Category Archives: Democratic Stuff

The Dem Primary Run-Off Results

As far as Texas Democrats are concerned, I’m sure we are all glad it’s [almost] over. For DC, well, it wasn’t the best night for those I supported. Still, it’s on to November like the good little Democrat I try to be.

Royce West’s campaign against the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (and MJ Hegar) fell short, but I sure am proud of my friends who worked on West’s campaign and came up with a respectable result against the odds and the DC cash. We shall see what kind of campaign is run against Cornyn, now. Issues? Trump? Both? Will the DSCC even stick around? Questions that must be asked and answered, and now.

Family friend and fellow Cristaleño, Roberto Alonzo, gave it a go for Texas RR Commish, but it was obvious that Chrysta Castañeda was too much to overpower in the big cities. Still, we are proud of Roberto and the whole Alonzo family because they just don’t give up when it comes to the issues that matter.

Michelle Palmer cruised to victory in her race for SBOE-6, as did Te’iva Bell for the 339th District Court. Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas was soundly defeated by Cheryl Elliot Thornton for the 164th. Thornton is well-qualified and will be impressive in November. Cheri Thomas came up short for one of the appellate court seats against Tami Craft, but she is a great candidate who should remain in the game for future consideration. And Mark Alan Harrison is on his way to November in his run for Constable Pct 5.

Diana Martinez Alexander ran a great grassroots race for County Commissioner Pct 3 against big money and influence. I’ll still give her credit for being the only candidate in the running to shake my hand when asking for votes at one event I attended with most of the candidates in attendance. After doing some campaign finance sleuthing and seeing how she was outspent, and considering the final result, I must say that I am quite impressed with what she accomplished. She’s another one that should stay in the game because her activism will be an asset to Democrats up and down the ballot.

The race that was the most interesting was Texas House 148 with Penny Shaw and incumbent Anna Eastman, who won a special election to replace retiring Jessica Farrar earlier this year. No doubt, Eastman has said the right things on most issues important to Democrats, but it was Penny Shaw who may have gotten a late boost because of the policy differences she had with Eastman on public education and the out-of-town PACs that filled Eastman’s campaign coffers. It always seems to be the difference in these races–Teacher Unions -vs- Big Charter School Money. In this case, it was the union-supported Penny Shaw winning the early voting period and election day to put her over the top. While one side blames “negative campaigning,” it really was all about who turned out the most votes from their targeted base. I mean, c’mon, it was 200 votes difference. In non-COVID times, that would be a candidate attending a quince in the northside as the difference. As this is a Democratic district, Shaw will likely win in November.

Akilah Bacy cruised in HD138 and it seems incumbent State Rep Harold Dutton will squeeze by to another term. Incumbent Constable Chris Diaz was unseated by Jerry Garcia by less than 300 votes. Again, whomever turns out their base wins, no matter how negative it gets.

Big wins elsewhere include Dr. Jennifer Cantu for Fort Bend County Commish Pct 1, Delia Garza for Travis County Attorney, Jose Garza for Travis County DA, and Candace Valenzuela for Congressional District 24.

In Austin, it looks like State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt will be in a run-off later this fall for Senate District 14. While this special election brought out Republicans to support their own, it’ll be interesting to see which candidate Republicans choose as their candidate. It could be the difference in the race if Republicans decide to even come out.

It’s been real, y’all. Let’s win in November!

DC’s #StaceSlate – 2020 Dem Runoff

In case you all have forgotten, Democrats have a run-off election to begin participating in come Monday. For some of us, it’s a busy ballot from the Senate down to Constable.

Early voting begins June 29 and goes on through July 10. Run-off election day is July 14. Find your sample ballot here. You can find a polling location here. Here is the 2020 Democratic Run-Off #StaceSlate :

Continue reading

DACA – It’s A Small Win

No doubt, there was a sigh of relief after the 5-4 SCOTUS decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was announced. Many of my friends are less worried.

For the meantime, Trump and his minions have been told that they will have to find another way to make a declaration on DACA’s legality that would lead to its end.

As SCOTUS stated:

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. “The wisdom” of those decisions “is none of our concern.” Chenery II, 332 U. S., at 207. We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action. Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner. The appropriate recourse is therefore to remand to DHS so that it may consider the problem anew.”

