or just the snark?

The Berners blew up the latest Kos poll.  (They destroyed Markos' official one, you know, so he put it out of its misery).  There goes last cycle's establishment narrative for those.  Maybe someone on teevee will point that out, but you won't ever read about it on DK.

Having used the FiveThirtyEight perspective for a few weeks now -- we'll come back to it shortly -- let's check in on some GOP takes about the field.  National Review's Dan McLaughlin, "Five Lanes..."  (Go ahead and click over.  It's not too bad.)

With Beto O’Rourke’s announcement [yesterday] morning, Joe Biden is the last major contender on the fence. Eric Swalwell, Steve Bullock, and Michael Bennet have all been scouting out Iowa (Swalwell’s home state) or New Hampshire (Bennet has been running digital ads in early states). Bennet seems the least likely of these to run, given John Hickenlooper’s entry in the race (Bennet was running the Denver schools back when Hickenlooper was mayor of Denver, so their fundraising bases overlap closely). Given the palpable desire to finally put the Clinton era in the rearview mirror, it is hard to see the rationale for a Terry McAuliffe campaign. Stacey Abrams, who lost the Georgia governor’s race in 2018, has lately begun musing about a run and reversed herself Monday after appearing to shut the door. With a late start organizing and never having won election above the state-house level, Abrams seems much likelier to stick to a 2020 Senate run or plan for a rematch for governor. 

I can buy all of that, and include Andrew Gillum as the third southern Democratic 2018 Senate loser who may -- or may not -- join the fray with actual intentions of simply raising their national profile high enough to land on the ticket as VP.

Anyway, McLaughlin's five lanes are 1) race/gender; 2) age/familiarity; 3) anger; 4) ideology; and 5) the Midwest question.  Here's one more snip from the first lane.

... [T]he 2016 Democratic electorate regularly featured more black voters and fewer white voters than 2008. In South Carolina, for example, the Democratic-primary electorate was 43 percent white and 55 percent black in 2008, 35 percent white and 61 percent black in 2016. By 2016, black women alone (37 percent of the primary voters) outnumbered all white voters in the South Carolina primary. In Texas, white voters declined from 49 percent to 43 percent. That reflects overall trends within the party, especially in the South and Midwest: Older, white ancestral Democrats died off or left the party in the Obama years, while younger generations of Democrats included more nonwhite voters. Obama’s general-election campaigns also increased the registration and participation rates among African-American voters in particular. African-American women remain the most reliably Democratic of all voter demographics, and turnout among black women is now at least competitive with that of any other voter group, quite unlike pre-Obama turnout patterns. That has major implications for Democratic primaries.

McLaughlin ranks the contenders today with Kamala Harris in first, followed by Beto, Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and in sixth ... Bernie Sanders.  I can buy some of that.

-- and the superdelegates.

... [T]he prospect of a contested convention gets all the more real.

That’s because the Democratic Party changed its nominating rules over the controversial role superdelegates played in Hillary Clinton’s nomination in 2016. Now, only pledged delegates will vote on the first ballot at the national convention in Milwaukee next July -- not superdelegates. The Democratic National Committee’s rule change was meant to prevent superdelegates from casting the deciding vote in the first round of voting, but with so many candidates in the race, superdelegates could still play an outsized role. If the results of the primaries and caucuses spread pledged delegates too thin and no one candidate has a majority, it means superdelegates could still swing the nomination when they cast their preference in a second ballot vote. So in this case, O’Rourke’s relatively late entry into the field, and perhaps that of former Vice President Joe Biden soon, may not be good for the party unless some Democratic challengers drop out or a clear front-runner emerges long before next July.

-- Go on and read about your preferred candidates there.  I'm posting just this one.

Andrew Yang

Yang announced this week that he’s surpassed the 65,000 donor threshold necessary to earn a spot in the first Democratic primary debate. Provided the number of candidates who reach the threshold does not surpass 20 -- at which point candidates would then be winnowed by poll performance --  Yang will become the first Democratic non-politician to earn a spot in a presidential primary debate since Al Sharpton in 2004.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Weekly #SXSW Wrangle

Some of the Texas Progressive Alliance spent the weekend at South by Southwest, where 2020 presidential candidates lined up for the cattle call.

The Texas Tribune had a full slate of one-on-one interviews, including Amy Klobuchar, John Kasich, Liz Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Bill Weld, Jay Inslee, Julián Castro,and John Hickenlooper.  CNN live-blogged their town halls with John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, and Buttigieg.

The documentary about Beto O'Rourke's 2018 run for the US Senate premiered, and the candidate surprised the theater audience with an appearance, but no presidential announcement was made.  Politico quotes one insider who is no longer impressed with the extended delay.

“It’s a bit much,” said one Democratic strategist who has spoken with O’Rourke about working on the 2020 campaign. “The question is: Does he have a secret sauce that no one knows about — that no reporter, no operative, no strategist understands? Or is this just ‘The Beto Show’? And if this is just ‘The Beto Show,’ there’s a breaking point between strategy and narcissism.”

PDiddie's weekly 2020 wrap at Brains and Eggs is already out of date; Kuff is skeptical of early polls but notes that Trump's as-yet-unknown opponent leads him in a recent UT/TexTrib survey; and
Socratic Gadfly has a twofer from the presidential campaign trail: women candidates who pander to gender stereotypes and Feel the Bern enthusiasts who engage in conspiracy thinking.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also made a splash.

