Category Archives: Elections

Low Voter Turnout: A Discussion

So, I attended the League of Women Voters-Houston’s discussion on low voter turnout. It was an interesting discussion featuring Mark Jones from Rice U., Dick Murray from UH, Hector de Leon from the county, and Mustafa Tameez, a local political wiz. The problem is when you have a nonprofit group trying to discuss voter turnout, the conversation tends to become partisan, or at the very least about issues.

From the get-go, Jones gave us a lesson: People vote based on age, education, and income level. The older, more educated, and better paid one is, the likelier they are to show up at the polls. But if we are to see an increase in voter turnout, it will take an increase in Hispanic turnout.

As it stands, 55% of Hispanics are registered to vote, but in 2014, 23% of Hispanics voted, while 44% and 39% of whites and blacks, respectively, voted. Jones stated that millennials didn’t vote, and the younger generation didn’t vote either. Jones didn’t feel that there could be an increase in education or income levels any time soon, so he suggested more competitive races. But in Texas, that’s been impossible, even at the local level, such as the DAs race of 2014. So, he suggested what has been working in a large number of states: No excuse absentee voting. Pointing to a large percentage of people who receive mail-in ballots returning them to vote here in Harris County, Jones believes that it could work if offered to all voters.

Back to low turnout, Jones stated that it is consequential in Republican primaries. Since the state is Republican, all decisions of who gets elected statewide are being made in the Republican primary. He also mentioned that low turnout is consequential in local bond elections where few voters decide on millions and billions of bond dollars. He suggests perhaps requiring a threshold of voter participation to legitimize the results.

Professor Murray stated there is a pattern of lower and lower turnout. He also stated that he expects turnout to drop for the 2015 city elections, but he has not seen that kind of decrease in Presidential general elections.

He pointed to the obvious regarding presidential campaigns that they maximize resources in important (battleground) states. He also stated that we are seeing less state competition and less county competition. Much of this is based on where voters reside, and that even at the partisan level, voters seem to want to reside in areas in which they find voters that are politically similar to themselves.

Another problem Murray sees is that we have too many elections which seem to suck the oxygen out of the political process. Another is the lack of information for voters to make voting decisions about candidates.

Murray suggested that the state needs to become competitive at the presidential level. That while the state is solidly GOP, Gallup recently found that there is only a 3% difference in how Texans identify themselves. Further, he pointed to the eventual candidacy of Hillary Clinton as a motivational candidacy that will increase turnout in various groups, especially Hispanics. In 2008, Clinton won Hispanics handily in the Dem primary. Add a Hispanic Vice-Presidential candidate (Castro) and you might have the makings of a competitive Texas in November 2016, according to Murray. He also added that if the GOP Anglo candidate adds a Hispanic to their ticket, it would become ever more interesting.

de Leon put numbers to the commentary from the academics in the room. He found it important to find out who is not voting and who is voting and start from there. A few of the stats found something interesting: The less one made, the more likely one was to vote straight party. He also mentioned that low Latino turnout was concentrated in areas which were represented by a Latino/a state representative. Not sure if he was blaming officeholders, but he did state that since minority voters usually vote in Democratic precincts, that there is no way there could be voter suppression by the other side.

Mustafa Tameez, though, did some truth-telling:  Rich, old white people vote, and minorities do not. He went further by talking about one actual reason that this blogger has been mentioning:  People no longer believe in the political system. Further, he stated another fact:  Most in the room were political junkies and that we needed to see beyond our lives and toward the lives of those not voting–actually connect with the non-voters.

Many in the room have also worked campaigns and we know what campaigns are about:  Finding likely voters and targeting them multiple times. Seldom do political professionals think about the non-voting public, and it was refreshing to see a pro admit that in this kind of discussion. Frankly, I got sick of the campaign game because no one wanted to be bold and work the low propensity voters, but that’s for another post. I won’t hold my breath that this will change, though, at least as campaigns go.

Basically, Tameez stated that all of us can do more to help people feel like they are part of the system. I’ll go further and state that campaigns need to do more, too.

So, it was an interesting discussion. The Q&A, though, turned to the partisan, which isn’t hard to do when we’re talking about voting, politics, and especially issues. Professor Murray mentioned what we’ve found in polling:  For Latinos, the top issues are usually Education, Jobs, Health Care, and then immigration. I’ll add, though, that immigration becomes a top issue when Republicans begin to attack immigrants and Latinos, or a Democrat makes promises or executive actions regarding the issue. And that’s how a discussion about Latino turnout becomes a partisan one because even the academics in the room agree that Latinos are mostly Democratic.  I will add that Latino voters react to both sides based on how they act–on the campaign trail and while in office–too.

