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Dewhurst not the only traditional Republican to have a bad week

By Bud Kennedy

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was not the only Texas Republican to have a bad week.

Six months away from the state’s most decisive election — the biennial party primary — traditional Republicans sank further off the map for 2014.

Dewhurst’s pushy spiel to an unimpressed Allen Police Department sergeant was not the only dropped call of the week for the business conservatives who have long governed the Texas Capitol.

State Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, the House budget chairman, retired after 20 years. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, an elected official for 28 years, was mocked as a cardboard cutout by the same Tea Party protesters who helped elect U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who later said he won’t endorse Cornyn or anyone else in the primary.

Meanwhile, Tea Party religious or libertarian conservatives across the state organized “Come and Take It Texas” as opposition to Democrats’ “Battleground Texas” drive. And traditional Republicans just tried to figure out why state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, posted Web photos of dogs and cats.

Cruz and Patrick are drawing Texas Republicans further to the right.

“‘Country club’ Republicans are definitely in trouble,” Southern Methodist University political science professor Matthew Wilson wrote by email, adding that weak Democratic competition leaves “no incentive … to tack to the center.”

TCU professor James Riddlesperger said any “center” has shifted.

“‘National’ Republicans such as [former U.S. Sen.] Kay Bailey Hutchison who have solid conservative credentials are seen in Texas as too moderate,” he wrote. Dewhurst “may fall into this category.”

Dallas County Republican Chairman Wade Emmert countered that the Republican Party hasn’t changed and that some groups just get more attention.

“The Tea Party is passionate and vocal, but that’s not the only constituency,” he said, listing defense conservatives, Reagan Republicans and “plenty of others.”

The party is moving right “just a little,” he said.

SMU professor Cal Jillson wrote by…

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Woman accused of voter fraud pleads not guilty

BY TY JOHNSON, The Brownsville Herald

A woman charged with voting more than once during the 2012 primary runoff entered a not guilty plea Wednesday in federal court.

Sonia Leticia Solis, 54, is alleged to have voted multiple times under other names.

She appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Morgan in Brownsville where…Read full story here:

The Polling Center: Why Holder May Help Abbott in 2014

Voting rights in Texas were thrust center stage yet again last week when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would challenge Texas’ voter ID law and redistricting maps under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act — the part that allows the federal government to challenge individual jurisdictions, such as Texas.

Republicans were quick to call attention to the challenge as a bald attempt by Holder to help turn Texas blue. To the casual observer, it might appear that making voting rights a potential focus of the 2014 campaign will hurt Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Greg Abbott in a minority-majority state, especially since Abbott, the current attorney general, has played a leading role in defending voter ID and the redistricting maps as the state’s top lawyer. But public opinion data from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll neither paint a dour picture for Abbott nor present a clear path for Democrats.

Taken at face value, another battle over voting rights might seem to help Democrats by introducing Abbott to low-turnout minority voters as the person trying to take their voting rights away. While this may seem plausible in the wake of a weeklong celebration of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s, public attitudes underlying support for voter ID and for Section 5 of the Voting Right Act — which prohibits states and local governments with a history of discriminatory voting practices from making changes without federal preclearance — currently favor the presumptive Republican nominee.

Abbott will receive no criticism in the GOP primary for his history on voting rights, particularly his defense of the voter ID requirement passed by the Legislature in 2011 and subsequently challenged in court by minority groups and the Justice Department. In the October 2012 UT/TT survey, we asked Texans whether they thought that voters should have to present ID at the polls in order to vote. There was no ambiguity in the results. Ninety-two percent of Republicans agreed that people should have to present ID in order to vote along with 98 percent of Tea Party Republicans, as well as 73 percent of Independents.

In the February 2013 UT/TT poll, we asked half the respondents whether they thought “some states” should still be under federal supervision and the other half whether “Texas” should be. Again, Abbott will find little ambiguity here. Among Republicans, 69 percent said that states should be allowed to change their voting and election laws without federal oversight; that number was 81 percent among Tea Party Republicans. Opinions were even stronger when Texas was explicitly made the object of federal oversight, with 80 percent of Republicans and 92 percent of Tea Party Republicans against Section 5’s preclearance provisions for Texas. Abbott’s position vis-à-vis voting rights puts him squarely on the right side of Republican opinion in a state that has elected GOP candidates statewide in recent elections with 10- to 12-point cushions.