This may only further delay its demise, although, any new Trump effort to end DACA will once again be met by a challenge in the courts. This decision certainly adds to the political pressure against Trump and Republicans to do something about the entire issue (immigration and deportation reform and not just DACA), but also places pressure on Democrats who tend to get squeamish on any of these issues within the realm of immigration reform during election time.

For now, it’s still election season. As local group FIEL’s ED Cesar Espinosa stated:  “We are ecstatic that the supreme court sided on the right side of history and allowed for the DACA program to be in place for the meantime. We hope that in this interim time we are able to petition congress to come up with a permanent solution not only for DACA recipients but the immigrant community at large.”

And as various DREAMers stated at a press conference held today at FIEL, “It’s a small win,” and it is time to vote. It is time to study the candidates, find who is really on the side of DREAMers and immigrants, and vote them into office. It’s time to get beyond executive orders and actually do something.

This is not to say it’s all about politics. Much like the drive toward police reform, it’s about saving people’s lives. If politicians aren’t in it to work for the betterment of the people. then it’s just another popularity contest. Here’s a chance to do something.

There will be more on this, for sure. For now, it’s a good day.

Latino Victory Fund Endorses Natali Hurtado for HD126

The Latino Victory Fund, a national progressive organization working to grow Latino political power and representation across the United States has endorsed, among several Texans, Natali Hurtado, the Democratic candidate for Texas House District 126.

Hurtado is in her second run for the suburban district located in north and northwest Harris County. HD126 is considered a “red to blue” opportunity district with Hurtado having earned 46% of the vote in 2018. Once elected, she would be the first Latina to represent this district.

Hurtado’s experience in public policy and local politics is vast, having worked the campaign circuit for various candidates. She began her career in public policy as a congressional intern moving on up to serving as a district director for a Texas State Representative. Currently, she serves as the Deputy Executive Director of SW Houston’s International Management District in the Hawes Hill consulting firm working with district leaders to develop and improve their community.

Hurtado’s campaign issues include ensuring adequate funding for public education, access to health care, and community safety, among other issues of importance to her district.

Other candidates endorsed by Latino Victory fund include:  Joanna Cattanach, House District 108; Eric Holguin, House District 32; Jennifer Ramos, House District 119; Ana-Maria Ramos, House District 102; Lorenzo Sanchez, House District 67; and Carlos Gallinar, mayor, El Paso.

 

 

County Clerk Diane Trautman To Resign

I’m saddened to read that our Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman has submitted her resignation effective end of May. She cites health concerns, her age, and how COVID-19 could threaten her and her family’s health in this regard.

Dr. Trautman has changed the way elections are run in Harris County. She has opened up access to voters. She has worked to make voting easier. And she finally started the process of replacing those outdated E-slates that should have been long-replaced during the republican years. Recently, she even stood up to the Attorney General to make the COVID-19 epidemic a good enough reason to order a ballot by mail in order to avoid election day crowds and the COVID spit clouds within them. She thought of making changes for the benefit of the people before she resigned for her own health. That counts for a lot.

I met Diane in 2004. I and my sister had opened up our Democratic Primary election day polling location in our neighborhood school. It still wasn’t cool for Democrats to challenge each other, or even stand up and run for a chance to take on the local republicans. So, it wasn’t all that busy in our republican Kingwood precinct. Out of nowhere, Diane shows up to volunteer for a few hours. While waiting for voters to trickle in, we talked process, resumes, and Democratic politics. I thought, this woman wants to run for something. Obviously, that was a good thing.

Soon, she’d make a run against Joe Crabb, the long-time right-wing state representative. Given her suburban living and suburban teaching and education administration experience, she had a lot of cross-party friends who supported her. Still, it’s tough to take on a republican in a republican district. It was a learning experience for Diane, but also for the rest of us who were trying to organize suburban Democrats–even if it was to provide a bottom line to our countywide numbers.

Diane did get elected to the Harris County Dept of Education Board, though. Because of her, many of us learned more about this taxing entity and how it helped school districts around the county, as well as students in need of specialized programs. And she fought valiantly against efforts by republicans to do away with the agency. It earned her more visibility to challenge a republican incumbent for County Clerk. And she won! And she worked.

Thanks, Dr. Trautman, for your service and friendship.

Back to central casting. The process calls for the County Commissioner’s court to name an interim County Clerk, and then the precinct chairs of each party will pick a candidate to run in November, 2020 with the winner completing the term and having to run for re-election in 2022.

