The Race for County Commish Pct 3 – A Forum

I attended a candidate forum featuring four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Harris County Pct 3 Commissioner. The candidates were Diana Martinez Alexander, Morris Overstreet, Michael Moore, and Kristi Thibaut. The moderator was Charles Kuffner (of Off The Kuff fame) who did an outstanding job of asking some good questions regarding budget priorities, bail reform, flood control and mitigation, city-county cooperation, transportation, climate change, among other topics.

To be honest, all of the candidates offered good answers, whether it was Alexander on Pre-K, Moore on environmental regulation, Thibaut on flood mitigation, or Morris on voting rights. [Watch the video!] There wasn’t much, if any, disagreement.  One thing they all agreed on though, as well as those in attendance, was that all of the good ideas that any of these folks have will only work if Democrats flip the Texas House, thus forcing some bipartisan work from the Texas Senate to do something about revenue caps and the boot that the State of Texas currently has on local government’s necks. Even so, it will be a battle that will require more than some semblance of bipartisanship that republicans refuse to practice. And an even stronger Democratic majority on the commissioner’s court helps.

That said, I usually seek out other qualities from candidates when faced with similarly good answers. For example, when Kuffner asked the question about legislative priorities, it was Diana Martinez Alexander who brought up fighting Greg Abbott’s SB4, the racial profiling and anti-immigrant law that turns local law enforcement into border cops and wastes vital resources. Or, when felony bail reform was brought up, it was the jurist, Morris Overstreet, who provided some clarity to the issue, rather than a cautiously moderate approach to even discussing it.

Of course, political traditions dictate that those that raise the most money and run traditional campaigns have the best chance at beating a republican. But it also takes some good ol’ retail politics to gain this voter’s’ attention, so, kudos to grassroots candidate Diana Martinez Alexander for working the room and speaking to folks she hadn’t met before (me and my sister). Sure, precinct 3 may be too large in which to run that kind of campaign, but last night’s intimate setting filled with activists who GOTV was a good shot at shaking hands and asking for the vote. (And that goes for the other candidates (and office holders) in the room! Stop talking to people you already know!)

As a Chicano voter, I also naturally look for commonalities–with whom do I identify? When Overstreet mentioned he was from West Texas with siblings who had all earned higher education degrees despite their parents’ lack of that kind of opportunity, it spoke to me. Martinez Alexander’s mention that her mother still works cleaning houses was a stark reminder that Harris County’s diversity is both ethnic and economic, thus requiring someone with that kind of life experience who will fight for all of the people without a second thought. It’s not always about polish.

Those that prefer political money and political polish have a couple of candidates, for sure. It’s just not what I’m looking for in this primary election season. That stuff doesn’t impress me if you’re not walking up to a voter and asking for their vote. That said, I’ll be a “D” vote in this race in November, but I’m leaning toward the candidate that best represents me, my issues, and my interests. At least that’s my take after this one forum.

Thanks to the Southwest Democrats (and others) who hosted this event.

Photo:  Erik Manning (Southwest Democrats)

Congratulations, Joe Biden!

Am I the only one experiencing this dark feeling that Joe Biden became the Democratic nominee this week?

I won’t even re-hash the Bernie-Warren spat, but the bottom line is that both campaigns and their supporters have exhibited the worse kind of petty campaign behavior. The kind of behavior that, even if accusations have some speck of legitimacy, goes off the rails rendering both campaigns as childish and immature. The kind of behavior that even though both sides’ points have been made, continues because one or the other continues it and CNN eats it up.

Unfortunately, all this does is make the other guy look stronger, steadfast, and like the image of the granddaddy our country needs, even if he does take us to the woodshed to spank us for questioning anything he might do.

Worse, it’s not even about issues! It’s about what someone else heard someone else say in some candidate meeting. Or some errant staffer on one campaign posting something on a campaign site to which 99% of the rest of us have no access. And that one campaign has talking points on another, as if this kind of thing never happens. Certainly, the only thing we’ve actually heard is whatever CNN’s stage microphone heard after the debate and neither campaign looked good. I guess I just rehashed it.

So, while the facebook arguments will likely continue between Berniestas and Warrenites, I think I’ll spend my time on more productive things. Like, embracing having to vote for Joe Biden. It’s less stressful and a whole lot less petty!

Or, both campaigns can stop the BS and actually campaign so we can let the whitest states in the union decide who will be the nominee. Now, there’s something that should be discussed! Or is race relations in politics just too uncomfortable?

 

 

Primary Controversy Resolved by Judge

Late last year, I wrote about how the local Dem Party ruled that incumbent 351st District Judge George Powell was ineligible for the primary ballot because he had submitted the wrong amount required for the filing fee. Well, District Judge Lauren Reeder heard all of the facts of the case and ruled that Judge Powell should be placed back on the ballot.