Looking then to the general election, it’s not clear that Hispanics, the group that Democrats are trying to mobilize in order to be competitive, will provide Abbott with too much trouble. In the same surveys mentioned above, 75 percent of Hispanics expressed support for voter ID. Support for federal oversight tilted slightly in the Democrats’ favor, but not overwhelmingly. Approximately 57 percent said that “Texas” or “some states” should still be under federal supervision. So while Republicans may think that the Obama administration has given Texas Democrats a gift by calling attention to voting rights, the data show an issue that boosts Abbott’s position among his primary electorate without clearly hurting him in the general election.

One limit to this argument is the extent to which minority voters in Texas are sensitive to perceived threats to voting rights. As we wrote previously, black support for voter ID plummeted in Texas between February 2011 and October 2012. This drop in support resulted from the focused campaign waged by Democrats to paint the issue unambiguously as “voter suppression” — an attempt to turn minority voters away from the polls. Should Democrats in Texas succeed in framing Abbott’s role in the latest legal fight similarly with the Hispanic electorate, the issue has the potential to turn into a boon come November 2014. And while the difficulties of increasing Hispanic turnout are well known, there is some long-shot risk here to Abbott.

A large part of Abbott’s existing advantage with the mass of Republican voters in Texas is his reliance on the tried and true strategy of using the Obama White House, and Holder in particular, as consistent foils. And this strategy dovetails quite nicely with voting rights for a Republican candidate such as Abbott. Texas’ attorney general will be glad to run on an issue that he’s been all too happy to define himself on in the past, as it shores up the support that he’ll need in the primary and on Election Day without stirring up too large a swath of the potential Democratic coalition.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Chairman: Dems have much building to do

RERadio_elephantOnly_600x600AUSTIN (AP) — Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa has traveled the state talking up the party’s chances in 2014, but along the way he found that half the county organizations are barely functioning — something he’s promising to change in order to win.

Democrats haven’t won a statewide office in Texas in two decades, something Hinojosa blames on failing to mobilize the party’s base — Hispanics, African Americans and liberals who make up the majority of Texans. Quoting Democratic strategist Paul Begala, Hinojosa says Texas is not necessarily a Republican state but a non-voting state.

County parties and Democratic clubs are the groups that raise awareness, money and votes. If they can’t raise money and make sure a Democrat runs for every local race and deliver voters to the polls, even the best statewide candidate has little chance of winning, he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“The biggest problem in the last 20 years was failing to focus on local party organizations,” Hinojosa said. As an example, he said the Panhandle has a majority of minority residents, but Democratic turnout in the region is “miserable.”

That makes the party ripe for a makeover, something he’s been working on since becoming chairman two years ago. Hinojosa

was celebrating his second anniversary on the job when hundreds of angry women started packing legislative committee meetings in Austin to fight a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.

Those protests and Fort Worth Sen. Wendy Davis’ almost 13-hour filibuster of the bill attracted international attention

and amplified the…Read full story here:

Debate Over LGBT Ordinance Roils San Antonio

Updated, Aug. 26, 6:15 p.m.:

Attorney General Greg Abbott is the latest in a slew of Texas politicians to weigh in on a proposed San Antonio ordinance that would include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the city’s nondiscrimination code.

Abbott in a statement Monday said he opposed the ordinance because it would stifle religious liberty and create a burden for those who hold a “traditional view on human relations.” He said the proposed ordinance violates the Texas Constitution and would create discrimination instead of preventing it.

“The proposed ordinance runs contrary to the Texas Constitution, which prohibits religious tests, and also defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” Abbott said in a statement. “This ordinance is also contrary to the clearly expressed will of the Texas Legislature.”

Abbott joins a number of Republicans who have voiced disapproval of the proposal, including the three candidates running for to replace him as attorney general — Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney; state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas; and Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also criticized the ordinance earlier this month.

Other cities in Texas have nondiscrimination policies that include some protections for LGBT individuals, including Austin, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth.

The San Antonio City Council is expected to vote on the proposed ordinance Sept. 5.

Original story, Aug. 21:

A proposal to include sexual orientation and gender identity in San Antonio’s nondiscrimination policy has turned the city into a new gay rights battleground.