I’m of the opinion that the Democratic majority on the Commissioner’s Court should make a strong appointment of someone who will be the incumbent, making it clear that there is no need for a possible free-for-all at the precinct chair level.

We elected our County Judge and our Commissioners, while most of us cannot even find a link on the Party website to find our own precinct chair so that we can lobby for whom we want them to vote. Either process is hardly democratic as the voters are left out of the process. I’d rather go with whom our top leaders choose and have the precinct chairs basically ratify it so we can move forward. Wishful thinking? Maybe.

Some may opine that appointing as interim one of the professionals already in the County Clerk’s office to run the 2020 election and be a placeholder while allowing a candidate chosen by the precinct chairs to run full-time is the solution. And that’s a good argument. But I think we should have a candidate who can show that they can do the professional and the political work, simultaneously. I think it’s more of a confidence builder for us voters when we see that our candidates can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Either way, we’ll see what happens. I already see suggestions on my Facebook feeds about who should run and about diversity on the ballot. There’s nothing wrong with healthy debate, but these things can take a turn for the ugly real quick. And that’s another reason why I’d like to see the Judge and Commissioners lead on this one.

The Ghost of HD142

Full Disclosure:  I haven’t worked on a campaign in six years, but I still like to do my internet sleuthing when it comes to campaigns and candidates. No doubt, HD142 caught my eye because I knew there would be a concerted effort to oust incumbent State Rep. Harold Dutton. I was a little surprised to see the name Natasha Ruiz on the ballot back in late December. I’d never heard the name in local politics, and after finding no information on her, I figured it was just another inexperienced candidate with no idea what she was doing. If the candidate remains a ghost, then whomever created her knew exactly what they were doing.

Miya Shay of ABC13 has been on the story, finding all the Texas Ethics Commission paperwork, the filing documents at the local Democratic Party HQ, and checking on addresses and knocking on doors. She even found copies of the currency paid to HCDP ($750 CASH). And nothing. A previous story found that Natasha Demming (whom answered the call from the newsfolks based on the phone number on the docs) is a truck driver in Colorado who had no idea why she was on the ballot. My only question:  Candidates need to also file a financial disclosure form with the Texas Ethics Commission; was any filed? They are no longer posted online, but can be requested with an open records request. If that exists, wow! They’re really good at creating people from thin air in this age of ID requirements. (The notary at HCDP stated the person had an ID.) If not, then it really may be a ghost! Either way, they’re good! [Or as Kuff states, maybe Demming is lying.]

The weirdest part is that Ruiz garnered 20% of the vote! No campaign, no rallies, no direct mail, no robocalls, no signs. It was a 4-person race and the incumbent was forced into a run-off. No telling if the ghost was not on the ballot if there would still be one today. I’m thinking there would still be one. But, who knows? I’ve heard of “low-information voters” but “no information”?

Anyway, this is potentially embarrassing all around. If something happened, who did it? Was it the Russians, again? Was it those opposing the incumbent? Those supporting him? An inside job? Too many questions, for sure. And they’re being asked, or else I wouldn’t be writing them.

Of course, if everything is in order, then anyone can put themselves on the ballot and sit back and watch the dumpster fire that this can become.

Kuff has more.

2020 Dem Primary Results – Harris County

Well, the #StaceSlate did well, but we did end up with some heartbreaking losses and six or so run-offs.

First of all, congrats to my friend Judge Julia Maldonado of the 507th District Court. The family court judge overcame a couple of opponents, including one endorsed by the local fish wrap. But that’s OK, people realized that Maldonado is a good jurist and a great Democrat who serves the community well.

Also, to Natalia Cornelio, whom I wrote about after I met her, who defeated the incumbent quite handily. She worked her way to victory by forming a strong coalition based on the need to defeat an incumbent unfriendly to bail reform. And that’s a good thing.

And Judge Leslie Briones, appointed to the County Court At Law #4 bench after an accidental resignation, defeated the previous occupant. I guess she didn’t need to use the #NeverQuits hashtag I suggested because it seems the voters REALLY like her. Congrats, Laredo!

And huge congrats to my friend Ann Bennett on a decisive victory to remain the Democratic candidate for Tax Assessor-Collector. She’s been an effective officeholder, has improved customer service throughout the county, and is a champion for voter registration. I look forward to her re-election in November.

Of course, I was saddened to see my good friend Judge Larry Weiman defeated. I’ve supported Weiman since he first entered the political atmosphere in 2006–when it was still slightly unpopular to be a Democrat. Two years later, he, along with a great group of Democrats, defeated the Republicans in office. He was definitely a trendsetter, considering he didn’t take money from lawyers who had cases in the 80th District. Unfortunately, and I’ve stated this many times, it’s gotten a lot easier to win as a Democrat in Harris County, so, even the best jurist on the bench can be targeted for defeat in the Primary for no reason whatsoever, other than, because they can. Some long-time judges won’t be as targeted if they are great fundraisers and spread the wealth (protection money?), but some who don’t feel the need be part of the kingmaking class (like Weiman) will be easy targets. And it’ll happen more often, unfortunately, which will ultimately lead to calls for “balanced courts” once November rolls around.

My other friend, Judge Steven Kirkland, was also defeated. He has had a target on him throughout his political career. He was defeated previously thru homophobia and hate, and now, because they could (or maybe both). He is a good jurist, but it’s gotten easier to overlook effectiveness, issues, etc. I’m of the opinion that it could happen to anyone. And it will.

I’m not quite at the point where I would prefer politically appointed, rather than elected, judges, but some hybrid, revolving, based-on-experience track might be nice.

THE RUN-OFFS

It looks like State Senator Royce West snuck into a run-off for US Senate against Washington DC favorite/funded MJ Hegar. I think Christina Tzintzun Ramirez would have done better in South Texas if “Mama” hadn’t been on the ballot. (And did I see Little Joe doing a web ad/vid for “Mama”?) Anyway, #MyChoiceIsRoyce in this one. His experience and a track record of not stepping back from a fight is what we need on the ballot.

Fellow Crystal Citian Roberto Alonzo also made the run-off for Texas Railroad Commissioner. Having served in the Texas Lege for 20 years has given him actual experience in making laws and regulation. Frankly, I think that’s better than being a part of an industry that has shielded itself from all political liability and financial/environmental responsibility. If ever we needed an “outsider,” on the RRC, it is now. Roberto provides that option.

Also, I’m a South Texas Mexican. I’ve had a lot of tios, primos, friends, and probably a few enemies called “Beto” way before the white guy from El Paso came around. So, if you make it about names, realize you sound a little racist. Because I’m getting sick and tired of that crap. (That one was for my late union steward Tio Beto, who also went by Bob to appease those who couldn’t say Beto.)

In the County Commissioner Pct 3 race, Diana Martinez Alexander was the top vote-getter and is in the run-off. Alexander, with little money, but a lot of shoe leather, community-oriented campaigning, and heart earned more votes than her run-off competitor who came in with hundreds of thousands of dollars, glossy direct mailers, consultants, and the support of well-known connected types. It’s a clear choice for me, because, as my momma used to say, “tienes que tener modo con la gente” and Alexander is a great people person who will run a people-centered commissioner’s office while also standing up for our values and needs as a community.

NOT ON MY BALLOT

Congrats to Penny Morales Shaw on making the run-off for Texas House District 148. I think the primary showed that special elections suck and people are still not in voting mode when they happen. Plus, when you throw republinuts into the mix, it just sucks more. Hopefully, voters stay in voting mode for the run-off. Hopefully, voters will get more than the usual arguments of “I was way ahead of the pack” versus “59% of the people don’t want my opponent” and break down the issues that matter. There are differences in this one.

These are just a few of the run-offs on my radar. The run-off is scheduled for late May, so get ready for those picnic grade paper plate placemats (full page glossy direct mail pieces) to start arriving. A few text messages, too. And lots of calls.

More on the #StaceSlate

Some folks have asked me:  Why ________ (this candidate)? For most, I have my reasons. Here are a few races in which I’ve been most vocal on social media.

Bernie Sanders for President:  When it comes to US policy in Latin America, it’s Sanders that gets it. He isn’t afraid to blast US policy supported by both political parties that has been detrimental to native (indigenous) and poverty stricken communities in those countries. Certainly, Sanders doesn’t support policies that bolster the right-wing, anti-indigenous, and anti-poor wealthy class in Latin America. The class that, given the opportunity, will literally impose violence, kill and disappear their opposition as has been ignored by the US for too long . (And these are a few reasons people from these countries are fighting to come here!) The other candidates fall short. Way short. If anything, they support the status quo which tells the poor and native that their votes do not matter, even when they come out to vote in huge numbers and elect progressives to lead. It happens here, too and is one cause of low voter turnout. It is obvious that Sanders’ competition cares little for anyone else but their own political hides when it comes to talking about Latin America, preferring to talk “democracy,” without noticing that they want to impose the same kind of democracy that gave the US Trump. The Democratic Party needs to do a lot better on Latin America and it starts with Bernie Sanders leading the way.

Any opposing argument that questions his support of progressive leaders in Latin America, as well as any idiotic questioning by local elected officials as to his “Democratic” credentials is a weak attempt at red-baiting and an insult to our intelligence as voters.

Royce West for US Senate:  As I’ve stated before, if you ask me for my vote and you haven’t done anything that has hurt native or poor communities, and you have actually defended communities from awful, racist laws (SB4), chances are you will get my vote. No doubt, Christina Tzintzun Ramirez ranked up there in my choices because of her legislative leadership on these issues, but it came down to simply being asked by someone with a track record of political leadership that I trusted. Retail politics still matters in this huge state. All the other candidates fall short of having done anything on these issues that matter to me.

Roberto Alonzo for RR Commissioner:  I’ve known Roberto most of my adult life. We grew up in the same hometown. For many, he’s “un buen ejemplo” because, like many of us, he came from nothing but a loving family. And like many of us, his life was about struggle and helping those that struggled. For Roberto, serving in public office isn’t about some whim that came about after a bad election or finally speaking up after enriching oneself in an industry.  As a State Representative serving in Dallas for two decades, whatever progressive agenda he supported, and he’s been consistent in doing so, has been about helping people overcome barriers, and the poverty and struggle that come with those barriers. His years of service, which includes fighting on environmental issues, qualifies him for this post. So, this one was an easy choice.

I’ll try to write a few more of these before Tuesday. But some asked, so, there you go.

#StaceSlate: The 2020 Dem Primary Picks

Credit: Tacho Medellin, DC Media

It’s that time again:  Time to release the #StaceSlate  It’s a long ballot, so we must prepare accordingly to vote the entire ballot. It’ll be good practice for November when the “straight ticket” option is no longer available. Google my picks and learn about them. Find your sample ballot here if you want to find out who all the candidates are on your ballot. (These are the ones on MY ballot!) And, there’s also Erik Manning’s spreadsheet that is quite informative regarding candidates.

Here’s the #StaceSlate!

President – Bernie Sanders

US Senate – Royce West

US House District 9 – Al Green

Texas RR Commissioner – Roberto Alonzo

Chief Justice, Supreme Court – Jerry Zimmerer

Justice, Supreme Court, Pl 6 – Kathy Cheng

Justice, Supreme Court, Pl 7 – Staci Williams

Justice, Supreme Court, Pl 8 – Gisela Triana

Judge, Court of Criminal Appreal, Pl 3 – NO ENDORSEMENT

Judge, Court of Criminal Appeals, Pl 4 – NO ENDORSEMENT

SBOE, District 6 – Michelle Palmer

State Senate, Dist 13 – Borris Miles

Justice 1st Court of Appeals #3 – Veronica Rivas Molloy

Justice 1st Court of Appeals #5 – Amparo Monique Guerra

Chief Justice, 14th Court of Appeals – Jim Evans

Justice, 14th Court of Appeals – Cheri Thomas

Judge, 80th District Court – Larry Weiman

Judge, 164th District Court – NO ENDORSEMENT

Judge, 165th District Court – Ursula Hall

Judge, 176th District Court- Nikita Harmon

Judge 179th District Court – Ana Martinez

Judge, 334th District Court – Steven Kirkland

Judge, 337th District Court – David Vuong

Judge, 339th District Court- Te’iva Bell

Judge, 351st District Court – Natalia Cornelio

Judge, 507th District Court – Julia Maldonado

Judge, County Court at Law #4 – Leslie Briones

Harris County Attorney – Christian Menefee

Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector – Ann Harris Bennett

Harris County District Attorney – Audia Jones

Sheriff – Ed Gonzalez

County School Trustee, Pos 5 – Paul Ovalle

County School Trustee, Pos 7 – NO ENDORSEMENT

Harris County Commissioner Pct 3 – Diana Martinez Alexander

Harris Constable, Pct 5 – Mark Alan Harrison

Harris County JP Place 5-1- Israel Garcia

 

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.