Via Latino Rebels, RAICES Texas (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) has an art exhibit at SXSW called "AbolishICEbox".

Some other anticipated feature films and documentaries opened for SXSW fans.  Texas Standard:

Janet Pierson is the director of film at SXSW and provides a guide to what’s good this year. The selection process for SXSW Film is particularly competitive, she says.

”Every year, we approach the admissions process with the same intent. We’ve got 2500 feature submissions and 5500 short submissions and we’re… looking for 130 features that will really jump out to us and 110 shorts.”

This year, the process yielded many strong films -- more than usual. The opening night film, “Us,” was an easy choice, though.

SXSW is also showing “Longshot” featuring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen. Pierson says it  is a “really smart, satisfying rom-com – who knew?”

Anticipation for one of this year’s films began with a previous success.

“‘Spring Breakers’ was a huge title for us. We’ve had Harmony Korine at SXSW with a lot of different films. ‘Spring Breakers’ was one of the nights that people still talk about being the ultimate night,” Pierson says. “Beach Bum” is this wonderful revisiting to... the same place and same characters with some age on. The most incredible cast you could ever’s Matthew Mcconaughey and Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Jonah Hill, Jimmy Buffett...”

Though SXSW isn’t a regional festival, it does have a unique relationship to Texas films.

“The Texas relationship to films in the festival does seem stronger than usual,” Pierson says. “It’s always something we care about, but it’s always still a fraction of the whole. Of course, everyone is so excited about ‘Running with Beto’ ... ‘The River in the Wall’ is not to be missed. It’s this extraordinary cut -- just look at the landscape, the Texas landscape, through the whole southern border.”

In Texas Lege special elections, Christina Morales defeated Melissa Noriega for the right to represent the voters of House District 145 (Houston).

There is still one more vacant seat in the Legislature — that of former Rep. Justin Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, now a Bexar County commissioner. That vacancy will be filled by a March 12 special election runoff between Democrat Ray Lopez and Republican Fred Rangel.

TXElects believes runoff turnout favors one candidate.

Over the five (EV) days, a total of 5,228 people voted in person, exceeding the 12-day total for the February special election, including mail ballots. ... Just under half of all votes were cast at the Maury Maverick Library. In 2018, Republicans cast 47% of the straight-party votes in the precincts contiguous to and in the precinct where the library is located. Such a turnout pattern stands to benefit Republican Fred Rangel. No Republican has held the seat since it moved to Bexar County from Harris County in 1993. We’ll have live results beginning at 7 p.m. CDT on Tuesday at

Justin Miller at the Texas Observer thinks Dan Patrick has decided to blow up the Lege's comity for the sake of the usual conservative extremist agenda.  And Michael Barajas wrote about how the Tea Party fueled the most recent voter-fraud freakout.  Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer echoed that, pointing out that SoS David Whitley is entirely within the mainstream of the RPTX.

In this very critical year for public education funding, Texas teachers went to Austin to lobby lawmakers today.

Republican State Representative Dan Huberty authored House Bill 3, the school finance bill that has been introduced in the House and has been dubbed “The Texas Plan.” It proposes a $7 billion increase for public education, while the Senate’s proposal increases school funding by approximately $3.9 billion. The Senate version includes a $5,000 pay raise for full-time teachers and librarians. The House version does not includes pay raises, but does call for merit-based pay increases for teachers. 

Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said the Senate’s proposed $5,000 pay raise is a good start but isn’t enough because Texas teachers would need to get a $7,000 raise per year to reach the national average, according to data from the National Education Association.

For Capo, one of the downsides of the Senate bill is that it doesn’t include raises for paraprofessionals, those who assist teachers on their daily tasks, and other public school employees such as bus drivers. “The entire team is important and everybody needs to be included in some way,” he said.

Capo commended House Bill 3 because it proposes a higher increase in funding than the Senate bill, but said that too much of the increase is connected to merit–based pay systems.

He also said the state’s turnover of math and science teachers is particularly concerning, noting many are leaving education jobs because they can double their salaries in the private sector.

Grits for Breakfast collated the latest marijuana reform news, notes, and questions at the Lege.

Leif Reigstad at Texas Monthly criticizes the Court of Criminal Appeals' ruling against the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Texas Vox supports making Election Day a state holiday.

Quianta Moore and Sadie Funk write for the HouChron calling for greater investment in early childhood development.

In an announcement this morning, the DNC -- aka Chairman Tom Perez -- passed over Houston and selected Milwaukee, WI for its 2020 national convention.  Pages of Victory blogged about his beef with the Democrats.

A long-form piece at LareDOS, 'A River Ran Through It', details growing up with the water of the Rio Grande (and how it has changed).

Texas Standard reports on how the state's increasing reliance on wind and solar power makes the power grid less nimble at peak usage.

 “You can’t store that wind power or solar power for when you need it.”

A sad dad's Missouri City doughnut shop got a big boost after his son's Tweet went viral.

Beyond Bones has a list of the best places to go fossil hunting that are a daytrip from H-Town.

The TPA bids a fond farewell to Swamplot, the best thing that ever happened to Houston real estate.

And Harry Hamid's occurrence at Fargo Street may not have even happened.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Sunday Funnies

Please send a healing thought to Don Asmussen of the San Francisco Chronicle, the 'Bad Reporter' cartoonist.  Here's his toon from last November,  just before surgery, and his Tweet from February 24 updating his health status.