Amid a heated citywide debate that has drawn the attention of local, state and even national politicians, the San Antonio City Council has delayed a vote on the ordinance for weeks, though it is now scheduled to come before the council on Sept. 5.

The ordinance would prevent people who have demonstrated bias toward lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals from serving in city positions and prohibit the city from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It would also prevent local business owners from discriminating against LGBT individuals.

San Antonio is one of the only major cities in Texas that does not have such a nondiscrimination policy. Austin, Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth have nondiscrimination policies that include some protections for LGBT individuals.

On Tuesday, GetEQUAL Texas, a gay rights organization, issued a travel alert for all LGBT individuals traveling to San Antonio. The alert warned against “traveling alone in the city” and encouraged visitors to only patronize gay-friendly businesses and stay at hotels with specific policies preventing discrimination against LGBT people.

“Even if you’re visiting San Antonio, you can be kicked out of any public place,” said Jennifer Falcon, the lead organizer in San Antonio for GetEQUAL TEXAS. “We’ve had transgender people kicked out of the Riverwalk, kicked out of bowling allies. We even had a woman that looked too much like a man that was kicked out of H-E-B.”

The advisory came days after the San Antonio Express-News published a secret recording of San Antonio City Councilwoman Elisa Chan calling homosexuality “disgusting” and saying she did not believe that people were born gay.

“You know, to be quite honest, I know this is not politically correct,” Chan said during the exchange, which was caught on tape by a staffer who has since quit. “I never bought that you are born, that you are born gay. I just can’t imagine it.”

Chan said on Tuesday that her comments were taken out of context but that she stood by her opinions.

Although the state protects people from employment and educational opportunity discrimination based on age, sex, race, religion, national origin and disability, there is no statewide protection for sexual orientation or gender identity. Texas law deemed certain homosexual activity a Class C misdemeanor until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 2003.

At the state level, measures to prevent discrimination against LGBT individuals have failed for years. State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, filed bills this year that would have banned workplace discrimination, but they failed to make it out of committee.

Van de Putte said the divide in San Antonio reminded her of the fierce debate that engulfed the Legislature when it took up abortion restrictions earlier this summer, but she said she remained optimistic.

“Anytime a community goes through such an emotional issue, it’s an opportunity for learning and for expanding that understanding,” Van de Putte said. “In a way, this dialogue has become very public. It has become very personal at the family dinner table as well.”

She said she was confident that the City Council would approve the ordinance and that she planned to reintroduce legislation on worker discrimination next session.

On Tuesday, another state lawmaker, Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas, a Republican who is running for attorney general, also stepped into the debate, urging San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro to withdraw the ordinance, according to the Express-News.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz also weighed in on the issue earlier this month.

“Any attempt to bar an individual from public service based on a personal religious conviction is contrary to the liberties guaranteed us under our constitution and should be emphatically opposed,” Cruz said in a statement. “It is encouraging to see so many Texans standing up to defend their religious freedoms in light of the misguided proposal put forth by the local city council.”

Jonathan Saenz, president of the conservative group Texas Values, said the ordinance would violate religious freedom and threaten Christian businesses for standing up for their values. Saenz said it would also force local business owners into uncomfortable situations, like allowing men to use women’s restrooms.

“We’ve seen this is other states when people that are transgender may want to go into a men’s restroom one day and a women’s restroom another day, and if they’re not allowed in, they’re going to claim discrimination,” Saenz said.

At least one religious organization, the conservative Liberty Institute, has already pledged to sue the city if the ordinance is approved.

The debate has also incited fierce debate at the local level. Falcon, of GetEQUAL Texas, said religious leaders have called her Satan and have prayed for her at community input meetings. On Wednesday, hundreds of people protested outside of City Hall to urge council members to vote against the ordinance.

Eric Alva, a marine veteran who was the first American soldier injured in Iraq in 2003, spoke at the community meeting last week and was booed by hundreds in the chambers. Alva, who is gay, lost one of his legs in Iraq and spoke in favor of the ordinance.

Alva said in an interview that those who booed him should be ashamed.

“I know my God loves me because he was with me as I lay bleeding on the sands of Iraq,” Alva said.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Texas Democrats Waiting for Davis Before Deciding on 2014

As Texas Democrats await word from state Sen. Wendy Davis on whether she’s running for governor, some say Democrats eyeing statewide races are too chicken to jump in without the expected money and national attention that a Davis candidacy could bring.