There wasn’t any discussion of the political back-and-forth of campaigns and how prospective voters react to the media wars. Perhaps that is where we will find something else to discuss:  Messaging!!!

I’ll agree with Tameez, though, that many feel that the political system is the problem. I go back to my what one of my mentors once told a group of Latino activists:  If you have a problem with the system it’s because it’s not your system. Meaning, those who developed the political system didn’t have certain people in mind.

Those words have stayed with me for over 20 years. And in those 20 years, it’s been difficult to find a solution that falls somewhere between an armed revolt that changes everything and the wholesale electoral removal of all incumbents who have made themselves comfortable in this political system that thrives on low voter turnout.

More to come, I’m sure. Thanks to the League of Women Voters-Houston for getting the ball rolling. It was great seeing a packed room for this very important discussion.

 

Chuy Garcia Makes The Run-Off in Chicago

Chuy Garcia, the Cook County Commissioner who forced Rahm Emanuel into an April 7 run-off, is a pretty good candidate. A Durango, Mexico native, he is the son of a bracero whose family ended up in Chicago in 1965. Garcia served his community while going to college–an honest to goodness community organizer. After serving on City Council, he was the first Mexican American elected to the Illinois Senate and was re-elected, only to be defeated by a Richard Daley-supported opponent. After his defeat, he returned to organizing in his community. In 2010, he was elected to the Cook County Board of Commissioners and was re-elected in 2014.

On Tuesday, after being outspent by the corporate-supported Emanuel 12-to-1, his grassroots campaign earned him 34% of the vote to Emanuel’s 45%. It was a complete embarrassment for Emanuel who boasted some pretty big political bosses on his resume. Emanuel even got an end-of-campaign endorsement from President Obama.

“Today, we the people have spoken. Not the people with the money and the power and the connections. Not the giant corporations. The big-money special interests. The hedge funds and Hollywood celebrities who poured tens of millions of dollars into the mayor’s campaign. They all had their say. They’ve had their say for too long. But today, the rest of us had something to say.”

One must wonder if President Obama and/or Bill and Hillary will get involved deeper in the run-off campaign. Certainly, it wouldn’t look good for Hillary Clinton to side with Emanuel over Garcia. Frankly, I think it best for that little group to stay out, or be bold and side with the right side of history.

One thing is or sure, Emanuel will once again sell out to the highest corporate bidders, so Chuy Garcia needs your help. Donate to his campaign today.

Let’s face it, this blogger has never been a fan of Chicago’s current Mayor. Didn’t like him under Clinton, in Congress, and especially under Obama. Didn’t like it when Rahm Emanuel attempted his own brand  of “comprehensive immigration reform” with Colorado bigot Tom Tancredo. Beyond Obama, I think Emanuel was behind the Term 1 delays on CIR. And to know he’s also the most bought politician in the Chicago Mayor’s race just makes me ill. That Chicago can make history by electing its first Mexican-American Mayor would be monumental.

 

Or, Why Wendy, Leticia, and Dems Should Have Opposed the Surge

Lisa Falkenberg at the Chron tells us about the trouble the press is having at getting real figures from DPS and the Texas Government about the “success” of the Rick Perry’s (and now Greg Abbott’s) DPS/National Guard border surge. In my opinion, it’s always been a political sham with racist, anti-Latino undertones.

You will recall that it was a great photo op for Republicans, which left Democrats Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte with little (political) choice but to support the DPS part of the surge, while Davis also supported immediate deportation of children escaping violence and poverty. Obviously, this blog and many activists weren’t happy about it. And while the DNC goes over its autopsy of 2014, one would hope that political decisions such as Dems supporting Rick Perry’s idiotic ideas would be mentioned.

Republicans have decided to continue throwing money at their border sideshow, while negatively affecting National Guard troops who have real jobs and families to worry about, and DPS agents who have better things to do than to militarize the border.

Nothing is more embarrassing than backing a Rick Perry idea only to have it fall flat on its face, as expected by many Dems.

Put this in the Democratic Playbook chapter on What Not To Do.

