This past Saturday, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) was sworn in as Governor for a Day, an opportunity provided the President Pro Tem of the Texas Senate when both Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst are out of the state. While the position and scenario are very real, in terms of duties, yesterday was more about a celebration for Democrats and San Antonians at the Capitol. But, seizing that moment, Gov. Van de Putte issued a call for equality for all Texans, pointing out the inequality faced by the LGBT community in Texas, especially in terms of employment discrimination. She closed her speech with a memorable statement, saying “Someday, on these walls, there will be a portrait of a Texas hero, who just happens to be gay, and it won’t matter because they’re a Texas hero.” But until then, it does matter.
In case you missed one of the news items last week, George P. Bush filed paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission to run for office, something many people expected might happen but weren’t sure when. Based on comments from Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who’s probably going to be seeking the office of Lt. Governor in 2014, Bush seems to be eyeing the Land Commissioner office. While some might wonder why the coverage in many of the state papers about the initial filing, you have to remember he comes from a very high profile political family that has yielded two presidents and two governors (W did both). He’s also considered the future of the Republican Party of Texas if you take into account the demographics of Texas. But before he’s even announced a campaign or even made one public statement, people are already voting against him and discrediting him. Seeing this I have to ask if we’ve lost the concepts of civic engagement somewhere along the line.
As a part of a series of entries looking at the upcoming races in the 2012 General Election, I’ve been focusing on various areas on the ballot. The last entry was on the US House races in Bexar County, with only one race, the Canseco-Gallego race for the 23rd district, as really in play. This one will focus on the Texas Senate, probably the more stable of the Texas Legislature. But even with a long-time incumbent ousted during the Republican primary the local races are pretty predictable going into November. So I decided to also focus on some of the more hotly contested races around the area.
The 2012 General Election is less than three months away and voters will be going to the polls to pick a president. Along with that big race are races for other legislative offices, including the US House. Texas has four new districts it needs to fill with representatives, with San Antonio picking up one of those seats. The districts were at the heart of redistricting battles after a partisan mapping process worked to maintain Republican strength, while faced with strong growth in Latino voters and increased urbanization in the state. Of course, those battles pushed the Texas primary season into the summer, later than we’ve ever had before. Now we’re through the primary season and on to the General Election. So how are the US House seats around Bexar County shaping up?
Today is Election Day for both the Democratic and Republican primaries. For those candidates who ran during this bizarre primary season, thank you for your perseverance. I can only imagine how trying it has been to get to this point. For the rest of us who finally got to vote, I’m sure it was such a relief to walk into the booth and finally get to cast your vote. While Texas missed the opportunity to have a significant influence in the Republican presidential race, it may be the state that finally locks the nomination in for Mitt Romney. But what about the rest of the races that are on the ballot? How might this epic election shape out today, after all the polls are closed at 7 p.m.?
The start of my day had an air of optimism to it as I read several accounts by political reporters and pundits around the state that the attorneys for the state and plaintiffs in the Texas redistricting case were working towards a settlement. It all seemed to make sense and had the air of rational thought behind it. I guess in all that optimism I underestimated some of the actors and problems that might kill the deal. I posted my thoughts on the matter and even how it might benefits Democrats in Texas. That last statement should have been my cue that this deal might be DOA when the hardliners got involved, one being Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). While any hope for a deal isn’t dead, there are some serious hired hands working to kill it if it does surface.
Amazing how in politics some things somewhat unrelated can have an effect on other things. Kind of a “butterfly effect” in a political sort of way. In this case, it appears the tight race to select a Republican presidential nominee may be pushing parties in the Texas redistricting case to come to a swift agreement. According to Michael Li, a Dallas attorney who has been closely following the process, we could see a settlement between both the plaintiffs and the state sometime early this week, ahead of the February 6th deadline ordered by the San Antonio court if an April 3rd primary is to be expected. Considering how strongly a line Attorney General Abbott has been holding up to this point, why does there seem to be such a change of plans?
As some of you may know, I conducted interviews with the three candidates in the upcoming CD-35 race. It followed the same format as I’ve done for city council races and other races – you pick the place and I pick up the tab. I’m sure the candidates are ready to see the interviews published but I hate to say I’m holding off a little bit to see how the Supreme Court rules on Texas redistricting. Some have predicted the ruling could come as early as next week. Almost all are certain the interim maps will not hold, hinting that the Court will consider the publishing of interim maps by the San Antonio District Court a presumption of Section 5 violations, a jurisdictional area reserved for the DC District Court or the Attorney General. Those same people have also speculated the maps drawn by the Texas Legislature will not be used as well, based on discussion by the Court about leveraging maps that have not been precleared. So where might that leave us?
Texas is a big state and seems to boast about every big thing there is. We have the biggest chicken fried steaks (although everyone has their favorite place serving that slab of arterial blockage), one of the biggest Ferris wheels (the Texas Star), and the biggest bass drum (Big Bertha for you Longhorn fans). But when it comes to politics Texas has been wanting to make it big on the national stage with something to show we have big ideas. What better way to show those ideas than to grandstand them. Those big ideas, as seen by some of our state’s Republican leaders, focus on states rights. They are the core of Rick Perry’s campaign and the focus of his book, “Fed Up!” Now, Attorney General Greg Abbott seems to want to take those big ideas to the biggest court in the nation, the Supreme Court of the United States. But what’s really behind this move?
Houston is in the middle of its municipal elections for council members to be held on Nov. 1st this year. Mayor Annise Parker is seeking re-election as Houston’s mayor and a number of candidates are running for council office for the various district seats. Houston’s form of government is different than San Antonio’s in that it has a strong mayor-council form of government where the mayor is the “CEO” of the city. Houston city council has biannual municipal elections and each member can be re-elected up to three terms (San Antonio allows four terms). The city also is structured with nine districts and five at-large members. I don’t plan to follow Houston politics as we have enough “fun” here in our own city. However, if you’re from Houston or have an interest in Houston politics I decided to provide an entry with some good links to follow to stay abreast of the election.
Today Michael Li, a Dallas attorney who has been heavily involved in the Texas redistricting process, put out the latest information of proposed maps and reasoning by interested parties to redistricting. As you probably know the redistricting maps proposed by the 82nd Texas Legislature have been challenged in court by several parties, primarily Hispanic interest parties such as LULAC, MALC, and the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force. While some may think redistricting will force all sorts of challenges in November, as the Texas Tribune notes, the real challenges will be in March when candidates in the two parties will decide who will potentially win the district. Very few of the districts were drawn as competitive and “only six of the 150 House districts were won by one party or the other by less than 10 percentage points.” Monday was the deadline for proposals to be submitted by interested parties. So how did those proposals look?
Yesterday I wrote an entry about how Texas redistricting seems to be developing into sort of a “divide and conquer” strategy by the Republicans to keep the urban districts diluted in such a way as to retain Republican control where they can. By the way, that term is called “fracturing” in redistricting lingo. Granted, not all districts can be diluted to such a point that Republicans win all the seats. In fact, if they were able to actually employ such a strategy it would face intense scrutiny from the Dept. of Justice. However, you can see the tactic in play more and more as Texas urban areas continue to grow. After the entry was published, a friend pointed out the Democrats would employ a similar strategy to retain their seats, if they were in control. He’s right about that, although I’m sure the details would be different. So is there a better way to managing the decennial event we call redistricting?
The redistricting trial finished its closing arguments last week in federal court, with some interesting statements being made by both sides. At stake are not only the boundaries of the current 32 congressional districts in Texas but four new districts allocated Texas as a result of the population growth of the state, primarily fueled by a growth in the number of Hispanics. With four new districts in the mix it creates even more challenges are legislators in Austin worked to create the new maps before the biennium session was over. What you’ll start to see as you look at these districts and others across the state is an interesting approach that seems to splinter urban centers by paring the urban areas with rural areas surrounding the cities. It’s a sort of divide and conquer strategy employed by Republican lawmakers to attempt to keep a Republican majority.
Last week I waded into an interesting debate on the Burnt Orange Report regarding State Rep. Joaquin Castro’s candidacy announcement for the new CD35. After a few short hours it was pretty obvious this race was going to be a controversial one within the Texas Democratic Party. Austin readers were lobbying very hard that Doggett deserved the district after being shoved out by Republicans with the redistricting plans. Those of us from San Antonio and even some Austinites argued that the district was created for Hispanics and that a Hispanic candidate would be the better choice for the district. As is always the case in political debates, it got downright nasty at times. Looking back on it, I have to wonder really who’s district is it?
Yesterday the news was buzzing about the formal entry of State Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) for the expected new congressional seat in Texas, the 35th, currently planned as a part of the expansion of four new seats to Texas. I call the district the “35 Road Trip District” due to its strange gerrymandered run from the downtown area of San Antonio to the southeastern section of Austin and Travis County. It was drawn by Republicans during the last biennium of the Texas legislature, most likely to force US Rep. Lloyd Doggett (R-Texas) into a more challenging situation with his current district, the 25th, which is now more Republican and would possibly force ouster of Doggett from Congress. But with the way the new district is drawn, the bigger question will be how this leaves Democrats.