But Democratic consultant Harold Cook said those would-be candidates probably should wait to see who their party’s candidate for governor will be.

“Because the top of the ticket matters, and it matters a lot,” he said.

Cook said running isn’t easy and that it takes lots of money to do it right. So if you’re considering a race for comptroller, you want to know if Davis is going to be the standard bearer for the party. Especially, said Cook, when your party doesn’t have a Plan B.

“I don’t think there’s anybody on the horizon that excites people who have not typically voted for Democrats or voted at all besides Wendy,” he said. “And if you don’t have that, then what different result could you possibly expect?”

You can’t blame Democrats for being a little cautious about running for a statewide office. It’s been two decades since the party’s last win. Jim Henson, a Tribune pollster and the head of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said Democrats in statewide races start way behind.

“Statewide candidates go into this with something like a 10- to 12-point baseline disadvantage, depending on where on the ballot you’re talking about,” Henson said. “And nobody has wanted to be a sacrificial lamb. Nor have they been able, frankly, to raise the resources to make a credible run at it.”

So what exactly does Davis bring as a candidate that would make other Democrats considering a run for lieutenant governor or land commissioner want to jump in the race? She’s expected to have the financial support needed to run a strong campaign. But Henson says she’s also bringing some excitement to a dormant party.

“I think you have to go back to probably Ann Richards to find somebody at the top of the ticket that’s been able to deliver not just a victory, but something more intangible,” he said. “Something that excites the base and mobilizes people to do more than just possibly stumble out of bed during election period, cast a vote and then walk away and forget about it again.”

It’s Lize Burr’s job to help cultivate that new excitement and energy. Burr is president of the Capitol Area Democratic Women. She says turnout at group events has dramatically increased since late June, after Davis’ filibuster of a controversial abortion bill.

Burr’s goal with all those new volunteers is to turn out a very specific voter in Texas. She said that in 2012, about 4.4 million women who were registered to vote stayed home.

“She presents us with an equation where women play a much more important role,” Burr said. “And that changing the nature of the electorate goes not so much from only increasing Hispanic turnout, which has been the playbook that most of us who are working in Democratic politics are going by, to increasing the women’s turnout.”

Does that turnout make Davis or any other statewide Democrats winners in 2014? Maybe not, but Burr says it could make a big difference in state House and county races. And when you’re a party trying to make a comeback, every win counts.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Couple marries at El Paso port of entry to protest immigration rules

By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times

elpaso-bridge-marriageEdgar Falcon and Maricruz Valtierra got married Tuesday on the Paso del Norte International Bridge — under unusual legal circumstances.

For most of the ceremony, he stood on the U.S. side while she was on the Mexican side.

They weren’t trying to set a world record or launch a potentially viral online video.

They got married on the international boundary because they had to.

U.S. immigration rules and regulations ban Valtierra, 25, a citizen of Mexico, from crossing the border, and that is the only way he can be with his bride, he said.

“We are getting married here to show that immigration laws affect not only undocumented immigrants in the United States, but also U.S. citizens like myself who want to be united with our loved ones,” Falcon, 27, said. “To be with my wife, I have to become an exile from my own country.”

Valtierra was penalized by U.S. immigration officials after an older sister declared at the border seven years ago that Valtierra and another relative were Americans.

“It was my sister that did that, but I am paying for it,” Valtierra said.

Anyone who makes a false declaration of immigration status at the border is prohibited under a law passed in the 1990s from re-entering the United States.


Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, who attended the wedding at the top of the bridge, said he plans to introduce legislation next month that is intended to help unite families like the Falcons who are separated by arbitrary laws and regulations.

The proposed American Families United Act will, among other things, give discretionary authority to judges and Department of Homeland Security officials in removal, deportation, ineligibility or inadmissibility proceedings when someone is an immediate family member of a U.S. citizen.

“It is a fundamental principle of American values that the U.S. government has no right to tell any citizen to choose between their spouse — the love of their life — and their country,” O’Rourke said. “Yet that is what current law does.”

