Monday, January 27, 2020

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance will be looking for signs of blue waves or red firewalls in the outcomes of tomorrow's special elections to fill empty seats in the Texas House.

To open: TXElects.

Tuesday is Election Night for voters in HD28, HD100 and HD148. We will have live coverage beginning at 7 p.m. CST at

COPE Endorsements: The Texas AFL-CIO COPE released its primary endorsements (yesterday). Candidates needed two-thirds support in order to earn the group’s endorsement, and in a few cases, two candidates in a race were endorsed. The group also endorsed a handful of Republicans, including a couple in contested primaries. Highlights include:
  • No endorsement for U.S. Senate because no candidate obtained the necessary support, which was seen as “a sign of group strength among the candidates.”
  • Primary challenger Jessica Cisneros over U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) in CD28
  • Primary challenger Amber Medina over Rep. Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville) in HD37
  • Primary challenger Jerry Davis over Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) in HD142
  • Xochil Peña Rodriguez over Rep. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) in SD19
  • Republican Mitch Thames and Democrat Patrick Henry in HD25 (open); and
  • Endorsing both Democrats vying to succeed the retiring Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) in HD92.

All of the group’s endorsements have been incorporated into our Crib Sheets. (sub. req.)

AG: A Friday hearing in a Harris County court to determine whether the criminal security fraud trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton should be moved back to Collin County was postponed. The case was moved to Harris County from Collin County nearly three years ago. Paxton was indicted on three felony counts of securities fraud and acting as an unregistered investment adviser by a Collin County grand jury in July 2015. A similar federal case has been dismissed twice.

CD28: American Workers for Progress, a newly formed dark money group, has purchased $720K worth of TV advertising in support of Cuellar [...] An ad running in several district markets asks viewers to call Cuellar’s office to thank him for supporting lower prescription drug prices, which exempts the ad from disclosure under Federal Elections Commission rules. The group’s web site is a single page with a single sentence of text.

TXElects also provided some deeper analysis of the HD28 battleground.

Special elections are strange animals, and anything can happen in them (e.g. Laura Thompson becoming the first independent to win a House since 1936), but an Eliz Markowitz victory on Tuesday must be considered an upset were it to occur. ...

In the November special election, the six Republican candidates collectively received 61% of the vote, led by Gates’s 28%. Markowitz, the lone Democrat in the race, received the other 39%. Turnout was 19.7% of 148K registered voters. Markowitz received a majority of votes in 11 of the district’s 35 precincts. We expected Markowitz to be the clubhouse leader after the first round, but also thought her best chance of flipping the seat was winning outright then, when Republicans’ support was divided.

While this Fort Bend County district has gone from 14 points redder than the state as a whole in 2002 to less than a point redder in 2018, it was still nearly 3 points redder than any House district won by a Democrat that year. The majority of this observed partisan shift has occurred since 2014, when the district was 8 points redder than the state and the average statewide Democratic candidate received 30% of the vote head-to-head against the Republican. The average statewide Democrat fared 15.5 percentage points better in 2018 than in 2014, but still lost by an average of 9 points.

And following up, GOP political consultant Derek Ryan breaks down the early vote.

Kuff did four of Dem candidate interviews in HD26: Sarah DeMerchant, Lawrence Allen, Rish Oberoi, and Suleman Lalani.

SocraticGadfly invited people who claim they live in the land of the biggest wingnuts to visit the 13th Congressional District, the most GOP-friendly in the nation, where Sahara law is apparently even worse than sharia law.

Texas Lawyer (reg. req.) flooded the zone with (mostly Harris County) judicial race coverage.

If Republicans lose so much as one or two seats in the Texas Senate this November, Lite Guv Dan Patrick is ready to change the long-standing rules of the upper chamber.  Ross Ramsey at the TexTrib doesn't see anything wrong with that.

Greg Abbott didn't exactly roll out the welcome wagon for all of the newly-transplanted Texans, and some of us called him out for his nasty comments.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs documented the Bernie Sanders surge in his regular weekly update of the Democratic presidential primary.

Houston Berners joined the Lone Star Barnstorm ...