Apparently, there were a few more facts to consider beyond the wrong amount and wrong information supposedly given by a party volunteer to the Judge.

Powell gave enough money to the party in a stroke of good fortune – he wrote a second check to the Democratic Party on the Dec. 9 filing deadline, meant as a $2,500 loan for another potential candidate’s application. That woman’s application wasn’t even received because of insufficiencies on her form, but the party cashed both Powell’s $2,500 and $1,500 checks, meaning the organization accepted $4,000 from him, according to testimony.

A lawyer friend in the courtroom told me about other arguments made by the plaintiff that were eye opening, but since there’s nothing written in the press, I won’t get specific. Of course, the plaintiff also gave mention to political intrigue (read the article), but, can anyone name one contested Dem Primary that hasn’t had intrigue? And 2020 has a few intriguing races.

Anyway, the Dem Primary race for the 351st Criminal Court will have Natalia Cornelio challenging Powell. Cornelio helped draft the settlement to improve Harris County’s misdemeanor bail system which was declared unconstitutional in federal court for discriminating against poor defendants. Powell’s actions on the bench do not seem to support the settlement.

Powell was one of 11 current and former judges in the area who were admonished by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct in 2019 related to complaints that they instructed hearing officers to deny no-cost bail to indigent defendants. That admonishment has since been retracted for unknown reasons.

Cornelio released this statement:

I remain focused on why I am running and on pushing for the issues that matter in criminal courts, like promoting community centered justice, bail reform, and a commitment to reducing racial disparities in our justice system.

So, it’s off to the races! Kuff has more.

Un Dia Ganaremos: Julian Castro Exits, Endorses Warren

My first and only choice for the Dem nom for POTUS has exited the race. Julian Castro ended his campaign last week after scoring a few points, yet, not being able to build on those points to gain traction against big money and big media.

The reason? Well, that’s up for debate. The DNC set up the primary to help big money candidates in the whitest of states (NH and Iowa). The media virtually ignored Castro, unless he got scrappy and “attacked” Joe Biden. Of course, they’ll point out (because they always point out our failures in defense of theirs) Castro’s Latino numbers weren’t strong, either. With the help of establishment Dems and the media, at some point, the whole self-fulfilling prophesy set in convincing brown folks that it was never to be, so, brown folks went with the others. But enough of that.

Ultimately, I’m pretty sure the giant sucking sound I heard was the establishment unclenching after Castro’s departure because, as his brother Joaquin said:

You said uncomfortable things that needed to be said, spoke up for the forgotten and vulnerable — the people we grew up with. You called on our country to be more just, more humane, more who we’re supposed to be, and gave hope to so many in a dark time.

And I commend Julian Castro for not being the brown candidate that was anything but. Someone had to speak strongly on issues that affect brown folks and the others were not going to sound as sincere as Julian. Or even well-studied on those issues, as always is the case. Julian made history in running and I’m proud of his run. No matter who gets the nom, Castro should be #2 on the ticket as a much needed energizing figure. (We could have used him in 2016.)

All of this said, four days passed and Castro has endorsed Elizabeth Warren, whom he says will “fight like hell” in 2020. I was not surprised. I highly doubt Joe Biden would offer Castro the VP nod, and I have a feeling that Bernie is not Castro’s cup of Chocolate Ibarra. So, Warren is his path to VP (or something in a Dem administration or visibility for a future Texas run), and a lot of Dems are excited about it. Me? Not so much as I think he should have waited.

I’m leaning Bernie based on his platform and the inclusive movement he has created. And since it’s always been about “electability,” I think Bernie is the only one with a shot at creating a big enough movement inclusive of the poor, the vulnerable, and the targeted (those who never get excited by what Dems usually offer) that will oust the Cheeto Jesus. I don’t feel that from Warren at this time; perhaps, Castro will change that. Yet, any Bern I may feel has its limits because of various political realities (DNC, big money, Wall Street, the establishment, neoliberals, a weak media, warmongers, you name it) that will force us to end up with Biden.

How involved will I be during the primary and convention season? At this point, there is a lot about the Dem Primary I’m not enjoying, whether it be the race for Prez, the race for Senate, or the local races. So, I’m not feeling it. But that’s for other blog posts.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

The Quinceañera: DCs Top 10 Posts of 2019

Thanks to DC readers for keeping us going all of these years. 2020 is a big year. It’s DC’s Quinceañera-15 years of DosCentavos.net! During these first 15 years, I’ve made 6,000 posts–some informational, some announcements, but a lot of substantive opinion on the issues of the day.

In 15 years, I’ve made friends, a few enemies, and even some enemies that have become friends because they got over what I wrote. I’ve quit blogging, come back, slowed down, but my general feelings have remained intact. So, this exercise will continue; at the very least, to continue pissing a few people off, at the most, to educate the masses.

We’ll try to bring you more politics, culture, and the intrigue that goes along with it in 2020. I’m pretty sure there will be much to talk about.

Here are our Top 10 of 2019

  1. A Great Opening Night at Festival Chicano
  2. Raj Salhotra Announces Bid for Houston City Council
  3. 2019 Houston Mayor, City Council Races Shaping Up
  4. Chicano Political Prisoner Ramsey Muñiz Released
  5. It Wouldn’t Be a Dem Primary Without a Filing Controversy
  6. A Short Local Nightmare is Over (Judge McCleod Quits)
  7. Executive Interns Aren’t Coffee Go-Fers (Airport Intern BS)
  8. Stace Slate – Explained (2019 Endorsements)
  9. 2019 Elections – November Races
  10. Houston Re-Elects Mayor Sylvester Turner-2019 RunOff Results

Los Texmaniacs, Rick Treviño Give History and Culture Lessons at Heights Theater

The Heights Theater was booming on Friday night with the sounds of the Grammy-winning Los Texmaniacs, along with Rick Treviño and Ringo Garza (Los Lonely Boys). Fans were taken on a trip through Chicano history and culture during the two-hour concert.

Los Texmaniacs started their set with a huapango, then immediately went into their signature rancheras, Ganas Quisiera Tener and Soy de San Luis. As they always do, they gave a quick history lesson about the origins of Tex-Mex conjunto music, then they belted out a favorite, Cancion Mixteca. With fat bass lines from Noel Hernandez, hard-driving drumming from Daniel Martinez, the sweet bellowing squeezbox of Josh Baca, and Max Baca’s dexterous bajo sexto, the joint was jumping.

Rick Treviño joined them, along with his own keyboardist Milton Walters, to belt out some of his own hits, including Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone and Better in Texas. A fan favorite was Rick and Los Texmaniacs’ Grammy-nominated I Am A Mexican. The Treviño-penned tune is about an immigrant’s struggle between being an asset to, and a target of, his adopted country. Treviño, and Walters as accompanist, then added his first song as an independent musician, Cowboys Like Me, as well as one of his first hits, Learning As You Go. He ended his solo set with She Can’t Say I Didn’t Cry with him on the piano.

Los Texmaniacs came back out with Treviño to give us a treat, Wasted Days and Wasted Nights, a tribute to Freddy Fender. Max Baca then recognized Treviño as the next big Chicano country singer after Johnny Rodriguez and Freddy. Then, the crowd was treated to a rousing rendition of Volver, Volver, which turned into a sing-a-long.

But the treats weren’t over. Los Texmaniacs brought out Los Lonely Boys drummer, Ringo Garza, to play a few tunes, including a ranchera. I’d only heard Ringo play Texican Rock, but him on a ranchera really was a treat. They brought out Ringo’s son, Ringo, Jr., who at age 13 is already an accomplished guitarist, to give the crowd some blues and rock guitaristics. Whatever “IT” is, that kid’s got it.

Los Texmaniacs ended their set with the anthemic Mexico Americano, but were brought out for an encore, which included the funky, yet educational, closer Down in the Barrio.

The near-capacity crowd loved every minute of the concert and responded well to the band. For the band, it was obvious that they enjoyed giving of their art. Touring on the Grammy-nominated Cruzando Borders (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings) and their indy-labeled Americano Groove, Los Texmaniacs have a lot of music on which to build their set lists. They picked the right tunes last night.

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¡Feliz Navidad and a Groovy 2020!

Get Your Tejano Music Gifts

Well, we are deep into the Christmas holidays, but you can still order or download the latest releases from the top Tejano and other influential acts. It’s been a good year for music and the live acts that play it. I’m looking forward to a fruitful 2020.

Here are a few albums I recommend:

  • Intocable – Percepción. The Zapata-based Intocable just won a Latin Grammy for their latest release and are nominated for a Grammy for it. Already enjoying much success with singles, such as No Van A Entender, Me Dueles, and Quedate Conmigo, the album is sure to score more hits as the band hits the road in 2020 for the next leg of the Percepcion tour.
  • Gary Hobbs – Lo Que Amo. The long awaited release from el borrado de Eagle Pass is enjoying some airplay of its title track single. With tunes, such as Perdoname and Quizas Yo, Hobbs has a strong set of tunes to complement his decades of popular hits. And he still puts on a great live show.
  • Jay Perez – 25th Anniversary. The Voice is back with hard-driving tunes like Contigo, Invitame, Tu (featuring DLG), and the cumbia, Recordare, just to name a few. It’s a well-produced album that will keep your toes tapping. And one is reminded why they call him The Voice!
  • La Santa Cecilia. LSC’s self-titled album isn’t Tejano, but it should be on your list. The LA-based band offers a mix of pop, rock, disco, and raza influenced tunes, such as Always Together, A Thousand Times, and Winning, while one also gets a dose of 20s styled music with Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out. It’s an EP that is worth being in the collection.
  • Los Palominos – Con La Fuerza De Un Huracan. Known for their South Texas conjunto stylings and vocal harmonies, Los Palominos keep their formula intact. Already enjoying success with the title track, they recently released a video for ranchera, Corazon Aventurero. My fave is the country-influenced Mas de Ti. It’s a must-have for the collection.
  • The Mavericks – Play The Hits. The latest by Nashville-based Americana band is a tribute to various hits. Kickin’ it off with John Anderson’s Swingin’, they move through various points in history with Blame It On Your Heart, Before The Next Teardrop Falls, and Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. The closer, Leaving It Up To You, leaves one wanting more. It’s got horns, accordion, a tough rhythm section, and Raul Malo’s voice.
  • Los Desperadoz – Calm Before The Storm. Los Desperadoz are back after a long wait with their signature conjunto sound. Featuring rancheras and cumbias, the album offers Mi Vida Sin Ti, Dame Tu Amor, Otra Vez En Mi Sueño, and other danceable tunes. Make it yours, and find a venue where Los Desperadoz play this stuff live. You will not be disappointed.

Look for them online and get your money’s worth.

Isabel Longoria Falls Short After Complete Count

As was reported on Run-Off election night, District H was too close to call as provisional and mail ballots needed to be counted. Karla Cisneros led Isabel Longoria by 12 votes. By the end of the week, it looks like incumbent Council Member Karla Cisneros was re-elected by 16 votes.

The outcome of the runoff had remained in some doubt after the Dec. 14 election, when unofficial results showed Cisneros leading Longoria by 12 votes: 5,283 to 5,271. After the addition of 40 provisional and mail ballots, however, Cisneros’ lead widened to 16.

Longoria announced it on Friday after pushing the County Clerk to ensure a complete and timely count by releasing the names of individuals who needed to cure their provisional ballots.

As a local expert with experience on the ballot board told me, when a race is this close, provisional and mail ballots do not move the needle much in either direction. Usually, the ballots left to be counted end up being split between the two candidates.

Bottom line:  Your vote matters. I mentioned on Facebook on election night that either candidate, or either of us reading this, probably know 20 people who did not vote last Saturday. And that’s just sad, as much as we remind people in various ways to go vote.

Congrats to Council Member Cisneros. And congrats to Isabel Longoria. Let’s hope those that sent a message to the incumbent with their vote experience some change from it.

In District B, a trial date has been set to decide whether a candidate with completed prison sentence should be eligible to run and serve in office. The third-place candidate sued to remove and replace that candidate. Because of this delay and trial, and because of election schedules, it could be that the District B election will not be held until May 2nd. The people spoke in November, yet, Democracy is still delayed.

 

It Wouldn’t Be A Dem Primary Without A Filing Controversy

If you haven’t heard, an incumbent Democratic Criminal District Judge incorrectly filed for re-election and had his candidacy rejected by the Harris County Democratic Party, as reported by Miya Shay at ABC13. Judge George Powell of the 351st District Court filed for re-election as the deadline neared on December 9 and paid the wrong filing fee. Once his paperwork was checked, and the check was short, he was rejected.

Any candidate (and especially incumbent) should know to read the rules for filing for office. You learn this in a Candidate 101 class given by any friendly consultant or blogger. Or, at least on the Texas Secretary of State’s website.

The rules are simple. Those filing for Criminal District Judge should file with the County Chair. The candidate has the option of collecting 750 signatures in lieu of the filing fee, or collecting 250 signatures and paying a $2500 filing fee (in large counties, including Harris) as is stated in Sections 172.024(10), (12), of the Texas Election Code.

Powell is stating that he was told it was $1500 by someone at the Party. But this isn’t his first rodeo and the rules have not changed. Also, the Harris County Democratic Party isn’t a grocery store with a checkout counter. They collect the paperwork and the decision is made by the County Chair. And, finally, the SOS Candidate Handbook states all of this stuff quite specifically.

[There’s a reason I tell candidates to file early, and not at the last minute. Just in case.]

There’s no telling what will be decided. A temporary restraining order was granted by a judge and a hearing will be held in early January. My experience in this (having worked on a campaign which challenged sloppy signatures, yet still approved by the County Chair at the time), is that judges aren’t too keen on even deciding these cases, or deciding against a party’s decision. But we have a whole different crop of judges, now. So, ay veremos.

The bigger question is:  Can a judge who interprets the law be taken seriously when he doesn’t read the laws pertaining to his own candidacy?

Anyway, thankfully, a well-qualified attorney had filed to challenge the incumbent. Natalia Cornelio did follow the rules and made it on to the ballot and is currently the only candidate running for the 351st. She champions fairness, civil rights, and criminal justice reform. We need more of that in our courts.