 

 

Luis Lopez is the new Finance Chair for HCDP

luisRecently, Democrats received an e-mail from outgoing Democratic Finance Chair Bill Baldwin who stepped down to take on some campaign duties on a 2015 campaign. Today, Democrats received an e-mail from HCDP’s new Finance Chair, Luis Lopez.

I’m sure you’ve seen him mentioned here on the DC, since I had the honor of helping Luis out as he repped Dems in the race for Texas House District 132. Luis ran a great campaign in a very red year, did some respectable fundraising in a year when Dems were mostly funding the top of the ballot, and, although the result wasn’t in his favor, Luis recommitted to serving his political party and his community. I’m always boasting that Luis is a force of nature, and he will not disappoint in his new role with the Party.

Here’s his e-mail, if you didn’t receive it. Let’s support Luis’ efforts!

I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself to you.

My name is Luis Lopez and I was recently appointed as the new Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party’s Finance Committee.

I could not be more excited to take on the role and the task of helping increase the financial security of our county party.

Election after election we see that when we invest our time, our energy and our financial resources into the Harris County Democratic Party, we get real results. So, yes, I will be asking you to open your wallet and make a contribution in this email.

The backbone of our Party is our sustaining membership program.

What if I told you that it would take an additional 1,292 Harris County Democratic Party Sustaining Members just to match the MINIMUM donation of at least $5000.00 that 31 people have made to the Harris County Republican Party to become members of the Republican Party Cornerstone Club.

We have to do better.

I want to ask you to commit to becoming a sustaining member, renewing your sustaining membership, or even just making a donation of $20, $50, or $100 today.

The Finance Committee is working on ways to keep the Party financially secure and raise the funds necessary to continue running programs throughout the year – but we cannot do it without you.

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We have a lot of work to do, so let’s get started!
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Diversity in Local Races

Schleifer at the Chron had an interesting article about the lack of women in the Houston Mayor’s race. Diversity is important, no doubt, but for this avid voter, having a progressive-minded candidate whose policies are on the liberal side of things is a lot more important. Ultimately, though, given the opportunity, even the most progressive candidate seems to moderate his/her views once in office (or worse, during a campaign).

Now, some will argue we haven’t ever had a real progressive leading the horsehoe, while most will split the difference or else some right-wing-nut might get elected. Frankly, there are a lot of constituencies (ethnic, business, etc.) to appease, especially when it comes to committee and top-level appointments, and that ends up screwing up priorities, which Kuff has done an excellent job of outlining. Because, ultimately, there’s an actual job to do.

So, as much as folks will argue about the fact that there are no women running for Mayor, the bottom line is that there are no Latin@s either, yet. Well, much like I ask about the current crop of candidates, I will ask the same of any woman or Latin@ candidate:  Are they progressive? Hell, are they liberal? And just how much have they sold out in previous campaigns to bad people? If neither of the candidates are willing to be mostly progressive, are they worth supporting while swallowing the worse they offer?

And this is how voters should be deciding for whom to vote; based on their views and their needs as this city’s constituents. That’s how I decided to vote for Annise Parker and Bill White. I even swallowed some of Adrian Garcia’s positions on deportation and voted to re-elect him. It’s Texas, I’ve done it for so many, but I’ve also left races blank when I couldn’t find anything tasty to help swallow those awfully bitter pills (Dan Morales).

Of course, I also look at the little things, like, why a Latina candidate for Mayor elsewhere might call her public safety website page “secure communities,” or other dumb, consultant-created things one might see on social media. But, that might be for another post.

Bottom line:  If one is running for anything, they better stay true to their values, and the progressive values that could make this city and state great. Riding that yellow center stripe just doesn’t interest this voter nowadays.

Kuff has  his perspective.

The Latest Cheez on the Mayor’s Race

I had a good chuckle reading through the campaign hires for the local mayoral campaigns compiled by Schleifer at the Chron. I won’t bother listing them, but there are some interesting hires to say the least. Go to the link and read them yourself.

As we mentioned in our podcast, there will be plenty of money for this race, since it seems more and more like it’ll be a race for 15 or so percent to make the run-off. (I don’t even want to think about the amount spent per vote right now.) Of course, there’s one prospect that hasn’t made it to the list and he would have his own set of well-paid pros running things if he runs.

And speaking of Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Schleifer also pointed to a Garcia tweet earlier this week that speaks to a major political reality.

Basically, Sheriff states that if a candidacy for Mayor is even a possibility, the community (Latinos) would need to vote in historic numbers–young and regular adults.

Boy, he ain’t lyin’.

I can’t wait to see the Latino message from those who’ve announced already.

PDiddie has more.

 

Bell Announces for Mayor

The thing about being the first out of the chute is that you get some press and you get an opportunity at a first strike against your opponents. Chris Bell announced for Houston Mayor today, as reported by the Chron, and, along with promises to fix streets and traffic lights, is trying to get ahead of any criticism that might be thrown his way.

“I know my competitors will do their best to try and define me. They might even talk about some of the political races that I have run and lost,” Bell, 55, said. “And that’s fair game – because if it’s necessary, I’ll talk about the races they’ve run and lost.”

Really, if all the candidates try to do is protect their legacies and define others’ legacies, then the 2015 campaign will have been a waste. Instead, let’s get the voters interested in actually showing up in November (and December). Let’s hope the Chron and their writers don’t try to define the candidates based on win/loss records; instead, helping to highlight the discussion of ideas.

Anyway, that’s one down. Who’s next?

 

City of Houston: Is 2015 Going To Be Interesting?

Well, there’s no doubt that there are folks running for Mayor in 2015–good, OK, and awful–and there are those rumored-t0-be candidates–good, OK, and awful. The Chron’s Schleifer provided another report on where things seem to stand, especially regarding the possibility of a Latino candidacy.

Obviously, the biggest name is that of Sheriff Adrian Garcia. There are a lot of folks who would be excited for this kind of run, but there are also Democrats who are thinking about the ramifications of this for 2016, including my favorite Senator Sylvia Garcia.

“You’re going to be giving them an early 2016 gift,” said Democratic Sen. Sylvia Garcia, who had the sheriff at her home this month and expressed concern about a run. “Nobody wants a Latino mayor more than I do, but it’s got to be the right time.”

While there’s a lot of buzz about Garcia, folks should know that if he were to announce, he is done as Sheriff.  Those thinking about 2016 argue Garcia is needed on the ticket to help down-ballot Democrats. And then there’s even more to think about which I’m sure people are avoiding talking about. I do agree with Kuff that the 2016 Prez candidate will help down-ballot folks a lot more than someone like Garcia who has enjoyed support from the other side of the aisle that may not have really transferred to those down-ballot Democrats. If our incumbent Dems can’t win during a presidential election year, then our problems are much bigger than missing one of our anchors.

Anyway, the article mentions a host of others, including local State Rep. Sylvester Turner, who has been labeled the front-runner and top fundraiser. Still, I’m sure there will be plenty of cash available for the top tier candidates and their consultants and staffers.

Of course, At-Large 1 seems to have gotten interesting with a Chron article telling us that Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis has tossed his hat in the ring. I had also heard about Phillipe Nassif’s candidacy. I’ve heard other names, too, but I haven’t seen anything remotely official. Once all the candidates are announced, t’ll be a pretty diverse race, which will make it all the more interesting and a race to keep an eye on. Texpate has more.

Some fear some nastiness in this and other races, but as I’ve told folks recently, we need some contentious battles to get peoples attention. Let’s face it, elections generally have been boring affairs, other than for the volunteers and activists and the consultants. If candidates can commit to lively, productive discussion and debate, all the better. If the people aren’t caring enough until they get mad about bathrooms and charitable meals way after election season, then there’s a bigger problem in this game we call democracy.

More to come, I’m sure.

 

 

Monday Morning Read: TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance believes that it’s not whether you stumble that matters but whether you get up and keep going as it brings you this week’s roundup.

As the Fifth Circuit gets set to hear arguments over Texas’ ban on same sex marriage, Off the Kuff reminds us that public opinion is much more favorable towards same sex marriage in Texas now.

Libby Shaw writing for Daily Kos and Texas Kaos believes that although we lost this election, big time, giving up is not an option. We Lost the Election but We Are Not Giving Up.

The first beatings in the Republican takeover in Harris County were administered at their election night watch party, as the media that dared to speak during a prayer experienced first-hand the love of Christ and his believers. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wonders if assaulting a reporter on camera, physically or verbally, is really what Jesus would do.

Despite the ugly results from last Tuesday, CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme refuses to be discouraged. We learn from our mistakes. PS: The Valley went for Davis.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Less than 30% of eligible voters turned out to vote in the 2014 mid-terms in Texas. Needless to say, 2014 Turnout Was Horrible.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Hair Balls informs us that the Fifth Circuit wasn’t always a judicial wingnut backwater.

John Wright updates us on Connie Wilson’s efforts to get a drivers license that properly uses her wife’s surname.

The Lunch Tray divines what the elections mean for school food.

Nonsequiteuse has a message for those who would dump on Battleground Texas.

Texas Vox says that just because air is better doesn’t mean it’s good.

and then, there’s always my post:

Dos Centavos also points out that in Texas, Latinos just didn’t vote.

It’s Not Just About the Delay on Executive Action

News agencies and pundits have been writing a lot about the failed tactic by President Obama to hold off on executive action on immigration to help a few Democrats win in tough states as the reason Latinos stayed home. I’m sure it’s just one of many reasons.

That said, anti-immigrant Democrats like Kay Hagan pushed the President to not sign anything while they were running to be re-elected so as not to piss off supporters that apparently weren’t even there. The resulting move to the far-right by these Democrats, evidenced in their ads, didn’t work, obviously.

So, now, news people are more than willing to say that Latino turnout may have been affected by the delay. They’re only partially correct. Latino Decisions’ poll stated that immigration became the most important issue for Latinos, nationally, but the delay was more than likely the straw that broke the donkey’s back.

ropemDemocratic activists, candidates, and the White House have been too willing to merrily go on portraying themselves as “pro-immigrant” while the Obama administration has deported over 2,000,000 mostly non-criminal immigrants, warehoused tens of thousands more, and used Central American children escaping poverty and violence as a political piñata for their own (and Republicans’ own) benefit. Six years of punitive policies can wear a group of people down, including citizen-Latinos who vote and who have grown tired of being included in the vitriol (mostly from Republicans, but recently by the likes of Hagan, Landrieu, and Alison Grimes) simply for being the easiest scapegoat.

Of course, all of this is based on a 2007-08 promise by candidate Obama to get this done in year 1 of term 1. Obamacare took precedence, obviously, and a DREAM Act loss in 2010 because of 5 anti-immigrant Democrats looking to get re-elected started the whole questioning of Obama’s direction. Then after DACA energized Latinos in 2012, the second term started with a failed gun control effort taking precedence, thus, wasting political capital that should have been used on immigration reform. Then, we know how the whole bipartisan thing went.

Sure, the Republicans are awful, but as I’ve always said (and made Obama supporters cringe) it is the President who holds the keys to the deportation buses. And it is the President who has held off on immigration reform and executive action for six years, in favor of other legislation, and opting for the illusion that a few political and legislative victories would give him more positive press and polling. Or, perhaps some political capital.

And, now, the Republicans are in charge of some of the governing, as of January 1. President Obama indicates that he will take executive action “by the end of the year” if he doesn’t see an indication by the lame-duck Congress or the incoming leadership to do something. Boehner today warned Obama not to do it, while also stating that the House would not vote on S.744.

It shouldn’t be shocking that the Republicans are talking about immigration reform after winning. They are more than willing to vote on something that is punitive, wastes more tax money on the border, builds more prisons to warehouse humans (as long as it’s Obama that sends them there) and sends profits to their private prison buddies, and that will include a no-citizenship, no-worker rights, just work and be quiet, type of amnesty. Of course, they won’t call it amnesty. The big question is:  When will they do it? Or is it just talk with the option of blaming Obama and Democrats for gridlock when they talk down a very bad GOP proposal?

So, executive action may well be a very temporary thing if it pushes the Republican leadership to supercede the President with their own bill in 2015. Some Democrats, now that they’ve lost everything, are saying Obama should be bold and force Republicans to bash and rescind executive action so Latinos will be anti-Republican in 2016.

Frankly, playing politics with human lives is not my idea of good politics, even for a political victory. There have been smarter ways of achieving political victories by just being bold, but there is no doubt that the President’s clock to be effectively bold is ticking to a stopping point. And fast.

But, no, it wasn’t just about the delay.

President Obama needs to the sign the boldest of executive actions that will stop his family-separating deportation machine and expand DACA to cover more families if he wants to be politically and legislatively effective. It all depends on what kind of legacy he really wants to leave. At least in the eyes of Latinos who gave him 70+% of their votes.

Still, I can’t help but chuckle when asked by Anglo Dems:  How do we get Latinos to vote? And I want to ask:  How do we stop Anglos from giving 80% of their vote to bigoted Republicans? But that may open up a whole other bushel of jalapeños.