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.

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