Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tom Wakely for Governor

I have my candidate.  How about you?

A month ago, at the top of this (somewhat depressing, reality-driven) post about the current market value of voting, especially in our beloved Texas, I quoted Wakely's mention in the excellent (mostly progressive Democratic) blog Down With Tyranny and his successful (if you consider limiting Lamar Smith to just under 57%) effort to win a Central Texas seat in Congress last year.

Wakely is everything you'd expect in a seasoned white progressive populist.  He's a reincarnation of my old pal David Van Os, with less picante.  He's Bernie Sanders with a cowboy hat.  Like Bernie, he may eventually find a little traction among millennials, people of color, women, and others who want to see a different and better Texas, but without much in the way of a website at the moment (update: better website) or money flowing to his campaign he is likely going to be relegated to Green Party-like numbers.

That doesn't matter as far as I'm concerned.  Zack Lyke, who managed his campaign against Lamar Smith in TX-21, also ran John Courage's successful San Antonio city council effort.  So let's hope he does the same again for Wakely, at least until the candidate rises in the polls and the money starts rolling in and the thousand-dollar Italian-suited Democratic political consultants try to push him out.

Since Wakely has castigated the Democratic Party so harshly, I'm still thinking Democrats' only hope is to get behind a Draft Joe Straus effort.  But if they pick a Clintonite, I think it's going to be fun to watch how much farther than Wendy Davis that person falls.  Remember, no more straight ticket voting unless a court rules otherwise and the decision stands for next year  (see Update IV immediately below).  My humble O is that hurts Democrats electorally, but does not rise to the level of discrimination.  I'm not a judge, though.

Update IV (7/21, and time for a new post on this topic): Kuff's opinion about Wakely, to put it mildly, lacks enthusiasm for the candidate, knocking down Wakely's contention about being the highest vote-collector among Congressional Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents with some numbers from one of his trusty spreadsheets, and correcting me about when the voter ID law eliminating straight-ticket voting is to take effect.

Correction duly noted, but that first part seems a little "to-may-toe, to-mah-toe" to me.

Update: Oh looky here.  Jeffrey Payne, small business owner, is in a same-sex marriage so the Dallas Voice helped him out, but Stace doesn't think much of his language on the anti-sanctuary law, and the TDP and Kuff seem less than enthused.  Lacks a website, name recognition, money, donors, etc. like every other Democratic/Green/progressive independent candidate so there's that.

Update III (7/20): I now understand the Democrats' reticence to get behind (sorry) "International Mr. Leather" for Governor.

Update II: In response to my query as to party affiliation or lack thereof, Wakely tweeted the following back at me this morning.

Seems a little conflicted, and certainly his previous statements about Texas Democrats are going to be held against him, but as he says ... wait and see.

Wakely posted a fairly lengthy announcement at Down With Tyranny.  Here it is (bold emphasis is mine, with a few minor English-teacher-style corrections.  Hey, everybody needs a proof reader, including me).

My name is Tom Wakely and I am a candidate for Governor of Texas but before we get into that I’d like to tell you a story or two of how I came to the decision to run and why I am running.

My wife and I run a private care home for hospice patients in San Antonio. We offer them a place in our home to die. We have been doing this for a little over eight years now and we have helped 48 people to die with dignity and respect. My wife is from Mexico and she just became a US citizen this past spring. I was born in San Antonio and right after high school at the age of 17, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. After my discharge, I returned to San Antonio and soon found myself working with Cesar Chávez on the grape boycott campaign in Texas. I was very political active during the 70’s. But all my work, all my idealism, came crashing down in the fall of 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan as President. I was 27 years old. I was lost, bewildered, not sure what I should do or where I should do it. For the next few years, I was an aimless wanderer, traveling all over the country. I tried going back to college but it didn’t hold my interest. I became a stockbroker for a while but decided that wasn’t my thing. I flipped burgers for a few months, drove a cab, I even took a job on the Mississippi cleaning the inside of river barges. I eventually drifted back down to Texas with nothing more than a few bucks in my pocket. The political revolution that I had been so much a part of had failed and nothing I did or thought I wanted to do could fill the emptiness in my soul.

I was now 32 years old, alone and tired. I had just broken my right ankle in a stupid accident and as I lay in my hospital bed, thinking about my life, I had an epiphany. Of course, at the time, I didn’t understand it to be an epiphany, but it was. Anyway, I healed and after a few phone calls followed by a few interviews, I found myself back in the Midwest, enrolled at the Chicago Theological Seminary.

I mention this because it is relevant to why I am running for Governor of the State of Texas.

Now, you have to remember when I entered seminary in 1985, apartheid was still the political and social system in South Africa. I had been and was now again very active in the anti-apartheid movement, this time in Chicago. To my surprise my seminary had a relationship with a South African seminary and with Desmond Tutu. It worked like this. When it looked liked an ANC fighter, a college professor or a shopkeeper was about to be arrested and imprisoned by the authorities, they were immediately whisked away, enrolled in the South African seminary, then within a few days, they were in Chicago, in class with me. I became friends with all of them and still maintain that friendship with a few of them today.

These men taught me two very important life lessons. The first was don’t give up hope. Don’t let losing a battle discourage you. Keep on resisting. The second lesson was when a political opportunity presents itself, grab on to it as you may not get another chance. Which brings me to the question that everyone is asking me. Why in the hell are you running for Governor of Texas.

To answer that question, you need to understand Texas politics. Texas is not a red state; it is a no-vote state. In the 2014 general election that saw the rise of Greg Abbott and his tea-party brethren to power -- Abbott becoming Governor and Dan Patrick becoming Lt. Governor -- only 38% of our state’s registered voters voted. Abbott took 60% of the 38% which means he only received the support of 22% of the state’s registered voters. The Democratic candidate, Wendy Davis, did far worse. She only received 40% of the 38% which means just a little over 15% of the state’s registered voters supported her. This voting pattern has been fairly consistent and repeated over and over again for decades.

Something is terribly wrong here. Over 60% of my state’s registered voters are consistently not voting.

The result is that Texas is now controlled by a small minority of politically, socially and religiously conservative people and the Texas Democratic Party has no clue what to do about it, or if they do know what the problem is, they simply have chosen to ignore it. We all know there is still a hell of a lot of money to be made losing elections.

Over the past 4 months I have talked to literally thousands of non-voters all across the state and asked them why they didn’t vote and they all have told me basically the same thing: they don’t vote because they know the Republican Party doesn’t care about them or their family and the Democratic Party has abandoned them. That is the reason why over 60% of our state is not voting: they know that neither party cares about the working men and women of this state. To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, Texas cannot survive morally or economically much longer when so few have so much and so many have so little.

I entered a 2016 Congressional race here in Texas on the heels of Bernie’s bid to secure the Democratic Party nomination for President. I ran as an economic populist on a strong bold progressive agenda against 30-year Republican incumbent Lamar Smith, the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. While we lost that race, we did manage to secure a few moral victories. We received more votes than any candidate who had ever run against Smith; we managed to drop Smith’s percentage of the vote total to its lowest level ever -- 56.9% -- and our campaign received more votes than any Democrat in the State of Texas running against a incumbent Republican member of Congress. And we did all that with no institutional support from the Texas Democratic Party and with very little money -- a tad over $70,000, which included a $15,000 loan I made to my campaign.

Like my old ANC friends from seminary said, when a political opportunity presents itself, grab on to it as you may not get another chance. Well, the political opportunity in Texas is now. Governor Greg Abbott’s attacks on labor, on women, on refugees and immigrants, on Hispanics and other minorities, on the LBGTQ community, on the poor in our state, on our environment and on our great cities, needs to be responded to with the most forceful weapon we have at our disposal - the ballot box.

I am entering this race for Governor not because I want to but because I have to. When I was in seminary I learned about Martin Niemöller, the Lutheran minister who was an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. He summed up perfectly my feelings and why I am running for Texas Governor. Niemöller said: “First they went after the Communists, and I did not stand up, because I was not a Communist. Then they went after the homosexual and infirm, and I did not stand up, because I was neither. Then they went after the Jews, and I did not stand up, because I was not a Jew. Then they went after the Catholics, and I did not stand up, because I was Protestant. Finally, they went after me, and there was no one left to stand up for me.”

As far as I am concerned, the defining principles of the 2018 Texas Governor’s race are moral issues: respect for the dignity of everyone living in Texas; respect for the dignity of work and the rights of workers; the call to family and to community; the rights and responsibilities of all Texans; a preferential option for the poor in our state; valuing our fellow Texans and respecting who they are as individuals; and caring for God’s creation -- the air, water and land.

As I mentioned above, with only a little more than 22% of the state’s registered voters supporting Governor Abbott and his tea party brethren, I again have to ask myself why are over 60% of our state’s registered voters not voting. The answer I believe to why so many Texans are not voting is because no serious candidate for Governor has ever talked to them about income inequality. Well, I intend to talk to the 60% about income inequality in our state. Look, Texas has the world’s 12th-largest economy but we rank 8th among the states as far as income inequality goes. San Antonio, the 7th largest city in the country, my home, ranks # 1 in income inequality. If we are serious about reducing income inequality in Texas we need to make it easier for people to join a union, not harder, and that is why I support repealing our state’s right to work laws. I also support raising Texas’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. It’s a start.

I will also talk to the 60% about how a person can be a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment and at the same time support common sense stuff like background checks at gun shows. Advocating for gun violence prevention programs is in no way, no how, inconsistent with being a 2nd Amendment supporter.

I will attempt to explain to the 60% why abolishing the death penalty in our state makes sense. Look, I understand if someone killed a friend or family member of mine, I would want vengeance as surely as the next man would. But I refuse to give that power to the state. Texas has already executed at least 2 innocent men over the past decade. A mistake that can’t be undone. If you look at the death penalty strictly from an economic perspective, the death penalty system is much more expensive than sentencing inmates to life imprisonment. The cost for sentencing a person to life costs the Texas taxpayer about $700,000 vs. sentencing someone to death, including court appeals, can easily run over $2 million. Besides, nothing could be worse than spending your life in an 8’ x 6’ cell.

I also want to reach out to the 60% and ask them a simple question: does your child or grandchild have asthma. I will point to the fact that Bexar County, home to San Antonio, leads the state in the number of children hospitalized for asthma. I will tell them that Texas is the number one source of oil and gas methane pollution in the country. I will tell them that is why I want to ban fracking and flaring in our state. I will also tell them we can create tens of thousands of new jobs by moving our state from a fossil fuel economy to a renewal energy economy.

Today, like in many states, the number one issue is rising personal property taxes to fund our public school systems. So, I want to know why Governor Abbott is not supporting a proposal by a colleague of his to abolish school property taxes altogether and find new revenue streams. Well, I think it is a great idea and among the dedicated revenue streams I see available to us are scrapping my state’s complicated franchise tax system and replacing it with a business income tax. I also support the legalization and taxation of marijuana in Texas. The revenue from both sources would put a serious dent in the funds needed to make Texas public schools number one in the nation and at the same time lowering the personal property taxes that so many of us are suffering to pay each year. (Side note here, last year, my wife and I had to pay our tax bill with a credit card.)

I want everyone to know I am running for Governor because I want to make Texas Great. After decades of abuse, the women and children of our state need someone to stand up for them. When I see so many Texans hurt and killed by senseless gun violence, they need someone to stand up for them. When I see racist legislation like the anti-sanctuary city bill SB 4 signed into law by Governor Abbott and his support of Lt. Governor’s Dan Patrick’s effort to regulate bathroom use by transgender people in public buildings, I cringe with fear. Fear of the words that Martin Niemöller spoke so long ago: ‘Finally, they went after me, and there was no one left to stand up for me.”


Gadfly said...

At least Wakely is honest on TDP issues, which it needs, if he runs Dem.


Re Stace and Payne? A number of years ago, in response to a piece at The Nation, about half its respondents wanted more border security or something like that. I'm not saying whether it's right or wrong, but it is not necessarily conservaDem language to say so.

PDiddie said...

Honestly, he fits the Green profile perfectly. If the GPTX decides it wants to be on the ballot in 2018, it could do worse than find out if he'd be interested in running on their line. But not if, of course, if he stays in the Blue primary. (Same for any potential independent bid.


Stace is a one-issue blogger (if you don't count Tejano music).

Gadfly said...

Yea, I've pretty well figured that on Stace.

Wakely would be helluva better for Greens than Brandon Parmer! Or a helluva better than doing nothing.

On Payne ... he sounds semi-clueless: "I'm announcing now, but I'm officially announcing in October." OK, sure.