He said immigration judges shoul…Read full story here:

Holder Tangles with Texas

RERadio_elephantOnly_600x600_50DOJ’s case distorts the effect of voter-ID laws and misinterprets the Voting Rights Act.
By Hans A. von Spakovsky

Hillary Clinton is not alone. This week former secretary of state Colin Powell and ABC’s Cokie Roberts chimed in to agree that asking people to prove they are who they say they are when they show up to vote is completely beyond the pale. Then the Department of Justice joined in, launching a lawsuit against Texas over its voter-ID law last Thursday.

Colin Powell is not known for his expertise in this area. But that didn’t stop him from saying that requirements like voter ID “are being put in place to slow the process down and make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African Americans might vote.” Of course, turnout numbers from voter-ID states such as Georgia and Indiana show that requiring voter ID does not keep Hispanics, blacks, or anyone else out of the polls.

Literally years of local, state, and federal elections demonstrate that the “sky is falling” claims about voter suppression are complete nonsense. Contrary to General Powell’s assertion that voter ID will “slow the process down,” election officials have told me that voter-ID requirements speed up the process at polling locations because it makes it much easier to find the voter’s name on the voter-registration list.

As a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former secretary…Read full story here:

Conservative Prof. Has Awesome Response to Guy Who Called Him the ‘Biggest Embarrassment to Higher Education in America’

By Madeleine Morgenstern From The Blaze

How the professor responded was pretty fantastic.

“While I respect your right to conclude that I am the biggest embarrassment to higher education in America, I think you’re wrong,” Mike Adams, professor of sociology and criminology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington told “Edward” in an open letter. “In fact, I don’t even think I’m the biggest embarrassment to higher education in the state of North Carolina. But since you’re a liberal and you support ‘choice’ – provided we’re talking about dismembering children and not school vouchers for those who weren’t dismembered – I want to give you some options.”

He then laid out nine examples of truly outrageous antics by other professors, administrators and campus groups in North Carolina to see how he stacks up, including:


1. In the early spring semester of 2013, a women’s studies professor and a psychology professor at Western Carolina University co-sponsored a panel on bondage and S&M. The purpose of the panel was to teach college students how to inflict pain on themselves and others for sexual pleasure. When you called me the biggest embarrassment in higher education, you must not have known about their bondage panel. Maybe you were tied up that evening and couldn’t make it.

2. At UNC Chapel Hill, there is a feminist professor who believes that women can lead happy lives without men. That’s nothing new. But what’s different is that she thinks women can form lifelong domestic partnerships with dogs and that those relationships will actually be fulfilling enough to replace marital relationships with men. I can’t make this stuff up, Ed. I don’t drop acid. Well, at least not since the late 1980s. But I promise this story is real and not an LSD flashback.

3. At Duke University, feminists hired a “sex worker” (read: prostitute) to speak as part of an event called the Sex Workers Art Show. After his speech, the male prostitute pulled down his pants, got down on his knees, and inserted a burning sparkler into…Read full story here:

50 years later, how close is the US to King’s dream?

Martin_Luther_KingA half-century after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his most famous speech, how close is the United States to realizing his dream of racial equality?

Here are nine key measures of the progress — or lack thereof.

Wages: Still a struggle

1960s: Forty percent of black Americans lived in poverty, according to 1966 Census data, and raising the minimum wage was a central component for organizers of the March on Washington. They called for a national minimum hourly wage the equivalent of at least $13 in today’s dollars.

Today: In 2011, almost a third of black Americans lived below the poverty level – $23,550 for a family of four, according to the most recent Census data. The average minimum wage in America is $7.25, and this summer fast food workers, which include many black workers, are protesting low wages.

Unemployment: Still a struggle

1960s: Black Americans were twice as likely to be unemployed than white Americans. During the March on Washington, nearly 11 percent of black Americans were unemployed, compared to 5 percent of whites.

Today: The black unemployment rate sits at 13.1 percent — the same as the national rate was during the Great Depression — while white Americans have a 6.7 percent unemployment rate.

Income: Still a struggle

1960s: In 1967, black Americans had the lowest median annual income of all Americans, at about $25,000 (adjusted to 2011 dollars). The median black family of three earned about 55 percent of what a comparable white family earned.

Today: In 2011, according to Census data, the median income for black Americans still ranks at the bottom at $32,000, and a black family of three earns about 59 percent of what a comparable white family …Read full story here: