Category Archives: Local Politica

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Thursday: Leticia and Little Joe in Houston

ljoe

He’s been a very public supporter of Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte at his concerts, so, it is great to hear that Jose Maria de Leon Hernandez–Little Joe–will be in Houston on Thursday to rally support for Van de Putte.

Little Joe (and his brother Johnny who now lives in California) has deep roots in Texas political culture and has always been up to the task of rallying the people for anything having to do with voting, legislation, and even public health issues like diabetes. He’s still a prominent voice for change and progress, especially in the Mexican American community.

Here are the details for the rally and performance:

Houston THURSDAY 5:30pm
CWA Hall, 1730 Jefferson St., Downtown Houston
Featuring a performance by Little Joe!
Other speakers TDB

 

Van de Putte: Rape is Always Rape

In her latest ad, Leticia Van de Putte calls out Dan Patrick’s opposition to abortion even for rape and incest, as well as votes against funding for the backlog of rape kits. Whether it’s women, Latinos and immigrants, or school kids, Dan Patrick is wrong on every issue. Give it a watch and share it!

Honoring a Democratic Shero

lanemurielI spent a little time at Harris County Democratic Party today to celebrate the retirement of Muriel Stubbs as a Party volunteer. After sixteen years of helping with just about anything that needed to get done at the HQ, Muriel has decided to slow down a bit and enjoy her books, her friends, and her family.

A retired teacher who spent some of her career in the Port Arthur schools (where she also had Janis Joplin as a student), Muriel arrived in Houston in the 90s and immediately began to volunteer for Democrats, as well as other clubs and progressive efforts. It is no wonder that today, September 19, has been proclaimed Muriel Stubbs Day in Houston by Mayor Annise Parker. The proclamation was read and presented by Harris County Democratic Chairman Lane Lewis.

stubbsdayI met Muriel years ago during my time as a Friday volunteer. She is a wealth of historical and literary information and always managed to blow us away with all sorts of facts and tidbits about her life. After a long career in the classroom and 16 great years at the HQ, Muriel has earned her rest. She is definitely one of my sheroes.

Congrats and abrazos for Muriel!

Twit of the Day: Dan Patrick

 

Dan Patrick won’t debate Leticia Van de Putte on Univision, but he’ll attack Latinos on Twitter.

let

Wendy Davis Launches Education Ad

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Wendy Davis Outlines Higher Education Plan

Wendy Davis, Democratic candidate for Governor, outlined her proposal to make college affordable.

As Governor, Wendy Davis will work hard for every Texan to have the same higher education opportunities that made such a difference in her own life. She will ensure that Texans are prepared for jobs today and careers tomorrow. Specifically, Wendy will:
  • Create Educational Opportunities for all Texans
    • Create a Career-Technical Coordinating Board to facilitate coordination among local industries, community and technical colleges, and public high schools and streamline the entry of Texas students into 21st century technical jobs.
    • Improve Adult Education and Literacy programs to make it easier for Texans to transition from adult education to the workforce.
  • Make College Affordable
    • Commit to achieving full funding for the TEXAS Grant program to improve education accessibility and affordability for Texas families.
    • Work with the Texas Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Board to ensure the Texas Tuition Promise fund remains a reliable saving tool for Texas families by improving program outreach and public awareness efforts.
    • Improve accessibility to the B-On-Time low interest loan program, including opening the program to part-time students.
    • Establish a sales tax exemption program for college students’ textbooks to lessen the cost of higher education for hardworking students and families.
  • Improve Graduation and Retention Rates
    • Encourage Texas schools to experiment with programs aimed at assisting first and second year students to navigate the personal and academic challenges they will face as they transition into higher education.
  • Expand the Number of Texas Universities Ranked at Tier One Status
    • Continue to support and encourage Tier One initiatives to ensure Texas creates more world-class research universities.

I must say this is the strongest higher education proposal I’ve seen in a long time. No doubt Texas needs movement on college retention and graduation rates, and the proposed sales tax break to college textbooks and supplies is something student activists have been proposing for quite a while.

“For too long, the insider network in Austin has left our schools underfunded, understaffed and our children undervalued,” said Senator Davis. “Greg Abbott has been in court, defending over $5 billion in cuts to more than 600 Texas school districts and the children who go to those schools. That means overcrowded classrooms, thousands of teachers being laid off, schools being closed down, and our sons and daughters missing out on opportunities that will prepare them for the 21st century.”

I don’t expect the Republicans to offer much of anything on higher education. The Texas economy needs a well-prepared workforce at all levels, so, I’m glad that Davis is elevating these topics. If the Republican response is, “How do we pay for it?,” then obviously, they aren’t all that interested in doing anything bold to improve access to higher education.