Monday, June 17, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance marks 50 years of Pride with its LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

The first pride parade was a riot.


The Stonewall riot of 1969 earned the badge as the turning point in the modern gay rights movement. And as such, June - gay pride month - is in full swing. An annual reminder of the struggles as well as celebrations of the fight for equality, it's only fitting to mark the 50-year anniversary with a a touch of pride and a humble yet necessary recognition of the power to rise above adversity.

Houston events this week listed here.and also here (slideshow).  Dallas celebrated the first weekend in June, but Tarrant County is rolling this weekend.  San Antonio goes the last weekend of this month, and Austin will wait until August.

The Texas Tribune, in partnership with the University of Texas, released their poll of Lone Star voters regarding Trump's re-elect numbers, and the Democrats running to face him next year.

Half of the registered voters in Texas would vote to reelect President Donald Trump, but half of them would not, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Few of those voters were wishy-washy about it: 39% said they would “definitely” vote to reelect Trump; 43% said they would “definitely not” vote for him. The remaining 18% said they would “probably” (11%) or “probably not” (7%) vote to give Trump a second term.


“That 50-50 number encapsulates how divisive Trump is,” said James Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin and co-directs the poll. But, he added, the number is not necessarily “a useful prediction for an election that’s 16 months away.”


“The most interesting and more consequential thing, this far out, is that amongst independents, 60% say they will probably or definitely vote for somebody else,” said Joshua Blank, manager of polling and research for the Texas Politics Project. “Overall, Texas independents tend to be more conservative than liberal and tend to look more like Republicans than like Democrats ... and things have gotten worse among independents.”

There was news from the SCOTUS this morning regarding partisan gerrymandering, but the Virginia case was not conclusive.

A decision in another case, with potentially nationwide effects, should be coming soon ...

... as well as the justices deciding whether there will be a citizenship question added to the US Census.  Which, as FiveThirtyEight posits, may result in Texas losing a Congressional seat.

In a matter of days, the Supreme Court may dramatically change the census. The court is slated to rule on whether the Trump administration can add a question about citizenship to the 2020 form. When the case was argued back in April, many court-watchers predicted that the court’s five conservative justices were ready to side with the administration. The proposal sounds innocuous enough, but social scientists and civil rights advocates worry it will deter vulnerable populations — particularly undocumented people, other immigrants and their families — from answering the census. If that happens, many people from these groups will be at risk of not being counted and huge swaths of American life will be affected. The results of the count determine everything from where grocery stores are placed to how congressional representatives are distributed.

News about 2020 Congressional races captured Texas bloggers' attention, with the Texas Signal following up on former Rep. Allen West's apparent pre-announcement that he will enter the Republican Senate primary against John Cornyn.  Gromer Jeffers at the Dallas News ponders the possibility of state Sen. Royce West joining the race for the Democratic nomination (a rumor this blog heard two weeks ago).

West has not spoken publicly about his plans and has shrugged off questions about the timing of his decision. But he's been making the rounds in party circles, getting pledges from colleagues in the Legislature and testing whether he can raise the money needed not only to get past (announced Democratic candidate MJ) Hegar, but also beat Cornyn.

Gadfly doesn't think West will do it.  Meanwhile, Kuff throws a hissy fit at national writers who are clueless about which Democrats are running against Cornyn (which is comical, considering his own stubborn refusal to acknowledge declared candidates).  Vox has a piece about Henry Cuellar's primary challenger from his left, and the HouChron covers Lizzie Fletcher's GOP contenders.

Many Texans lost their minds over the news that the family owners of Whataburger would sell out to  a Chicago investment bank.

Latino Rebels writes about the thousands of asylum-seekers being 'metered' at the border, and Bob Moore at Texas Monthly reports that conditions at one facility in El Paso where migrants are detained are a "human dog pound".

The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express News' six-part investigative series, 'Abuse of Faith' -- about the hundreds of sexual abuse cases by Southern Baptist clergy, employees, and volunteers -- was completed two weeks ago, but a recent coda had to be added for Grace Baptist Church pastor Stephen Bratton of Cypress Station.

(Bratton) was charged Friday with continuous sexual abuse of a child, Senior (Harris County) Deputy Thomas Gilliland said Saturday. The 43-year-old is accused of inappropriate touching that escalated to “sexual intercourse multiple times a day or several times a week” from 2013 to 2015, Gilliland said.

Texas Standard reveals that the 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico -- produced by fertilizer runoff from the Mississippi River that depletes oxygen levels and suffocates marine life -- is on track to be one of the largest ever.

Christopher Collins at the Texas Observer notes a Fayette County hospital is in danger of shutting down after local anti-tax activists successfully defeated its public funding mechanism last week.

If St. Mark’s (Medical Center in La Grange) closes, patients will have to travel 20 miles to Smithville or 26 miles the other direction to Columbus to find the next nearest emergency rooms.

SocraticGadfly, through words and pictures from his many trips there, celebrates the 75th anniversary of Big Bend as a national park.

David Collins updates on Texas Green Party developments after their state meeting in Killeen recently, with an eye toward the 2020 statewide elections.

And tributes poured in for Texas author Bill Whitliff after his passing was reported.

Bill Wittliff, the writer known for the acclaimed 1980s miniseries “Lonesome Dove” and feature films such as “The Perfect Storm” and “Legends of the Fall,” died Sunday. He was 79.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

The twenty who are debating in two weeks.

Update: And here are the lineups. Warren is the only front-runner going on the first night, Wednesday, June 26th.

Her expectations might be higher than usual considering her competition.  She'll certainly be subjected to a few extra potshots from the trailers.  But I'll be more focused on Thursday evening's cage match.

There's been a shuffle in my front-runners this week: Biden is still slumping but remains the leader, barely holding on atop the heap. Warren has effectively pulled in to a second-place tie with Bernie. Mayor Pete holds down fourth, and Kamala, Beto, and Cory Booker round out the top seven.

1. Joe Biden  momentum: slipping

Another lousy week for Gramps.  But some pundits are beginning to muse that his gaffes are just part of his charm, and that they may even be his Teflon shield.

Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner, has had a peculiar couple of weeks: The points on which he’s been historically weak—women’s rights, mass incarceration, and plagiarism—have surfaced again, as weak points are bound to do, but if his responses on all three fronts have muddied his record, they haven’t done much damage to his vaunted “electability.” He’s reiterated his support (before retracting it) of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funds like Medicaid from paying for abortions. He’s defended his 1994 crime bill, which contributed (many believe) to America’s mass incarceration problem. Asked at a recent event whether he’d “commit to reducing the prison population by half,” Biden claimed that the woman asking -- whom he addressed as “kiddo” -- had been “conditioned” to say it was a bad bill. But “we should not be putting people in prison for drug offenses,” he added, omitting that he was one of the architects of the war on drugs and had specifically criticized then-President Bush’s plan because it didn’t “hold every drug user accountable.” Finally, his campaign was found to have plagiarized some policy language

Go read the whole thing, please.

Any politician with a record as long as Biden’s has to tell this “evolution” story convincingly and well. Biden’s success on this score is spotty. His appeal despite that makes it interesting. In a weird way, his frankness about his self-contradictions --“I make no apologies for my last position. I make no apologies for what I’m about to say,” he said Thursday as he reversed himself on the Hyde Amendment -- bestows upon him a kind of flexibility that allows him to claim (for example) that he won’t accept donations from corporate lobbyists, and then kick off his campaign with a fundraiser held at the home of the head of lobbying for Comcast

At some point you'd like to think that Democrats are smarter than Republicans; that they will wise up to this hypocrisy and abandon the flip-flopper for someone who tells the truth, at least more often than not.  Jemelle Hill isn't convinced; she sees African American voters doing the same thing that far too much of the rest of the Donkey base is doing.

When it comes to looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election, many black voters aren’t focused on race, gender or who can out-progessive who. They’re focused on ousting Donald Trump from the White House.

That’s according to the Los Angeles Times, which notes that while the more progressive nature and strong black base of the Democratic Party could have one thinking the next Democratic nominee will be a person of color or a woman, many black voters are setting aside thoughts of racial or gender pride to focus on who can best beat Trump at the polls.

“They are so sick and tired of being sick and tired of Trump, there’s this almost unconscious feeling they’re going to go with the candidate that is more likely to beat him,” Ron Lester, a Washington pollster who studies the attitudes of black voters, told the Times.

For many, Lester added, “that is probably a white male,” the Times reports, “given their deep-seated belief ‘that America is still a very racist place and a very misogynistic place and that a candidate who doesn’t get any white votes is probably going to lose.’”

In the Update posted two weeks ago, I led with this electability fallacy.  Markos Moulitsas blogged about it this week.

We are a polarized nation, and as such, the actual candidates themselves hardly matter anymore. We could nominate a mealworm, and it would get numbers similar to these, according to the latest general-election matchup poll by Quinnipiac University:

Biden 53, Trump 40

Sanders 51, Trump 42

Harris 49, Trump 41

Warren 49, Trump 42

Buttigieg 47, Trump 42

Booker 47, Trump 42

The key here isn’t the Democrats’ number (those are mostly driven by name recognition): it’s Trump’s. He’s maxed out at 42%. And with universal name recognition and a polarized electorate, how does he rise above that?


Bottom line? Support whoever you like, and not because you think someone will or won’t run better against Trump.

Now you're welcome to grumble that "itzerly" like Kuffner, or that polling can be akin to toilet paper, as I have repeatedly in the past.  But for the love of Dishrag, make a choice on the basis of something that appeals to you about a candidate or their policies and not a nebulous, poorly defined adverb.

Every single Democrat running for President in 2020 that is currently leading the field -- the top seven of 24 -- ought to easily beat Trump.  Except maybe for Joe Biden.  We'll see how he comports himself in these upcoming debates.

2. (tie) Elizabeth Warren  momentum: surging

(I was tempted to list Bernie here due to my bias, so I'm just trying to be fair.)

Warren showed up second in a handful of polls, national and state, released this week, for which she gets the credit as the candidate on the biggest roll.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has pulled ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., thus far her chief rival for the mantle of progressive alternative in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, in a trio of recent polls.

The first result comes from a recent Economist/YouGov poll, which finds Warren ahead of Sanders by a margin of 16 percent to 12 percent nationwide. Thus far, Warren has been trailing Sanders in national polls as both candidates grapple for the same base of progressive voters. If this trend breaks, it will be a sign that Warren could be winning over that key demographic. Both candidates still continue to trail former Vice President Joe Biden.

A second poll — this one involving an early nominating state rather than the nation as a whole — also showed Warren pulling ahead of Sanders. In the Monmouth poll of Democrats likely to participate in the Nevada caucuses, which is scheduled to follow the Iowa causes and New Hampshire primary next year, Biden is leads with 36 percent, followed by Warren with 19 percent and Sanders with 13 percent.

And that was not the only good news for Warren. A new UC Berkeley-Los Angeles Times poll of California found Biden again ahead with 22 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, but he was closely followed by Warren with 18 percent and Sanders with 17 percent.

To be clear, these are not the first polls to show that Warren is steadily making gains over other Democratic candidates. Earlier this week, a survey for the Iowa caucus conducted by the Des Moines Register and CNN found that Warren had 15 percent support, behind Biden at 24 percent and Sanders at 16 percent and ahead of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 14 percent. This was a major sign of progress for Warren, who during a survey by the same group in March was only at 9 percent in Iowa.

She won Kos' straw poll on Tuesday, first time Bernie's lost that in a long while.

Elizabeth Warren won the inaugural 2019 Daily Kos straw poll back in early January. Two weeks later, riding the high of her announcement speech, Kamala Harris won the poll. But once Bernie Sanders announced, it’s been all him, since way back in February. But this week, in convincing manner, Elizabeth Warren has retaken the top spot.


The straw poll and public polling are in agreement. There are five serious contenders in this race: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris. All the other 19 declared candidates combined can only muster around 8% of the vote. ...

Warren is riding on a high after her viral moment from the MSNBC town hall, the one where she made mincemeat of Biden’s support for the Hyde Amendment. Her rallies are drawing thousands. Her “I’ve got a plan for that” catchphrase is landing. And yes, they may both be white women, but no one is comparing her to Hillary Clinton anymore.

In a comment yesterday on the site, community member Fatherflot wrote, “Fair or not, (Warren) needed to create a clear identity for herself that drew a sharp distinction with Hillary. Instead of the aloof insider-technocrat, she is promoting herself as a kind of ‘Mary Poppins’ figure -- the cheerful, exuberant, uber-competent woman who simply gets things done and makes everyone feel included and proud.”

I’ve got to say, 'Mary Poppins figure' is really landing with me. I think it nails her vibe, and why we’re seeing a surprising dearth of “Is she likable?” stories and memes about her.

The Daily Kos denizens don't see the differences between Liz and Bernie, and remain of the "he's not a Democrat" persuasion anyway.  This collides with the view of the Berners I hang out with, not to mention my own.  Anyway, the progressive wing -- comprised loosely of Sandernistas and Warrenites -- is most certainly ascendant right now.

2. (tie) Bernie Sanders  momentum: holding

The Week offered a theory about Bernie's speech defining democratic socialism.

On Wednesday, Sanders gave a lengthy speech outlining what he means when he says he's a "democratic socialist." It was chock full of historical references and mentions of President Trump, but, as some Sanders supporters and Democratic strategists suggest, may have been more aimed at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Sanders and Warren are often seen as progressive equivalents, except for when Warren declares herself a capitalist and Sanders sticks to socialism. Despite that ideological difference, Warren has seemingly been the only Democratic presidential candidate gaining steam over the past few weeks, and it has largely come at Sanders' expense. In fact, an Economist/YouGov poll released just an hour before Sanders' Wednesday speech showed Warren had 19 percent support in the 2020 race over Sanders' 15 percent. Sanders had been at a solid second place to former Vice President Joe Biden before that.

This the first major poll where Warren has managed to pass Sanders, and to Democratic strategist and former White House Communications Director Jen Psaki, it's just what Sanders was worried about. His Wednesday speech "is a pretty clear indication he is feeling the heat from Elizabeth Warren's recent momentum among progressive voters," Psaki told The New York Times, calling it Sanders' "attempt to reclaim the anti-capitalist mantle he ran on in 2016."

Even before Wednesday's poll debuted, it didn't seem Warren was too worried about whatever socialist rhetoric Sanders had cooked up. When The Atlantic asked her about Sanders' forthcoming speech the other day, she laughed

Vox thought it was about Trump.  I just thought it was about something that most people don't really understand, despite it being defined repeatedly over the course of the past year.

Republicans salivate, centrist Dems fret, but the truth is that the disinformation campaign, i.e. fear-mongering, Red-baiting, scape-goating etc. will happen no matter what.  Bernie is simply being honest and owning it.

4. Pete Buttigieg  momentum: gradually rising

Mayor Pete's constituency as reflected in most polls is right around ten percent.  He's raising money, staffing up in Iowa -- rising in the polling there -- and continuing to slowly grow his support.  I continue to hold that his appeal will be capped by a variety of factors and that the best he can expect is a Cabinet position, not even VP, but hey, I've been wrong before.  His debate performance alongside Biden, Sanders, and Harris will either significantly add to his momentum, or slow his roll.

5. Kamala Harris  momentum: holding

Like Buttigieg, there was no significant positive or negative development for her this past week, unless you count her slipping to fourth in recent polling of California.

The poll serves as a blunt warning for Harris, who is banking on a surge of home-state support after a strong showing during the back half of early voting -- in neighboring Nevada, and South Carolina, where African American voters form a decisive bloc. Organizationally, Harris is working to make up ground with Warren in Iowa, where the Massachusetts senator has built a formidable team. Harris is planning a hiring spree there that calls for bringing in 65 people.

In the California poll, Harris performed well across ethnic and demographic groups, and voters there consistently selected her as their second choice. But similar to her standing in the early states and nationally, she hasn’t caught fire with likely voters in the first few months of the race.

Harris just seems to be getting out-worked, or out-hustled, or outdone in some form or fashion every time I have taken a deep look lately.  Is it her emerging reality that she winds up as nothing better than someone's veep?  Her debate performance will either cement or break that impression.

6. (tie) Beto O'Rourke  momentum: holding

Beto became the first to slap Biden around.

“You cannot go back to the end of the Obama administration and think that that’s good enough,” the former Texas congressman said at the end of a lengthy interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “As much of a horror show as Trump has been -- his racism, the disaster of his foreign policy, his punishment of farmers and workers here in this country -- we had real problems before Donald Trump became president.”

Asked, “Is Joe Biden a return to the past?” O’Rourke answered bluntly, "He is. And that cannot be who we are going forward. We’ve got to be bigger, we’ve got to be bolder. We have to set a much higher mark and be relentless in pursuing that.”

That's rougher than I recall him ever being on Ted Cruz.

I'm ranking him tied for sixth not only for that, but for last week's Texas poll showing him second to Creepy Uncle Joe in the Lone Star delegate chase.  Despite the fact 60% of those surveyed in the same poll want him to drop out of the run for the White House and take on John Cornyn (something I still anticipate he will do).  If/when Biden deflates -- and should Beto not take everybody's advice and actually win our Super Tuesday primary next March -- he sits pretty for at least another month or so of presidential primaries and caucuses.

6. (tie) Cory Booker  momentum: slightly rising

Booker has twelve signatories on his reparations legislation, including several of his competitors for the Dem nom.

The bill, officially titled “HR 40 Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act (pdf),” would establish a commission to study the impact of slavery on African Americans and suggest proposals that would help repay descendants of slaves for the costs of centuries of racial discrimination.

The bill’s 12 co-sponsors are U.S. Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

Along with Warren, Booker was reviewed favorably at last weekend's Iowa cattle call, the Cedar Rapids Hall of Fame dinner.

In the early state where field organization has traditionally mattered the most, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have quietly and patiently concentrated their resources toward building grassroots machines designed to power them on caucus night.

It showed here on Sunday as 19 Democratic presidential candidates converged for the first time in one venue to make their five-minute pitch to the party faithful. The gathering, designed to honor Iowa Democrats in a Hall of Fame dinner, offered the first glimpse of a sprawling Democratic primary field — and the organizational strength and enthusiasm each campaign could muster.

Booker and Warren weren’t the only presidential hopefuls to stand out. The senator from next door in Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, also put on a show of force both inside and outside the Cedar Rapids Doubletree Hilton Hotel, where the dinner took place.

Biden was not in the state.  Sanders marched outside with the McDonald's workers, who were on strike for a $15 minimum wage.  Eighth place in my rankings would probably go to Klobuchar.

And FWIW, the WaPo's Pundit Power Ranking has Liz in a tie with Joe for first, Bernie third, Buttigieg and Harris tied for fourth, Klobuchar in sixth, Booker in seventh, and Beto in eighth.

Gonna wrap this week with Howard Schultz and Howie Hawkins.

Starbucks billionaire Howard Schultz told campaign staff that he is making significant cuts to his team, as he suspends his political plans for the summer.

Schultz came into the office Wednesday for the first time in months and met with the staff, according to a person in the room. He announced that he was letting everyone go except those in senior leadership positions, adding he would not make a decision about running for president until after Labor Day.

Shortly thereafter, Schultz sent an email to supporters, saying that medical reasons had taken him out of commission for months, and he still needed time to recover.

“While I was in Arizona, I unfortunately experienced acute back pain that required me to cut my travels short,” he wrote. “Over the following two months, I underwent three separate back surgeries. Today, I am feeling much better, and my doctors foresee a full recovery so long as I rest and rehabilitate. I have decided to take the summer to do just that.”

Go play lots of dodgeball, Howard.

And finally:

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance wasn't prepared for hundred-degree temperatures -- or 70-mph winds that toppled construction cranes onto apartment buildings -- just yet.

In the Dallas and San Antonio mayor's elections ...

l. Niremberg; r. Johnson

Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) defeated council member Scott Griggs, 56%-44%, to become the city’s next mayor. Griggs fared best in the Oak Lawn area, West Dallas, and the White Rock Lake area. Johnson dominated South Dallas, particularly East Oak Cliff, and North Dallas.

A special election will be needed to fill Johnson’s unexpired term (in the Texas House). It will likely coincide with the November constitutional amendment election.


San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg narrowly defeated council member Greg Brockhouse, 51%-49%. Nirenberg led Brockhouse by 2,775 votes after early voting, which meant Brockhouse needed about 55% of the Election Day vote to overtake the incumbent. For a couple of hours, Brockhouse was at 52%-53% of the vote on Election Day, but late-counted boxes favored Nirenberg, preserving his re-election bid. Turnout citywide was 15.4%.

Iris Dimmick at the Rivard Report writes that Niremberg will have to patch things up with his city's firefighters (a familiar refrain to H-Town voters).  Sanford Nowlin and Jade Esteban Estrada at the San Antonio Current have the full and revealing backstory on Niremberg's close call.  And Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer laments the passing of the progressive era at Big D's city hall.

With the Houston municipal elections now in the spotlight, there were several developments.

Council Member Dwight Boykins officially declared his challenge to incumbent Sylvester Turner, joining Tony Buzbee, Bill King, and four other candidates for mayor.

The kickoff capped what amounted to a week-long tease of Boykins’ candidacy. First, a campaign website surfaced last weekend, then swiftly disappeared. Boykins then filed a report with the city secretary designating a campaign treasurer, on which he indicated that he would seek the office of Houston mayor.

Finally, the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association on Thursday endorsed Boykins. The union backed Turner during the 2015 campaign, but their relations with the mayor have soured during his first term.

Marty Lancton, president of the fire union, told the crowd Saturday that Boykins “is not afraid to call out any injustice, especially when it comes to public safety. He said too many politicians “claim to love firefighters, then stab us in the back at City Hall.”

Also backing Boykins at his kickoff was state Rep. Mary Ann Perez, a Houston Democrat who served with Turner in the Legislature. She said she would “stand by (Boykins’) side until this is done.”

“I know when he becomes mayor, he's going to stand up and fight for each and every one of us,” said Perez, whose son is a Houston firefighter. “I know there is a difference between a politician and a public servant. And Dwight Boykins is a public servant."

The Chron's op-ed board declared that Boykins will need more than the firefighters to win.

America’s fourth-largest city is at a turning point. It’s a city with deep debts to immigrants at a time when immigrants are under fire. It’s a city known as the energy capital of the world at a time when climate concerns threaten old business models. We’re a city still recovering from Harvey, and eyeing this hurricane season warily.

In short, anyone running for mayor of Houston in 2019 ought to have a soaring vision and a tight grip on the tools needed to achieve it.

All (of the) candidates have the same task: To state clearly and with all the imagination and smarts available where they’d take this city over the next four years.

John Coby is amused that the firefighter's union has kicked Buzbee to the curb.  As Kuff has somewhat churlishly noted, Boykins was a 'no' on the HERO vote a few years ago.  With the HGLBTQ Caucus already firmly in Turner's corner, the strength of their mobilization effort versus whatever the anti-Sly vote may be among Houston's black communities will be the storyline to track.  The Texas Signal adds a little drama, including the name-dropping of former At-Large CM Sue Lovell, who is mulling a jump into the fray for mayor.

Relative to Boykins dropping out of a re-election bid for his District D city council seat, rapper Scarface aka Brad Jordan has declared his intentions to run for it.

Though the Lege is adjourned until 2021, the cabrito entrails are still in need of interpretation.

The Texas Tribune is touring the state with a series of post-session events recapping the major policy debates of the 86th Texas Legislature, and what they mean for Texas’ largest cities and surrounding communities.

Join their video conversation later this morning about health care, public education, taxes, immigration, spending and other consequential matters with Rio Grande Valley-area legislators, including state Sen. Chuy Hinojosa and state Reps. Bobby Guerra and Oscar Longoria. The conversation will be moderated by Evan Smith, co-founder and CEO of the Tribune.

Asher Price at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal explains why Greg Abbott vetoed a domestic violence bill that was passed unanimously bu both the Texas Senate and House.  Abbott, as several state and national media outlets reported, was behind the voter purge that resulted in his cabana boy SOS, David Whitley, being rejected winding up back on his staff with a raise.

Jen Rice at HPM talks to Houston's flood czar, Steve Costello, who says that ending residential development in the 100-year flood plain is "not going to happen".

(Texas A&M professor Sam) Brody said other flood-prone areas around the world like the Netherlands are planning for 10,000-year storms. In Houston, officials are still allowing new construction in the path of a 100-year storm.

“I’m often the butt of jokes in meetings all over the country,” Brody (the lead technical expert on Gov. Abbott's Commission to Rebuild Texas) said.

Kuff has his usual "it's too early" about that Quinnipiac poll showing Creepy Joe Biden ahead of -- and Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Beto O'Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, and Julian Castro all statistically tied with -- Donald Trump in Texas.

SocraticGadfly looks at the latest bad jurisprudence from Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, part of court liberals who often hate the First or Fourth Amendments.

Dr. Carlos Tirado at TribTalk bemoans a lost opportunity to prevent overdose deaths.

Kate McLean, for the Houston Press, ponders the questions Pearland ISD continues to face about dress codes and race relations in its schools.

The Lunch Tray looks forward on its ninth birthday.

Latin Restaurant Weeks in H-Town enters its final week (treat your papi!)

Participating restaurants will offer fixed menus at an affordable price. Casual diners will offer 3-course meals starting at $15 and upper scale places will have meals start at $35. They’ll offer a range of cuisine from Peru, Argentina, Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries.

Last, Harry Hamid, still recovering from aggressive chemotherapy, visits the girl in the red pants.

Friday, June 07, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

Debate breaking news first:

... (W)ith less than a week for candidates to hit the threshold to make the debate stage, the Democratic National Committee announced a rule change which leaves Montana Gov. Steve Bullock on the outside looking in. Bullock had qualified for the first debates (in Miami at the end of June) based on polling, but the DNC said on Thursday that two ABC News/Washington Post polls -- one of which had put Bullock over the top -- would no longer be counted. As of Thursday afternoon, that left 20 candidates who had met thresholds via polling and/or fundraising.

Joe Biden's lousy week next:

Former Vice President Joe Biden's position on the Hyde Amendment -- a longstanding flash point involving the prohibition on federal funds being used for certain types of abortions -- now rests in an odd state of nuance.

"He has not at this point changed his position," his campaign put forward in a statement, leaving open the possibility, if not the probability, that Biden would at a later point support the provision's repeal.

And as sure as the flip-flops are ready to hit the beach ...

That was just one of his three gaffes.

This happened when Biden tried not to move left this week. When he did nod in the progressive direction, with a climate change policy that pays homage to the Green New Deal, a sloppy campaign copy-and-paste revived memories of plagiarism that earned another Twitter blast from President Donald Trump.

Also this week, when Biden had a brief close chat with a New Hampshire voter, he made sure he told the press directly that "she pulled me close."

Uncle Joe is going to have a really bad debate night.  I smell the end near for him.

-- Joe Biden Worked to Undermine the Affordable Care Act’s Coverage of Contraception

-- Guess who else voted against federal funding for abortion?

Let's see what the twenty who are currently debating in a few weeks, plus a few others, were up to since the last time we checked.

Michael Bennet

Bennet met the polling criteria to participate in the first Democratic debate scheduled to take place later this month in Miami. He garnered 1 percent in a national CNN poll on Tuesday, which is the third qualifying poll (in which) he has reached 1 percent ...

In the aftermath of the deadly mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Bennet told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on This Week that “I think the president can make a difference. The House of Representatives has passed background checks to close the internet loophole. This person bought the guns lawfully as we know. Every single fact pattern will be different. We should pass those background checks -- 90 percent of Americans support it.”

The Colorado senator spent the weekend campaigning in South Carolina , while many of his fellow 2020 rivals were at the California Democratic Convention.

Bennett remains a third-or fourth-tier neoliberal also-ran.

Cory Booker

The New Jersey senator unveiled a plan to make housing more affordable by offering a tax credit to people who spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. According to researchers at Columbia University, the refundable renters’ credit would benefit more than 57 million people -- including 17 million children -- and lift 9.4 million Americans out of poverty.

Booker’s housing plan also includes measures to expand access to legal counsel for tenants facing eviction, reform restrictive zoning laws, build more affordable housing units and combat homelessness through funding grants.

At the California Democratic Convention over the weekend, Booker also addressed the issue of gun violence.

“We are seeing the normalization of mass murder in our country,” Booker said. “It is time that we come together and stand together and take the fight to the NRA and the corporate gun lobby like we have never seen before. We can lead that fight and we can win.”

The reveal of his celebrity girlfriend a few months ago did not get him enough attention, so he tried using his campaign staff's missing pup this week.

Booker, second- or perhaps third-tier, needs a good debate to demonstrate viability.

Pete Buttigieg 

During a MSNBC town hall on Monday, Buttigieg said he “would not have applied that pressure” for Sen. Al Franken to have resigned in 2017 over sexual harassment allegations without first learning more about the claims.

“I think it was his decision to make,” the South Bend Indiana mayor said. “But I think the way that we basically held him to a higher standard than the GOP does their people has been used against us.”

At the California Democratic Convention, Buttigieg leaned into his position as a Washington outsider and said the country needs “something completely different.”

“Why not a middle-class millennial mayor with a track record in the industrial Midwest? Why not a mayor at a time when we need Washington to look more like our best run cities and towns, not the other way around? And why not someone who represents a new generation of leadership?” the 37-year-old said.

Mayor Pete has a way of stating his case eloquently, as his fans know.  I do not think he will ever get enough African American support to rise much higher than he already has in this cycle, but he maintains first-tier, top five status, and as this piece from a couple of weeks ago suggests, there could another surge if he performs well at the first debate.  And I would expect him to do so.

Julián Castro 

The former Housing and Urban Development secretary unveiled a sweeping police reform plan Monday, aiming to prevent officer-involved shootings, increase transparency and end “police militarization.”

“Even though we have some great police officers out there, and I know that because I served as mayor of San Antonio, this is not a case of just a few bad apples,” Castro said on CNN. “The system is broken.”

Included in the proposal are restrictions on the use of deadly force, the increased adoption of technology such as body cameras, an end to stop-and-frisk tactics and expanded bias training.

I remain of the opinion that Castro's support is under-surveyed.  I believe he might be the long shot in the race that could best 'pop at a price', as they say at the track.  He has no competition for the Latinx vote in California or Texas, and this recent statistic could be determinative.

And while there are intense efforts at the federal and state level under way to suppress that vote, my feeling is, by and large, the wave cannot be stopped.

(Skipping DeBlasio and Delaney, despite the latter being booed at the CaDC and fruitlessly challenging AOC to a debate on Medicare for All.  A plea for attention that I, like the good New York Congresswoman, choose not to acknowledge.)

Tulsi Gabbard 

The Hawaii congresswoman reacted to the House passing the “DREAM and Promise Act” which would protect young undocumented immigrants and immigrants with temporary status who were once covered by the Obama-era DACA program. She said on Fox News, “The hyper-partisanship around this issue has gotten in the way of delivering a real solution. This legislation and finding a solution for these Dreamers is something that has had bipartisan support.”

Kirsten Gillibrand 

Gillibrand released a plan to legalize marijuana, which called for expunging all non-violent marijuana convictions. Gillibrand said that under her plan, tax revenue from recreational marijuana would be put “towards programs that help repair the damage done by the War on Drugs.”

The New York senator also participated in a town hall on Fox News, where she attacked the network for its coverage of abortion. Gillibrand was asked about her position on 'late-term abortion' and she began her response by reiterating her stand that “when it comes to women’s reproductive freedom, it should be a woman’s decision.” She then criticized Fox News for creating “a false narrative” on the issue.

Gillibrand was cut off by moderator Chris Wallace, who said, “Senator, I just want to say we’ve brought you here for an hour.”

Wallace continued, “We have treated you very fairly. I understand that, maybe, to make your credentials with the Democrats who are not appearing on Fox News, you want to attack us. I’m not sure it’s frankly very polite when we’ve invited you to be here.”

Gillibrand said that she would “do it in a polite way,” but she was interrupted by Wallace again who said “instead of talking about Fox News, why don’t you answer Susan’s question?” referring to the question asked by the member of the audience.

Still, Gillibrand attacked the network for their use of the word “infanticide”, calling it “illegal” and “not a fact.” She added, “I believe all of us have a responsibility to talk about the facts.”

It was a nice moment for a campaign and a candidate who has not had very many.

Kamala Harris 

Harris was rushed off the stage Saturday while speaking at the MoveOn #BigIdeas forum in San Francisco after an activist (climbed on stage) and grabbed the microphone out of her hand. Harris returned to the stage about a minute later to chants of “Ka-ma-la” from the audience.

An animal activist group claimed responsibility for the man rushing the stage. He was identified by the group as Aidan Cook. The group’s spokesperson, Matt Johnson, told ABC News that Cook was not detained or arrested; he was simply kicked out.

This was a tense moment, as there are for many of the Democrats working rope lines and meeting large crowds inside and outside.  There's not enough Secret Service at this juncture to go around and many campaigns can't afford private security.  Everyone is just hoping there won't be any incidents.

Beyond that, Senator Harris got a splash of cold water from the state capital newspaper's op-ed author.  Short excerpt:

Harris doesn’t have strong policy views like Elizabeth Warren. She doesn’t represent a more progressive generation of voters like South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. She doesn’t have the national standing of Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders.

So who is Kamala Harris besides a sparkling resume and stump speech? It’s not too early to expect an answer.

(Hickenlooper also got booed in California.  Enough said.)

Jay Inslee 

The Washington governor has been pushing hard for the DNC to dedicate one of its presidential primary debates to the topic of climate change. DNC spokeswoman, Xochitl Hinojosa, responded in a statement saying, “the DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single issue area because we want to make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on dozens of issues of importance to American voters.”

Inslee called the DNC’s decision to not host a climate debate “deeply disappointing.”

“The DNC is silencing the voices of Democratic activists, many of our progressive partner organizations, and nearly half of the Democratic presidential field, who want to debate the existential crisis of our time. Democratic voters say that climate change is their top issue; the Democratic National Committee must listen to the grassroots of the party,” Inslee’s campaign said in a press release.

The DNC also said that if any candidates participated in a separate debate on climate change, they would be barred from future DNC debates.

This could get interesting once Inslee eventually leaves the race, and the focus begins to turn to the most aggressive climate action plans, especially that of the original Green New Dealer, Howie Hawkins.  It would be wonderful for this blogger to see the kind of Green surge in this country that European nations recently saw in their elections.

(Amy Klobuchar and Seth Moulton were all but invisible last week.)

Beto O’Rourke 

O’Rourke released a voting rights plan which called for term limits for members of Congress and for Supreme Court justices. O’Rourke is calling for members of the House and Senate to serve for no more than 12 years, and for justices to be capped at one 18-year term. O’Rourke said that after a justice completes their term, they would be permitted to serve on the federal courts of appeals.

The former Texas congressman’s plan also includes measures to increase voter participation, including by making Election Day a federal holiday and by allowing automatic and same-day voter registration.

O'Rourke got good news and not-so-good news from a Quinnipiac poll of Texas voters made public earlier this week.

Trump is locked in too-close-to-call races with any one of seven top Democratic challengers in the 2020 presidential race in Texas ...

"The data shows home-state hopeful, former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, is doing OK in the presidential matchup, but Democratic voters would prefer he leave the presidential campaign and run for the U.S. Senate." [...]

Texas Democrats and Democratic leaners say 60 - 27 percent that O'Rourke should challenge Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the 2020 U.S. Senate race, rather than continue his campaign for president. Support for an O'Rourke Senate race is strong among very liberal, somewhat liberal and moderate/conservative Democrats.

Tim Ryan 

Ryan flipped his position on impeachment, this week, saying he believes Congress has to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump. The Ohio congressman made his announcement during a CNN town hall, saying that Mueller’s statement last week made him support impeachment.

Bernie Sanders 

Sanders spoke at Walmart’s annual shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday, directly criticizing the company for paying its employees low wages and lobbying for a resolution that would give hourly workers representation on the company’s board of directors.

As many Democratic candidates spoke out on abortion rights this week, comments by Sanders in 1972 -- prior to the Roe v. Wade decision -- resurfaced via Newsweek. He told a Vermont newspaper at the time that it struck him as “incredible” that the male-dominated state legislature, and politicians in general, “think that they have the right to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body.”

This weekend, Sanders visits Iowa to speak at the Capital City Pride Candidate Forum in Des Moines, he will march with McDonald’s workers who are seeking higher wages and attend the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration in Cedar Rapids, among several other events.

Bernie just keeps hitting one home run after the other.  Check out his TIME cover and story.

And in that moment Sanders became a little clearer to me: He isn’t the person you want sitting beside you on a long boat ride, passing time. He’s the person who will notice when you fall overboard and begin to drown.

-- Sanders Demands McConnell Allow Senate Vote to Raise 'Absurdly Low' Federal Minimum Wage to $15

Eric Swalwell

Swalwell talked about his assault weapon ban and buyback plan on ABC’s The View. He said that he’s the only candidate calling to “ban and buy back every single assault weapon in America.”

The California congressman also left the door open to drop out of the presidential race and run for re-election for his House seat. Swalwell said he is open to running for a fifth term in Congress, but said he wouldn’t make that decision until December.

Elizabeth Warren

Warren announced on Thursday that her campaign staff has unionized.

“My campaign has submitted their support to join IBEW 2320,” Warren tweeted. Her campaign joins a growing number of others that are showing support for unions and unionizing themselves. The Sanders and Castro campaigns have also unionized and the Swalwell campaign had previously said they were unionizing.

But Warren choked on the heritage question again.

It's still her Achilles' heel.  I would have thought she'd have come up with a better answer by now.  I don't think I can bear to hear Trump chanting "Pocahontas" for a year, but that would be the least of several reasons I would have difficulty voting for Liz (with the presumption of a Green option on my 2020 ballot).

-- Elizabeth Warren Has Yet to Apologize for Her Pro-Charter School History

Andrew Yang

During Pride Month, Yang tied his signature universal basic income proposal to the LGBTQ community, noting in a BuzzFeed interview that he’s heard from many people who say they’ve been kicked out of housing and fired from jobs over their sexual orientation. He said it is his plan to give all American adults $1,000 per month, which could help them “adjust if they’re economically singled out.”

Yang will be among the speakers at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration in Cedar Rapids on Sunday.

I continue to operate under the impression that Yang is of the Demo-Libertarian wing of the Democratic Party.  Speaking of the Libs ...

Lincoln Chafee, the former senator and governor of Rhode Island (and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate), has joined the Libertarian Party.

First reported by the Boston Globe, Chafee has reportedly made a move from Rhode Island to Wyoming and registered Libertarian in the process. When asked about whether he would run for some office in the future under the Libertarian Party label, Chafee was non-committal.

Chafee was first elected to office as the mayor of Warwick in 1992, a town of about 85,000 people in Rhode Island. He would go on to serve as a Republican senator, independent governor, and ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. One notable vote Chafee made as a Senator was against the bill authorizing the use of force in Iraq.

The timing of Chafee’s switch has not gone unnoticed by major media outlets, as some are speculating whether he is planning a run for president as a Libertarian. Such a move by a former major party elected official is not unprecedented. Bob Barr, a former representative, did so in 2008 and Gary Johnson, a former governor, did so in 2012 and 2016. Mike Gravel, a former Democratic senator like Chaffee attempted to do so in 2008 but Barr ultimately won the nomination that year.

Also, GOP challengers to Trump are down to just one.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) is no longer considering running against President Trump in the 2020 presidential election, the Washington Post reports.

Only one Republican has formally announced a challenge to Trump: former Gov. Bill Weld (R-Mass.), and only one other Republican -- Nebraskan senator Ben Sasse -- is weighing a possible 2020 run.

The US Green Party will hold its national meeting in July.

When: Thursday, July 25, to Sunday, July 28, 2019
Where: Salem State University Central Campus, 352 Lafayette Street, Salem, MA 01970
Meeting Details: Website | Directions | Draft Schedule

Media events at the Green Party’s 2019 Annual National Meeting in Salem will include three press conferences with meeting organizers and candidates, and a forum for candidates seeking the 2020 Green Party presidential nomination.

Many of the meeting events are open to the media and general public. A credentialing page for reporters, bloggers, and other members of the media interested in covering the events, including press conferences, will be posted online.

The meeting will feature Green Party panels, workshops, meetings of the Green National Committee (not open to the media and public), and other events. Green candidates running in 2019 and 2020 and Green elected officials are expected to attend.

Schedule of Press Events

Thursday, July 25, 4:00 p.m. Press Conference about the Green Party’s 2019 Annual National Meeting with party officials and meeting organizers and introduction of Green-Rainbow Party of Massachusetts candidates.

Friday, July 26, 9:00 a.m. Press Conference with Green Party statewide candidates. (participants TBA)
Friday, July 26, 10:00 a.m. Press Conference with Green Party federal candidates. (participants TBA)
Friday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Presidential Candidates Forum
Saturday, July 27, 7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Fundraising Event emceed by standup comic Lee Camp – head writer and host of the national TV show Redacted Tonight, and web series “Moment of Clarity.” (George Carlin’s daughter Kelly said he’s one of the few comics keeping her father’s torch lit.)

-- How Do Greens Run For President In An “Anybody But Trump” Election Year?

See you next week!