... and Our Revolution Texas hosts its summit this Saturday in HTX.

There was a US Senate candidate debate/forum in Austin over the weekend, hosted by the Texas AFL-CIO in conjunction with their membership's primary endorsements election.

Things got a little spicy.

There remain some lingering questions as to whether the Libertarian and Green Party's candidates will be able to appear on the November ballot without having to pay the same fees that the Democratic and Republican parties pay (for the state to conduct their primary elections).

Progress Texas offers a list of Texas "certified progressive" Democrats, most of whom aren't all that progressiveRant: This is the problem with the usage of the word 'progressive'; it's lost all meaning due to bastardization by Blue Dogs and neoliberals who long ago got shamed out of using 'liberal' to refer to themselves.  Consider this, from their questionnaire to candidates:

Health Care for All

Health care is a right and all Texans deserve access to affordable health care. The State of Texas should expand Medicaid, which will save lives and bring home billions of our own federal tax dollars, and it is imperative that Congress protect the Affordable Care Act.

This is not the progressive position, and the good folks at Progress Texas are all smart enough to know it.  The same holds true for their education statement (click on the link above and see for yourself).  They don't parse their declarations with weasel words like "access" on women's rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, etc.  What would you think about a Democrat who said: "voters deserve access to the polling place", or "women deserve access to reproductive choice".  I'll use their words so that they can clearly understand: You have access to my vote, and your co-pay is supporting Medicare for All.  End of rant.

We still have issues with spontaneous industrial plant combustion in our beloved Texas.

And the same old problems with follow-up and follow-through by the regulatory and safety-authorized federal and state agencies.

The second weekend of the Women's March in Houston drew another large crowd.

The first-ever Texas Hemp Convention opens tomorrow in Dallas.

Texas is poised for explosive growth in hemp and CBD. The Texas Hemp Convention has over 300 exhibiting businesses, bringing together industry experts and thought leaders from around the country. With more than 10,000 people expected to attend the convention, there are opportunities for consumers and businesses alike.

The highlight of the convention is the educational component. Featuring over 150 educational sessions from more than 130 speakers, including keynote speaker Rep. Tracy King, the Texas state representative responsible for House Bill 1325, which legalized hemp farming and the production of hemp products in Texas.

Tickets can be purchased through eventbrite and at the convention center during the event.

But both farmers and consumers are -- or should be -- treading carefully.

(The Texas) market for CBD, or cannabidiol, is exploding. Stores are popping up across the state selling tinctures and topicals. It’s being mixed into smoothies and coffee at cafes. Spas are advertising CBD massages and therapies. And much of the sudden spike in popularity is thanks to a Texas law last year that legalized hemp, the plant from which CBD is derived.

“You go anywhere now, and you find something that says ‘CBD’ on it,” said Kerver, who’s now in talks with Austin distributors interested in carrying her CBD product line, called 1937 Apothecary.

But buyer beware, experts warn. Anyone can sell CBD in Texas. Many of the products are advertised as natural alternatives to prescription medications and make unfounded claims to treat conditions like chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, diabetes and psychosis. None of these claims are recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

And because of lax labeling and licensing regulations, unsuspecting consumers may not actually know what they’re buying.

“Unless you really know that it’s something reputable, I would say to be wary because you don’t really know that it is even CBD,” Kerver said.

In 2018, the federal government passed a new Farm Bill legalizing hemp and derivatives, like CBD, with less than 0.3% of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol. Hemp and marijuana are both part of the cannabis plant family, but while marijuana is rich in THC and produces a high, hemp contains only traces of the psychoactive compounds and is richer in CBD.

In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill legalizing hemp and bringing state policy in line with federal law.

Confusion on the part of law enforcement has led to the wrongful arrests of some in possession of CBD or hemp even after the Texas law went into effect. Still, the policy change is an important step on the way to allowing Texans to partake without fear of reprisal, according to Lisa Pittman, a lawyer on the Texas Department of Agriculture’s industrial hemp advisory council.

Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast asks: "What do Greg Abbott, Croatia, the Roman Emperor Hadrian, ancient Hebrews, 6th century Greeks, Hammurabi, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders all have in common?"

They all implemented (or in the case of the Democratic presidential candidates, want to implement) large debt forgiveness programs that boosted their popularity and helped resolve problems deriving from intractable income inequality.

Transportation and infrastructure was a hot topic for several Texas bloggers. Mean Green Cougar Red is skeptical of fare-free public transit.  So is Tory Gattis at Houston Strategies.  TXDoT is moving ahead with its 30-year plan ...

It wasn’t that long ago – last summer – that the Texas Transportation Commission made its last major transportation decision: ceding construction of the final segments of the Grand Parkway. That’s because transportation planning is a like a Russian nesting doll: a 5-year strategic plan within a 10-year 'Unified Transportation Program' within a 30-year 'Texas Transportation Plan'.

... and the I-45 realignment/reconstruction through downtown Houston continues to generate discussion and proposals.

Let me close up another Wrangle with some of the lighter-side items.

SocraticGadfly laughed when Texas Monthly said Fredericksburg is the new Aspen, then shook his head at what TM (perhaps deliberately?) missed.

In addition to great barbecue and music, Austin has cool hiking trails and ultra-cool boutique hotels, but there's one in Nacogdoches that just might have a leg up on the capital city.

The Fredonia Hotel’s fascinating past reveals the collaborative Texas spirit behind this tourist destination and town. According to the hotel's Texas history milestones, builders sold stock in the hotel to town residents at $50 a share. It was actually named after the area’s 1826 Fredonia Rebellion when a group of settlers declared Nacogdoches independent from Mexico.

Sean O'Neal watched 911: Lone Star so you don't have to.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The Weekly #Election2020 Update

So much has happened since last FridayBernie and Elizabeth have patched things up ...

... Sanders and Warren seem to now be working together to repair the disunity the media, trolls, and anti-progressives are trying to sow between them. Both are refusing to talk any more about the controversy, and instructing their staffers to do the same ...

And so, at least for that moment in South Carolina, did Biden and Bernie.

Former Vice President Joe Biden also offered a handshake and a smile to Sanders, two days after he called on Sanders' campaign to retract what he called a "distorted" video clip questioning his commitment to protect Social Security.

It's reasonable to conclude that the exchange of pleasantries was simply for the cameras, but it also paused the leeching of bad blood long enough to ascertain who benefited -- and who didn't -- as regards the polling post-debate, post-fight, post-reconciliation.  And once again, despite the best efforts of the women on The View and Karen Finney on CNN and David Brooks of the New York Times and Rick Wilson on MSNBC ... Bernie is winning.

Update (1/25): More from the NYT ...

DES MOINES — Senator Bernie Sanders has opened up a lead in Iowa just over a week before the Democratic caucuses, consolidating support from liberals and benefiting from divisions among more moderate presidential candidates who are clustered behind him, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll of likely caucusgoers.

Mr. Sanders has gained six points since the last Times-Siena survey, in late October, and is now capturing 25 percent of the vote in Iowa. Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. have remained stagnant since the fall, with Mr. Buttigieg capturing 18 percent and Mr. Biden 17 percent.

The rise of Mr. Sanders has come at the expense of his fellow progressive, Senator Elizabeth Warren: she dropped from 22 percent in the October poll, enough to lead the field, to 15 percent in this survey. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is garnering 8 percent, is the only other candidate approaching double digits.

... and the WaPo.

Biden entered the race saying the 2020 general contest would be a struggle for the soul of America. First, though, he will have to win a struggle for the soul of his own party. Sanders is surging and is now in a near-tie with Biden both nationally and in Iowa, setting the stage for a mano a mano struggle between the two that could crystallize the electability vs. ideology question for Democrats as never before.

A false premise there at the end, IMO.  Just another example of the corporate media's manufacturing consent against Sanders.  This could be considered an improvement over the #BernieBlackout, but it continues to require a concentrated effort on social and alternative media to counter the ridiculous smears and outright lies that have replaced the silence.

Did I forget to mention Joy Reid?

Before the kissing and making up on MLK Day, the Times endorsed Warren and Klobuchar.

It's not too early for snark, is it?

Let's see; I believe that brings us to *checks notes* Hillary Clinton.

At this point both Bernie and his supporters chose to take the high road.  And as the fresh polling above reveals, the attacks appear to be driving more support -- and more small-dollar contributions -- to his campaign.  But you might have guessed that Nate's Liver disagrees.

Sanders' momentum could be blunted by his absence from the campaign trail due to the ongoing impeachment trial (same for Warren and Klobuchar, of course).  Bernie has the best support network, IMHO, with AOC, Ilhan Omar, Michael Moore, the fabulous Nina Turner, and a string of new endorsements this week from Pramila Jayapal, Zephyr Teachout, and a variety of immigrant rights and labor activist groups.

This morning's Twitter feud surrounds Joe Rogan's endorsement, in case you haven't noticed.

Biden, Buttigieg, Steyer, and Yang -- who picked up a non-endorsement endorsement from Marianne Williamson earlier in the week -- might still be able to make some hay out of their opponents being MIA in the two weeks before the Iowa caucuses.  We shall see.

Worth noting also is that Barack Obama is again rumored (first instance, last November) to be tanned, rested, and ready to take a break from golfing and lounging around Martha's Vineyard to herd a few cows (second instance, this week) onto Bernie's train tracks.  For now, he's letting his stooges do the dirty work.  The former president apparently prefers Warren, having mumbled a few concerns last summer about Joe's tendency to swallow his entire foot at seemingly every available opportunity potential threat to the Great One's legacy.

Speaking of Goofy Old Joe, he had another incoherently bad week.

This is one of the videos Biden alleged the Sanders campaign "doctored".

As if that wasn't bad enough, the stress of it all is making him crack up.

Biden's polling has slowly eroded in recent weeks as these chickens have come home to roost, but it remains entirely within the realm of possibility that he could float to the nomination on the politics of exhaustion.  Ennui as campaign strategy seems like a loser to me, but YMMV.

Two weeks to Iowa.  Three tickets get punched.

I need some laughs.  You?

“Bernie has been polling very well, but everybody on Team Sanders knew that we were one Clinton endorsement away from losing everything,” stated senior campaign official Ron McMeel. “We already avoided the threat of a New York Times endorsement, so now everybody here at headquarters has decided to take the rest of the afternoon off and get day drunk.”

Update (1/25):  I follow politics pretty closely -- all kinds of politics, all kinds of obscure political crap -- and I have never read or heard of a single one of these people.  Via William Saturn at Independent Political Report:

I have received the names of the presidential candidates scheduled to participate in the 2020 Lesser-Known Presidential Candidates Forum this Tuesday at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire.  Participants include several candidates familiar to those of us who follow third party and independent politics, including former college football coach (and 2012 Constitution Party and Reform Party presidential candidate) Robby Wells, trans-humanist (and former 2020 Libertarian Party presidential candidate) Zoltan Istvan, and others.

The Lesser-Known Presidential Candidates Forum is a quadrennial event held at Saint Anselm College since 1972 by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics which invites the lesser-known presidential candidates who qualify for either the Democratic or Republican New Hampshire primary ballot.  Archives of previous events (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016) can be found at

Now I do remember when the following happened, although I can't seem to find record of my having blogged about it.

In previous events, fringe and eccentric candidates, often more familiar to us than the public at large, have provided memorable moments.  Notably, at the 2012 event (held in December 2011)performance artist (and current candidate for the Libertarian Party’s 2020 presidential nomination) Vermin Supreme"glitter bombed" anti-abortion activist (and 2012 independent presidential candidate) Randall Terry.  In 2016 (at which Supreme was barred due to the previous incident), businessman (and current 2020 Republican presidential candidate) Rocky De La Fuente met fellow candidate, attorney Michael Steinberg, and the two later went on to form the Reform Party’s 2016 presidential ticket.

The full list of nobodies is here.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The MLK Day Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance salutes the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with this collection of the best blog posts, Tweets, and lefty news from around and about our Great State.

First, a few political and electoral stories that need attention from voters in statehouse districts in Dallas and the Houston area.  TXElects:

An abbreviated early voting begins (tomorrow) and runs through Friday for the HD28, HD100 and HD148 special runoff elections. January 28 is Election Day.
  • In HD28, Republican Gary Gates faces Democrat Liz Markowitz for a Fort Bend County seat that has gone from 14 points redder than the state as a whole in 2002 to less than a point redder in 2018. In the November special election, the six Republican candidates collectively received 61% of the vote. Markowitz, the lone Democrat in the race, received the other 39%. Turnout was 19.7% of 148K registered voters.
  • In HD100, Lorraine Birabil faces James Armstrong III, both Democrats, for a Dallas County seat. Birabil led the five-candidate field with 33%. Armstrong received 21%, finishing five votes ahead of Daniel Clayton. Turnout was 7.9% of 87K registered voters.
  • In HD148, Democrat Anna Eastman faces Republican Luis LaRotta in a Harris Co. seat that has been steadily 15-19 percentage points bluer than the state as a whole since 2002. In the November special election, 12 Democratic candidates split 69% of the vote, led by Eastman’s 20%. LaRotta finished second with 16% of the vote, nearly four points ahead of third-place finisher Adrian Garcia, a Democrat with the same name as a current Harris County commissioner and former sheriff. Turnout was 25.2% of nearly 88K registered voters.

Kuff interviewed three Dem candidates in HD138: Akilah Bacy, Josh Wallenstein, and Jenifer Pool.

Olson has endorsed Pierce Bush, the grandson of GHW Bush, as his replacement.

From the Rio Grande Guardian:

Prominent civil rights attorney Jim Harrington will be the keynote speaker at tonight’s celebration of MLK Day at Cine El Rey.  [...]

Harrington is founder of the Texas Civil Rights Project and was attorney for the late civil rights icon Cesar Chavez. The president of the Cine El Rey Group, Bert Guerra said Harrington will stress “the importance of incremental change at the 10th Annual MLK Celebration.

“While Jim Harrington may be best known as the attorney who sued the city of McAllen for the infamous police brutality during the 1970s and 1980s, his homecoming will provide a very important message of healing and forgiveness,” Guerra said.

“His return to McAllen reminds us that even though there is still and perhaps will always be work to be done in seeking justice, that pursuit demonstrates that MLK’s Dream is alive and well in this part of America we call the Rio Grande Valley.”

See this link for details on tonight's event, and read Harrington's column, "Using the MLK holiday to kickstart organizing for justice", here.

Two El Paso blogs added to the roll are Max Powers (a non-Trump Republican) and Jaime Abeytia's Lion Star (Democratic).  Powers picked a bone last week with Abeytia bashing the Rethugs while cashing their checks (a common practice among political consultants across Texas).  And in other sidebar additions, you can find another GOP blog there: Big Jolly Times, whose contributor, Howie Katz, wrote an amusing take about the Democratic presidential primary.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs, keeping to his regular beat, had two Updates on that topic that appeared before and after the contentious debate in Iowa, with the Warren-Sanders feud still simmering.

CD Hooks, writing for Texas Monthly, puzzles through Abbott's senseless rejection of refugees.

Therese Odell at Foolish Watcher revisits Impeachment Corner.

DeSmogBlog reports that Formosa Plastics, the giant Taiwanese conglomerate owning a chemical plant on Lavaca Bay, has continued to pollute the coast with plastic nurdles despite being fined $50 million and signing a consent decree to cease doing so.

The Lunch Tray looks at a new effort to eliminate school "lunch debt shaming".

SocraticGadfly did a non-political double dip on Texas sports, first talking about the glories of Luka Doncic, then noting why he, along with a majority of other non-Houstonians, thinks the cheating Astros got off lightCort McMurray, editorializing in the Chron, gets to the heart of the Astros' cheating scandal.

More than a few football fans noticed that Sunday's AFC championship game featured two teams with Texas roots.

In a compelling read from Dan Clouse at LareDos, 'The Incident at Laredo' details a little-known account of a faulty assessment of a nuclear attack from Cuba that occurred in the 1960s.